What are you reading?

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nicole
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by nicole »

I was kind of wanting to read this but this passage 100% turned me off

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Eric the .5b
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Eric the .5b »

And just as a random comment, listening to random audiobook samples on Amazon and Kobo (Kobo still exists!)...man, a lot of these people really fall into a plodding, portentous sort of delivery. (Jeremy Irons does well with Lolita, mind, and Stephen Fry isn't bad with Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.)
"Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer."
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Painboy
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Painboy »

Eric the .5b wrote: 17 Jan 2020, 01:38 And just as a random comment, listening to random audiobook samples on Amazon and Kobo (Kobo still exists!)...man, a lot of these people really fall into a plodding, portentous sort of delivery. (Jeremy Irons does well with Lolita, mind, and Stephen Fry isn't bad with Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.)
I generally avoid any well known celebrity for narration. They usually don't understand how to dial it back and they often can't do the different voices needed for the story. Give me professional voice over people please.
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Eric the .5b
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Eric the .5b »

This Is How You Lose the Time War by el-Mohtar and Gladstone was actually even better than I'd been lead to believe. In the middle of a war of historic manipulation between two very different far-future societies, two opposing agents, codenamed Red and Blue, start leaving taunting letters for each other...and then they start looking more and more forward to each others' letters, all the while trying not to get caught in this little treason by their respective sides.

The book's a half-epistolary novel, alternating between the various assignments of the two immortal, superhuman, and very dangerous agents and their letters, delivered to each other by increasingly bizarre and furtive means. It's one of the more lush and mythic (tasting of folklore and fairy tale at times) SF novels I've read in a decade or two, doubly so when it's such a fast read.

Definitely recommended; a couple chapters in, I realized this would be worth a re-read, something I'm badly out of the habit of doing.
"Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer."
Cet animal est très méchant / Quand on l'attaque il se défend.
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Hugh Akston
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Hugh Akston »

Had to quit Woodcock’s history of anarchism. The first half was a decent survey of early anarchist theory, but the second half read like meeting minutes from the various Internationals of the 19th century. Reading a last-name-only play by play of the schism between libertarian and authoritarian socialists develop over decades is like watching a televised political debate at the Oscars during the commercials of the Super Bowl where everyone has been dead for a century.
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Kolohe
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Kolohe »

Mike Duncan’s podcast on the Russian Revolution where he spends an episode on the split between the Reds and the Blacks is quite good on concisely explaining this, imo. (He also spends an episode each on Marx’s and Bakunin’s backstory)
when you wake up as the queen of the n=1 kingdom and mount your steed non sequiturius, do you look out upon all you survey and think “damn, it feels good to be a green idea sleeping furiously?" - dhex
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thoreau
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by thoreau »

I'm reading A Dream Deferred by Shelby Steele. I don't feel like getting into his particular arguments right now (for a book written in 1998 it sure feels contemporary) but I really love his ability to string words together.
" Columbus wasn’t a profile in courage or brilliance despite the odds, he was a dumb motherfucker that got lucky. Oddly, that makes him the perfect talisman for the Trump era."
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JasonL
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by JasonL »

TCW's Self-Portrait in Black and White is very, very good.
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thoreau
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by thoreau »

It is indeed good. And very much in resonance with the Shelby Steele book I'm reading. Steele opens by talking about what it means to be a Black ConservativeTM, and argues that it has nothing to do with left or right, red or blue, tax cuts or tax hikes, etc. It has to do with whether one critiques the victim lens. TCW critiques the victim lens, and so he is a Black ConservativeTM. He might like some version of Western European social democracy, he might vote Blue, he might support any number of Blue policies, but he critiques the victims lens.
" Columbus wasn’t a profile in courage or brilliance despite the odds, he was a dumb motherfucker that got lucky. Oddly, that makes him the perfect talisman for the Trump era."
--Mo
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Warren
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Warren »

JasonL wrote: 19 Feb 2020, 11:25 TCW's Self-Portrait in Black and White is very, very good.
I'm guessing you are Patreoning the 5thC. Kemel was pimping that and Racecraft.
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Hugh Akston
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Hugh Akston »

You Have the Right to Remain Innocent written by James Duane and edited by his buddy Ron who got a B- in freshman comp. It’s a short primer about what you should and shouldn’t say to the cops, along with examples of people who said too much. It would have been much better without all of the weird second person asides and attempts at levity.

