Suggestions For A Good Read

Ogdred Weary

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Yes! It does have a sort of similar theme to the above mentioned novels, perhaps closest to Canticle but subtly different. It is rather a tale of civilisation rising and falling in cycles and Monasteries or Maths existing to preserve knowledge. Really liked the way it developed the idea of people being sealed off for different lengths of time as a contingency. As usual Stephenson indulges his love of maths.
Anathem sounds interesting, I've read Cryptonomicon (I was disappointed by the lack of Cthulhu) and Snow Crash. Liked both but much preferred the former, I have the Baroque Trilogy but sadly not read it yet.
 

gordonrutter

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Book 2 is very good, excellent even. I only had two issues with it, one was that it lacks the shock of the new or novelty of the first one (although I know a couple of people who read it first) and the second is, that after the ultra-languid pace of the first, the second seems almost packed with incident and a little too fast. Though this is relative of course. I've heard mostly bad things about the third, which is very different in style and content and also incomplete. There's even a fourth, essentially written by his wife from a brief outline he left behind.

There's also Boy in Darkness, which is essentially about a childhood adventure of Titus, though he's never named. It's a nicely creepy children's story.
A lot of people have never come across Boy in Darkness, I love Mervyn Peake both as an author and an illustrator.
 

Ogdred Weary

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A lot of people have never come across Boy in Darkness, I love Mervyn Peake both as an author and an illustrator.
I found it by chance in a library, published as an illustrated stand alone story. It was a nice find, talking about it makes nostalgic for the days when you found actual things in meatspace, rather than finding out about them the inter webs.
 

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On a wet Friday afternoon at Primary School in the 60's we were allowed to pull out the Activities Box. I used to make a bee-line for Look and Learn comics, especially the strip for the Trigan Empire which was a mix of ancient history and science fiction and in colour.
The first of a four-volume series reprinting The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire now available from Amazon etc.
 

Mythopoeika

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On a wet Friday afternoon at Primary School in the 60's we were allowed to pull out the Activities Box. I used to make a bee-line for Look and Learn comics, especially the strip for the Trigan Empire which was a mix of ancient history and science fiction and in colour.
The first of a four-volume series reprinting The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire now available from Amazon etc.
The quality of illustration was really good. I loved that strip.
Another one I quite liked was Jason January, Space Cadet.
 

CarlosTheDJ

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Anathem sounds interesting, I've read Cryptonomicon (I was disappointed by the lack of Cthulhu) and Snow Crash. Liked both but much preferred the former, I have the Baroque Trilogy but sadly not read it yet.
The Baroque Trilogy is fantastic.
 

Naughty_Felid

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On a wet Friday afternoon at Primary School in the 60's we were allowed to pull out the Activities Box. I used to make a bee-line for Look and Learn comics, especially the strip for the Trigan Empire which was a mix of ancient history and science fiction and in colour.
The first of a four-volume series reprinting The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire now available from Amazon etc.
I have that saught after original compendium somewhere.
 
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uair01

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https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41838870-i-was-a-teenage-jfk-conspiracy-freak

I Was A Teenage JFK Conspiracy Freak
Fred Litwin (Goodreads Author)
Fred Litwin recounts how he became a JFK conspiracy freak at eighteen, and then slowly moved to believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin.

I Was a Teenage JFK Conspiracy Freak demonstrates how the left and right have used the JFK assassination to drive home myths about power in America. There is also the persecution of a gay man prosecuted for conspiring to kill Kennedy, the ugly story of Oliver Stone’s homophobic film JFK, an exposé of conspiracy nonsense on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, a look at how the Soviets tried to influence American public opinion that CIA was behind the murder, and the incredible secret why some JFK assassination documents must remain locked up. And a whole lot more.

The Russian shenanigans are of all times. They were doing it then, they are doing it now.
 

Yithian

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Excuse me while I once again deliver myself of the opinion that Diana Wynne Jones is the Greatest Living Author in the English Language.

