What are you reading?

Rhombaad

Video Game Time Traveler
I read Hollerbochen's Dilemma (didn't care for it, and neither did Bradbury); Don't Get Technatal (what a great, morbid ending); The Pendulum (this was fantastic; I remember thinking it would've made a great episode of The Twilight Zone); The Piper (reminded me a lot of the short stories found in The Martian Chronicles); The Fight of the Good Ship Clarissa (Bradbury might've been on acid when he wrote this one); I, Rocket (heartwarming and hard to put down) and The Lake (this one caused me to tear up a bit; it reminded me of some things Dan Simmons has written) by Ray Bradbury, Beyond Lies the Wub (a terrific ending); The Gun (I enjoyed it up until the ending, but the ideas present throughout were pretty unique; another one I thought would've made a good Twilight Zone episode); The Little Movement; The Skull (unfortunately, I called the ending almost immediately) and The Defenders (I thought it was going one way, but it took a real turn at the end) by Philip K. Dick, Skulls in the Stars and Rattle of Bones by Robert E. Howard (I'm loving these Solomon Kane stories; I can't wait to read Conan) and In the Vault (one of my favorite Lovecraft stories so far); He; The Horror at Red Hook (abhorrently racist and hard to get through); The Colour Out of Space (an excellent novelette, and pure Lovecraft) and Pickman's Model (another one where you see the ending coming from a mile away, but still fun to read) by H.P. Lovecraft.

Right now, I'm re-reading the Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist. After suffering a serious OCD relapse in college, which all but kept me from ever picking up a book again, Feist's Midkemia novels got me back into reading again. They're simple, but fun. He doesn't do anything terribly new with the fantasy genre, but some of his characters remain favorites of mine to this day.

My wife got me the 35th anniversary set of Akira, so I'm reading it for the first time. I've probably seen the movie a hundred times or more since discovering it in the mid-90s, so it's been fun experiencing its source material for the first time. I plan on re-watching it when I'm finished reading the manga; I'm curious to see how I'll feel about the film this time around.
 

Walter

Administrator
Staff member
My wife got me the 35th anniversary set of Akira, so I'm reading it for the first time. I've probably seen the movie a hundred times or more since discovering it in the mid-90s, so it's been fun experiencing its source material for the first time. I plan on re-watching it when I'm finished reading the manga; I'm curious to see how I'll feel about the film this time around.
You’re in for a treat if you’ve only seen the anime.
 
(I'm loving these Solomon Kane stories; I can't wait to read Conan)

Be sure to get The Complete Chronicles of Conan that was published back in 2006 in celebration of Robert E. Howard's 100th birthday; it's the only complete collection of Howard's original Conan tales and all the related miscellany. No posthumous rewrites or edits by outside writers; it's all strictly Howard's original text. Though the book is out of print, you can find cheap used copies on eBay.
 

Rhombaad

Video Game Time Traveler
Be sure to get The Complete Chronicles of Conan that was published back in 2006 in celebration of Robert E. Howard's 100th birthday; it's the only complete collection of Howard's original Conan tales and all the related miscellany. No posthumous rewrites or edits by outside writers; it's all strictly Howard's original text. Though the book is out of print, you can find cheap used copies on eBay.
I think they’ve got that same edition split into two or three books on iBooks, as well, which is mainly what I use these days. If not, eBay it is!
 
I think they’ve got that same edition split into two or three books on iBooks, as well, which is mainly what I use these days. If not, eBay it is!
I strongly recommend the 2006 omnibus because not only it contains all of Howard's Conan fiction, but it's also meticulously proofread and contains no typos or errors whatsoever. Something that can't be said of most pulp-era reprints.
 

Rhombaad

Video Game Time Traveler
I strongly recommend the 2006 omnibus because not only it contains all of Howard's Conan fiction, but it's also meticulously proofread and contains no typos or errors whatsoever. Something that can't be said of most pulp-era reprints.
Noted. Thanks for the recommendation!
 

