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May 6th, 2009, 02:19
Blue was my least favorite of the three. Still enjoyed it, but it dropped a lot of science to add sociology.

Sorry. No pearls of wisdom in this oyster.
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May 6th, 2009, 03:11
I've just started reading Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America. Good book so far. I highly recommend it if you want to get a look at Nixon and how/why he thought and acted the way he did.
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May 6th, 2009, 04:42
Yeah, that's what I've heard. It also didn't win a Hugo or Nebula award like the first two.

But I must finish the series!
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May 18th, 2009, 18:17
Picked up a couple of books on economics and economic history: "The Return of Depression Economics" by some guy called Krugheimer… Krugmeyer… won the Nobel prize lately anyway. And "The Ascent Of Money" by Niall Ferguson.

I'm about halfway through the Krugstrom book, and I'm pretty impressed so far. It's more analytical and less polemical/political than much of his writing, and he does an extremely impressive job of explaining entirely non-trivial concepts and events in understandable ways. Definitely worth a read if you want insight into what, exactly, screwed up the global economy so badly.

I'm feeling slightly comforted that what we're experiencing now is anything but unprecedented. It's happened before, and we survived, so the odds are that this, too, will pass.
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May 18th, 2009, 19:58
Of course it will pass.

But some will survive it better than others.

And among those who'll survive it better are those who've caused it.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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May 18th, 2009, 21:22
I Picked up a hard-sf book that got some rave reviews.
"Blindsight" by Peter Watts.

I'm… uh.. I'm not quite sure what to make of it. Not sure I'm actually enjoying it much either. It's one of those books that's extremely tough to read.


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May 18th, 2009, 21:57
Walp, I finished that book by that Krugberg guy. Very interesting reading, and several cuts above his usual NY Times column. Short, sharp, and to the point, and refreshingly candid about the fact that there are no easy, ready prescriptions to the trouble we're having. Yet it managed to be all that without being at all panicky or even overly alarmist. Highly recommended for anyone interested in what the deal is with the mess we're in, regardless of political orientation.
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May 18th, 2009, 22:22
Don't know if anyone knows him/her: Robin Hobb
He is the auteur of fantasy series.
He has 3 series so far as I know: The Nar (in dutch), The Living Ships and and other one which slips my mind.

For once: Norcs, elven or dwarves.
He has a real special way of writing, it is totalyy different than Weiss & Hickmann (wich I read the most untill now)
But I really like it
Anyone else here who read anything of Robin Hobb?

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May 19th, 2009, 01:48
Read 2 series by RH, but wasn't overly impressed. I think even less of Weiss and Hickman.

Trying a couple of new (to me) authors: David Drake and his Lord of the Isles series (very good so far) and Charles de Lint's Riddle of the Wren. I think Mags would like that one.

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May 19th, 2009, 02:46
I liked the first series from Hobb (Farseer trilogy), but I was very disappointed by the Live Ship series. I quit half way thru book 2, which is extremely rare for me to do, particularly since I'd already bought book 3.

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May 19th, 2009, 05:36
Anything by L.E. Modesitt Jr is a good read, just be sure about what order you read his books, because while many have a chronological order, most aren't actually written in that order.

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May 19th, 2009, 12:48
Finally started with Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (susanna clarke) and am about half way through, very disappointed so far.

It's prissy, mannered, very sanitised. Kind of Charlotte Bronte meets J K Rowling, picking up the worst of both.

A shame, the victorian period is potentially such an interesting setting, but this just gets into an awful lot of taking tea and being polite and gentlemanly, none of the squalor and weirdness and repression of the age. And the whole magicians dealing with faerie kind of thing can be done well if they're properly portrayed as otherwordly and vicious but . . . they're just bland here. In theory the main storyline of the fairy involves some serious twisted messing with people, but I'm just not feeling it at all, the prose style and quality of the descriptions just doesn't give anything at all.

Overall, not a recommendation. Shame, could have been quite a good concept for a book. Oh . . . the endless footnotes are getting a bit tiring too, there's a lot of side stories and lore of the world and when the world's just not that interesting they're a bit annoying.
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May 24th, 2009, 15:06
Finished The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson. I can't say I'm terribly impressed.

First off, the subtitle is "A Financial History of the World." In reality, it's a fairly superficial history of Anglo-American finance, with attention paid to the rest of the world only to the extent that it serves as roots, antecedents, or illustrations of the main story.

Second, there's a fairly obvious smell of political pamphlet rather than a striving for objectivity. His discussion of Chile, for example, portrays Salvador Allende as intending to institute a full-on Communist state, Cuba-style, and Pinochet's coup as entirely endogenous, with nary a mention of the external involvement that was quite central to it. His discussion of the Great Depression barely even mentions John Maynard Keynes, which is a bit of a feat in itself — even if you disagree with Keynes's analysis (and I know from other sources that Ferguson does), omitting to mention him in this context smacks of pretty serious revisionism. (I also found it amusing that he felt it necessary to include a photo of Milton Friedman, but not Keynes.)

Overall, the book read more like a collection of interesting and well-written anecdotes from financial history that had been chosen to illustrate an underlying political ideology, rather than something that strove genuinely to understand and explain the evolution of finance. It wasn't all bad by any means, but it falls far short of living up to the promise of its title, let alone subtitle. I'd only recommend this book as supplementary reading if you're already fairly familiar with the economic history of the Western world; if not, there are better books to spend your time on than this one.
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May 24th, 2009, 16:03
I read Ferguson's Colossus, and although I found it a pretty entertaining read I disagreed with most of what he argued.

