What are you reading and what is on your book stack to read?

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741 Replies - 36393 Views - Last Post: 15 December 2014 - 06:57 AM

#571 depricated  Icon User is offline

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Re: What are you reading and what is on your book stack to read?

Posted 30 July 2014 - 11:49 AM

Three of the series I've mentioned are worth reading. One has a TV series that's far better than the books could hope to be.

You don't like the writing, that's fine. Don't like the writing - I don't give a shit if you(anyone, not you specifically) like something or don't. But it's offensive to say that the author is bad simply because you don't enjoy what he writes. I don't like Skynnyrd, but that doesn't make them bad musicians. Hell, I think Freebird is a cancer on entertainment.

I'm reminded of a scene from the movie Amadeus, in which the Emperor (which would be you in this parallel) says to Mozart, "There are only so many notes the ear can hear in an evening. I'm right in that, Court Composer?" "Oh yes Majesty" "Don't take it too hard. There are simply too many notes. Just cut a few and it will be perfect."

There are just as many pages as they require, neither more nor less.

As far as the interconnectivity - it's far from irrelevant (unlike in Sanderson's Cosmere where it is just a side story easter egg). It's necessary to understand exactly what happened in the conclusion of the Dark Tower (though without the knowledge you still have a decent grasp of what comes next).

A well crafted book isn't about minimalism any more than poetry is about minimalism. John Keats wrote in 5 lines what T.S. Eliot wrote in over 130. Does that means Keats is intrinsically better than Elliot?

Sure you can tell a story quickly from start to finish. But the important part is the telling, the journey. I could squeeze the story of any of those into a single page if I tried hard enough (some would be easier than others), but so much would be lost on the way.

Reading a book is a lot like sex. There is no timeframe for good sex, no page count for a good story. The point, the goal, isn't the climax - it's about enjoying getting there.
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#572 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is online

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Re: What are you reading and what is on your book stack to read?

Posted 30 July 2014 - 02:51 PM

View Postdepricated, on 30 July 2014 - 01:49 PM, said:

One has a TV series that's far better than the books could hope to be.


If the books don't even come up to the level of a tv show, they're certainly not worth a toss.

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But it's offensive to say that the author is bad simply because you don't enjoy what he writes.


On what other basis would you say that someone is a bad writer?

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There are just as many pages as they require, neither more nor less.


I think that's true. I just think the requirements are set based on marketing goals and not based on narrative. More pages means more volumes means more sales means Sanderson's kids get to go to college. Again, I think that's a good thing, I'm just not going to read the books.

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It's necessary to understand exactly what happened in the conclusion of the Dark Tower


Good god, you got to the end of that mess? You're an amazingly patient reader. You should try reading Thomas Piketty - it would be nice for him if someone were to get to the end of Capital, and it sounds like you might be the guy to do it.

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Reading a book is a lot like sex.


I think it would be hard to confuse the two, but I think it would end badly for anyone who did. Unless they were blind and used to reading in Braille, I suppose.
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#573 modi123_1  Icon User is online

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Re: What are you reading and what is on your book stack to read?

Posted 30 July 2014 - 03:10 PM

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It's necessary to understand exactly what happened in the conclusion of the Dark Tower

Good god, you got to the end of that mess?

I did as well.. aaaaaaaaaand I also delved into some of the comic series as well which is even MORE background adventures and compendium information each issue.

Which reminds me - I should toss The Road to the Dark Tower: Exploring Stephen King's Magnum Opus on my "to read" list. If the series is done I might as well read more about how it was written, similarities, and common factors. Mmmm... meta book!
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#574 depricated  Icon User is offline

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Re: What are you reading and what is on your book stack to read?

Posted 30 July 2014 - 06:08 PM

View Postjon.kiparsky, on 30 July 2014 - 03:51 PM, said:

View Postdepricated, on 30 July 2014 - 01:49 PM, said:

Reading a book is a lot like sex.


I think it would be hard to confuse the two, but I think it would end badly for anyone who did. Unless they were blind and used to reading in Braille, I suppose.

While I generally like to think you're smarter than that, this discussion has me wondering if you just don't understand basic English. You do know what a simile is don't you?

And yea, the Sword of Truth has got to be one of the worst series I've started reading - for my taste. I stopped. Legend of the Seeker, though - that was an awesome show and it's too bad the books were only loosely similar.

Good/bad writing is easy to judge, imo. A good author can turn a terrible cliche into an awesome story. It's harder to judge the spectrum of good writing than it is to pick out the bad. But picking out the bad is easy. George R. R. Martin is a terrifyingly bad writer. Great story, but too much purple prose. Over-reliance on established tropes, use of exposition instead of retrospective, word rot, redundancy(forgiven for any books that were published in serial such as the Count of Monte Cristo - the redundancy in those is because each segment needs to remind the reader of relevant details that they last read 9 months earlier), and over-focus on minutia. These are what make for bad writing. Even with bad writing, a story can be good - ASOIAF is a perfect example as Martin not only exhibits but exemplifies every single one of these. I can go on for days about why Martin is a bad writer. Another phrase I use is "bad writer, good storyteller." The story is still pretty good.

Sanderson subverts tropes at every opportunity, almost never uses purple prose, tells the story of his worlds through retrospective rather than exposition, knows what a thesaurus is, and doesn't beat you over the head with what things are. Jordan is another I've said is a bad writer but good storyteller - and the Wheel of Time picks up beautifully when Sanderson takes over. It goes from what many call a 3-book-long trudge to a mad dash for the finale, with at least one huge reveal and side-plot resolution per chapter in the last 3 books. His hints to the Cosmere in his books are quick and subtle. It's the way a character talks (Zahel saying to Kelsier, "You've got red on your ears like I've never seen" along with the presence of Nightblood at the end of the book pretty much nails down that Sword Master Zahel is Vasher from Warbreaker) or small oddities(such as the broken jar and fresh footprints at the Well of Ascension that indicates that Hoid is likely now a Mistborn). It's not like he spends even a single chapter going into great detail (though there is one where the existence of the Cosmere is relevant to the actual story and brought up). It might be 5 whole sentences per book (though SLA is rife with references).

Sanderson is, imo, one of the better writers I've read. Definitely one of the best writers in the Fantasy genre - right up there with Terry Pratchett and Roger Zelazny. But Fantasy IS full of bad writers. My list of series was to show that there are a lot of popular series, and that long series are standard in the genre, not commentary on the authors. I don't like most of those series.

But like anything, attack what's wrong, rather than who.
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#575 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is online

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Re: What are you reading and what is on your book stack to read?

Posted 30 July 2014 - 07:11 PM

Your criteria for bad prose are not altogether off the mark. I remember liking Martin's prose style back when he was writing stories for the magazines and the original anthologies like Thieves' World, but I imagine it would be easy for him to fall into lazy habits when he's just slogging through a bunch of words towards his next plot point. When his writing mattered to him, he did it pretty well, but I'll take it on faith that his writing in the Song Of Paycheck and Nerd-Fame books is not good. I have no need to test this claim.

A few quibbles with your positive features, though. I would say that anyone who never misses an opportunity to do X is plummeting into self-parody. This is why I can't really be arsed to read Terry Pratchett: he has his things that he does, and he does them, and they're funny, and it's always the same funny and it's boring as hell. If Sanderson has knee-jerk stuff of that sort in his writing, to me that's a bug, not a feature. And if you ever get the idea that a writer has a thesaurus on his desk, they're doing it wrong. If it's the right word, you'll never think about where it came from.

But this is where we part company, for good and all:

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at least one huge reveal and side-plot resolution per chapter in the last 3 books.


Ugh. "...whether it belongs there or not", right? This sounds like the definition of bad writing to me, mechanically spurting out a plot point every thirty pages. Sounds like someone who's listened to too many writing blogs.
And frankly, this has always been the problem with the attempted epic in modern fantasy. Most writers trying to pull them off think that they can substitute rules for writing, and it never, ever works. Okay - one exception. The Engineer trilogy was certainly a clockwork contraption, but Parker pulled that one off beautifully. It took balls of brass to make it work, but s/he managed it.
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#576 depricated  Icon User is offline

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Re: What are you reading and what is on your book stack to read?

