A Monster for Every Season: Summer 2
You can get A Monster for Every Season: Summer 2 now at Gumroad
Page 7 of 9 FirstFirst 123456789 LastLast
Results 181 to 210 of 248

Thread: The Book Thread

  1. - Top - End - #181
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    RangerGuy

    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: The Book Thread

    You mean aside from the monster's heart-wrenchingly beautiful tenor solos?

  2. - Top - End - #182
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
    Bohandas's Avatar

    Join Date
    Feb 2016

    Default Re: The Book Thread

    I mean how they were both outcast from society because of their hideous ugliness and they both eventually snapped and became sadistic incel serial killers. And they also both engaged in extortion.
    Last edited by Bohandas; 2022-10-29 at 02:01 AM.

  3. - Top - End - #183
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    RangerGuy

    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: The Book Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Bohandas View Post
    I mean how they were both outcast from society because of their hideous ugliness and they both eventually snapped and became sadistic incel serial killers. And they also both engaged in extortion.
    Oh sure, that too I guess.

  4. - Top - End - #184
    Ogre in the Playground
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Gridania, Eorzea
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: The Book Thread

    Finished up Needful Things, and had a wild throw down of an ending. Definitely could see where some of the ideas behind Under The Dome came from. Overall found Needful Things to be decent and enjoyable.

    Started in on Inhibitor Phase now, by Aalistair Reynolds and just blew through the first 70 pages. Is surprisingly fast paced for this author, but no complaints on that and it still feels very fleshed out. Really looking forward to diving back into it, and mildly bummed Halloween is going to interfere with my reading time.
    Quote Originally Posted by Rockphed View Post
    Dwarf Fortress would like to have a word with you. The word is decorated with bands of microcline and meanaces with spikes of rose gold. On the word is an image of the word in cinnabar.
    Quote Originally Posted by kpenguin View Post
    This is an image of Wookietank the Destroyer of Fortresses engraved in sandstone. Wookietank the Destroyer of Fortresses is leaving Trotknives. Trotknives is on fire and full of goblins. This image refers to the destruction of Trotknives in late winter of 109 by Wookietank the Destroyer of Fortresses.

  5. - Top - End - #185
    Titan in the Playground
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Tail of the Bellcurve
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: The Book Thread

    Finished A Night in the Lonesome October last night, as that is the correct time to finish
    it. This is the book about Jack the Ripper's talking dog you didn't know you needed in your life. But not now, you have to wait for next October, when the stars are right.
    Blood-red were his spurs i' the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
    When they shot him down on the highway,
    Down like a dog on the highway,
    And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.


    Alfred Noyes, The Highwayman, 1906.

  6. - Top - End - #186
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
    Bohandas's Avatar

    Join Date
    Feb 2016

    Default Re: The Book Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by warty goblin View Post
    Finished A Night in the Lonesome October last night, as that is the correct time to finish
    it. This is the book about Jack the Ripper's talking dog you didn't know you needed in your life. But not now, you have to wait for next October, when the stars are right.
    Is said dog in any related to the Son of Sam's talking dog?

  7. - Top - End - #187
    Pixie in the Playground
    Join Date
    Oct 2022
    Location
    USA
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: The Book Thread

    I finished "The Martian" by Andy Weir. . I enjoy science fiction books that are based in reality, and "The Martian" does a great job of presenting a believable scenario
    Did you read The Justice of Kings by Richard Swan?

  8. - Top - End - #188
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    RangerGuy

    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: The Book Thread

    I enjoyed The Martian as well. I read Hatchet a dozen times growing up, and was always into "survival with the following tools" books, plus I love space and irreverent narration, so it hit all my weak points. That said, the writing was fairly one-note throughout the book, and I was much less invested in any of the drama or humor than I was in the fun survivalist MacGyvering. The book was at its best when it was leaning fully into the "Hatchet IN SPAAAAAACE" vibes. Yes I'm aware Castaway is a better comparison but have never seen it

    I think it's one of the few books that doesn't just suit a movie adaptation -- it's improved by it. The film version cut out a ton of extra fluff that wasn't needed (looking at you "shorting out Pathfinder to cut him off from Earth again for cheap drama" and "oooh no there's a dust storm he doesn't know about, wait nevermind he caught on and now he's fine"), preserved the most exciting and clever science hacks, and gave us some great acting to sell the dialogue and narration. Matt Damon in particular did a killer job matching and even elevating the book's tone.

    Plus, I still find it very fun indeed that The Martian is one of the few popular sci-fi books
    Spoiler: The Martian
    Show
    where everybody lives.


