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

  1. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    BTW, I heard a rumor about this, and found that there really was an entry for it on IMDB, so maybe it will happen...

    One of the best Fantasy novels ever written, imho, is Neil Gaiman's American Gods. Well, apparently Starz intends to make a series (or miniseries(?) of the novel. I've raved about the book before, and I STRONGLY recommend that everyone read it. It's a terrific novel about a guy who just got out of prison. While trying to travel to his home-town to pick up his life again, he meets an odd fellow named "Wednesday", who seems to know more about his situation than he does -- like the fact that he really has no reason to go home anyway, now that the job his best friend promised him no longer exists, and his girlfriend is dead (mostly because they died together in an auto accident). It's a book in which the Gods and Goddesses and demigods and so on, of nearly every culture exist because when people came to America, they brought their gods with them.
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  2. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    I finished reading Charles Stross''s The Fuller Memorandum this morning -- it was another really good book by this author. The tone was much different than the previous novel in the series. The book is definitely more in a horror vein, and less of a supernatural spy story, but a lot of the humor is still there. I'm less of a horror fan, but I still enjoyed reading the book, and it is very well written.

    The story involves evil Cultists, who may simply be terrorists, or may have another agenda altogether, Russian Spies, a haunted aeronautics museum, and possible infiltration of the Laundry. Plus Bob's boss, the enigmatic Angleton, has gone missing. Oh, and everyone is convinced that the world is going to end shortly -- only some think that the end may be coming sooner than expected.

    I'm thinking of taking a break to read a graphic novel called "100 Bullets" by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso. But after that, I intend to continue reading more Charles Stross.
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  3. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    I started reading "100 Bullets", which is pretty good, but more like a series of connected short stories. I'll certainly continue with it on occasion, but so far I haven't seen much of an overarching plot. I'm sure there is one, but it seems like it may be quite slow to get to it.

    The series is a bunch of vignettes with the only recurring characters being an enigmatic former police detective named Agent Graves, and his apparent associate, Mr. Shepherd. In each story, Agent Graves approaches a different individual with a briefcase. He presents them with evidence that they have been badly wronged in some way, and who the guilty party or parties are. In addition to the evidence, he tells them that briefcase contains a gun and 100 untraceable bullets.

    Each story is different, some involving dirty cops, dirty business people, old friends on opposite paths who may or may not have betrayed one another, and so on. Each story so far has gone in completely different directions. It's interesting, but not the kind of thing I usually read.

    Anyway, while reading that, I also started (and finished) Charles Stross's The Apocalypse Codex, which was excellent. In the previous novel, we found out that our hero, Bob Howard, is being groomed for the management fast-track. In this one, he gets his first trial assignment, to supervise two 'external assets', a team of subcontractors. Apparently, when the Laundry needs to do things that are not quite within their balliwick, they go outside the organization to hire people who can be disavowed should they be discovered. In this case, the Prime Minister has been meeting with an American evangelical minister named Schiller, and they are tasked to determine if Schiller is as innocuous as he seems, and if not, determine if the PM has been compromised.

    The story sends Bob and his team to Denver, and the HQ of Schillers megachurch. The story is back to more of a Lovecraftian Spy story, and less of the Horror of the previous book. It still has some pretty dark stuff in it, but that is offset by Stross's usual sarcasm and humor. It's my understanding that, like in his previous novels, Stross was trying to emulate another of his literary heroes, in this case one I'm not really familiar with: Peter O'Donnell's "Modesty Blaise" series. Again, the story is heavy on Lovecraftian ideas, tempered with action and adventure. It's a lot of fun.
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  4. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    I just finished the last published novel in Charle's Stross's Laundry series, The Rhesus Chart -- it's up to the same good quality of all of the previous novels in the series, and I highly recommend it. The only bad thing now is that I have to wait a bit for the next book in the series to be published.

    In The Rhesus Chart, the hero of the series, Bob Howard uncovers what he suspects is a group of newly-created vampires working for a large bank in downtown London. What's worse is that the group seems to be led by an ex-girlfriend, and former Laundry employee. And all of the old-timers he speaks to in The Laundry tell him "Everyone knows there's no such thing as Vampires". His wife, and his boss tell him the same thing. Bob is not so much perplexed by the existence of Vampires, as he is by the irrational denial by many of his co-workers, even when they are presented with his evidence.

