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

zoey

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Reading There There by Tommy Orange. Apart from being a fantastic novel about displacement and isolation of the Native Americans from their roots, the book is an important piece of resistance literature and a continuance of the Native Renaissance movement. Considered to be a pioneering work of what journalist Julian Brave NoiseCat calls New Native Renaissance, the book is a hard-hitting and awakening work which could enlighten and educate people about the Native American issues and plight.
And I'm about to start reading World Travel: An Irreverent Guide by Antony Bourdain. I really wanted to read this before my trip to Cambodia but I couldn't read it then - glad that I've found time for it now.
 

Hawki

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Fever Crumb (4/5)

This took me a lot longer to read than it should have. I was actually reading this before I had to segway into Little Mermaid stuff (as described earlier in the thread), and having finished this, I'll have some more of that to read (even if I don't see it changing much at this point), but be that as it may, finally completed the book.

The first in its trilogy, which is in turn a prequel to the Mortal Engines quartet, the easiest way I can describe FC is "a simple story with simple characters that's buoyed by its worldbuilding." Basically, centuries/millennia has passed since an event called "the Downsizing" obliterated human civilization, so now, we're in London well after the event, with the technology of "the Ancients" studied and replicated as best the people can. London's retained its name, but a lot of other names have changed over time, such as "Picked Eel Circus," the great prophet "Harri Potter," and the phrase "Cheesus Christ." Yeah, the book does this a lot, and YMMV as to whether this is clever worldbuilding or cringeworthy puns. Regardless, before the events of the book, London was ruled by the Scriven (basically mutant humans) who ruled with an iron fist before they were overthrown by the "Skinners." The Order of Engineers still operates in London, trying to reverse engineer Ancients tech. Beyond London, things are generally grim, both in societal terms (e.g. marauders), and ecological terms (the world is generally barren, and temperatures seem to be much colder than the present day given how far south ice seems to have come in the Northern Hemisphere). One key antagonistic force is the Movement, which are nomads that operate on the British Isles using mobile fortresses (e.g. giant buildings on wheels/tracks - a prdecessor to the traction cities of Mortal Engines), whose regular activities include razing cities and taking slaves to keep the wheels turning (literally).

So, yeah. Something the book does well (though it's more subjective than anything I can concretely cite) is that there's sense of despair throughout the book. It's not despair in the same way as, say, Diablo IV (in that I'm playing it right now), with the destitute conditions evident for everyone to see, but rather what could be described as "despair by implication." For instance, as one of the so-called Ancients, I know what life was like before "the Downsizing,' I've visited London in both the 20th and 21st centuries, I know what the geography of Europe is supposed to be like, and I can tell you, the people in this world aren't what you'd call living well. As in, they're still in London, many of the landmarks are the same, but there's a sense of 'diminishment' through the whole thing. That, and there's other examples of this. For instance, two children who lose their father deal with grief in a very subdued manner - Fever tells them quite bluntly that there's no afterlife, that they'll never see their father again because it's an impossibility, and so on. They don't cry, but one clutches "Noodle Poodle" slightly tighter. It's subtle, but it works.

I bring up the worldbuilding and atmosphere because when you get to the actual characters and plot, the writing's fairly average. As the title suggests, the lead character is Fever Crumb, who's the adopted daughter of Gideon Crumb, who's a member of the Guild of Engineers. Fever's a bit of a weirdo, not just in her mannerisms (having grown up in an environment where logic is prized above all else, her social skills need work), but her appearance, with many looking at her and being reminded of a Scriven. She's 'loaned out' to Kit Solent, who wants to break into the vault of Auric Godshank, the former Scriven ruler of London. I won't go step-by-step as to the plot (and it took me so long to read it, I couldn't even really do so), but suffice to say, by the book's end, Fever's discovered her true parentage and London has fallen to the Movement, who want to turn it into the first traction city. To me, that seems kind of like a waste of resources, but meh.

So, yeah. Is the book good? Personally, I'd say yes. Can I recommend it without reservation? Not really. I think it helps to be familiar with Mortal Engines first, but it can certainly be read as a first entry to this universe.
 

