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  1. #541
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    I read Shadow Divers last year and have been recommending it to everyone. It's a true story about some guys who discover and eventually identify the wreck of a WWII U-boat about 60 miles off the coast of NJ. It all starts when an old fisherman divulges info on his favorite fishing hole to a salvage diver. It's a deep water wreck, and has a strange profile on his fish finder, not like any wreck he's ever seen. The wreck sits at just about the limit of what a diver of that time could reach, so it's extremely dangerous. At first they don't know what the hell it is, but eventually someone brings up a dinner plate with a swastika on the bottom, and the pieces start to fall into place. They spend years searching the wreck, eventually swimming inside among the remains of the crew, trying to find something with an identifying number on it, all the while trying to keep it's location a secret from rival divers. A few people lost their lives diving it, and the obsession cost another his marriage.

    The most interesting part of the book was probably after the eventual identification of the U-boat. They are able to look up the members of the crew of the ship, and travel to Germany and meet with their families and tell them what ultimately became of their loved ones. One old grandmother was just a teen when her fiance left on the U-boat, and they were to be married when he returned. She never knew what happened to him all those years. They even got an interview with a man who was just a boy at the time, but vividly remembered being on the ship the day it left to say goodbye to his older brother.

    And of course, there are lots of great pictures of the wreck and the items they found, from torpedoes to a knife with a crewman's name engraved on the handle. I HIGHLY recommend reading it. It starts out like a great adventure book, and ends with some interesting perspective from the families on the other side of the war.
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  2. #542
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus groovychainsaw's Avatar
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    A new train commute and an e-reader has revived my time available for reading. I continue to get through SF/Fantasy 'classics'. In the last 2 months, I've completed the following (with one/two-line reviews!):

    The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks - So similar to Lord of the Rings in the early stages I'm surprised they didn't sue :-). Decidedly average, not sure if I should bother continuing the series - does it improve?

    The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester - Surprisngly modern and dark for a 1950s story out the magazines, the most anti-hero type I've ever come across in sci-fi - he maims, tortures and kills to get his revenge, wrecking himself in the process (there's some fantastically inventive torture near the end that's pretty shocking even now - I can't imagine what it would have been like in the 50s). It is a quality revenge story. It reminded me of oldboy in it's protaganist's fixation on destruction. Surprisingly good. I think it could make for a fantastic sci-fi revenge film if it was ever adapted.

    Downbelow station - C J cherryh - A less famous book, but a Hugo-winning novel from 1982. Moderately hard sci-fi about civil war in space, all revolving around one space station. Think a little like battlestar galactica, a little babylon 5. Good story, but takes itself maybe a bit too seriously.

    The Forever war - A slightly grittier take on Starship troopers, with the excellent central conceit of relativistic travel in an interstellar war meaning that your soldiers you send away don't return to earth for several hundred years, arrive in battle to face a foe who's had many years more weapons development, and return home to an entirely different society. Really good anti-war novel, obviously influenced by Vietnam etc. Greatly enjoyed this, good training/battle scenes balanced with the social concepts of soldiers reintegrating with society after going through those experiences :-)

    And finally, about 10 pages away from finishing Roadside Picnic, Boris and Arkady Strugatsky's famous sci-fi Novella about 'Stalkers' going into the 'forbidden zone'. Which obviously, is the inspiration behind the stalker games (throwing bolts to detect 'anomalies' is straight out of the book). A lot more weird and Russian than the games, naturally, with no shooting or bad guys, a lot is based around the mental health of the stalkers who keep going back to the zone. I feel a straight adaptation of the book would make a fascinating exploration game on its own, with truly bizarre environmental encounters in the zone. Quite quirky and bizarre, but certainly doesn't feel like any western sci-fi I've read, definitely worth trying.
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  3. #543
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    I've recently instituted what I have deemed the "Kitchen Book" - the idea being that I'll permanently keep a book in the kitchen somewhere, so I can pass time waiting for my cuppa to brew/ignore my retarded flatmates arguing over Big Brother whilst cooking my dinner.

    I grabbed The Salmon of Doubt off my bookshelf (a collection of unpublished material that Douglas Adams was working on at the time of his death). It's quite a nice choice for the Kitchen Book - most of the excerpts are pretty short and suitably timed to go with tea-making. The only issue I've found is that I'm blasting through it, due to my completely non-obvious addiction to tea.

