Pixel Scroll 7/31/18 There’s A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvish

(1) BOOKS PEOPLE BOUNCED OFF. On Bustle.com, Charlotte Ahlin takes a look at “The 15 Most Frequently Unfinished Reads, According To Goodreads’ ‘Popular Abandoned Books’ Shelf” and encourages at least a subset of people to try again. The list includes many genre works, but genre or not, Ahlin gives you a paragraph about each laying out why you might (or might not) enjoy the book more than you thought.

We’ve all left a book unfinished in our time. And honestly, I get it. Forcing yourself to slog through a book you don’t like is a pretty pointless endeavor. Reading should be fun, not a joyless exercise in seeming smart/trendy/interesting. But if you have it in your heart, some of these oft-abandoned books are actually worth giving a second (or third) chance:

1             The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling
2             Catch-22, Joseph Heller
3             A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin
4             American Gods, Neil Gaiman
5             The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
6             Fifty Shades of Grey, E.L. James
7             Outlander, Diana Gabaldon
8             The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt
9             Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke
10          Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel
11          Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace
12          Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, Gregory Maguire
13          One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
14          Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert
15          The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson

(2) LEADERS WHO READ SFF. POLITICO reports that two European Commissioners are science fiction fans. Valdis Dombrovskis (Latvia) is reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman, while Pierre Moscovici (France) recommends George Orwell’s 1984, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven“POLITICO Brussels Playbook: Death by a thousand cuts — What presidents are reading — Go full Orbán”.

(3) PUTTING A GOOD FACE ON IT. When Bill Oberst Jr. does his Bradbury show in 2019, this is the creator who will make the illusion convincing: “Jeff Farley Recreates Ray Bradbury for Touring Stage Portrayal of Sci-Fi Author”Broadway World has the story.

Jeff Farley‘s love letter to Ray Bradbury will soon be on Bill Oberst Jr.‘s face. Special effects makeup artist and Primetime Emmy Award Nominee Farley has just completed the sculpt for Oberst’s prosthetic transformation into Bradbury in the authorized stage portrayal of the beloved author, Ray Bradbury Live (forever.)

“This project is the culmination of four decades of professional experience, and the most exciting of my career,” Farley said. “I am proud to help my friend bring his vision to life. Bill says I’m his Dick Smith and he’s my Hal Holbrook. We laugh, but that really is the level of illusion we’re aiming for.” Smith’s prosthetics for Holbrook’s Mark Twain Tonight broke new SFX ground in 1967. For his part, Oberst says he’s “ecstatic” about what Farley (whose resume stretches from BABYLON 5, WOLF and Demolition Man to Quarry, Pod and Imitation Girl) is creating. “Jeff is a bit of a recluse and he’s very selective,” said Oberst “so I’m over the moon to have him crafting this illusion.”

(4) SF BOOK QUIZ. The Sporcle challenge: “Can you name the 100 Science Fiction & Fantasy Books to Read in a Lifetime, according to Amazon?” You’ve got 16 minutes. And it’s not enough to know a good book by the authors – you have to get the ones that made the list. Filers have been playing all day since Giant Panda dropped the link in comments.

(5) ONCE MORE INTO THE LIFEBOAT DEAR FRIENDS. Slightly better than cancelled, not nearly as good as rescued or renewed — “NBC Sets ‘Timeless’ Two-Part Series Finale” reports Variety.

NBC will bring back “Timeless” for a special two-part series finale, the network confirmed Tuesday.

“We’re excited to tell one final chapter to this incredible story,” said Lisa Katz, co-president, scripted programming, NBC Entertainment. “A huge thank you to all — our cast, crew, producers and partners at Sony – who have worked so very hard, and to the fans who kept us on our toes and made sure we did our very best week after week.”

In June, NBC canceled the time travel drama from Sony Pictures Television and executive producers Shawn Ryan and Eric Kripke after two seasons. It was the second cancellation for “Timeless.” NBC had canceled the series after its first season, only to bring it back a few days later after Sony agreed to hand over a 50% stake in the show to NBC’s sister studio Universal Television.

(6) CURE FOR THE SUMMERTIME BLUES. Or at least a treatment for the symptoms. Jason, at Featured Futures, has condensed the month’s offerings down to a short list of cool stories in “Summation: July 2018”.

Here are the fifteen noted stories (four recommended) from the 92 stories of 503 Kwds I read from the July issues along with links to all their reviews and the other July posts on Featured Futures. This month’s wombat was a remarkable number of mostly print SF honorable mentions while all the few other items (except an excellent F&SF dark fantasy) came from the web.

