Author Topic: Reading recommendations  (Read 70236 times)

Offline Rasa

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Re: Reading recommendations
« Reply #165 on: August 07, 2018, 12:16:55 PM »
A McDonalds prize lottery scam that got forgotten because of certain events in september 2001: https://www.thedailybeast.com/how-an-ex-cop-rigged-mcdonalds-monopoly-game-and-stole-millions

Offline CharlesZulu

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Re: Reading recommendations
« Reply #166 on: August 16, 2018, 03:43:04 PM »
SAPKOWSKI Andrzej. (1992-2013) ['The Witcher Series']. "The Last wish", "Sword of Destiny", "Blood of Elves [1]", "Time of Contempt [2]", "Baptism of Fire [3]", "The Tower of the Swallow [4]", "The Lady of the Lake [5]" I have also not yet read "Season of Storms". Gollancz - English Translation [Kindle editions]

The Witcher - Many of us have played the game, some (cough) obsessively, but what about the books? Is the source material up to scratch?

Well the very good news is the original works by Sapkowski are definitely worth a read, with engaging stories and characters (some we already know, or rather think we already know) and with a three-way (oooer) personal 'human' family story intertwined within a massive epic fantasy; all delivered with intelligence, skill and not a little humour and which in many ways manages to be more grounded (magic and monsters aside) than the game.

Even more than the game there is also real ambiguity in the stories, (almost) nobody is wholly good or evil and the choices the many characters make are not clear cut. Well intentioned actions have terrible repercussions... this isn't goody-goody elves, noble-paladins, conquer-the-universe-baddies and happy-ever-afters. It's grey, gritty and nothing and no-one is safe or even all that wholesome, and it's all the better for it.

The books aren't perfect, although I suspect the translation from the original Polish is an issue as English idioms and phrasing are occasionally clumsy. Not actually a flaw, more a design choice, but the chronology of the series is also erratic (especially in the main novels) with the text darting constantly between many characters and varied situations; these not always seemingly connected and often not continuing again until much, much later - even into the next books. Sapkowski frequently (over) uses his signature trick of jumping through time (and space) in successive paragraphs which can be rather disorientating until the rhythm becomes more familiar.

The chapters, or more accurately paragraphs in each chapter, also switch constantly in tone: with political exposition (thankfully sparing as these are mostly drudgery), discourses on philosophy and beliefs, mills and boon class erotica, short tales with a twist, and littered throughout lovingly described monsters, encounters and above all fight sequences both small and large e.g. an epic unfolding description of a major battle near the end of the series is quite simply narrative mastery. Character development arcs are also marked, realistic and interesting although as hinted the dialogue is less assured, sometimes it is subtle and often it is downright clever and funny but at other times conversations are jarring or downright cheesy.

Initially I found it a trial keeping track over how all the newly introduced themes and characters fit into the main storyline, which is still (you may be relieved?) anchored around the game's main interlinked tales of Geralt, Yennifer and Ciri. It's a clear testament to the richness of the book world and the author's incredibly cunning plot structure that most of these thematic strands are memorable in their own right and also make sense when they finally climax (ooer #2) and directly affect the main trio - often these payoffs also come with very generous helpings of 'ahhh that's clever'.

To summarise then - something excellent has come out of Poland (apart from 303 Sqn) and I can heartily recommend you again set aside the time to travel to the Northern Realms. It's a bumpy and often a very surprising ride, the story is different to the game in many details, though not theme, and the books are definitely a cut above most trite fantasy writing. The fact that these same works enrich and surpass (and yes at times overwrite) the necessary story limitations within the game version just adds to the fun. Damn it all, Sapkowski even made me want to play the whole bloody game AGAIN (even though at the time of writing I still haven't quite finished the second DLC).

Final advice: The actual reading sequence can be a bit obscure, therefore I suggest you read the two short story collections first ("Last wish" then "Sword of Destiny") before starting on the main series proper as numbered above. NB I haven't yet read "Season of Storms" but this is a fairly recent standalone work that chronologically slots -apparently without impact- into the main book series.

[Update: I have now read 'SoS' and it does indeed slot neatly into the main timeline with no adverse impact, a rather cunning multi-layered tale which even throws a bit more light on 'witcher' lore and Geralt's personality. It would be nice to think Sapkowski still has a few more of these books up his sleeve that he will publish in due course.]


"Youth could win, but had not learned to keep: and was pitiably weak against age." - T.E. Lawrence

Offline woodsy

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Re: Reading recommendations
« Reply #167 on: August 18, 2018, 10:56:33 AM »
I've just finished a book called the devil's guard by George elford and its a very graphic book about the SS French foreign legion battalion fighting the Viet mien highly recommend if you enjoy torture, brutal murder and something about Germans

Offline Anthony

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Re: Reading recommendations
« Reply #168 on: September 06, 2018, 08:58:42 AM »
How do you stop Big Orange from enacting something stupid?