Griffith

With the streak of a tear, Like morning dew
Berserk! I picked up volumes 1, 8, and 10 of the Deluxe Editions, and they really are quite large and visually striking. Each one looks like a hearty fucking Bible, as it should be! Of course, I immediately managed to fold the edges of the poster inside closing it for the first time, but that's fine; in a big, heavy set like this a little wabi-sabi is to be expected in the corners, etc. I'm going to keep picking them up as they go on sale on Amazon so I'm supporting the series and if I get a truly bad one I can exchange it easily (and it's not like I need to collect them in order and follow the story). Hopefully by the time the Deluxe Editions catch up to the current episodes I won't have to shun it in favor of collecting volume 40 and 41 in paperback form (I definitely won't be going past those in my Japanese set =).
 

Rhombaad

Video Game Time Traveler
I’m reading Berserk, as well. Just started volume 18. Every time I read it, I appreciate Miura’s genius more and more.
 

Rhombaad

Video Game Time Traveler
How about that guy talking about the coming of the Falcon of Light's kingdom? Blew me away when I caught it on a re-read. That guys' talking about Falconia 15 years before it happens.

Just got there. I think the last time I re-read the series was before Falconia was a thing, because I don't remember being blown away by his prophecy until this time around. That Miura. What a scamp. :void:
 

Griffith

With the streak of a tear, Like morning dew
I strongly recommend the 2006 omnibus because not only it contains all of Howard's Conan fiction, but it's also meticulously proofread and contains no typos or errors whatsoever. Something that can't be said of most pulp-era reprints.

I forgot to add about the Conan collection above that there's another complete set, in three volumes, that I believe also includes some annotated stories, notes and incomplete materials, I think in the order Howard wrote them rather than as published, so it's definitely a most comprehensive collection of pure Howard Conan. I believe they're called The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, The Bloody Crown of Conan, and The Conquering Sword of Conan.
 
I forgot to add about the Conan collection above that there's another complete set, in three volumes, that I believe also includes some annotated stories, notes and incomplete materials, I think in the order Howard wrote them rather than as published, so it's definitely a most comprehensive collection of pure Howard Conan. I believe they're called The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, The Bloody Crown of Conan, and The Conquering Sword of Conan.

Yep, those are great too. One other positive thing that should be mentioned about that three volume Conan set - the original British version of it is quite possibly the only instance when Conan was actually depicted on a book cover the way Howard described him. Meaning, Conan is of rather realistic athletic build and is wearing clothes that are somewhere between Viking and Roman centurion; and for once he's not a nude steroidal barbarian wearing nothing but loincloth and that stupid-ass helmet with horns or wings.

27292.jpg
 

Griffith

With the streak of a tear, Like morning dew
Goddamn and it's hardcover too! And has an outer shell with another accurate illustration and more color ones inside!? Why wasn't I told about this before they were only available for resale at $5-800!? :mozgus:

Well, I guess all the more reason just to stick with your original recommendation, that and the one I mentioned are the two editions I own, plus my dad's old pulp paperbacks, but those are often sullied by posthumous rewrites from Conan miscreants such as L. Sprague de Camp...

Oh my God, we're living this right now in real time with Berserk!!:isidro::???::magni:
 
I'm always reading Berserk, whether it's a few random pages at a time or an entire volume. Just spreading those pages open and eyeing the beautiful art and the exquisite paneling is a daily fix for me...I'm not a person who's prone to addiction, but Miura is an exception. He's an addiction I don't ever wanna be rid of.

That being said, I am in a reading slump that has lasted for 2 years now. Last (fiction) book I read was in 2020 I think. I have picked up some books since then, but I haven't read any of them to completion. Everything I tried is so dry and uninspired, despite the raving reviews on the back. An example is Jade City by Fonda Lee, which is basically a gangster kung-fu film in a fantasy world. It was good at first but I dropped it at the second half. The author's penchant for explaining everything to the reader (eg: "He acted this way to send a message to other bosses that...") was one of the turn offs. Like, I'm not an idiot, dear author, let me work out the subtleties for myself.

