Discussion in 'Discussions' started by Createx, Jul 4, 2012.

  1. Createx

    Createx Member

    Popping in for a bit to recommend WORM, a webserial that is surprisingly good, at least the middle. It's a book (well, more like a dozen) about superheroes. You have to struggle a bit through the first chapters before the writer finds his bearings, but then it's actually really, really good. Fast-paced, inventive, good characters, epic plot. Consumed my last week when I wasn't working.
  2. Nettle Soup

    Nettle Soup Member

    Yes, Worm, I hope it gets recommended on every page until you've all read it. :D I actually upped my Patreon to him yesterday, $5 looked a bit stingy when it was changed into GBP.

    His new serial, Pact, is worth reading too, it's not half as long as Worm yet, but it's finally ramping up!
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  3. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    Just finished Kim Harrison's "The Outlaw Demon Wails", the next book in her "Hollows" series. I thought it was a pretty good addition to the series. Al, the demon is in 'demon prison' but every evening someone keeps summoning him out of the 'ever-after' into the land of the living, allowing him to seek revenge against Rachel, at least between sunset to sunrise.

    This is one of the better books in the series -- and I do recommend it. The book reveals more secrets and there are more changes in everyone's life. There's not as much angst/hand-wringing/melodrama as in some of the previous novels, which is a VERY good thing, from where I'm standing. If I wanted that, I could watch just about any teen drama on the CW. And I'd rather have root canal or a tooth pulled.
    Last edited: May 15, 2014
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  4. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    I did mention that I bought the Humble Doctor Who bundle. Well I started reading season 1/volume 1 and I'm actually liking it. It is a little silly (but then again, the series can be that way also). It has David Tenant's Doctor (who I think was the best of the new Doctors) and it takes place sometime after Donna Noble leaves him. First the Doctor deals with a problem in 1920's Hollywood, and then he has to deal with the repercussions of what he's done (as well as attempts to kill him). If you are a fan of the television series, you might enjoy it. If you don't like the series, I think you'll probably not care for this either. It seems faithful to Tenant's version of the Doctor, as well as the lore (then again, I'm no expert on the lore, so for all I know it might not be faithful at all lol).
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  5. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    I recently finished reading the science fiction/fantasy hybrid novel (the genre formerly known as science fantasy) The Witches of Karres by James H. Schmitz. This book has been on my radar for quite some time (it actually was first published in 1967, and won the Hugo Award for best novel of that year), but never actually got around to reading it until now.

    The story concerns a young space ship captain/merchant trying to get a start in business, and to make enough money by buying, transporting and selling cargo to impress his fiancee (and mostly her father). While doing business, he discovers 3 sisters, young slaves who are being mistreated, and he decides to buy their contracts and return them to their family -- oddly, their owners are only too glad to get rid of them cheap.

    Well it turns out that the three sisters, Maleen, Goth and "the Leewitt" are 'witches' from the planet Karres, where many people develop a variety of magical-seeming powers, and this encounter ends up leading the captain to no end of trouble...

    Anyway, the story was fun and humorous. And by the end it reads like Schmitz had intended on wriitng a sequel, if not a whole series of books with some of the same characters. But he never did. However, there have been sequels written by other writers (which I may read eventually): The Wizard of Karres by Dave Freer, Eric Flint, and Mercedes Lackey, and The Sorceress of Karres by Dave Freer, and Eric Flint. I'll probably read them eventually as well.

    From what I've been reading, part of the importance of this novel (and actually, the works of James H. Schmitz in general) is that he tends to have strong female characters, and depicts a kind of equality between the sexes. While this is not unusual for a man writing today, Shmitz started writing back in the 1940s (in fact, this novel started as a short story back in 1949).

    Anyway, upon finishing the novel, I decided to switch gears and read some nonfiction. Because I had to spend a couple of hours at the DMV this afternoon, I managed to read nearly half of Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. If you are not familiar with it, they wrote two previous bestsellers Freakonomics, and SuperFreakonomics, which are both incredibly fascinating works. Levitt is an Economist at the University of Chicago, and has a unique way of looking at the world, in that he uses math and data analysis to find out the hidden reasons why things are the way they are. Some of his conclusions have been incredibly controversial, but still, incredibly interesting. He's essentially made a business out of thinking outside of the box.

