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el dang

Joined 5 months, 2 weeks ago


I'm currently the coordinator of the #SFFBookClub so a lot of what I'm reading is suggestions from there.

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The other issue with the Harkonnens is just that they're so purely, cartoonishly evil that their existence lets the Atreides off the hook for being white-knight colonisers who think they're so much purer than they are. A subtler villain would leave more space for considering that tension between the Atreides' self-concept and the colonialism inherent to how they found themselves on Arrakis in the first place.

Bleargh. I remembered that the portrayal of Baron von Harkonnen was gross and fatphobic, but I'd forgotten that it extends to the whole House, and I don't think I'd quite processed the homophobia attached to it. There are so many interesting elements to this book, why did Herbert have to throw this one in?

Dune (Paperback, 1978, New English Library) 4 stars

Here is the novel that will be forever considered a triumph of the imagination. Set …

"Once men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free. But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them."

Dune by 

This quote from the Reverend Mother in the very first scene is... prescient.

And it's interesting as a re-read because I didn't remember the general backstory to the oddly low-tech elements of Dune being explicit. I guess when I read it the first time they weren't the parts that made an impression. Not sure how much that reflects how young I was or how long ago it was in terms of tech progression.

Also, I have the edition pictured and I think it has some terrible careless typos in it. Or does the Reverend Mother really talk about the "Swisatz Haderach" in the first chapter? I suppose that's consistent with how much I don't like this edition's cover art, and how much better the Villeneuve film's visuals fit my recollection of the story and its atmosphere.

started reading Dune

Dune (Paperback, 1978, New English Library) 4 stars

Here is the novel that will be forever considered a triumph of the imagination. Set …

Welp, I enjoyed the new movie a lot but it left me with a lot of questions about my recollections of this book that I probably read too young, at least 30 years ago. So it's time for a re-read.

The Farthest Shore (The Earthsea Cycle, Book 3) (Paperback, 2001, Aladdin) 4 stars

When one door is closed many more are open

4 stars

Content warning mild spoilers inside

Translated with an Introduction by Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis

It was in China, late one moonless night, The Simorgh first appeared to mortal sight – He let a feather float down through the air, And rumours of its fame spread everywhere; Throughout the world men separately conceived An image of its shape, and all believed Their private fantasies uniquely true!

The conference of the birds by's almost as if this 12th Century poet anticipated what Western Christians would do to all of Persian poetry centuries later....

Translated with an Introduction by Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis

This translation is sort-of endorsed by who is on a mission to displace all the orientalised / de-Islamicised translations of Persian poetry with ones that they feel actually capture the spirit of the original.

(I say sort-of because it's not that they have an official "translations we approve of" list, but it's in a collection of ebooks they share with subscribers)

The Dark Forest (2016, Head of Zeus) 5 stars

This is the second novel in the "Remembrance of Earth’s Past" near-future trilogy. Written by …


5 stars

This book is in a lot of ways more of everything that Three Body Problem was. It's a huger sweep, a pretty intense exploration of how getting thrown into responsibility can break people, and it builds on a lot of the ideas of the first book about how ununified people would be in response to a threat like this - stuff that now looks rather prescient after a year and a half of covid. It does also suffer from the same weaknesses, perhaps even intensified. In particular there's not much dialogue that is really characters being theirselves as opposed to Liu exploring an idea through his characters. But the good parts were so compelling that this was far from ruining the book for me.

I was left with a few questions, two of which seem like weaknesses of the book: 1) Why did Ye pick Luo to have the conversation …

Blindsight (Hardcover, 2006, Tor Books) 3 stars

It's been two months since a myriad of alien objects clenched about the Earth, screaming …

Very mixed bag of a book

3 stars

First things first, some content warnings about the book: it contains a lot of violence, a narrator who uses ableist language and ideas repeatedly, and a sort of sensory-illusion body horror that I thought was one of the book's strong points but could be deeply disturbing for the wrong reader.

I want to like this book. It does a great job of imagining aliens who are very deeply alien and in unsettling ways. And at it's best it's a tautly narrated story of the terrifying encounter with them. It also plays some amusing games with vampire tropes, and poses interesting questions about what counts as life, sentience, intelligence, etc.

But I found some of the author's tics grating enough to really put me off. The voice is irritatingly macho-male, to the extent that it makes me, a cis man, want to yell at the author to shut up and cede …