Author Topic: What are we reading?  (Read 591168 times)

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Online JasonPratt

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Re: What are we reading?
« Reply #5175 on: September 08, 2020, 07:49:47 PM »
Welp, I'm finishing up my third Tuesday being off work for a COVID infection (apparently I have a rare stomach-flu variant that hasn't affected my lungs, thank God, but I can't keep my fever down). You might think this has been a great time to get reading done, but I haven't had enough energy to really bother with it after the first week -- primarily, I suspect, because I didn't have a fever for a whole week after I got it. Once the fever came back and stayed around, ugh.

This means my aforementioned reading project has languished, but I did manage to finish the final two novels of my HarperVista original Magic: the Gathering series some time ago, and I need to stay up another hour before taking medicine, soooo...

...what's that? You have no idea what novels I'm talking about?

LET ME PROVIDE YOU WITH LINKS TO PRIOR REVIEWS FOR A HANDY RECAP!  :D


Arena
The Whispering Woods
Shattered Chains
(and a followup post about the broken attempt at a marketing theme for the back cover designs, resulting in the hilarious "Sewers of Cityname")
The Final Sacrifice
The Cursed Land
The Prodigal Sorcerer
Ashes of the Sun
Song of Time

...man, I nearly exhausted myself just trying to copy-paste-type that list...


Anyway, the final two are (in this production order) Sonia Orin Lyris' And Peace Shall Sleep; and Robert E. Vardeman's Dark Legacy. The title of the former by the way is a reference to a line from Shakespeare's Richard II (and cited as such as the header quote for the next to last chapter), although the phrase has a double-meaning: peace "sleeping" means wars breaking out in the book, but in the play peace is going to go sleep with pagans and Muslims instead while Christian nations and factions go to war with each other.

Both books share a common tangled plot structure of agents provoking nations to war with each other, although in Lyris' book the agent is a main protagonist (who is set up as a variation on Robin Hood of all things). In Dark Legacy, those agents are definitely amoral opportunists or evildoers, but Sleep's protagonist is trying to stop a civil war in his own beloved nation by setting up a legitimate foe for them to fight -- except things go horribly wrong. Both stories are tragedies.

They also share the commonality of being marketed as though they're set during (and so are about) a brief but important part of MtG's early meta-story development called The Dark, where after a world war fought using artifacts something like a nuclear winter wipes sunlight almost completely, for long enough to plunge the world of Dominaria into an ice age. The Dark was the first sequential story themed deck (the prior two, Arabian Knights and Antiquities, being independent of each other, and the original sets having no narrative themes at all or special set designations.) So including the Dark as a plot setting would be a big deal for recovering a proper narrative thrust from book to book: only the first four of this series from HarperPrism had been narratively connected to each other, and the first book had only been hot-patched into the subsequent trilogy along the way! Since then all the books had been independent from each other in story.

And yet the first of the compeltely independent stories, The Cursed Land, was far more of a "Dark" setting (even though not strictly) than these two! Neither one of them has anything to do with the situation of "the Dark" at all, although at least Sleep has the slow onset of an apparent ice age on the way. But while that's a large-scale factor of why the plot happens (resources are getting thin so various nations are eyeing each other for excuses to go to war to protect themselves and/or to loot someone else), the winter itself is only more like an early-cold autumn. And there's absolutely nothing even like that in Dark Legacy! -- only a brief prophetic local darkness in the courtyard of one key city to start the book with!

As with all the novels from #5 (The Cursed Land) onward, and increasingly so, these look hard like fantasy novels that never originally had anything to do with MtG per se, but which were trivially retrofitted with some references to make them seem like MtG stories.

Not that any of them are bad novels; the latter half (after the legitimate MtG stories) are all solidly good, with busy and clever plotting (in only around 300 pages each), good characters and characterizations, some interesting concepts, sometimes some interesting action thrown in. I haven't been bored reading any of them.

It just becomes increasingly obvious, to me anyway, why Wizards of the Coast might have decided to give up working with HarperPrism on these novels, and take direct control of publishing MtG stories: so that they can guarantee the stories will be about MtG situations and stories! Fans wanted to read the stories represented by the card sets: the story of the Antiquities set (the Brothers' War of the Artifacts), the story of the Dark and the subsequent Ice Age, etc. Not stories briefly referencing these things directly (like a prologue chapter set near the end of the Brothers' War then shifting to something completely different thousands of years later) or indirectly pretending to be about them.

Well, I don't regret reading them as a specimen of fantasy that I had never even tried to get into long ago during their publication, but as a minor fan of MtG and its lore I can't say they're really MtG novels. Except the first four, which I enjoyed the most other things being equal.

