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

Trunkage

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*In case anyone's wondering, that's the quality of the book itself, not the quality of Marx's ideas. In other words, if you're looking for a Marxist, look elsewhere.
Is it the normal critical response or is there something novel?
 

Hawki

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Is it the normal critical response or is there something novel?
It's neither.

The author is clearly pro-Marx (or at least sympathetic), but the actual writing is unbiased. More "here's the history of Marx, here's the history of his ideas, here's how those ideas were implemented in the 20th century, here's why some people say Marxism is (or isn't) relevant in the 21st century, make your own conclusions."

I don't think anyone who was familiar with Marx is going to get anything out of it.
 

Trunkage

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It's neither.

The author is clearly pro-Marx (or at least sympathetic), but the actual writing is unbiased. More "here's the history of Marx, here's the history of his ideas, here's how those ideas were implemented in the 20th century, here's why some people say Marxism is (or isn't) relevant in the 21st century, make your own conclusions."

I don't think anyone who was familiar with Marx is going to get anything out of it.
Well, it did say introduction. Does it go into his history of gaming the stock market or terrible parenting skills? Or when you say ‘history‘, is it just Marxism?
 

Hawki

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Well, it did say introduction. Does it go into his history of gaming the stock market or terrible parenting skills? Or when you say ‘history‘, is it just Marxism?
-Nothing about the stock market.

-It paints a positive picture of his parenting skills.

-History, as in, Marx's life, to the development of his philosophy, to the implementation of his philosophy in the 20th century, to discussions about said philosophy in the 21st century.
 

Hawki

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I haven't actually watched the film before. It would be interesting to see how it compares to the novel.
The film is very different from the novel in terms of tone, if not plot. Plotwise, they're pretty much identical, apart from the film featuring Jupiter rather than Saturn, and the film is a lot vaguer on plot details. However, the novel, to me, moves quickly, and you can tell that it's written by someone who's passionate about the genre. The film is slow, cerebral, and more open to interpretation.

I'll be honest, I really don't like the film much. Maybe I'm just a cultural Neanderthal, but while there's plenty of slow-paced movies that I like, 2001 is just too slow and too vague for me. I can appreciate the film for its role in sci-fi film history, and the film's technical prowess, but it's not a film I'd ever sit down to watch again.
 

09philj

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Weeeell thanks to a recommendation from our own Gordon_4 I've spent the last couple of days reading the webcomic version of Stjepan Šejić's erotic romantic comedy comic Sunstone. I'm not quite at the end of what's available yet but I feel confident saying, I fucking like this comic. It ticks many of my boxes including:
Likable characters making bad decisions but everything being alright in the end.
Nice art, even if the webcomic version's a bit rough.
Lesbians
Bondage

This shit is my fucking jam. I like lesbian romances and I like a good dramatic rom com and I also like pretty pictures of women with their clothes off tied up. Sunstone is all of these. It's full of big emotions but manages to stay light on it's feet thanks to some proper comedic chops. It's full of life and spark and has instilled in me a strong desire to run down the street waving a triskelion flag because I! like! bondage!

Ahem. Got a bit carried away.
 

Hawki

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Star Wars: Force Collector (2/5)

This is basically Star Wars Fan Service: The Novel.

Being more specific and less glib, we focus on a character named Karr/Kerr, whose last name I don't recall, and don't care about either. He has Force powers that allow him to get flashbacks based on touching objects. As in, touching a lightsaber will allow him to experience the user's memories or somesuch. What results from this is a kind of galactic road trip as he goes from planet to planet, reliving moments that are mostly taken from the original and prequel trilogies, with their main characters.

That in of itself could be assinine itself, but for a sizable portion of this is that he's accompanied by a half-human, half-mirilian girl whose dad works in the First Order. Yeah, apparently that's a thing that kids do - they go to school on planets while their fathers go to work with space Nazis, then come home for dinner. The book takes place about 4 years prior to TFA, but even then, I can't believe that no-one raises an eyebrow at this. Surely people are at least aware that the First Order is basically Empire 2.0, regardless as to whether they consider it a threat or not. Whether they'd even have someone with an alien wife or daughter is another matter.