    The book takes vampires and puts Stross's unique twist on them, to make them fit in with this unique universe that he's created, where magic exists as a highly advanced application of mathematics. It's a very fun book.

    Also, I finished book 1 (of 5) of 100 Bullets. It's not bad. But as it got more and more into its overarching story, parts of it I found to be a bit confusing (I think that is a symptom of not having the faintest idea about why the characters are doing what they do, or even what they are talking about half the time). It's not intriguiing enough that I want to go out and buy the rest of the volumes. Besides, I have plenty of other things to read in the mean time. Maybe I'll change my mind in the future.

    Anyway, I did just start reading a new series called "Yesterday's Gone" by Sean Platt. The premise seems like it's straight out of the "Twilight Zone". People scattered around the country wake up one morning to discover that almost everyone else in the world has mysteriously disappeared. The books are divided into seasons, and episodes, kind of like a television series. I know it's odd. But so far the story is pretty good. And the first season of it is free:'s+gone+season
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  5. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    I just reread a book I first read as a kid, Neutron Star by Larry Niven. It's a collection of short stories set in Niven's "Known Space" universe. Niven is probably most famous for his believalbe alien species, and a few of them make an appearance in these short stories. The collection includes a few of his must-read classics: "Neutron Star", "The Soft Weapon", "Flatlander", and "At the Core". It also includes a couple of his recurring characters: Beowulf Shaeffer, and Nessus, plus there's a reference to a good friend of Beowulf Shaeffer's, Louis Wu (who is the principle character of the Ringworld saga). If you are planning to read more in this series (which I highly recommend), this is a decent starting point.

    The title story, "Neutron Star", is probably the one that least holds up to the test of time, mostly because its premise is that a fundamental principle of physics would be unknown to one of the most intelligent species in the universe (the Puppeteers). But it still is a fun book. And if you are unfamiliar with this particular principle, you may even find it educational (I did when I read it as a kid). All of the rest of the stories hold up well. The only oddity is that the book was written in more innocent times, and it shows. But Niven is the master of hard science fiction, and a master storyteller, and knows the science well enough that he can explain anything that needs explanation in layman's terms and still be highly entertaining.

    Anyway, I decided to skip the rest of "Yesterday's Gone" I do not recommend the series. It's one of these stereotypical myssterious happenings with no explanation that don't make any sense whatsoever and is done so nonsensically in order to remain 'mysterious'). Instead, I'm going with something I already know is a lot more 'rational', and sticking with Niven for a bit. I just started reading another Known Space collection of his, A Hole in Space. I read it so long ago that it's almost like I'm reading it for the first time. Eventually, I hope to continue with World of Ptavvs, Protector (one of my all-time favorites in the series, and is key to understanding some of the later novels), A Gift from Earth, Tales of Known Space, and his Ringworld books (I haven't read some of his later ones, but the first one, Ringworld, is considered a classic.
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  6. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    After I heard about the upcoming "Lucifer" television series, I did some research, and discovered that after Neil Gaiman finished with his "Sandman" comics, that there was a spin-off comic based on his depiction of Lucifer in that series. I've been reading a lot of graphic novels and comic book collections lately, but one of the best so far, that I can give my unqualified recommendation for is "Lucifer". Note that judging by the trailer ( ) it bears absolutely no resemblance to that TV series. Instead, it's truly a spin-off of "Sandman", set in the "Sandman" universe, with a bit of the Sandman tone, with pieces taken from mythology, and so forth. I've read the complete first volume and am working on the second, and so far the writing has been excellent. The TV series, by comparison, looks to be a lot more clicheed, formulaic, and unimaginative, depicting Lucifer as someone who helps the police solve crime.

    Anyway, I know nothing of that TV series, so I can't tell you if it will be decent or awful. But the comics are great. If you like Sandman, you should like this. It's not the same, but it has the same sensibilities. And if you are unfamiliar with Sandman, I can best describe it as a gateway drug to graphic novels. They are the books you tell people to read, when they tell you they don't like comic books, or that comic books are stupid or are immature or are for children.