    Fun fact to your "believable" point: I think Weir has said that pretty much everything except the initial dust storm that kick starts the plot is actually grounded in modern (or near-future) science. It really is a feasible story from a science standpoint, which is wild. And the only discrepancy with the dust storm is that Mars's atmosphere is too thin to generate significant force, so it wouldn't have been able to tip the MAV or pick up the equipment that impales Watney.
    Last edited by Ionathus; 2022-11-03 at 09:33 AM.

  9. - Top - End - #189
    Eldritch Horror in the Playground Moderator
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: The Book Thread

    I never actually read The Martian, but I did read his 2nd book, Project Hail Mary and thought it was a wonderful depiction of First Contact.

  10. - Top - End - #190
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    RangerGuy

    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: The Book Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by The Glyphstone View Post
    I never actually read The Martian, but I did read his 2nd book, Project Hail Mary and thought it was a wonderful depiction of First Contact.
    Ooh, I love a good first contact story, I'll have to check it out!

  11. - Top - End - #191
    Titan in the Playground
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Tail of the Bellcurve
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: The Book Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Bohandas View Post
    Is said dog in any related to the Son of Sam's talking dog?
    Nah, the book isn't really about serial killers, it's a very fun riff on lovecraftian and other horror tropes.


    Finished Hummingbird Salamander, a book I think I didn't quite get or like as much as I wanted to. It's quite good, but the ending didn't work all that well for me. The prose was good, but that very self conscious sort of good modern prose where you're always aware you're reading Good Prose, and it has lots of weird kinda metaphors that sort of don't make sense if you think about them too long.


    Now on to Years of Endurance a memoir by HMS Tiger's doctor covering his time on the shop 1914 - 1916. This is well written without any qualifications, in that sort of very straight forwards but extremely evocative way early/mid 20th century British writers seem to have mastered. If you have an unreasonable fixation on early 20th century warships it's also fascinating, but honestly I'd recommend it even aside from that.

    Also started up Cyrion by Tanith Lee, which is pretty clearly a fix-up sword and sorcery novel hammered out of a batch of short stories. I've only read like 10 pages, but this seems to be at about a 70% of Maximally Ornate and Inaccessible Lee, which is about the sweet spot.
    Blood-red were his spurs i' the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
    When they shot him down on the highway,
    Down like a dog on the highway,
    And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.


    Alfred Noyes, The Highwayman, 1906.

  12. - Top - End - #192
    Ettin in the Playground
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    ...

    Default Re: The Book Thread

    So I read my first book in quite a while, decided to go with one that I've had interest in for quite awhile! One quick shop of the internet later and I have a copy of Hour of the Dragon, the only Conan novel written by Robert E. Howard himself! I've read a lot (if not all) of the short stories myself, but never this story!

    And to be honest? Its worth it. Something about Howard's writing I just really jive with, the writing is just vivid and feels alive in a way that I've rarely run across before!

    As the final story in Conan' life, you honestly don't need to have read any of the others first. It acts as if the reader hasn't read other Conan stories and honestly I quite recommend it to any fans of sword and sorcery or Conan in general.
    Warriors & Wuxia: A community world-building project focused on low-magic wuxia/kung-fu action using ToB.

    "These 'no-nonsense' solutions of yours just don't hold water in a complex world of jet-powered apes and time travel."

  13. - Top - End - #193
    Colossus in the Playground
     
    Eldan's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Switzerland
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: The Book Thread

    I think some kind of enormous crime has been committed. Only about a year ago, I heard about Lois McMaster Bujold for the first time. The woman has six hugos, 3 locus and 2 nebulas, more than Heinlein. And somehow, I never read or book or even heard of them.

    Anyway, I'm reading Paladin of Souls, which for some reason I find to be an immensely awkward title. But the book is really good. Direct sequel to The Curse of Chalion, which I also loved, and it has everything that was good about that, too. Living world, well-fleshed out characters, solid prose, nicely subtle, but very present magic, a great focus on a very well realized fantasy religion.
    "And now I see, with eyes serene,
    The very pulse of the machine."

  14. - Top - End - #194
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    RangerGuy

    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: The Book Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldan View Post
    I think some kind of enormous crime has been committed. Only about a year ago, I heard about Lois McMaster Bujold for the first time. The woman has six hugos, 3 locus and 2 nebulas, more than Heinlein. And somehow, I never read or book or even heard of them.