    Most of the first two books concerned specific case studies of such topics as the business of drug dealing,, children drowing in swimming pools, bicycle helmets, the very real dangers of drunk walking, children's car seats, sumo wrestling, stealing at the office, the naming of children, abortion, and trends in violent crimes. He doesn't just apply economic theory but looks at actual data.

    This newest book is kind of a how-to guide on how to think the way that he does, and just general advice on how not to approach problems, the errors that people usually make when dealing with problems (such as framing the question based on your biases whether those biases are religious, moral or political, why people cannot predict the future or the effect of proposed changes, and why in spite of those failures, they continue right on predicting, and how to say "I don't know" and why it's a good thing to learn how to think like a child. Some of this is stuff I've heard before. In fact if you've taken a microeconomics class in college, you might have covered, if not the specific case studies, at least the way of thinking about the problems.

    Anyway, it's a fun and entertaining book, and a very easy read. I strongly would recommend reading the other two books first though, as the authors constantly make references to discussions from those books (and besides, they other two books are certainly well worth reading). Granted, I felt that SuperFreakonomics wasn't quite as interesting as the first book (ithey covered their most interesting and controversial topics first, probably because they didn't know the book would be so successful and demanding of a sequel).

    Just a warning: while the books are not 'political', per se, some of the conclusions have been known to really rile people up, regardless of their political bent. Also, they've faced some actual scholarly criticism on some of their topics and the quality of their data and so on. You shouldn't believe everything, but it does serve to show you that there are different ways to look at problems than the conventional.
    Last edited: May 23, 2014
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  6. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    BTW, I finished Think Like a Freak (it's very short), and was still pondering what I was going to read next, when the decision was made for me: the latest Dresden novel just arrived on my Kindle: Skin Game, by Jim Butcher. I know I wasn't the only person here waiting semi-patiently for it to be released.

    Another book that I'm waiting for a bit LESS patiently is George R.R. Martin's Wild Cards 4: Aces Abroad. Oddly, when I checked out, it was already released on April 1st... in Spanish lol. Why there's no English edition, I have no idea. If you are unfamiliar with the series, the books were traditionally broke up into separate but linked trilogies. The two first books of each trilogy were actually collections of linked short stories, with some linking material between each story usually written by Martin. The third book of each trilogy would be a kind of mosaic or traditional novel. What I remember of Aces Abroad was that it was the most uneven of the books in the series. BUT Down and Dirty and Ace in the Hole, the 5th and sixth books in the series, makes it all worthwhile. Ace in the Hole, in particular, is one of my favorite books in the whole series -- it's set during the 1988 Democratic Convention (or, at least, the alternate history version of that convention). But unless I want to spend maybe $50.00 or more per paperback (due to it being out of print for so long), I'll have to wait and wait and wait for it some more. I have no idea why it's taking so long to get these books back into print, but I do know that, just like the reissues of volumes 1-3, it will contain a few brand new stories.
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  7. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    BTW, if this was an April Fools day joke, I'm not laughing: R. R. Martin's Wild Cards 4

    /edit -- There's actually a Wild Cards wiki with more info

    Now I am feeling happier, as this is the publication schedule has the next 4 books all coming out this year! Wow, wishes really do come true ).
    Aces Abroad (May)
    Down and Dirty (June)
    Ace in the Hole (July)
    Dead Man’s Hand (August)
    Last edited: May 27, 2014
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  8. Aegho

    Aegho Member

    I'm currently reading Peter F Hamilton's Void trilogy, which takes place after, and in the same setting, as the Night's Dawn trilogy. Big books, around 800 pages a piece, very good sci-fi, this time with a fantasy style story embedded inside it(one of the story threads).
  9. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    BTW. the Wiki is wrong (well, not exactly) about the upcoming Wild Cards publication dates. THose are NOT for the reissues with additional material, those are for ORIGINAL versions reissued in the U.K. Apparently, the original books are being reissued in the U.K. (and also in Russia). I could I'm sure order it anyway, but I think I'll wait for now. According to George R. R. Martin's official website, the reissue is not even on the calendar yet. I also had the wrong publisher (which is why the confusion). Golancz is the British publisher, Tor is the American publisher.

