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  1. #2041
    Moderator Anthile's Avatar
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    Moby Dick. It's really not what I thought it would be like. It's more of a treatise on whaling with a bit of plot thrown in. There's even an entire chapter dedicated to the ominousness of the color white which seems to channel Poe's Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym which I only read a couple of weeks ago.
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    to wound the autumnal city.

  2. #2042
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus coldvvvave's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by icupnimpn2 View Post
    I don't find it any more morally grey than what our own armies do with young soldiers, even in active conflicts vs. the come- out-of-retirement scenario.
    This may not really be morally grey it just bugs me. The scenario here goes like this - the war is over thirty years ago. There is no conflict at the moment. The protagonists are using exactly the same tactics the current terrorists are using. Like shooting at security forces from crowds of unarmed people. The next logical step is to use ambulances as troop carriers, maybe blow up an airliner or two.
    Quote Originally Posted by Drake Sigar View Post
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  3. #2043
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Fumarole's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anthile View Post
    Moby Dick. It's really not what I thought it would be like. It's more of a treatise on whaling with a bit of plot thrown in. There's even an entire chapter dedicated to the ominousness of the color white which seems to channel Poe's Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym which I only read a couple of weeks ago.
    I found this to be quite insightful regarding this book, along with many others.

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  4. #2044
    Moderator Anthile's Avatar
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    I honestly don't understand why it's considered such a classic. Imagine if in Heart of Darkness Kurtz was an elephant instead of a novella it was 500 pages long and 400 of which describe elephants in culture and history in almost fetishistic detail.

    Quote Originally Posted by Moby Dick
    Such is the subtle elasticity of the organ I treat of, that whether wielded in sport, or in earnest, or in anger, whatever be the mood it be in, its flexions are invariably marked by exceeding grace. Therein no fairy's arm can transcend it.
    He is talking about whale tails.

    Quote Originally Posted by Moby Dick
    Squeeze! squeeze! squeeze! all the morning long; I squeezed that sperm till I myself almost melted into it; I squeezed that sperm till a strange sort of insanity came over me; and I found myself unwittingly squeezing my co-laborers' hands in it, mistaking their hands for the gentle globules. Such an abounding, affectionate, friendly, loving feeling did this avocation beget; that at last I was continually squeezing their hands, and looking up into their eyes sentimentally; as much as to say,—Oh! my dear fellow beings, why should we longer cherish any social acerbities, or know the slightest ill-humor or envy! Come; let us squeeze hands all round; nay, let us all squeeze ourselves into each other; let us squeeze ourselves universally into the very milk and sperm of kindness.

    Would that I could keep squeezing that sperm for ever! For now, since by many prolonged, repeated experiences, I have perceived that in all cases man must eventually lower, or at least shift, his conceit of attainable felicity; not placing it anywhere in the intellect or the fancy; but in the wife, the heart, the bed, the table, the saddle, the fireside, the country; now that I have perceived all this, I am ready to squeeze case eternally. In thoughts of the visions of the night, I saw long rows of angels in paradise, each with his hands in a jar of spermaceti.
    That whole chapter must have been baffling even to 19th century audiences.
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    to wound the autumnal city.

  5. #2045
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Xercies's Avatar
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    That reads like the most incredibly wtf sexual thing ever.

  6. #2046
    Activated Node Jamozk Ekhiss's Avatar
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    Yeah, I was thinking maybe the writer has a thing for whales. You don't just write that stuff.

  7. #2047
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anthile View Post
    That whole chapter must have been baffling even to 19th century audiences.
    I'm not saying it wasn't, exactly, but at the same time it's hard sometimes to remind yourself this book or that book was originally written for someone very different than you. Admittedly it's nothing like as... weird, but you're reminding me of 12 Years A Slave and Northup's frequent tangents into "And then I was held as a slave in (location) for (X) years, where I was set to chopping down (cash crop); now let me spend four or five pages describing how, exactly, one puts a group of slaves to work harvesting (cash crop), set out in excruciatingly boring detail". Judged by modern standards it is frequently a terrible "novel", but it didn't immediately hit me - dumb as this probably sounds - that as well as the obvious I-am-recounting-the-worst-experiences-of-my-life-you-insensitive-ass angle, he was doing this for the benefit of a readership who didn't have Google at their beck and call and might actually want to know this stuff.

