Gwnewch y pethau bychain

Reading report

It’s been a while since I reported. I didn’t manage to make the time for reading over the weekend that I had planned, and a earlier in the week various other projects ate into my reading time.

  • I finally finished A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson’s wonderful layman’s overview of the current state of scientific knowledge. The structure of the book starts with an overview of what we know about the universe at large, then focuses on the history of the planet, and finally on the evolution of life on the planet, going from the widest possible perspective down to the very narrowest. Definitely worth a read if you’re at all interested in science or the history of science, and especially if you are not in fact a scientist yourself — Bryson’s prose style is conversational and very accessible.
  • Winterfair Gifts by Lois McMaster Bujold
    This is actually one of six stories in a collection called Irresistible Forces, which is some sort of SF/Romance crossover. I’m a huge fan of Bujold, so I had to get this as soon as possible — it was the first thing I picked up in the Boskone dealers room.

    This story is part of the Miles Vorkosigan universe and covers the period of his marriage to Ekaterin, but the story actually focuses on two minor characters, Armsman Roic, last seen slipping and sliding through gallons of bugbutter in his underwear in A Civil Campaign and Sergeant Taura, the genetically engineered soldier that Miles rescued from Jackson’s Whole in Labyrinth

    It was obvious early in the story where it was going, but it was an awful lot of fun watching it unfold. As kitanzi pointed out, it’s like really good fanfic, except in this case it’s actually written by the author herself.

    Recommended if you like Bujold’s Vorkosigan series. For those who like LMB’s writing but cannot stand Miles, I’ll note that he’s almost a minor character in this, the story of his own wedding.

  • Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett
    I’m a huge fan of Terry Pratchett, and at one time had all of his books up to the point where I didn’t anymore. I’ve been recollecting them ever since. So you can imagine my delight when I got a box back in October containing the UK hardback edition of his newest novel, Monstrous Regiment, a joint anniversary gift for me and kitanzi from bardling, filkerdave, and djbp. I promptly set it aside to be read and didn’t get around to it for 5 months (In my defense, I didn’t read much else in those five months either.)

    My loss. Monstrous Regiment is another fine addition to the Discworld canon. Pratchett is one of the few authors I can think of who is 25+ books into a series and keeps getting better. One of the reasons for this, I think, is that he stopped writing broad parody and started writing fairly direct and biting satire. Pratchett is clearly unhappy with a lot of things going on in the world lately, and is using his books to express that.

    This book uses the age-old framework of “girl disguises herself as a boy in order to join the army” plot to send up both gender identification issues and the nature of modern war. The main character, Polly, is quite likeable, and is surrounded by the usual motley crew of irregulars.

    There’s maybe one too many twists at the end, but as a flaw, it’s a small one. While this isn’t probably the best ever Discworld book, it’s certainly one of the better ones.



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  1. Say there is someone who has never read any of the Vorkosigan books -- where to start?

    • There’s a couple of good places:

    • Borders of Infinity
      This contains three novelas about Miles, including “Mountains of Mourning”, which is a very powerful story about his homeworld.
    • Cordelia’s Honor
      This book contains the first two novels chronologically: Shards of Honor and Barrayar. Barrayar was the first book I read in the series, and it hooked me big-time. Note that these two novels are actually about Miles’s parents, and end with his birth.
    • The Warrior’s Apprentice
      This is the first Miles adventure. It’s not necessarily the BEST of them, but it is the beginning of the timeline. The first few books in the series can stand alone if need be, but later on, she starts to work her story arcs over multiple books, and it becomes important to have the history in order to get the most out of the books.

      My favourite in the series is Memory, but you definately don’t want to start there.

  • “A Short History of Nearly Everything” sounds like it needs to go on my reading shortlist.

  • While I enjoyed Monstrous Regiment, I think my personal opinion of it was hurt by the fact that it followed Night Watch, which I think is not only the best of the Discworld books but is one of the best books I’ve ever read.

    The thing that makes Pratchett so good is exactly what he does in Monstrous Regiment. Instead of following the same characters and the same scenarios all the time (a witch book here, a guard book there, a Death book everywhere), every few books he introduces whole new characters and locations that -- while often interacting with the Known Disc -- go in a new and different direction. It keeps the world fresh and keeps his own perspective fresh as well.

  • For those who like LMB’s writing but cannot stand Miles, I’ll note that he’s almost a minor character in this, the story of his own wedding.

    I’ve been a groom. This seems accurate to me.

  • Bryson’s book is wonderful. Listened to the abridged version on tape. Instantly bought two copies of the book -- one for me and one for my dad.

    I’m just getting into the Vorkosigan books. I read Young Miles, and am now reading Miles, Mystery and Mayhem while listening to the unabridged version of Shards of Honor. Is weird reading about adult Elena, then getting into the car and listening to her birth.

    I loved Monstrous Regiment until the last 20 pages, but it’s still one of my favorites. There are some Discworld books that I can’t even read -- the witches and Rincewind, mostly -- but this one had a good story with his best characters (the Guard and William de Worde) sprinkled in for flavor.

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