Good Math, Bad Math

The “Last Three Books” Meme

Via Tor.com, a meme that I thought looked really interesting.
What were the last three genre books that you purchased? Why did you purchase them?
And do they feel comfortable together?

  1. Daniel Abraham,The Price of Spring (The Long Price Quartet): This is the conclusion to
    Abraham’s Long Price Quartet, which is a wonderful set of novels. Each
    volume of the quartet is a self-contained story – but the pieces also fit together
    into a larger story-arc. The volumes each take place over the course of a season,
    and each is separated by about 20 years. It’s fantasy with very rare but incredibly
    high-powered magic. Certain people can, after significant training, cause an
    abstract concept to become a real physical being, called an andat
    which they can control. For example, the first book in the quartet focuses
    on “Seedless”, aka “Removing the part that continues”, which is the embodiment
    of the idea of removing children – whether that means removing the seeds from
    a bale of picked cotton, or performing an abortion by removing and killing the
    unborn child. The last book doesn’t quite live up to the promise of the ones
    before, but it’s still excellent. Why’d I buy it? Because I picked up the first one
    on a whim a while ago, and got hooked. I couldn’t wait to get the last volume. And
    you wanna talk cliffhangers? The last volume of this left every single woman in the home nation of the main characters, and every single man in the home nation of their enemies, completely sterile.
  2. Vernor Vinge, The Peace War: I haven’t started reading this one
    yet. Why’d I get it? Because Vinge is a genius. I’ve loved everything of his
    that I’ve read. But some of his early stuff, I was never able to find. Then a friend
    mentioned that it had become available for the Kindle! So I immediately ordered it.
    (And I do mean immediately – I didn’t even wait to get back to my desk – I pulled
    out my Android phone and ordered it from Amazon right in front of the coffee machine.)
  3. China Mieville, The City & The City: I just started this one;
    I’m about 70 pages in. It seems decent so far. The story of why I bought this
    one is interesting. Y’see, I don’t like Mieville. His writing always seems to
    me to be self-consciously but unsuccessfully stylistic – like Mieville sees
    himself as a brilliant prose stylist, while being unable to really pull off
    the brilliantly styled prose that he imagines he’s writing. But I keep getting
    his books – because I keep seeing reviews from people that I really respect
    that talk about how wonderful his prose is. I just don’t see it. He’s a decent
    storyteller – but I can’t see the beautiful prose that everyone talks about.
    It’s not that I don’t like artistically styled writing; I actually love things
    where I’m struck by the beauty of a phrase, and need to stop reading for a
    while just to bask in the beauty of the words; Brust’s “The funniest thing
    about time is when it doesn’t. I’ll leave that hanging there for the moment,
    and let you age while the shadows don’t lengthen, if you see what I mean.”
    from Yendi blows me away every time I read it. But Mieville just seems to be
    trying to write that way. Anyway, “The City and the City” is based
    on a wonderful idea, so I figured I’d give it a try. It’s a murder mystery set
    in a city which is spatially overlapped with another city. In some places (called
    “crosshatched regions”), you can see both cities at the same time unless you
    will yourself to “unsee” the other one; in other places, you’re solidly in one
    city or the other. And the two cities are actually different nations,
    so to cross from one to the other requires going through customs. Even
    not “unseeing” the other city is actually a crime. Brilliant idea; I’m really
    hoping he carries it off.

As for “are they comfortable together?” No, not really. We’ve got one
historical high-fantasy from an alternate earth; one gritty current-time
potboiler in a setting that has fantasy elements; and one far-future
hard science fiction. They really don’t make for comfortable neighbors.

So. What’s your three latest? Post ‘em in the comments, or post ‘em on
your own blog, and then link from the comments.

Comments

  1. #1 doug
    September 6, 2009

    My last three genre fiction books:

    1. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. Sci-fi set a little over a hundred years in the future on a a post-oil earth. Why did I get it? Bacigalupi has been a favorite of mine for years due to his short fiction, and this is his first novel. It’s not perfect, but it’s absolutely a worthwhile read. Excellent worldbuilding compensates for some shaky characterization.

    2. The Price of Spring by Daniel Abraham. Bought it for much the same reasons as you.

    3. The Magicians’ Daughter by S. C. Butler. The concluding volume in a YA fantasy trilogy set in a world where magic has a very tangible price. Why did I buy it? Well, I had already read and enjoyed the first two books, so I wanted to know how the story ended. Also, having enjoyed the second book more than the first, I figured the third would be better still. And I was not wrong.