    Anyway, I'm reading Paladin of Souls, which for some reason I find to be an immensely awkward title. But the book is really good. Direct sequel to The Curse of Chalion, which I also loved, and it has everything that was good about that, too. Living world, well-fleshed out characters, solid prose, nicely subtle, but very present magic, a great focus on a very well realized fantasy religion.
    Not terribly surprising unfortunately: it was the same way for me with Ursula K. LeGuin. I finally picked up Left Hand of Darkness two years ago and was completely blown away. Such an imaginative depiction of space travel - I love how the Ekumen's approach to planets saying "what if we don't want to join? What if we kill your messenger??" is just a simple "idk probably wait for you to die and try again in 50 years lol". Actually leaning into the scope of space. Actually truly playing with politics, religion, gender, sexuality...I kept saying to myself "this was written in the Sixties??"

    There's loads of excellent woman-written sci-fi and fantasy but it rarely gets mentioned in the same breath as the "big" names. Riddle-Master of Hed is a fantasy series that is, again, unlike anything else I've read. Lots of interesting perspectives that I wasn't used to after consuming male-centered stuff.

  15. - Top - End - #195
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    SwashbucklerGuy

    Join Date
    Apr 2020
    Location
    Kentucky
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: The Book Thread

    Just finished The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik last night. I didn't really love A Deadly Education, the first book in the trilogy at first. The protagonist, El, is not very likable and Novik has an annoying habit of putting page-long infodumps right in the middle of something exciting happening. It was just interesting enough to keep me reading, and I started liking it around midway through the first book. By the time I finished the third book, I loved El and the world she inhabits. I'm curious to see if Novik comes back to this world at some point. The trilogy ends with a sensible and satisfying conclusion, but there are still some loose ends that could be tied up in a future novel. I have a feeling that she intends to return and write a bit more at some point after a break.
    Last edited by Sayeth; 2022-11-22 at 05:43 AM.
    My free solo digital gamebooks for 5e are available on itch.io: sayeth.itch.io

  16. - Top - End - #196
    Orc in the Playground
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Munich, Germany
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: The Book Thread

    I've recently finished "The God Is Not Willing," by Steven Erikson, a follow-up to the Malazan Book of the Fallen. It's very much on par with the main series, and all the references made me want to reread that, so I'm starting on "Gardens of the Moon." I'm a bit anxious about rereading the second book in the series because I remember the ending of that book hitting me hard, but at least this time I'll be forewarned.
    What did the monk say to his dinner?
    Spoiler
    Show
    Out of the frying pan and into the friar!


    How would you describe a knife?
    Spoiler
    Show
    Cutting-edge technology

  17. - Top - End - #197
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    RangerGuy

    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: The Book Thread

    Currently halfway through the first Mistborn book for the first time! I'm enjoying the magic mechanics and the political subterfuge - the philosophy and emotional beats are a little hamfisted for my tastes though.

    Also I can't help giggling everytime they reference the oppression of the "ska."

    Quote Originally Posted by Sayeth View Post
    Just finished The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik last night. I didn't really love A Deadly Education, the first book in the trilogy at first. The protagonist, El, is not very likable and Novik has an annoying habit of putting page-long infodumps right in the middle of something exciting happening. It was just interesting enough to keep me reading, and I started liking it around midway through the first book. By the time I finished the third book, I loved El and the world she inhabits. I'm curious to see if Novik comes back to this world at some point. The trilogy ends with a sensible and satisfying conclusion, but there are still some loose ends that could be tied up in a future novel. I have a feeling that she intends to return and write a bit more at some point after a break.
    My partner has said very good things about this series! I'm quite interested in it but think I need to wait a bit longer before I'm ready for magical boarding school trope deconstruction.

  18. - Top - End - #198
    Troll in the Playground
    Join Date
    Jul 2015

    Default Re: The Book Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Ionathus View Post
    My partner has said very good things about this series! I'm quite interested in it but think I need to wait a bit longer before I'm ready for magical boarding school trope deconstruction.
    I wouldn't really call the Scholomance a trope deconstruction. Many of the tropes, particularly those involving friendship, cliques, and romance are actually played almost completely straight. It's more accurate to call it the grimdark black comedy version of magical boarding school (and in the third book, magical secret societies more generally). Everything is awful, magic is a source of evil in the world, and the numbers absolutely do not add up (human reproduction is not capable of handling a 75+% child mortality rate and the families described in the series do not reflect the kind of relentless breeding effort that would be necessary to even try), but the series most plays this for comedy with protagonist El relentlessly railing at how utterly unfair, especially for her personally since the universe actually is specifically out to get her, all of this is from start to finish with enough manic angst that it is regularly hilarious. El also has very tropey protagonist level powers (insofar as the series is a deconstruction it's that she hates this) and therefore is able to produce actual victories against the grimdarkness of the world in her immediate vicinity.