Posted 31 July 2014 - 07:33 AM

I haven't read Martin's earlier work - I was introduced to a Song of Ice and Fire by a friend just after book 4 was released, and grew enough dislike for his writing and him just from that.

For Sanderson, "Every opportunity" was probably a bad word choice. What I should have said is "where appropriate." Most of the leads don't have the cliche tragic past. His atheists aren't just people who actually believe but are spiteful and mad at god. There isn't a uniform, hive-minded belief in or about X Y or Z anywhere (except when there's actually a hive mind). Gender roles are relevant in the setting but irrelevant in his stories. There isn't a single all-encompassing and vague religion. When the plot is driven by lack of communication (which is what most stories seem to rely on), it's not just because it would be inconvenient to have the problem resolved before it gets to a head. It's not that he seeks out tropes to subvert (ala Xanth) but rather that where he could very easily and lazily fall into one, he typically doesn't. You still have the My God What Have I Done moments, Unwitting Pawns, and Sympathetic Murder Backstories - but for a large part, it isn't the typical crap you see in everything.

By contrast, the Sword of Truth was so predictable that only a quarter way through the first book I called what happened through the rest of the book, to the point that I threw it away when I got to the Lanfear and Gollum.

For the thesaurus - like I said, it's simply clear he knows what one is. There is no word rot, or phrase rot. It's not something you notice, it's just something that can be observed in review. I didn't get sick of every character ending every sentence with, "ya know?" or the same tired description of the sea at the start of every chapter. Like purple prose, you notice when it's used not when it isn't. You notice when phrases and terms are overused, not when they aren't.

As for the wrapping up of plots in the last 3 Wheel of Time books - not whether it belongs there or not. There are huge swaths of sideplot still unresolved after the last book. But instead of continuing the sideplot, or exploring more sideplots that Jordan had planned (Fain, Shara), he chose to wrap up what had been started and end the series - which still took 3 books to do for the sheer volume of side stories. The reveals fit, it's just that everything starts building towards the climax starting at book 12 and all the pieces for the climax start falling into place. I'm counting things like confirming that a character is evil as "big reveals" and things like characters being freed from captivity as side-plot resolution. Constantly he was answering questions that had lingered through the entire series, like who killed Asmodean, who is Mesaana in the White Tower, or where is Demandred. With what he had to work with, he did a great job. I think the really remarkable part is that he managed to tell the story in Jordan's voice, using his pacing and style(Androl), without coming across as parody.

I don't care if you read his stuff or not. I'm not arguing that you should. I'm simply pointing out that you're making wild assumptions based on imagined problems with an author you haven't even read. It comes across as a child shouting that he hates lasagna, with no clue what's even in it and without trying it.

I've choked down enough Twilight to know it's terrible writing. I suffered through a whole ton of King to be able to say that he's at once brilliant and shit. I've slogged through enough Martin to be able to cite exactly why his writing is terrible, and I've thrown away enough Goodkind to say that he's a terrible author.

But I'm not going to turn around and say V.C. Andrews is shit just from the perception I have of its readsership. I've never read V.C. Andrews, don't really have any interest to, so I'm not going to say one way or the other if it's trite garbage or not. Instead, simply that her stories as I understand them do not appeal to me.
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#577 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is online

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Re: What are you reading and what is on your book stack to read?

Posted 31 July 2014 - 07:47 AM

View Postdepricated, on 31 July 2014 - 09:33 AM, said:

But I'm not going to turn around and say V.C. Andrews is shit just from the perception...



And of course, your arguments have been aimed at the idea that I've said your favoritest writer in the whole widey world is shit. But I didn't. I said that, based on what I've seen, much of it from your discussion of the books here, I would prefer to read a writer who isn't him.

Just to remind you:

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All of this talk makes me want to read someone like Fritz Leiber - someone who can get it done and get out. But that's just me - I want the story, not the trivia. If I have to know what the secondary nemesis' second assistant pig-keeper had for breakfast, I figure you're doing it wrong.


