I didn’t get a lot of reading done over the past couple of weeks, thanks to houseguests and audiobooks.
Brian Staveley’s The Emperor’s Blades
I resisted reading The Emperor’s Blades for the longest time, despite the legions of rave reviews. Why? Because that is a TERRIBLE fantasy title. Blergh. Of course, I read fantasy titles with worse names all the time, so… who knows. Anyhow, I absolutely loved it. It draws much more heavily from Asian history and culture than the usual generic pseudo-European fantasy land, has characters that I actually care about, and is extremely grim without being grimdark. Also, I listened to it on audiobook. That’s the real reason I didn’t get more reading done- I spent about 40 hours over the last couple of weeks listening to The Emperor’s Blades and its sequel, The Providence of Fire. Honestly, that alone puts me at well above average total reading time, especially since most of the rest of the books are Lawrence Watt Evans novels, which don’t take me very long to digest. Anyhow- fantastic book, definitely worth the read. Or listen. Simon Vance does a fantastic job with the performance- one of the best I’ve heard so far, which is admittedly relatively few.
Randall Munroe’s What If: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
This book is absolutely amazing. Randall Munroe, the creator of XKCD, has really outdone himself here. While some of the questions presented in the book are ones that were already on his blog of the same name, many of them are new ones just for this book. In this book, you can find out: What would happen if the Earth and all terrestrial objects suddenly stopped spinning, but the atmosphere retained its velocity? If my printer could literally print out money, would it have that big an effect on the world? How quickly would the oceans drain if a circular portal 10 meters in radius leading into space were created at the bottom of Challenger Deep, the deepest spot in the ocean? How would the Earth change as the water was being drained? How high can a human throw something? How much physical space does the Internet take up? What would happen if you were to gather a mole (unit of measurement) of moles (the small furry critter) in one place?
Lawrence Watt Evans’ Obsidian Chronicles (Dragon Weather, The Dragon Society, Dragon Venom)
Fantasy, Rereads (3)
Yeah, I know, I totally read fantasy novels with terrible titles all the time. Regardless, the Obsidian Chronicles are some of my favorite fantasy novels of all time, and they have massive childhood nostalgia value for me. I reread them about once a year, which isn’t really a huge investment of time for me. Less than four hours total, probably. Really fun books. I’m sure I’ll finish off this Lawrence Watt Evans bender here sooner or later.
Brian Staveley’s The Providence of Fire
And hey, look! Book two! I probably liked the first one a little more than this one- not because the first one was necessarily better, but because the first one followed the training and development of the emperor’s sons, or at least the final stages of it, and I’m always a sucker for that sort of thing. Then again, the emperor’s daughter got a LOT more screentime in this one, which she somewhat lacked in the last one, and she’s a damn interesting character. It’s pretty hard to say which one I liked more. Honestly, since I listened to them pretty much one immediately after another, they are going to blend together as one book for me again. Simon Vance did a great job on the audio again. I actually tried to pick this up in print first, but it just wasn’t the same for me.
Jeff Lemire’s The Underwater Welder
I’ve been meaning to read this one for a while now. It gets compared to an episode of The Twilight Zone quite a bit, which is a pretty fair assessment, so long as you’re comparing it to one of the better Twilight Zone episodes. It’s a very well done graphic novel, though I’ve definitely seen Lemire do better work with his art before. (Trillium, notably.) One of the more enthralling examinations of fatherhood I’ve read.