If you prefer satire, start with Archer's Goon. If you prefer romantic comedy, start with Howl's Moving Castle. If you like epic fantasy, start with The Homeward Bounders. If you hate epic fantasy as it is mass-marketed, start with The Tough Guide to Fantasyland. If you prefer domestic horror, start with Aunt Maria or Time of the Ghost. If you prefer domestic fantasy, The Ogre Downstairs, Wilkins's Tooth, Who Got Rid of Angus Flint?, or Power of Three. If you like elaborate worldbuilding, the Dalemark Quartet - The Spellcoats, Cart and Cwidder, Drowned Ammet, and Crown of Dalemark. If you like worlds dashed off as casually as sandwiches in the world's best deli, Deep Secrets and The Merlin Conspiracy, or the Chrestomanci books, but those are (by her standards) deeply flawed, so you won't know what I'm raving about just yet.

Once you're hooked, you'll happily read her grocery list if you can find it, sure that by the time you reach the toothpaste you'll have learned that it wasn't just a grocery list...
Just a note to say that I read Howl's Moving Castle with a group of students--slowly over a few months--and we all agreed that although the characters are a lot of fun and the setting quite absorbing, the final sections are just a mess: a succession of meaningless twists arrive at high speed, with lots of new information adduced to justify them.

I, personally, enjoyed the slightly old-fashioned tone, but the denouement was most unsatisfying for a book in which we'd become quite invested.
 

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(Reversing order of things) -- CarlosTheDJ said, re Neal Stephenson: "The Baroque Trilogy is fantastic."

I feel that here, I'm going to shamingly make it clear that on things literary, I'm a total lightweight. A number of years ago, I saw a great deal of praise on another message board, of Neal Stephenson's work. This board's membership was largely American: I get the impression that Stephenson is very well thought-of in the US. I was led thus, to try Quicksilver. Got a couple of hundred pages into the first book of that volume: initially found it quite quirkily amusing; but way before the end of even the first book, it palled for me -- came to feel it as just endless stuff about learned-and-weird 17th-century people, variously behaving weirdly, but the whole thing totally not going anywhere -- and becoming wearisome. I thus stopped reading. I don't dispute that Stephenson's writing has great merits; but have concluded that it isn't for me.

On that site or a similar one, I also encountered high praise of The Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth. It was made out there, to be among other things, hilariously funny. I duly tried it: for me, an all-but-identical experience to that with Stephenson and Quicksilver. Once again, 17th-century weird folk being weird, at colossal length -- first off, amusing enough; but point, and progress, came for me to feel distinctly lacking. One gathers that the (anti?)-hero goes to America to work in the tobacco trade -- hence the title -- but umpteen-score pages into the work, he's still behaving like a twit in England; I got sick of it, and abandoned the book long before the end.

This probably brands me as a typical present-day wretch with a pathetically short attention-span -- spoilt by modern fiction designed first and foremost to entertain: terse action-packed adventure or whodunnit stuff, and highly-obvious rapid-fire comedy with a sledgehammer lack of subtlety. So be it, then -- live and let live: Messrs. Stevenson, Barth, and others would plainly seem to produce material which for many, is wonderful -- have found, though, that it's not my scene.

Michel Bernanos’ “The Other Side of the Mountain". A novella/"long" short story narrated by an 18 year old press ganged onto a ship which becomes stuck in the doldrums at the equator long enoug for most of the crew to starve or murder one another before washing up on land that is depopulated but thoroughly alien. There's a sense of all encompassing dread and hostility reminiscent of the uncaring cosmos and entities of Lovecraft.
Was intrigued to read this post; just because long ago, in the course of (supposedly) studying French at school and university, I heard tell of the author Georges Bernanos -- splendidly succinct recently-found description of whom: "famous French Catholic writer of rural damnation". As I say, "heard tell of": wasn't compelled to read anything by him as course-work; and religious-gloom-and-terror stuff is not my idea of a fun read fiction-wise.

I'd never heard of Michel Bernanos, until seeing the above-quoted post; but, it being an apparently quite unusual surname even in France -- I immediately wondered whether he and Georges were related. I Googled him; and sure enough, Michel was one of Georges's numerous offspring. (Sounds like a little ray of sunshine, as his Dad was -- if of a different sort.) I think I'll pass on the joys of The Other Side of the Mountain; as intimated above -- in the literature department, I'm a thoroughly frivolous trifler.
 

Ogdred Weary

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(Reversing order of things) -- CarlosTheDJ said, re Neal Stephenson: "The Baroque Trilogy is fantastic."