    The appeal of the series depends almost entirely on whether or not the read finds El's ranting, raving, and general commentary on the absurdity of everything fun and/or funny.
    Searching for beta readers for my megastructure-based science fiction novel. PM if interested.

    Resvier: a P6 homebrew setting

  19. - Top - End - #199
    Orc in the Playground
    Join Date
    Sep 2009

    Default Re: The Book Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    I wouldn't really call the Scholomance a trope deconstruction. Many of the tropes, particularly those involving friendship, cliques, and romance are actually played almost completely straight. It's more accurate to call it the grimdark black comedy version of magical boarding school (and in the third book, magical secret societies more generally). Everything is awful, magic is a source of evil in the world, and the numbers absolutely do not add up (human reproduction is not capable of handling a 75+% child mortality rate and the families described in the series do not reflect the kind of relentless breeding effort that would be necessary to even try), but the series most plays this for comedy with protagonist El relentlessly railing at how utterly unfair, especially for her personally since the universe actually is specifically out to get her, all of this is from start to finish with enough manic angst that it is regularly hilarious. El also has very tropey protagonist level powers (insofar as the series is a deconstruction it's that she hates this) and therefore is able to produce actual victories against the grimdarkness of the world in her immediate vicinity.

    The appeal of the series depends almost entirely on whether or not the read finds El's ranting, raving, and general commentary on the absurdity of everything fun and/or funny.
    A 75% mortality rate is not far off from some real societies, and wizards age more slowly (plus, having access to both magic and modern living standards makes having children much safer).

    I wouldn't really even call the series grimdark, though. It's got some grim elements to it, but most of the really hard edges are smoothed off and the worst stuff is talked about rather than being shown. Even more than most 1st-person narratives, the books are mostly stuck inside of El's head, and El is only a mildly-cynical heroine at worst. It's also laden with exposition and info dumps, which are done with a decent amount of personality, but does leave the series a little weak in the plot department.

    A fun series overall, but not particularly heady or anything.

  20. - Top - End - #200
    Orc in the Playground
     
    ClericGuy

    Join Date
    Jun 2020

    Default Re: The Book Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by BloodSquirrel View Post
    A 75% mortality rate is not far off from some real societies, and wizards age more slowly (plus, having access to both magic and modern living standards makes having children much safer).
    I can't speak to the later portion of this, but the former seems fairly unlikely. Note that this means an average of eight children to reach replacement value. What little evidence I can find suggests a range, but is probably around a 50% pre-adult death rate. Which makes sense, as with a 75% death rate, you'd need eight kids just to reach replacement rate and, assuming the series is focused on young adults and the risk doesn't suddenly disappear if you graduate, this gets even worse demographically.

  21. - Top - End - #201
    Troll in the Playground
    Join Date
    Jul 2015

    Default Re: The Book Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by ecarden View Post
    I can't speak to the later portion of this, but the former seems fairly unlikely. Note that this means an average of eight children to reach replacement value. What little evidence I can find suggests a range, but is probably around a 50% pre-adult death rate. Which makes sense, as with a 75% death rate, you'd need eight kids just to reach replacement rate and, assuming the series is focused on young adults and the risk doesn't suddenly disappear if you graduate, this gets even worse demographically.
    The fundamental issue isn't just the rates themselves, but that the societies reflected in the series don't reflect anything like the kind of systems that would develop with such an extraordinarily high pre-adult death rate, nor do the characters reflect this. For example, literally everyone in the series, except El who is special, should have had at least one sibling eaten by monsters prior to even enrolling in the Scholomance, but this simply is not the case. The world, fundamentally, doesn't hold together.

    Which, by the way, is fine, it's not the point of the series, which is about the struggle to take hard path to do things the right way rather than taking shortcuts and doing things the wrong way because that, ultimately, just makes things worse in the end. In order to reinforce this it exaggerates the circumstances to comedic levels.
    Searching for beta readers for my megastructure-based science fiction novel. PM if interested.