Other fantasy novels are similarly amateurish. Too bad fantasy is the only fiction I'm interested in reading. Literary fiction is just not for me (I'd rather eat a Subway sandwich than read about some guy reminiscing in the rain about the emotion abuse he got from his mother). Contemporary fiction is the most pointless genre imaginable. I really like detective fiction, but most of them just follow the same overused cliches. Horror doesn't work because I just don't see how you can be scared of ink on paper, that genre works in other mediums much better (i.e. films and, specifically, video games).

There are some stories I've had in my eye for a while, but haven't gotten around to diving in:

1. The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson: Now this is a absolute monster of a story, a 10 volume epic of over 3.5 million words. Each book in this behemoth is big enough to be used as a murder weapon. Malazan just dwarfs any other modern work of fiction I'm aware of in scale and scope...and I have nothing but respect for Erikson for the fact he finished all of this in just 10 years. It's a polarizing work, but its fans are passionate. The praise it gets from them is lofty. But I just don't see it in me to go through such a massive series. In my early twenties I might have, but I doubt I have the patience for such a large series.

2. The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe: Another series with a stellar reputation. Wolfe has been described as the greatest writer of his time, and his name was mentioned by some alongside Shakespeare's, which is very hard for me to believe as not hyperbolic. With such a reputation, my curiosity was piqued. But some reviews have been discouraging, especially regarding two points: Wolfe's unnecessarily opaque prose (as in, he regularly goes out of his way to use the most obscure words out there), and his handling of female characters. I don't know how true these claims are, but if true then I'm not leaping with excitement to read this story. If anyone here read the books and can address these points, please do.

3. Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake: Peake was a legend. I've read snippets of this work and, my God, was Peake a master of painting with words. His prose is vivid and instantly memorable. I'd even call him the Miura of prose. But I don't find myself attracted to the other components of the story, such as the plot and so on. I don't want to read a book just for its great prose. Again, if anyone here read this, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

There are other works, such as Brandon Sanderson's The Stormlight Archive, Robin Hobb's Farseer Trilogy, and so on, but I've had similar barriers to entry as the above. I've completely lost interest in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, and probably won't bother reading the rest of the books (if we live in a timeline where those books ever hit shelves). I'm not interested at all in Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, and all those other "grimdark" fantasy authors either. If there's anything I'm still interested in, it would be The Doors of Stone, book 3 of The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss, but who knows if that too will ever be released (man is spending over a decade "editing").

So that's the current state of my reading slump. Aside from the above works, I'm just returning everything I check out in the bookstore to the shelves. Nothing is interesting to me! I may try the Conan books you guys are talking about, as the above conversation piqued my interest, but I probably will just forget about it in a few days...

Oh well, back to Berserk for me. God bless Kentaro Miura.
 
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Walter

Administrator
Staff member
2. The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe: Another series with a stellar reputation. Wolfe has been described as the greatest writer of his time, and his name was mentioned by some alongside Shakespeare's, which is very hard for me to believe as not hyperbolic. With such a reputation, my curiosity was piqued. But some reviews have been discouraging, especially regarding two points: Wolfe's unnecessarily opaque prose (as in, he regularly goes out of his way to use the most obscure words out there), and his handling of female characters. I don't know how true these claims are, but if true then I'm not leaping with excitement to read this story. If anyone here read the books and can address these points, please do.
Yes. Book of the New Sun comes highly recommended by me. But it's absolutely not for everyone. It's not a traditional fantasy (or sci-fi) story. It can be meandering and confusing, and it's full of small descriptions that mean a lot. But it's one of the best things I've ever read. I just finished it two years back, and I wrote this up at the time (no spoilers):

I'm near the end of the last book (4) of The Book of the New Sun, by Gene Wolfe, and I'm at a loss for words at how to describe it. It's probably enough to say that I love it, and I'll probably be re-reading this series until I'm dead. But it's also not a series I can readily recommend to just anyone, because it is extremely, refreshingly, unconventional.