(7) 2019 WORLDCON PROGRAM. Dublin 2019 has a form online where people can “Request to be a Programme Participant”. There’s more than one good reason to fill it out.

Kevin Standlee pointed out on Facebook a few days ago:

European data protection rules severely restrict the amount of information that entities can share with others, even those that hosted the previous event. You should assume that the 2019 Worldcon is starting with zero information about program participants, even if you were on program in Helsinki in 2017 or will be on program in San Jose in 2018. Contact Dublin if you’re interested in being on programming, and don’t assume that “of course they’ll just start with last year’s list” or “with the last European Worldcon’s list,” because legally, they can’t do that.

(8) LOOK OUT BELOW! What happens to the International Space Station when it can’t be maintained in orbit any more? It crashes, just like every other piece of hardware in low Earth orbit. Popular Mechanics takes a look at the status of plans to do this safely (hint: the plans are not nearly as well-developed as they should be; “Death Star: The ISS Doesn’t Have a Way to Crash Safely”).

As the debate over what to do with the International Space Station heats up, with a new NASA report casting doubt over the plans to commercialize it by 2025, the ultimate outcome could be its intentional crash landing into the Earth. But even that contingency is lacking, according to NASA Inspector General.

“At some future date NASA will need to decommission and deorbit the ISS either in response to an emergency or at the end of its useful life,” the report says. “However, the Agency currently does not have the capability to ensure the ISS will reenter the Earth’s atmosphere and land in a targeted location in the South Pacific Ocean.”
NASA, to its credit, has started the work. However, even the most preliminary steps are snarled up in diplomacy with the Russian space agency. The Inspector General says that in January 2017, NASA completed a draft plan but “this plan has not been finalized and is pending review by Roscosmos.”


  • Born July 31 – France Nuyen, 79. In the original Outer Limits, Star Trek and Fantasy Island series, also Battle for the Planet of the Apes and The Six Million Dollar Man series.
  • Born July 31 – Geraldine Chaplin, 74. Dinotopia and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Gulliver’s Travels and a vampire series called  BloodRayne.
  • Born July 31 – Michael Biehn, 62. Best known in films directed by James Cameron; as Sgt. Kyle Reese in The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Cpl. Dwayne Hicks in Aliens and Lt. Coffey in The Abyss; also in Logan’s Run, Timebomb, AsteroidClockstoppers and The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power. 
  • Born July 31 – Wesley Snipes, 56. Genre roles include Demolition Man, the original Blade films, as an alien abducting humans in The Recall film, and a Mayan God in The Chronicles of the Mayan Tunnel.
  • Born July 31 – J. K. Rowling, 53. Harry Potter books and films, some other decidedly not genre work
  • Born July 31 – Annie Parisse, 43. Regular cast on the Person Of Interest series, also The First, a Mars mission series and NYPD 2069.
  • Born July 31 – Zelda Williams, 29. Daughter of Robin Williams, she’s been in genre work such as the Dark/Web series, plus voice work in the current Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Legend of Korra, also roles in Stitchers and Teen Wolf.


(11) TOLKIEN AND LUCAS ON A DIET. Actor Topher Grace has taken to the editing suite and has taken a scalpel (or dwarven ax?) to the Hobbit trilogy—trimming the whole thing to a svelte two hours (IndieWire: “Topher Grace Recut ‘The Hobbit’ Trilogy as a 2-Hour Movie to Clear His Head After Playing David Duke”). Grace speaks of his reaction to playing David Duke in the upcoming BlacKkKlansman (Spike Lee) and having his wife give birth during the production of that movie:

“I was so depressed.[…]  I was probably a terrible husband at the time. It was so disturbing to go home and turn on the news to see how his ideology was affecting us at the moment.”

Some people might have sought catharsis in a long vacation. Grace found a more unconventional outlet: Reediting Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” trilogy into a single movie.

Grace had previously recut the three prequel Star Wars movies into a combined 85-minute version he called Star Wars: Episode III.5: The Editor Strikes Back that was “for industry insiders before it disappeared from the internet” (SYFY Wire: “The Hobbit trilogy gets a new two-hour cut thanks to actor Topher Grace”). The IndieWire story continues:

While hardly the first fan edit of “The Hobbit,” Grace’s version may be one of the most palatable. One widely circulated fan edit in 2015, “The Tolkien Edit,” ran four hours long. Grace said he managed to reduce the entire trilogy to two hours, and felt that it was “a lot tighter.” (A Reddit forum actually predicted that Grace would tackle this project years ago.) “I don’t know what other guys do. Go fishing? For me, this is just a great way to relax,” the actor said. “There’s something really zen about it.”