Still, at 60 pages it’s a pretty tight read for anyone who isn’t aware of the garbage fire that is the US legal system, especially teens getting ready to drive or strike out on their own.
"Is a Lulztopia the best we can hope for?!?" ~Taktix®
"Somali pirates are beholden to their hostages in a way that the USG is not." ~Dangerman
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thoreau
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by thoreau »

I'm re-reading Richard Hofstadter's Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, and loving every word of it.
American education can be praised, not to say defended, on many counts; but I believe ours is the only educational system in the world vital segments of which have fallen into the hands of people who joyfully and militantly proclaim their hostility to intellect and their eagerness to identify with children who show the least intellectual promise.
I'll be in my bunk.
" Columbus wasn’t a profile in courage or brilliance despite the odds, he was a dumb motherfucker that got lucky. Oddly, that makes him the perfect talisman for the Trump era."
--Mo
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Andrew
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Andrew »

I finally finished Europe Central by Vollmann. By the end, I couldn't stand the fictionalized portrayal of Shostakovich or the invented love-triangle he was in, but otherwise I thought it was great. The use of characters from both sides of the Eastern Front did a memorable job of emphasizing it was a war between nightmare States, and the winner was just a different kind of nightmare. While I won't reread the whole thing, there are certainly sections I'll reread.
We live in the fucked age. Get used to it. - dhex
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D.A. Ridgely
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by D.A. Ridgely »

Not sure it counts as reading but lately I've been listening to audio books more and more. The last two were Anarchy and Other Essays by Emma Goldman and Roughing It by Mark Twain.
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Jake
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Jake »

Njal's Saga -- it's an Icelandic saga about Norsemen getting into fights, killing each other, and then rebalancing the scales via lawsuit. Better than it sounds!
"One doesn't want to be a Chicken Little but OTOH does the sky look closer to you? It looks closer to me." -- Warren
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Andrew
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Andrew »

Jake wrote: 11 Apr 2020, 16:02 Njal's Saga -- it's an Icelandic saga about Norsemen getting into fights, killing each other, and then rebalancing the scales via lawsuit. Better than it sounds!
Kinda sounds like The Long Ships by Bengtsson.
We live in the fucked age. Get used to it. - dhex
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Jennifer
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Jennifer »

So far I've spent quarantine re-reading old comfort books, but a couple days ago started a new-to-me one: "Quarantine" by Greg Egan (one guess what made me choose it!). Interesting, though the sci-fi is MUCH more hardcore than my usual taste. (I subscribe to the rule "You do not truly understand something unless you can describe it IN YOUR OWN WORDS;" by that standard, I do NOT understand the main premise of this book, but I can kinda-sorta make it look like I understand it, if I squint and view if from JUST the right angle--and if I'm not expected to answer any followup questions.)

The story is set late in the 21st century, when genetic engineering and mechanical/computerized/nanotech brain and body modifications are commonplace (among other things, practically EVERYBODY has skin which has been enhanced with lots of melanin to protect from ozone damage and other environmental problems; only "religious fundamentalists and genetic-purity freaks" are as pale as a contemporary American "white person."). About 30 years before the story started -- IIRC 2034 or thereabouts -- all the stars suddenly disappeared one night and have never returned; come to find out some unknown intelligence built a giant impassible Dyson sphere around our solar system. Eventually we learn this has to do with quantum probability and other science things beyond my understanding; I can't truly explain it in my own words, but the closest I can get is: you know the theory of the multiverse, that ALL possibilities exist for real somewhere -- every choice and decision you've made in your life spawned a different universe where you made a different choice? The book posits that this is real, but the bit about being stuck with your ONE choice is NOT a universal law; it's something unique to humans, due to something one of our distant ancestors first evolved in the brain. And due to quantum babble-stuff plus something about the human brain, without intending to or even REALIZING it, our very existence as a species has caused countless cosmic genocides all throughout the universe; it's suggested that before our first distant ancestor evolved that quantum brain-thing, the night sky had scads more stars than it does today because it held ALL the different quantum possibilities, until our brains caused all but one possibility to collapse upon our observing it. There's a bit about Schrodinger's cat being either alive OR dead until you look at it; basically, until our distant human ancestor evolved that quantum brain thingie, the cat would remain alive AND dead even after you looked -- only with human observers will the cat collapse into one and only one state. The reason the (still unknown, where I am in the book) beings built that Dyson sphere around our solar system is because, as our telescopes and probes got better and we could see deeper into the universe, we ended up causing still more genocides because every time we look at something, we cause all but one of the quantum possibilities to collapse. (It makes a lot more sense in the actual book.)

The protagonist is an ex-cop and private investigator who ends up working for a secretive group doing experiments learning how to control the quantum brain-thing, possibly to eventually escape from the Dyson sphere, though the experimental subject who has learned to control quantum stuff is also realizing that "Uh-oh, maybe breaking through the sphere would actually be a very very bad thing for us to do."

I do intend to finish reading through to the end, but I strongly doubt this book will ever make it onto my re-reading list. At least not until it's been long enough that I've more or less completely forgotten about it. Which I doubt will happen, if for no other reason that the title and when I happen to be reading it.

