What are you reading?

Malazan ebooks were on humble bundle recently. I just finished book 3. So far it seems mostly high fantasy with the “epic” turned up to 11. There have been a few kind of dark things that were squicky, but it doesn’t roll about in the squick. I have no idea what your threshold is, or why that might be a problem for you though, so it’s hard to advise.

I haven’t found it to be particularly hard to follow along so far, I guess some people just don’t like lots of characters/names? I remember reading a lot of chatter about how it was a demanding read, or something, but I can’t place why that might be yet.

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I remember the first time I read a book written from a first-person perspective when I was a kid. My brain was doing backflips, because it was absorbing a story which was written as if I was the person who did those things. It was a crazy sensation I’d never had before. I suspect that although part of my brain definitely knew I was reading a book, another part was incapable of distinguishing this silent narrative about “I” which was running through my mind from a memory / dream / some invention of my own, as it had never before used that language for any other kind of thoughts.

I couldn’t tell you now whether the writing was any good, but that book was a mind-expanding experience that has always stayed with me.


Thanks for putting this so eloquently.
I feel like Dune has aged better than some others but I am inclined to agree about the plot.
Neuromancer is another example. Great ideas, plot… difficult to stomach when you got used to better stuff.

The quality of SFF writing has risen steeply in the last 15 years. Especially the SF part.

I would also recommend Ancillary Justice and I keep also adding Ninefox Gambit though it is not quite so universally acclaimed as the former.


Absolutely adore Ancillary Justice!


I’m reading Nick Harkaway’s Titanium Noir, about a noir PI on the fringes of a city that has mega-rich superheroes (kinda).

It’s so good, and a genuine noir too. We already knew he was a genius from the very weird SF doorstop “Gnomon”, but this is nailing every noir trope and making me cackle with glee. It was 99p on kindle yesterday but back to full price now. I’m a bit angry at how very good this is, I’m going to have to tackle his other stuff now.


I think the same thing happens in other genres to some extent - there’s an awful lot of really terrible late 19th and early 20th century detective fiction, the sort of thing that inspired the Knox and van Dine rules, but there was also a newly-literate mass market wanting to read basically anything in the genre. (And concomitant with your theory, detective fiction was also pretty new.)


I wish I’d enjoyed the sequels to Ninefox as much as I enjoyed the first one, but I wanted one thing out of the series (more calendrical warfare) and the author wanted something else.

Last year I ran across a splendid crop of really good thinky character-driven F/SF:

  • Nicole Kornher-Stace, Firebreak
  • Suzanne Palmer: The Scavenger Door
  • Natalie Zina Walschots: Hench
  • Emma Newman: Before Mars
  • Emma Newman: Atlas Alone
  • Katherine Addison: Witness for the Dead
  • Frances Hardinge: Unraveller
  • Tamsyn Muir: Nona the Ninth

and while I don’t want to boast I do write a lot of book reviews on my blog, and some of them may be helpful if you’re looking for recommendations.


Now I have a reading list for next month!

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Be warned, some of them (The Scavenger Door, both the Newmans, and Nona) are parts of ongoing series, and Nona in particular will probably make no sense if you haven’t read the earlier ones. Technically Witness for the Dead is too, but it’s a new character in an existing setting.


Love this rundown. Sounds pretty apt.

Still, I look at the contemporary novels. Asimov’s foundation (early 50’s), Dune 1965, CS Lewis’s space trilogy (wow, late 30’s early 40’s…) so I still have expectations that quality writing existed in the space. But maybe not at the frequency to find a real gem every year.

Regarding Dune, that was one that I loved. The writing style was so wrong, so different from today. Pages of “tell.” An omniscient viewpoint where tension was created with the questions of “how” and “when” rather than “who” and “what,” which are the sole wheelhouses of modern writing. It followed none of the modern guidelines for proper writing and yet, imho, worked so well.

Appreciate this take. Having read both the Silmarillion and Old Testament numerous times I’m probably ok with sweeping narratives with too many characters.

On the squicky bits, yeah, hard to gauge another person’s threshold. I stopped Game of Thrones after book 2. Book 1 was also rough but the craft was good enough I stuck with it for 2. Two was just…awful. Gaiman is another author I can’t read though I highly respect his craft, as well.