    This all seems very odd to me.

    BTW, the author's name, Peter F. Hamilton sounded familiar to me, but I checked and none of the book titles sound familiar, so I probably have not read anything by him.
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  10. Loerwyn

    Loerwyn Member

    Gollancz is the UK publisher, yes, and they're publishing the books in a slightly bizarre order. And bookselling websites (e.g. The Book Depository) are generally better for seeing what's coming out, where and by whom than an author or publisher's website.

    He's one of the UK's most famous and most popular science-fiction authors.
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  11. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    I actually can explain the order (sort of). There was a gap in the release of Wild Cards books, partly due to changes and problems with publishers and partly due (I'm sure) because of the various writers busy schedules (what with television series and other books and so on). You have to realize that because the series has run for so many years, that there's been lots of changes along the way.

    At some point, because of so many earlier books being out of print, they decided to KIND OF reboot the series. The later books still do take place in the same universe, but they are written so that you can jump right into them. I think with the latest reboot that there was demand for the older, out of print books also, (plus people like me wanted to reread the series from the start) hence the reissues. So it's almost like they are releasing two separate series (even though technically, they are the same series, they can stand alone from each other).

    To confuse you even more, technically, the books were kind of broken down into separate storylines and you could jump in at specific spots and not get totally lost (the first 3 books were a trilogy, the next 4 books were supposed to be a trilogy but the third book was too long for the publisher, etc.). But the series reboot did not have almost any characters from the previous books (they had children of some earlier characters, like John Fortune is the son of Fortunato and Peregrine). And I've heard that "The Sleeper" (Croyd Crenson) does make cameo appearances here and there (and maybe in the upcoming movie, if it ever actually gets made). But those are the exceptions. When you are writing a long-running alternate history, characters HAVE to eventually die, or they will get old and retire. Except for Croyd Crenson. If he dies, it's not likely to be from old age.
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  12. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    OK, I know I'm just obsessing now, but I have to share this. After I posted the previous reply, I had an epiphany.

    Why Croyd Crenson is Immortal
    This is probably not going to mean anything to you if you haven't read the first book in the series, so skip this if you aren't interested.

    Technically, there's no reason why Croyd Crenson should be immortal. He's "the Sleeper" and every time he wakes up, he has a new body. So he's not going to age. But sometimes his new body might be invulnerable to this or that, or he may have an exoskeleton, or he may be a joker. But mostly he's just as fragile (sometimes even more so) than the average young adult male. While he's not heroic (so he's not likely to be fighting super-powered bad guys), he is a thief, and as a thief, every once in a while he gets into trouble. My only point is that he CAN die. He's popular. Very popular. But they've killed off some very popular characters in the past (heck, GRRM received hate mail when he killed off Kid Dinosaur, and HE wasn't even a major character).

    But I just realized that, no, maybe he can't die, and here's why (hint, it has NOTHING AT ALL to do with the story, and everything to do with the history of the series).

    Way back, when the original Wild Card's writers set out to create the series, they signed a contract. One of the rules set down in this contract was that NO WRITER COULD KILL OFF ANOTHER WRITER'S CHARACTER WITHOUT PERMISSION. They could punish or torment other writer's characters, or place them into horrible positions, (which they do simply out of sheer good-natured fun or to really stick it to characters that they don't like very much). But they aren't allowed BY CONTRACT to actually kill off another writer's character without permission.

    The person who CREATED Croyd Crenson is the great Roger Zelazny, a superb science fiction and fantasy writer who died a while back.

