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swynn

swynn

Joined March 2018

Librarian - sf/fantasy addict - runner - germanophile
review
swynn
Aume reist | Dirk Van Den Boom
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Pickpick

Second in van den Boom's "Cold War" trilogy, in which Earth's space colonies are invaded by nearly-indestructible "cold walkers," whose incursions leave entire worlds frozen and lifeless. This is a terrific follow-up to the excellent first volume. It fills in background, builds political intrigue, and raises the stakes. Am I eager for book 3? Ya damn right I am.

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swynn
When the Waker Sleeps | Ron Goulart
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Panpan

Nat Kobean gets caught sleeping with another man's wife. Too bad for Nat, the husband is a scientist whose current project is a serum that allows patients to travel into the future by taking naps, during which patients do not age. Now every time he falls asleep Nat wakes up fifty years later. I'm not a fan of Goulart's broad humor, and his ethnic and homophobic jokes haven't aged well. At least there are fewer boob jokes than usual in this one.

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swynn
Eve's Rib | Bryn Chandler
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Mehso-so

When pollution makes Earth unlivable, humans send expeditions to plant colonies on other worlds. Eve is the sole surviving crew of one such expedition and is determined not to repeat humans' mistakes. She teaches peace and harmony to her vat-grown children and to their naturally-born children. But humans are unavoidably human.... Despite a lack of suspense, minimal conflict and a silly resolution it held my interest, though I'm not sure how.

BridgetteM This sounds like the second half of Seveneves by Neal Stephenson. 4d
swynn @BridgetteM Sort of, yeah, without the weird genetic tinkering. 2d
13 likes2 comments
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swynn
Widdershins | Jordan L. Hawk
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Mehso-so

Romance isn't my thing, but Lovecraftian adventure is, and this has enough of the latter that I didn't hate it. Heck, I might even read the sequel.

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swynn
Cause for Alarm | Eric Ambler
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Mehso-so

Just before the dawn of WWII, out-of-work British engineer Nicky Marlow takes a position at an Italian munitions firm. But his predecessor in the position had been supplying information to foreign spies. It's not long before Marlow is deep in intrigue and counter-intrigue and scary secret police. Ends with a thrilling flight across fascist Italy. Fun, but the passive and sappy Marlow is a less satisfying protagonist than other Ambler heroes.

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swynn
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Mehso-so

In an alternate Brittain, Celts are frequently born with green skin and are second-class citizens. Told through the eyes of a visiting Indian scientist (officially "Saxon") who may have discovered the genetic key to green skin: a discovery various interests wish to control. It's a satire, sometimes funny, sometimes uncomfortable and sometimes leaving me feeling I'd missed a joke I might have gotten if only I knew more about 1970s British politics.

17 likes1 stack add
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swynn
Maschinenwahn | Carmen Capiti
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Pickpick

A black-market surgeon who specializes in cybernetic prosthetics goes on the run with an assassin whose employer wants to have her cybernetically enhanced against her will. Cyberpunkish and barely romancey, it moves fast enough you mostly don't mind how things don't always make sense.

15 likes2 stack adds
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swynn
Forever Amber | Kathleen Winsor
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Mehso-so

"Forever" is right -- I think that's the term you'll find next to "Time remaining:" when you open this monster on an e-reader.

Still, I was happy to find it nowhere near as awful I had expected. The historical color is convincing, especially in some gruesomely effective chapters that take our heroine through the Great Plague. The book's worst sins are its length and Amber's shallow character, which lengthens the long length to longer than long.

rubyslippersreads I think Amber was supposed to be sort like Scarlett, due to the popularity of GWTW. My mother said this book was considered extremely scandalous when it first came out. 😄 4mo
swynn @rubyslippersreads I agree she's very much like Scarlett O'Hara, frivolous and vain and unbearable at length. And it's true that Forever Amber was a scandal: it was banned in 14 states, which doubtless helped make it a bestseller. As always, though, "obscene" is relative: there is no explicit sex, but the word "bosom" is used more than once. Gasp. 4mo
18 likes2 comments
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swynn
Hammers on Bone | Cassandra Khaw
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P.I. John Persons is hired by a 13-year old kid to kill the kid's stepfather. The boy thinks his stepdad is a monster. Persons believes it's possible-- after all, he's a monster himself. It's a noir thriller set in Lovecraft land, and it's just delicious with creepiness and gore and a hard-boiled heart. Also it's short so: more please!