It's become an obscurity within the genre, because despite how masterfully it's crafted, the author is utterly unconcerned with your expectations for what a fantasy story should be. That bold, authorial vision ends up being both its power and its weakness, at least insofar as its reach. It is like nothing I've ever read before, and yet I can easily see people dropping this thing after the first 50 pages.

There's a lot I could say about what makes this series unique and attractive to me, but what immediately took my attention in the first book was how foreign-yet-familiar this dying, far-future Earth was. The setting for each book is generally what I'd characterize as backwoods medieval, except for all the details that betray that presumption. This planet's history is so far removed from our own time that characters’ language, the architecture, and the descriptions of technologies provide hints that they are distant ancestors for things we'd probably recognize at a glance, layered on top of wholly new human creations and histories from the years beyond our own. In hindsight, it's a bit like a whole series where the most interesting bits are conveyed through disparate Dark Souls item descriptions. :ganishka:

The best example I can give for these kinds of riddles is an early scene where Severian (main character) ends up in a gallery, surrounded by paintings from throughout time. One of them catches his eye:

The picture he was cleaning showed an armored figure standing in a desolate landscape. It had no weapon, but held a staff bearing a strange, stiff banner. The visor of this figure's helmet was entirely of gold, without eye slits or ventilation; in its polished surface the deathly desert could be seen in reflection, and nothing more. This warrior of a dead world affected me deeply, though I could not say why or even just what emotion it was I felt.

It's up to readers to deduce any meaning from this enigmatic description. But this painting holds no special significance in the series, so I'll clue you in -- Spoiler: He’s describing this.

I get quickly bored with conventional stories that take you linearly from place or time A to place or time B. Books that dare to do more, and require readers to invest more, often get their hooks into me deeper and longer. And this process of literature via archeology, where you have to sweep over the descriptions and puzzle out the meaning, feels like something that was made just for me.

I've also recently finished The Wizard Knight, which is a two-book fantasy series by Wolfe. I should probably write something longer about it, because it's worth it. In brief, it's special to me because it's a genuine heroic fantasy. No anti-hero bullshit. It's simple, wholesome, and genuine in a surprisingly cool way. That went a long way for me, because it has always felt to me like most modern fantasy books are iterations on a theme: Cynical one-upsmanship. And this felt like a fresh return to what a new fantasy story could feel like if it shed all of that accumulated genre gunk.

But anyway, I've been working my way through Cormac McCarthy's lineup still. Finally finishing up the Border trilogy. It's been nice to catch back up with John Grady Cole.
 

Grail

Feel the funk blast
Oh snap, are we talking about Wolfe in this thread?! :beast: I'm ready!!

Walter, I'm sorry to have (probably) missed your original write-up on Book of the New Sun, since it's also a great favorite of mine. I feel like Wolfe is one of those authors that many sci-fi fans seem seem to love, but mentions of him were sadly few and far-between before his passing. I'm happy to hear his name being thrown around a lot more, but his work still seems very obscure.

Lawliet, I hope you fully savor your first reading. One thing I would say about the criticism you've read (without spoiling anything) is that what some may call "opaque" language might also be seen as an opportunity to dig into the text to find some real gems. The great joy in BotNS is unraveling the archaic vocabulary (famously taken from real-world ancient languages, and can sometimes hide secret meanings), along with Severian's point of view, which is limited, and also his attempts to sway his reader's opinion about certain things. I get excited just talking about it.

I could go on for a bit about Wolfe, but I'll just say that I still need to finish the rest of the Solar Cycle (I still haven't gotten around to finishing Long Sun after many years :farnese: ), but I've really enjoyed his short fiction, where he comes up with some very cool premises and can do a lot to create a sense of wonder with a limited wordcount. There's one short horror of his that was written entirely in a really thick American southern accent, and was incredibly difficult to read unless I read the story aloud. Stuff like that makes his work seem very fresh and interesting!

