Discuss and rate the last thing you read

Hawki

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Basically pitching this as a counterpart to the "discuss and rate the last the movie you watched" thread. Only this time, it's stuff that you read. And by "stuff," I mean any form of media (books, comics, etc.), just as long as reading is the means of doing it. Also, unlike the other thread, I'm going to let you use your own rating system. For me, I'll give a simple guide for myself:

1/5 = Horrible
2/5 = Bad
3/5 = Average
4/5 = Good
5/5 = Excellent

So, on that note:

Ready Player One (3/5)

Got this as a gift for Christmas, but finished it in January. Most people seem enamored with the upcoming film (I'm not one of them), but taking the book on its own merits, I'm...mixed.

Basically, you could sum up this book as "Eighties References: The Novel," because by god do the protagonists (and by extension, the author) know their stuff about 80s films, music, etc. Or something. I'm a child of the 90s, but I will say that if the book was based around 90s culture, I probably wouldn't find it endearing, I'd find it pandering. Sci-fi often falls into this trap, of simply referencing 20th/21st century material even if centuries in the future. I understand why, but it gives the impression that everything after the work was created was a cultural vacuum. There is a reason for this in the book, since it's based around a literal easter egg hunt in a VR world called the OASIS (think an MMO that can do anything for anyone, that connects every person on the planet), where the creator was a socially awkward genius that creates a competition for a controlling share in his company (his last act before dying), said guy growing up in the 80s, so basically wants to share his love of that time with the world. You might think that's a bit vapid, but if you do, your views aren't shared by anyone in the novel.

So, there's a hunt for the three eggs, with "gunter clans" searching for them, coming into conflict with a company called IOI, which wants to control the OASIS so they can charge a monthly fee and get rich. Basically, the MMO ain't gonna be F2P anymore. The IOI people are the bad guys, using an army of "Sixers." IOI's Sixer forces are led by a former RPG designer who's quite willing to kill any gunters that get in his way. He tries to kill the protagonist, actually does kill one of his friends, and in case your mother dropped you on your head when you were a baby, I'll specify that he's the bad guy, alright? Luckily, in the final battle, while piloting Mechagodzilla he's taken down by the protagonist who's using Ultraman. No, I'm not making this up.

In fairness though, there are elements of the book that I like. While much of it is enamored with 80s pop culture, it does paint a stark, grim, all too plausible vision of the future. Much of the book takes place in 2047/'48, and things aren't good. The world's been in recession for at least two decades. Oil supplies are low. In the case of the US, many people used what remaining oil they had to drive to cities, and are effectively living in refugee camps, getting food stamps from the government, struggling to find work. There's two year waiting lists to get a job at McDonalds, and food factories are now the way to go (implied to be like greenhouses, because there's not enough oil to farm across wide spaces). The whole world is going to hell, and that's part of why the OASIS is so successful. It's not only a way of escape, but in a world where travel is hindered by a lack of oil, it's an easy way to communicate, since the Internet is still up and running. Humanity can still fuel its civlization through solar and wind power, but even so, the world ain't a nice place. The OASIS currency is one of the world's most stable currencies, many schoolkids go to school in virtual classrooms via the OASIS, etc. Indentured work is now quite common, but so many people are fine with it, because it's still putting a roof above their heads and food in their stomach. Of course, the protagonist doesn't care too much about this (his first inclination in regards to winning is to buy a mansion - it's actually a secondary character whose first thought is to use the money to try and improve the world), but in all fairness, the real world, while not seen much, feels frightingly plausible.

So, yeah. Average book, mixed thoughts. The author certainly understands how 'gamers' work, and his 80s references, but a lot of the time it was done without any self awareness. The protagonist is...okay, but for those who've read the book, am I alone in thinking that Art3mis is a much better character? She, at least, seems to give a damn about the real world. She, at least, understands that meeting in an MMO isn't the same thing as meeting in real life. Not that any of the characters really have arcs, but, um, yeah. Average.
 

Hawki

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Hawki said:
Also, unlike the other thread, I'm going to let you use your own rating system.
Uhm...

Ezekiel said:
Use whichever rating scale you want, or none at all. I'm not even gonna score all the movies I talk about here.
 

Hawki

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Ezekiel said:
Hawki said:
Also, unlike the other thread, I'm going to let you use your own rating system.
Uhm...

Ezekiel said:
Use whichever rating scale you want, or none at all. I'm not even gonna score all the movies I talk about here.
Oops, missed that. 0_0
 
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Have had a fairly productive reading year, so I have a few to put up for consideration. (Note: since a lot of my books are non-fiction, history-based works, I'm including the copyright date.)