26 likes2 stack adds
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swynn
Second Book of Fritz Leiber | Brenda Jackson, Unknown, Ronald L McDonald
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Mehso-so

This is DAW's second anthology of Fritz Leiber's work, fiction and non-, selected by the author. (Why does Litsy give "Brenda Jackson" credit?) It's a mix of hits, misses, and things that have aged poorly. As the cover art implies there's a Fafhrd/Gray Mouser story "Trapped in the Sea of Stars," but it's not one of the better ones. For me the highlight was"Belsen Express," a creepy Twilight-Zonish story about a xenophobe's dreams of the Holocaust.

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swynn
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Mehso-so

Thirteenth in Tubb's series about Dumarest, a traveler searching for the lost planet Earth. In this one he catches a rumour about a planet "Nerth," perhaps a corruption of "New Earth"? This is such pulpy plot-driven fun that I was caught off-guard by a twist near the end that ... um ... hasn't aged well. (Spoiler in the comments.)

swynn One of Dumarest's companions turns out to be a villain motivated by her desire to have a man's body. Which is a shame, says Dumarest: if only she wasn't so foolish she could have been pretty. Really. Yeah it's a shame all right but not for the reason he thinks. 4mo
TobeyTheScavengerMonk Yiiiiiiiikes. 4mo
23 likes2 comments
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swynn
Hammers on Bone | Cassandra Khaw
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"To all the monsters hiding in this world,
I hope the children will skin you alive.

To the children in the world,
let no one say you can't make your monsters bleed."

Now *that* is a dedication. This is gonna be gooood.

wanderinglynn What a fantastic dedication! 👍🏻👍🏻 4mo
21 likes1 comment
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swynn
Total Eclipse | John Brunner
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On Sigma Draconis, 19 light-years from Earth, the remains of an alien civilization are discovered. A scientific team searches for clues to the Draconians' demise, while back home Earth faces a crisis of its own. I quite liked the alien biology and culture. I less liked the wooden characters and thin plot, but can forgive those for a sufficiently interesting puzzle, and Brunner delivers that.

21 likes1 stack add
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swynn
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Pickpick

Third in Nava's series about gay Hispanic L.A. lawyer Henry Rios. This one has Rios returning to his rural hometown to defend the brother of his high school crush. His client is a pedophile-- but is he a murderer? To find out, Rios digs up painful pasts. The mystery is just okay, but the development of Rios's character is terrific.

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swynn
Far Rainbow | Arkady Strugatsky, Boris Strugatsky
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Every book I read by the Strugatskys makes me love them more. Far Rainbow tells about the last day on a colony planet where scientists research instantaneous transportation -- and accidentally trigger a global death-wave. It's paired with "The Second Invasion from Mars," the story of a Martian invasion through the eyes of a rural pensioner whose sources are richer in rumor than in fact. It's a funny and still-timely satire of communication.

rretzler I have a couple of their books on my TBR. Need to get to them soon. 4mo
swynn @rretzler Hope you like them! I read my first Strugatsky book just last year, and became an instant fan. 4mo
rretzler The one I have up first is the tagged. Have you read it? 4mo
swynn @rretzler I don't know that one, and mystery novels don't seem to be their usual thing. I'm intrigued. 4mo
17 likes1 stack add4 comments
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swynn
The Dispatcher | John Scalzi
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Mehso-so

It's a sort novel set in a world where murder victims don't die ... usually. Tony Valdez is a dispatcher, a sort of designated killer hired to murder people near death in order to give them an opportunity to return. Now a colleague has disappeared and Valdez has to work with the police to find him. The premise doesn't stand much scrutiny, but Scalzi's light touch makes it fun while it lasts.

rretzler I thought it was pretty imaginative- didn‘t really think TOO hard about the premise. 🤣 I listened to it and thought Zachary Quinto did a decent job, but I like Wil Wheaton much better for Scalzi‘s work, I think. Though this book might have been a little dark for Wheaton‘s narration style. 4mo
swynn @rretzler I couldn't let go of the story's distinction between "natural" death and murder, which I'm pretty sure is a false dichotomy. The story occasionally plays with gray areas, but declines to establish rules -- which I find I want. But to the extent I could let go of the questions I enjoyed it. Good to know that the audio version was done up right! 4mo
21 likes2 comments
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swynn
Canopus - Der Kalte Krieg 1 | Dirk Van Den Boom
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Pickpick

Book one in a space-opera trilogy with an interstellar empire under assault by "Cold Walkers," lanky alien creatures with heat-stealing and invisibility technology (or maybe biology, nobody knows). This entry assembles the team. It has six viewpoint characters, which is a little overwhelming, but they are all interesting and their stories crack along. Looking forward to the next, then I expect to wish the third would hurry up and get published.

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swynn
The Heritage of Hastur | Marion Zimmer Bradley
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Mehso-so

Wow. And ick. I have deeply conflicted feelings about this one: it's the best of the Darkover novels I've read so far: well structured, carefully paced, with interesting characters and thoughtful ponderings on heritage -- what one owes one's culture and what it owes in return. But there's also a thread of physical and sexual abuse, which recalls ugly revelations about the author's private life, making it hard to read as a purely fictional trope.

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swynn
Artemis | Andy Weir
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Pickpick

It's a hard-science caper story set on a lunar colony. I know it has gotten mixed reviews, but I find myself solidly Team "Pick." I loved the moon-tech geekery, and would be on board for a sequel (or series, Mr. Weir?)

AthenaWins I really enjoyed this one too. I'm not sure why it got such mixed reviews, but I find his characters highly entertaining. 5mo
hermyknee Good to hear - I got this one for my birthday! 5mo
rretzler I preordered this one and it‘s been waiting for me to pick it up. Glad to hear you enjoyed it. (edited) 5mo
swynn @AthenaWins Yay for Artemis love! 5mo
swynn @hermyknee @rretzler Hope you like it as well as I did! 5mo
32 likes1 stack add5 comments
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swynn
Venus in Copper | Lindsey Davis
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Pickpick

Third in Davis's series featuring Roman detective -- I mean "informer" -- Marcus Didius Falco. In this one Falco is hired to investigate a suspected black widow, and gets neck-deep in the deadly world of Roman real estate. It's pretty good. The series started out as a sort of first-century-Sam-Spade, noirish affectations and all. There are still bits that feel ahistorical, but it's growing into its own thing, and I look forward to the next.

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swynn
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Second in the Iron Druid series, this one has Atticus and friends fighting an invasion of German witches in Phoenix. It's unheavy, the cast is a hoot, and the dog never dies. What's not to like?

Seekingtardis Oberon is one of my favorite characters that I have EVER read!!!!! 5mo
19 likes1 comment
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swynn
Undertaker's Moon | Ronald Kelly
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Panpan

Irish werewolves in Tennessee. The story is not bad, but the prose is cliched and the dialog is so wooden you could slay a vampire army with it. The cover, on the other hand, rocks out loud. It's by Alex McVay.

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swynn
Circus Parade | Mark Dawidziak, Jim Tully, Paul Bauer
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Pickpick

(1927) This is a collection of stories based on the author's experiences as a circus laborer in early 20th-C. America, exposing the trade's unsavory underbelly. It's not always an easy read even today, especially scenes of racist violence as the circus travels through the South. I quite liked the direct prose and colorful cast, also the charming pen-and-ink illustrations by William Gropper.

blurb
swynn
Untitled | Unknown
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Book. Bar.

Rarely have I felt so understood.

