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ChrisN
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Finished Consider Phlebas. Great book, which was quite honestly a pleasant surprise. Very much enjoyed the setting created by Banks - the sheer scope and size of it, the impossibility of knowing everything, the fact that even the apocalyptic scale of the war doesn't rate it higher than a 'minor' war in the grand galactic scheme of things. That sort of conceit could come across badly but somehow Banks pulls it off, and manages to tell a very personal little tale in the middle of it all. I found it quite poignant at times, and I loved the understated humour of the book, too.

Definitely going to read more Banks soon.

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Discovering the joys of ebooks - lots are totally free for starters! Plus the Dorothy Dunnett Lymond Chronicles are available - her other series was superb so hopefully this will be too - think GRRM without balefire and dire wolves.

Also would reccomend Jerusalem by Sebag Montifiore.

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Discovering the joys of ebooks - lots are totally free for starters! Plus the Dorothy Dunnett Lymond Chronicles are available - her other series was superb so hopefully this will be too - think GRRM without balefire and dire wolves.

Also would reccomend Jerusalem by Sebag Montifiore.

Are the Dorothy Dunnett books free? If so where? Only read the Lymond series and it was great.

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About two-thirds of the way through David Simon and Ed Burns' The Corner. Just relentlessly depressing. Don't get me wrong, it's fascinating, heartbreaking, eye-opening... all of that, but, man alive, Mr Mackey is right about the drugs.

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I read the 4th in Ann Cleeves 'Shetland Quartet' Blue Lightning over the Christmas. It was as as good as the rest in the series. As usual the plot concerns a murder on the Shetland Islands that's investigated by Det. Jimmy Perez.

I think this was my favourite series of crime books I read in 2012. An excellent central character, a great setting and fantastic plotting. My only criticism of this one is that there's a twist at that end that serves no real purpose. It's just stuck in for shock value, as far as I can see. A slightly disappointing ending to an otherwise excellent series.

I watched a couple of Agatha Christie adaptations over Christmas. And I realised that despite being familiar with the characters (Mrs. Marple, Poiroit) I've never read any of her books. So I'm going to try a couple of her books next to see what they're like.

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Finished the 100 Year Old who climbed out of the window... earlier which I thought was a real charmer; very gentle and readable. Excellent translation too, there's a strong narrative voice to it which drew me in completely. It drags a little midway through but picks up (a little too quickly maybe) for the end. 20p on Kindle if you haven't already.

Just started A.A. Gill's Here and There which is a collection of his travel writings and then probably La Roja by Jimmy Burns on Spanish Football (a subject I find fascinating with all the political/historical implications)

Fuck games. The Amazon Kindle sales are the new Steam sales for me; I already have a stupid number of books on my Kindle but still I buy!

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I've just finished The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie. A stunningly good read, and it felt good to back in the North with some familiar faces after Best Served Cold took us to foreign climes. Abercrombie really does write the best battle scenes, doesn't he? Brutal.

I'm going to read a couple of thrillers next, then on to Red Country.

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I stayed up until after 3.00AM this morning finishing Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. It's the story of a well-heeled New York couple who fall on hard times. They have to move back to Missouri to try and restart their lives. Then one day the wife disappears. Her husband is initially treated with sympathy by the cops but the evidence against him starts mounting up. Did he really kill her and hide her body? Or is there something more sinister at work here?

I saw this mentioned on a lot of 'Best of the Year' lists so I took a chance on it. And I'm glad I did. I read a lot of thrillers and crime fiction so I'm rarely surprised by twists or plot turns. But this had me constantly guessing about what was going to happen. There's a twist about 1/3 of the way through that made me put the book down for a minute or two.

Every time I thought the author had written herself into a corner she pulled off another nimble plot twist. I blitzed through the 400 or so pages in a couple of days. Highly recommended for any thriller fans or for people who fancy something a little different.

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Rinsed the Simon Serailler series by Susan Hill in the past couple of days. Crime fiction but it's really good because it doesn't really deal with the whole police procedural side of things and more focuses on human reactions and how things have affected the town. She also doesn't shy away from getting you into someone's life before killing them off either which is a bonus.

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Finished Dodger, and re-read Player of Games and Excession over the Christmas break.

Really enjoyed Dodger, could see many hints of Pratchett's Ankh-Morpork in the London streets being described, while there was a neat (and simple) story headlined by a couple of good characters (including Charlie Dickens :) )

Now, I am (finally) reading Hydrogen Sonata... so far I am liking it... lots!

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Over Christmas I didn't get that much reading done, but I did absolutely race through All Fun And Games Until Somebody Loses An Eye by Christopher Brookmyre. Hadn't read any Brookmyre before but I absolutely loved this. Witty and readable and, on the face of it, little more than a fairly straightforward mostly-comic thriller; but it's got a bit more going on beneath the surface and it's cleverer than you might think. I couldn't put it down.

I also read The Player of Games, continuing my Banks exploration. I was really impressed in this one with how Banks effectively portrays the Empire of Azad as barbaric, and the protagonist's horror at both the stuff we'd consider properly barbaric (like the snuff entertainment channels for the ruling class) as well as things that we see as just part of normal capitalistic society (like the existence of homelessness, or the fact that there's a ruling class at all). He conveys the barbarism (of different kinds) in a way that makes even the stuff normalised for the reader seem awful. At the same time there's a pleasing ambiguity to the methods used by Contact even if I can get more or less fully behind the moral superiority of the Culture as a civilian society, and the analogues with more modern forms of colonialism (as opposed to military conquest) are thought-provoking. Plus it's just a great read.