(12) OUT OF JOINT. An expert in the time travel industry has found his next job: “Steven Moffat Developing The Time Traveler’s Wife Television Series for HBO”Tor.com has the story.

HBO has won the bidding war for a TV adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife, from former Doctor Who showrunner and Sherlock creator Steven Moffat. Other outlets, including Amazon Studios, were in the running to acquire the series about Henry DeTamble and Clare Abshire’s nonlinear love story, according to Deadline.

The official logline from HBO is slightly tongue-in-cheek for a novel about Henry, a time traveler and librarian whose Chrono-Displacement Disorder drops him in and out of time, and artist Clare, who first meets Henry as a child and who spends the rest of her life encountering him at different ages as she progresses through time linearly…

“I read Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife many years ago, and I fell in love with it,” Moffat said in the official announcement. “In fact, I wrote a Doctor Who episode called ‘The Girl In The Fireplace’ as a direct response to it. When, in her next novel, Audrey had a character watching that very episode, I realised she was probably on to me. All these years later, the chance to adapt the novel itself, is a dream come true. The brave new world of long form television is now ready for this kind of depth and complexity. It’s a story of happy ever after?—?but not necessarily in that order.”

(13) OUTREACH. It’s not up to Gil Hamilton’s standard, but SingularityHub (“This Mind-Controlled Robotic Limb Lets You Multitask With Three Arms”) reports on a new brain-machine interface (BMI) that “only requires an electrode cap” and can control a third arm while you still use your biological two. The original paper (“BMI control of a third arm for multitasking”) is available at Science Robotics (a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science) for AAAS members or those willing to pony up to get past their paywall. Meanwhile, at SingularityHub:

To crack the problem, [Shuichi] Nichio and colleague Christian Penaloza recruited 15 volunteers and outfitted them with a prosthetic arm and a brain-wave-reading cap.

…The participants were asked to sit in a chair mounted with a robotic arm, strategically placed in a location that makes them feel like it’s part of their body. To start off, each participant was asked to balance a ball on a board using their own arms while wearing an electrode cap, which picks up the electrical activity from the brain.
Next, the volunteers turned their attention to the robotic arm. Sitting in the same chair, they practiced imagining picking up a bottle using the prosthesis while having their brain activity patterns recorded. A nearby computer learned to decipher this intent, and instructed the robotic arm to act accordingly.

Then came the fun part: the volunteers were asked to perform both actions simultaneously: balancing the ball with natural arms, and grasping the bottle with the robotic one. Eight out of the 15 participants successfully performed both actions; overall, the group managed cyborg multitasking roughly three quarters of the time.

(14) TIME AFTER TIME. Time for The Traveler at Galactic Journey to give John W. Campbell Jr. his monthly rap on the knuckles: “[July 30, 1963] Inoffensive Pact (August 1963 Analog)”.

At last we come to what you all will probably (as I did) turn to first: the conclusion to the second novel in the Deathworld series.  When last we left Jason dinAlt, interstellar gambler and lately resident of the dangerous world of Pyrrus, he had been enslaved by the D’sertanoj of a nearby primitive planet.  These desert-dwellers know how to mine petroleum, which they trade to the people of the country, Appsala, in exchange for caroj — steam powered battle wagons.  When dinAlt reveals that he can produce caroj himself, he is promoted to “employee” status and given run of the place.  He eventually escapes with his native companion, Ijale, as well as the obnoxiously moralistic Micah, who kidnapped dinAlt in the first place.  Adventures ensue.

The original Deathworld was a minor masterpiece, a parable about letting go of destructive hatred, suffused with a message on the importance of environmentalism.  It was also a cracking good read.  This new piece is just a yarn, one almost as clunky as the caroj dinAlt works on.  The theme is that universal morality is anything but, and ethics must be tailored to the society for which they are developed.

(15) SOLAR PROBE. NPR studies how NASA’s probe will keep from being burnt to a crisp: “Building A Probe That Will Survive A Trip To The Sun” — lightweight video with little discussion of the topic, but cool pictures of the probe being fitted out.

This summer, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe will embark on a mission to “touch the sun.”

