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

Xprimentyl

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Just finished The Pop Tart Insurrection, a story about a college-aged guy name Magnus Haycock who one day, after an incident between his toaster and his Pop Tart, becomes fed up with the status quo and complacency, and vows to take over the world.

Relatively short read, shy of a couple hundred pages, medium print, can be knocked out in a day or two if you've the time. It was written and recently released by my high school English teach Marcus Herzberg. He was kind enough to even write an inscription on my copy. That said... it's alright. It just sort of plods along as everyday stuff happens around this highly intelligent, disaffected kid who's constantly challenging the system. It's not bad, just really uneventful and ends where it gets interesting. Not sure if it's meant to be the first in a series of books, but if that's the case, it really needed to be more substantive to capture the reader's attention for later installments.
 

Chimpzy

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Just read Guts by Chuck Palahniuk. I got sucked right into its tale of teenage sexual discovery. I did not faint.
 

Hawki

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Mega Man: Volume 2 - Time Keeps Slipping (3/5)

As far as I can tell, this is an interquel of sorts, coming after vol. 1 (adapting Mega Man 1), while Vol. 3, far as I can see, is an adaptation of Mega Man 2. So, on one hand, Flynn's doing his own plot, on the other, it's a weaker one than Vol. 1, and let's be clear, none of this is in-depth. Least Mega had a character arc there.

I'll give Flynn some credit for his worldbuilding elements and for introducing Gil and Stern, plus keeping the Robot Masters around and giving them some, albeit basic, characterization. Though it's kind of surreal to see human feds using bullets against robots in a setting like this, but meh.

Anyway, it's okay.
 

Drathnoxis

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Pride and Prejudice. Surprisingly captivating for a story simply about rich people trying to get married. A much more deserving classic than Les Miserables, which I still cannot bring myself to return to.
 

Hawki

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Pride and Prejudice. Surprisingly captivating for a story simply about rich people trying to get married. A much more deserving classic than Les Miserables, which I still cannot bring myself to return to.
Sounds like you're not only prejudiced against Les Miserables, but are announcing it with a fair bit of pride as well.
 

Chimpzy

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With the release of Villeneuve's Dune movie I had a hankering for reading some Dune. But didn't feel like just rereading Dune through Chapterhouse again, so I actually gave the prequel trilogy a shot. And well, Brian Herbert ain't his pappy. While I like some of the worldbuilding, they are overall simplistic fan-fictiony pulp, lacking in depth and nuance, and often running directly counter to the ideas and themes of the original books. And some of the plotlines are just so dumb. I mean, there's actually one where Paul runs away and joins the circus. I shit you not.
 

Hawki

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Andromeda: Destruction of Illusions (4/5)

So, I've got a very mixed view on Andromeda (great idea, lacklustre execution), but I really enjoyed this. As elitist/pretentious as this may sound, DeCandido "gets" Andromeda. But even that, the book is well written.

Basically, it's a prequel to season 1, the 'present' taking place after season 2, and the bulk of the novel taking place 1 year before that, dealing the actions of Beka, Harper, Rev, and Tyr prior to their boarding of the Andromeda. Oh, and Trance gets to slide in. I get that writing for Trance would be difficult as a POV character, but still...

Also, the book has a kind of issue in that none of the events in it really tie in with the series that much. As in, you could chain together any series of events and still end up in the same location. Furthermore, there's effectively two stories going on, since Tyr's doing his own thing, and the crew of the Maru their own. Which makes sense, of course, but yeah.

Still, what's here is good. Good writing, good worldbuilding, and like I said, KRAD "gets" the setting. Or at least, how the setting was when Andromeda started out, before the changes that came after booting Wolfe. Sigh...
 

laggyteabag

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I've been listening to a few audiobooks on my journey to/at work

Halo: The Fall of Reach (Eric Nylund, 2001)

I read this book when I was a kid, and I remember enjoying it enough (mostly because it was Halo), but going through this one again, was a bit lacklustre.

The book is a prequel to the first game, and came out before the first game released. It was an interesting read, but mostly because a lot of the lore was rather dated. It was very interesting to go back to before the series had 20 years worth of games, books, comics, and "TV" backing it up. On the other hand, there were tonnes of contradictions between the universe that the book sets up, and the universe that has been expanded upon for two decades since.

Ultimately though, the book was a bit dull.

The book tells the story of the origins of the Master Chief; how he was abducted by the space-CIA to become a child soldier; his training; his augmentations; his early missions. The book also goes over the career of another character from the first game - Captain Keyes - which was actually the most interesting part, because the space battles were really enjoyable to read. Then the book flash-forwards to the current year of the first game (that is misprinted in the book, which was quite confusing), and it tells the story of the titular fall of the planet Reach, which is where the book just kind of... ends.

It was very anticlimactic.

I do love Halo, but isn't really a great book.