Simple, you just take the paper away from him.

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Offline Rasa

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Re: Reading recommendations
« Reply #169 on: November 22, 2018, 02:15:17 PM »

Offline CharlesZulu

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Re: Reading recommendations
« Reply #170 on: April 24, 2019, 10:43:45 AM »
JONES, R. V. (2009) 'Most Secret War: British Scientific Intelligence 19391945'. Penguin 9780141042824

When I was a young 'un (okay settle down ::)) I was struck dumb by an understated and yet hugely enlightening BBC TV documentary on WWII. Over the years I've frequently recalled the original series, usually ruefully while watching what passes for modern 'History Channel' (and similar) click-bait, padded and wildly conjectural documentaries on the same historic period.

The 1977 TV series in question was BBC's 'The Secret War' which in 6+1 episodes exposed the hitherto classified scientific and intelligence battle of wits between Germany and Britain between 1939-45. It was this series that first brought Enigma and Bletchley Park to public attention. In itself this was an astonishing story -not least because of the very late nature of its exposure over 30 years after the war ended - but the series was so much more as other episodes included; beam bombing navigation, radar and counter-measures, the V weapons, magnetic mines, countering the U-Boat peril and even the weird and wonderful tech failures and oddities. The series was masterfully presented by William Woollard (some may recall him co-hosting 'Tomorrows World' with Raymond Baxter- and indeed RB even has a role in this series recounting his earlier career as a spitfire pilot strafing V weapon launch sites).

So a little while ago I sought out the original TV series (firstly via crude copies on YT) but also then fairly cheaply and in much better quality on a 2014 DVD set and I'm happy to tell you it still holds up and really is a must-watch. Nothing very dramatic happens on screen, it's sober, low-key, talking heads and stock footage heavy (though with some blurry indistinct intelligence film and photographs- how could they get anything tangible from them?) and yet 40 years after original broadcast is still totally engrossing 'edge of your seat' stuff, and above all delivered for adults by adults. Watch it, you'll thank me.

However (to close this longest ever preamble) what I did not know was the TV series was itself contemporary and influenced by the BOOK 'Most Secret War' by R V Jones - and after just reading this I can now say the book is actually even better than the TV series. RVJ is one of those deliciously enthusiastic and clever British boffin/academic types (he features prominently in interviews in the TV series as well) and was centrally involved as a scientific military intelligence director and his writing is as rich and engaging as his interviews. Something of a practical joker -which helped in his intelligence role- he skips skilfully and fluently through successive meaty topics, with an excellent eye for a good anecdote (and there are many in the book, some which are so astonishing they defy belief and are worth the read on their own account). Genius is an overused term, but RVJ was one.

I really won't say more except I hugely recommend you READ THIS BOOK.

If possible, first try to watch the excellent TV series (as it sets the book in context and allows you to hear RVJ talking - he's one of those authors who writes in exactly the same manner as he speaks) but whatever you do beg, borrow or steal the book. It's one of the best non-fiction works I've ever read.

"Youth could win, but had not learned to keep: and was pitiably weak against age." - T.E. Lawrence

Offline CharlesZulu

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Re: Reading recommendations
« Reply #171 on: March 26, 2020, 03:12:53 PM »
O'BRIAN, Patrick (1969-1999) [Aubrey-Maturin Series]

A long, strange Spring and Summer stretches ahead and although for most of us its lockdown, no pubs, no social gatherings, working-at-home and all that weary stuff there is one good aspect (apart from more time for games) and that is an unusual opportunity to completely read through one of the most consistently brilliant, lauded and sustained pieces of English military fiction of the last 100 years.

The 20 (yes twenty) books of the Aubrey-Maturin series, starting with 'Master and Commander' and ending in strict order with 'Blue at the Mizzen' are quite simply amazing. There isn't a duff book in the lot. Packed with humour, drama and history, with fully rounded and developing characters, littered with disasters, changes of fortune, espionage, triumph, battles, botany, politics, romance and tragedy - and all knit within a narrative of 'age of sail' warfare by an author who completely knows his stuff.

I can't recommend this more than saying the books are MUCH, MUCH better than the still-excellent Peter Weir/Russell Crowe 'M&C' film and to note that O'Brian is easily my favourite fiction author of the last 20 years.

Even today I am (again) re-reading this epic series currently on 'The Nutmeg of Consolation' - Book 14, and (again) finding new things and learning more about, well everything of the Napoleonic era.

Read them, read them ALL - you'll thank me.

PLUS

FORESTER, C. S. (1937-1958) [Hornblower Series]

This thematic add-on is rather embarrassing as I have to admit that despite my advanced years I have only just finished reading the [10 book] Hornblower series for the first time in my life. I somehow never quite got around to it and despite them enjoying a good reputation I always suspected they were going to be rather two-dimensional or a little bit overdone as 'boys own' stuff.

