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9 hours ago, Matt D said:

1. Best part of that book is the balls. The other two books are very different. 

2. Sanderson is mechanically sound but ultimately empty. He writes like someone who's read a lot about the world and experienced very little. You're not wrong. Wonderful worldbuilding though.

  1. Yeah, the fact that it is half spy thriller, half heist thriller is pretty dope.  The intrigue at the balls was fun, but some of my favorite parts were the crew goofing off waiting on Kelsier to show up.
  2. I don't know if I agree with this completely, but I know exactly where you're coming from.  I honestly think his choice to build Kelsier's cult of personality through his deeds and not his words ended up being the right choice giving the ultimate result.  I don't know if the ending would have hit as hard if he was more known for him giving flowery speeches and inspiring people with words than he was for being someone the Skaa knew because he had his feet on the ground of their rebellion.  I'm going to keep my eye out for examples of this though, because it isn't without merit.
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  • 3 weeks later...

I finished the second Mistborn book, "Well of Ascension," and I liked it a lot.  The book is completely different than the first one, but it's a great follow up.  The great thing about both books is they kind of stand on their own.  The first book tells a complete story that would be satisfying if you never read another page in the series.  It makes you want to read the next book, but the next book starts in a world where almost everything has changed.  The second one is less of a heist novel, and is pretty much all about war and political intrigue.  It mostly follows the same group of characters, but presents a whole heap of new challenges to overcome.  By the end, everything changes all over again and you want to pick up the next book to see how the fuck these characters are going to deal with their new reality.  The twist at the end is also really well executed.  I actually thought that it was a possibility about half way through the book, but by the time it happened there were enough things going on that it caught me completely by surprise.  It really takes a cliche trope and turns it on it's head while introducing then next challenge.  Just a really well crafted story, that keeps you guessing without anything feeling like it came out of nowhere.

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  • 1 month later...

I finished the Mistborn trilogy the night before I went home for Christmas, and I would put it right near the top of my favorite fantasy series of all time.  The biggest criticism I have is that Vin, who is a good character, never crosses over into great character territory.  She's never irritating or a nuisance, but she has little to no personality.  She is almost like a quarterback who can say a bunch of words, but when they're done talking you realize that you don't really remember anything they just said.  She's the main character of a series that I loved, but she could have been 50% more charismatic.  With that said, her lack of charisma doesn't take that much away from the perfectly crafted story that was told here.  Seriously, I don't know if I can overstate how well crafted this book is and how often I was surprised that a seemingly minor detail came back in a way that was not only significant, but were integral to the climax of the story.  Everything in this story pays off in a way that always feels earned and never feels forced.  I don't know if there is anything that happens in the 3rd book that isn't a call back to something very early in the first book.  I'd honestly like to know when he decided on some of these plot points, because by the end it felt like he knew exactly what was going to happen from the very beginning.  He planted so many seeds, that you don't even realize they are seeds, and they all seem to bear fruit.  This is by far the best fantasy series I've read since I've started this little project, and it's up there with pretty much any book series I've ever read.  

I'm currently about 200 or so pages into "The Way of Kings," and it's fucking phenomenal so far.  I'll update this with my Wheel of Time and Dresden thought soon.

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8 hours ago, Matt D said:

Thanks for this, despite the fact that I feel like you have just ruined my life.  This is the type of thing that will take way too much of my attention, for nothing else just to examine someone else's writing process.

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I'll reiterate what I've said about Sanderson before... He is organized in ways that I can't even begin to emulate. Plotting is as tight as a drum, everything MEANS something and there is rarely any wasted prose or minor plot points that go nowhere. My only problem with his work is that it seems oddly soulless to me, maybe it's because I'm also a writer and editor that I see the framework (if that's the word I'm groping for) sticking out. It's sort of like watching Penn & Teller as Penn explains how they do a trick as they are doing it. Give me a Scott Lynch or John Scalzi, flaws and all over Sanderson's ultra-smoothness. I'm not saying that I don't find him enjoyable, I do; it's just that I'd perhaps enjoy a little rougher edges than the hyper-competence that he displays. 

 

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Related:

We have, indeed, had this conversation a few times before. Sanderson is a hyper-competent creator of fiction products that I happily consume, and yet never quite love. But I'll be buying Book Four in hardback anyway, and the sales all count the same.  

Some other big fantasy/sci-fi books I've read recently:

A Memory Called Empire: Space opera/political thriller, a much-hyped debut that I felt deserved the praise. The POV character is an ambassador, so the tension and conflict is basically all in things said or unsaid, verb conjugations, poetic structures, etc. "People go to different offices and talk" doesn't sound captivating, but it really worked on me.

Gideon the Ninth: Speaking of hyped debuts... This, in some ways, is the opposite of what I said about Sanderson. The world building and systems are fantastical, implausible, and often a bit shallow. But this book has style and voice to the nth degree, and that carries it. There are structural faults I could pick at for an hour, but I loved the book, and then immediately read it a second time. 

The Name of All Things: A tasty bowl of epic fantasy trail mix. There's a chained dark ubergod and dragons and demons and named weapons and wizards who were behind everything all along. The novelty is in taking these old structures and updating for certain social mores; there are trans characters, ace characters, bi characters, no evil races or glorified colonialism. It's fun, and I'll keep going, but the "this plus that" shows.

A Little Hatred: Joe Abercrombie returns to do... exactly what you'd expect. He plays the hits, and he plays them with more wit and verve than anyone. Still, it feels too familiar for me. 

Holy Sister: The weakest of the trilogy, but a good conclusion nonetheless. For a so-called grimdark series, it ends on a very hopeful, romantic note--but not cloying--and the sci-fi twist to the fantasy setting pays off.  

I'm also halfway through The Expanse novels, aiming to catch up in time for the final book's release. It's really good! You probably know that. 

A fair bit of this year was also spent filling in the gaps in the "canon" college didn't cover, and reading newer westerns. There's probably an essay to be written about how the eternal quest for "the American Tolkien" is doomed to fail, since we keep looking at quasi-European fantasies, rather than westerns, but I don't have that in me. (But Lonesome Dove is really good.)

Edited by Beech27
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3 hours ago, Beech27 said:

Related:

We have, indeed, had this conversation a few times before. Sanderson is a hyper-competent creator of fiction products that I happily consume, and yet never quite love. But I'll be buying Book Four in hardback anyway, and the sales all count the same.  

Some other big fantasy/sci-fi books I've read recently:

A Memory Called Empire: Space opera/political thriller, a much-hyped debut that I felt deserved the praise. The POV character is an ambassador, so the tension and conflict is basically all in things said or unsaid, verb conjugations, poetic structures, etc. "People go to different offices and talk" doesn't sound captivating, but it really worked on me.

Gideon the Ninth: Speaking of hyped debuts... This, in some ways, is the opposite of what I said about Sanderson. The world building and systems are fantastical, implausible, and often a bit shallow. But this book has style and voice to the nth degree, and that carries it. There are structural faults I could pick at for an hour, but I loved the book, and then immediately read it a second time. 

The Name of All Things: A tasty bowl of epic fantasy trail mix. There's a chained dark ubergod and dragons and demons and named weapons and wizards who were behind everything all along. The novelty is in taking these old structures and updating for certain social mores; there are trans characters, ace characters, bi characters, no evil races or glorified colonialism. It's fun, and I'll keep going, but the "this plus that" shows.

A Little Hatred: Joe Abercrombie returns to do... exactly what you'd expect. He plays the hits, and he plays them with more wit and verve than anyone. Still, it feels too familiar for me. 

Holy Sister: The weakest of the trilogy, but a good conclusion nonetheless. For a so-called grimdark series, it ends on a very hopeful, romantic note--but not cloying--and the sci-fi twist to the fantasy setting pays off.  

I'm also halfway through The Expanse novels, aiming to catch up in time for the final book's release. It's really good! You probably know that. 

A fair bit of this year was also spent filling in the gaps in the "canon" college didn't cover, and reading newer westerns. There's probably an essay to be written about how the eternal quest for "the American Tolkien" is doomed to fail, since we keep looking at quasi-European fantasies, rather than westerns, but I don't have that in me. (But Lonesome Dove is really good.)

Thanks for the rec of Gideon the Ninth! Looked it up on ABEbooks and got a bit more info and ordered immediately. Sounds batshit insane, maybe as good as Bleak Warrior, we shall see...

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I'll be honest. I took Sleeping Giants out from the library but I couldn't focus on it, in part due to being off for a bit and not having a commute. The wife ended up reading it instead.

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57 minutes ago, Matt D said:

I'll be honest. I took Sleeping Giants out from the library but I couldn't focus on it, in part due to being off for a bit and not having a commute. The wife ended up reading it instead.

Give it another shot, Matt it's worth it! My pal, Bill Schaffer (head honcho at Subterranean Press) sent me the set of signed limiteds to see what I thought of the trilogy and I can't stop raving about it! Sylvain Neuvel is a MAJOR new talent and I wouldn't bother with the library, if you can afford the set in hardcover, buy them. I don't think you'll be sorry.  It's rare when I suggest a book(s) as an investment, but I have the feeling that this is Dune for our time. (Back in the day you could buy a 1st of Dune for about five bucks, both it and James Schmitz' A Nice Day for Screaming & Other Tales of the Galactic Hub were published by Chilton, a company known for automobile manuals and generally speaking, only libraries bothered getting copies. I shudder to think what either book sells for today. 

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29 minutes ago, OSJ said:

Give it another shot, Matt it's worth it! My pal, Bill Schaffer (head honcho at Subterranean Press) sent me the set of signed limiteds to see what I thought of the trilogy and I can't stop raving about it! Sylvain Neuvel is a MAJOR new talent and I wouldn't bother with the library, if you can afford the set in hardcover, buy them. I don't think you'll be sorry.  It's rare when I suggest a book(s) as an investment, but I have the feeling that this is Dune for our time. (Back in the day you could buy a 1st of Dune for about five bucks, both it and James Schmitz' A Nice Day for Screaming & Other Tales of the Galactic Hub were published by Chilton, a company known for automobile manuals and generally speaking, only libraries bothered getting copies. I shudder to think what either book sells for today. 

She liked them so that's a good sign we'll grab them all. Also, a testament to my wife. 

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On 12/30/2019 at 9:25 PM, supremebve said:

I finished the Mistborn trilogy the night before I went home for Christmas, and I would put it right near the top of my favorite fantasy series of all time.  The biggest criticism I have is that Vin, who is a good character, never crosses over into great character territory.  She's never irritating or a nuisance, but she has little to no personality.  She is almost like a quarterback who can say a bunch of words, but when they're done talking you realize that you don't really remember anything they just said.  She's the main character of a series that I loved, but she could have been 50% more charismatic.  With that said, her lack of charisma doesn't take that much away from the perfectly crafted story that was told here.  Seriously, I don't know if I can overstate how well crafted this book is and how often I was surprised that a seemingly minor detail came back in a way that was not only significant, but were integral to the climax of the story.  Everything in this story pays off in a way that always feels earned and never feels forced.  I don't know if there is anything that happens in the 3rd book that isn't a call back to something very early in the first book.  I'd honestly like to know when he decided on some of these plot points, because by the end it felt like he knew exactly what was going to happen from the very beginning.  He planted so many seeds, that you don't even realize they are seeds, and they all seem to bear fruit.  This is by far the best fantasy series I've read since I've started this little project, and it's up there with pretty much any book series I've ever read.  

I'm currently about 200 or so pages into "The Way of Kings," and it's fucking phenomenal so far.  I'll update this with my Wheel of Time and Dresden thought soon.

Its been years since I read the first book, but I do recall thinking the main character from the next part within the series (Wax and Wayne) was a better lead in this regard. Honestly, I really should reread that one and find the rest of the books at some point. 

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My main trouble with Sanderson is that I see the strings. He's amazingly organized in ways that I can't even begin to emulate, but as I've said before, there's something soulless about the whole deal.

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Anyone read Black Leopard, Red Wolf, by Marlon James? I'm halfway through it. It's very much not your average fantasy book.

Edited by AxB
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15 hours ago, AxB said:

Anyone read Black Leopard, Red Wolf, by Marlon James? I'm halfway through it. It's very much not your average fantasy book.

Tell me more, I respect your opinion.

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It's a nasty, messy, incredibly well-crafted book that was done a bit of a disservice by its marketing. It got both "The African Game of Thrones!" push and the "literary author swoops in to dignify fantasy!" pitch, neither of which the author seemed especially thrilled with in interviews. It is its own thing, and very unique. But I mean, Marlon James does have a Man Booker Prize, and a knack for gory and tangled plots. 

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18 hours ago, AxB said:

Anyone read Black Leopard, Red Wolf, by Marlon James? I'm halfway through it. It's very much not your average fantasy book.

I'm really interested to read this book...but, I read "A Brief History of Seven Killings," and don't know if my brain is ready for another Marlon James book quite yet.  Don't get me wrong, it was a great book, but it's also a whole hell of a lot to get through.  If "Black Leopard, Red Wolf" is anywhere close to that as far as complexity, violence, and batshit craziness...I need to read it, but I need to be prepared to read it.

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2 hours ago, supremebve said:

I'm really interested to read this book...but, I read "A Brief History of Seven Killings," and don't know if my brain is ready for another Marlon James book quite yet.  Don't get me wrong, it was a great book, but it's also a whole hell of a lot to get through.  If "Black Leopard, Red Wolf" is anywhere close to that as far as complexity, violence, and batshit craziness...I need to read it, but I need to be prepared to read it.

Lessee:

1. Complexity - Check

2. Violence - Check

3. Batshit Craziness - Double Check 

I am SO there. Something to counter-balance the mannered subtleties of D.P. Watt, this sounds like just the thing. (Since I finished my re-read of Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance, for my money, one of the best theme anthologies of this or any other year. For as difficult an author to emulate as Vance, pretty much everyone brought their "A" game and made it work. You don't need me to tell you that authors such as Dan Simmons and Robert Silverberg pulled it off, that's a given. More pleasantly surprising were entries by authors that you wouldn't necesarily think of being able to pull off a Vance pastiche, like the late Kage Baker, who I thought did a very good job of it. Only thing missing was Michael Shea (which obviously would have needed to be a reprint, but it's a huge tome in spite of that. If you dig Vance, well worth picking up. If you've never read Vance, this is still a fine place to start. There are some call backs to earlier Vance tales, but nothing that is essential reading, you can pick this up cold as just another S & S anthology and enjoy it without having touched the source material. Yeah, there are some critters like deodands that will initially seem unfamiliar, but the authors bring you up to speed with a quickness and manage to do so without info-dumps or expository dialogue. Suffice it to say that a deodand is not something that you want to pause and converse with on a forest path. Such conversations usually end badly and not for the deodand.

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The thing about Black Leopard Red Wolf, is it's taken as African fantasy (even though Marlon James is Jamaican, not from African) but there's nothing in it to say All Of These People Are Black. They're people. The names of characters and places sound cod-African rather than the cod-Olde European some fantasy is known for, but the only character who is actually said to be black is Leopard, and only when he's actually a Leopard (he is either a man who can change into a leopard, or a leopard who can change into a man; Doesn't like to talk about it). Someone does at one point pass on a story that if you sail North far enough you arrive at a strange land where the people all have shockingly pale skin, but y'know, fantasy. That's what normal fantasy characters say about Dark Elves.

Also, the book is very homosexual. Not in the gay saint celibate Disney way, either. Actively homosexual. And yeah, very weird. If you lived in a world where magic could actually happen, you would be very confused about quite a lot of things, quite a lot of the time. That's what the book is like..

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1 hour ago, AxB said:

The thing about Black Leopard Red Wolf, is it's taken as African fantasy (even though Marlon James is Jamaican, not from African) but there's nothing in it to say All Of These People Are Black. They're people. The names of characters and places sound cod-African rather than the cod-Olde European some fantasy is known for, but the only character who is actually said to be black is Leopard, and only when he's actually a Leopard (he is either a man who can change into a leopard, or a leopard who can change into a man; Doesn't like to talk about it). Someone does at one point pass on a story that if you sail North far enough you arrive at a strange land where the people all have shockingly pale skin, but y'know, fantasy. That's what normal fantasy characters say about Dark Elves.

Also, the book is very homosexual. Not in the gay saint celibate Disney way, either. Actively homosexual. And yeah, very weird. If you lived in a world where magic could actually happen, you would be very confused about quite a lot of things, quite a lot of the time. That's what the book is like..

I am extremely intrigued, so much so in fact that the book is on order even as I type this. Holy shit! A signed UK 1st for $37.00!!!! Not just "yes", but "Hell yes!" Thanks again for the rec! This sounds absolutely fascinating. (I usually cast a jaundiced eye at mainstream authors poking about in genre writing, but every so often a winner turns up (thinking Cormac McCarthy, among others), this sounds like James is hitting on all cylinders, so I'm curious as to how this plays out, particularly as this is apparently the first volume of a trilogy...

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Happy birthday, JRR Tolkien.

One day when I have a kabillion dollars, I will track down this limited binding of The Silmarillion.

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I'm lucky that my tastes run towards the dingy mass market editions of LOTR one finds easily and cheaply in any used bookstore. These are my favorite, if I had to choose this morning.

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Anyway, my dad read them all to me before I could read, and I'm still reading them in bits and pieces nearly every day, listening to podcasts, etc. To quote the man himself: "Things could have been different, but they could not have been better."

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Reading has a way of making happy accidents, and I think reading Lord Foul's Bane after Three Hearts and Three Lions is one. The former was known--and avoided--by me for the reasons everyone knows, and yes that scene is revolting, but I don't remotely get the impression it's supposed to be anything but. It is also, I think crucially, the only instance where the narration slips from Covenant's POV. It's a monstrous act; the perspective of the victim is emphasized; and no one pretends it's ok. It's also a strange book for other reasons: the language is deliberately archaic at times, and the metaphors are rampant. Sometimes they're brilliant, sometimes they're cringe-inducing. But while it's slow and a bit messy, it still seems, reading it decades later, incredibly unique, and really brilliant. 

But, as I said, I think my timing was good too. From one classic portal fantasy, in which a perfectly good man lands in a falling world, and is precisely the savior it needs, to a total inversion, in which a wretched man lands in a beautiful, idyllic world, that deserves a better savior than he could hope to be. (And I couldn't help but notice, the protagonist in Three Hearts has a young girl repeatedly throw herself at him, towards whom he is entirely chivalrous. Covenant, faced with a young girl in a similar role... behaves worse.)

Anyway, the Covenant books have been featured in more essays than any fantasy this side of Tolkien, so I'm not saying anything new here. And I'm not entirely sure I'll finish the trilogy, much less embark on the long ten-book journey. But it's a very memorable read I'm glad to have undertaken.  

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