“Touch” might be a bit of an overstatement — the probe will actually pass 3.8 million miles from the sun’s surface. Its primary job is to learn more about the outer atmosphere of the sun, called the corona. Many things about the corona remain a mystery. For example, scientists still aren’t sure why the corona of the sun is hotter than its surface. The probe will take a series of images and measurements to figure out how energy and heat move through the corona.


(16) CASE OF THE UNKNOWN CON. Trae Dorn at Nerd and Tie found the explanation is simple — “The Reason You Didn’t Hear About SBC Anime Festival Is Because Apparently No One Did”.

It’s been a week and a half since AVC Coventions‘s Bossier City, LA based SBC Anime Festival closed its doors for 2018, and you’d be forgiven for not even knowing it happened. The reason for this is that apparently no one knew it was.

Okay, so maybe that’s an exaggeration, but very few knew about it at least.

Needless to say, vendors and artists present weren’t exactly happy about spending their weekend in an empty hall. One of those vendors was artist K.F. Golden, who decided to detail their experience on Tumblr.

You should read the post in its entirety, but the gist of it is that very few people attended the convention. K.F. Golden took some pictures of the empty dealer hall, and it seems like no one knew the con was happening.

…The point is that when your event doesn’t do well, you still need to be able to talk to a vendor politely. This is basic customer service, and do not mistake me — when you are running a convention, vendors and artist are customers. If what K.F. Golden alleges is true, I would be hesitant to vend at any of AVC Conventions‘s other events.

(17) MY GENERATION. Phoebe Wagner delivers “Musings on The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang” at Nerds of a Feather.

While I love fantasy novels like The Poppy War, Kuang’s story has taken a special slot on my shelf because, as a millennial, I connected to the novel on a generational level. No, Kuang did not include avocado toast. From the voice to history to worldbuilding, the novel captured how I so often feel as a millennial. While the USA school testing systems are vastly different than Chinese systems, I remember the pressure of the SATs and GREs–and the relief at performing well. Like Rin, millennials grew up in the shadow of a terrorist attack and hearing the propaganda surrounding a war. Due to income inequality, those millennials that made it into “the good schools” found a cultural gap caused by wealth. Like Kuang’s worldbuilding around opium and other hallucinogens, so many millennials have watched their hometowns and families destroyed by opioids while simultaneously voting for the legalization of marijuana. These issues have marked the millennial generation, and Kuang captures them on the page.

(18) LET ROVER COME OVER. Here’s a curiosity: You can build your own open-source rover using JPL’s design.

(19) DISNEYLAND ICONS FOR SALE. Rachael Leone Shawfelt, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Rare Trove of Disneyland memorabilia Going Up For Auction–Here’s Your Sneak Peek” says RIchard Kraft is putting his collection of Disneyland memorabilia up for auction, including original rides from Dumbo the Flying Elephant  and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride as well as  a Swiss Family Treehouse organ.

Kraft’s treasures will be on display for the public in a free exhibition called “That’s From Disneyland!,” from Aug. 1 to Aug. 26, in Sherman Oaks, Calif. The items are arranged according to their former location in the park; for example, a piece of the Dumbo ride is close to rare Snow White dolls. Original maps of the park hang on the wall above a miniature re-creation of the park.

(20) MANIFEST. Trailer for the new series —

An airplane disappeared, and its passengers were presumed dead until they returned, unscathed, five years later. Manifest is coming to NBC on Mondays this fall.


[Thanks to Giant Panda, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Iphinome, Nicholas Whyte, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

101 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 7/31/18 There’s A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvish

  1. @August: I loved “The Crying of Lot 49” – I never read any other Pynchon though. Maybe I’ll change that sometime soon.

  2. A pixel scrolls across the file. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare to it now…

    Someone, maybe it was one of you, used to say that they had a professor who could never get by the first sentence without throwing the book and saying, “No it doesn’t!”

    Jeff – Scalzi had a tweet about Kirsty being the bomb which prompted those suggestions. I still remember hearing Fairy Tale of New York and had to know right away who was singing with the Pogues. (Back in the days before the internet.) It was a couple years later I stumbled across Kite.

  3. @Andrew and @August – I think I remember hearing The Crying Of Lot 49 described as the first truly post-modern novel.

    @Jack – nice! But I don’t understand why anyone could say, ‘no it doesn’t!’ ?

  4. 1) I’ve read, finished, and thoroughly enjoyed 2, 4, and 13. Started Game of Thrones, but put it down halfway through the first book–it just got too grim for me. Checked JS&MN out of the library but for whatever reason never got out of the first chapter before it had to go back.