Gormenghast is another great book series. As you said, Lawliet, the illustrative quality of Peake's writing is rich and decadent, but I've found that it's easier to read in small intervals. I'd compare it to eating a really dense chocolate cake! :ganishka: His characters are so great, and fit so perfectly as little weird and quirky guys in what feels like such an old world. I think Doctor Prunesquallor comes to mind as one of my favorites. Peake was also a very talented artist, so look up his work if you have a chance!
 
@Walter thanks for linking your review. From what you and Grail said, I suppose BotNS is the novel equivalent of Dark Souls indeed. Not many books make you embark on literary archeology, and I have to honestly admit: I'd never have guessed that description you quoted would have corresponded to the picture you linked! But beyond such things as being a literary exercise, does the series provide a compelling narrative? Are the characters likeable? I'm more interested in checking it out now after reading your post and Grail's, but I admit I want more in a book than a puzzle to solve.

@Grail I want to ask you about Gormenghast book 3. Do you like it? I ask because I heard it's the odd one out and not as good as the previous ones, for a variety of reasons ranging from it being very different to Peake's failing health while he wrote it. If I end up reading the series, should I bother with Titus Alone?
 

Walter

Administrator
Staff member
@Walter thanks for linking your review. From what you and Grail said, I suppose BotNS is the novel equivalent of Dark Souls indeed.
Eh, certain descriptions sure. But it's a misnomer to presume the whole series is like Dark Souls item descriptions. There's quite a bit more going on than in those games.

The A to B of Severian's journey across the four (or five) books is pretty straightforward. I don't think anyone would have trouble with that. But that's just the skeleton, and I'd say it's not even the point of the series. For me, the most meaningful stuff in the series is learning about the state of the world—what happened to our civilization, what Earth's place is now in this distant future, how the past and the future all feel slammed together in this weird and pleasing way—all gave me many more chills than just "and then Severian went here."

And to understand all of that, often you have to use your head, because Severian won't always explain things in a way that's immediately comprehensible. For example, when he talks about things that are conceptually foreign to himself—faster-than-light travel, aliens, robots, etc—he won't use these aforementioned words, but language that his civilization uses, which is like a weird permutation of our own. The example I posted in my review is pretty exemplary of other instances. He doesn't just simply say "it's an astronaut" because he has no concept of what an astronaut is. So he uses words to describe what he sees, and you have to deduce the meaning.

To add to what @Grail said, having a dictionary at hand is useful, but it's not enough. I read these on Kindle, which allows you to highlight any passage to pull up not just a dictionary definition, but also the Wikipedia entry on it (if it exists) which was incredibly useful to puzzle out obscure word choices on Wolfe's part. Not just like a word I didn't know, but more like, why THIS word from THIS time period bubbled back up into usage for this civilization.

But beyond such things as being a literary exercise, does the series provide a compelling narrative? Are the characters likeable? I'm more interested in checking it out now after reading your post and Grail's, but I admit I want more in a book than a puzzle to solve.
It's more than a puzzle. If it were just that, I wouldn't be here recommending it. I emphasize that aspect because I found it engrossing, but there are many more layers that compelled me to keep going. As for characters being likable... lol :ganishka: I'd say Severian is a pretty polarizing figure. He makes controversial, sometimes erratic decisions, it often feels like he embellishes his own tale (and he's the one writing it, so...), but I like him quite a bit.
 
Goddamn and it's hardcover too! And has an outer shell with another accurate illustration and more color ones inside!? Why wasn't I told about this before they were only available for resale at $5-800!? :mozgus:

Well, I guess all the more reason just to stick with your original recommendation, that and the one I mentioned are the two editions I own, plus my dad's old pulp paperbacks, but those are often sullied by posthumous rewrites from Conan miscreants such as L. Sprague de Camp...

