Staying at home is the norm... What are you reading?

zoey

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Read Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy recently. Have been meaning to read it ever since I watched the movie. Need I even need to say this - The movie was good but the book was class apart! Have also been reading classics again...read The Great Gatsby. Found it meh!
 

Hawki

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Aliens: Defiance (3/5)

Defiance is probably the closest we're going to get to an Aliens TV series, in as much that it's how it's structured (12 issues covering a single story, whereas most Aliens graphic novels are shorter and more focused on a particular incident. If that's the case however, then it's kind of emblematic of a problem with the Aliens/Predator IP, and that's that you can only do so much with the concept.

Story takes place in 2137/38, and follows Zula Hendrics (a former marine) and Davis 01 - an android that goes rogue, wanting to wipe out all xenos for the sake of humanity. Already, there's a bit of an issue here, and it's been an issue for awhile - the movies operated under the premise that the xenomorph is more or less confined to LV-426 as a point of origin. Here however, the things are everywhere, and the Company is experimenting on them. Now, if the Aliens IP wants to have a paradigm where xenomorphs are literally everywhere, and going anywhere in the galaxy means you're risking danger, that's fine, but it's a paradigm that doesn't gel well with the films. But even casting that aside, what we have is okay. It's frankly better handled than a lot of Aliens stories, in that with fewer characters to focus on, they get to be fleshed out more, along with better worldbuilding. Like, nothing major, but we see a bit of what life is like on Earth for the people of the early 22nd century. It's grim, but not grimdark grim. Perhaps intentionally, it's depicted as being quite similar to our own, and that includes levels of technology. Yeah, we can fly around in starships, but helicopters are still used in atmosphere for instance.

There's another issue though, and that's that the Colonial Marines are shown to be in cahoots with WY, and by the end of the story, WY manages to retrieve some xenomorph DNA (and in the sequel series, show how it's used). What I'm left to ask then is why WY is so insinstent on still catching xenomorphs further down the line, and why the Marines are so in the dark in the titular Aliens films when here, marines are deployed with full knowledge of the xenomorph and how to handle it.

Anyway, it's decent, but ultimately hampered by the IP it's set in.
 

Hawki

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Aliens: Resistance (3/5)

This is a sequel to Defiance. And it's easily weaker than its predecessor.

Part of the problem is that it's a sequel to Alien: Isolation, only it's mum on what actually happened to Amanda since then. Now, we know some of it from Blackout, but here, it's sparse. I have the feeling that the writers don't want to write themselves into a corner in the event of the game getting a sequel, but the jump is jarring. But apparently, since both she and Zula have had bad experiences with WY, they're both dedicated to exposing the Company's heinous actions.

I'll give credit where credit is due, the comic does expand on the worldbuilding a bit. As it's set in 2140, by this stage, there's a global exodus from Earth to colony worlds, all of which are administered by WY (so, think LV-426). Only there's very little regulation on the exodus process, and you pretty much have to sell everything to hitch a ride. It's grim, but plausibly grim. What's less plausible, at least in the wider scope of the IP, is that WY has used xenomorph DNA to give its combat androids acid rounds, and has a black site where 1200 colonists are transported, implanted with xenomorphs, and left to die so they can use the world as a testing ground. Officially, the ship will be lost, but unofficially? Yeah. Zula and Amanda try and stop it. Which leaves me wondering why, if WY has ready access to xenomorphs here, why getting them is such a hassle further down the line.

Anyway, they arrive on the planet, cue explosions, gunfire, screaming, and a cliffhanger. Yeah. Pew pew pew stuff. Nothing special. It's still arguably a cut above a lot of Aliens material, but again, hampered by the IP.
 

Dalisclock

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New York Trilogy(City of Glass, Ghosts and The Locked Room) by Paul Auster.

Basically a Postmodernist, kinda meta take on detective fiction, in the form of 3 novellas, each around 100 pages long so a fairly brisk read. While separate works, they do kinda connect to each other in the end, but in kind of bizarre ways.

The whole thing feels vaguely like a Thomas Pynchon novel or a David Lynch film/series but far more comprehensible and less drug-fueled, but still not without some weirdness to it. In general, each of the 3 books involves a man who for reasons is tasked with investigating another man and slowly starts losing control of his own life in tragic ways as a result, but feels almost absurdist at the same time. Oh, and the books seem to delight in leaving threads hanging and never resolving them.

A notable bit of trivia is that these books were one of the things that influenced Kojima's Metal Gear Solid 2, though mostly in it's meta aspect and the general loss of identity theme then any specific plot elements. There is one character whose name was deliberately lifted for the game itself and presumably in an earlier version there was meant to be more.

