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Post by malickfan Mon Jun 05, 2023 6:09 pm

halfwise wrote:Shogun is an amazing read, and I think it really woke up a lot of people to the complexity of Japanese history.  Some of the images still haunt me, though all to do with torture and death unfortunately.

Yeah the torture/death scenes were pretty graphic, I knew next to nothing about Japanese history of the period but the book has served as an interesting history lesson (as well a great story). Have you read any of the other books in the 'Asian Saga'?

Shogun reminded me at times of the films Silence and The Last Samurai (which are both well worth watching).

halfwise wrote:Netflix has a series about the rise of the Shoguns (Age of Sumarai).  When it comes to the brutality of clannish warfare Japan puts Europe to shame.  The book was no exaggeration.

There's a new adaptation of the book set to be released later this year

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sh%C5%8Dgun_(upcoming_TV_series)


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Post by halfwise Mon Jun 05, 2023 7:37 pm

Read King Rat, it was okay but doesn't have the wide sweep of Shogun since it's set completely in a prisoner's camp. I've seen Noble House on the bookshelf but never picked it up, and wasn't aware of the others. I'll have to look into that. The ones going back in history like Shogun would me most interesting.

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Post by halfwise Fri Jul 28, 2023 12:19 pm

Some time ago when we were discussing H Rider Haggard's She I realized my copy had disinstegrated.  So I went on search for a replacement and discovered that HRH had actually written four She novels!  There was an omnibus edition, so I bought it and have been spending the last few months working my way through it.  Here is my commentary with particular references to how Tolkien was likely influenced.

She - the first and still the best, as is often true of such series - as the first is not weighed down with baggage from the rest and is conceived as a free standing inspiration.

In it we not only find the obvious model of Galadriel with her mirror, but also the prattling servant, facsimiles of old documents,  mummification without bandages to sleep forever in stone caves, and even swamps with corpse lights!

But without the Tolkien references it's still a great book of itself, full of mystery and the exploration of power.  Look for the famous line "my empire is of the imagination" where Ayesha explains her method of ruling.

Ayesha - nope, she didn't die in the fire as we were led to believe; and her spirit flies to be plopped down in Nepal, where our heroes are led to rediscover her, led on by dreams.  Then we DO get the final death of Ayesha.  The whole thing is overwrought and not worth the read.  We DO see her reading minds like Galadriel, though she notes it down as long practice rather than some kind of ESP.  We also see her controlling storms and a volcano like Sauron.  Too much author worship of his created character.  Give it a miss.

She and Alan - as in Alan Quarterman, the hero of HRM's first successful book King Solomon's mines, as well as many of his others.  I think Haggard had realized the stylistic failure of his previous novel, and this time brings in a playful mood by way of his most familiar character.  Quarterman is the type of adventurer who wins by the spirit of not taking anything too seriously, and all his African friends - though they respect him - are also constantly poking fun at him.  All of this now encounters Ayesha, and the contrast between the near worship of the previous novel and the irreverence of this one makes for some fine comedy, but you have to at least read She first to pick up on this.

Alan is doggedly skeptical of Ayesha, taking her either for a charlatan or a cuckoo.  She's amused by this and respects his diffidence.  Though it doesn't have the over arching themes and mystery that make the first novel so great, it's worth reading.

Daughter of Wisdom - an autobiography, told in Ayesha's own voice.  Anyone who takes themselves too seriously makes a poor narrator, and the first few chapters of her younger life suffer from this.  Then the plot picks up and it becomes more interesting, but I still wouldn't bother with it unless you've become fascinated by the character.

It doesn't come into it's own until she finally bathes in the fire, and I think Tolkien may have learned something about shifting the style of language to match the greatness of events: HRM takes a high tone throughout this novel, and it suffers for it.  But the high tone rises strongly to the occasion when warranted: here is a sample describing her transformation into an immortal being, and I don't think you'll find better writing, for he matches Tolkien's description of  the Witch King at the Gates of Minas Tirith or the fall of Sauron here:


I stood in the pathway of the Fire.  It saw; it stretched out its arms to me.  Lo! it wrapped me round and in my ears I heard the shoutings of the stars.

Oh! What was this?  I did not burn.  The blood of the Gods flowed through my veins. The soul within me became as a lighted torch.  The Fire possessed me, I was the Fire's and in a dread communion the Fire was mine.  By that lit torch of my heart I saw many visions; veils rolled up before my eyes revealing glory ofter glory, glories that cannot be told.  Death shrank away from before my feet; pale and ashamed he shrank away.  Pain departed, weakness was done.  I stood the Queen of all things human.