I feel that here, I'm going to shamingly make it clear that on things literary, I'm a total lightweight. A number of years ago, I saw a great deal of praise on another message board, of Neal Stephenson's work. This board's membership was largely American: I get the impression that Stephenson is very well thought-of in the US. I was led thus, to try Quicksilver. Got a couple of hundred pages into the first book of that volume: initially found it quite quirkily amusing; but way before the end of even the first book, it palled for me -- came to feel it as just endless stuff about learned-and-weird 17th-century people, variously behaving weirdly, but the whole thing totally not going anywhere -- and becoming wearisome. I thus stopped reading. I don't dispute that Stephenson's writing has great merits; but have concluded that it isn't for me.

On that site or a similar one, I also encountered high praise of The Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth. It was made out there, to be among other things, hilariously funny. I duly tried it: for me, an all-but-identical experience to that with Stephenson and Quicksilver. Once again, 17th-century weird folk being weird, at colossal length -- first off, amusing enough; but point, and progress, came for me to feel distinctly lacking. One gathers that the (anti?)-hero goes to America to work in the tobacco trade -- hence the title -- but umpteen-score pages into the work, he's still behaving like a twit in England; I got sick of it, and abandoned the book long before the end.

This probably brands me as a typical present-day wretch with a pathetically short attention-span -- spoilt by modern fiction designed first and foremost to entertain: terse action-packed adventure or whodunnit stuff, and highly-obvious rapid-fire comedy with a sledgehammer lack of subtlety. So be it, then -- live and let live: Messrs. Stevenson, Barth, and others would plainly seem to produce material which for many, is wonderful -- have found, though, that it's not my scene.



Was intrigued to read this post; just because long ago, in the course of (supposedly) studying French at school and university, I heard tell of the author Georges Bernanos -- splendidly succinct recently-found description of whom: "famous French Catholic writer of rural damnation". As I say, "heard tell of": wasn't compelled to read anything by him as course-work; and religious-gloom-and-terror stuff is not my idea of a fun read fiction-wise.

I'd never heard of Michel Bernanos, until seeing the above-quoted post; but, it being an apparently quite unusual surname even in France -- I immediately wondered whether he and Georges were related. I Googled him; and sure enough, Michel was one of Georges's numerous offspring. (Sounds like a little ray of sunshine, as his Dad was -- if of a different sort.) I think I'll pass on the joys of The Other Side of the Mountain; as intimated above -- in the literature department, I'm a thoroughly frivolous trifler.
The Sot Weed Factor is on my (soon to infinite) "to be read" list, given it's length (phwoar) and likely difficult style it's not near the top. Not least because there are many other long and difficult books ahead of it. I'm curious, though neither suited you, did you find Stephenson more approachable than Barthes?

American critics tend to onanise over long and difficult books about the US in way that Brits, and perhaps others, don't about works by their own authors.

The Bernanos story is short and approachable bit it sounds like you might not like it, it ended more or less as I was beginning to have enough.
 

Squail

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The Sot Weed Factor is on my (soon to infinite) "to be read" list, given it's length (phwoar) and likely difficult style it's not near the top. Not least because there are many other long and difficult books ahead of it. I'm curious, though neither suited you, did you find Stephenson more approachable than Barthes?

American critics tend to onanise over long and difficult books about the US in way that Brits, and perhaps others, don't about works by their own authors.
I found what I read of Stephenson, and Barth -- really remarkably similar; this perhaps intensified by its being pretty similarly-themed stuff from both. As per my post: for me, both books / authors initially quite engaging; but my feeling came to be, "this book will go on for ages yet, and there are lots of things I'd rather be doing, than going on and on ploughing through it". There are people who make it a thing of principle, always to finish any book which they start reading; I'm not sure whether to admire them or...

American enthusiasm for things, is a trait of the nationality which I often like; but as with everything else, it can go over the top, can't it?

Bernanos! I read this classic many years ago. I still think about it often! Very good.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show...st?from_search=true&from_srp=QE4GNZIc6N&qid=1
Till I clicked on your link, I was wondering whether your reference was to Bernanos pere or fils -- I see that it's Mr. Rural Damnation. You're highly "pro", as many folk for sure, are -- I'm as certain as may be, that I'll always steer clear of this guy; in part, it's my relationship with things religious in general, which acts towards putting me off. Horses, courses, etc. ...
I recall at university, being forced to read material by Rilke: I recall the name Malte Laurids Brigge, as per the title, but I think I avoided actually reading that book. I remember ruminating at the time, over Rilke's coming from Prague, in Austro-Hungarian Empire days: if only he'd belonged to the Czech community there, instead of the German -- he'd presumably have written in Czech, and I'd have been spared from having to read his bilge. Pearls before swine, or what? I fear that my taste in reading matter is, and always will be now, irredeemably lowbrow.
 