I'm delighted to report that I was very wrong.

Forester's books (also to be read in narrative chronological sequence from 'Mr Midshipman Hornblower' to 'Hornblower in the West Indies') are rather more straight forward than O'B, but still do read really well today some 60+ years on. Horatio is a likeable yet flawed, strangely insecure character who also grows, and not always for the better (re. a sense of self-importance and curmudgeon levels). A minor warning is where O'Brian goes madly overboard with sailing terminology (somehow this is still the oddest of joys for ignorant landlubbers like myself to wallow in) Forester occasionally veers into laboured detail about whist which is rather less fun - and yes, those are the only bad points and even one of them is a plus.

Although the Hornblower books lack the sheer richness of Aubrey-Maturin (and the interaction between Jack Aubrey and his 'particular friend' Stephen Maturin is what really gives the newer series a major edge) it is still easy to see how Forester won his earlier praise and also clearly influenced O'Brian who then went on to surpass Hornblower. A rather nice comparative touch is Hornblower is famously tone deaf, whereas O'Brian chose to give his lead characters a love of music.

Hint: The Three Hornblower Omnibus [Young H, Captain H, and Admiral H] gather together in correct order all 10 books for a total under 25 in the Kindle edition! Utter bargain.

+++

TLDR if you aren't sure about committing to the detail, length and fathomless depths just start off with Forester. Otherwise for the best historical fiction warfare reading experience there is just dive straight into O'Brian.

BUT do read both of them. After all, what else are you doing for the next few months?

"Youth could win, but had not learned to keep: and was pitiably weak against age." - T.E. Lawrence

Offline Friznit

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Re: Reading recommendations
« Reply #172 on: March 27, 2020, 08:58:11 AM »
Seconding the above.  I've read all of them 3 times and would read again.  Did you know that O'Brian never sailed a boat in his life?  It's all based on twenty years of meticulous research.

Offline Ian

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Re: Reading recommendations
« Reply #173 on: March 27, 2020, 09:08:45 AM »
O'BRIAN, Patrick (1969-1999) [Aubrey-Maturin Series]

A long, strange Spring and Summer stretches ahead and although for most of us its lockdown, no pubs, no social gatherings, working-at-home and all that weary stuff there is one good aspect (apart from more time for games) and that is an unusual opportunity to completely read through one of the most consistently brilliant, lauded and sustained pieces of English military fiction of the last 100 years.

The 20 (yes twenty) books of the Aubrey-Maturin series, starting with 'Master and Commander' and ending in strict order with 'Blue at the Mizzen' are quite simply amazing. There isn't a duff book in the lot. Packed with humour, drama and history, with fully rounded and developing characters, littered with disasters, changes of fortune, espionage, triumph, battles, botany, politics, romance and tragedy - and all knit within a narrative of 'age of sail' warfare by an author who completely knows his stuff.

I can't recommend this more than saying the books are MUCH, MUCH better than the still-excellent Peter Weir/Russell Crowe 'M&C' film and to note that O'Brian is easily my favourite fiction author of the last 20 years.

Even today I am (again) re-reading this epic series currently on 'The Nutmeg of Consolation' - Book 14, and (again) finding new things and learning more about, well everything of the Napoleonic era.

It won't surprise to know I generally read one of them after every book I've read. I'm just about to revisit the Governor's House at Port Mahon, after finishing the little there is of '21'.

Have you read any of the supporting books, such as "Harbors and High Seas: An Atlas and Geographical Guide to the Complete Aubrey-Maturin Novels of Patrick O'Brian"? I find them useful for when your minds eye doesn't quite grasp the geography of the situation portrayed.

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Offline CharlesZulu

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Re: Reading recommendations
« Reply #174 on: March 27, 2020, 06:15:23 PM »
Have you read any of the supporting books, such as "Harbors and High Seas: An Atlas and Geographical Guide to the Complete Aubrey-Maturin Novels of Patrick O'Brian"? I find them useful for when your minds eye doesn't quite grasp the geography of the situation portrayed.

Afraid I rather splurged when I first discovered O'B so yes I have 'Harbors and High Seas' and 'Sea of words: Lexicon and companion to PO'B', and his two standalone -non A/M- naval novels (The Unknown Shore and The Golden Ocean) and then I invested in rather too many expensive factual naval technology and history books, many by Brian Lavery ('Nelson's Navy', 'Ship of the line v 1-2' etc.) and loads more from the excellent Conway Maritime Press, and other odds and sods eg 'The Trafalgar Companion', and ... and ... and ... I think I went overboard - but I don't actually care.

Yet outside the main series (and all the above related works) it's those MSS fragments of 'unfinished voyage' in 21 that are most tantalising, just one more book, just one more (sigh).

"Youth could win, but had not learned to keep: and was pitiably weak against age." - T.E. Lawrence

 

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