Fortunately a found a great deal on 32 books collecting WotC's true MtG novel series (in mostly trilogy sets), and I've got those boxed up nearby ready to start with once my energy recoups enough to dig in.

Don't worry, I won't promise to do reviews on them. ;) This original set is an obscure and outlying oddity in the history of fantasy intellectual property novels, however, so for that sake I thought I'd try to do them justice, pro and con.

Off to bed.
ICEBREAKER THESIS CHRONOLOGY! -- Victor Suvorov's Stalin Grand Strategy theory, in chronological order. Lots and lots of order...

Dawn of Armageddon -- a narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse: The Hunt Begins: Insert Joke Here!

Survive Harder! In the grim darkness of the bowl there is only, um, Amazons. And tentacles and midgets. Not remotely what you're thinking! ...okay, maybe a little remotely.

PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Season One complete; Fantasy Wars AAR, lots of screenies.

Offline Gusington

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Re: What are we reading?
« Reply #5176 on: September 08, 2020, 08:39:48 PM »
Heal up and feel better.
"I'm not even dead and I'm rolling over in my grave."

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Offline Sir Slash

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Re: What are we reading?
« Reply #5177 on: September 08, 2020, 08:42:33 PM »
Damn Pratt! Glad you're beating this damned disease and, please, stay on top of it young Man. We need Pratt-Posts to Infinity.  :clap:
"Take a look at that". Sgt. Wilkerson-- CMBN. His last words after spotting a German tank on the other side of a hedgerow.

Offline ArizonaTank

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Re: What are we reading?
« Reply #5178 on: September 08, 2020, 10:08:45 PM »
Welp, I'm finishing up my third Tuesday being off work for a COVID infection (apparently I have a rare stomach-flu variant that hasn't affected my lungs, thank God, but I can't keep my fever down). You might think this has been a great time to get reading done, but I haven't had enough energy to really bother with it after the first week -- primarily, I suspect, because I didn't have a fever for a whole week after I got it. Once the fever came back and stayed around, ugh.

Take care Jason
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Offline airboy

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Re: What are we reading?
« Reply #5179 on: September 08, 2020, 11:33:23 PM »
Get well soon Jason!

Offline Tripoli

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Re: What are we reading?
« Reply #5180 on: September 09, 2020, 05:23:30 AM »
Jason-I hope you get better soon.  Take care

Online JasonPratt

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Re: What are we reading?
« Reply #5181 on: September 09, 2020, 06:55:32 AM »
Thanks guys, cough-hack. (Coughing has gotten worse in the past few days, ironically.) (But it has always been a productive cough, X-ray from a day ago is totally clean.)

I've managed to lose a few pounds, although much less of a loss than I was hoping for under the circumstances, which is odd.

Meanwhile, ironically I've found I'm better able to parse Churchill's Gathering Storm in this condition than entertaining fluff! So I started that a few days ago. It makes a great companion piece to his Aftermath so far, for people interested in the political inter-war.

A new thing I learned recently was that Churchill believed the crazy inflation of the German mark wasn't so much due to the insane restitution demands -- which were largely not required from Germany for various reasons (having been inflicted for political purposes back home) -- but rather due to Germany's government intentionally hyperinflating their currency to destroy its value themselves, in order to avoid paying back what (relatively) little they did actually owe!  :o

(My description oversimplifies the situation but gets the gist of it.)
ICEBREAKER THESIS CHRONOLOGY! -- Victor Suvorov's Stalin Grand Strategy theory, in chronological order. Lots and lots of order...

Dawn of Armageddon -- a narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse: The Hunt Begins: Insert Joke Here!

Survive Harder! In the grim darkness of the bowl there is only, um, Amazons. And tentacles and midgets. Not remotely what you're thinking! ...okay, maybe a little remotely.

PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Season One complete; Fantasy Wars AAR, lots of screenies.

Offline Anguille

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Re: What are we reading?
« Reply #5182 on: September 09, 2020, 07:25:21 AM »
Get well soon!

Offline W8taminute

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Re: What are we reading?
« Reply #5183 on: September 10, 2020, 05:29:28 PM »
Good to see you back Jason and I hope you feel better soon.
Forgive me my old friend.  But I must use all my experience...to get home.

Offline nelmsm

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Re: What are we reading?
« Reply #5184 on: September 12, 2020, 07:06:06 PM »
 Get better!

Offline Gusington

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Re: What are we reading?
« Reply #5185 on: September 13, 2020, 09:48:11 AM »
Just started The Last Pirate of New York by Rich Cohen.
"I'm not even dead and I'm rolling over in my grave."

