The Book Thread

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Re: The Book Thread

Post by Siege » Wed May 02, 2012 7:13 pm

I've finished, and must now recommend to everyone, this book:


The world of The Dervish house is a reflection of it's parent city of Istanbul which is itself a reflection of the nation of Turkey; ancient, paradoxical and divided like the brain of a human being. In the year 2027 on a swealteringly hot summers day there is a small explosion in Enginsoy Square, a minor bomb on the 157 tram - the only casualty the suicidal bomber who's head was wired to explode. Yet this everyday occurance will send shockwaves much further, resonating louder and ultimately effecting the lives of those around it in unexpected ways.

Turkey of 2027 is the largest, most populous and most diverse nation in the EU, but also one of the poorest and most socially divided. It's a boom economy, the sweatshop of Europe, the bazaar of central Asia and the key to the immense gas wealth of Russia and Central Asia.

This is the age of the carbon consciousness, each individual given a carbon allowance which has brought fourth a whole new trade. Those who can master the trading between gas prices and carbon trading permits can make a fortune, the old Byzantine politics are back. They never went away.

This book is fantastic. It's extremely refreshing, both in terms of characters - interesting, sympathetic, and frequently fun - and setting. I mean no disrespect to the Americans among us but I tire greatly of America as a setting, and situating a near-future technothriller in Istanbul is just a brilliant move. Well I say technothriller but it's much more than that: it delves into the history of the city and the country's revolutionary past just as much as it explores a near-future Turkey that's recently joined the EU and is turning into a budding Silicon Valley of nanotech. It's as much Dan Brown as it is William Gibson (but better), with your fair share of Islamic mysticism thrown into the mix. And we see this through the eyes of a hotshot gas trader, a retired Greek professor, an antiquities dealer, a disabled kid with a nanobot toy pet and a whole bunch of others. It's absolutely fantastic and I can't recommend it enough to people who like a good page-turner set in what certainly seems to me as one of the most plausible and well-crafted near-futures I've seen in a while. I mean, shit, if you manage to draw convincing parallels between Sephardi micro-calligraphy and its impact on Islamic architecture on one hand and nanotech and its implications for the future of humanity on the other, you get my vote for the Hugos.
"Nick Fury. Old-school cold warrior. The original black ops hardcase. Long before I stepped off a C-130 at Da Nang, Fury and his team had set fire to half of Asia." - Frank Castle

I breakfast upon Armadas such as thine!

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Re: The Book Thread

Post by Czernobog » Thu Dec 06, 2012 12:01 pm

Read Dan Simmons' Illium on my kindle last night. Suffice to say, this post contains spoilers.

The multi-threaded narrative was highly interesting to say the least. The continuous shifts between the Jovian robots ('moravecs'), the post-civilised eloi and the Trojan War re-enactment left me unable to stop reading as it continued. I was left always wanting more, something the cliffhanger ending continued with in a good way.

I found the moravecs to be very engaging characters. Their literary discussions pulled in the central themes of literature and storytelling in an unobtrusive and extremely interesting way to me, and their befuddlement at terraformed Mars was amusing. The fulfillment of their mission at the climax helped set up the absolutely epic cliffhanger mentioned above after the Illiad goes totally off the rails.

The eloi were less interesting to me, but then their story was very different - uncovering the mystery of what had happened to Earth, pushing out from placid ignorance cared for by the mysterious voynix and unravelling their own world as they sought to understand what had led up to it. However, the eloi's story ultimately felt a bit disconnected from the main narrative (Greek gods and heroes fighting it out on Mars) but I'm sure Olympos will rectify.

The Trojan story, centred on a historian 'scholic' named Thomas Hockenberry, felt more engaging to me (the mythological gods-and-heroes action may have helped with this) than the eloi and also more connected than the eloi narrative, which felt a bit like it existed in a vacuum away from everything else. Hockenberry felt like a microcosm of the whole Trojan story - at first a pawn to the whims and schemes of gods, he rebels against them and decides to make war on Olympus itself.

Other commentary:

-Achilles is a total badass. His speech in the cliffhanger, though short, made a powerful effect on me - things have just gotten real here.
-The Jerusalem segment with the eloi felt like a jarring and tasteless note in the narrative. However I'm holding out hope for Olympos to put it into context (don't try and explain it all to me, I don't wish to be spoiled).
-Dan Simmons is a very good writer. I found the book impossible to put down.

Rating: 4 out of 5. I felt that it could have been improved (especially with the aforementioned eloi narrative) but ultimately I very much enjoyed reading.
You have ruled this galaxy for ten thousand years.
You have little of account to show for your efforts.
Order. Unity. Obedience.
We taught the galaxy these things.

And we shall do so again.

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Re: The Book Thread

Post by Shroom Man 777 » Mon Jul 09, 2018 6:09 pm


I read The Scar by China Mieville and it was magnificent.

It is set in a deranged urban fantasy steampunk world and follows people who are nabbed by pirates and press-ganged into this vast floating and (barely) sailing pirate city composed of countless of interconnected vessels that's strangely egalitarian but ruled by ruthless and unnervingly odd and unique characters, who preside over a similar cornucopia of denizens.

The prose was better spaced and paced than Perdido Street Station's overly ambitious and dense writing, which was something to appreciate yet still taxing. The worldbuilding is thus more expansive and excellent. It also helps that while the characters are vital to what's going on, they're nonetheless not super central or as important or "traditional-protagonist structured" as that of Perdido Street Station... since they're not Big Damn Heroes who do Big Damn Hero things, in a way their hapless struggle against the tide of things (oooh very nautical) is more compelling.

It's a different way of showing the stakes and the effects of what's going on around them. At the same time, it doesn't mean that they're utterly powerless or without agency, no. They've got their own schemes. But everyone's got their own schemes while at the same time struggling to deal with a mess that's larger than any one of them can deal with - even the most preposterous and powerful characters aren't exempt from this. This everyman perspective and the interplay of factors shows Mieville's own perspective, his super-leftist leanings, and that's great.

I do love how the central "quest" is actually... concealing more important events, namely the social changes their fleet-city's undergoing as well as the development of our POV characters who are caught amidst all this madness.

And of course, the worldbuilding and the characterization are wonderfully intertwined and Mieville pulls no punches with regards to the consequences of what the world and its characters have wrought.

"Sometimes Shroomy I wonder if your imagination actually counts as some sort of war crime." - FROD

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