So, yeah. Not really anything to reccomend here.
 

TheMysteriousGX

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My copy of Delicious in Dungeon Vol 9 has finally left per-order hell and I find out that Delicious in Dungeon just released a *really* slick Adventurer's Bible. If Yen Press doesn't localize that, it's riot time

It and the Daydream Hours art books should be required reading for any serious fantasy fan/DM. Great world building, excellent character design and writing, the best elves in any media, just...a fleet's worth of ship building, and Senshi being a total chad whenever he gets access to civilization:E36505B7-196F-4350-9DB1-B1F4BC6C631D.jpeg
 

Hawki

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Halo: Escalation (4/5)

Note that when I'm reviewing this, it's simply the first 7 issues of the series, which forms its first arc.

It's kind of weird coming to this off Silent Storm, which, in short, basically had the same issues I did with Shadows of Reach. Bizzarely, it's the comic that offers more character depth. More particuarly deep, um, depth, but depth all the same. And thankfully less action. Yes, the action's there, but it's front-loaded.

Reason I'm giving this a 4 is because of how it handles its characters, whether it be the friendship between Lasky and Palmer (who, incidentally, is a decent character here, unlike Halo 4), or Tedra helping Thorne overcome his nightmares over New Phoenix, or going into Hood's backstory. Also, the comic kind of feels like a course correction for 343's take on the series. One of the many issues I had with Halo 4 (and associated media) is that it pretty much made the UNSC the top dogs in the setting, despite emerging from a war that nearly caused humanity's extinction mere years prior. Here, it kind of balances out, that the UNSC isn't all-powerful, that even as the Covenant fractures along religious and species lines, these warbands are still dangerous, and it's better to keep the peace if you can.

So, yeah. It's nothing too special, but what works here works quite well, and when it descends into action, that at least functions.
 

Hawki

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Juneteenth (3/5)

Short story depicting the event of the same name and the history behind it. Not too much to say given its length, nor can I say it told me much that I didn't already know. Emotional, rather than historical.

Also doesn't help that it's a children's book I read in five minutes because that's how much time I had available.

Passing For White (3/5)

This is a 100 page short story slave narrative, set mainly in 1840s United States. Tells the story of a slave girl who has fair skin, and is therefore, able to "pass for white," to borrow the title. Also able to pose as a gentleman and travel with her husband (a slave), posing as his owner. It's based on the true story of Ellen and William Craft who were able to get out of the South, then after the Fugitive Slave Act was passed, made their way to England.

Per the rating, the book is...okay. If you're looking for a story of a grand escape, this isn't it - that isn't the flaw of the book itself, since it has to keep at least one foot in historical events, but, well, this isn't exactly Huckleberry Finn we're talking about. On the other hand, the book is at its best in its quieter moments, where Rosa has to hold her tongue as a slave when people around her are flipping their own tongues. Mostly, this is in southerners, whether it's outright racism (railing against abolitionists and Negroes), more subtle racism (the idea that slavery is good because blacks can't take care of themselves), or even stuff from abolitionists who help them - "microaggressions," if I absolutely have to use that term. Nothing here is out of left field for what you'd expect from the time period (and, regretfully, out of our own period in some areas), but it's the most effective material in the book.

Serpentine (2/5)

You know me, I'm not a fan of His Dark Materials, and I'm certainly not a fan of Lyra. Still, this was only 60 pages, so hey, gave it a read.

Waste of time.

I'd describe the plot, but there isn't really any, and being fair, this is a character-driven story rather than a plot-driven one. It's an interquel set between the original trilogy and the Book of Dust trilogy, and shows a 16yr old Lyra going back to the North, and doing...stuff. Kind of getting over her experiences of being separated from Pan in the third book, or something. I'll be honest, I'd forgotten a lot about The Amber Spyglass, so I'm arguably the wrong person for this book, but either way, couldn't get engaged. Lyra's less annoying than she was before, but isn't more compelling.

Like I said, a waste of time.
 

Samtemdo8

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Now I am reading Berserk for the first time. The Manga.

At the Battle of Doldrey chapters at the moment, with Griffith settling the score with Lord that he had a....close....relationship with.
 