    Lee on July 31, 2018 at 10:59 pm said:

    Interesting. Depending on just which 5-year period they choose, that could be a real culture shock. Imagine what it would be like if you had disappeared in 1962 and returned in 1967 — or 1999 and 2004 — or 2013 and 2018. I wonder how much exploring of that concept they’re going to do in the show.

    There was a story in Spider Robinson’s Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon about a “time traveler” who spent most of the 1960s in a Central American prison. When he got released in 1972 and was invited to meet with the President, he started laughing out loud because, just before he was imprisoned, Nixon had been defeated in a run for Governor of California and angrily announced “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore.”

  5. Oh yeah–and I’ve read Gravity’s Rainbow too. I used to say “Truth is stranger than fiction because fiction has to make sense,” until a friend of mine replied “That’s not true, and you know it. You’ve read Gravity’s Rainbow.”

  6. I took that quiz and scored a miserable 32, mainly because I spent a good seven minutes of my time trying to remember the title of every story that H.P. Lovecraft ever wrote.

  7. @Robert Whitaker Sirignano: I suspect The Night Land is too obscure for a list like this, but I’d be extremely curious as to just where in that book people gave up.

    I got through the whole thing, but in hindsight I don’t think I’d have missed much with an abridgement starting with Chapter 2 and ending after gur aneengbe svaqf gur inpngrq Yrffre Erqbhog naq uvf Gehr Ybir, jvgu na rkgerzryl oevrs “naq gurl erghearq gb gur Terngre Erqbhog naq yvirq unccvyl rire nsgre” abgr ng gur raq.

  8. @Acoustic Rob: Yeah, that’s Spider’s “The Time-Traveler” which I think was his second sale (and prompted letters to the editor saying “This isn’t science fiction!”)

  9. @ August — Are you me? Those are the exact books I’ve read.

    I’ve said before that One Hundred Years of Solitude has the best first sentence I’ve ever read: “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” Then the narrative goes on to talk about his father and ice, when all the while you’re thinking, Wait, what happened to the firing squad??? I don’t see how anyone could stop reading at that point, though I agree some parts later on are slow.

  10. 1) additional thoughts:
    – I am surprised Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco is not on this list.
    – The list items I have finished are 2, 3, 4, 9, 13 and 15

  11. Interestingly, when I look at the Goodreads list, it looks like Night Circus should have bumped off Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

    It’s a very self-selecting list — not only do you have to start & not finish the book, but then you have to consciously go to Goodreads and put it on a shelf called “Abandoned”.

  12. It’s a very self-selecting list — not only do you have to start & not finish the book, but then you have to consciously go to Goodreads and put it on a shelf called “Abandoned”.
    For me, that list was more of a “Looked at it and didn’t care to read it” list.
    I’m surprised some of these people on Goodreads actually have time to read anything. There’s so much to do and interact and write about it.
    I checked it out because “actual people who like to read and talk about it” but soon gave it up. I thought they needed a button for “Are you kidding me?” when they gave their book recommendations. I’m still trying to figure out what book on my “Want to read” list led them to think I wanted to read “Big Bosoms and Square Jaws: The Biography of Russ Meyer,King of the Sex Film”

  13. I have never finished — nor regretted abandoning — Wicked. There are kinds of bleakness I like and can handle, and kinds I do not, and that book seemed determined to focus on the kind I hated. If I were to compile my own personal list of the books I haven’t ever finished and actively will not (as opposed to haven’t finished but vaguely mean to pick up again), it’s probably in the top 3, if not in number one place.

    I’m curious about the Casual Vacancy, which seems like it might be a bleak more to my taste.

    I guess I have technically got Outlander as unfinished, since I did crack the first chapter, but it’s not abandoned so much as never properly started and still on my maybe try list. I read some Gabaldon and enjoyed it well enough; I’m neither eager nor turned off her.

    I had no problems finishing Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (my husband, not much of a novel reader anymore and not much of a fantasy reader ever, devoured it in a weekend) or American Gods (Though I vastly prefer Anansi Boys), nor A Game of Thrones, though I still haven’t gotten past book two of the series and won’t until A Promise of Spring comes out, if then (It’s in my “vaguely intend to pick up again someday” listing…).

    I keep thinking I should give Marquez another try: I read a short story of his I enjoyed well enough in college, but I got In Evil Hour foisted on me in High School and the only thing I remember is that I LOATHED it. And there were some jaguars in there somewhere. Now that I am the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything, I think I may appreciate what he tries to do a lot more than I did when seventeen, but that recollection, and the immense pile of other books out there, still both slow me down.