ETA: Changed the author's name; it's Greg Egan. I have no idea why I said Greg Bear at first.
"Myself, despite what they say about libertarians, I think we're actually allowed to pursue options beyond futility or sucking the dicks of the powerful." -- Eric the .5b
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Jake
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Jake »

Egan's "Permutation City" was pretty interesting. You might give that a shot, assuming you run across it.
"One doesn't want to be a Chicken Little but OTOH does the sky look closer to you? It looks closer to me." -- Warren
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Jasper
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Jasper »

Jake wrote: 11 Apr 2020, 16:02 Njal's Saga -- it's an Icelandic saga about Norsemen getting into fights, killing each other, and then rebalancing the scales via lawsuit. Better than it sounds!
Can cosign. I've read a few of the sagas because... vikings.
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Jennifer
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Jennifer »

Finally finished "Quarantine" (my summary above was when I was about halfway through the book) -- eh, not really my cup of tea, though perhaps I'd've liked it more if I truly "got" the quantum stuff. The problem I have is that after awhile, the story -- especially the newfound abilities the protagonist acquired thanks to either brain-and-body nanotech modification, or his newfound and growing ability to control quantum states -- started to remind me of play-pretend games from childhood: if we're playing "wizards and sorcerers," or anyone else with magic powers, then of course my magic power is whatever I happen to need at the moment; if you're playing any "shooter" games like "cops and robbers" or "Rebel alliance vs. Darth Vader and the stormtroopers," then when the Other Guys shoot at you they ALWAYS miss ... basically, the protagonist managed to solve his main problem by using the Infinite Improbability Drive from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, only played seriously rather than as a joke.

Near the end it became a sort of heist story -- the futuristic equivalent of "To solve my financial problem, the only way is if I break into Fort Knox and steal all the gold therein" -- only instead of breaking into Fort Knox via some super-complicated scheme involving tunneling equipment and vault-cutting equipment, and getting "insiders" in the Army on my side, all of whom happen to be on shift at Fort Knox at the time of the theft, and making elaborate arrangements to ensure the security cameras and motion detectors and whatever are all turned off or malfunctioning when I arrive ... I literally just walk in and steal everything because (according to the book), given the infinite number of eigenstates and quantum possibilities and whatnot, anytime you walk past a given armed security guard there's always the possibility that maybe he'll JUST happen to not-be looking in your direction when you pass by, anytime you consider the gold vault at Fort Knox there's always the possibility whoever's in charge forgot to lock the door today, anytime you find a combination lock or a password-protected computer thing and pick a series of numbers and symbols at random there's always the possibility you'll guess it right on the first try ... so of all the infinite multiverse possibilities where the guy tries walking into Fort Knox to rob it, he "merely" used his multiverse-choosing power to pick the one timeline where everything happened to go exactly right for him, and walks out WITH the gold but WITHOUT having made any special plans or preps to do so.

And THEN, in the book, ANOTHER guy releases a quantum nanobot plague-type thing that spreads throughout the world so now EVERY HUMAN has this infinite-states ability, and for a brief while reality stretched and deformed like taffy, only due to STILL MORE quantum eigenstate babble-stuff, humanity collectively decided to go back to the previous "one reality for all" standard, only now the star-blocking Dyson sphere bubble has gone away because the "quantum genocide" problem got solved somehow, AND come to find out the builders of the bubble were actually humans in some quantum-advanced state. Or something. Hellafino.
"Myself, despite what they say about libertarians, I think we're actually allowed to pursue options beyond futility or sucking the dicks of the powerful." -- Eric the .5b
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Eric the .5b
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Eric the .5b »

Jennifer wrote: 15 May 2020, 14:56...anytime you walk past a given armed security guard there's always the possibility that maybe he'll JUST happen to not-be looking in your direction when you pass by, anytime you consider the gold vault at Fort Knox there's always the possibility whoever's in charge forgot to lock the door today...
Sounds like using the idea of quantum immortality to reanimate the old, silly "probability manipulation" trope.
Jennifer wrote: 15 May 2020, 14:56I have no idea why I said Greg Bear at first.
Two SF authors named "Greg" (I can't think of any others, offhand), who both have four-letter surnames. And Greg Bear wrote Eon, which sorta sounds like "Egan".

I've confused them many times, myself.
"Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer."
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JD
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by JD »

Just finished Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha; it's (unfortunately) even more relevant than when I first saw it, since it's largely about flimsily-justified killings, police, and revenge, but since it was inspired by the Latasha Harlins and Rodney King cases, how could it not be?

Now I'm onto Brendan Behan's Borstal Boy. Behan was arrested at the age of 16, in 1939, for IRA activities, and spent the next several years in borstal - basically, youth prison. I'm only about 50 pages in, but it's a pretty fascinating book, and Behan really knows how to keep things cracking along. It's fascinating to see his description of police procedure then as opposed to now - for example, when he's arrested, the cops bounce him around a bit and this is unremarkable, but they also don't bother to handcuff him, and smoke with him while they're waiting for the black maria.
I sort of feel like a sucker about aspiring to be intellectually rigorous when I could just go on twitter and say capitalism causes space herpes and no one will challenge me on it. - Hugh Akston
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thoreau
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by thoreau »

NEW RICK PERLSTEIN BOOK IS OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
" Columbus wasn’t a profile in courage or brilliance despite the odds, he was a dumb motherfucker that got lucky. Oddly, that makes him the perfect talisman for the Trump era."
--Mo
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JD
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by JD »

Would you believe that I had actually never read I, Robot before? But I found a copy on the street, so I'm reading it now. I'm about 3/4 of the way through and Will Smith still hasn't come in, though.
I sort of feel like a sucker about aspiring to be intellectually rigorous when I could just go on twitter and say capitalism causes space herpes and no one will challenge me on it. - Hugh Akston
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