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Offline Gusington

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Re: What are we reading?
« Reply #5186 on: September 16, 2020, 01:13:13 PM »
Now reading Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost Its Soul by 'Jeremiah Moss.'
"I'm not even dead and I'm rolling over in my grave."

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Offline ArizonaTank

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Re: What are we reading?
« Reply #5187 on: September 16, 2020, 05:52:51 PM »
Just finished “No Man’s Land” by John Toland

https://www.amazon.com/No-Mans-Land-1918-Great/dp/1568520093/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1600093581&sr=8-1

This is a “popular” history of WWI that covers the key combat and political events of 1918. It is a good read because the author uses first hand accounts to tell much of the story. At points I felt almost like I was reading one of those “grand historical sweep” novels, following multiple characters through parallel story threads. Except the characters of “No Man’s Land” were real people. Most of the voices are British, American or German.

The skillful use of these voices pulled me into their world, with the sights, sounds and smells of these long ago events. For example, the narrative did a great job in showing the Allied armies' near panic during the German’s Michael offensive in March, 1918. This was just after Russia’s surrender, but before the Americans were ready to fight. The Germans were able to redeploy a million men from the Eastern Front. These fresh troops slammed a wedge between the British and French, pushing the British towards the sea. For a brief moment, the French and British began to talk of collapse.

The book has a bit of an uneven approach to what it covers. Emphasis is on the Western Front, the rise of the Bolsheviks, and the Allied intervention in Russia. The Middle East and Italian Fronts are only mentioned in passing. Also, in the last few weeks of the narrative, the focus moves away from the military side of the war. The focus is then on the political machinations leading to the Armistice; this leaves a bit of a hole in the military narrative.

Despite a its blind spots, I found the book to be interesting, and entertaining. I enjoyed the first hand accounts and found myself looking forward to reading about how their stories would unfold.

If you are looking for a relatively light read, that is entertaining and puts the experience of the war front and center, I recommend this book.         
« Last Edit: September 16, 2020, 06:05:55 PM by ArizonaTank »
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Offline ArizonaTank

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Re: What are we reading?
« Reply #5188 on: September 16, 2020, 06:02:09 PM »
....
My guess is that Mr. Cooke decided this manuscript was not that good and did not submit it for publication during his life.  Or, the publication was rejected by publishers and the rejection was forgotten.

There are usually good reasons why unpublished manuscripts by famous authors were not released.  When was the last time some discovered recording by a musical group was found after the fact and it was actually good compared to their released work?

It has been many years since I read this. I recall the good parts; the stories. Maybe I have just forgotten the bad. I am curious now to reread it in light of your comments. But there are many things my reading list, so it will be a while.
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Rated as the 2nd most valuable player of all time by Bill James.

Offline airboy

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Re: What are we reading?
« Reply #5189 on: September 16, 2020, 06:53:38 PM »
Just finished “No Man’s Land” by John Toland

https://www.amazon.com/No-Mans-Land-1918-Great/dp/1568520093/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1600093581&sr=8-1

This is a “popular” history of WWI that covers the key combat and political events of 1918. It is a good read because the author uses first hand accounts to tell much of the story. At points I felt almost like I was reading one of those “grand historical sweep” novels, following multiple characters through parallel story threads. Except the characters of “No Man’s Land” were real people. Most of the voices are British, American or German.

The skillful use of these voices pulled me into their world, with the sights, sounds and smells of these long ago events. For example, the narrative did a great job in showing the Allied armies' near panic during the German’s Michael offensive in March, 1918. This was just after Russia’s surrender, but before the Americans were ready to fight. The Germans were able to redeploy a million men from the Eastern Front. These fresh troops slammed a wedge between the British and French, pushing the British towards the sea. For a brief moment, the French and British began to talk of collapse.

The book has a bit of an uneven approach to what it covers. Emphasis is on the Western Front, the rise of the Bolsheviks, and the Allied intervention in Russia. The Middle East and Italian Fronts are only mentioned in passing. Also, in the last few weeks of the narrative, the focus moves away from the military side of the war. The focus is then on the political machinations leading to the Armistice; this leaves a bit of a hole in the military narrative.

Despite a its blind spots, I found the book to be interesting, and entertaining. I enjoyed the first hand accounts and found myself looking forward to reading about how their stories would unfold.

If you are looking for a relatively light read, that is entertaining and puts the experience of the war front and center, I recommend this book.       

Is this book primarily focused on the events of 1918, or is it looking at the entire war in equal weight?