It's hard for me to say if I'd recommend someone read it, because fits in kind of a weird niche of Detective fiction but a deliberate subversion of the same and I'll admit I have a small love for Noir and Weird fiction in me which is no doubt why I got into it.
 
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Buyetyen

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Finally got around to reading some She-Hulk, starting with Single Green Female. I regret not picking this up sooner because the writers are obviously having so much fun with this. A ghost who stands as the star witness at his own murder trial. I fucking love stuff like that.
 

Johnny Novgorod

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The Devil and Daniel Webster (Stephen Vincent Benét, 1936)

Daniel Webster takes the Devil to court in Benét's classic of literary Americana, which extols the rousing power of humanity (and patriotism) over black-and-white legality. This is an extension of the Faust myth, filtered through the prism of American exceptionalism. Webster doesn't triumph over evil by compromising his own morality or stooping to his level: he doesn't win by exploiting a convenient technicism or outwitting him with logic and counterarguments, but by appealing to the jury's empathy, sense of decency and ultimate humanity in the simple endearing tradition of Rockwell, Capra and Spielberg.
 
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Hawki

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Halo: Smoke and Shadow (4/5)

The thing about Smoke and Shadow, and part of why I like it as much as I do, is that it's kind of an outlier among Halo fiction. I say that because when you look at the suite of Halo novels and comics that have been released (not to mention the actual games), almost all of it is military sci-fi. Which is fine, don't get me wrong, but military sci-fi is a genre I'm generally not fond of, and me liking Halo has generally been in spite of that rather than because of it. So here comes a novel that's more space western/space adventure/space heist, and does so that feels tonally and canonically congruent.

Story focuses on Rion Forge, John Forge's daughter. A salvage operation gives her a lead on the fate of the Spirit of Fire, so cue a treasure hunt of sorts across star systems as they also have to deal with ONI and Covenant remnants. TBH, the scenario presented here feels a lot more natural as a followup to Halo 3 than what we got. Halo 4 showed us a UNSC that was pretty much ascendant, recovering miracuolously from nearly 3 decades of war against a genocidal foe. Smoke and Shadow however, highlights a galaxy that's operating in a power vacuum. Now, this doesn't break canon in of itself, but I like the tone here a lot more than many other works. Also helps that Rion's a neat character, and her crew are decent, if nothing special. However, it isn't perfect, and there's some plot hooks left dangling that really feel that they should have been wrapped up in this novel. Yes, I know a sequel novel exists in Renegades, so maybe they're addressed there, but still...

Well, meh. Novel was good either way.
 

Johnny Novgorod

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Orlando (Virginia Woolf, 1928)

Orlando is the mock biography of a person who is born a man and then becomes a woman, starting a lovelorn boy and favorite of Queen Elizabeth ca. late 16th century and ending 36 and female by the time George V reigns over angry motorists and crowded department stores in 1928; a novel as much about Orlando as it is about history (and our relationship with history) and the changing spirit of the times, which Orlando - who must be said has no inherent psychology or personal constitution beyond a passion for poetry - channels eloquently whether male or female, rich or poor, single or married; in many ways each passing century mirrors a stage in Orlando's life, from the romanticism and colonial drive of 17th century Britain as befits a young adventurous person to the privacy of the demure, marriage-focused Victorian era - no doubt corresponding to the life of a stable, young adult - and ending early in the 20th century on a note of modernistic reappraisal as Orlando - shocked by the present day - hits a kind of midlife crisis; for what has Orlando's life been about if not looking for meaning in it and trying to find solace in the critical consensus of every era - parodied by Nick Green, a recurring pundit who lambasts his contemporaries like Shakespeare and Marlowe only to extol them centuries later against the likes of "inferiors" like Tennyson and Carlyle (here it is my duty to report that "Orlando" deserves full credit as a love letter to literature, featuring cameos by several celebrities, as Orlando would seek their company in many a futile attempt to look for inspiration in their wit; all of which makes for a cute kind of literary Forrest Gump) - and here I repeat, "every era", for every era leaves a mark on Orlando that slowly develops the protagonist's identity beyond the superficiality of gender or class for as long a sentence can ramble and ramble on - broken only momentarily by the occasional clarification (and editorial parenthesis) - while keeping paragraphs as intimidating and densely padded as, dare I suggest it, the writer feels like doing so in the name of period-appropriate archaisms and Woolf's own patented stream of consciousness.
 

Hawki

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Read some stuff:

-Star Wars: Age of Resistance - Heroes (3/5)

-Deltora Quest: Volume 3 (3/5)

-Living on Stolen Land (3/5)
 

CM156

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I'm on a World War II kick now.
I'm reading Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich by Norman Ohler.

