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December 20, 2017


I like the expanse series too, both the books and the TV show, but have nothing particularly insightful to say about it. I like how they try to stick to a semi plausible technological future so far as the humans are concerned— the technology indistinguishable from magic comes from outside.

Thanks for the note on The Exodus. I'm going to have to look that up.

her personality is never medicalized, it's just the way she is.


But seriously, that book sounds fun, and the Exodus book sounds fascinating. Thanks for the reviews.

On The Expanse - The question is do I wait until all the books come out so I don't find myself in a Game of Thrones situation, or is that just folly?

I have plenty of other stuff to read. Currently reading Old Man's War.

American Gods was meh.

Non-sci-fi - just finished We Have to Talk About Kevin. Thought it was very good, although not for those without a strong stomach.

E.L. Doctorow's "The March" was okay but probably something I needed to read more systematically.

The Expanse books come out each year. There are also little novellas that I haven’t read. It is not a Martin situation.

I have become a Martin hater. I don’t care if he never finishes. I also think he created a fantasy world and ( some) characters that drew me in, but he relied too much on stupid cliffhangers and shocking deaths of characters, necessitating the introduction of new ones, to the point where I stopped caring about the new characters and only want to know what happens to the remaining originals and not all of them. The Ironborn, for instance, are dull beyond belief. The TV series has declined a bit in quality, ( as did the books, for different reasons) but it will end, there will be closure, and Martin can keep doing whatever it is he is doing and if he never finishes that’s fine.

And yes, GOT the TV series goes way too far with the sadistic violence. I couldn’t watch some scenes. I can’t remember how bad the books were in that respect. It is a measure of how little I care about them that I have no desire to reread any of them, not even the first three which sucked me into his created world. I usually reread books if I like them.

Clearly I care enough to rant about this, so that is a point in Martin’s favor.

Well, I guess a GoT threadjack was eventually in the cards here. I had a friend who was deep into it and hasn't seen the show, I started watching the show and then got the books (actually thought my daughter might get into them, she was looking for something after LotR), but haven't had the time to read them. I was especially struck by an interview with Martin admitting that in the early going, he didn't really know anything about horses. I also find it interesting that he doesn't (or can't?) go back and fix things like that.

I understand why people could be Martin haters, especially if you are invested in the world he made, though I have to think of Gaiman's indelicate reply to a fan about his relationship with Martin's situation.

The social contract between a writer and his fans is an interesting one, especially since it exists when you have an interest in the books. (I was trying to think of a series that no one has an interest in seeing finished, but I'm afraid if I list one, someone will light into me saying I've got no taste) It also seems to have a connection to band reunions, which can be an even worse idea. Bizarrely enough, it afflicts sports fans a lot less: generally, those folks want their idol to leave on a high note rather than grind out their last seasons. Wonder what others think.

Similar phenomenon but sort of in reverse: I'm a big fan of David Mitchell, whose books could almost seem to be unconnected, except that they're not.

In an interview published after The Bone Clocks came out, Mitchell is described as having a bunch more books in the pipeline include more pieces of the ongoing story. Since he's more than twenty years younger than I am, it seems likely that he's going to be writing these books long after I'm no longer around to read them.


I wonder if he'd give me a couple of hints about the "ending" if I asked nicely.

I read the Gaiman response years ago It’s irrelevant. Martin can do what he wants and people can react the way they want. Anyway, for me it isn’t just the time he is taking. I think books four and five just weren’t very good. If it took another five or ten years to make them better ( and shorter) he should have taken the time.

Despite you saying you are a Martin hater, I've always pegged indifference as the opposite of love and hate is love's evil step sibling. Or something like that. I'm not sure I'd classify you as a hater, especially since you say Gaiman's response is irrelevant.

When it's art, I guess I've never 'hated' anyone for not doing what I want them to. I'm wondering if I've felt that way about a politician, hating him for not doing what I wanted him to do (I could say her, but it would probably only be Hilary) I have hated people for doing something actively malicious, so I do hate Trump and the current incarnation of the Republicans (and probably several previous incarnations) for what they are doing rather than for what they are not doing. Whether that means that I am deep down in love with corporate statism or not, I'm not really sure.

If it took another five or ten years to make them better ( and shorter) he should have taken the time.

I guess what I was asking is (if anyone knows), is there some active discouragement at rewriting what you've already written? I'm trying to think of a writer who has done that rather than have it done for him posthumously. It's funny, I'm pulling my hair out over some linguists (I won't mention names) who write and say one thing at one point, and then soften it or plug in some escape hatch in a later publication. So what seems to be normal in linguistics isn't possible in fiction?

On the other hand, I really have never been happy listening to a symphony that was partial and someone came in and finished it (Schubert 8th, Mahler 10th among others). Funny that.

I'm trying to think of a writer who has done that rather than have it done for him posthumously.

Louise Erdrich has done it:

Love Medicine is Louise Erdrich’s first novel, published in 1984. Erdrich revised and expanded the novel for an edition issued in 1993, and then revised it again for the 2009 edition. (from Wikipedia)

I think she's done the same for more than just Love Medicine. I must have read an interview in which she talked about how she thinks it makes good sense to revise and republish, but I don't have time to chase down the reference right now.

This also shades off into issues of differences between British and American editions. Yuck.

I have published another book. This one is a fantasy about life after death, set in Purgatory. I haven't done much to market it yet, but did get a good review in Midwest Review, so that's a start.

Poets (Auden, infamously) sometimes go back and change or excise. But a wonderful poem I originally read in the New Yorker, then called Poem Ending with a Line from Dante, but when anthologised called Grief, was eventually as here:



E detto l’ho perché doler ti debbia!
Inferno, xxiv, 151

Snow coming in parallel to the street,
a cab spinning its tires (a rising whine
like a domestic argument, and then
the words get said that never get forgot),

slush and backed-up runoff waters at each
corner, clogged buses smelling of wet wool . . .
The acrid anger of the homeless swells
like wet rice. This slop is where I live, bitch,

a sogged panhandler shrieks to whom it may
concern. But none of us slows down for scorn;
there’s someone’s misery in all we earn.
But like a bur in a dog’s coat his rage

has borrowed legs. We bring it home. It lives
like kin among the angers of the house,
and leaves the same sharp zinc taste in the mouth:
And I have told you this to make you grieve.

Whereas in the original, New Yorker version, the 2nd line of the penultimate verse ends (I think) "But none who can hear him slow or turn;" which I think is better, if possibly somewhat ungrammaticcal (none being singular).


I’m going to finish my rant. I loved GOT ( the books) for the first three volumes. The fourth was a letdown. The fifth was worse. Looking back on it, I think he created an interesting universe and some good characters, but it turned into a dreary sordid never ending slog with some of the most interesting characters killed off and boring new ones to take their place. I gather the Wheel of Time series fell apart too. I never read it, having heard what others said. The TV series has been a bit disappointing for two seasons now, but I will get to see the story ends without so much tedium.

I started thinking of other epic fantasies to read, but the reviews I have seen of the supposedly good ones sound frankly like more overhyped crap. I might be turning against most of the genre, with the exception of LOTR. Or I might give one of them a try, starting off with low expectations.

Read GOT a couple of years ago. It was fun and diverting. Then, it got kind of tedious and random. Characters and plot points introduced and then... dropped. Important narrative lines kind of... forgotten and left unresolved.

Basically, I think Martin got sick of doing it, but it took him a while to actually stop.

It's good to know how to quit while you're ahead.

Oddly enough, I more recently read a history of the War of the Roses. I think I know where Martin got his material....

I more recently read a history of the War of the Roses.

Would you recommend it?

My tiny high school library had on its shelves Richard the Third, by Paul Murray Kendall.

It was my first exposure to a scholarly book with long footnotes that were almost as interesting and readable as the text. I knew nothing about the long history of back-and-forth about Richard III, I just loved the book. I actually bought it not long ago with the intention of seeing what I'd think about it fifty years later, but haven't gotten to it yet.