Hawki

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The Little Mermaid: Green-eyed Pearl (3/5)

The Little Mermaid: Nefazia Visits the Palace (3/5)

Y'know, maybe the Little Mermaid stories I'm writing will end up absolutely crap (certainly the last multi-chaptered story I wrote bombed in terms of feedback), but let it never be said that I didn't put in the miles (or knots, whatever).

Fine, whatever. I read them, they're kids books, I don't want to really grill them considering that they're books meant for kids and no-one else, but ipso facto, there's practically nothing I can talk about, nor do I really have the inclination to. But anyway:

Green-eyed Pearl: Pearl (not to be confused with Pearl of the cartoon series, though many of the same motions are gone through) comes to stay at the palace. Pearl, to put it mildly, is a *****. She's such a ***** that after discovering that Ariel collects human objects, she hangs the ultimatum over Ariel - do what I say, or your daddy will find out. Cue shannigans that get resolved in the end.

Nefazia Visits the Palace: Queen Nefazia of the Indian Ocean visits Atlantica. She seems nice, but the sisters (mainly Aquata) thinks she's going to be their stepmother, and initiates a plan to get her to leave. Ariel doesn't want to be part of it but has doubts that, again, are resolved by the book's end.

There. That's my review. Swim away, you reprobates. :p
 
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TheMysteriousGX

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Been rereading Delicious in Dungeon in advance of it's first anime episode being shown soon at Anime Expo.

The world-building and character design is master-class, the level of careful detail borders on obsessive. Absolutely hilarious but doesn't have a lot of "gags", if that makes sense. Can flip on a dime to be deadly serious just by playing a lot of the comedy completely straight. Has a reputation for being a slow manga, but that was mostly born out of only releasing 8-10 chapters a year, reading it as a straight shot means the story moves at a comfortable clip

Heavily recommended
 

Johnny Novgorod

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Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy. So far I've read (in order) Blood Meridian, The Road, All the Pretty Horses, Child of God and The Sunset Limited. If I have a problem with Cormac is that I started off with his magnum opus, which is an imposible act to follow.

So far this reads a lot like Child of God - it's set in the Appalachians in the early 20th century (says the back of the book; might as well be the Old West) and it's about a bunch of backwoods creeps - but with loftier turns of phrases and more punctuation, which tells me it's an earlier work. A woman gives birth to an incest baby and her brother leaves it to die in the woods (tells sis it was stillborn) but then the baby gets found and sheltered by a passing tinker. So far so gothic.
 

Hawki

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Read some stuff:

-Doctor Who: Sins of the Father (3/5)

-Vikings: Godhead (3/5)

-Rocket Raccoon: Grounded (4/5)
 

Drathnoxis

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Starting on Titus Alone and have to say, what even is this? I thought the first two books were really quite good. The castle of Gormenghast was weird and full of strange people mired in tradition, seemingly isolated from any other civilization. The writing was very descriptive, but written seemingly with a sense of humour. One moment you might be reading about mournful hills or whatever and the next about the ludicrous death of a headmaster where he flies out of his wheelchair in a freak accident and lands perfectly balanced on his head.

The third book follows Titus as he leaves the castle and finds himself in... the modern world (of the 1950s)? Not only that, but the people here are just as weird and strangely more poetic than the people in Gormenghast. Frankly, nobody can open their mouth without spewing stanzas and stanzas of philosophic nonsense. Honestly, it reads like it was written on some pretty strong drugs. It's kind of awful. Thankfully, the book seems to be half the length of the previous installments so I should make it through, but I'm already impatient for the end only being 1/6 of the way through.
 

Hawki

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Read some stuff:

-Star Wars: Leia, Princess of Alderaan (4/5)

-Diablo Immortal: Instincts (3/5)

Part of Your World: A Twisted Tale (graphic novel) (4/5)
 

Bob_McMillan

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I have read an absolutely irresponsible number of Warhammer books in the past two weeks.

Helsreach - Held as a classic among 40K fans, and I can see why. It ticks off a lot of boxes for what people expect 40K to be. The Black Templars are a suitable mix of silly and badass, the human characters are surprisingly high lights, and the battle FEELS huge, despite just being a single part of the whole war on Armageddon. Too often planetary battles in 40K pretend to be in huge scale but in reality focus on the capital or a specific facility, basically a single location. Helsreach also only focuses on a single city, but it is always clear how ultimately little it matters to the overall war effort. And despite that, the horrors and destruction experienced are unimaginable. The biggest flaw for me though was Grimaldus. I can't say he is much of a character, mainly because we are only told but not shown how he used to be before being sent to Armageddon.

