The Royal Library of Alexandria (SP Book Discussion)


Let’s not be hasty.


The Anomaly, Rutger. A cheerfully pulp tale of a bunch of bullshit merchants investigating a cave in the Grand Canyon. It has ‘for fans of Dan Brown’ on the cover, which made me almost not buy it, but it was recommended to me specifically, so I pushed on. It’s not bad at all, far better than Brown’s product (I won’t call it writing). A lightweight, enjoyable read, with some solid dialogue and an interesting, if well-worn central idea.

First Light, Wellum. A classic of WWII RAF doings, as a young man joins up two months before the start of the war. Modest, understated, and quite self-effacing, it is also honest and simple. Despite the fact it is not that long ago, the attitudinal difference is massive; Wellum tells the truth even when it doesn’t show him in the best light, and as a result I respect him even more for it.


Churchill’s First War, Coughlin. A good book hampered by a terribly ham-fisted attempt to force people to see how relevant it is. The book does a decent job at detailing Churchill’s early life and the background of British/Afghan relations, and it does a better job at documenting the fighting on the Northwest Frontier, combined with Churchill’s relentless ambition, than it does convincing the reader of any relation to current events. Every few pages, regardless of the subject, there is an “…a bit like today, eh? Eh?” mention which are all more or less tenuous, regarding British adventurism in Afghanistan, strategy and tactics, the attitudes of Afghans, etc. The book would be better if it allowed the reader to draw their own parallels.


Arkwright, Steele. A dying scifi writer decides to dedicate his legacy to the exploration and colonisation of space. A foundation is created, which invests in the very technologies it will need, and uses the proceeds to create and launch a starship, independent of government funding. The book follows his descendants as they (more or less) dedicate themselves to this vision, and the results. I want to quibble with the scale of the novel, which doesn’t quite cover the kind of time a project like this would need properly, and there’s also a marked lack of outside interference and inside disinterest, but it’s effective at communicating just how much of a slim chance a project like this would be, but also makes the case for its essentiality.


The Hematophages, Kozeniewski. What happens when you send a ship to recover a long-lost colony ship from a fleshworld? In what may be the least shocking turn of events ever, it all goes to shit. A competent horror novel that manages to evoke horror and disgust but doesn’t quite manage the depth it ostensibly has in certain areas, which could have used more development, or been eschewed altogether.


Wait…what’s a fleshworld and are there any vacancies?


Islands of meat in a sea of blood, populated by the eponymous creatures. There are vacancies, internal ones.

It’s not good, Dave. On any level.


Carrion Comfort is just so, so unpleasant. I mean, in a very good way. I definitely plan to go back to it someday, but it’s so absolutely good at its sociopaths-as-vampires thing that I had to put it down. I didn’t find it actually scary. I, too, am on the hunt for scary books, as I can’t remember the last time (save for one scene in the otherwise pretty forgettable Ghost Story that raised the hair on the back of my neck) that I read one. Everybody seems to agree that Pet Sematary is King’s scariest, so I’ll probably hit that at some point, despite not really getting on with him otherwise. I read Summer of Night a few years back and loved it to death, and it had some kind of scary stuff in it. Very worthwhile.

I have the opportunity to hang out with Chris Cameron every couple years thanks to a mutual interest of ours, and he’s just one of the nicest people, and a very interesting guy. I am embarrassed to say I haven’t yet read anything by him yet, although his ancient Greek stuff is on my list for sure. He is a reenactor at heart, and much of the detail from his books comes from firsthand experience making, wearing and fighting in the clothes and gear of the period in question. Glad people are reading him.


The First World War, Strachan. Perhaps the best approachable single volume on the war currently, this is the one to get people who are showing an interest but you can’t lump them with an 800-page monster, nor do you want them reading any old pop history shit about how both sides went over the top for four years into machine gun fire and everyone died, all the time.