It covers not only drugs during the Weimar and Nazi eras, but also the records of Hitler's personal physician. Highly recommended.
 

Dalisclock

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I'm on a World War II kick now.
I'm reading Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich by Norman Ohler.

It covers not only drugs during the Weimar and Nazi eras, but also the records of Hitler's personal physician. Highly recommended.
Wasn't HItler on a ton of crazy meds because his doctor was a bit of a quack or is that a myth? I'm not sure if that's what the book is about but that's the only thing that comes to mind with "Drugs" and "Third Reich".
 

CM156

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Wasn't HItler on a ton of crazy meds because his doctor was a bit of a quack or is that a myth? I'm not sure if that's what the book is about but that's the only thing that comes to mind with "Drugs" and "Third Reich".
Theodor Morell, his doctor, kept rather extensive (if sometimes poor) records on everything he ever put inside Hitler. At various times, he was giving him Oxycodone and Cocaine (as a topical anesthetic) within a brief timespan. For those who don't know, mixing opioids with cocaine is called a "speedball" and it's a very bad idea. Also Hitler was injected with the byproducts of numerous animal glands. I know medicine was much more primitive compared to what we have now, but it still shocks me everything that was done.
By '44, his health was in major decline and I get the sense that Hitler was fueled by drugs. Had Hitler somehow survived the war, I'm not sure he would have lived long enough to be hanged at Nuremberg.
The author attempts to draw a link between Hitler's treatment and his decision making, but I hesitate to attribute any one cause to why Hitler made some of his bad decisions later in the war. Also, the author quotes Erich von Manstein and other post-war generals and their accounts of what happened. Especially when he makes an argument that Hitler's decision to take the oil fields of the USSR over focusing on major cities was the result of drugs. I think, based on what I read, that this was probably a time where Hitler was correct from a grand strategy standpoint. I think one has to be very careful when using a German WWII general as a primary source without external evidence.

Also: Morell also used his position to push snake oil on the population. The usual stuff. Thankfully, he was arrested after the war and held as a prisoner until he died in '48, never able to fully take advantage of his ill-gotten gains.
 
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Hawki

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Men in Black International (2/5)

As the title suggests, this is the novelization of the film. As the rating suggests, I didn't like it much.

In fairness, the rating might be too low, but honestly, just found it dull. Maybe it's because things are being lost in translation (movie novelizations are rarely high quality), but I've seen such novelizations done much better than this. Jokes aren't that funny, plot isn't that special, the book just...exists. Which, from what I can tell, is similar to the film as well.

Does come with an extra short story pseudo-prequel that's a bit better, but nothing to write home about.

And...

Deltora Quest: Volume 4 (3/5)

Deltora Quest: Volume 5 (4/5)
 

Casual Shinji

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I'm reading the Earthsea books.

I'm about two-thirds through the second one, and it's pretty good.

Also, after finishing the first book, Jim Croce's 'I Got A Name' caught my eye, and now I can't stop listening to it.
 

Dalisclock

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Devolution by Max Brooks. It's actually pretty good.
The Zombie Survival guide and World War Z were both really good(despite zombie fiction being a bit of a low bar). I haven't heard of that one.
 

Baffle

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The Zombie Survival guide and World War Z were both really good(despite zombie fiction being a bit of a low bar). I haven't heard of that one.
It's a similar style to WWZ, though only a single story rather than lots of excerpts. It's worth a read.
 
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JUMBO PALACE

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Just tons of comics. In addition to Wednesday new releases I've been taking this time to finally read through Sandman. I'm on volume 5 now and I've enjoyed every second of it so far. It really is an amazing series and deserving of its reputation. I can also check Watchmen off of my list which also lived up to the hype (mostly). Also did some dabbling in Chuck Dixon's Nightwing. It was pretty good but repetitive after a few volumes and I put it down. Volume 1 of The Darkness was delicious 90s comics action and cheesecake but volume 2 was a steep decline in quality. Not sure if I'll bother getting back to any more of that.
 

SupahEwok

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Introduction to Data Mining and Analytics with Machine Learning in R and Python, by Kris Jamsa

I'd call it a mediocre textbook, which we're probably only using because it's sold with access to "labs" which are just changing a couple of variables in various programming scripts, and the whole package saves our teacher from doing any work making a course. The chapters themselves begin with some good overviews of the fundamentals, but when it breaks down those fundamentals into sections it mostly just shows the same scripts from the labs with little actual information on the concepts in question.

3/10 Welcome to American Higher Education