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Books read in 2016

My impression was that I read rather fewer books in 2016 than in previous years. Looking at the list, it seems I was right. This doesn't include short stories etc or for that matter all the magazines I read cover to cover. I suspect the main reason for fewer books is that there were a few long slow ones that took me a while to get through.

  • The Classical World: An Epic History of Greece and Rome, Robin Lane Fox. Readable, but not dumbed down (I'm looking at you, Beard) overview of classical history. Mostly chronological (which I like) and concentrates on big events and important people rather than than silly "Look, the Romans had sex, just like us" nonsense (yes Beard, that's you again). Recommended.

  • The Great Hunt: Book Two of the Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan. In which the series starts to come into its own and not feel like a simple Lord of the Rings pastiche (which the first one did). Good epic fantasy, and I'm looking forward to the next one.

  • Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke. Not his best by any means, but I always find his work to be at the very least readable. One of the few short novels I read last year.

  • The Anvil of Ice, Michael Scott Rohan. Fantasy with a vaguely Scandinavian feel. First in a trilogy. Decent world-building, but one of those fantasy novels where everything seems too small and inconsequential. Not bad overall.

  • Daughter of Regals, Stephen Donaldson. Decent enough fantasy novella from the Thomas Covenant author (not set in that world). Decent, but not actually that memorable.

  • Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie. Over-hyped space opera. The odd nice concept, some vaguely interesting characters, stupid pronouns. First in a series, but I won't read the rest. Longer review here.

  • The World of Late Antiquity: AD 150 - 750, Peter Brown. Shortish and very readable, but vaguely controversial history that shows how the various states and cultures that emerged from or replaced the Roman and Persian Empires (principally western Christianity, the Byzantine Empire and the Islamic conquerors) were rooted in the earlier empires. Good, but a little too much emphasis on cultural stuff (as opposed to actual historical events) for my tastes.

  • The Football Manager Guide to Football Management, Iain Macintosh. Lightweight fluff with a Football Manager branding. Interesting anecdotes certainly, some of which do have tactical implications. And some tactical insights. (There's a good one which illustrates the difference between Manchester United under Mourinho and Manchester United under Van Gaal very well - Mourinho believes that matches are won when you force the opposition into making mistakes, and that this happens more often when they have the ball.) Ultimately disposable though.

  • The Book of Skulls, Robert Silverberg. Part of the 'Science Fiction Masterworks' series. Except that it isn't science fiction. Or a masterwork. It's horribly tedious hippy crap and I hated it. I'm not generally the sort of reader that needs to like the main character(s) of a novel to enjoy it, but the four main characters are deeply unpleasant. I was glad when I got to the end.

  • Agent of the Imperium, Marc Miller. Best novel I read all year. Marc Miller created the Traveller RPG, and this is his first novel. Full review here. Everything you could want in a science fiction novel, but less interesting if you're not familiar with the Traveller setting.

  • Memories of Ice: Book Three of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, Steven Erikson. Epic fantasy. I didn't really enjoy the first two Malazan books, but I persevered because so many people seem to rate this series so highly. I'm glad I did. This third novel in the series is much more accomplished, and just altogether more exciting. It's a big, complex book. There are lots of characters. (Hell, there are lots of races. Scrub that, there are lots of ancient races. It's a bit hard to keep up.) Very good though, and I'm now more confident about the rest of the series.

  • The Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding. A collection of essays by some leading RPG designers on how to design a fantasy world. Certainly good, and gave me some ideas, but ultimately not a book I would see myself referring to again and again. Probably worth a skim though for a GM or an author about to create a fantasy world.

  • The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft hated this short novel and it wasn't published in his lifetime. Odd, because it's one of his finest works. Creepy and mysterious. And probably not at all what people who haven't read any Lovecraft but who own a cuddly Cthulhu toy think his work is like.

  • Turquoise Days, Alastair Reynolds. Novella set in Reynolds's Revelation Space universe. Scientific research, terrorism, weird alien life. Good stuff.

  • The Struggle for Mastery: Britain 1066-1284, David Carpenter. Not a period I know in much detail. In fact, I've been looking for a broad overview for quite a while, and this seemed to fit the bill. It does, sort of, except that it's quite dull. Partly this is the author's writing style. Mostly though it's because the author spends far too much time telling us about how the bureaucracies of the period worked and not enough time telling us about important events. The book is subtitled 'The Struggle for Mastery' and the cover features an armed knight on horseback, but there's very little military history in here. And without that, I'm afraid it's not as complete a history as it needs to be.

  • The Last Dark, Stephen Donaldson. The final Thomas Covenant novel. Reading this now, so review to follow at some point in the future.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 3rd, 2017 01:30 pm (UTC)
"The Last Dark, Stephen Donaldson. The final Thomas Covenant novel. Reading this now, so review to follow at some point in the future."

I have been a Donaldson fan, and in particular a huge Covenant fan, since 1986. A specialty of Donaldson are his great characters, and the last series does not disappoint in that regard. I thought "the Last Dark" gave an unusually satisfying and prolonged conclusion to the series. However, I think that might have been the book (or perhaps it was the preceding one), where literally the first 78 pages is JUST PEOPLE TALKING TO EACH OTHER (and reeling with the upsetting implications of what was just said) with nothing happening whatsoever. So I fully admit he's an acquired taste and I am sparing in recommending him to friends. Looking forward to a review.

•The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft hated this short novel and it wasn't published in his lifetime. Odd, because it's one of his finest works. Creepy and mysterious."

I concur, I always thought it one of his best, and unlike some of his works, well-suited to film adaptation (or a mini-series, much like Jonathon Strange & Mr. Norrell). Well-paced, perfectly plotted with great attention to detail. One of my favorite aspects
was that the villain had those two nefarious colleagues who had their own hide-outs and conducted their own researches. The ending was a little too vaguely Deus Ex Machina for my taste, but still it dovetails nicely with the standard nature of Lovecraft's protagonists, who have limited power to influence events.

Edited at 2017-01-03 01:31 pm (UTC)
Jan. 3rd, 2017 11:06 pm (UTC)
I think other Mythos writers have incorporated the two nefarious colleagues into their work, but I forget who exactly.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )