[reading] What have you read recently?

So, never read Tim Powers, with which book should one start?
I think one of the best is the Anubis Gates. Time travel to the time of Coleridge with lots of strange magical and mystical goings-on.

I love Declare, for the spy fiction combined with a mostly light touch supernatural element, and the take on Kim Philby. It does get some Britishisms wrong though.

Finally, Last Call is good for more recent supernatural shinanegans. Clearly the leading inspiration behind the RPG Unknown Armies.
 
5: My latest is the Eighteenth Century, from the Oxford History of Europe series. It's non-fiction, and a collection of essays on different aspects of historical development in, unsurprisingly, 18th century Europe. I enjoyed the read. And I came away enlightened on a century which was more of a gap than it should have been in my historical knowledge.
 
Well, I’d go for the early The Drawing of the Dark. It’s a secret history set in the Siege of Vienna. His later works are a lot more dense.
I started with this as a young man, it was a good read for a teen-ager who didn't understand all the references. I later read The Anubis Gates, Last Call and Expiration Date, which are all good reads, and The Stress Of Her Regard, which gripped me so much it inspired a campaign that I ran all through 4th year at uni.

Full of historical facts and fantastical speculation on the gaps between them. I would be totally unsurprised if Dr Mitch turned out to be the president of the fan club.
 
Well, I’d go for the early The Drawing of the Dark. It’s a secret history set in the Siege of Vienna. His later works are a lot more dense.
Thank you. I read this years ago, couldn't remember the name of the book or author. I have thought of it several times over the years.
 
6: Lies Sleeping (Ben Aaronovitch)
The latest in the Rivers of London/Peter Grant series. Less self-contained than some of the books in the series, this book concludes a long-running plot through several of the books, and casually uses lots of earlier references and characters. It also opens up some interesting possibilities for future books.

In general, I love the series, its take on both magic, history, and modern Britain, and the way it's rooted in the police investigation genre. Lies Sleeping is at the same plateau of quality as the others, but not the place to start the series. Sometimes it pretends to be grimy, but in truth its portrayal of life and the main characters is much more affectionate, and there's one enormously touching moment.
 

Maddz

Rune Priest
The Book of Kells, by R A MacAvoy

A time-travel fantasy set in modern and Viking Ireland.

Artist John Thorburn has settled in Dublin at the invitation of Professor Derval O’Keane after she met him in Canada. He is ineffectual and vapid, only taking fire with his art. She is competent and decisive and takes him as one of her lovers. While copying the spirals on a reently discovered Celtic cross, while playing some Irish music, he creates a portal back to Viking Dublin and brings teen-aged Ailesh through. She is a survivor of a Viking raid on the monastic community she and her father reside in. John and Derval take her back in time and discover another survivor, Labres McCullum, an ollave.

An interesting take on time travel, more in the style of the accidental traveller than the super-competence usually in evidence in such works, it reads more like a fantasy than a S F novel, given the action is mostly set in the past.

Recommended.
 

Maddz

Rune Priest
A Highly Respectable Marriage, by Sheila Walsh

A Regency romance in the style of Georgette Heyer, although a bit more modern in attitudes. In fact, this reads a bit like a mash-up of a couple of Heyer’s works, but is still a reasonable read in it’s own right.

Orphaned Pandora Carlyon and her younger brother are residing with her half-sister and husband following the death in action of their father, Colonel Carlyon. Through Pandora’s connection with Lady Margerson (her mother’s godmother), she makes the acquaintance of the Duke of Heron and marries him.

There are complications in this (as ever), notably Lady Sarah Bingly who wanted Heron for herself and objected to being supplanted in Heron’s affections. However, this and other trials are overcome, and there is the usual happy ending.

A light, undemanding read, that isn’t too obviously derivative of Heyer.
 
I love Declare, for the spy fiction combined with a mostly light touch supernatural element, and the take on Kim Philby. It does get some Britishisms wrong though.
I recall pavements being referred to as sidewalks - schoolboy error Mr Powers, your cover is blown.

Didn't spoil my enjoyment of the book though and I like it for much the same reasons as yourself.
 

Maddz

Rune Priest
Seven Tales in Amber, by Roger Zelazny

A collection of Amber short stories. What more can I say but seek them out?

Recommended

Rosewater, by Tade Thompson (book 1 of the Wormwater Trilogy)

I liked this, although I found the style a bit odd. The story is set in near-future Nigeria after aliens have landed on Earth. Kaaro is a one-time petty thief turned white-hat psychic; his psychic powers are as a result of the alien activity, as are those of other psychics.

When the story opens, Kaaro is working for a bank in the city of Rosewater. This has grown up around the alien bio-dome because on an annual basis, the dome opens and people are healed or restored to life (the latter is not good because the life is as a zombie). Kaaro also works for Section 45, a clandestine agency of the Nigerian government. Strange things are happening; psychics are dying and Kaaro is tasked with finding the reason why.

Told in braided flashbacks, I found the story quite difficult to read; the jumping around in time from the present to the past and back was distracting, especially as the past events were revisted in several flashbacks and hence were non-linear. However, I persevered and finished.

Recommended. Note that book 2 is out, and book 3 hasn't yet been published.

Murder in Absentia, by Assaph Mehr (book 1 of Stories of Togas, Daggers and Magic)

I spotted this and the sequel in an Amazon Countdown Deal and snagged them both - I like fantasy, historical fantasy, and Roman detective stories and it looked fun. Boy, was I glad I grabbed them both at the knockdown price!

There's a shout-out to Lindsey Davis and Steven Saylor, but this is a fantasy world and the Rome-variant has been (to my mind) well thought-out. Basically, magic in this world works and the author has done a good job of thinking through the societal changes. Interestingly, one of the strictures involved is the major stricture in the home-brew Rome-variant RPG I play occasionally although the other aspects are more like the Rome we all know from our schooldays.

An enjoyable read that has left me wanting more (although whether I get time this weekend to actually sit and read is debateable).
 
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Guvnor

Administrator
Staff member
The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris.
"It wasn't really my fault, Odin, the Sorceress and Mimir did for me. Hey, it's in my genes, ok?"
Loved it.
 

Maddz

Rune Priest
In Numina, by Assaph Mehr (Stories of Togas, Dagger and Magic 2)

I've now managed to read this after reading the first book in the series. While I still enjoyed the story and the premise, I thought it a bit weaker in execution. The real-world characters I found a bit jarring in a fantasy setting although it could almost be considered an alternate universe.

In this story, Felix meets up with Aemelia and her mother again, when Aemelia's uncle calls on Felix's services when 3 of his insulae start loosing tenants at an unhealthy rate. It turns out the tenements are being cursed rather comprehensively by a business rival.

The story is told in 3 parts - the investigation and breaking of the curse, the investigation and identification of who is responsible, and the court case against the ringleader.

Recommended.

The Jewelled Snuffbox, by Alice Chetwynd Ley

A Regency romance from an author I used to read many years ago. Although I remember seeing the title in the 70s/80s, I don't recall actually reading it. I started it on the train this morning, and finished it after supper this evening and found it an absorbing read (no, I didn't miss my stop!)

Orphaned Jane Spenser Tarrant is on her way to London to take up a new position as companion to Lady Bordesley as she has been unable to obtain a new position as a governess. On the way, the coach is caught in a blizzard in Kent, and on the way to a wayside inn for shelter, the passengers stumble across a gentleman unconscious in the ditch. It seems he was attacked and robbed, and the attack left him without his memory. Jane looks after him and takes him to London with her to see her lawyer. While she is transacting her business, the stranger recovers his memory of who he is but forgets the attack and the aftermath. He promptly heads for his home.

Jane then joins the Bordesley household and makes the unwelcome discovery that Lady Bordesley is an old schoolmate of hers who cordially disliked her. Lady B is also no better than she should be and is carrying on a clandestine liaison with another gentleman under the nose of her husband. The other gentleman had obtained a compromising letter of hers and was blackmailing her. The first gentleman had gone to Kent to pay him off and retrieve the letter...

The usual piece of froth but very enjoyable - I found myself resenting stopping reading. Recommended.
 
Non-fiction for me, If Only They Didn't Speak English by BBC correspondent Jon Sopel, about America in the age of Trump. Interesting, informative but didn't feel I learnt a lot that was actually new. However I have a pile of fiction and non-fiction to work through, so...
 

Maddz

Rune Priest
Under the Pendulum Sun, by Jeanette Ng

A very odd read. A young lady travels to the Fae lands to join her missionary brother. While there, she is told that she is a changeling and she and her not-brother act upon their desire for each other; but it turns out she is actually not a changeling.

It reads like a claustrophic Victorian novel set in a bizarre and surreal world. There are similarities with Galen Beckett’s Mrs Trent Trilogy and Susannah Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell but this is much stranger.

I don’t know whether to recommend it or not; I think this is going to be a case of personal preference. However, I can see the Fae from the book fitting perfectly into a game of Liminal.

The Man in the High Castle, by Philip K Dick

I finally got around to reading this alternate universe novel. Set in a world where the Axis powers won WWII, it deals with various ordinary Americans living in a version of San Franscico occupied by the Japanese.

I found the style somewhat trying; it was written in a quasi-Japanese English language which at times bordered on psychedelic - and this is meant to be one of Dick’s most successful and accessible novels. Paul has a DVD of the adaptation of Through a Scanner Darkly, and I think I read the novelisation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep as well as the Zelazny collaboration Dies Irae in the past. If I am to read psychelic SF, I prefer something rather more obviously trippy - like The Greenwich Village Trilogy.