    I have no idea what the hell Melville was trying to do with those passages you quoted, mind. I've never read Moby Dick. But it wouldn't surprise me to discover there was some relatively mundane motivation behind them that just got lost in translation/the intervening years. Or perhaps he just wanted to bone whales, I dunno.
    Last edited by Eight Rooks; 24-04-2014 at 12:13 AM.

  8. #2048
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    All You Need Is Kill
    Good short sci-fi. The translation did not seem bad at any point with any poor wording. Have not read a full book in a long while and it was good to get sucked into one again. And finish it before the wife. Kinda interesting reading it and playing Bravely Default right now with a few similar premises.
    Now to be disappointed by the changes made in the movie, Edge of Tomorrow.

  9. #2049
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    Cross My Heart - James Patterson

  10. #2050
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus gundato's Avatar
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    Read Reign of Ash by Gail Z Martin (referred to as "Gail" from here on out since the last name may confuse some :p). I read the previous book in the series (Ice Forged) late last year in an attempt to consciously read more by lady authors and enjoyed it a lot. The characters were okay (not great, but okay), but it was the setting that particularly interested me. In a nutshell, it was about a world that was dependent on magic losing it, almost overnight. And all the consequences that would result. There was also a big deal made about vampires and ghosts and the like, but it was the idea of a world rebuilding when even basic farmers would use magic to make their crop's yield bigger.

    The second book in the series continues that trend. The characters are mostly a means to an end. Some are interesting, but the focus is still on Blaine McFadden: Last of the (Living) Lords of Blood who is about as interesting as cardboard. The other major viewpoint protagonist is actually somewhat interesting (the assistant to a noble who is now forced to travel along as a living macguffin), but never really given a chance to spread his wings. The story continues with attempts to restore the magic and a romantic subplot comes out of nowhere (it boils down to "She has lady bits, he has dude bits. Why not?"). Similarly, there is a sudden plot about a magic plague and other deals that are effectively ignored.

    I still enjoyed the read, but it really feels like this would have been better if it were split over two books. Felt VERY rushed by the artificial time constraints put forward by the story (basically, everything seemed to happen over the course of two or three weeks).

    After that, I read The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North which is apparently a pseudonym for a Tor blogger or something. Saw it talked about on Tor (hmm, conflict of interest much? :p) and the premise seemed very interesting (plus, it fits with my conscious effort to read more stuff by lady authors). In a nutshell, Harry August lives his life, dies, and re-lives his life with all his memories intact (so die in 2003, reborn in 1910 with an entire life of memories. Repeat fifteen times). The main conflict comes from someone from the future telling him that the world is ending faster than it should and that it is up to him to figure out why and to stop it.

    Overall, I liked it a lot. WAY too much of the book was spent on discussions between scientists where they philosophized over things. I don't know North's background, but it reminded me of when TV writers try to depict scientists talking. In other words, writers who don't realize that the "Philosophy" in PhD is more just there because science used to be called "philosophy" before all the actual sciency bits took over. Still, in the context it sort of makes sense as Harry WOULD have the background, and the person he is usually talking to is an undergrad.

    The main plot of the book is quite interesting with a heavy emphasis on morality and how much maintaining causality matters (if you know someone is going to murder, is it wrong to punish them before they actually do it in this lifetime?), and a lot of it was an espionage book with a great sense of the titular Harry having to go undercover and fulfill a role. There were a lot of threads and some of them felt superfluous (I really enjoyed Harry's focus on his parents, but it wasn't necessary to the story), but the context of the book makes them work.