    I've not made a cuppa in half an hour, I'd better rectify that with another few pages of reading...

  4. #544
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    The Red Market: about the trade of human organs, bones, children and other stuff. Kind of meh.

    The Fifth Mountain: Second of Coelho's works that I read (first being The Winner Stands Alone), 'twas kind of shitty.

    Reading The Gobline Corps now. Everything about the book is mundan and simplistic whether it's the dialogue or the characters. It seems Ari Marmell thinks that the bad-dudes'-perspective gimmick will be enough to carry the book forward. It doesn't feel that different from the generic fantasy stuff other than the fact that the characters eat and rape people after every dozen pages as if to remind readers that this one's different.
    I did manage to grudgingly chortle at some of the lines though.

  5. #545
    Network Hub DeekyFun's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by groovychainsaw View Post
    The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks - So similar to Lord of the Rings in the early stages I'm surprised they didn't sue :-). Decidedly average, not sure if I should bother continuing the series - does it improve?
    I enjoyed the Shannara books. There's quite a lot of three-to-four book long series set in that World, and they are quite similar, so if Sword didn't grip you, then possibly not worth bothering with the others. There is quite a bit of similarity to LotR, at the start, but with the difference that Brooks kills off his characters with a bit more haste, and to me, the World feels a little bit more dangerous.

  6. #546
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus groovychainsaw's Avatar
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    @Deekyfun
    I'm probably being a little bit harsh, The Sword of Shannara got better towards the end, once it had decided to go off the lord of the rings plot into something a bit different. But there was a still a lot that nearly made me give up. The first half of the book has two boys being chased by ghostly black-clad hunters (nazgul!) across the wilderness whilst being helped by a combination of ranger and wizard, then a prince/hunter. Finally they get to a town and a 'fellowship' is arranged of dwarves, elves, hunter, prince along with a plan. Then they go through some mines, which doesn't go well, due to the goblins. It starts to change its focus a bit then and moves away from Tolkien's plot, but there's still an epic siege (helms deep) whilst a small band sneak into the bad guy's realm (Mordor).

    I particularly loved the token effort to make the dwarves seem not like Tolkien's, too, by making them behave exactly the same as LOTR's dwarves, but they're claustrophobic and afraid of mines!

    Having said all that, I stuck with it and it differentiated itself a bit better later on. One or two interesting encounters suggest more world outside, including an attack by a war-robot(?) in an abandoned factory, which is glossed over quickly and is tonally a bit odd, consistent with some history as it has been introduced, but not surprising the characters as much as it probably should? This sort of thing suggests the world has changed a lot and there's more history/depth to be had. A bit more work on those elements rather than the lord of the rings-copying plot might have lifted it. I guess I just got frustrated by guessing what was going to happen based on lord of the rings and being proved right more often than not.

    I'm probably a lot harsher on fantasy for being unoriginal than sci-fi, maybe that's because sci-fi has a larger space to play in and attracts wilder/more allegorical ideas whereas fantasy is often stuck in tolkien's world, either consciously or subconsciously.

    Here's a question for the crowd - what fantasy books/series manage to go off Tolkien-style fantasy into something a bit different (And I've read The book of the new sun by Gene Wolfe, which I guess is the obvious one, and is brilliant!). I'm running out of books at my current rate of reading, so all help gratefully received :-)
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  7. #547
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    Read anything by Brandon Sanderson - I've not seen anything of his that fits the LOTR tropes at all, and his magic systems are a lot of fun to read and make for great action scenes.

  8. #548
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    what fantasy books/series manage to go off Tolkien-style fantasy into something a bit different?

    Andrzej Sapkowski for one.

  9. #549
    Network Hub DeekyFun's Avatar
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    @Groovychainsaw
    It certainly sticks to an long worn and established template (actually maybe moreso than I realised), but I think there are ways it differs. It's been ages since I've read them, but I remember enjoying the explanation of where these species (the dwarves, elves etc.) came from, and the idea that the fantasy setting is the result of the collapse of a more futuristic World. Some of the characters in later novels are more interesting than just being Tolkien Tropes, but I will admit there are definate cases where the characters are similar, both to LotR's and also to characters in other shanara novels.

    It may be bad to admit it, but perhaps part of the reason is the slightly pulpy way it works - I actually think it's a lot more fun to read than LotR and uses hooks and devices more similar to thriller novels etc. It's not exactly high-brow reasoning I guess!