Not sure what to read next. I'm working through Hobsbawm's Age of Extremes, which is excellent thus far, but I tend to break up my non-fiction reading with more fiction, most of the time.

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Same for me - really enjoyed Unto Leviathan.

Currently reading the second Hannu Ranjamiemi novel, The Fractal Prince (follow-up to The Quantum Thief). Like the first book, I'm a little bit lost in all of the language and technology, which isn't explained, but enjoying it nonetheless. I can understand why some would not be able to get on with it at all. I'd love to read something more like standard space opera from him.

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I'm reading Flash for Freedom at the moment. I ration myself one Flashman book a year as since GMF is sadly no longer with us we won't be getting any more. As with those before its shaping up to be one of the best books I'll read this year.

Only ten years worth left after this one though. :(

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Just finished The Forever War by Joe Haldeman, it was incredible. I was gripped from the opening sentences, a sci fi novel hasn't done that for ages and ages. The end had me sobbing. A brilliant book. How's his other stuff? There seems to be other Forever War books but I dont think I want to try them!

Oh and while I'm here, I'd love to read a book that's kinda like The Da Vinci Code but not really shit. Secret societies, hidden treasure, cryptic codes, Templars and that. Any suggestions?

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That sounds intriguing as well. If you're looking for more WW2 British military fiction, I can heartily recommend more or less anything that Derek Robinson wrote, but particularly Piece of Cake and A Good Clean Fight. Piece of Cake is about a Hurricane squadron between September 1939 and September 1940 and I've recommended it at length before now. One of the most powerful works of fiction I've read, perfectly capturing the pilots' experiences and the flawed humanity of those involved in the war. Also very funny at times. A Good Clean Fight is the follow-up, essentially, with a couple of the same characters. It's about the desert war in 1942 in North Africa, and also takes in SAS raiders and several groups on the German side as well. It's not quite as pure as Piece of Cake (which is basically Robinson's masterpiece) but it explores the horrible futility of war more effectively, in a way - the sheer wasteful pointlessness of the desert war is more stark than the Battle of Britain (even though Robinson makes a case for the aerial battle being essentially irrelevant to Britain's survival). Like the book you mention, they're out of print as far as I'm aware, but you can pick them up on Amazon Marketplace. Just try to get the version of Piece of Cake with the crashed Hurricane on the cover, all the other covers are godawful.

I found Homage to Catalonia a deeply moving book, as well as being written with a style and clarity and humour that was very engaging. His descriptions of the Barcelona street fighting leapt off the page despite the economy of language.

Random old post drag up, but the Derek Robinson books were reprinted and are up on Amazon I have noticed, so I have ordered a couple of them.

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Just finished The Forever War by Joe Haldeman, it was incredible. I was gripped from the opening sentences, a sci fi novel hasn't done that for ages and ages. The end had me sobbing. A brilliant book. How's his other stuff? There seems to be other Forever War books but I dont think I want to try them!

Oh and while I'm here, I'd love to read a book that's kinda like The Da Vinci Code but not really shit. Secret societies, hidden treasure, cryptic codes, Templars and that. Any suggestions?

Yes! It's brilliant. I was totally gripped by it too. It feels very 'real' and very contemporary if that makes sense. Fascinating, big sci-fi ideas, the depiction of space travel and combat is great.

The gay stuff is a bit dodgy, but I forgive him for his out of date ideas.

I think the others are meant to be pants.

You know it's all an analogy for his experience coming back from Vietnam, feeling alienated and shit?

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Yeah, The Forever War is a really tight story. Don't read the other ones though.

I'm reading Miranda July's short story collection again. I'm always struck by the sensitivity of her writing and she really knows how to work a phrase. I always feel this weird affinity for early-thirties women who spent their entire childhoods reading and feeling weird about this. Never for the males who did this.

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Oh and while I'm here, I'd love to read a book that's kinda like The Da Vinci Code but not really shit. Secret societies, hidden treasure, cryptic codes, Templars and that. Any suggestions?

There's lots of lightweight stuff out there but for far more substantial reads I would suggest The discovery of heaven by Harry Mulisch or the Avignon Quintet by Lawrence Durrell.

Currently reading a lot in inverse proportion to gaming time

Hobsbawm - re-reading in between fiction - currently at the end of Age of Capital, a real old fashion feel to these books which you can almost tell were bashed out on an old typewriter and have handdrawn maps in the back, but interesting and I like the essay style which enable you to bite off chunks and then put it aside..

The Caltraps of Time by David Masson - a really interesting short SF story collection originally published in the sixties by a language specialist rather than a scientist, so language difficulties with time travellers from the 17th century and aliens feature, as well as lots of other ideas - highly recommended for the adventurous.

Finally, my falling asleep to book is the last volume of the wheel of time series.

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Random old post drag up, but the Derek Robinson books were reprinted and are up on Amazon I have noticed, so I have ordered a couple of them.

Yeah, he's got a publisher again now and in fact has a new book out which I'm reading on Kindle - A Splendid Little War, which is about the British intervention into the Russian Civil War. So far it's quite disappointing; it's far too fast-paced and a couple of characters from his WW1 books return when they really should have been left alone since the ending to their stories was so good before. Robinson's writing is at its best when it's allowed to breathe, and the breakneck pace of this one really hurts it. The action transfers to Russia in the first few pages, in stark contrast to Piece of Cake being mostly about the Phoney War and the character interactions; the most disappointing element here is that Robinson had a perfect opportunity to set up characters on the long sea voyage to the Caucasus, but instead that's dealt with in a paragraph or two.

It has its moments so far but is nowhere near the quality of his earlier work.

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