    Resvier: a P6 homebrew setting

  22. - Top - End - #202
    Titan in the Playground
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Tail of the Bellcurve
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: The Book Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    I wouldn't really call the Scholomance a trope deconstruction. Many of the tropes, particularly those involving friendship, cliques, and romance are actually played almost completely straight. It's more accurate to call it the grimdark black comedy version of magical boarding school (and in the third book, magical secret societies more generally). Everything is awful, magic is a source of evil in the world, and the numbers absolutely do not add up (human reproduction is not capable of handling a 75+% child mortality rate and the families described in the series do not reflect the kind of relentless breeding effort that would be necessary to even try), but the series most plays this for comedy with protagonist El relentlessly railing at how utterly unfair, especially for her personally since the universe actually is specifically out to get her, all of this is from start to finish with enough manic angst that it is regularly hilarious. El also has very tropey protagonist level powers (insofar as the series is a deconstruction it's that she hates this) and therefore is able to produce actual victories against the grimdarkness of the world in her immediate vicinity.
    I wouldn't say magic is a force of evil in the world. Rather I think magic functions as, more or less, the excess value created by human labor, and the hordes of monsters wanting eat everybody's kids are just an extremely in your face representation of a sort of harm that collectively everybody creates in a sort of difuse way, but gets suffered by specific people.

    The bad stuff comes about due to human laziness, greed and competition. If nobody pulled malia, there would be no mals eating kids and no problem. But people do that because it's easy power and people are lazy, greedy, and competitive. So of course you do what you can to keep your kids safe, but that's at best a zero sum game, and the instant you use malia to do that it's distinctly negative sum. But it's negative sum where hopefully somebody else gets digested.

    The bleakness in the series isn't due to the world being inherently vile. It's that it looks at people and goes yep, we will 100% condemn other people's children to torturous death not just for our immediate safety, or our family's safety, but so that we can have a big ass cool house.
    Blood-red were his spurs i' the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
    When they shot him down on the highway,
    Down like a dog on the highway,
    And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.


    Alfred Noyes, The Highwayman, 1906.

  23. - Top - End - #203
    Eldritch Horror in the Playground Moderator
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: The Book Thread

    The last book kinda beats you over the head with that moral, actually, with the whole maw-mouth thing. You can build yourself and your family a shelter from monsters, all it costs you is one human sacrifice and condemning an unknown number of strangers to an eternity of hellish agony.

  24. - Top - End - #204
    Titan in the Playground
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Tail of the Bellcurve
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: The Book Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by The Glyphstone View Post
    The last book kinda beats you over the head with that moral, actually, with the whole maw-mouth thing. You can build yourself and your family a shelter from monsters, all it costs you is one human sacrifice and condemning an unknown number of strangers to an eternity of hellish agony.
    Or rather that's the cheap (to you) and easy approach that lets you build a really ace house. The alternative takes a lot of work, and is substantially more cramped. But, you know, not built on literal human sacrifice.

    Which is the really bleak argument the book is making. People forgot how to do that because it was just too much bother compared to eternally torturing people. Just so long as you don't really have to know or talk about it.
    Blood-red were his spurs i' the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
    When they shot him down on the highway,
    Down like a dog on the highway,
    And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.


    Alfred Noyes, The Highwayman, 1906.

  25. - Top - End - #205
    Troll in the Playground
    Join Date
    Jul 2015

    Default Re: The Book Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by warty goblin View Post
    Or rather that's the cheap (to you) and easy approach that lets you build a really ace house. The alternative takes a lot of work, and is substantially more cramped. But, you know, not built on literal human sacrifice.

    Which is the really bleak argument the book is making. People forgot how to do that because it was just too much bother compared to eternally torturing people. Just so long as you don't really have to know or talk about it.
    It's not that the forgot how to do it because it was too much of a bother, it's because they literally couldn't do it. The spells to make a Golden Enclave take more power than any wizard possesses. El can do it, because she's a 'third-class entity' she's two full orders of magnitude (one hundred times) more powerful than everyone else, but it's completely impossible for others. The final book tosses out, at the very end, that one of her friends uncovered a way to circle magic a solution if everyone was pure mana and that's is a new and massively important world-changing discovery, but by that point the series is over.

    I wouldn't say magic is a force of evil in the world. Rather I think magic functions as, more or less, the excess value created by human labor, and the hordes of monsters wanting eat everybody's kids are just an extremely in your face representation of a sort of harm that collectively everybody creates in a sort of difuse way, but gets suffered by specific people.