Samplergal Where is this beautiful place? 5mo
squirrelbrain Wow! Yes, where is it? Love the logo too...! 5mo
See All 10 Comments
swynn It's in Phoenix, which I am visiting for a conference, all too briefly. 5mo
MoonWitch94 Holy Cannoli!!! Where is this??? 🍻📚📖 5mo
Drocchio03 Amazing! I‘ll be in Phoenix the week after next for a conference. Fingers crossed I can find time to escape and visit! 5mo
rather_be_reading Arizona! 5mo
swynn @drocchio It's easy to get to from the conference center: just a few minutes on the light rail. It's inside the Changing Hands bookstore on Camelback Road. 5mo
TuesdayReviews One of the bookstores in my town recently added a bar. 5mo
swynn @TuesdayReviews It's an excellent idea, and I look forward to seeing the idea spread. Obviously it's not going to be for all libraries-- the academic library that employs me will probably never have one, tho I expect one would be verrrry popular. 5mo
28 likes10 comments
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swynn
Carve the Mark | Veronica Roth
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Panpan

The world makes no sense, characters act contrary to their motivations just to advance the plot, and the writing is muddled. I'm not going to be a fan, I'm afraid. I wondered, and now I know.

rretzler That‘s too bad. I have this one coming up later this year. I was afraid that I might think the same, so I haven‘t purchased the next one in the series yet 5mo
swynn @rretzler Others have loved it, so you may disagree 5mo
24 likes2 comments
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swynn
A Twist at The End | Steven Saylor
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Pickpick

It's a historical crime novel, based on the early life of O. Henry and an actual series of killings that took place in Austin, Texas while Will Porter was just a young man trying to figure out his way in the world. The mystery is intriguing, the characters and setting feel authentic, but for me the star is the well-crafted prose, which always knows exactly what it's doing and how to do it.

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swynn
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(1975) Ninth in Kenneth Bulmer's sword-and-planet series featuring Dray Prescot. In this one Prescot infiltrates the enemy country Hamal in order to learn the secrets of their flyer technology. He is only partially successful but he does get into a lot of fights. Plenty of action, which I'd have appreciated more if it hadn't been for some casual homophobia early in the book, which soured the taste for the rest.

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swynn
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It's a middle-grades novel based on a Caribbean folk tale about a girl who goes into the forest and catches the attention of something that has lived there a very long time .... Fun, fresh, and the right sort of spooky for its audience. I'll read the next.

The author was a guest earlier this month at my employer's Children's Literature Festival. I didn't catch her presentation but heard enthusiastic reports that she is an excellent storyteller.

21 likes1 stack add
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swynn
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Pickpick

Lowenstein explains why 19th century banking sucked; the options for reform; and the political maneuvering and countermaneuvering that resulted in the Federal Reserve Act. It's not always easy reading -- sometimes it's like a crash course in monetary policy -- but the personalities are entertaining, the controversies intriguing, and I very much appreciate the insight into the origin of an institution I only vaguely understood.

25 likes1 stack add
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swynn
The Twilight of Briareus | Richard Cowper
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(1975) The nearby star Briareus Delta goes supernova, after which humanity becomes barren and a few develop psychic gifts. One crackpot conjectures that Earth has been invaded by Briareans. It's a pretty good piece of seventies science fiction, with trippy ideas about group consciousness, free love, and the soul. Dated but interesting.

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swynn
The Whenabouts of Burr | Michael Kurland
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(1975) The U.S. Constitution has been stolen and replaced with a copy, which seems authentic in every way but one: in place of Alexander Hamilton's signature is Aaron Burr's. The investigation turns up a tangle of parallel worlds, all shaped by the Hamilton/Burr rivalry. It's a hoot of a novel, with a seat-of-the-pants plot and light, clever prose. I didn't recognize the author's name, but will look for more of his work.

27 likes1 stack add
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swynn
The Robe | Lloyd C. Douglas
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Panpan

There is an entire literary genre that I think of as "Books that could be improved by an invasion of giant killer robots." And dear sweet gods of bestsellers past does this book ever scream for robotic rescue from talky tedium.

It's better than the movie, but only just.