    Also, I am pretty sure this is going to be bought up by Hollywood in short order. It is science fiction (and fairly hard at that, since it does have a strict set of rules regarding the pseudo-time travel and it goes into detail on them) which will earn points when Star Wars is back in theatres, but it is primarily a drama/spy story. And the very nature of it means it is a period piece (1920s-1990s/00s with most of the story happening in the 60s/70s) which gives every costume designer a massive boner. And the concept is just fancy enough that it will appeal to "sophisticated" folk. And the nature of the story means that only a very limited number of characters need to be cast. A more cynical person would suspect North was intentionally targeting that, but it doesn't hurt the story at all.

    And now, switching gears entirely, on to the english translation of the latest Nightwatch book by Sergei Lukyanenko: New Watch. Only a few chapters in, but so far I am definitely enjoying it as much as I enjoyed the past books in the series. Right mixture of humor and high stakes. It IS annoying how Svetlana and Olga continue to be pushed to the background (there is a long sequence where Olga, Anton, and Gesar are in a car and Lukyanenko or the translator keep mentioning "two" people in the car...), but I am hoping Svetlana and the daughter get to play more of a role this time, especially since there is a big focus on powerful Others and how Anton doesn't really count since he has little to no experience (even though Svetlana only has two or three years more experience... but anything to remember that a big arc in the first and second book was on how she would always be so much more powerful than him). Of course, it also looks like the focus will be on un-conventional Others, which puts Anton front and center by virtue of his not thinking like everyone else.

    And it continues to be my textbook example of a "good translation/port". The grammar is pretty much all great but it is still very obviously a Russian book, from the idioms to bits like
    Quote Originally Posted by A Paraphrase
    And Gesar screamed "Fucking fuck your mother!" Russian is a beautiful language, and sometimes you just can't properly express yourself in any other
    Last edited by gundato; 29-04-2014 at 12:48 AM.
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  11. #2051
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus gundato's Avatar
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    Finished (the English translation of) New Watch. Yeah... Lukyanenko has always had strong political leanings (even moreso as I learned with the recent issues in the Ukraine), but he had them cranked up to eleven for this book. It didn't hurt the novel, but it was tedious to have random outbursts of rants against society and the like. I would compare it to some of Orson Scott Card's better work in that regard: You definitely know what he means to say, but it is kept at a low enough intensity that you can enjoy the story anyway.

    Aside from that: This was blatantly an attempt to cash in on the Harry Potter craze (especially since he is apparently farming out a "shared universe" that is basically Harry Potter in the Watch-verse), and it shows. The story itself was still very fun (essentially, a Tiger is hunting prophets for Reasons), but the way it ties in to the overall mythos felt VERY forced and definitely contradicts events in earlier books. And the sad part is that there really is no reason to have tried so hard to tie things together. There was absolutely no need to make the events of the book tie in to the Gesar/Zabulon rivalry, and the opening chapters where Gesar seemed to have absolutely no idea what was going on were quite good for that very reason. As anyone who reads fantasy or sci-fi can tell you: When your protagonists are "the best there is" at what they do, you change things up. You change the rules of the game so that their skills don't directly translate, thus giving them a power-down without needing a bag of spilling.

    Overall: Night Watch is still the best book in the series, and New Watch is probably the worst, but not by a large enough margin to matter. And it is a good thing that this is the last Anton book for the forseeable future.

    Also, there was a very interesting sideplot (that didn't really go anywhere...) that builds on earlier books questioning what the real difference between a Light and Dark Other is, going so far as to question the very nature of Others themselves. Obviously not going to happen with Lukyanenko wanting to cash in on the 'verse, but it WOULD be very interesting to read a book that builds on the idea of Others voluntarily relinquishing their powers because of the damage they do to humanity.
    Last edited by gundato; 02-05-2014 at 02:51 PM.
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  12. #2052
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    The Natural

    I can't believe how much the poor thing was butchered to make that movie. Holy crap.