DAWN OF FIRE SERIES
1. Avenging Son - I can barely remember what happened. I do recall liking the one scene where an Inquisitor uses his authority to cut in line for an evacuation effort, and a hapless Guardsman he took along for the ride guiltily takes the seat of a stormtrooper who is "worth five" of him.
2. Throne of Light - This is the 4th book in the series, but I accidentally read it second because for some fucking reason they put book numbers on the covers. Oh well. Another book I barely remember. I will say I like the idea of Robby G hiring historians, it's a very him move. The twist with the Black Templars was nice I guess? But still felt like a completely separate story thread, which is a common issue for this series.
3. The Gate of Bones - This one I did rather like, since it had a mix of Custodes and regular Guard. There was the random separate story thread with a Knight princess and a Chaos Space Marine tanker which was rather boring.
4. The Wolftime - Easily the worst one. Instead of having an out of place story thread, the whole damn book is an out of place story thread. I see now why there are those who despise the Space Wolves in the fandom.
5. The Iron Kingdom - The second worst. It's an inter-Imperial conflict, which had so much promise. But the out of place story threads are at their absolute worst here.
Over all, I am a little annoyed that I wasted so much time on this series. I don't have access to the last book that released last month, which is even more annoying.

Legion of the Damned - Fuck this book. I was interested in the titular characters and THEY DON'T FUCKING SHOW UP. At least, in any meaningful way. The book actually focuses on a lesser known Imperial Fists chapter, which was nice. But that they baited and switched me with the Legion of the Damned just pissed me off too much.

Rynn's World - I thought it was really stupid how the Crimson Fists lost most of their chapter. And then proceeded to still win. Uh huh.

Hunt for Voldorius - A book where the Raven Guard and White Scars work together! But not really. Bleh.

I have 6 more books to talk about, but work beckons.
 

Thaluikhain

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Huh, just came in to write about the Warhammer Horror stuff I've read (which should be called Warhammer 40,000 Horror, but still)

Anyhoo, the Unholy omnibus of 4 stories (I always buy GW novels in omnibus form nowdays, because a lot of their stuff isn't worth buying alone, but an omnibus usually has enough good content to make it worth the price as well as some rubbish) is...alright. The gimmick is that every book has something called "Vaalgast" in it. Only it's something different each time, sometimes barely worth mentioning. As a framing device it's pointless.

Of note is Nick Kyme's story, which I'd say is a rip-off of Back From the Dead from the old Necromunda range, only that also was written by Nick Kyme. Also, that (Back from the Dead) was probably his best work, everything else (the story in this omnibus) is very unimpressive at best. The other stories here are ok, I guess. I'd not really recommend them.

As to the above, I've also got Helsreach (in an omnibus) and yeah, not bad, but the fan animation based on the audiobook is so much better, Also, Grimaldus isn't a good character, though the author tends to have annoying and arrogant main characters, he seems to think it makes them heroic. Also he tends to have some issuewith women, but not really in this book.

The Hunt for Voldorius I also have (in an omnibus). I've managed to read it twice, never managed to finish the other story it comes with.
 

Bob_McMillan

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THE MACHARIAN CRUSADE OMNIBUS
1. Angel of Fire - The best of the series. I quite like the main character, he's just capable enough to be interesting and just human enough to still be relatable. Macharius himself was also quite fun, the idea that he's essentially just a really fucking cool dude is such a 40K thing to do. The Guard being deployed against human enemy forces was also really refreshing after so much Space Marine shenanigans.
2. Fist of Demetrius - Yeah, fuck the eldar. This is the only book that has the perspective of the anti-Imperium faction, but man is it wasted on these stupid fucking space elves. The book itself is also incredibly inconsequential, but had the beginnings of political intrigue...
3. Fall of Macharius - ... that this book utterly fails to take advantage of. Rushed, boring, distracted. Pretty lame finale to the series.