    So... who the hell would EVER kill him off? I mean, ok, maybe no one would sue, you could probably get permission from his estate if you wanted to. But Zelazny simply is one of the Ghods of Science Fiction.

    So, there's my theory. Immortality, not out of invulnerability, but because of legal issues. By law, he's not allowed to die. How about that for a superpower?

    Btw, you don't want to know what they did to Doctor Tachyon because of how much one particular female writer hated him for being such a sexist pig -- omfg, she made him suffer. She couldn't kill him but she could make him pray for death. And it was about as appropriate a punishment as you could imagine for him being 'him'.
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2014
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  13. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    Well, I stayed up most of the night finishing Jim Butcher's Skin Game, and if you like Dresden, you'll love this book. It was great fun, with lots of the usual humor and excitement and twists and turns, plus there are changes in store for our hero and his allies (and enemies). This particular book is kind of a heist novel, Dresden-style, not a buddy-heist like "Ocean's 11", but more of one where no one can be trusted and everyone is potentially ready to double-cross the other or looking to be double-crossed.

    If you aren't caught up with the series, some of what follows is going to be a spoiler, so read it at your own peril.

    Dresden, as you know if you actually are caught-up with the series, is now the Winter Knight, and his boss in that capacity, Mab, in order to pay off a debt, loans him to one of his biggest enemies, Nicodemus Archleone, one of the principle members of the Order of Blackened Denarius. Nicky (as Dresden likes to call him in order to provoke him) wants to break into one of the highest security vaults in the Never Never, that belonging to Hades, God of the Underworld, in order to steal the Holy Grail

    Anyway, it's a really fun book, but I do recommend that you catch up with the series first before you read it, because there's been a whole lot of changes in Dresden's life, as well as the lives of some of his friends.

    If you are unfamiliar with Dresden, what actually brought the series to my attention and got me reading the books, was the failed television series. You can watch on Hulu, to get the general flavor of it:
    It's not faithful to the books, but I still found it to be kind of fun, and i was disappointed when the series was cancelled.

    I haven't decided for sure exactly what I will read next. I'm considering re-reading the John Le Carre's "Tinker-Tailor" trilogy. I did read an essay by John Le Carre where he talks about the real-life historical influences behind it, including this man: Also he mentions being contacted by the Oxford English Dictionary to find out if he really invented the word "mole" to describe a double-agent (he was not the first to use the word, but it may have been a 're-invention'), and talks about words and phrases that he actually did make up that have become part of the spy story lexicon (such as honey trap, lamplighters, scalp hunters, etc.). He also discussed how happy he was with Sir Alec Guiness's portrayal of Smiley in the British television mini-series (

    I've been wanting to re-read the series for a very long time, but I think I might have watched the recent remake too recently, so I might skip to the second book.

    BTW, if you were thinking of watching either the mini-series or the recent movie, they are both worth seeing (particuarly the mini-series -- Sir Alec Guinness is just one of the best actors ever). The movie, while good, would probably be easier to follow if you have read the first book. It's a complex story, that the movie compresses down to its essentials, so it can be confusing for some.
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  14. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    I am reading Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy after all. I'm not sure if this is my second or third time through, but it's one of the greatest spy novels ever written.

    One thing I want to mention because it's brought it to mind, but I wanted to list some of what I think are the best spy novels out there. At least they are my personal favorites, and although none of them are recent, I think they stand up well to time.

    In no particular order:
    1. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John Le Carre -- during the cold war, the head of the Circus (MI6) suspects there to be a mole high up in the organization passing secrets on to the Soviets. He hatches a plan to uncover who the mole is, only to have it backfire, and he's forced into retirement. George Smiley is brought back out of retirement to investigate.
    2. The Spy who Came In from the Cold by John Le Carre -- another cold war story, taking place much earlier than the previous book (Smiley is a mnor character in it, a young up and comer). It takes place not long after the building of the Berlin Wall. A British spy is put out to pasture after an East German he recruited is shot while trying to defect to the west, He handles his forced retirement poorly, turning to alcohol.