He actually goes on for pages exploring her new state compared to her old life; all of it glorious stuff.

I'm convinced Tolkien read all four novels and learned much from their triumphs and failings.   I'd suggest definitely reading the first; for fun read the third.  Then in some bookstore if you come across it read the penultimate chapter of the last, starting a few pages in to read the transformation section in the middle.

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Sun Jul 30, 2023 4:22 am

{{ I have never read any of his works, but I am intrigued enough now Halfy that if I come across a copy in one my towns many dusty little second-hand bookshops I will grab a copy, well the first one anyway, and see where it goes from there. }}

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Post by Mrs Figg Sun Jul 30, 2023 11:56 am

I will hunt down a copy too, I recently watched the old film with Ursula Andress as She. It was pretty racially dodgy in parts.
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Post by halfwise Sun Jul 30, 2023 12:05 pm

I thought you already read it, Figgy. Are you deciding it's worth putting in your permanent collection then?

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Post by Forest Shepherd Sun Aug 06, 2023 10:28 pm

Hmm.. Well I have the first She, so I'll put that slightly higher in my to-read stack now.
Haggard is not what I would consider much of a linguist: his prose is more what you would call workman-like in King Solomon's Mines. He must improve over time.

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Post by halfwise Mon Aug 07, 2023 2:08 am

His writing in King Solomon's mines was that of a novice.  He's far more mature in She, goes over the top like an intermediate writer who's gotten a bit big for his britches in Ayesha, and briefly reaches crowning heights at the end of Wisdom's Daughter.  But only at the end, which is why I recommend sneaking a peak in a bookstore rather than buying the damn thing.

Based on She and Alan I hazard that his later Alan Quartermain novels are probably more worth reading than King Solomon's Mines.  But I haven't read them, so no sure thing.

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Post by malickfan Sun Sep 24, 2023 8:19 am

Been on a fantasy/scfi-fi binge in recent months:

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes 8/10
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell 8/10
The Lions Of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay 9/10
Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds 8/10
Lord Of Light by Roger Zelazny 7/10
The Fall Of Hyperion by Dan Simmons 9/10

I'm currently reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.



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Post by halfwise Sun Sep 24, 2023 12:13 pm

The only of those I've read are Flowers for Algernon (which I wouldn't really call science fiction) and Brave New World, which is STILL so far out there it would be a bit of a shocking fringe book today, though the writing style is not memorable. Of the rest I haven't even heard of the authors except for Roger Zelazny, who I think excels at short stories but his inventiveness feels stretched in novel form. I'll have to eventually check out your 9/10 ratings.

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Post by halfwise Sun Sep 24, 2023 12:35 pm

I'm currently reading Mark Twain's Following the Equator which is an account of the lands he visited while on a round the world lecture tour to rebuild his finances at age 60. It doesn't hold a candle to his first travel book, The Innocents Abroad., which I consider to be the funniest book he ever wrote.

In Innocents Abroad Twain joins the first European/Holy Land tour boat from America, launched soon after the conclusion of the Civil War in the 1860's. He was young, known only for The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and since the boat was full of sanctimonious pilgrims to the Holy Land he made common cause with a handful of more worldly bachelors onboard, wreaking havoc through Italy, France and Greece. He eviscerated the Holy Land, and walloped Egypt. He was young and full of vim and vinegar, scathing in his assessment of fellow men, especially in places held up on a pedestal. I still consider it a useful travel guide today, as he was willing say things more genteel and cultured authors wouldn't touch.

But in Following the Equator he has a family and fame that has worked their way on him for nearly 40 years. Gone is the playfulness and acidity, replaced by gentle humor (if present at all) and humane observations. Usually I'm eagerly drawn back to a book each night before bed, but I'm not entirely convinced I'll make it through this one. It may be that he used up all his humor in his speaking engagements and didn't transfer it into the book.

He lived for another decade and half after this, but I think after his beloved daughter died he never wrote anything more that was humorous. It seems that he was writing up Following the Equator during her illness, which may explain the lack of humor. I think there may be some historical/cultural nuggets along the way which pulls me back, but I'm not getting the delight out of it I usually get from Twain.

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Post by Bluebottle Fri Nov 03, 2023 8:09 pm

Anyone read Abinger Harvest? scratch study

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Post by halfwise Sat Nov 04, 2023 3:02 pm

1.  Blue!  :carrot:Wave
2. No.

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Post by halfwise Fri Feb 09, 2024 4:00 pm

Has anyone read Voyage to Arcturus? The narrator below claims it had a large influence on Tolkien because three copies were found among his collection after his death, but there's no confirmation from Tolkien himself. Sounds like a strange read.