I just finished The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008 by Thomas E. Ricks. It was an enlightening book and it gives a thorough amount of background detail and an inside look on the Iraq Surge - the main players, the formulation, etc.

It also serves as another tale in a long series of indictments against Donald Rumsfeld and some of the top brass in charge of DoD at the time. Oddly enough, some of the behind-the-scenes stories about Bush make him appear … far more competent and intelligent then his on screen persona.

What I found interesting and helpful is the book delves into quite a few "on the ground" stories, including the formulation of some of the Surge-related COIN (counter insurgency) principles first employed in Iraq - and how these principles were pretty much ignored by the higher brass. It also scared the hell out of me, because it showed that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs was so ineffective that General (ret.) Jack Keane ended up running a good deal of the show and working behind the scenes to get Petraeus and Odierno in charge of Iraq.

It also is a somewhat sobering book, because it points out that even those responsible for the Surge in Iraq think we'll probably be there for decades trying to stabilize the place, and that it's possible the whole exercise could still explode in our face.

I'm now reading Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America by Rick Perlstein as well as The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan.
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May 25th, 2009, 12:48
I just got a recommendation I'm going to try out — Ken MacLeod. It seems he's the world's best Trotskyite Libertarian cyberpunk humorist science fiction author. I just ordered three of his books (Cassini Division, Stone Canal, and Star Fraction), and am quite keen to see how highly he ranks in that category.
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May 25th, 2009, 19:14
@ Prime J: Let us know how that works out. Sounds tantalizing. Also thanks for the Krugson recommendation and review.

Working my way for the second time through Diana Gabaldon's truly epic( six books so far with over 1,000 pages) Outlander saga of a time-traveling British WWII nurse who slips back 200 years to the time of Bonnie Prince Charlie's Scotland, getting embroiled in everything from The Rising to eventually the American Revolution in the course of a lot of harrowing ghastliness and steamy sex. Gabaldon coined her own term for the novels' genre: "historical phantasia;" since neither fantasy, historical fiction, sci-fi, nor gothic romance is reallly accurate or big enough to begin to describe them. A very engrossing and diverting series with lots of action, but not really recommended for the masculine types—it's probably the best "women's fiction" I've ever read though in terms of character and craftsmanship.

Here's her webpage , her wiki, and a shot of Outlander for those who might want to massively occupy the females in their lives for weeks while indulging in their own gaming. (Disclaimer: may raise unrealistic expectations of a man's innate sexual capacity)

Where there's smoke, there's mirrors.
Last edited by magerette; May 25th, 2009 at 19:32.
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May 27th, 2009, 16:50
Sounds like Dr Who with nobbing.
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May 27th, 2009, 21:27
Speaking of the Victorian period, I've been passing time by reading Sherlock Holmes stories on Project Gutenberg. I've read most of them before, but had missed a quite a few — two of the short novels (A Study In Scarlet and The Valley Of Fear), and some of the short stories.

They're rather enjoyable, actually. Not so much for the plots, which are pretty transparent and rather naive by modern standards, but damn, the atmosphere! You have your London shrouded in yellow fog with its hansoms clattering along gaslit streets and street Arabs ducking into back alleys by the Thames, your dun-colored rolling moors overlooking bays with jagged reefs, with the odd Celtic earthwork and gray, crumbling church, as well as a wonderful parade of all the xenophobias that made the British Empire great.

I'm not surprised it's given birth to such a beautiful flora of pastiche.

And I still think Neil Gaiman's A Study In Emerald was pretty good as such things go.
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May 27th, 2009, 23:03
@woges: yes and plenty of it—I have to skip pages of it to get to the bloody battles and amputations parts.

@Prime J: definitely agree—I got hooked on Conan Doyle back in junior high and I still reread the Collected Sherlock every few years or so for that very reason. All four of the novels are good, but I think the Hound and Sign of the Four (with the Andaman Islander) are probably my favorites. I already know all the fairly predictable(and occasionally rigged) plot points, but I just can't resist one more trip to those opium dens on the East End (or wherever they are w/apologies to our resident Brits—all I remember is they're in some foggy, drunken-sailor-ridden, seamy dockside part of London) or a glimpse of the evil snake-charming stepfather in the Speckled Band. And Gaiman's pastiche was very well done, as well as many of the others in that Shadows over Baker St anthology—for which thnx for the rec.
You might be interested in picking up Michael Kurland's tales in that setting, starting with The Infernal Device, I believe. They"re done from the perspective of Moriarty, whose character is a bit unexpectedly constructed, and well worth the read for the artful and original portrayal of Holmes in quite a different light.

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May 28th, 2009, 09:23
Yeah, The Sign Of The Four was great. I re-read that too.

The racism in these things is so over-the-top that today it reads like parody — you know, the grotesque gigantic mulatto with the yellow face from the backwoods of San Pedro who sacrifices black goats and white cockerels between his cooking duties, and then chews the thumb off a bobby trying to arrest him. Or that midget Andaman islander with his blow-darts.

I wish somebody would set a proper role-playing(-ish) game in that environment. Think Deus Ex with gaslight. I've played one of those Sherlock Holmes adventure games (the Cthulhu one), and it wasn't all bad — but, sadly, it failed to capture the atmosphere, even if the writing was pretty much OK. I think I'll give the Jack the Ripper one a shot too, somewhere along the line; perhaps it's better.
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