Again, it’s a book to be read once as it’s something of a classic but I doubt I will read it again.
 

Maddz

Rune Priest
A couple of Edgar Wallace read online at the fadedpage.com:

The Murder Book of J G Reeder
A set of short stories detailing various cases of Mr Reeder, an assistant public prosecutor. Set in London, during the interwar years, this isn’t bad and are fairly amusing to read.

Sanders of the River
Another collection of short stories set in British West Africa detailing various episodes in the career of Mr Sanders, the District Commissioner. While technically well written and a good read, the subject matter is rather distasteful, dealing with colonialism. Sanders himself is not a very sympathetic character - a hard man (he has to be when he only has access to limited support in a very large and wild district). Gunboat diplomacy abounds, and he keeps order with Maxim guns and sjambok. Without going into comparisons, at least the British administration was by and large relatively fair compared with, say, the Belgian-administered Congo.
 
The Man in the High Castle, by Philip K Dick

I finally got around to reading this alternate universe novel. Set in a world where the Axis powers won WWII, it deals with various ordinary Americans living in a version of San Franscico occupied by the Japanese.

I found the style somewhat trying; it was written in a quasi-Japanese English language which at times bordered on psychedelic - and this is meant to be one of Dick’s most successful and accessible novels. Paul has a DVD of the adaptation of Through a Scanner Darkly, and I think I read the novelisation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep as well as the Zelazny collaboration Dies Irae in the past. If I am to read psychelic SF, I prefer something rather more obviously trippy - like The Greenwich Village Trilogy.

Again, it’s a book to be read once as it’s something of a classic but I doubt I will read it again.
My recollection of this is not a lot happening and it seemed to deal mostly with the hum-drum details of day to day life in occupied America. Nothing wrong with that I suppose, but wasn't entirely convinced by Dick's portrayal of the Japanese Imperial occupiers as being more honourable than their Nazi counterparts.
 

Guvnor

Administrator
Staff member
Sign of the Labrys
Margaret St.Clair

I have wanted to read this book for very long time. It has been stated by Gary Gygax as one of his most important influences. which is also one of the few fantasy science fiction books I know of written from an explicitly Wiccanist point of view.
The story of a mix of a labyrinth of yeasts, fungi, traps, combat, mysticism, magic and self awakening in a multi level labyrinth in a post apocalyptic near future.
It's in a similar vein of writing to Wells, Verne, or early Vance. It's not great literature, the characters are more symbolic than authentic, but that may well be deliberate. I really enjoyed it and realised how much this woman influences the fantastic world of RPG to this day.
The puzzle is why Gygax didn't run D&D as a post apocalyptic maze game... maybe he just had medieval minis?
Recommended for curious roleplayers or fans of divergent weird fiction.
I will read the Shadow People next.
 
As an old wargamer I can tell you that back in the Seventies Post-Apoc miniatures were in very short supply so I'm sure that Gary wouldn't have had any. His group (and Dave's) certainly had lots of medieval miniatures as they regularly ran big wargames and sieges with those using the Chainmail rules put out by Gary's wargames group.
 
Open Verdict by Tony Collins. Long out of print paperback about a series of 25 deaths of people connected with the UK defence industry in the 1980s. I believe they're known as the "Marconi suicides". Taken together they present sufficient anomalies to make those of a conspiratorial turn of mind suspect that something very sinister has been going on. Collins doesn't really reach any firm conclusions which is perhaps understandable given the lack of detail in the public arena, some of it plainly down to official obstruction. Less forgiveable is his writing style which is quite dull, lacking in coherence and often repetitive - especially when he gets onto the subject of electronic warfare and the then looming conflict between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. Rather got the impression the book was cobbled together from a series of magazine articles (the author is former executive editor of Computer Weekly which I gather orginally broke the story in 1987).
 

Guvnor

Administrator
Staff member
Just finished House of Lies by Ian Rankin on audiobook.
It's the latest Rebus/Clarke/Fox book and God it was interminable and boring.
He needs to give up now, kill Rebus and write something else about someone else somewhere else!
 
He needs to give up now, kill Rebus and write something else about someone else somewhere else!
I've thought that for a while. I liked the mid-period Rebus novels, they did a really good job of exploring the relationship between crime, business and politics but it's been diminishing returns for a long time now. The late Julian Rathbone accused Rankin of writing the same book every year and justifiably so given his output of the last decade.

I'd like to see a return of Rankin's thick eared alter ego Jack Harvey, or something historical in the vein of the short story he did about Deacon Brodie, or even a more literary and personal effort like The Flood.
 
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