    One of Le Carre's trademarks vs. Ian Fleming and many American spy novelists is that the characters are flawed (sometimes very flawed, as in this case) and believable. There are no superheroes. Certainly there are good guys and bad guys, but sometimes the actions of each of side are all too similar. It's often a dirty business done by dirty people, regardless of which side they are on.

    3. Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene -- This is my favorite book by Graham Greene. This is another cold war story, this one taking place before the Cuban missile crisis, during the Batista a. Like Le Carre, Greene was also a member of MI6, so some of this is based on his experience. Unlike the other books on the list, this one is kind of a dark comedy. A vaccuum Cleaner salesman living in Havana is recruited by the British secret service to spy for them. Unfortunately, the guy they recruit really isn't all that good at spying, so when it seems like he may lose the job because he can't find out anything interesting, he starts making up stories instead of passing on real intelligence. Like Le Carre, the characters are very believable. I suspect that it may have somewhat influenced Le Carre's later book The Tailor of Panama to a small degree.

    (/edit -- I just read that Le Carre actually has stated that The Tailor of Panama could not have been written had he not first read Our Man in Havana).

    4. On Her Majesty's Secret Service by Ian Fleming -- I couldn't talk about spy novels without including James Bond. This one I feel is the best of his books. Technically, it's a sequel to Thunderball (while not all of the books were so closely connected the Blofeld books form almost a trilogy).
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2014
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  15. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    I finished reading Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre last night. Now it has me wanting to watch the two adaptations again. All 3 are very different experiences, but all are worthwhile. The book starts out slowly, showing you the suspects through secret documents and the memory if George Smiley and his cohorts, and pealing back layers of an onion until it builds to the final reveal. The Alec Guiness miniseries is similar, but it hooks you early by reordering certain parts of the story. And the Gary Oldman movie is very compact and faster moving -- so fast that it's easy to miss important details if you aren't paying attention.

    Ooh! The entire miniseries is on Youtube! Here's part 1:
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  16. Nettle Soup

    Nettle Soup Member

    I just read all of the Dresden Files books, now I'm reading biographies of people to do with Egypt (Carter, Champollion, Weigall...) Quite a change! The Dresden Files books were pretty awesome, and a good way to get back into reading if you're lacking motivation. They worked out about 6 hours reading per book.

    I also read Worm for a second time, and Pact is going in an interesting direction. Wildbow is going on holiday for a month so now is a good time to catch up!
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  17. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    I recently finished reading the second book in John Le Carre's Karla trilogy, The Honourable Schoolboy. The book continues very soon after the end of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Karla (codename of the head of the Soviet's Secret Service, and George Smiley's opposite) has just about wrecked the British spy agency with his mole. Smiley, now temporary head of The British Secret Service, nicknamed "The Circus" is tasked with tearing down all that may have been compromised, and rebuilding, determining what can be salvaged from the ashes. He comes up with a brilliant plan to explore the mole's actions in order to find any clues as to operations that he may have interfered with, as this may lead to the discovery of Soviet spy activities that WOULD have been discovered had the mole not interfered. The investigation leads him to assign Jerry Westerby, the 'Honourable Schoolboy' of the title to search for clues, through Hong Kong, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand.

    This was another good spy novel by Le Carre, one which is even more complex than the previous book. Westerby is a likable character who is all too human.

    Anyway, you don't have to read all of the other Smiley books before you read this, but I do at least recommend Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy first, only because this will spoil that one for you.