    Wolf Hall is the only other thing on that list I have even vaguely considered reading.

  14. Lee on July 31, 2018 at 10:59 pm said:
    …Interesting. Depending on just which 5-year period they choose, that could be a real culture shock. Imagine what it would be like if you had disappeared in 1962 and returned in 1967 — or 1999 and 2004 — or 2013 and 2018. I wonder how much exploring of that concept they’re going to do in the show….

    My oldest sister essentially did the 1962-1967 disappearance.
    In 1962 she went to Bagdad as a nanny for family friends in the foreign service.
    She came back in 1966, still equipped with her nice-girl white gloves and scarves/hats for going out and being dressed as an adult.
    But meanwhile, oh my, the world had changed, and there was a divide.
    And, the thing is, if you aren’t there for it, it never quite meshes.

    There was a similar slippage post WWI.
    My aunt evidently went to the beach decently attired in a knee-length woolen swim suit with sleeves- and wore a girdle and stockings under it! – to the bafflement of my mom, her younger sister, who wore what was basically a recognizable tank suit.
    Five years between them, but also a generation somehow.

  15. Finished: Catch-22, Jonathan Strange, and 100 Years.
    Bounced: Thrones, American Gods.

    Both of the bounces were due to dry prose. Martin has always appealed to me until he started writing ASoIaF, while Gaiman seems to really shine in short stories and comics.

  16. @JohnfromGR
    I’ve read “Name of the Rose”. It probably helps if you’ve spent time with Latin and medieval history.

  17. @ Acoustic Rob: That was one of the things I was thinking of. In particular, my choice of 1962-1967 was inspired by Jake’s thought that “Christ, no one had heard of the Beatles in 1963!”

    @ Harold: Same here. There were a few books on the list that I have some curiosity about, but not (generally speaking) enough to actually try to read them. And there are more than a few that you’d have to pay me in 6 figures to read, and a couple where I might insist on 7.

  18. Regarding DNF’s – I follow the Rule of 100. You subtract your age from 100, and read that number of pages. (So a 20 year old gives up after 80 pages, and an 80 year old gives up after 20 pages). If you don’t like the book after that many pages, move on. With so many books being published every year, and an enormous backlog of already existent books, no one will have time to read them all, so why waste your time? Move on to something you enjoy more.

    My brother gave me a copy of Catch-22 for Christmas last year, which I then mislaid, and when I found it again, I had to set aside because of Hugo reading. I’m about halfway through and will pick it up again. I can see why it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s satire, so a lot of the humor is kind of mean if not downright painful, but it’s so humane that I also feel sorry for some of the characters that are being mocked. It’s my brother’s favorite book.

    I’ve read Game of Thrones, Wolf Hall, and Wicked. I preferred the TV and musical versions even though I read the books first. The musical version of Wicked in particular eliminated everything that I did not enjoy in the book and doubled down on all the parts that I did enjoy.

    The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo is not a great book. The English translation can best be described as pedestrian, workmanlike prose, and Blomquist is so obviously an idealized version of the author with a lot of wish fulfillment. IIRC, he’s described as not very good looking, but women find him strangely magnetic. That said, the character of Lisbeth Salander is a fantastic character. In all three books, I wanted more of her and less of Blomquist. I haven’t tried any of the books the family farmed out to another author. I’m still annoyed with them that they couldn’t share anything with Larsson’s longtime live-in girlfriend after his unexpected passing.

    Of the other books, the only one I started and DNF was Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Loved the miniseries, though.

  19. I have read a couple of other things by Gabriel Garcia Marquez of which The General In His Labyrinth was the most memorable. One Hundred Years of Solitude is probably his most famous book. I’m not sure why it failed to grip. It wasn’t a case of disliking or rejecting the book; both times I believe I just put it down and read other things and didn’t pick it back up. It has been a long time and I’m sure I’ll get around to it again.

  20. Finished: American Gods (loved it); Jonathan Strange (Ok), Catch 22 (enjoyable read), Infire Jest (Its like climbing a mountain, I guess: Hard work, but now and then you turn around and are rewarded with breathtaking scenery)
    Not finished: Wolf Hall. Its started great, but the lack of any movement of plot bored me. Seemed like a good enough portrait of the court intrigues, but not for me (Anekdote: This book was recommended in almost every german newspaper. My mum loves reading books about Henry V, but she said even she had trouble sometimes finding out what they talked about – I doubt the average German reader would have even more trouble)

    Pynchon: Read crying of lot 49 and I cant say if I liked it or not, so Ive read inherent vice and disliked it. Dont think Ill read another one.