  13. #2053
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    Finally finished Antonio Garrido's The Corpse Reader, the (mostly) fictionalised version of the early life of the father of forensic science, the 13th century Chinese scholar SÚng CŪ. It was, uh... I'm getting really wary of anything reviewers have gushed over, basically, by this point. Garrido's a pretty damn good writer, technically speaking, but he's sadly lacking as a storyteller. There's hardly anything known about the man's formative years and The Corpse Reader's plot basically ends up stupidly convoluted and its characterisation maddeningly illogical - yes, SÚng's a young man, but he's stubborn to the point of appearing childish or even mentally retarded in places, wilfully ignoring things the novel makes it blatantly clear are going to happen, and keeping things to himself or confiding in other people at precisely the wrong time despite being taken advantage of or outright betrayed over, and over, and over again. Half the book ends up a blur because it seems like nothing more than tedious padding until you finally get to see that yes, things worked out exactly the way you thought they would ten chapters back, and the hero looks like a moron because he repeatedly denies what's staring him in the face and the author doesn't know enough to give a real explanation of why he would do this beyond "He's still just a big kid".

    Beautifully written, then, and the guy's clearly done a lot of research, but the storytelling's frequently awful. I don't regret having bought/read it - it was on sale - but I doubt I'll ever go back to it.

  14. #2054
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Lukasz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fumarole View Post
    thx for that video. I expected Damn Nature you scary sortof thing. Was pleasantly surprised and hence, I subscribed.

  15. #2055
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus squirrel's Avatar
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    Flash Boys by Michael Lewis.

    A cashier handling my purchase said that their store had ordered batches of this book, only to be immediately cleared once on the shelf. One guy even bought the whole lot, obviously for gifting.

    Another non-fiction about high-frequency trading (HFT) in USA. HFT has become such a hot topic that many books have been out or upcoming for this topic. I've read the first three chapters, covering Speed Network (real name) building its own fiber optic network from Chicago to New Jersey, targeting HFT trading house including both small but elite outfits to big banks, those household names like Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs (GS, you are everywhere), to link the stock markets in New York (NYSE's server operation is in New Jersey) and future markets in Chicago with the most efficient electronic network, to increase the speed of signal transfer (price information and trade order mostly) by microsecond. Then the book introduces Royal Bank of Canada's attempt to counter the HFT traders' tactics to front run ordinary traders unfairly.

    It's amazing to learn that once again, even in the age of Internet, geographic location plays such a crucial role in determining winners-losers in the financial market. Who locate closer to the market and therefore can transfer data faster in microseconds, win.

  16. #2056
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Fumarole's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lukasz View Post
    thx for that video. I expected Damn Nature you scary sortof thing. Was pleasantly surprised and hence, I subscribed.
    It's a great channel. The recent collaboration with 8-Bit Philosophy is good as well.
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  17. #2057
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus gundato's Avatar
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    First read The Lascar's Dagger by Glenda Larke. I liked it a lot. In a nutshell, Saker is a super spy for the church. While spying one night, a Lascar throws the titular dagger at him before being hunted down by Bad People. The Dagger then follows Saker around during his next mission for The Church. The Dagger, of course, being forged with a specific purpose in mind and having the power to manipulate probability (and itself) to achieve that goal, which makes for a fun series of events as Saker rapidly becomes a piece of string for the powers that be to play with.
    Simultaneously, a woman wanted for the murder of her husband is granted the power of illusion from the gods of their world, and she finds herself bound to the service of a princess who dreads her arranged marriage.

    I read it because the premise sounded interesting and I am making a conscious effort to read more lady authors. And I really like the perspective that brings to the book. Saker, who would be Ezio or Nathan Drake in any other story actually comes across as a well meaning idiot (that everyone swoons for, obviously), which was pleasantly surprising. Similarly, a very big focus is placed on The Princess and the implications of her arranged marriage and what her purpose in society is (a commodity). Larke does a good job of balancing sympathy for her position with utter disgust at her selfishness and behavior.