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Post by azriel Thu Feb 15, 2024 10:26 pm

Sounds like a big upgrade to Gandalfs pipeweed. Galadriels snifter by her mirror, Radagasts powerful poo, Saurons disembodiment, body parts everywhere if you think his eye is up a tower and his mouth is goading Aragorn et al. Im almost thinking Tom Bombadil and Goldberry are yeeha country folk who have a very hippy trippy herb cooking lifestyle. No wonder Tom fair bounces everywhere and Goldberry is happy to see him.

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Fri Feb 16, 2024 3:40 am

{{ Tim Benzedrine and Hashberry if I remember Bored of the Rings correctly, they got off light compared to poor Dildo Bugger!

Not sure Tolkien just having this book, or even three copies means too much, I have three copies of the Bible but I am pretty far from Christian. I also have a few books on my shelves gifted over the years that I would never have chosen for myself (sometimes a good thing sometimes with good reason!) it may just be folk thought it would be the sort of thing he might like and so he ended up with a few copies of it. I think if it was important to him in some way it would have got a mention somewhere, he was not shy about voicing his opinions on other works or talking about references he used.}}

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Post by malickfan Sat Feb 17, 2024 7:14 pm

In the last three months I've read:

Fairytale by Stephen King 6/10
The Once and Future King 8/10
The Time Machine 7/10
Dracula 7/10
House Of Suns 10/10
All The Light We cannot see 7.5/10
The Night Circus 7/10
Moby Dick 9/10
The Demolished Man 5/10
Slaughterhouse 5 10/10
The Devil In the White City 8/10
The Annubis Gates 7.5/10
Gullivers Travels 7/10
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet 8/10

And a few non fiction history books as well.

I have a terrible habit of visiting charity shops and buying more books before i clear my backlog, not sure exactly how many books I own now probably 3-400.

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I think what comes out of a pig's rear end is more akin to what Peejers has given us-Azriel 20/9/2014
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Post by Pettytyrant101 Sat Feb 17, 2024 7:20 pm

{{ Out of those I've read the Time Machine (decent little time romp bit heavyhanded on the message, Dracula (does a lot right but a little to concerned with society for my tastes), Moby Dick (I'm with the 12th Doctor, "for God's sake just get to the whale why don't you?"), and Gulliver's Travels, which was ruder than I expected. }}

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Post by halfwise Sat Feb 17, 2024 11:16 pm

I have a version of Moby Dick with a wonderful introduction by Clifton Fadiman; in it he points out that it wasn't popular until near the start of the 20th century, when people finally learned how to read it.  

It's not a typical novel and shouldn't be judged (or read) as such.  It's myth, each chapter a dip into the shadow world tied together by the Pequod plunging its way through the watery realm.  It's also the best glimpse into the world of 19th century whaling you'll ever read.  Fortunately the cultural exploration chapters and the mythic chapters are clearly divided and evident by the first few sentences, so you can shift your mental stance while reading.

I love it, there's nothing else quite like it out there.

As evidence of its rule breaking, here's the entirety of Chapter 122:

Midnight Aloft
-Thunder and lightning

The Main-top-sail yard - Tashtego passing new lashings around it.
"UM, um, um.  Stop that thunder!  Plenty too much thunder up here.  What's the use of thunder? Um, um, um.  We don't want thunder, we rum; give us a glass of rum. Um, um um!"

<end of chapter>

How can you not love a work that's so free with conventions?

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Post by Forest Shepherd Sun Feb 18, 2024 1:58 am

malickfan wrote:In the last three months I've read:

Fairytale by Stephen King 6/10
The Once and Future King 8/10
The Time Machine 7/10
Dracula 7/10
House Of Suns 10/10
All The Light We cannot see 7.5/10
The Night Circus 7/10
Moby Dick 9/10
The Demolished Man 5/10
Slaughterhouse 5 10/10
The Devil In the White City 8/10
The Annubis Gates 7.5/10
Gullivers Travels 7/10
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet 8/10

And a few non fiction history books as well.

I have a terrible habit of visiting charity shops and buying more books before i clear my backlog, not sure exactly how many books I own now probably 3-400.

Prolific! Well done.

