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The Athenaeum - Reading updates and Literary Review from the Obsidian Elite (this means you)


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I have always been fascinated by "turning points" in history where the decisions of one person literally changed the course of history. John Burford's decision to dismount his cavalry and line up along Chamabersburg Pike against Ewell's advance into Gettysburg is a great example. But for that one action The Confederates would have reached the heights south of town first and likely would have won the battle and the war. Buford died of wounds six months later. He never knew his decision literally saved the United States and changed the lives of billions of people through history.

 

Another was a decision by CDR Wade McCutsky while commanding a squadron of SBD Dauntless dive bombers at Midway in 1942. The Japanese fleet was not where he expected it to be and low on fuel his best call would be to turn back. Rather than taking the wise call he followed his gut and turned his squadron north and found a Japanese destroyer that had been hunting the submarine USS Nautalis.  They followed the destroyer back to the fleet and initiated the first attack of the greatest American naval victory in history. The entire outcome of the Battle of Midway turned on that one decision. It's hard to say Midway decided the war in the Pacific. The Manhattan Project was well underway by that time. But it did for the Japanese into a defensive posture for the duration of the war. It certainly won THAT battle. The US Navy was outnumbered 4 carriers to 2 and 2:1 in support and combat ships. 

 

Now reading:

 

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"What can't be changed must be endured"

Robert Jordan

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A data scientist looked into what makes a book a best seller: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/a-data-scientist-cracks-the-code-to-landing-on-the-new-york-times-best-seller-list-2018-11-28

 

One of the topics looked at is what sub genres sell the best. Fantasy did better than I expected:

 

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"What can't be changed must be endured"

Robert Jordan

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I'm kind of confused what qualifies as general fiction but doesn't fit into any of those categories.

 

Pulp porn novels, I'd imagine. They're not technically romance in the way e.g. Rosamunde Pilcher books are and while they're fantasies they're not fantasy. :p

No mind to think. No will to break. No voice to cry suffering.

 

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There's a lot of stuff that doesn't fit the other categories. For example Catch 22 (and most other fictional comedy), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest or Animal Farm would not fit any category except General Fiction. Pretty much all historical fiction wouldn't either- the Sharpe novels might fit the Thriller/ Suspense category at a pinch (or maybe Action/ Adventure) for example, but something like 'I, Claudius' or many of Cornwell's other non Sharpe historical novels wouldn't. I'd imagine there's a lot of real life/ 'soap opera' type stuff as well that doesn't fit either romance or suspense in there.

 

(not really current releases there, but I guess that's where the General Fiction stuff comes from. If we wanted to go full classic then Charles Di_kens near entire catalogue would be General Fiction)

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I call shenanigans. Western hasn't been a genre since the 70's. There are no Westerns sections in bookstores or libraries. There is no point in even adding a category in the study for a dead genre.

 

At least one of the local bookstores I go to has a (very small) western section.  That it is almost entirely Louis L'amour reprints is irrelevant. :p

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It is a shame the Western genre has fallen out of favor. There have been some really excellent books (some of which were made into really mediocre movies) in the setting. 

 

The Shootist by Glendon Swarthout was much better than the John Wayne movie based on the book. It had a much darker tone and really played on the theme of the old west vanishing. The Outlaw Josey Wales was much better than the movie... and that was a good movie. (Note the name of the book was Gone To Texas by Forrest Carter). The Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy is another excellent western book that has had a rather shoddy movie made from it. True Grit by Charles Portis was also really good. Both the movie adaptations were pretty faithful. The 2012 version much more so though. I read a pretty good one recently, Woe to Live on. Forget who wrote it. It was more a Border War than western but in the same ballpark.

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"What can't be changed must be endured"

Robert Jordan

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I still have a soft spot for the pulp westerns of yesteryear. I do have a large batch of J.T.Edson books in my library. One of those amusing little quirks, that an English writer turned out westerns that got him made an "honorary Texan" and was once told by an editor that it was over the top to tie a heroine to a railway track - to which his response was to then write a book which involved a heroine being tied to a lumbermill saw track.

"Cuius testiculos habeas, habeas cardia et cerebellum."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Now reading 

 

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and 

 

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The former is pretty interesting. The latter a bit dry & ponderous. 

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"What can't be changed must be endured"

Robert Jordan

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Fortunately the Roman Empire was pretty good about record keeping relatively speaking. It's not a nothing burger but it isn't exactly a Big Mac either. The curious thing is accounts of someone sounding very much like Jesus visiting and ministering in India and Persia in the same general time frame. 

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"What can't be changed must be endured"

Robert Jordan

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John Scalzi is like the Paradox of authors, guy has so many little novellas for series for $3 or so.

Why has elegance found so little following? Elegance has the disadvantage that hard work is needed to achieve it and a good education to appreciate it. - Edsger Wybe Dijkstra

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Now that's a quotable answer:

 

At the end of 2012, according to EOO, a “rich list” for Chinese literature was revealed, and 31 year old Zhang Wei (who writes using the pen name Tangjia Sanshao) was listed as the richest man in the world of Chinese online literature, with earnings of 33 million yuan over the preceding five years. Of course, to earn that much money, Zhang pumps out an average of 10,000 characters per day. And when asked what it was like to write 26.9 million words over that period, he simply replied, “My hands are sore.”