Aimeesue 🤖🤖🤖😂 6mo
swynn @aimeesue Perfect! If they'd shown up on page 150 or so, this book would have rocked out loud. 6mo
23 likes2 comments
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swynn
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Pickpick

(1975) This has some great stories like Harlan Ellison's "Whimper of Whipped Dogs" and Ramsey Campbell's "The Man In the Underpass," but also a couple misfires like Steve Chapman's "Burger Creature," a sort of gonzo romance in which the male lead is literally animated ground beef. I understand Chapman expanded it into a novel, on which I'll pass. Anyway: how about that Michael Whelan cover?

Erofan Great cover 👍 6mo
20 likes1 stack add1 comment
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swynn
QualityLand: Roman | Marc-Uwe Kling
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Pickpick

A "comic dystopia" set in a near-future in which all our needs and desires are satisfied by algorithms -- and if you happen to disagree with the algorithms, then it's you who are wrong. Case in point: Peter Jobless and his quixotic quest to return the sex toy that he no, really, doesn't want, honest, and shouldn't he know? (No. Not when the algorithm has decided he does.) Funny and frightening, and speaks to some of my own paranoid worries.

rretzler Sounds like something I would enjoy (edited) 6mo
swynn I think you would! I'm hoping for an English translation soon so I can push it on friends. 6mo
22 likes2 stack adds2 comments
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swynn
QualityLand: Roman | Marc-Uwe Kling
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Kiki sits at the counter of an open cafeteria and watches a man who repeatedly beats his head against the wall. For some reason not clear to Kiki the crazy man suddenly stops and comes into the cafeteria as if nothing had happened. He orders a green smoothie and sits at the stool next to her.

"What was that about?" asks Kiki.

"You mean, why was I beating my head against the wall?"

"No," says Kiki. "That impulse I understand. Why did you stop?"

review
swynn
Kings of the Wyld | Nicholas Eames
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Part Dungeons and Dragons, part Spinal Tap, all fun. I could have done with fewer penis jokes, but the juvenile humor is by design, and often unexpectedly charming. I'll read the next.

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swynn
Flight or Fright: 17 Turbulent Tales | Stephen King, Bev Vincent
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Pretty good collection of horror stories about flying, with a nice mix of older and newer stories. For me the pleasantest surprise was Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Horror of the Heights", which is the opposite of new but nevertheless new to me and deliciously effective.

23 likes1 stack add
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swynn
Perl For Dummies | Paul Hoffman
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You know, like those bands on their third Farewell Tour.

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swynn
Children of Time | Adrian Tchaikovsky
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Giant.
Intelligent.
Spiders.

Heck YES!

That is all.

LaLecture Now that sounds intriguing 😄. It‘s on my April reading list. 7mo
swynn @LaLecture Excellent timing, because the sequel is scheduled for May. Hope you like it as well as I did. (I've pre-ordered the next.) 7mo
wtimblin This book was amazing. Can.not.wait for the sequel! 7mo
See All 8 Comments
swynn @wtimblin Me too. More spider adventures, please! 7mo
swynn @Squidapus Hope you like it! 7mo
Squidapus Sold! 7mo
LaLecture I‘m reading it now and I‘m loving the spiders 😄 6mo
swynn @LaLecture Aren't they great? I promise they get even better! 6mo
33 likes2 stack adds8 comments
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swynn
Background to Danger | Eric Ambler
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Pickpick

An excellent thriller about an American reporter with gambling debts who agrees to smuggle a package over the German/Austrian border. When he delivers the package the reporter finds his contact murdered and himself on the run from his contact's allies and enemies. Oh, and the Austrian police like him for murder. Does what a thriller's supposed to do, and with style.

25 likes1 stack add
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swynn
Becoming | Michelle Obama
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I think I've mentioned my crush on Michelle Obama. Nothing has changed.

Goodness but I miss the Obama administration.

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swynn
Birthgrave | Tanith Lee
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A woman awakes in a dead volcano, no idea who or what she is. A voice tells her she is cursed, and as she flees the mountain erupts. I've bounced off Tanith Lee's works in the past, so I'm happy to report that this was finally the right book at the right time: it's surreal and enchanting. It's a little overexplainy at the end, but for everything that led up to it I'm cutting it some slack. Yes, I'm forty years late to the party but I'm here now.