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  7. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    I meant to actually tell you more about the premise of the series. In "Sandman", Lucifer Morningstar (aka Satan, aka the Devil, etc.) resigns from his 'job' as ruler of Hell. He turns over the keys to Hell to Morpheus (aka Dream), and becomes the owner of a Los Angeles nightclub called Lux. There's a lot more to the story -- Morpheus has to decide what to do with the keys to hell (after all, Hell is home to demons and damned souls and so on, and without a caretaker, all hell could break loose, pun intended).
    He eventually turns the keys to hell over to the Angels, who are now in charge of punishing the damned.

    But it seems that Lucifer has plans (of course) that go beyond simply running a night club. The Angels know he's up to something. They are ready to declare war. But first they need to know exactly what he's up to. Whatever it is, they know it can't be good.

    Last edited: Jun 29, 2015
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  8. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    I finished reading the last (5th) volume of "Lucifer", and I still highly recommend it. The whole plot builds to a truly epic conclusion, that is highly satisfying. And then, there's more. Buried within the epic tale are smaller, more personal stories. There's also humor sprinkled into the otherwise serious narrative. And there's lots to think about with regards to free will, freedom, truth and lies, and so forth. And if you were a fan of Neil Gaiman's "Sandman", a lot of his characters make appearances in the story.

    I'm now looking forward to Charles Stross's next book in his "Laundry" series, which is going to be released for Kindle any day now. In the mean time, I've been reading The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography by Simon Singh. It's a decent, if sometimes uneven book about the history of codes and cyphers and how they are broken (because most of them are eventually broken). It goes into great, sometimes unnecessary, detail about the actual science of codes and cyphers. To me, with my brain not quite working as well as it once did, the actual science and 'how-to' pieces can occasionally sail over my head, but the history is fascinating. If you want to know in greater detail exactly how "Enigma" was broken, though, or how Linear B (not a code, but a language) was translated, and so on, this book can explain. If you've seen the film, "The Imitation Game", well this book can actually explain how Turing's invention actually worked. It also kind of contradicts portions of that movie. But we all know that historical movies tend to play fast and loose with the facts, so that's not entirely surprising. It's not ENTIRELY an easy read, but I Still recommend it.
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  9. Xyvik

    Xyvik Member

    That sounds pretty awesome! Question: does it deal with how they 'cracked' the Mayan language? 'Cuz that would be cool. I researched a bit about it for my Mayan-themed books but I never really read more than a handful of paragraphs about it.
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  10. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    There was nothing that I saw about the Mayan language in the book. It's PRIMARILY about codes and cyphers. The discussion of translating Linear B was primarily to demonstrate, I think, the similarities and the differences in the methodology, and the fact that a couple of cryptologists lent their skills to figuring it out.

    There's a lot of general methodology, such as frequency analysis, tracking which characters follow other characters most often and when, that kind of thing. For example, they figured out that Linear B was a phonetic language (each character stood for a syllable, instead of a single letter or concept) because of the number of characters -- too many unique characters in the language tends to mean that each character is more of a pictograph, representing a word or concept. Too few, and what you probably have is that each character represents a single sound (vowel or consonant). I think in Linear B, for example, there were about 80ish unique characters, which was a good sign that each character stood for a syllable instead of a single sound. There's a lot more detail in the book about it. IT also talks about a lot of the dead ends in the analysis (what people got wrong about it at first and why). A lot of historical context helped both solve the problem, as well as obfuscate it. A lot of what helped solve it is that they found what they speculated were names of cities in the texts, and knowing how those places were pronounced in Greek helped them figure out a lot of what the sounds were.

    I see that there are books on Amazon specifically about decrypting the Mayan language -- you may want to look there. I haven't read any of them, so all i can do is judge by the reviews. Here's one that looks promising:
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  11. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    FYI: This was posted today on one of my favorite websites, and it's relevant to the above discussion regarding language translations:

    BTW, I finished reading Charles Stross's The Annihilation Score a few days ago, and I'm happy to say that it's also well worth reading. One thing that I really appreciate about this series is that EVERY book is a completely different kind of story, and yet it still fits in with the world and characters that Stross has created.