I’ll just have to give it a go, I’ve been hearing positive things for 15 years now.

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As roger says, it’s a conversion issue. Report it, and write a review, because that sounds unreadable, and if I spent money on it I would be pretty unhappy. I forget what book it was, but one of the first ebook I bought was last plagued with weird typos (probably ocr failure ), which ruined the book. The publisher eventually fixed the problem, but it took a while.

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Doesn’t Emma Newman also read audiobooks?

Yes, she does. Some of those by Adrian Tchaikovsky. Children of Time. Highly recommend, unless you have a fear of spiders.

Seconded on Tamsin Muir. Though I’ve only listened to the first of the Nona books.

There is a lot more great genre fiction there these days. Serious stuff. Thinky in new ways and not just “look what kind of cool tech I can make up”


The ebooks I have for Timothy Zahn’s first Star Wars trilogy had an OCR failure of reading “kid” as “lad”, which really made a lot of Han’s lines just…wrong…


OMG Han O’Solo.

Navver teel me tha odds, laddie!


This reputation of being “difficult to read” is totally blown out of the water and something I really dislike.

There are (way) more than 5 main characters though and no real infodumps, so you have to do some work on your own.

It also seems you are a quick reader or getting through these books fast, the bundle has been just last month.

“epic turned up to 11” is a good way to describe the series, sometimes it even goes up to 12 :smiley:

I am very curious what you thought about the books till now.

How was Gardens of the Moon for you? A lot of people rate it as the weakest book in the series.

Deadhouse Gates was a turning point for many readers, for myself Memories of Ice really caught my interest (though I liked the books before too).

What did you like about book 2 and book 3?

@Acacia I will reply to your questions in a longer way as soon as I get some reprise from work…

But Malazan can be pretty dark, but it is never grimdark. Some of the darkest elements are especially in book 2 and then also partly in book 3. But the series doesn’t revel in it and something like compassion plays an important role in the books.
It is not a story filled with black and white, something I struggled a bit in the beginning was that I didn’t know who is the good guy I should cheer for and who is the evil one? I was trained to expect these so I had to adapt but it was very worthwhile. There are very few pure evil or good characters in the series and I really appreciate that. They all are usually flawed beings doing the right or wrong thing.

But the series is long for sure. 10 books is a number.


@Acacia if Gaiman is too much for you, Malazan is right out of the question. Just, nope.

@Boronian the first book read like fairly basic high fantasy, I can see why people might rate it lower. So far, I’m not mad keen on the series as a whole, I’m reserving judgement. Seems worth reading though, or I wouldn’t be doing so!


What are “squicky” bits? (and I learned a new word. the internet knows all)

Malazan gets dark. And gruesome. And lots of death. It is (for long stretches) about soldiers and war and the consequences of it. Not grimdark in my estimation but Goodreads consistently labels it as “Dark Fantasy”. To quote the series description from GR: “with action and battle scenes among the most brutal and exciting in fantasy”

Talking so much about it, I wish I had the brainspace right now to reread the books. But at the start of the year I could not even finish the audiobooks for the Dancer trilogy. And Dancer ranks very highly in my “favorite characters of all time” list. He took over Jaime Lannister’s spot when I soured on ASoIaF :wink:


Squicky = disgusting/unpleasant/disturbing, I guess it’s a portmanteau of squeamish and icky, and now I think about it, it sounds kind of infantile to my ears. Not sure why I introduced the word, it’s not one I’d normally use!

Malazan has plenty of rape, torture, murder, etc. I must admit I initially thought it wasn’t a big deal because the prose doesn’t generally dwell on these things, but actually… it kind of does? Definitely not for someone trying to avoid such.

HAN: Great lad! Don't get cocky.

I’m really hoping for:

LUKE: Join the Rebellion?! Are you ladding!

I would 100% watch a Star Wars overdubbed with that character accent :‍)


And yet, I managed to read it all.
Not all with equal enthusiasm. I have high and low points in the series. But overall I love it.

I reread the preface to the 2007 edition of Gardens of the Moon just now and Erikson refers to Black Company as breaking ground in the genre and as an inspiration and I might have previously mentioned this: but Black Company absolutely qualifies as super-disgusting for me.

Malazan does not feel the same.