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"Cuius testiculos habeas, habeas cardia et cerebellum."

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Now reading:

 

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It's pretty good. Nothing profound or earth shattering.

 

Also reading:

 

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Animal psychology and cognition has always been a subject that fascinates me.Unfortunately books on this subject tend to anthropomorphize and this one dips into that well.. A Dog's Mind by Bruce Vogel is one of the good ones. Inside a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz is another. If anyone knows about others I'd love to hear some suggestions. 

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"What can't be changed must be endured"

Robert Jordan

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I don't think it's something many people here are into it but I'd really appreciate any (relatively) good urban fantasy books you guys could recommend me

in recent decades, urban fantasy has increasing been targeted by ya and romance elements.  result is our near reflexive (albeit unfair) gut-clench reaction anytime urban fantasy is recommended to us by friends.  am kinda voluntarily underexposed to 21st century urban fantasy. even so...

 

nail gaiman will rare provide you with a bad option and most o' his stuff may be fitting into urban fantasy niche.  start with neverwhere.  do not overlook the graveyard book 'cause is targeted at younger audiences.  gaiman, co-wrote good omens with terry pratchett... am thinking is final being made into a bbc tv mini-series.  sandman graphic novels is also worth a gander. 

 

one o' the most recognizable urban fantasy authors o' late 20th century is almost complete unknown nowadays: charles de lint.  newford books is all set in a vague north american city which is kinda kanadian or usa or both. have only read a few but were surprised in a good way.  jack of kinrowan books were fun and fast-paced if not particular deep.  

 

gene wolfe.  hmmm.  is a handful o' urban fantasy from gene wolfe, and is all excellent, but is gene wolfe. there are doors and the land across is urban fantasy.  is not escapist. wolfe can be dense and even impenetrable.  there are doors is relative accessible.

 

the land of laughs is a good intro to jonathan carroll. problem with carroll is he is stradling line 'tween light urban fantasy and heavier magical realism.  is technical no difference in terms o' basic elements, but magical realism is label given to fantasy authors who the new yorker crowd ain't embarrassed to says they read so n' so's books. updike, gabriel garcía márquez and salman rushdie is gonna be more often referenced when discussing carroll books than would jim butcher. 

 

while is also a line blurring option, and likely not what many nowadays consider urban fantasy, something wicked this way comes is one o' those must reads for fantasy fans.  not traditional sword and sworcery fantasy.  setting is 20th century midwest usa.  

 

an obscure title which am believing would be appealing to shady is agyar. dunno if we would say it is a great book, but it is a modern vampire book and is kinda unexpected. am personal having a dislike o' most vampire stories, but we enjoyed agyar, though perhaps not as much as gaiman's graveyard book

 

urban fantasy ain't necessarily our thing, but is a few options.

 

HA! Good Fun!

Edited by Gromnir
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"If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence."Justice Louis Brandeis, Concurring, Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357 (1927)

"Im indifferent to almost any murder as long as it doesn't affect me or mine."--Gfted1 (September 30, 2019)

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I don't think it's something many people here are into it but I'd really appreciate any (relatively) good urban fantasy books you guys could recommend me

 

Ilona Andrews can be enjoyable - They started off their Kate Daniels series with no intention of it being considered "romance" , although as is the nature of any long-running series of books the relationships between characters can become plot elements.

What's kind of amusing is that because the books would keep getting put in the romance section of book stores before "Urban Fantasy" got its own section, they ended up writing a few romance urban fantasy stories just because people thought they already wrote them.

 

You might like to try Simon R Green.  He's done both a fantasy world style urban fantasy in his Hawke & Fisher, while his Nightside is very much that otherworldly realm in the center of London where fantasy and reality share renting space and the sun never shines.

 

Jonathan Moeller's Cloak Games is kind of the Dresden Files meets Shadowrun, set in a near future earth where Elves invaded from another Dimension and are firmly in control. The story of one woman trained to be a covert thief / agent for a manipulative Elven High Mage.

 

Depending on how much pulp you like, (and swerves into sci-fi), check out Michael Todd.

 

And if you like both humor and spice, check out Elliot Kay's Good Intentions trilogy -  The guy just finished high school, starting college..and ends up bound to an Angel and a Succubus at the same time, finding out that life is a whole lot more complicated then he ever realised.

Edited by Raithe

"Cuius testiculos habeas, habeas cardia et cerebellum."

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I don't know if you'd call them urban fantasy, but I enjoyed The Scar and Perdido Street Station by China Miéville

"What can't be changed must be endured"

Robert Jordan

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The Kate Daniels series has such an interesting premise and set up, I even read the first "couple" of books, but in the end it is by and large a romance series... Maybe it just my male perspective.

 

I think it's a perspective thing in my mind.  The romance that occurs is never central to the plot of the story, it just happens to be a natural aspect of character evolution and interaction.

To me, a a romance series , the romance and relationship is first and foremost, and everything else hangs off that.

When it's a sidenote, when it's part of character growth that just happens alongside the actual plot and story..  That's not a romance series.

"Cuius testiculos habeas, habeas cardia et cerebellum."

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I don't think it's something many people here are into it but I'd really appreciate any (relatively) good urban fantasy books you guys could recommend me

 

The Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko.

 

 

Just drop the series after like book 2, it jumps the shark incredibly hard.

"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."

 

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