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond [copyright 2005/2011]
Giving this one a very high recommendation. Diamond looks at various historical societies that suffered potential ecological collapse and how they either failed to deal with the situation or they were able to adapt and make the decisions necessary to keep their society going. The question is drawn forward as to whether modern society can make the same sort of tough decisions in the face of erosion, water depletion, pollution and climate change. A fascinating read.

The Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan [copyright 2015]
An overview of world history specifically from the viewpoint of south and central Asia from ancient times to the modern day. By holding to its particular perspective, it creates a very different picture of history as regards to the motives, pressures and goals of various power blocs and nations. An excellent work and highly recommended.

King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa by Adam Hochschild [copyright 1998]
A thoroughly depressing work, but I must recommend it. Not only does it go into detail on the processes by which Africa was divided up by the European powers, but it shows how easy it was to get away with horrific atrocities with the folks back home being none the wiser. Also, the work ends with a look at how difficult it can be for a nation and its people to come to terms with the crimes of their historical figures.

Of Dice and Men by David M. Ewalt [copyright 2013]
A bit of lighter fare, Ewalt charts the history of Dungeons & Dragons (the real OG). He tends a bit too much towards Gygax hero worship, but the books was written out a love for the game, so I can let the bias slide. A fun read and interesting for those of us that remember the divide between Basic and Advanced D&D and TSR Hobbies back in the day.

I have a few more, the bulk being historical works. If the thread takes off, I might put up a few more I've recently read for consideration.
 

Neurotic Void Melody

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[small]a BBC focus magazine while drowning out some other unwarranted noise. If it must be rated, it's a solid 'why this is infinitely more interesting than my current environment' out of ten[/small]
 

Kyrian007

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I picked up an e-book for a dollar on sale years ago, but finally read it a week or so ago. Hopscotch by Kevin J Anderson. Not bad actually. I'm one of the few people who like his collaboration with Brian Herbert in continuing the Dune series, and he has a decent way of writing in that "classic" era of sci-fi tone... and that's what Hopscotch is. It is his attempt at writing a Arthur Clarke/Phillip K. Dick style sci fi story. And it isn't bad. An interesting idea, but it goes off into a few too many possibilities for a single stand-alone story. But that's not the worst mistake someone can make.

The basic premise... people can switch bodies. With just about anyone. That's the backdrop. With that one technological leap the story and its characters live in that universe... where anyone could (at any time) be somebody... anybody else. Our main character inhabits bodies for a living. He will experience trauma for those who don't want to. Going to get an operation and suffer through a painful recovery? He'll inhabit your body until you are well again. The plot, his latest client is killing his body. Along the way we meet his friends; a body switching artist, a body switching sex-cult member, and someone born immune to the body switching process that has the ability to see the real person who's inside whichever body they inhabit. And it goes bonkers from there with plots and factions and layers upon layers of deception. Its pretty good, 4 out of 5.
 

Rangaman

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Ah fuck, what was the last thing...um...does Watchmen count? I don't read that many books.

Assuming that it does, it's pretty damn good. The movie (which I saw beforehand and was kinda "meh" on) missed out so much by choosing to be "Superhero Movie #376". It makes me wonder why they didn't choose to adapt it as a limited run TV show; a format that would've suited it much better IMO.

Watchmen (the comic) is dark political and social commentary disguised as a superhero comic. And given the current state of global affairs, a surprisingly relevant commentary.

It's set in an alternate 1985 on the verge of World War III where costumed heroes have caused eleven kinds of fuckery for the rest of mankind and (because of this) have been outlawed in the US of A. One of the few left in operation, Rorschach, discovers that Edward Blake aka The Comedian has been murdered in his flat. What Rorschach initially suspects as the work of a serial killer slowly reveals itself as something far bigger and more dangerous than he could've ever imagined.

As someone who doesn't usually venture into the realm of comic books, consider me surprised and impressed. The characters are well-written (even if a lot of them are unlikable sods), the story has plenty of interesting twists and turns and the art is very well done. Definitely recommended.
 

Chimpzy_v1legacy

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The Truth by Terry Pratchett

I mean, it's a Discworld novel and Pratchett is one of my favorite authors. The Truth is not one of my favorite, that would be some of the novels centering around the City Watch and Moist Von Lipwig, but I had a good time with it nonetheless. Spreaking of Lipwig, I'm planning on reading Raising Steam next.