ULTRAMARINES OMNIBUS 1
1. Nightbringer - I had read this before, so I skipped it. I think it was my first WH40K book ever, or at least one of the first. Was pretty underwhelmed I think, it had more in common with the throwaway books like Rynn's World or Hunt for Voldorious than the 40K classics.
2. Warriors of Ultramar - The most boring book of all six. Tyranids are such a boring faction, at least how it was portrayed here. The presence of Kryptmann was nothing to write home about either. Dude just stands around.
3. Dead Sky Black Sun - The one that everyone came for. It's not perfect, there's just way too many random elements and contrivances, but I still enjoyed it. Chaos is just too disgusting. Definitely see why people view this as a classic.
Overall, what a confusing trilogy. Uriel Ventris must learn that the Codex Astartes is a guide, not the law... Expect it is the law, and he shall be condemned to being encased in chaos pussy for breaking it. The author clearly ran out of ideas and just completely walked back the idea of making Ventris a

ULTRAMARINES OMNIBUS 2
1. The Killing Ground - One of the few sequels in this series that felt like it built on what came before. Although again, the fuckery with adhering to the Codex Astartes reels it's ugly head. I wonder if it's a coincidence that my favorite 40K books are when humanity is fighting amongst itself.
2. Courage and Honor - It was funny to see the Imperium fear the Tau because the Tau's tactics are just... actual military tactics. But yeah, felt very similar to the tyrannid book. Very few compelling characters.
3. The Chapter's Due - A kind of disappointing finale again. Honsou is back, but apparently he had his own damn book outside of the Omnibus. So that's pretty annoying. It was nice to experience the perspectives of other Ultramarine characters though (especially when Ventris is such a dead end when it comes to character development).
Overall, I enjoyed it more than the first Omnibus. But the lack of any real character arc for Ventris, or really anyone, is such a disappointment. I guess you can't have something like that when your named characters aren't allowed to die or change (although I hear Cato Sicarius is getting some character development).


Remember, if a job's worth doing, it's worth dying for. :p
I have put off A LOT of work due to all the reading I'm doing. Not 100% my fault, but I am getting a little guilty.

Huh, just came in to write about the Warhammer Horror stuff I've read (which should be called Warhammer 40,000 Horror, but still)
Interesting, wasn't aware that was a subgenre of 40K. I only knew of Crime.
 
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Xprimentyl

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I'm reading the second installment of my high school English teacher's books, Jock Sniff America. The first one (Pop Tart Insurrection) wasn't very good, but I'm likely not the target audience. It reads like YA with just enough edge to put it out of the YA category, but still very amateurish, a middle-aged guy writing from the perspective of a disaffected college student; I get the impression of a dad trying to speak "hip" like his son's friends. I buy the books to patronize him as he was one of my favorite teachers back in my day, and he sends them to me personally signed and everything, so I'm happy to do that, but I don't read them expecting to be impressed. If anything, I hope he's encouraged to write something more mature in the future.
 

Thaluikhain

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3. Fall of Macharius - ... that this book utterly fails to take advantage of. Rushed, boring, distracted. Pretty lame finale to the series.
William King always has a problem with endings. Been a while seen I read it but I thought the horrors of Nurgle and the stalemate of the trenches were done well.
 

Bob_McMillan

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William King always has a problem with endings. Been a while seen I read it but I thought the horrors of Nurgle and the stalemate of the trenches were done well.
I agree, which makes the ending of this end of the trilogy even more disappointing. You had this awful, visceral trench warfare and zombie apocalypse in the beginning, then just... nothing after that. The twist that Macharius contracted Nurgle cooties fell so flat, yeah he's a mere mortal, but he was the most powerful man in the Imperium. Just get the Grey Knights or the Inquisition to burn it from your body.
 

Hawki

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Diablo: Legends of the Barbarian - Bul-Kathos (3/5)

I've been struggling to get a copy of Book of Lorath for over a month, but this arrives on the same day of release pretty much? Fuck, the world's inconsistent. I wouldn't mind so much if the graphic novel was actually good. Not to say it's bad, but it's basic, and a disappointment.