  2. #2 Jordan Peacock
    September 6, 2009

    http://hewhocutsdown.blogspot.com/2009/09/last-3-books.html

    Anathem by Neal Stephenson
    Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
    Godel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter

  3. #3 John Armstrong
    September 6, 2009

    Um… What’s a “genre book”?

  4. #4 Jonathan Vos Post
    September 6, 2009

    Um… What’s “purchased?”

  5. #5 JRQ
    September 7, 2009

    Dunno if short story collections count, but the last three genre books I bought were volumes 2, 3 and 4 of NESFA’s new “Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny.”

  6. #6 JeffB
    September 7, 2009

    I thought The City & The City was quite good. It took me about 90 pages to really get into it, though; I almost put it aside before that.

    I like Mieville’s writing, though not because he writes beautiful prose, but because I find the worlds he creates fascinating and his style perfectly suited for them. At least, it does for the Bas Lag universe (and the more concise prose of The City & The City works there). He’s only a decent storyteller, but I think his writing style and his worlds work really well together, even if his stories don’t always (I’m looking at you, ending of The Scar).

  7. #7 Sander
    September 7, 2009

    My last order had 9 books in them so the ‘last three’ is kind of ambiguous, but here are some of the better ones:

    1. A deepness in the sky by Vernor Vinge
    2. Azincourt by Bernard Cornwell
    3. Bad Science by Ben Goldacre

  8. #8 Deen
    September 7, 2009

    The Peace War was the first book I read of Vinge, and still my favorite Vinge book.

    My last three were a trilogy: I had finally found the complete set of Deirdre, by Wim Gijssen (sorry, Dutch author). Oh no, wait, I got Larry Niven’s Juggler Of Worlds after that, so I’ll just count the trilogy as one, so I can list one more: Zoon van de Duivel (Son of the Devil) by Adrian Stone (another Dutch author, but this one has plans for releasing his books in English as well).

  9. #9 XiXiDu
    September 7, 2009

    1. WWW : Wake by Robert J. Saywer
    2. The Sunless Countries by Karl Schroeder
    3. “Die Grundlagen der Arithmetik: Eine logisch-mathematische Untersuchung über den Begriff der Zahl” by Gottlob Frege

  10. #10 Val
    September 7, 2009

    Bored in the morning, so I’ll add.
    If I understand the definition of “genre fiction”, my last three purchases would be:

    The Diamond Age – Neal Stephenson.
    I’m a huge fan of everything Stephenson, and I’m putting off reading the Baroque Cycle since I don’t enjoy long series, but it’s next in line now. Diamond Age was really good, having read Snow Crash before I thought it would be about some powerful weapon or the like. I read that the type of novel is “Bildungsroman”. You get to follow the protagonist from an early age with a, in view, quite horrible childhood in a future where nanotechnology is reality. You follow the protagonist in something like the first 25 years of her life. It works out great in terms of you feeling for the character, since you get to see her develop.
    I bought it due to Stephenson-withdrawal. I had 50 books lined up in my reading list before it. But this was a few months after reading Anathem, and I really had to read more Stephenson. Same thing is happening again now, so I’ll get Quicksilver.

    The Engine’s Child – Holly Phillips.
    This is fantasy, on an alternative world. It takes place on an island with no connection to any continent. As I understood it, it’s supposed to be based somewhat on India/Hinduism. I couldn’t really tell, other then some words used in the novel resembling Hindi words. There’s some bits of steampunk elements, and the novel takes place some 20 years after a rebellion against new technology. The fantasy is from the islands version of electricity comes from some sort of magical plane. Which the protagonist learns to access and manipulate. Most of the book is about political power struggle between a few different political/spiritual camps. In terms of world building it does a great job. As the novel progresses the tension between the people and the rulers gets stronger, and you can feel the beginning of a revolution happening.
    I bought it because io9.com recommended it, but it didn’t really capture me. Beyond the concept of Luddites winning, I didn’t get much out of it.

    The Algebraist – Iain M. Banks.
    Large Scale Science Fiction, very distant future, all over the galaxy. In this universe, star systems are connected by manufactured wormholes. Here the plot takes place in a system which has lost its wormhole a few hundred years back, now being threatened by another disconnected civilization invading. In parallell to the intelligent meta-civilization (of who humans are a part) there is a civilization of squidlike creatures who live on gas giants. These creatures live for millions of years and are completely indifferent to the other civilizations. Though there is a rumor that this squid-civilization have their own secret network of wormholes. Being threatened by the invasion, the government sends people to find out whether this is true, so they could use the wormholes to get reinforcements.
    I bought it because I thought there would be some references to mathematical ideas in it, which is always fun. But there isn’t, or well, there are 70 pages left in it, but I doubt there will be any. But it was a good buy anyway! It was a lot funnier than I thought it would be. And it’s full of great ideas about societes, technology and other sci-fi things. It takes great care about doing physics right, as far as I understand physics. Nothing can travel faster than light, and using gravity wells as weapons, and things like that. I enjoy it.