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...American critics tend to onanise over long and difficult books about the US in way that Brits, and perhaps others, don't about works by their own authors...
Oh, yes - it's not a true novel unless you can kill a cow with it.

One thing I find with some American authors is a tendency to over-detail - I sometimes get the impression that there's a 'well, I've done all this research, so I'm going to damn well use all of it, even if the narrative does not require it' thing going off, especially noticeable in books set in the historical past. (There's nothing wrong with detail, of course - but it can sometimes be applied gratuitously.) I wonder if that has something to do with the same tendency to see volume as an asset.

That's not a general criticism of US writing, by the way - many of my favourite authors are American - it's just a thing I notice more often in American novels, than in English and European.

(And I am currently reading Vasily Grossman's, Stalingrad - which you could definitely kill a cow with.)
 

Min Bannister

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One thing I find with some American authors is a tendency to over-detail - I sometimes get the impression that there's a 'well, I've done all this research, so I'm going to damn well use all of it, even if the narrative does not require it' thing going off, especially noticeable in books set in the historical past.
That's why I can't be doing with Michael Crichton. I didn't realise that was a thing with other US authors.
 

Ogdred Weary

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Oh, yes - it's not a true novel unless you can kill a cow with it.

One thing I find with some American authors is a tendency to over-detail - I sometimes get the impression that there's a 'well, I've done all this research, so I'm going to damn well use all of it, even if the narrative does not require it' thing going off, especially noticeable in books set in the historical past. (There's nothing wrong with detail, of course - but it can sometimes be applied gratuitously.) I wonder if that has something to do with the same tendency to see volume as an asset.

That's not a general criticism of US writing, by the way - many of my favourite authors are American - it's just a thing I notice more often in American novels, than in English and European.

(And I am currently reading Vasily Grossman's, Stalingrad - which you could definitely kill a cow with.)
There's the myth/trope/meme/whatever of The Great American Novel, I don't know if this started once Moby Dick was discovered/reappraised but there are multiple candidates now: DeLillo's Underworld, Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow (also Mason & Dixon and Against the Day), Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest among many others. Perhaps some of King's doorstops might be considered The Great American Horror Novel. Something all these books have in common is length, and, as you say, they love the often incidental detail. Many are historically set, even if it is recent history. The phrase gets used in reviews or even mentions of many books.

There doesn't seem to be The Great British (or Welsh, Scottish or English) Novel, I suppose Ireland has Ulysses standing head and shoulders above all else, so is automatically "The Great" for Eire. I sometimes read or here reference to smaller locales - The Great Cornish Novel or Great Cotswolds Novel etc these references always feel bathetic even where they aren't already knowingly mock heroic.
 
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Spookdaddy

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There's the myth/trope/meme/whatever of The Great American Novel, I don't know if this started once Moby Dick was discovered/reappraised but there are multiple candidates now: DeLillo's Underworld, Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow (also Mason & Dixon and Against the Day), Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest among many others. Perhaps some of King's doorstops might be considered The Great Horror Novel. Something all these books have in common is length, and, as you say, they love the often incidental detail. Many are historically set, even if it is recent history. The phrase gets used in reviews or even mentions of many books.

There doesn't seem to be The Great British (or Welsh, Scottish or English) Novel, I suppose Ireland has Ulysses standing head and shoulders above all else, so is automatically The Great for Eire. I sometimes read or here reference to smaller locals - The Great Cornish Novel or Great Cotswolds Novel etc these references always feel bathetic even where they aren't already knowingly mock heroic.
When I was at university in the late 80's the common trope was basically the opposite: that although Moby Dick was a close call, there was actually no such thing as the 'great American novel'. I should also add that this was not a product of any obvious transatlantic prejudice, in fact our US tutors seemed to push the idea more than the English and European ones - and I never quite understood the argument or found it particularly relevant.

I remember one of my favourite tutors (a Texan Vietnam War veteran who looked like an overgrown Mr Tumnus) describing it something like this:

Many American writers will try to write New York, or Vermont or Texas, and miss the rest of humanity in the process - Jane Austen wrote a small town in the south of England, and got it all in.