Johnny Novgorod

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And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street

I read a cute book about children who embellish
The things that they see day-to-day with much relish
And thought that the book was in all pretty neat:
And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street!

But for some years now we've had this foul vulture
That censors and bans with the name cancel culture
And so I announce with much saddened defeat:
Dr. Seuss is now CANCELLED, as is Mulberry Street!
 
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Johnny Novgorod

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Finally finished Watchmen. And it's possibly one of the best comics I've read in my life. I was never a big fan of the movie but it feels like small potatoes after reading the comic.
 
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Hawki

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Perfect Dark: Hong Kong Sunrise (3/5)

So I finally managed to track this comic down...I think. I say "I think" because the material I got seems to be two comics - one as a prequel to Perfect Dark Zero, another being set after it. As such, that's enough to give it a review entry here, as sparse as it is.

Anyway, HKS is pretty worthless. It has an art style that's way over the top (in a game that was already using a more stylized art style than its predecessor), and is basically one big action scene. Really, there's not much of value here.

The second is harder to place chronologically - set after Zero, yes, but it's hard to tell where it falls in the context of Initial Vector, Second Front, and Janus' Tears. But it's a bit better. The art style is toned down, and while it's based on action (dataDyne troopers attacking a CI complex, with Joanna fighting them off), it does work better than HKS for me, in that it does give us some insight into the world. Extremely high tech (did you know that flying cars dominated Los Angeles in 2020?), while there's a corporate war being fought. Corporate wars whose shock troopers look like the helghast for some reason (or I guess the whole "Nazi trooper" archtype that's seen in various IPs), but hey, go figure.

Anyway, it's okay. Nothing to write home about though.
 

Hawki

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On the Come Up (3/5)

This is Angie Thomas's second novel and is set in the same universe as The Hate U Give (also part of a wider shared universe apparently), taking place about a year after said novel. I'm going to say from the outset that you don't need to read THUG to understand this novel, but it does benefit from having read it, since frequent reference is made to THUG in the book. Broad-level events, yes, but when characters refer to "the boy killed by the police" and observe the fallout from the riots (various businesses haven't been rebuilt), then it does benefit from having read its predecessor. That said, what I'm also going to say from the start that of the two, OTCU is the weaker work than THUG. I've read that Thomas was on a deadline for the book, which may be so, but while that might explain its flaws, it doesn't absolve them.

So, anyway, story focuses on Brianna, living in the same neighbourhood that Starr did in the previous book. Single mother, dead father, brother who's working minimum wage despite graduating from college. Troubles in school, but is an excellent rapper, rags to riches, go. Yeah, bit of a simplification, but part of the issue with the work is that it lacks a sense of focus. In THUG, most of the story stems from Khalil's shooting. Everything Starr and her family does can be said to be in reaction to that event, or the consequenes of said event. OTCU doesn't have the same focus. It sort of muddles along. Things happen, but they're not that integral to the main plot. For instance, there's a sub-plot with security guards in Bri's school. She ends up being slammed to the ground, they're fired, then brought back, then attacked, then there's a staff-parent-student meeting, and some students for the Black and Latinx Coalition, and...that's it. While these events are arguably relevant to Bri's character, they're superfluous to the plot. THUG had similar 'fat' as well (hence why I think the film is better, because it streamlines the plot), but the 'fat' has piled on in OTCU.

There's also the issue that a lot of what you get out of this book will depend on how much you know about rap. For instance, if I was to list three of Bri's loves, they'd be Star Wars, Black Panther, and rap. I know a lot about the first thing, a fair amount about the second thing (as in, I've seen the movie, and I'm aware of the "Wakanda forever" meme), and next to nothing about rap. So when characters reference who I assume are famous rappers, I'm at a blank. This isn't a criticism of the work, because a work isn't obliged to explain its cultural references, but it did leave me coming up blank. However, what does work are the rap lyrics themselves, which are original to the story (as in, "On the Come Up" is the name of Bri's own rap song). I'm not really the best person to judge, but I'd say they're pretty good. They rhyme, flow well, carry thematic weight, etc. If anything, the rap sections here work better than poetry sections in a lot of other work, because there isn't the sense that the story is stopping for poetry, but rather that the rap is part of the story.

