Barbarian Book Club: 11 June 2017

Another month of reading has come and gone. The beautiful Japanese spring is ending and the rainy season is about to begin. I managed to finish two novels, one history book, and several short stories this month. Both of my fiction reads made up the closing chapters of their respective trilogies. The upcoming June rains will keep me indoors a lot so I expect to get in a bit more this month. Madouc

Madouc by Jack Vance. The closing chapter in Vance’s wonderful Lyonesse Trilogy. A fantastic ending to a great fantasy series. Madouc ties all the threads of the previous two novels and completes the trilogy elegantly. The novel focuses on the titular character, a scraggly red- headed child who is the fairy swapped changeling mistaken for the daughter of Princess Suldrun. Madouc is such a great character that following her adventures through the forest, through Fairy steadings, and through daily life at court was a blast. The Lyonesse trilogy was amazing, a painfully overlooked and under appreciated masterpiece that really deserves to be read more. I’m going to put together a thorough review of the series in the very near future.Nanoflower

The Nano Flower by Peter Hamilton. The third and final novel in Hamiltons post-cyberpunk, near future, corporate detective series, featuring the psychic veteran Greg Mandel. First, Hamilton is my favorite Science-Fiction writer. He writes massive, mind-blowing space operas intertwined with post-cyberpunk police procedurals that I can’t get enough of. If you haven’t read the Commonwealth novels, Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained, you need to correct yourself and start them right now. The Greg Mendel files are Hamiltons first books, not nearly as polished, but full of the proto-ideas that will come to the forefront of his more ambitious novels. The Nano Flower centers around a missing husband who sends a message to his powerful corporate boss wife in the form of a flower. A flower that once analyzed is revealed to be unknown alien DNA, setting off a massive race to achieve First Contact between worldwide corporate interests. We have power suited mercenaries, massive airships, orbiting asteroid stations, artificial intelligence, and all sorts of awesome sci-fi action. SPQR.jpg

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard. If you love in-depth, exciting history, that makes you picture the events of the past. If you love reading about Ancient Rome, Republican Rome, and the Roman Empire in an eye-opening exciting way, this book is NOT for you. SPQR is a muddled, bore fest of a book, poorly written and injected with the author’s personal political views. At one point she rambles on, comparing the Pirates of the Republican era to today’s Islamic terrorism, implying that they are nothing but political boogeymen used by our leaders to justify self-serving military action. Her idiotic rant did not age well because the very same day I read that chapter the London Bridge terrorist attack occurred. Even ignoring modern day political opinion interjected without purpose, the book lacks any sort of an engaging narrative. It jumps around without rhyme or reason, focuses on trivial matters while ignoring critical events. For example, Trajan’s war with the Dacians gets about one line of text. More space is dedicated to an irrelevant discussion on the spelling of Boudica. Do yourself a favor and skip this historical turd. Download Dan Savage’s podcast The Death Throes of the Republic. The first 15 minutes of his podcast is more vivid and enlightening than all 600 pages of SPQR.

 

Barbarian Book Club: 11 May 2017

April was a slow month for reading. I turned 34 in the middle of another beautiful Japanese Spring. When your whole world explodes with beautiful cherry blossoms, light rains, amazing greenery, the last thing you do is sit around and read all day.

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence. I discovered Mark Lawrence throughRedSister one of his short stories in Grimdark #1. It was a raw, brutal tale about a farmer who avenges himself on a band of thugs that murdered his family. On the strength of that story, I bought his entire Broken Empire trilogy and continued to read all the way through the Red Queen’s War series. So when Red Sister, a brand new standalone was announced, I was excited and preordered. Sadly it was a total let down; stupid, silly, filled with cliche, and downright boring. Lawrence stuffed everything I hate about modern fantasy into one book. It was such a boring chore to get through that I would make excuses to myself and ended up taking over two weeks to read a novel that I would usually finish in a day or two.

The Green Pearl by Jack Vance. To get the bad taste out of my mouth and break my reading slump that started to overtake me I went back to a master. The Green Pearl is the second book in the Lyonesse Trilogy. Wow… I loved Suldrun’s Garden but this one solidifies Lyonesse as one of my favorite fantasy TheGreenPearlseries ever. This novel is pure fantasy,  beauty, and magic mixed with sorrow and darkness. The story continues where the last one left off and it is full of battles, truly magical magicians, multiple worlds, sinister creatures, and everything that is missing from modern fantasy. Vance is a master and this trilogy has to be one of the most underappreciated pieces of fantasy written in the last thirty years.  Do yourself a favor and pick this up.

Soto recap, a disappointing attempt at reading modern Fantasy left me dejected so I turned to a classic master to rejuvenate me. I enjoyed The Green Pearl so much that I jumped right into the final book in the series, Maudoc and looking forward to finishing it as soon as I publish this post.

 

Read: 9 April 2017

I read moderately these past few weeks, a bit less than I usually do, but that’s mostly because of vacations and long work days. I also focused on short story collections and magazines, which take up a lot of time.

9 April 2017

Neuromancer by William Gibson. This is one of my favorite books so when I came across the $1.99 Kindle price I grabbed the digital version for a reread. Written in 1983, Neuromancer.jpgNeuromancer and I are the same age and I wanted to see if it still held up now that I have gotten a bit older. Aside from some edgylordy descriptions and 80’s style fatalism, the novel reads like something written today. Crisp, well written, and full of great scenery and action. It’s even more impressive once you take into account that half of the crap in the book that seems cliche was actually first created by Gibson. Cyberpunk is one of my favorite sub-genres and this novel was the original cyberpunk piece.

Suldrun’s Garden (Lyonesse #1) by Jack Vance. Another novel from 1983, Jack Vance’s first part of the Lyonesse trilogy is fantastic. A melancholy and remorseful fantasy novel, unlike anything popular today, reminiscent of pre-Tolkien fantasy with magic and fairies suldrunsgardenboth marvelous and sinister. This novel was so good I read the whole thing in one sitting, and now I’m waiting for a good day to do the same for the sequel. If you want to read fantasy different than the gritty hyper-realistic stuff out right now or the overwrought high fantasy of the 80s and 90s, give this one a try. You won’t be disappointed.

Whirlwind: The American Revolution and the War That Won It by John Ferling. A fantastic overview of the American WhirlwindRevolution in the context of the times. This book puts a lot of focus on the cultural aspect of the Revolution and the events that led up to hostilities. It goes into significant detail, covering the major battles and even a few of the lesser known engagements. A fantastic read about a historical period that gets burdened with romanticized accounts due to it being covered mostly in the early years of one’s education.  I have a new found love for 17th and 18th-century history, specifically focused on the Colonies so this scratched that itch. I have a history of the French and Indian War and one focused on Colonial Spies waiting on my Kindle right now.

That’s about it for the past few weeks. I’m about to start Mark Lawrence’s Red Sister and then go through some histories. Then I think I might return to Robin Hobb for Liveship Traders.

Suldrun’s Garden by Jack Vance

Suldrun's Garden.jpgAfter much deliberation, I finally settled on Suldrun’s Garden as my next read. I haven’t read a full fantasy novel in over a year, so it will be nice to go back. The cover and the art that goes along with this is beautiful and I think I will enjoy the more magical fae type of magic over the manufactured “systems” preferred by so many fantasy writers today.