    Unlike all of the other novels which featured Bob Howard as the protagonist, this one is a story about his wife, 'Mo'/Ramona, who's now middle-aged. For reasons that you'll only understand if you've been following the overarching story, it's discovered that there's a possible epidemic of ordinary people all over the world suddenly developing super powers, and Mo has been assigned to heading a new organization to assist the police with dealing with the problems. And one of her responsibilties is recruiting suitable super-powered individuals to her organization. One of the first problems they have to deal with is an unknown supervillain who calls himself "Dr. Freudstein", who seems to be causing havok all over London, with no apparent pattern other than a seeming desire to attract attention.

    Anyway, I really liked the novel, it's very funny, and the way that superheroes are fit into the universe makes perfect sense (and actually fits predictions that go way back to the second or third novel, actually).

    After I finished it, I decided to try something completely different. For years, people have been telling me to read Terry PRatchett's books. The only one I've read up till now was his collaboration with Neil Gaiman, the hilarious Good Omens. So I recently started the first Discworld novel, The Color of Magic. I don't often read non-urban fantasy, but so far I'm enjoying the book.
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  12. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    I've now read the first 4 books of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series:
    The Color of Magic
    The Light Fantastic
    Equal Rites

    All 4 books were funny and enjoyable. The first two follow the adventures of a not-so-talented Wizard named Rincewind, and his traveling companion, a totally clueless tourist named Twoflower. Rincewind finds himself an unwilling bodyguard to the naive Twoflower, who simply thinks that everyone must be reasonable and honest and good, even after incident after incident where he and Rincewind barely escape with their lives.

    Equal Rites tells the story of a young girl named Eskarina Smith, as she grows up, and her Granny Weatherwax, a witch. A dying wizard mistakenly hands over his magic staff and all of his power to Eskarina when she's an infant (he mistakenly thinks she is a baby boy -- on Discworld, only men are wizards, and no one really knows why -- if there is a real reason for this, no one seems to remember). As Eskarina starts to realize her talent for magic, she enlists her Granny (who's reluctant because she doesn't like wizards) to help get herself enrolled at Unseen University, the Discs one and only school for wizardry.

    Mort is about a young man named Mortimer who is so awkward and inept that his father fails to get him an apprenticeship in any trade... that is until Death, decides that he could use some time off, and accepts Mort as his apprentice. Of course, when Mort inevitably screws up, and decides to interfere with an assassination of a princess, chaos ensues.

    I'm enjoying the series -- I think the first two books are my favorites so far, followed by the 4th one. But now I'm going to take a short break and read something else entirely (I do intend to return to the series soon, though). The books are all fairly fast and light reading, filled with puns and word play and anachronisms. The first two books form a single story, while the next two each can stand alone (there are a few recurring characters -- Rincewind, for example, makes a cameo appearance in Mort).
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  13. Lily Phoenix

    Lily Phoenix Member

    I was fortunate enough to get to meet PTerry at the 2012 Discworld Convention (he was too sick to make the 2014 DWCon, but we got to see him on Skype!). Death is one of my favourite characters! I'm looking forward to The Shepherd's Crown, due for release on Thursday, but distraught that it's the last book ever :( Every book was a gift.

    Currently, I'm reading Neuromancer (again) by William Gibson. Absolutely love his books!
  14. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    I haven't read much Terry Pratchett until recently. I read Good Omens, honestly, because I was a huge Neil Gaiman fan, starting with Sandman. But I'm really glad that I've finally started reading some of his other books now. Btw, I may have mentioned this before, but Good Omens is one of those things in life that I value greatly. No matter how depressed I am, that book can so easily cheer me up. Also, the movie "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" is a decent pick-me-up as well -- so many great comedic performances in it, including Jonathan Winters and Dick Shawn (he is so underrated).

    Oh yeah, and Neuromancer is certainly worth reading. Honestly, I don't read a lot of cyberpunk. That said, if you like it, I highly recommend George Alec Effinger's Budayeen saga books (When Gravity Fails, A Fire in the Sun, The Exile Kiss).
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