Books: 2018-06

After the (announced) break in May, I was in heaven being back to books and reading in June. I missed this. Of course, not having read for a month and yet getting recommendations for books took a toll on the length of my reading list.

Reading list length: 275

A disappointing number of books among these that I can't recommend, but you can't always get lucky in the choice of books:

Perdido Street Station

Wow, this book by China Miéville was … a lot to take in. I liked it very much. Getting thrown into an Ankh-Morporkesque city, discovering alien races, and characters, and social structures was awesome. I noted with thanks that there was very little of a conventional story arch, so that the overall direction of the story only grew clear when reaching 50-65% of the story. The clear-cut and different characters were relatable and realistic, and the final twists were all the better for the fact that they were not positive. Looking forward to the next volume in the trilogy.

Also, screw those transcendent moths with their creepy fractal wings ewwwww.


I liked Binti a lot more than Akata Witch (also by Nnedi Okorafor), which I enjoyed very much. Binti was impressive and creative scifi, and the fast pace (due to the <100 pages) was refreshing and very well executed. Binti is a wonderful protagonist, and the culture and belief system sketched out in the book made me hungry for more. (Also: living ships?! Living ships!) At the same time, no matter how enjoyable this book was, I feel that it fails to address consequences to actions properly – like the plot was laid out and will be followed regardless of second thoughts, or petty things like consequences for extreme and/or illegal actions. This might have been alleviated by writing having the story be a bit fleshed out (some parts had a summary-like feeling to them), maybe, or just a bit less fairytale like.

The Republic of Thieves

This is the third volume of the very very very excellent Gentleman Bastard series by Scott Lynch, which may or may not have a fourth book later this year. Here's to hoping – because The Republic of Thieves was terrific. We get exciting backstory on my favourite characters (Scott pulls off the old past-present alternating chapters well), and a contest with unfair rules and unfairer outcome. I loved how, again, Scott makes clear that the women in the story (mostly Sabetha, but not only) have agency, and character. No matter if they choose to persue relationships/sex/a combination/none of those, their choices are shown to be theirs and valid, and men who don't respect that are shown to be assholes. The whole book is tremendous amounts of fun.

The Desert Spear

The second volume in Peter Brett's Demon Cycle is a great successor to an awesome first book! We see more of the established first three protagonists, and two previous side characters get elevated to near-protagonist levels, too. We gain more insight into politics and the demons, and the story develops at a fast and exciting pace. Everything was cool, especially how people had all sorts of agency – it's still a fairly medieval world, so their agency isn't always respected by other characters, but it's always there. I felt that character development ran a bit low in this book, but that's a common theme for second volumes, so let's hope the next one picks it up a bit. Very enjoyable and still one of my favourite fantasy series.

So You've Been Publicly Shamed

Jon Ronson gives a good overview over the way online culture gravitates towards outrage and shaming. We get to meet some of the people impacted by this, and industries surrounding it, as well as contextualisation, both historical and with the justice system. While there is little actionable advice here – I appreciated it. It read like a very long, thorough reportage and I enjoyed the read, even though I'd have wished for more discussion of ways to go forward, data analysis, and the like.

The Sandman: The Dream Hunters

I happen to like Neil Gaiman, and I happen to like Princess Mononoke, and this novella happened to come to Neil while he was doing research for his translation of Princess Mononoke. It's a re-telling of a Japanese tale about a monk and a fox, moved to the Sandman universe (I think, I'm not a comic reader and not overly familiar with Sandman). It's sad and beautiful and everything you'd expect a Neil Gaiman tale to be.

Short Stories

  • Devil in the Dollhouse (part 3.5 of the Sandman Slim series by Richard Kadrey) was a very relaxing read that managed the rare feat of giving deep and relevant backstory on the world of the series, involving the protagonist, and still managing to be clearly optional and not required reading when going through the main books.
  • Snow, Glass, Apples - Well, what do you expect from Neil Gaiman tackling Snowwhite from the perspective of the evil queen? It's very scary, in the best possible way.

Don't Recommend

  • Thinking, Fast and Slow had a fascinating subject, and gripped me at first, but then grew repetetive (anecdote - experiement - explanation of bias - lots of stereotyped examples, repeat) and I didn't finish it.
  • Catch-22 was not bad, but not great either. I appreciate the absurdity of the book, but I felt at every absurd turn that Kurt Vonnegut would've done the same thing better. The time reading this book was definitely not wasted, but I didn't enjoy it either.
  • Every Day by David Levithan has a nice premise (protagonist wakes up in a different body every morning since their childhood), but the execution was somewhat lacking. Too dramatic, too predictable, and not creative enough.
  • Hidden Empire by Kevin J. Anderson (first in about a billion books in the Saga of Seven Suns series) is … space fantasy? A space epic? I wouldn't call it scifi, and it reminds me of Star Wars (although more thought was put into it). The writing had some seriously weak moments, large plot elements were predictable, and, the worst, all characters were clearly good or evil. It was never phrased like that, but c'mon. I liked the backstory, the different types of human and alien settlements (and of course the Roamers, which are clearly the coolest. But again, they're meant to be the coolest, meh). The story was, well, ok. Since I'm not going to read any of the other books, I read up on the plot, and it's as stereotypical as I feared.