There's no reason anyone has to agree with that, and I don't think it's a universal truth, but I can sometimes see his point.
 

Ogdred Weary

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When I was at university in the late 80's the common trope was basically the opposite: that although Moby Dick was a close call, there was actually no such thing as the 'great American novel'. I should also add that this was not a product of any obvious transatlantic prejudice, in fact our US tutors seemed to push the idea more than the English and European ones - and I never quite understood the argument or found it particularly relevant.

I remember one of my favourite tutors (a Texan Vietnam War veteran who looked like an overgrown Mr Tumnus) describing it something like this:

Many American writers will try to write New York, or Vermont or Texas, and miss the rest of humanity in the process - Jane Austen wrote a small town in the south of England, and got it all in.

There's no reason anyone has to agree with that, and I don't think it's a universal truth, but I can sometimes see his point.
I don't know if it is posited with any seriousness in academic circles but it's a oft cited cliche among critics.
 

gordonrutter

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When I was at university in the late 80's the common trope was basically the opposite: that although Moby Dick was a close call, there was actually no such thing as the 'great American novel'. I should also add that this was not a product of any obvious transatlantic prejudice, in fact our US tutors seemed to push the idea more than the English and European ones - and I never quite understood the argument or found it particularly relevant.

I remember one of my favourite tutors (a Texan Vietnam War veteran who looked like an overgrown Mr Tumnus) describing it something like this:

Many American writers will try to write New York, or Vermont or Texas, and miss the rest of humanity in the process - Jane Austen wrote a small town in the south of England, and got it all in.

There's no reason anyone has to agree with that, and I don't think it's a universal truth, but I can sometimes see his point.
It is a truth, universally acknowledged.
 

Yithian

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Many American writers will try to write New York, or Vermont or Texas, and miss the rest of humanity in the process - Jane Austen wrote a small town in the south of England, and got it all in.
That's it in a nutshell.

I tended to read older critics when I was studying literature.

Henry James and Herman Melville were the main ones who got a pass from even those who viewed American novelists as too parochial.
 

Yithian

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I recall reading Nostromo one cold winter when I was pretty much alone for a week, and I came away from it as one emerges from a fever dream: I'd come through a very serious experience and been left with a series of deep and lasting impressions.

I'm sure you could say the same for many Russian and German writers (Kafka, Dostoyevsky...), but I mostly don't enjoy their style, even while acknowledge their importance.
 

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Many American writers will try to write New York, or Vermont or Texas, and miss the rest of humanity in the process - Jane Austen wrote a small town in the south of England, and got it all in.
That is why I love Walter Scott so much. I already know all of the characters in his books. Even though they were written 200 years ago AND are historical, they are utterly timeless for that reason.
 

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It is a truth, universally acknowledged.
Austen's narrators appear at first glance to be straightforwardly omniscient, reliable and objective - but I think part of her knowing wryness actually comes from regularly undermining this. I've always assumed that Austen was basing the idea of a 'universe' in this introduction on the prejudices and parochialism of her subject matter. Their world may seem like the universe to them - and it kind of is, but viewed from the other end of the telescope than the one they assume.
 

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Mission Critical, an anthology edited by Jonathan Strahan. SF stories where things go wrong and it's up to the bravery and ingenuity of individuals or small groups of people to come up with a solution. Strahan got the idea for the book whilst watching The Martian then thought about the Apollo 13 mission.

Fighting replicant machines on Mars; a reporter covering the story of an endangered station in the Saturn system; an empty gun which proves useful yet dangerous to an assassin; trying to come to terms with a Rogue AI on mars; a terminally ill man wanting to be the first human to land on Io; plus much more, 15 stories, 450 pages.

https://www.simonandschuster.co.uk/books/Mission-Critical/Jonathan-Strahan/9781781085806
 
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Ogdred Weary

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I can't find it now, but I read an economic explanation why thick books sell better. Maybe more value for money feeling?
This seems to have changed a little in recent years but book pricing, in the UK at least, seems to be by "format" so an average length paper back novel of about 300 pages might be 8.99, a 1000 page novel published with the same page dimensions might be the same or maybe 9.99 and a 100 page novella would be 7.99 or 8.99. So the longer books are more content for (almost) the same price. Trade paperbacks seem to be more, regardless of length andhardbacks the most. There does see, to be a wider variety of pricing more recently though, some longer PBs approaching the cost of cheaper HBs.
 
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