    I also started reading Peter David's Artful, which is a new novel set in Dickensian London. The premise is that Dickens' Oliver Twist was a true story, and that the Artful Dodger, after the events of that novel, gets involved with Vampires. I've previously read a couple of other books by Peter David, (One Knight Only and the sequel which I can't recall the name of atm) which was somewhat humorous. So far the book seems to have the same kind of humorous tone. I can't say that I recommend his previous books (they were just ok). And so far this doesn't seem to be much better (as I'm reading it, I've been debating with myself whether or not to continue). I'll give you a final review at a later date.
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  18. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    Artful turned out to be quite a short book and a fairly fast read. It actually turned out to be better than my first impression of it, but still flawed. But it was god enough that I do recommend it if you are looking for some light entertainment. There's really not a lot to say about it. BTW, if you are unfamiliar with "the Artful Dodger", here's the scene from the musical "Oliver!" where he's first introduced:

    BTW, after finishing Artful, I decided to return to John Le Carre, and am now rereading the final book of his Karla trilogy, Smiley's People. I have to say that the introduction to the novel by Le Carre is quite interesting. One thing he says is that he originally intended their to be many more books than just 3, describing a stand-off between the Circus, and Moscow Centre. But things changed after he saw Sir Alec Guinness portraying George Smiley in the BBC miniseries. Apparently Guinness did such a great job of portraying Smiley that not only would he embody George Smiley's character in everyone else's mind, but there was no way for him to separate the two in his own mind. And thus Smiliey began to feel like a 'borrowed character' and not his own.

    The other thing he said which I found fascinating (mostly because it contradicts all of the writing advice I've heard in the past) is that he claims he changed something about his writing between Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and The Honourable Schoolboy. In the first book, he has scenes taking place in Prague and other foreign locales that he had never visited before, so he had to make up their descriptions out of his own imagination. But when he was writing the second novel, he decided to actually visit a lot of the places he would be writing about (including hot war zones) -- Viet Nam, Cambodia, Laos, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.. He claims that as a consequence of that, the novel suffered. That seemed odd to me since it's the opposite of what I've heard from other writers (mostly science fiction writers) about familiarizing oneself with ones settings. That said, I think Le Carre was right on the money in this case, as some of the local dialects and details were distracting at times, and tended to slow things down a bit as compared with the first novel.

    Anyway, I already know that Smiley's People is an excellent novel, but I haven't read it in quite a long time. I do remember enjoying it much more than the second book. If I'm remembering it correctly, it reads more like a detective novel. And I also recall it having a great and quite satisfying ending (I don't remember the details of the meat of the book, but the ending is forever stamped in my mind).
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2014
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  19. Ghin

    Ghin Member

    Because of this forum, I realized I had never got around to reading Iron Council by China Mieville. Just now, I picked up a hardcover copy of it in great condition for $0.99 at the local book market. I can't think of too many ways I would rather spend a dollar.
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  20. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    I finished reading Smiley's People by John Le Carre this morning, and it was as good as I remember it being. It takes place 3 years after the end of the events in The Honourable Schoolboy. Smiley is retired once again, but is called back to service for one last job. An old friend and retired agent of his named Vladimir has been murdered, apparently shot by Russian spies, and George Smiley is asked to unofficially look into it. The investigation leads to Germany, Paris, and Switzerland. The story completes Le Carre's "Karla" trilogy, and is, imho, among Le Carre's best novels.
    In a way, this is Le Carre's Moby Dick as George Smiley gives up everything in his pursuit of his 'White Whale', including a chance at revenge, or even justice.

    If you ever were curious about what the life of a real spy must be like, Le Carre is where you must start. He goes into very realistic detail about how a spy operates, how most of the time, a spy just sits and watches and waits, how do you interrogate someone, how do you set up a drop, how do you tail someone who may be looking for a tail, how do you communicate with an agent in the field, how do you set up a meeting, and how do you use blackmail and bribery to turn an enemy agent, as well as how do you deal with the consequent risks of such attempts. This is not a pretty world, and even the 'good guys' can lose their souls.

    Anyway, I'm not sure yet what I'll be reading next. I think I need to return to something much lighter. Even when the heroes triumph, there's something quite dark about Le Carre's stories.

    /edit BTW, there was also a BBC miniseries of this novel, again starring Sir Alec Guinness, and it IS available on Youtube. You do not have to have read the previous novels in the series to understand it. But in order to avoid spoilers for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy you should probably read that one first (or view that miniseries).

    Last edited: Jul 29, 2014
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