Books

Lindsay Smith, Max Gladstone et al.: The Witch Who Came In From the Cold, Season Two

I posted a couple of brief reviews on several (not all) episodes of the second season of the ongoing e-book serial The Witch Who Came In From the Cold; and while each of them is too short for a blog post, I was thinking that maybe it might be of inerest to someone if I posted the whole bunch colletively (which is either a desperate attempt to scrape out the bottom of the barrel to scratch out a new blog post or a clever way to go meta and imitate the serial / omnibus structure in my post – your pick).

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Matthew De Abaitua: The Red Men

trtoPretty much every single review of Matthew De Abaitua’s debut novel The Red Men which I have glanced at has compared him to one or two or several other authors and I am feeling that almost irresistible urge myself. Maybe comparison to others is unavoidable with this author – not because he is in any way derivative, but for precisely the opposite reason: His novel is so brilliant and original that it leaves readers bewildered and helpless, groping for the comparison straw just to have something familiar to hold on to.

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Luo Guanzhong: The Three Kingdoms

First, I should point out that I am writing this post six months after finishing the novel; and while I took some notes when reading it, details are starting to get a bit hazy and I apologise if what follows is even more vague than usual. As with the previous Great Chinese Classics, both date of composition and author of The Three Kingdoms (also known as Romance of the Three Kingdoms) are not known with certainty. It is generally assumed that it was written by Luo Ghuanzong (who also may have edited and maybe even written parts of Outlaws of the Marsh) and assumed to have been written in the latter half of the 14th century, but neither of those appears to be quite uncontested.

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Pu Songling: Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio

Classical Chinese literature obviously does not consist solely of the Six Great Novels, and I wanted my reading project to also include some shorter (but not necessarily minor) books. Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio was my first attempt at a canonized work which is not a several thousand pages long, and overall I enjoyed it, if not quite as much as the novels, which I strongly suspect is due to more getting lost in translation.

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My Year in Reading 2016

As awful as 2016 was in nearly every other aspect, it was a greating reading year for me. For the first time ever I took a Goodreads reading challenge and made my goal of 150 books easily and read 179 books with an average of 335 pages, which isn’t bad. But the reading was great not just in quantity but also in quality – as I struggle to remember what exactly I read, the books that stand out are J.J. Voskuil’s massive novel of office life, Het Bureau and of course my foray into the Classic Chinese novel – four of which I’ve read so far and have been enjoying immensely, so that I’m quite confident that I will be reading the remaining two in 2017. For anyone curious, here is a link to Goodread’s nifty page of My Year in Books.

Quite obviously, the amount of my reading done last year is in no way reflected in this blog. I have not counted, but my estimate is that 2016 may well have seen the lowest amount of posts ever since I dedicated myself to book blogging; weirdly enough there has a been an overall increase in visitors (it’s still a very, very low number per day, but stil somewhat higher than it used to be), accompanied, I think, with an all-time low in comments. Obviously, I’m not very happy with that state of affairs – but not unhappy enough to actually write any more blog posts, in fact I’m in the middle of another dry spell now. Which I may get over or may not, one will have to see.

I don’t feel optimistic enough for any new year’s resolutions, so there will be none this time.

And finally, a happy new year to anyone who happens to read this in actual prosimity to the start of 2017. Have a music video, from one of the great musicians who died in 2016 and whose passing did not get nearly the attention he deserved.

Kim Newman: The Bloody Red Baron

Kim Newman may not have invented the mash-up genre (but then, he possibly may) but he is undoubtedly its premier virtuoso: In his seminal novel Anno Dracula he presents readers with an appropriately grimy and realistic Victorian London, and then fills it with vampires and a whole host of literary characters. I hesitated quite a while before reading the novel, because even though the concept seemed like fun, I was not sure whether the execution would live up to it. As it turned out, it did, and then some; and in consequence I did not hesitate at all to acquire the sequel to Anno Dracula, which is at least as enjoyable as its predecessor.

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