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Post by Forest Shepherd Sun Feb 18, 2024 2:01 am

Pettytyrant101 wrote:{{ Out of those I've read the Time Machine (decent little time romp bit heavyhanded on the message, Dracula (does a lot right but a little to concerned with society for my tastes), Moby Dick (I'm with the 12th Doctor, "for God's sake just get to the whale why don't you?"), and Gulliver's Travels, which was ruder than I expected. }}
Gulliver's Travels I thought insufferable. The narrator, I mean, was insufferable as a tool of Swift's satire. The idiotic "cutting" observations of how foolish it is to amass wealth when diamonds are just rocks in the land of the Whinym or whatever they're called.
I would place it a little above Utopia on my scale of stupid books.

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Post by Forest Shepherd Sun Feb 18, 2024 2:18 am

halfwise wrote:Has anyone read Voyage to Arcturus?  The narrator below claims it had a large influence on Tolkien because three copies were found among his collection after his death, but there's no confirmation from Tolkien himself.  Sounds like a strange read.

I have not read it, but speaking of inspiration for Tolkien, I've been enjoying The Worm Ouroboros. I am five chapters in and the writing is incredible. The Night Lands and The Well at the World's End are dense, slow reads; the author's of which attempted to recreate medieval prose, (Hodgson in a rather garbled manner.) But in both cases the writing sacrifices brevity for exhaustive mimicry. They go on and on in a way that feels authentic, at least in The Well, but drag on into tedium.
Not so Eddison with Ouroboros! There is a deftness to the composition, a skillful density that puts me most in mind of Shakespeare. Consider a line, not an outstanding one necessarily, from where I have just left off reading:
"The talk had died down, the lords of Witchland, ill at ease, studying to wear their faces to the bent of the King's looks. But Prezmyra spake, and the music of her voice came like a refreshing shower..."

It's delightful. A must-read, I would even say, for enjoyers of Tolkien's less accessible writing of the sort that one finds in The Silmarillion. And the worldbuilding! The division of kingdoms into "X-land" (Demonland, Witchland, Goblinland, etc.) seems almost childish, but when one realizes that the races of these lands are really all just people, and what sets them apart is culture more than anything, then the conceit assumes the authenticity of European city-states: wherein the squabbling little kingdoms perform just as much combat in grand halls and upon green swards in wrestling and tourney as in night-time assaults on strongholds or wicked sorcery to upset the enemies sea-faring caravels.

I am not so very far in, as I said, but I can safely say that it is my favourite book so far this year. It's just so surprisingly accessible despite its intricate style, with good characters and witty scenes in feasting halls.

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Post by halfwise Sun Feb 18, 2024 3:05 am

Will have to pick that one up. I wonder if it still haunts the better used book stores or if I'll have to order a fresh copy.

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Post by malickfan Mon Mar 04, 2024 8:43 am

Recently finished The Pillars of The Earth by Ken Follet which was absolutely brilliant, for a 1088 page (in my edition) long book the pacing never sagged, epic sweep and interesting story, I haven't read much historical fiction but this is now in my top 20 books. The prose is fairly basic at times, some of the characters are quite generic and many of the sex scenes feel crowbarred in, but overal this was one of the most enjoyable and addictive reads I've had in a while, never thought a story about the building of a cathedral could be so interesting.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pillars_of_the_Earth

It's always weird to see your local area mentioned in media, some of the chapters are set in the town Winchester (the former capital of England) which I know very well, and can vouch for the amazing cathedral it has.

As i said earlier in the thread I've read and loved Shogun (I also own a copy of the second in the 'Asian Saga' Tai-Pan), I've also got Lonesome Dove, Don Quixote and A Tale Of Two Cities in my to be read pile...anyone have any other reccomendations for historical epics?

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The Thorin: An Unexpected Rewrite December 2012 (I was on the money apparently)
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Post by halfwise Mon Mar 04, 2024 12:37 pm

There was a short novel The Spire by William Golding, but there's so much backstory to a cathedral that I'm not surprised it can easily make a full sized novel.

How did you make it through high school without having read a Tale of Two Cities?  Middle school actually, I can still remember our crusty old english teacher tearing up while reading the last chapter to us, during the famous "It's a far better thing I do..." passage.

For recommendations not on your list I'll pre-empt Forrest and recommend the Three Musketeers.  Way ahead of it's time, though don't expect historical accuracy.  (I'd put Moby Dick on the list though many would disagree with me).

For modern authors I'd highly recommend Jem by Rodrick Conway Morris, about spycraft in the Ottoman empire a generation after the capture of Constantinople (alas, I may have one of the few extant copies.  He doesn't even list it on his website).  There's also a series of books about a Roman Army doctor stationed in Britain: the Medicus series by Ruth Downie.   Quietly charming but avoids all notable historical events. If interested in New York city in Victorian times look up anything by Caleb Carr.

I know I've read quite a few more historical novels but can't put my finger on them.

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