    The bad stuff comes about due to human laziness, greed and competition. If nobody pulled malia, there would be no mals eating kids and no problem. But people do that because it's easy power and people are lazy, greedy, and competitive. So of course you do what you can to keep your kids safe, but that's at best a zero sum game, and the instant you use malia to do that it's distinctly negative sum. But it's negative sum where hopefully somebody else gets digested.
    The reason I said magic is a force for evil in the Scholomance is that it doesn't do anything good, or special, or make the world better at all. It's a source of power wizards play with, but their lives are terrible and the 99.9% of everyone else ignores them completely. The best thing that could happen would be for everyone to simply forget magic entirely, their lives would all suddenly improve immensely.


    Ultimately, the Scholomance simply doesn't have good world-building. None of Novik's books do, it's clearly not an area of focus for her. For the most part, that's perfectly fine, since she's writing dark twisted fairy tales where the world-building doesn't need to make sense for the story to work (it's a much bigger problem in Temeraire, one of the reasons I never got very far in that series).
    Last edited by Mechalich; 2022-11-29 at 05:47 PM.
    Searching for beta readers for my megastructure-based science fiction novel. PM if interested.

    Resvier: a P6 homebrew setting

  26. - Top - End - #206
    Orc in the Playground
    Join Date
    Sep 2009

    Default Re: The Book Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    It's not that the forgot how to do it because it was too much of a bother, it's because they literally couldn't do it. The spells to make a Golden Enclave take more power than any wizard possesses. El can do it, because she's a 'third-class entity' she's two full orders of magnitude (one hundred times) more powerful than everyone else, but it's completely impossible for others. The final book tosses out, at the very end, that one of her friends uncovered a way to circle magic a solution if everyone was pure mana and that's is a new and massively important world-changing discovery, but by that point the series is over.
    Yeah, this is one of the things that stops the book from being more substantial than it could be. The "good" solution takes an order of magnitude less mana, so even if the enclaves it creates aren't as large, they could easily create more of them. There isn't even a real trade-off there. It's just a (literally) magic solution that falls into their lap.

    Granted, you could write an entire book about the consequences of the former system being replaced and the power dynamics involved as the established enclaves resist it because it threatens their power base, but this book is nowhere close to doing that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    Ultimately, the Scholomance simply doesn't have good world-building. None of Novik's books do, it's clearly not an area of focus for her. For the most part, that's perfectly fine, since she's writing dark twisted fairy tales where the world-building doesn't need to make sense for the story to work (it's a much bigger problem in Temeraire, one of the reasons I never got very far in that series).
    Everyone can't just forget magic, because the malia are still out there and will come after them whether they use magic or not. Even if everyone stopped altogether right now, the existing maw-mouths wouldn't just vanish.

    I think the world-building is fine- in fact it's one of the book's strengths. What Novik's books lack is a strong plot structure. She sets up an interesting and imaginative problem, with a lot of rich detail going into it. But both this series and Temeraire are 90% exposition and meandering character scenes. Scholomance does a great job of establishing the long-term conflict, but doesn't know how to put together a web of intermediate conflicts that give the story a strong arc and move it forward. Plot points are just kind of thrown out there to give the characters something to do until a solution for the finale drops into their laps.

    Almost all of the world, politics, and character dynamics are described to us much more than they are embodied in the events we see. Antagonists only really show up as occasional, immediate threats, not as people actively working against the protagonists across the whole story. Novik is good at building her world, but she isn't very good at showing it in action.
    Last edited by BloodSquirrel; 2022-11-30 at 08:46 AM.

  27. - Top - End - #207
    Titan in the Playground
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Tail of the Bellcurve
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: The Book Thread

    So many books, so little time to type about them. Currently reading:

    At War, At Sea, which is a history of 20th century naval combat, primarily focused on how sailers were trained, lived and fought. This makes it rather unusual for a naval history, as the field loves to count rivets and obsess over minute details of ship design, things which this book kind of just skims through. It's quite well written, and the bibliography has been a real goldmine. There's the inevitable English language/winner's bias, so the stuff on the Royal, Canadian and US navies are much better sourced, and therefore much more detailed, than the German or Japanese, but if you read this sort of stuff you're used to that.

    The Unicorn Creed, by Elizabeth Scarborough. This is a fantasy novel alright. It continually teeters on the precipice of boring me enough to give up on it, but avoids going over the edge. There's some potentially interesting stuff in the background about, like, conflict between human and natural/magical forces, but the book has zero interest in leaning into a anything that heavy. Or really anything at all. It's basically the Marvel movie of fantasy, not actually challenging or thought provoking or, you know, good, but also not properly trashy and bad and full of dumb sex and violence and other cool but stupid stuff. It's just a safe, vaguely enjoyable, competently executed and painfully middle of the road thing. Which is, in some ways, the worst sort of thing.