    Rev Bob

    20) It’s like Lost all over again (but inverted)!

    Thats what I thought. Maybe this time the writers have a clue about the ending. Im carefully optimistic.
    The pixelscrollers wife: Liked the book, the movie was adequate. Dont know if the series wouldn’t be too much “more of the same” Moffatt can be quite good, but he also can ruin things when over ambitious

  21. @P J Evans: “Name of the Rose” is another one I really enjoyed – I read it shortly after it came out, though, and I’m not sure I could devote enough uninterrupted reading time to get into the book if I tried to read it again in my adult life.

  22. I’ve read 4 and JS&MN is the only one I came close to abandoning. I’m glad I didn’t because the later parts were far more my sort of thing.

    I have read Dhalgren and bounced off The Night Land – but that was when I was a teen.

  23. Further on down the list Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth is listed. Plus (more of genre interest) Ready Player One and World War Z.

    I did read Name of the Rose & liked it; and could conceivably see myself reading it again someday. Foucalt’s Pendulum, on the other hand (which I persist in pronouncing “FOE-kalt”) will probably not be revisited.

  24. “(And your way would make just as good a song.”

    Or a joke in Pratchett’s “Soul Music” – “There’s a new boy working at the fried fish stall, and I could swear he was Elvish!”

  25. It was Pixel Eve, babe
    In the scroll tank
    The filer said to me
    “Won’t see another one.”

  26. I saw the Swedish movie but have heard the writing is offensively sexist in ways the movie left out, so I’m not sure I believe the reviewer’s claim that it is a critique of violent misogyny.

    It is, very much, a critique of violent misogyny.

    But the author had some blind spots, and decided to have his hero/feminist-ally/lead get to have sex with virtually any women of any importance who shows up in the series. It gets ridiculous after a while. And offensive in a “Jesus, more wish-fulfillment?” way, while the villains stayed violently misogynist and easy to hate.

    Aside from the author’s need to carve notches in Blomquist’s bedposts, the trilogy is very readable and entertaining, as commercial thrillers. But that blind spot is a big one.

  27. I love the Lensman series, but I got a Doc Smith bundle and have bounced off nearly everything in there –

    Galaxy Primes takes the worst parts of Skylark, gives the leads psychic powers that vastly exceed what it took Kinnison years to master, with no effort or even trial-and-error on their part, and strips out any hint of characterization, scene setting, or follow-through. At the point where Our Heroes are setting up a military hierarchy – I can’t call it a Galactic Patrol – that consists entirely of them with no thought of consulting the people they’re ruling, I bounced.

    Tedric – well, at first there’s a hint of a comedy of errors, as the time traveller who thinks they need to meddle “just this once” has to go back – but after the second trip it just fizzles out. And Smith can’t do medieval.

    Vortex Blasters – it’s ripped from the headlines of Red Adair using explosives to put out oilfield fires, with a nuclear twist. Yawn, and also supposed to be happening at the same time Kinnison et al are moving planets. But they can’t even handle whatever-it-was?

  28. Jamoche: A friend introduced me to the Lensman series when I was a teenager. That was the crucial beginning step toward my becoming an sf fan. (Before that I was just an omnivorous reader.) The advantage of reading the Lensman series at the age of 13 cannot be overstated. Just a few years later I wrote a fanzine article where I found it difficult to figure out why I should like the Lensman series when there were things I didn’t like about the Vietnam War….

  29. Of that list, I’ve read and finished Catch-22, A Game of Thrones, American Gods, Outlander, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Though I never read the remaining Song of Ice and Fire books and the remaining Stieg Larsson books and gave up on the Outlander series after book 3.

    I have read and finished Gravity’s Rainbow, but then I’m a Pynchon fan.

    Lensmen, I fear, never worked for me, though I have the entire series. But then, I was in my twenties when I tried reading them and had already consumed way too many latter works inspired by Lensmen, so the novelty was gone.

  30. Would anyone be interested in a brand new 20,000 word Middle Kingdoms novella by Diane Duane? (Per the email, this is the first of some new fiction in the lead-up to Door into Starlight.)

    In this 20,000-word novelette set in the main character through-line of the Door Into… books, Herewiss s’Hearn — now married to King Freelorn of Arlen, Segnbora tai-Enraesi, the fire elemental Sunspark and the dragon Hasai — undertakes a private mission to the city of Darthis. His reasons are secret: his intentions desperate.