Blood, Sweat, and Pixels (Jason Schreier, 2017)

A foray into non-fiction.

This book contains 10 chapters, each telling the story of a specific game, and the people who made it.

From The Witcher 3, to Star Wars 1313, it goes over the conceptualisation, development, and release of each game, and it was rather interesting to take a peek behind the scenes the development, from the perspective of the people who were there. It was often unglamorous.

There were lots of interesting stories, like how Stardew Valley was made by a single guy, who was being entirely financially supported by his girlfriend during its 2-or-so year development. Or how Ensemble Studios (Age of Empires) were basically shut down by Microsoft because they were effectively siphoning resources from Halo Wars, to develop an unauthorised Halo MMORPG.

It was an interesting book, though a tad repetitive. The book often retread a lot of the same ground from chapter-to-chapter, especially when it came to the development issues (money, crunch). But, I suppose that is a bit of commentary on the industry as a whole. It just got a bit samey, after a while.

Sidesplitter (Phil Wang, 2021)

This one was a real hit for me.

It is basically a biography of the British-Malaysian comedian Phil Wang, as he describes his dual-life between two countries, covering about a dozen different categories, like food, comedy, love, and home.

It was funny, insightful, and just a really good read.

He also narrated his audiobook, which really helped with the delivery of a lot of his jokes.

Really good fun, and highly recommended.
 

Hawki

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Mega Man: Volume 3 - The Return of Doctor Wily (2/5)

If you've been following my Mega Man reviews, you'll have noticed that the rating I've given then has steadily declined. And...yeah. They've decreased in quality with each installment.

This volume is a rough adaptation of Mega Man 2 (as far as I can tell), but it treads over old ground with volume 1 (which adapted MM1). When I say that however, I'm referring to the elements that the comics introduced, namely how Rock/Mega is slowly becoming more violent as he engages in this new, robot-blasting activity. In Vol. 1, it was well done. Here, it's done again, and while it's acknowledged as a repetition, that doesn't do enough to avoid the feeling of said repetition.

Also, Wily's plan is stupid. So basically, he plans to have his new Robot Masters lose to Mega Man, let him absorb their abilities, but in doing so, absorb their malware, so that by the end, Mega is his servant. Nice idea, but I can't help but wonder why you'd spend all that time on eight robot masters (which are explicitly designed to be used for battle, whereas the original eight were repurposed) only to have them lose. And the plan itself doesn't even work that well as Mega is snapped out of it almost immediately. Having the original eight rescue him is a nice idea, but not nearly enough time is devoted to it. If anything, it feels like it should be its own arc. Like, have Vol. 3 adapt MM2, then Vol. 4 be this new arc, or something. I dunno.

Anyway, not worth my time.
 

Drathnoxis

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Sounds like you're not only prejudiced against Les Miserables, but are announcing it with a fair bit of pride as well.
That was awful. I feel unclean after reading a pun like that.
 
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Hawki

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Andromeda: The Broken Places (2/5)

After Destruction of Illusions, I went into this with high hopes. Unfortunately, this book isn't good. At all.

For starters, from a lore standpoint, the novel makes little sense in terms of its placement, taking place between the episodes Bunker Hill and Ouroboros. These episodes occur back to back, yet in the novel, a significant amount of time has to pass between them. This isn't an error per se (though the dates given are), but it's weird, because in the scope between those episodes, the events of Bunker Hill have inspired a human rebellion at Alpha Centuari (the "Human Interstellar Alliance," or HIA...fine, whatever), which has been going on long enough that the Dragans are willing to come to the negotiating table. Furthermore, the Genites are present, which compounds issues.

That's not a bad premise for a plot, but the novel really spends time on three plots, and the one above, despite being the primary plot, really gets the least time devoted to it. The other two are Beka and Rafe searching for their mother, who's searching for the Vedran Runes, which leads into the third plot of the Engine of Creation being activated and threatening the universe and zzz...y'know, it's so weird, the entire novel can be seen as a microcosm for Andromeda's shift from the idea of rebuilding the Commonwealth to schlock. Those two ideas aren't bad either (even if universe-ending devices are whacko), but they simply aren't executed well enough to justify the time spent on them.

But even then, good writing could save the above, but once again, the novel falls short. The book is riddled with typos. The author also has a tendency to switch from past to present tense in certain sections, and multiple passages are a case of "author's voice." If it's intentional, it doesn't work. If it's unintentional, it's sloppy.

So, yeah. Among the things that were broken were my hopes for this. :(
 

Drathnoxis

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I read the first two Song of the Lioness books. I read them when I was in middle school and really enjoyed them back then, so I thought that I would give them a re-read and see if they hold up to my memories. They mostly do. I still thought they were good enough, they weren't amazing, but I was able to get through them without cringing out of my skin.