So, yeah. It's an okay read, but not without issues, and as stated, THUG is easily the superior work.
 

09philj

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I just read JG Ballard's short article Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan, which was also printed in his anthology The Atrocity Exhibition.

It's fake news, or rather, fake research. It's the abstract of a fictitious piece of research into psychosexual responses to Ronald Reagan. It's the kind of gleefully perverse and horrific writing that's very funny if you're aware that it's not real, but played so straight that you might not realise it's satire if you weren't told. Indeed, apparently it was distributed at the Republican National Convention by some pranksters, and a lot of people took it at face value. It's pure distilled Ballard, tackling his favourite subject matter of the confluence of sex, violence, and modern politics. Aficionados of Ballard will also note an early reference to car crashes in a sexual context, which Ballard would later expand on in his novel Crash, which was later adapted for film by David Cronenberg.
 

davidmc1158

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With the word coming out relatively recently about a new Dragonlance trilogy in the works, I decided to go back and re-read the original trilogy. About halfway through the second book, and have realized just how much I had forgotten about the setting over the years. There are a few complaints I have about Weis and Hickman jumping ahead and skipping sections of the heroes' journeys, leaving the reader with only a quick summary, but they really are fairly good. Maybe a 7 or 8/10 for me.

That was a jump from reading non-fiction. Europe in the Twentieth Century [1972] by George Lichtheim was basically a cold-war examination of European philosophy, art and technology up to the late 1960s. Before that was Year of Meteors: Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and the Election That Brought on the Civil War [2010] by Douglas E. Egerton which is pretty much what the subtitle promises. And Origins Reconsidered: In Search of What Makes Us Human [1992] by Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin which is an overview of Leakey and company trying to figure out where we stopped being merely upright apes and became modern humans in the fossil record.

On a lighter front, I splurged on some print-on-demand stuff from drivethrurpg and picked up some old 2nd edition D&D Planescape books as well as the Rules Cyclopedia for the original rules set (formerly known as Basic/Expert D&D).

Fun stuff.
 

Hawki

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Aliens: Bug Hunt (3/5)

This is a collection of short stories set in the Aliens universe. Those of you who've seen the film will know Hudson's question of "is this going to be another bug hunt?", and yes, the title is a direct reference. Most of the stories deal with xenomorphs (but at other times, other "bugs," which is explained as a human slang term for any non-humanoid species encountered beyond Earth), and pretty much all of them are set in I suppose who could be called the "Aliens timeframe." I can't define exactly what that timeframe is, but you get the idea - lots of terraforming, lots of colonial marines, lots of WY shit, etc. The one possible exception is a story set in Andromeda (which is insane, but okay), but even that has colonial marines stationed there.

Odd. The United States Army and USAF are confirmed to exist in the Aliens universe, but it seems that they don't actually do anything. Not even garrison duties. 0_0

Anyway, I've given this a 3/5, because the quality simply averages out. I've commented before that there's only so much you can do in the Aliens universe, or at least, there's only so much that writers seem willing to do. The majority of stories involve xenomorphs, and the majority of stories go a certain way - bad thing happens, marines come, more bad things happen, pew-pew-pew. There's twists on that formula to some extent, but the formula remains clear. There's a few exceptions though, and these do stand out, such as an in-universe documentary on the pulse rifle, or a story set entirely from a xenomorph's POV (both of which are among the standout entries), but they're exceptions to a very hard rule.

What's kind of frustrating is that every so often, there's hints at a wider cultural context - other nations, other megacorps, new religions, etc. This isn't new, per se, but it does make me feel frustrated that this setting never got a guiding hand the way that others did for its EU. The introductory at the start even flat out says that some of the stories may be canon, some are not, so, like, make up your own mind. I mean, I've written stories in the Xenopedia universe that don't feature xenomorphs or yautja at all, and it's quite easy, but that's not on brand, is it?

Well, whatever. It was fun enough to read over a period of weeks, reading a few stories every lunchbreak I got, but it's nothing special. If you're an Aliens fan, could be worth a read. If you're not, things are going to get pretty monotonous, pretty quickly.