32 likes1 stack add
blurb
swynn
QualityLand: Roman | Marc-Uwe Kling
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Dear Marc-Uwe Kling,

You made me laugh before the g*****n title page. I am yours to lose.

swynn This book does not connect to the Internet. But you can leave comments in it. These will very probably be read by nobody. You may share this book. But not with all your friends at once. If you share the book there is naturally a chance that someone will read your comments. Perhaps someone will even comment on your comments.

7mo
swynn To change the contents of the book the publisher would have to hire people to break into your home at night, sneak up to your bookcase, and strike through things with a felt-tip pen or elaborate on things with a ball-point pen. This is possible but unlikely. 7mo
Aimeesue 😂😂😂That‘s excellent! 7mo
See All 6 Comments
rretzler I either need to hope for a translation or start brushing up my German - or convince my older son to read it to me! Sounds great! 7mo
swynn @rretzler There's a good chance of an English translation, though I don't think one is available yet. I have, though, seen stories that Mike Judge may be developing an English-language adaptation for HBO. 7mo
rretzler I‘ll be on the lookout for both. 7mo
22 likes6 comments
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swynn
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Mehso-so

Modern Templars versus zombies and demons. It's okay for what it is, which is a throwback to testosteroney mass-market "men's fiction" series like "The Executioner." It's manly men doing manly things to prevent the end of the world. (Only two women characters: one dies in the backstory, the other on arrival.) There are continuity problems and a sense of humor so lacking that it's accidentally funny, but the prose is brisk and the story moves fast.

28 likes1 stack add
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swynn
Strange Fruit | Lillian Eugenia Smith
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Pickpick

Published in 1944, this one begins with an interracial relationship and ends with a lynching and in between reads like a catalog of ugliness in the early-20th century American South. (And let's face it, not just the South). The prose is sometimes a bit overdone, but really it's the relentless angry-making subject matter that makes it a difficult read. Trigger warnings for, well, everything. Not perfect, but I'm calling it a pick for its insights.

Alfoster Remember loving this one too! 7mo
36 likes1 stack add1 comment
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swynn
iD | Madeline Ashby
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Mehso-so

Second in Ashby's "Machine Dynasty" series. I quite liked the first, "vN", which was a terrific robots-on-the-run action story. This one goes deeper into the series' darker themes: how humans use the robots to act out our worst impulses. I have mixed feelings about it, due to some very uncomfortable bits and then a resolution that did not satisfy. But at least one thing it gets right: the promise of a major showdown in book 3. I'm in.

19 likes1 stack add
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swynn
Book of Poul Anderson | Poul Anderson
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Mehso-so

Back in my twenties I read a lot of Anderson's works. I loved his richly-detailed environments and his moral dramas set in declining civilizations. But I find I've lost my taste for his stylized prose, which I once found poetic but now feels forced, making this collection a bit of a chore. The highlight is "The Queen of Air and Darkness," which still works for me despite its stilted language.

37 likes1 stack add
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swynn
All Systems Red | Martha Wells
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Well, crap. I think I have fallen in love with a murderbot. That can't be good.

Except, oh yes it is.

rretzler Glad to see you liked it. I have it on my list to get to soon-ish. 8mo
wordzie 😁❤ 7mo
33 likes3 stack adds2 comments
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swynn
Boy's Life | Robert McCammon
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Mehso-so

It's a Bradburyish story about boyhood in small-town mid-twentieth century America. It's pretty good for what it is, but a bit long. I guess I prefer my sentimentalism in smaller doses.

Alfoster Oh, I liked this one too (more than you did but it was years ago)! 7mo
35 likes2 stack adds1 comment
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swynn
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Alt-history in which Dewey really does defeat Truman in 1948, throwing greater support to a national space program; then a meteor strike accelerates the program in order to save the human race through space colonies. The tech is plausible, the characters appealing, and Kowal tackles head-on the crap that women and POC would have faced in the 1950s (Not that any of that has been solved, exactly ...) Will read the next.

imyril I really really really want to read this 😍 8mo
24 likes1 stack add1 comment