There are a couple odd things that do bother me, though. The biggest thing is that the main character, Alanna, who is training to be a knight just randomly becomes friends with The King of Thieves. He just shows up near the start of the book and says, "I'm the King of Thieves, wanna be friends?" and she says "Ok," and introduces him to all her friends including the prince of the realm and they all go and hang out in his scummy bar full of thieves and murderers and nobody has any problem with this. It's explicitly against her knight's code, but nobody ever raises any qualms about associating with a criminal who cuts peoples ears off if they fail him. It's so weird.

The other thing that bothers me is just weird connections the author makes about knights. Like before they teach the would-be knights how to wield a sword they have them go to the blacksmith and learn to make their own swords. Like, you can't learn to fight with a sword without first learning to be a blacksmith? It's odd. It's a completely different barely related profession, and would take as much time to learn well as being a knight.

I'm reading the third book right now and it's kind of ticking me off. After Alanna becomes a knight at the end of the second book she goes off to have adventures. After two weeks she enters the land of this tribe, and is attacked by the tribes enemy and helps fight them off. Then the tribe says "you're on our land and the penalty is death, but you helped us out so we'll only put you through trial by combat" then she wins and they go through a blood ritual and make her part of their tribe, and keep talking about how it's her home now. And then stuff happens and she kills the village shaman and they make her the new shaman. Like, I don't get it. She never said she wanted to be part of their stupid tribe, and most people in the tribe didn't want her there to start, so why did they force her into their tribe?! Was it really so hard to say "please leave our land"? I don't get it, why does everybody passing through either need to die or become one of them? It's bizarre.
 

Hawki

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In the Shadow of the Sword: The Battle for Global Empire and the End of the Ancient World (3/5)

I had a mixed reaction to this. Broadly speaking, this can be summized as a history book that extends from the end of the Roman Empire (well, its western half at least), to the collapse of the Umayad Caliphate. However, comparing this to Silk Roads, this lacks a clear thesis or core ideas. It's more "here's a bunch of stuff that happened from this date to this date." It arguably feels like it ends too soon, since if you're starting from the end of the western Roman Empire, perhaps a good point to end would be the end of the Byzantine Empire, which would tie in with the rise of Islam as described. But it doesn't even do that. Instead, what it describes is empires vying for power (Rome and Persia duking it out, followed by the collapse of both, along with the Arab conquests, and the Ummayad collapse), and the four main religions of the ancient world (Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and Islam) vying for supremacy as well. And by vying for supremacy, I mean lots of death and lots of persecution. It's not the kind of stuff that would be politically correct in this day and age, but hey, published in 2013.

I'll give some credit that if there is a core idea that's kind of expressed, it's that it ties in the faiths with their geo-political 'spawning points,' and points out that ideas have lasted when empires haven't. The Roman Empire is gone, Judaea is gone, the Ummayad Caliphate is gone, and Persia is gone, but barring Zoroastrianism, the other three monotheistic religions are still around. That said, I think that's kind of simplifying things, but there's a nugget of truth there.

So, yeah. It's okay. But I think Silk Roads is much better, in that it deals with similar subject matter, but does a far better job of presenting it.
 

Hawki

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Halo: Point of Light (2/5)

Little to say here. It's weird, this is the third installment of the 'Rion saga,' and each book has been worse than the one preceeding it. I like the ending, and the final revelation presented, but barely cared about anything that was happening prior to that.
 

Hawki

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Australian History in 7 Questions (3/5)

It's okay. Basically explores Australian history through the affore-mentioned 7 questions, but as a result, it's surface-level. Like I said, it's okay.
 

Dalisclock

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I'll give some credit that if there is a core idea that's kind of expressed, it's that it ties in the faiths with their geo-political 'spawning points,' and points out that ideas have lasted when empires haven't. The Roman Empire is gone, Judaea is gone, the Ummayad Caliphate is gone, and Persia is gone, but barring Zoroastrianism, the other three monotheistic religions are still around. That said, I think that's kind of simplifying things, but there's a nugget of truth there.

So, yeah. It's okay. But I think Silk Roads is much better, in that it deals with similar subject matter, but does a far better job of presenting it.
One point: Zoroastrianism is still around, but it's not nearly as big or influential as the other ones are, with about 100K followers compared to Millions for the other 3.
 

Hawki

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One point: Zoroastrianism is still around, but it's not nearly as big or influential as the other ones are, with about 100K followers compared to Millions for the other 3.
Yeah, that was a typo.

TBH, maybe the assertion should be reconsidered. Christianity and Islam have spread well beyond their places of birth, while Judaism is in this weird situation where it's gone from being dispersed, to largely being concentrated back in its place of birth, whereas Zoroastrianism is barely hanging on, yet is still found mainly in Iran and India.

So I guess, Judaism and Zoroastrianism are geographically linked to their origin points, whereas Christianity and Islam have spread beyond, though in large part due to conquest in both cases. Make of that what you will.