I'd rate it 6 C.M.O.T. Dibbler sausages-inna-bun out of 8 thaumaturgical mishaps.
 

Hawki

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Kyrian007 said:
by Kevin J Anderson.
Oh you poor, poor bastard.

Kyrian007 said:
Not bad actually.
...what? What madness is this?

Yeah, not the biggest Anderson fan myself. I keep trying his Saga of Seven Suns novels because while there's an interesting setting there, the writing never manages to do it justice. And the less said about 'Shadow of the Xel'naga' the better. :(
 

Kyrian007

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Hawki said:
Kyrian007 said:
by Kevin J Anderson.
Oh you poor, poor bastard.

Kyrian007 said:
Not bad actually.
...what? What madness is this?

Yeah, not the biggest Anderson fan myself. I keep trying his Saga of Seven Suns novels because while there's an interesting setting there, the writing never manages to do it justice. And the less said about 'Shadow of the Xel'naga' the better. :(
Oh, he can be terrible. His Star Wars books are some of the worst of the EU, and although I liked the Dune collaboration... everything since the Prelude and Legends series has been fairly bad. But for those 2 series he had the solid framework built for him. He seems to be a better idea guy than specific writing guy. It seems to me like the more he hashes something out the worse it gets. Hopscotch would be awful as a series, but as a cool backdrop to a single story it works. Its like reading a novel length episode of Black Mirror, with a prologue that's too long.
 

Ogoid

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Ok, let's see... last few I've read were

The Dreams in the Witch House, H. P. Lovecraft - 9/10

I'd read this one before long ago; it was, along with The Music of Erich Zann (another one of my favorites), one of my first experiences with Mr. Howard Phillips' work, and I absolutely loved it. I was surprised to find that it's generally considered one of his lesser stories , and now that I'm working my way through his entire oeuvre, I was looking forward to seeing if I'd change my mind.

I didn't. If anything, I think even more highly of it than I did before; as far as I'm concerned, it's one of Lovecraft's absolute best stories. Nowhere else does he so seamlessly blend traditional horror story and folklore elements with what I think are some of his most intriguing concepts (reality-warping mathematics, non-euclidean alien geometries, etc).

The Thing on the Doorstep, H. P. Lovecraft - 6.5/10

By contrast, I agree with general opinion that this isn't one of his best. I did enjoy the way Lovecraft established connections between it and some of his other stories (such as Ephraim and Asenath Waite coming from Innsmouth, with all the usual implications of that particular ancestry), but all in all, I simply didn't find very much interesting. It's not a bad story - I think Lovecraft at his worst was still a competent storyteller - but it's hardly as memorable as some of his better ones.
 

maninahat

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Ancillary Mercy Ann Leckie - 3/4.

This is the third in the Ancillary sci-fi trilogy. It is a decent conclusion, though the nature of the story telling is fairly sedate and you shouldn't expect it to get too exciting or dramatic by the finale.

If you're new to it, the Ancillary series is about a woman with the brain of a battleship. She is an AI hive mind that used to run a giant space carrier as well as the army of "ancillaries" inside of it, but something happened and now she's the last remaining bit of the ship. The first book is about the lead up to that something happening, and also what she is trying to do about it, 19 years on. The series throws lots of odd concepts at you right off the bat; as well as the protagonist being a bunch of people simultaneously, you also have to get used to her genderless, raceless culture (everyone is referred to as "she", regardless of sex), run by an emperor who also has a hive mind and lots of bodies. That's before getting into the actual aliens. It's a cool set up. Also, although inspired by the Roman and British Empires, the culture is very South Indian in appearance, which is neat. The first book feels a bit like a western, but the sequels have more of a Hornblower/Edwardian drama feel to them, in that its about people very politely arguing whilst drinking vast quantities of tea.
 

Catfood220

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The last thing I read was the post above me by maninahat. I would give this post a 6/10, it was pretty short and too the point with lots of words describing the last book that they read. It was quite descriptive of the book series that I have not previously heard of and to be fair, it has got my interest. However, the review was quite dry to read, a little humour wouldn't have gone amiss, if this is included in this persons next review, then I would read it.
 

Silentpony_v1legacy

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I read 2 warhammer 40k novels over the holiday, and they both sucked. Fabius Bile: Clone Lord and Sons of the Hydra. Both felt completely disjointed, divided up into 3 parts, each barely related to the other. I mean each part followed up on what the previous part established, but it felt less like a novel and more like 3 short stories put together. Like the writers didn't have a central idea, just a bunch of scenes they wanted to see happen, and after awhile that had 20 chapters of scenes happening.