    The real star of the book though is Redwing, the woman wanted for murder. Her arc seems the most fleshed out and she is one of the driving forces for basically ever event.


    On the other end of the spectrum, I read Damoren by Seth Skorkowsky. In that world, werewolves, vamps, succubi, etc are all demons possessing hosts. The traditional stuff works (sometimes), but all it does is kill the host, allowing the demon to hop to a new one and continue anew. The only way to kill a demon is through the use of a Holy Weapon. The wielders of these Holy Weapons are knights in the Valducan, which is basically a multinational, multicultural, and multi-religion (I don't know the word :p) organization.

    Enter Matthew, the wielder of the titular Damoren, who has avoided the Valducan for most of his life on account of him being partially possessed by a demon and them frowning upon that. Events transpire that force him to team up with the Valducan (without any real complaint...), but they don't trust him because he is tainted (but not enough to do anything about it). In case it isn't obvious, fleshing out characters and giving them believable motivation is not the author's strong suit. Also, Matthew is always right and always perfect and if they had just trusted him from the start the world would be a better place and Harold Ramis would still be making movies.

    But I still liked it. Because Matthew is a guy who drives around North America, hunting monsters. And everyone uses guns in combination with their holy weapons. And magic is restricted to ritual spells and occasional trinkets (in addition to the Weapons).

    Sound like Supernatural? There is a reason for that. The author seems to be a big fan of the series, right down to the titular Damoren being The Colt with Ruby's Dagger taped to it (it is a gunblade...).

    So yeah, it is pure pulp. One-dimensional love interest, most conflict (between Good Guys) through misunderstanding, overly prolonged action scenes, etc. But it works. The world itself is quite interesting (especially by the end of the book), and I like the author's mind in terms of restricting weapons while not causing problems.

    Because Damoren is limited by the number of shots it can fire (like I said, The Colt). But it isn't a permanent restriction, and is more of a per-day restriction in that it can only fire rounds from special cartridges, but those cartridges can be reloaded. So it restricts the power of the weapon, allows it to miss, but also avoids the question of why they don't just hose down the demons as Matthew is limited to N rounds at a time (that can only be restored if there is enough downtime to reload the cartridges). Its a nice touch that bodes well for future books in the series. In contrast, The Colt originally had only six bullets, later allowed new bullets to be made, and then was Lost Forever when the writers realized there was no reason to ever use anything else.
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  18. #2058
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Xercies's Avatar
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    Reading A City Of Saints and Madmen by Jeff Vandermeer it is a series of short novellas all set in the fantasy world of Ambergris which seems to be almost a early 20th century city. The city seems to be a standard fantasy city but he imbues it and the stories with a very strange atmosphere. A lot of times the stories are very interesting and page turners and also he just puts these weird things in that just make it really weird horror like atmosphere with some dark humour like the first story has the main character meet a dwarf with the map of a world tatood on him, obsess over a woman in store window who isn't what she seems, and at the end there is a festival that seems very violent. The second story is a history of the city and it focuses in the mushroom people that inhabit the city. The most weird and outright horror story is the third one. They all are really good and quite weird and I definitely recommend reading them because they are very addictive and give you just enough while always wanting more.

  19. #2059
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Similar's Avatar
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    I'm reading the Star Wars Republic Commando series by Karen Traviss because gundato mentioned them in another thread and I got curious. I've never read anything Star Wars before, because I frankly expected the novels to be crap, but these are pretty interesting.
    I always thought the Jedi council in the prequel movies and the Clone Wars series were pretty much a bunch of dicks, so it's nice to get the clone angle on it. Sort of fills a hole.

  20. #2060
    Activated Node Jamozk Ekhiss's Avatar
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    If you've never read any Star Wars books, you've got to read the Thrawn Trilogy - easily the best of all of them. Written in '97, so some bits don't quite make sense with the prequels, but they're good enough for George Lucas to take the name Coruscant from them.

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