  31. P J Evans on August 1, 2018 at 6:25 pm said:
    @ Joe H.
    Sold! (More accurately, Bought!)


  32. @Lenora Rose: IMO, Maguire is bleak just to be bleak (based on his later works, I’m not sure whether he prizes even the inversion of stories over bleakifying them.) A Casual Vacancyis not nearly so unrelieved, and the bleakness is more a consequence of condemnable human error than part of the universe’s framework.

    @Kurt Busiek: thank you for the warning. The thread of him being a present-day Lazarus Long was also not part of the Swedish movie. (I heard there was a U.S. remake; I found no reason to see it.) I will leave this on Mt. TBR (about to be whittled in slow preparation for a move), just in case I want to see whether the rest of the book makes up for a feature I have less and less patience with.

  33. @ Mike: The advantage of reading the Lensman series at the age of 13 cannot be overstated.

    *snerk* Ditto Robert E. Howard’s Conan books.

    @ Joe H: OMG YES!!! Snagged.

  34. Re the Stieg Larsson books:

    I really enjoyed them. Read them twice, watched the Swedish tv series twice. But Kurt is definitely right about how practically every woman in the books has sex with the protagonist. It really reaches eye-rolling territory.

    I was surprised that the first book had almost an Agatha Christie-type plot. The other two were more the thrillers I expected. (I also read the two continuations, the first of which was okay and the second wasn’t.)

    And yes, definitely a critique of misogyny. In fact, the original title of the first one was “Men Who Hate Women.”

  35. @Joe H.: Ooh, yes! Thanks for the info/link to the new Middle Kingdoms novelette! 😀 You’re a wonderful person for passing that along!

    @Paul Weimer: “The Expert System’s Brother” was already on my list (the sample I read intrigued me a lot), so this serves to remind me to get it. 🙂 Thanks for linking to your review!

  36. They may be a critique of mysoginy, but oh boy do they delight in describing violence against women in detail. And note that I am usually not bothered by that kind of thing – but these books really were grotesque.

  37. P.S. Duane’s site is a bit funky; there’s a carousel of ads that covers up the “hey we use cookies, duh” bar at the bottom – well, just the part with the button to accept/close! – making it impossible to get rid of the bar. (Yay for knowing how to inspect and delete the carousel so I can click the cookie button to get that bar out of the way.) That “you might also like” rotating ad is very poorly designed (covering site content as well as the cookie button). /harumph

    Still buying the novelette, though! 😀

  38. If you didn’t know it, Stieg Larsson was an avid SF fan. He was a publisher of two fanzines, Sfären (The Sphere) and FIJAGH together with Rune Forsgren. For a while he was also the chair of scandinavias largest Science Fiction society. File 770 contributor Ahrvid Engholm wrote an article about it for WIRED.

  39. @Kendall et al. — You’re welcome! And feeling semi-responsible for a few additional sales gives me possibly the biggest sense of accomplishment I’m going to get today.

  40. I started Gravity’s Rainbow when I was about sixteen, I think the summer I turned sixteen.

    I got about a third of the way through and stopped. I think it was the first novel I ever didn’t finish on purpose. I remained skeptical of Pynchon until the winter after I turned twenty-five and The Crying of Lot 49 was assigned me in a contemporary novel class. It felt like someone had written that book just for me.

    That took me back to Gravity’s Rainbow, which I loved this time around.

    Did I just mature as a reader? Did I mature as a human being? Was it my trust in my Great Teacher for that class? (I enjoyed every novel we were assigned except the two I didn’t read and went on to read and enjoy more by almost every author we studied. But that’s true of a lot of classes I’ve taken.)

    I think the one book opened the other one up for me. That’s the most of it.

  41. I think the one book opened the other one up for me.

    Gravity’s Rainbow is Pynchon’s most difficult book, I’d say — Against the Day has a go at being as heavy and fractured, but doesn’t quite have the sense of sentences abruptly running away from you.

  42. I found Against The Day harder to read; a bit of a slog in places, to be honest. But a couple of years after reading it, certain sections and/or images still linger. Gravity’s Rainbow on the other hand I first read in my 20s, and, difficult though it was – and I’m sure I didn’t get anywhere near everything – it was pretty much a page turner for me.

    I enjoyed The Crying Of Lot 49 as well – in fact, I recently got my 14-year-old to read it, since her school had recommended she try more challenging books – but it feels like a lesser work compared with the others. V is fantastic, too.

    I like the sentences running away thing, but then, another of my favourites is In Search Of Lost Time.

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