  10. #550
    Lesser Hivemind Node Feldspar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by groovychainsaw View Post
    Here's a question for the crowd - what fantasy books/series manage to go off Tolkien-style fantasy into something a bit different (And I've read The book of the new sun by Gene Wolfe, which I guess is the obvious one, and is brilliant!). I'm running out of books at my current rate of reading, so all help gratefully received :-)
    Coming immediately to mind is Steph Swainson's Circle trilogy (The Year Of Our War, No Present Like Time and The Modern World) and it's prequal (Above The Snowline), set in a lightly satirical world, it's the story of how people just can't get on with each other and accomplish great things. One of my favourite series, it uses first person, nurmerous flashbacks, a lack of tolkienisms and a complete disregard of most of the usual fantasy tropes to carve it's own niche.

    Richard Morgan's The Steel Remains goes for a pseudo sci-fi approach with it's tale of three warriors unable to fit into the societies they once saved in a previous war. There's plenty of swordplay, but if you are slightly prudish you may disapprove of the explicit sex scenes.

    And, more in keeping with the usual fantasy series, there's Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive series that has 2 tomes out so far (as far as I know), which seems to have gone out of it's way to be a non-Tolkien world, which is cleverly handed out in very small chunks in the books.

    Any of those I'd recommend giving a go.

  11. #551
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus groovychainsaw's Avatar
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    @ Serenegoose, Shane, Feldspar - Thanks for the suggestions chaps, I'd forgotten about Andrzej Sapkowski - having played the witcher games, they certainly show a different type of world. I'll look into all of those suggestions, they sound interesting.

    @Deekyfun - The history of the world and races does seem interesting (being a collapsed version of a more industrial-era world) but wasn't featured enough in this first book. I'll also agree that its not as serious as LOTR and I did enjoy that too, I don't necessarily need a book to be super-clever, I enjoy pulpy as much as the next man (as some of the other books I've read recently probably show).
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  12. #552
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    All this talk of history reminds me that I'm a sucker for lore and depiction of various civilizations, alien or otherwise. Do you peeps have any recommendations for any sci-fi/fantasy works that have in-depth lore with a large variety of races/species a la Malazan or Bas Lag?

  13. #553
    Network Hub Rakysh's Avatar
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    @Groovy, I'd second the Brandon Sanderson and also suggest The Left Hand Of God and its sequel, The Last Four Things. Quite low fantasy, but very interesting and very good.

  14. #554
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Althea's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rakysh View Post
    The Left Hand Of God and its sequel, The Last Four Things. Quite low fantasy, but very interesting and very good.
    I counter that suggestion by saying it's misdirected and uses our-world terminology for the sake of it, so much so that it causes confusion.

    As for large variety - who better than Adrian Tchaikovsky with his Shadows of the Apt series? Just make sure you get the UK editions - the US publisher seems to have stopped releasing them.


  15. #555
    Network Hub Rakysh's Avatar
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    I think the third one will make it make sense, but I'm willing to let it not. I'm intrigued by misdirected though, how so?

  16. #556
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Althea's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rakysh View Post
    I think the third one will make it make sense, but I'm willing to let it not. I'm intrigued by misdirected though, how so?
    Easy. By referencing real-world things (such as cities) it creates an impression that it's set in our world. If my memory of the first 100 pages of that book are correct, it isn't set in our world.

    It was a very divisive book in the SFF community - you either loved it or you hated it.


  17. #557
    Network Hub Rakysh's Avatar
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    Fair enough. It's sort of an alternate dimension type thing, I suppose. I like the way it toys with expectations of various bits and bobs, but maybe I'm just crediting it with more intelligence than it has. Ah well.

  18. #558
    Network Hub corbain's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shane View Post
    what fantasy books/series manage to go off Tolkien-style fantasy into something a bit different?

    Andrzej Sapkowski for one.

    Well George R. R. Martin springs to mind

  19. #559
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    I just hard that Samuel Youd, aka John Christopher among other pseudonyms, has passed away. RIP to a great author.

    If only had my copies of the Tripods and the Burning Lands here for a quick re-read. Mind-blowing, for a kid to read those the first time.

  20. #560
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    Yea, Martin's very good but his last two books were utter shit. I find it hard to believe that they were written by the same author.

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