Directorate S, Steve Coll. This should be subtitled How Pakistan Shits Into Afghanistan, quite frankly. A detailed dissection of the Pakistan efforts to subvert any kind of effort in Afghanistan, and the ongoing support and double-dealing between the US, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, in a very uncomfortable triangle. Thorough.


You’re deliberately mocking us, sir.


Haha. Sorry, this was for the other thread…the movie one. Things are still wack in the forum backend. Trying to sort everything out.


Naraka, Manzetti. Well, this is fucked up. A radioactive asteroid has hit Earth and poisoned the ecosystem in a big way, and a prison on the moon is repurposed into producing, uh, long pork, to feed the starving populations. Cue a quite hallucinatory work of violence, sado-sexual violence, torture, human vivisection, cannibalism, and Christ knows what else. Fucking Hell.


Ugh. Definitely not for me.


Oh, hey, since we were talking about Christian Cameron, his whole 6-book ancient Greek (like, just post-Alexander) Tyrant series is on sale for 99 cents each on Kindle through today only (in the US at least, don’t know about the rest of the world).


Anyone else read Gunpowder Moon? My wife bought it; I liked it. Mid-term future, with small-scale military and investigative elements, all about trying to prevent a war from breaking out on the moon.


I have not. That sounds quite good, I’ll check it out.

The Monster Baru Cormorant, Seth Dickinson. The sequel to one of the best fantasy novels I’ve ever read; Baru takes on colonialism, by integrating herself and becoming the enemy so efficiently as to begin to assume power, with the resulting self-hatred a given. Plenty of politics and economics, trade and logistics, manipulated and fought over by a diverse cast of characters.


Lies Sleeping, the latest Peter Grant/Rivers of London novel from Ben Aaronovitch. I’ve also listened to the audiobook.

More of the same, in a good way. The book wraps up the main narrative threads of the series in a reasonably satisfactory manner and it’s impressive how Aaronovitch has sustained this series and story arc over 7 novels and one novella without sagging. There’s also a hint that our narrator hero is not unscathed by the magical and occasionally grisly stuff he’s lived through, however much he glosses over things.


Just finishing up a long read of Max Hastings’ “Winston’s War: Churchill, 1940-45”

A really interesting book because it tells Churchill’s story through the eyes of the people around him, and the people he dealt with. Also how the public saw him.

There’s a full chapter on his escapades in Greece after the Germans pulled back when he was trying to avert civil war and pissing off everyone else in the process.

I’ve read a lot on World War II and haven’t seen much about that before.

Also how he kept insisting that the Allies should invade Rhodes and have a campaign in the Aegean Sea.

Really fascinating book


Just wrapped up the first book of The Broken Earth series, The Fifth Season. Excellent fantasy/sci-fi that blends both Stone Age level tech with more modern tech (there is hydroelectric power and electric lights in some places), but the odd juxtaposition is earned through some fantastic world building involving a planet with incredible instability (earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are common) and civilizations rising and dying off during the “Seasons” when a really bad shake happens and covers the earth in ash and winter.

The character work is also wonderful and how it all comes together in the end is…remarkable. If I spoiled it, you’d say “that wouldn’t work”, but N.K. Jemisin pulls is off brilliantly.

Very much looking forward to the second and third volumes. (Reading the second, The Obelisk Gate, as we speak)


I don’t read comic books regularly but when I do I tend to binge them in Marvel Unlimited. The iPad is such an amazing medium for viewing the art.

Anyways, I just read Doctor Aphra #1-20 because she is supposedly the hottest new original character in the Star Wars universe. I thought the series had potential after the first few issues, but it took a huge nosedive for me. The original premise is that the main character is an archeologist in the Star Wars universe. That’s right, an intergalactic Indiana Jones. Very shortly, though, she seems to transition more to a tech-enthusiast/hacker mercenary. She’s supposed to be funny, but she’s not; she’s supposed to be morally ambiguous and struggling with some of her actions, but in reality she’s just a horrible person.

Not a good character, not a good series.