But the reason I hated them was both reintroduced Primarchs, and both literally deus ex machina'd them to go back to the status quo.

Fabius finds an uncorrupted Fulgrim clone, and just when Fulgrim is on his feet, ready to lead the Legion again, boom! Fabius gives him to the Necrons.
In Sons of the Hydra, the Alpha Legion think they're working for Omegon and when they eventually meet Omegon, boom! Necrons show up and prove its actually a Ctan shard dressed as a Primarch.

Both times Necrons, the robot race, show up and completely reverse the situation when it became endangered of actually going somewhere

Fabius Bile I'd give 1/5
Sons of the Hydra I'd give 2.5/5 for at least having some decent action. But it gets a big fat sarcastic eyeroll for naming the main character Occam and having him fiddle with a razor.
 

Baffle

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Catfood220 said:
The last thing I read was the post above me by maninahat. I would give this post a 6/10, it was pretty short and too the point with lots of words describing the last book that they read. It was quite descriptive of the book series that I have not previously heard of and to be fair, it has got my interest. However, the review was quite dry to read, a little humour wouldn't have gone amiss, if this is included in this persons next review, then I would read it.
This was the last thing I read (sorry guy below him, this killed the thread for me). It was the joke I was going to do, and now it's ruined. 1/5 for you, joke thief.
 

Hawki

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Kyrian007 said:
He seems to be a better idea guy than specific writing guy. It seems to me like the more he hashes something out the worse it gets.
That...kinda makes sense. Looking at Saga of Seven Suns for instance, I certainly like the framework/setting he's created. It's space opera, but while not exactly fresh, it's not stale either. However, when we get to the writing style and characters, they come up short - bland, in both cases.

maninahat said:
whilst drinking vast quantities of tea.
Having read the first book...thank God I'm not the only one who noticed how Breq always seems to be drinking tea. 0_0
 

dscross

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It was Raising Stream, which was Terry Pratchett's last adult Discworld Novel. I felt like it was a bit all over the place compared to most of his other work tbh. I was bored in places, and there's only two other Discworld books I felt that way about (out of the 41 he wrote). Could have been his illness, maybe. It was alright though, regardless - always fun to spend time on the Discworld. 6/10.
 

Jute88

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The Shelters of Stone by Jean M. Auel. It's the fifth part of her Earth's Children series. I'd rate it 9/10, I just couldn't put the book down, I had to finish it!

The main character is Ayla, a cro-magnon girl who was raised by neanderthals (or Clan people), living during the Stone age. The series feels more like a slice of life kind of story, having no great villains (mostly) or major story arcs (except Ayla trying to find her place in the world).

The books heavily focus on cultures Ayla discovers, how they treat sex and pregnancy as separate things, the relationship between cro-magnons and neanderthals, the role (or lack) of fatherhood in societies, the religions they meet, the languages, the way the Clan people can't learn new things but rather they share the memories of their ancestors etc.

Some problems in the book are that Auel really likes to describe in great detail the tools people use in the series. I know that mastering tools was a matter of life and death during the Stone age, but sometimes she talks about one tool for two pages, which I usually try to skip.

One other big problem is just how perfect Ayla is.
She has incredible memory,
most people find her irresistible,
she's one the best healers in the series, if not the best,
she is always in the mood for sex whenever her partner wants it,
she can usually sense when people lie because of her upbringing,
she's first to discover that you can tame animals,
she can throw two stones with her slingshot and
she learns languages very quickly.

Also, a small annoying thing is how Ayla calls herself old, because she compares herself to the Clan people, who have a rather short life span. No, she isn't old. She's not even 20 by the end of the fifth book, everyone tells her that's she's still young, but she still calls herself an old woman!
 

Casual Shinji

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I read All-Star Superman, and eventhough I'm not that into western comics or Superman, it was pretty damn good. The artstyle and the storytelling go together to create something quite lovely. Love those Moon panels.
 

Catfood220

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Baffle2 said:
Catfood220 said:
The last thing I read was the post above me by maninahat. I would give this post a 6/10, it was pretty short and too the point with lots of words describing the last book that they read. It was quite descriptive of the book series that I have not previously heard of and to be fair, it has got my interest. However, the review was quite dry to read, a little humour wouldn't have gone amiss, if this is included in this persons next review, then I would read it.
This was the last thing I read (sorry guy below him, this killed the thread for me). It was the joke I was going to do, and now it's ruined. 1/5 for you, joke thief.
Sorry...it won't happen again. *hides notebook full of stolen Baffle2 jokes*