    And my girlfriend got me a really lovely edition of the Silmarillion for Christmas, so that's gonna grab me like a giant octopus.
    Blood-red were his spurs i' the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
    When they shot him down on the highway,
    Down like a dog on the highway,
    And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.


    Alfred Noyes, The Highwayman, 1906.

  28. - Top - End - #208
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    OldWizardGuy

    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    California
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: The Book Thread

    Finished Her Majesty's Royal Coven after seeing it on some best-of-year lists. Good in parts but I found myself spending more time arguing with the book than anything else.

    The setting is "our" England, modern day (supposedly 2022, though it feels like pre-COVID 2019). There's a small group of government-sanctioned witches, the titular Her Majesty's Royal Coven, kept secret from us mundanes. Unlike Harry Potter, though, there's no separate "wizarding world" -- the witches live in London and various English towns, go out to pubs and Chinese restaurants, drive normal cars, talk on cell phones, etc. Modern English concerns, like racism, feminism, and LGBT issues, are important parts of the story. The center of the story are five witches who grew up and trained together, who used to be close friends, but have drifted apart and had some arguments.

    The parts where the friends are together are good, and much of the background is good, but...

    1. The story follows into the big fantasy trap of "the end of the world is coming! Everyone will die if we don't XYZ!". I don't know why so many fantasy stories insist on making the stakes "succeed or the entire world dies!" (OK, I do know - it's a hangover from Tolkien). But it always makes everything else seem small and unimportant. It also has the annoying tendency to flatten all moral dilemmas into tactical ones -- it's not a hard trolley problem when one track is "literally the end of the world" (again, think of Tolkien -- Frodo never had to make any moral decisions during the quest. The one "moral" decision, keeping Gollum alive, ended up being shown as a good decision because it worked, because Gollum helped get the ring the fire.) Yes, racing to avert the apocalypse can be exciting, but it's not good if you want to show characters going around their day-to-day lives and dealing (magically) with the normal fights and struggles that brings. It overshadows everything else.
    2. The actions of the main villain make no sense. Not logically and not emotionally. This is tied into the first point -- most of her actions would have made sense if the world wasn't about to end. Emotionally, at least. The main villain is a jerk, yes, but the problem is, the end-of-the-world stuff overshadows her jerkness and actually almost justifies the very thing the author clearly wants us to hate her for. And when it doesn't, her actions just make no sense at all based on what she knows at that point.
      Spoiler: Specifics from end of the book
      Show
      I'm thinking specifically of, first, Helena asking the warlocks to kidnap Theo once she discovers Theo is trans. If Theo really is the Sullied Child and is going to summon Leviathan, what exactly did she think the warlocks were going to do about it? If there wasn't the whole Sullied Child prophecy, then it would have been a perfect standard transphobe-jerk move; trying to force a trans-person back into their assigned-at-birth gender. But in the context of end-of-the-world, it just made no sense at all. And secondly, Helena summoning Belial the Master, when she could -- and did -- use the scary dream-prophecy to could convince her strike team to join her in trying to kill Theo. She knew first hand how dangerous the demon was. She knew she could easily get 10 or even 20 witches together by showing them the dream and have them overwhelm Niamh and kill Theo. It didn't feel like her back was up against the wall enough to do a desperation move like summoning Belial. And, as I said -- if Theo really was going to be responsible for Leviathan arising, there's some argument for killing her. Even if she's totally innocent and sweet, maybe she's just fated to have a bad dream and mumble the exact summoning worlds. It actually lets Helena off the hook; rather than being a transphobic jerk, she's trying to save the world the best she can. She's an idiot (the prophecies are clearly lures to get her to do exactly what she did), but she's not trying to kill Theo because she's a transphobe any more. Or not just because. It lets her off the hook.
      Again and again, it felt like the villain did things because the plot required it than because she had a real reason to.


    Anyways, not bad and I'll probably pick up the second at some point, but boy did I wish I could go back in time and suggest to the author "please don't make the story about trying to avert the apocalypse"
    Last edited by Sermil; 2022-12-28 at 09:56 PM.