I’m going to finish my rant.

no prob, that's what we are here for ;^)

I'd draw a comparison between PhD theses and fantasy series in that you think that the main job is to either tell an interesting story/discuss your new and interesting take on the field, but what you really have to learn to do is to manage an exceedingly long composition and set it up in a way that one can follow it.

I think I am running a novel behind on the Expanse. They are quick light reads, published fast, so no need to worry about completion.

I do not have much respect for Martin or Gaiman at this point. Nuff said.

Doctor Science, if you enjoy Harry Connolly's Child of Fire and sequels in the 20 Palaces series, you might be interested in the series' brand now novella, The Twisted Path. It assumes that you already know the main characters, so it's not the best launching pad -- it's better to start with Child of Fire if the universe is new to you.

I also enjoyed The Young Elites by Marie Lu recently. It's a fantasy world with interesting magic and a hard pressed heroine who's really plagued by difficult decisions and demands upon her. I'm looking forward to tracking down the sequels for an after Christmas read.

Exodus interests me - not least because, about 40+ years ago, I read another non-fiction book called "Jews, God and History" by Max Dimont.

I don't remember if it caused a stir when first published, but it sure did with me. The part I remember most clearly is Dimont theorizing that the Hebrews who entered Egypt became totally assimilated into Egyptian society and were not the ancestors of the slaves who left in the Exodus. Dimont suggested that a firebrand reformist ("Moses") revived what was an old, discarded religion to unite the slaves into a single group - and those were the "Hebrews" of the Exodus.

This made intuitive sense to me, since I had never understood why one of the first thing the freed slaves did after they lammed it out of town was build a golden calf to worship. It made no sense - unless you posit that the slaves became "Hebrews" for political rather than religious reasons, and their actual religious leanings were still basically Egyptian.

Would you recommend it?

yes, very much. "Wars of the Roses", by Dan Jones.

sci-if / fantasy lit wise, i'm interested in Philip pullman's latest. I thought the dark materials stuff was brilliant.

I have that Roses novel. Have not gotten around to it yet. One of Martin's sources was 'Through a Distant Mirror', by Barbara Tuchman, covering a good bit of the Hundred Years War.

I totally bounced off Pullman, could not finish it. Still wonder what the big deal was. Maybe I will give it another shot.

TeeVee, I'll give a big shout out to The Last Tycoon (unfortunately cancelled, but the first season is excellent, if you like seedy Hollywood mythology). Kelsey Grammar turned in a great performance as a Weinsteinesque character.

"I think I know where Martin got his material..."

The Druon novels are fun but not very well written.

i'm interested in Philip pullman's latest. I thought the dark materials stuff was brilliant.

I too loved His Dark Materials, and I read the new one (La Belle Sauvage, first volume of the Book of Dust) in essentially one sitting the day before yesterday. I thought it was terrific, with one or two very slight caveats which I will not reveal here because spoilers.


War of the Roses? Sounds right. The names Lannister and Stark do sort of jump out at you.



"Exodus" sounded good, so I got it and have been reading it. The premise is interesting, and seems well supported by Friedman's arguments.

But I do find his writing style a touch annoying. Too cute, maybe, or too many parenthetical references to biblical numbers or something.

What do you think, Dr. S?

Janie: If Richard III interests you, you might enjoy The Daughter of Time https://www.amazon.com/Daughter-Time-Josephine-Tey/dp/0684803860/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1514267821&sr=1-1&keywords=daughter+of+time
written more than half a century ago - history as a detective novel! Josephine Tey, one of the best mystery writers of her generation, has her detective laid up in a hospital with nothing to do but apply his skills to the "case" of Richard III.

Strongly seconded on Daughter of Time, read when I was about 17 and loved it.

Strongly thirded, or whatever.

Thanks, you all -- I can fourth that. ;-)

Like GftNC, I read the Daughter of Time when I was a teenager, and a couple more times since then. Loved it.

That sounds like a great novel. I never had a taste for historical fiction as a teen; I thoroughly enjoy it now.

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