Chronologically, this is one of the earliest stories set in the IP, set 1-2 generations after the Purge, but still long before the Sin War. Therein lies the rub, effectively, because despite the time setting, despite the fact that we're dealing with nephalem characters rather than human ones (even if Blizzard seems allergic to using the word "nephalem" anymore for some Anu-knows reason), nothing in what we see really feels different compared to what comes before. For instance, we have Barbarians who already call themselves Barbarians, who look the same, talk the same, act the same as their human descendants. The same is said for the "Zealots" (a force from two nephalem cities sent to take the Worldstone), who, again, are scarce indistinguishable from their future descendants. You can point out, correctly, that nephalem civilizations are antecedents to the ones we see in the main series, so there'd be some level of linkage, but in response, I'd point to stuff in DI and D4, where not only do we explore/see flashbacks of ancient nephalem civilizations, but said civilizations feel distinct. This? Not so much.

Of course, I could overlook that if the plot was engaging enough, but it's not. Basically Bul-Kathos's son, Hiram (it's a wonder I even remember his name) has gone on sabattical, and come to believe in the creed of the two cities I mentioned earlier. Said cities worship Lilith (who by this point, is still in the Void, or should be), who wish to take the Worldstone for themselves, supposedly to better their kind (as in, nephalemkind, so to speak). This is simultaniously interesting and frustrating, because on one hand, I like the idea of nephalem worshipping Lilith (indeed, that's already a canonical fact), but on the other, not only does it feel too early for her to be deified this way (again, we're only 1-2 generations removed from the Purge), but more importantly, it's left frustratingly vague as to how much of this she planned, if at all. Is she somehow communicating with the Zealots/priesthood, or are they interpreting some kind of instructions? If any of this was planned, it doesn't really gel with her actions and intentions in the Sin War. If it's not planned, and the cities are following their own initiative, then that isn't the worst plot in the world, but very little comes out of it beyond "Barbarians good, Zealots bad."

Even then, all of what I said above could be salvaged if the characters were interesting, but they're not. Bul-Kathos has two children, Naarah (who's true to the ways of her people), and Hiraam (who's been converted). That sets the stage for a clash of ideals/faiths/whatever, but again, nothing really comes out of it. That's not to say that the characters don't have angst over their situation, but there's nothing deeper than that. It's stock writing in what's essentially an action story.

So, yeah. Not bad, but a massive letdown. I wouldn't mind more "Legends of..." graphic novels, but they've got to do better than this.
 

Absent

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Finished reading another book on the 1996 rwanda genocide, its causes (yes but but free speech *puppy eyes*) and its aftermath. Basically a little update on older studies.

Also a short semi-fictional novel by a guy who witnessed the french liberation in 1945, and felt like writing about his experience as an interpreter for the rape trials that overwhelmingly targeted black soldiers.
 

Hawki

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Overwatch: Echo (4/5)

After releasing perhaps the worst Overwatch short story ever written in "As You Are," the writers turn around and release one of the best (yes, they're technically different writers, don't @ me).

Anyway, short as the story is, it works. It's presented as a series of logs from Mina Liao, the in-universe conceit being that they've been accessed at some point after her death), detailing Echo's creation. I really wish this was longer, because the characterization is exactly what I'd expect of the characters at this point. Liao's a genius, highly curious, but clearly weighed down with guilt. Echo is as I'd expect her to be - young (well, if "young" can be applied to an AI), naive, is mimicking her 'mother', etc. And McCree (or Cassidy, as Liao calls him, because of stupid real-world reasons) is, well, McCree, but that's the kind of person Echo needs.

To be clear, none of this stuff is unique in the real of sci-fi that deals with AI, and its short length means it can't go into too much depth. Still, what it does, it does well, and as a piece of tie-in fiction, it works well on a number of levels. First being the further insights as to how AI is regarded as a whole within the setting. The second being that this is a nice counterpart to Genesis. The third being the characters being true to themselves, the fourth being the understated tragedy in that very soon, Liao will be dead, Echo will be put in isolation, and McCree will lose his arm before even worse things happen to him.

So, yeah. Neat stuff.
 

Hawki

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Sands of Dune (4/5)

Sands of Dune, not to be confused with Winds of Dune or Sandworms of Dune, takes place mostly on the planet Dune, which has lots of sand dunes, where numerous people have gone to meet their, um, doom.