  29. - Top - End - #209
    Troll in the Playground
    Join Date
    Jul 2015

    Default Re: The Book Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Sermil View Post
    The story follows into the big fantasy trap of "the end of the world is coming! Everyone will die if we don't XYZ!". I don't know why so many fantasy stories insist on making the stakes "succeed or the entire world dies!" (OK, I do know - it's a hangover from Tolkien).
    It's not really a holdover from Tolkien, but more an issue of scale and stakes and how they interact with human psychology. Human's mental systems are designed to apply to relatively small social groupings of no more than a few hundred people. Any event that involves more people than that struggles to scale effectively and becomes some nebulous 'really bad thing' unless it impacts you personally. This means that a framework based around 'we must stop Villain A from doing X horrible thing or 10,000 random people we've never met will die' has very little weight. Consider, for example, the effort to save the various people in the city at the end of Justice League (the movie), no one in the audience cares about those people and saving them is only relevant insofar as it reveals aspects of the characters in question.

    And this generally holds as well even if the scale and stakes are upped to national scale - if the audience doesn't care about said nation, its potential obliteration may not resonate with the audience. For example, I'm a fan of the Aubrey/Maturin Napoleanic Wars novels, but characters in those have an ironclad belief that the English must triumph over Napolean and that their cause is absolutely just and righteous and while this is perfectly in character for people living at the time it still feels kind of strange to read. In a series that is set in a version of the real world, this can be a big problem.

    By contrast, everyone lives on Earth, so blowing up Earth is guaranteed to matter to the entire audience. We can actually see the extension of this in space opera. Notably, in Star Wars: The Force Awakens are bunch of completely random planets get blown up and...no one in the audience cares because none of the characters are from those planets.

    Now, Tolkien certainly represents an example of this in action. The Hobbits are from the Shire, which is about as far from the frontlines as it is physically possible to be. Therefore, in order to actively threaten the Shire, and thereby emotionally resonate with the leads, the conflict to come has to threaten everything. There's also the notable example in the Two Towers where Merry and Pippin, and by extension the audience, come to care about the despoiling of Fangorn Forest, and this is a good example of the quantity of words it takes to do this. 'Hijack a nuclear device and hold the world for ransom' - thanks Dr. Evil, is cliche, but it is instantly understandable.
    Searching for beta readers for my megastructure-based science fiction novel. PM if interested.

    Resvier: a P6 homebrew setting

  30. - Top - End - #210
    Colossus in the Playground
     
    LaZodiac's Avatar

    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Canada
    Gender
    Male2Female

    Default Re: The Book Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    It's not really a holdover from Tolkien, but more an issue of scale and stakes and how they interact with human psychology. Human's mental systems are designed to apply to relatively small social groupings of no more than a few hundred people. Any event that involves more people than that struggles to scale effectively and becomes some nebulous 'really bad thing' unless it impacts you personally. This means that a framework based around 'we must stop Villain A from doing X horrible thing or 10,000 random people we've never met will die' has very little weight. Consider, for example, the effort to save the various people in the city at the end of Justice League (the movie), no one in the audience cares about those people and saving them is only relevant insofar as it reveals aspects of the characters in question.

    And this generally holds as well even if the scale and stakes are upped to national scale - if the audience doesn't care about said nation, its potential obliteration may not resonate with the audience. For example, I'm a fan of the Aubrey/Maturin Napoleanic Wars novels, but characters in those have an ironclad belief that the English must triumph over Napolean and that their cause is absolutely just and righteous and while this is perfectly in character for people living at the time it still feels kind of strange to read. In a series that is set in a version of the real world, this can be a big problem.

    By contrast, everyone lives on Earth, so blowing up Earth is guaranteed to matter to the entire audience. We can actually see the extension of this in space opera. Notably, in Star Wars: The Force Awakens are bunch of completely random planets get blown up and...no one in the audience cares because none of the characters are from those planets.

    Now, Tolkien certainly represents an example of this in action. The Hobbits are from the Shire, which is about as far from the frontlines as it is physically possible to be. Therefore, in order to actively threaten the Shire, and thereby emotionally resonate with the leads, the conflict to come has to threaten everything. There's also the notable example in the Two Towers where Merry and Pippin, and by extension the audience, come to care about the despoiling of Fangorn Forest, and this is a good example of the quantity of words it takes to do this. 'Hijack a nuclear device and hold the world for ransom' - thanks Dr. Evil, is cliche, but it is instantly understandable.
    Eh, I cared that the planetary alliance got blasted. It's not as impactful as Alderan, but still.

    Also, hilariously, in the novels the Shire does also get attacked directly in a very blunt and kinda unnecessary addition (that yes did help support the themes the story was getting at, but really just wasn't needed). So while it's true LOTR has the "this is a clear world threat so it matters to you, person safe in England The Shire, even if the Big War doesn't show up directly at your doorstep" vibe, it does also very much have the Big War end up directly on their doorstep.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •