vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine

Ah, Culture what would SF be without you? Probably vastly poorer and leaving us without suitable similes for things like Asher's Polity series.

Anyway, this is a Culture novel that has multiple strains of narrative, somewhat inter-related (even if it's not always that obvious). It is also a story about love, about sorrow, what constitutes good and evil. And possibly slightly about the responsibilities you have as a civilisation, for your past and future actions.

One strand is a composer, who's of a race of predators (the Chelgrsomethings), but who has now solidly decided that his former home memetope is no longer for him at all and has emigrated to a Culture Orbital.

Another strand is a Culture anthropologist/biologist/something who's way out in a weird "I am made entirely of gas" planet but not really a gas giant (ultratech, weirds everything, you know).

A third strand is a Chelsomething military, on a secret mission. A mission so secret that not even he knows what it is.

And then stuffs happen, in unimitable Banksian style. Possibly not the best first introduction to The Culture (mine was Player of Games, then Excession if memory serves me right), but probably not the worst possible.
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine

Third book in Saunders' Commonweal series, wherein we see more of what we saw in the second book, and get to know what happens to a (relatively) small economy, when you introduce several orders of magnitude of difference in capability. Yes, it involves people discussing difficult things. No, it does not feel like "as you know, Bob".

All in all, if you liked the first two books, this is probably well worth chasing down, trapping in your book-trapping trap, then stun it for long enough that you can read it before, like the book it is, it turns around and devours you from the eyes inwards.

Or, at least, that is what I imagine books are, in the Second Commonweal. At least the really vicious ones.
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[personal profile] elfs
"Premium Mediocre."

I've been hearing this phrase a lot in the past couple of days. Some dude (okay, it was Venkatesh Rao) posted his rant about premium mediocrity, the way every experience included "just one more thing" that would somehow make it "premium," while the experience itself occurred on a manufactured platform, with manufactured items, while the staff followed manufactured scripts and wore manufactured uniforms.

Rao ends his take on premium mediocre with a startling claim: premium mediocre, he says, is about "a deep and essential kindness." That we who live the premium mediocre life are playing a game where "sometimes you have to buy your own bullshit" as you willy-nilly try new things, listen to new ideas, and embrace new people. It's something you do "in the spirit of learning about your part in the emerging theatre."

I have to call bullshit on this. Recognizing the reality of premium mediocre is something entirely different. Premium mediocre is the outcome of a civilization that delivers everything. I mean, seriously: Every single one of us eats better than Napoleon! Every single one of us has more horsepower idling in our driveways than fucking King George III! Every single one of us has a glass rectangle in our pockets that delivers us the world, keeps us in touch with beloveds in every country and every continent. Every single one of us has access to more music than the fucking Beatles could ever hear.

The premium mediocre experience is a recognition that we have all this. We have luxury beyond our great-grandparents' wildest dreams. Sure, it's not uniformly distributed. It isn't fully-automated queer space communism. But it is crazy luxurious for a lot of us.

There is exactly one feature missing from premium mediocre. Can you guess what it is?

The ones who have to endure premium mediocre can't sneer at others in the same condition. They can't exclude others.

The essential activity of the rich today is the building of walls – walls of concrete, of electronic surveillance, of missile barrages, minefields, frontier controls, and opaque media screens. That's what is missing. Recognizing your state as one of premium mediocrity is recognizing that you're not good enough to get into the rarified air of flight lounges, concierge services at Burning man, and Mar-A-Largo. Some of it is handwringing that you're not Walter White or Scarface, you're not callous enough, and to call it "mediocre" is to recognize that you will always be mired in the tiny little shreds of humanity that bind you together.

Rao's call to kindness is to say that the Clueless and Losers outnumber the Psychopaths, and we may as well enjoy our kindness, because we're never gonna get anywhere else. We're never gonna be able to enjoy the envy of others. Premium mediocre, for all its luxury, is the best you're gonna get.

Quick, if I owe you an apology...

Sep. 18th, 2017 12:08 pm
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[personal profile] snippy
I apologize if I have done you a harm and you would like an apology.  Also granted to those who ask.  
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine

Second book of Saunder's A Book of the Commonweal series (that's what's on the books, calling it a trilogy feels a bit weird, since I have vague recollections of a fourth book on the way). it takes plce not long after the events in the first book. I don't think it's ever explicit, but I'm thinking "weeks to a few months".

We're primarily following Edgar (occasionally just "Ed") who starts the book just waking up from a coma, feeling very weird indeed. And there's a really good reason for that. It turns out that Edgar has spent most of his life having his magical power completely consumed by a metaphysical (and probably also physical) parasite. And now it's been taken out because that's what you do with parasites. And now there's a problem, because Edgar is too old for traditional wizard training to work. But too powerful to not be trained, otherwise things like "death" (and occasionally "mayhem") happens.

And so an alternative is found. We follow Edgar and his fellow students through approximately the first year of training, learning more (much more) about how magic works, as well as how the Commonweal works.
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine

This is Saunders' debut (as far as I'm aware) book. My recollection of this, when it came to re-read it, was "stuffs happened" and that was pretty much it. The book is... dense. Informationally speaking, that is. I can't, to be honest, tell you that I'm sure if the narrative voice is first person or just extremely tight third, but it's one, the other, or switching between those.

Anyway, this is a book set in the Commonweal. And, I hear you ask, what is one of those. Well, it would've been cool if there was an explanatory chapter, but there is't. So, as far as I have inferred, the Commonweal is the creation of the Wizard Laurel, about 500 years ago, as a general "I am so fed up" reaction to the last, what, several many thousands (hundreds of thousands, possibly) years of sorcerous rule (basic pattern: "magic user gets powerful, kills the previous ruler; mass sacrifices and brain squishing ensues", then repeat with the magic user from the previous sentence switched to the ruler position). So, the obvious solution is something that pretty much looks like representative democracy, with a heavy dose of enforced resource equality.

Now, some of that Commonweal information is gleaned from the next two books. Where was I? Oh, yes, as we start the book, it seems as if one of the neighbouring "we keep cycling through previous ruler and mass sacrifices" areas has decided that it is Really Time to enter the Commonweal, in force, and we get a first row seat to the experience of a small band of brave people trying to force the invaders back (or, as the case MAY be, keep them outside the border).

All in all, pretty good reading.
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine

This is the third book in Sanderson's "first Mistborn trilogy" (there now seems to be ore than one, which is fine, I should try to remember looking into perhaps get hold of the first one). All in all, this is a series that plays on your expectations, but not in what I would consider a malicious way.

I did find it quite interesting to notice the things I did and did not remember from the first time I read the trilogy, there were vast chunks that had just left my mind, but other things were relatively as I expected. Memory says I last read this some 5-6 years ago.

[ bookmonth ] 2017-08

Sep. 16th, 2017 11:18 am
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine
Book list )

A linear extrapolation says 124.5 books by year's end. August was pretty much a miss in the "reads lots" department, with travel that was full of sufficiently interesting distractions that, well, this ain't just been a month for reading (also, perhaps, signalled by being about two week's late wit hte monthly summary).


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Mark Atwood

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