Oh my God, we're living this right now in real time with Berserk!!:isidro::???::magni:

For all the criticism we got against Koji Mori/Gaga-helmed Berserk, it would be a grave insult and unfair slander to liken their Berserk continuation to what de Camp did to Conan. Likening the post-Miura Berserk to de Camp's version of Conan would only be appropriate if Mori had seized the rights to Berserk for himself and blocked any future publication of the first 41 volumes.

That shitstain de Camp didn't just mutilate Howard's existing original Conan tales beyond recognition. He didn't just pull out of his ass new Conan pastiches that had no semblance to Howard's original Conan whatsoever. No, he outright stole Conan from Howard. If you didn't know about this posthumous IP theft - de Camp copyrighted the name "Conan", then, via his front organization "Conan Properties", retroactively applied his copyright to seize control over Howard's original Conan tales.


And then, adding insult to injury, he did his damnedest to ensure that during his lifetime Howard's original Conan didn't get released - he tried to make sure that the only Conan you were gonna get were the crappy pastiches by him or his select team of hacks (*cough* Lin Carter *cough*). In a act of Kafkaesque legal clusterfuckery, to this very day, you have to pay a licensing fee to his Conan Properties Inc., if you want to release any of REH's original Conan tales. And that's despite the fact that The Shitstain had nothing to do with their writing. Don't take my word for it - just look at the copyright pages of either the 2006 collection or the three volume set - all the Conan stories published in 1930s Weird Tales, way before the Shitstain was even aware of their existence, copyrighted by Conan Properties. The publishers even thank the Conan Properties for letting them publish Howard's Conan. The Shitstain's legal efforts have also ensured that no faithful Conan movie adaptation has ever been nor ever will be made for the foreseeable future. I just Googled how long before Conan the Cimmerian completely enters the public domain and finally be free from the Shitstain's grip - it's not until 2028.
 

Griffith

With the streak of a tear, Like morning dew
Well, I'm being a bit facetious. :griffnotevil:

But that's the fear deep down, that we're accepting a fascimile of compromised quality that's still being sold like Miura's authentic Berserk in a Trojan Horse of sympathy and good intentions. It also occured to me that since we're already on a slippery slope, and, while I trust the integrity of the Mori/Gaga team however the results turn out, once their run of Berserk is complete what's to stop Hakusensha, the story now already once removed from Miura, from using that as justification to hire other authors to do prequels, sequels and spinoffs? Suddenly the one exception will become the precedent. We're already complicit, after all! Would key members of the Gaga team turn down such a potentially lucrative opportunity? Would they now be viewed as the legitimate successors and caretakers of Berserk, fit to decide whatever to do with it?

We're not there now, but I also never thought I'd accept Berserk by anyone else under any circumstances and they got around that by having me convince myself it's not like that... but, whatever the relative mitigating circumstances, in a vacuum that's exactly what's happening. On the other hand, it's not like there wasn't lesser supplemental Berserk material out there in Miura's lifetime, all the anime adaptations to varying degrees, the infamous Grunbeld novel, etc. The difference is we'll be without that integral centerpiece that was the manga, which had primacy over it all. In this scenario the supplemental will have supplanted the original as what's most current and relevant.

And that's when Aaz shows up to kick ass and drink wine... and in this scenario he already drank all the wine.:badbone:---- :void:!
 

Grail

Feel the funk blast
@Grail I want to ask you about Gormenghast book 3. Do you like it? I ask because I heard it's the odd one out and not as good as the previous ones, for a variety of reasons ranging from it being very different to Peake's failing health while he wrote it. If I end up reading the series, should I bother with Titus Alone?
I would encourage you to read it. When it comes to literature that has a reputation for being weird or off-putting, I think it's always worthwhile to give it a try - because even if you don't like it, there might be an element of the story or a character that speaks to you and sticks in your memory!
 
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