Alright, snark aside, this is a collection of Dune novellas set across the timeline, though mostly around the events of Dune proper. It's kind of instructive reading this, because my experiences with said novellas were mostly positive. Indeed, I've read far more of Expanded Dune than Original Dune, if we're using such terminology. However, no matter how good the writing may get, it still falls short of Frank Herbert's work when it comes to writing style. I've commented on Anderson's style before (I say Anderson because his Dune works are so similar in style to his original works that I'm convinced that he's doing far more writing than Brian Herbert), but basically, his style is functional, while Frank Herbert's is more lyrical. Or, rather, it's like comparing reasonably well written, albeit generic sci-fi, with a book that's considered a titan of the genre. Being someone who writes fanfic in part due to the knowledge that I'll never be good enough to be published, I can kinda sympathize, but be that as it may, how do the novellas stack up?

The Edge of a Crysknife

The story focuses on Shadout Mapes (if you had to look up who that was, I don't blame you) about 60-plus years before the events of Dune. As a Fremen commando (there's an in-universe term I forget), the story deals with the Fremen fighting back against Harkonen forces, which is basically how they roll - the Imperium sends in a house to Arakkis, the Fremen force the house to withdraw, the Fremen sends in another house, rinse and repeat (or don't rinse, given how scarce water is). The story concludes with them forcing a Harkonen to retreat, with Vladimir Harkonen turing up at the end in a "meet the new boss, even worse than the old" moment.

Edge is pretty much emblematic of what I said. As a piece of sci-fi schlock (guerilla warfare, lots of knives, guns, etc.), it's completely fine. But that's all it is - fine. I just don't have much to say about it.

Blood of the Sardaukar

This is a weird one in terms of structure, and even weirder in terms of inspiration. Basically, a sardaukar colonel from the original book who's ordered to ensure that the death of Leto Atreides isn't drawn out is the POV character. Which is fine, sure, but a large chunk of the novella is dedicated to psudo-flashbacks. As in, the character spends a significant chunk of time reflecting on his backstory, but it all occurs in the present, rather than a flashback being written. So you get this weird scenario where the bulk of the story is rather backstory, rather than the story itself, if that makes sense. Anyway, the story's fine, I guess - the depiction of Sardaukar training is okay, but honestly, having a Sardaukar POV character who's pretty much a normal guy seems off. Given that the Sardaukar are meant to be the best of the best (or worst of the worst), it seems coutner-productive to humanize them, even in a CO position.

The Waters of Kanley

I didn't read this going through as I read (and reviewed) it by its lonesome awhile back. The TL, DR version is that I think WoK is quite good.

Imperial Court

This is probably the weakest of the bunch, where Anderson's basic writing style becomes even more basic - in the Schools of Dune Trilogy, remember how the characters will often reference the "evil thinking machines?" Yeah. Think of that. Anderson seems to have an allergy to any adjective except the most basic ones, and FYI, the road to hell is paved with adverbs, NOT adjectives.

Anyway, this story is the freshedest in my mind by virtue of having read it last. It takes place 97 years after the Battle of Corrin, and about ten years after the formation of the Spacing Guild. There's a new emperor on the throne who needs a chamberlain position filled, and among the candidates are individuals from House Atreides and House Harkonen. Having liked Schools of Dune overall (OVERALL, mind you), the proximity to the timeframe helped, but basically, the Harkonen guy frames the Atreidies guy, the Atreidies guy dies, while the rest of House Atreidies swears revenge (continuing a cycle of vengeance that began 100 years ago, and will still be going on 10,000 years later), while the Harkonen guy is betrayed by his own cousin as part of the plot. It's a twist you see coming, but the betrayal is actually pulled off decently, so I'll give it that. But again, writing is basic, storytelling is basic, it's just, well, basic. The novella as a whole gets a 4/5 from me, but make no mistake, Imperial Court really drags things down.
 

Hawki

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Deltora Quest 3: Shadowgate (4/5)

Every so often I return to this setting, despite long being past the intended age range. Advantage of working in libraries I guess.

Anyway, this is the second installment of the Deltora Quest 3 series, and it's actually a cut above the grain. While the plot is nothing special (the gang continue their titular quest, this time moving against the Sister of the North), what's done is done well. Good tension, good (body) horror, good twists, etc. Nothing special, but better than average.