So if you're almost done beating this dead horse, I'm not sure there's much more to be said here.
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#578 modi123_1  Icon User is online

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Re: What are you reading and what is on your book stack to read?

Posted 31 July 2014 - 07:53 AM

Speaking of authors I should re-read.. It seems someone took the liberty to collect The Complete Goosebumps Series, Collection 1-62.

Mmmmm... at 210 for the set - that may be a deal. Though I wouldn't mind them all being bound in one leather bound tome.

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I feel happy to terrify kids.
-R. L. Stine

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#579 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is online

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Re: What are you reading and what is on your book stack to read?

Posted 31 July 2014 - 08:04 AM

View Postmodi123_1, on 31 July 2014 - 09:53 AM, said:

Though I wouldn't mind them all being bound in one leather bound tome.



There are people who will do this for you.

One of my favorite possessions is a collection of eight novels by Jorge Amado, in their original cheap pulp-stock Brazilian printings, which a previous owner had bound in very nice leather. I'm sure it cost a fortune to do this, but I got them for a song at a used bookshop, since apparently nobody in Palo Alto reads Portuguese.
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#580 depricated  Icon User is offline

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Re: What are you reading and what is on your book stack to read?

Posted 01 August 2014 - 10:12 AM

I found a reference to the Dresden Files in the Laundry Files. There's no way it's not.

In the Fuller Memorandum, Bob is leaving an airport, says he "put away [his] flight material - a small book about a wizard for hire as a private eye in Chicago" (or something to that effect, I can't look it up exactly right now). I squeed though.
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#581 Bort  Icon User is offline

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Re: What are you reading and what is on your book stack to read?

Posted 06 August 2014 - 04:09 AM

I just found out about a new book that will have to go on my list - Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb. The characters that she created for Assassin's Apprentice and the books that followed have been her best characters, and certainly seem to be her fans' favourites. The end of the Tawny Man trilogy left them in a good retirement place, but now Robin Hobb is launching a new book which returns to the world of Fitz and the Fool.
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#582 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is online

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Re: What are you reading and what is on your book stack to read?

Posted 10 August 2014 - 09:17 PM

Haven't started this one, but it's definitely going on my stack: How To Build A Habitable Planet. Basically, "the earth and how it got that way".

Lately reading Capital in the 21st Century - slow going, but interesting. Finished up with Self Comes To Mind, which didn't come up to hopes unfortunately. Some ideas about the structure of consciousness, but unfortunately he doesn't really lay them out in a way that sold me. Still, it's some food for thought on consciousness and mind, which is something to think about. Also, recently received Beautiful Blood, the last title from Lucius Shepard, who died this last spring. I didn't realize that I was getting a numbered first edition, which is pretty cool. Adding that to the fiction queue.
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#583 modi123_1  Icon User is online

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Re: What are you reading and what is on your book stack to read?

Posted 11 August 2014 - 08:57 AM

I have decided my theory on the 'storybundle' site was flawed.. the majority of the books are crap. As it is I have turned back to my giant list of 'to reads' and picked up some nice 1950's science fiction short stories: "The Cold Equations" by Tom Godwin.

So far a solid chunk through "Space Prison", and loving it.
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#584 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is online

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Re: What are you reading and what is on your book stack to read?

Posted 11 August 2014 - 09:01 AM

View Postmodi123_1, on 11 August 2014 - 10:57 AM, said:

I have decided my theory on the 'storybundle' site was flawed.. the majority of the books are crap. As it is I have turned back to my giant list of 'to reads' and picked up some nice 1950's science fiction short stories: "The Cold Equations" by Tom Godwin.


The Cold Equations is a brilliant story - one of those examples of someone who put his one great work into the pile and then walked off the stage, otherwise unknown.
There was a followup, not written by Godwin, called The Cold Solutions, which proposes a resolution to the situation. I think it ran in Analog in the '90s. You can probably find it from that.... :)
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#585 modi123_1  Icon User is online

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Re: What are you reading and what is on your book stack to read?

Posted 11 August 2014 - 09:07 AM

I'll keep an eye out!
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