  11. #11 Mark C. Chu-Carroll
    September 7, 2009

    Re #3:

    I deliberately left that ambiguous. :-)

    Personally, I’ve got a bit of a bugaboo about the way that we describe fiction. Roughly speaking, there’s “respectable” fiction, and there’s “genre” fiction. Genre fiction is fit only to be sneered at. (OF course, I’m exaggerating here, but I do believe that it’s basically true.)

    So what’s “genre” fiction? Anything that the critics sneer at :-).

    More seriously, it’s anything that fits into one of the genre categories, so that it won’t be shelved as “fiction” in a bookstore, but will instead be shelved in one of the sub-categories. So, for example, Salman Rushdie isn’t genre – he’s a respected author who’s shelved under “fiction and literature”. But Steven Brust is genre – he’s shelved under sci fi and fantasy. (But I’d argue that both are really writing fantasy.)

    So genre is science fiction, fantasy, mystery, horror, romance, western, crime, etc.

  12. #12 jefu
    September 7, 2009

    I don’t particularly remember what the last three books of genre fiction that I purchased were, and since I’m usually reading several books at once (they’re located in different parts of the house), the following stand out for one reason or another and I’ve read them all at least some time in the last month or so…

    “Trial of Flowers”, by Jay Lake. Various people work to save the “City Imperishable” from the “elder gods”. The sheer amount of pain delivered to the characters in this book was a bit off-putting, and the end was not as satisfying as I might have hoped, but the world created was interesting and the story ended up pulling me along nicely. I might try something else by Lake, but probably won’t go out of my way to find it.

    “The Years of Rice and Salt” – Kim Stanley Robinson. An alternative history set in a world where most (99%+) of the European Christians are killed off by the plague and Islam, Buddhism and other cultures are dominant. I find Robinson to be a bit erratic, some of his books work very well, then others not so much. This one could have used a bit of editing and it takes a while to start to make sense, but eventually works quite well and was a satisfying read. I’m going to hang on to it (instead of adding it to my Bookmooch give-away list) for possible rereading.

    “Area 7″ by Matthew Field. An adventure-thriller. Took this along on a couple day long backpack. I can’t recommend it for a serious read – it starts at ludicrous and proceeds down through idiocy ended up in a pool full of komodo dragons that miraculously don’t eat the hero, but do eat one of the hundreds(?) of villians. If you’re looking for a good laugh (including typography that makes sure you can’t miss the fun stuff – putting things like “boom” in italics and following them with muliple exclamation points), this is a good one. Next backpack I’m going back to Dickens or Jane Austen or something.

    I did read “The City and the City” early this summer. I quite like Miéville, both for his style (which is at least interesting) and for his worlds. The intersection of the cities here was an intriguing metaphor but I’m not convinced he used it as well as he might have.

  13. #13 Paul
    September 7, 2009

    My last three genre books purchased:

    1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, by a little known author from Britain

    2. Jheggala, by Steven Brust

    3. Lexicon Urthus, by Michael Andre-Driussi

  14. #14 Joe Kiniry
    September 7, 2009

    I understand what you mean about China, Mark. Mike Moorcock personally recommended “Perdido Street Station” to me and, while I mildly enjoyed it, I just don’t Get It.

    My last three are: the aforementioned “Anathem” by Stevenson (I very much enjoyed it, but then again Neal is one of my living favorites); I am reading “The Hobbit” to my just-shy-of-six-month-old daughter and her mother; and “Against the Day” by Pynchon (brilliant and really enjoyable, in a Moorcock “King of the City” + “Blood” + “Pyat Quartet” style).

    Note that I am both telling the truth and making a point: I just put Stevenson, Tolkien, and Pynchon in the same set.

    Those that sneer at “genre,” SF, fantastic fiction, etc. need to double-check the various top-100 lists of fiction promoted by various newspapers, authors, editorial boards, etc.

    By the way, for those of you who have read this far, if you enjoyed Stevenson’s “The Baroque Cycle” books you really need to have a look at the “Pyat Quartet.” Neal owes a lot to Mike, methinks.

  15. #15 Nick
    September 8, 2009

    At my blog I’ve posted my take on three recently bought books, from the genres of mathematics and teaching.

    If instead I limit to ‘genre fiction’ as defined in the comments, it turns out I haven’t bought any for a while, being content to find free mysteries at the local free book shop. Three of the most recent mysteries I’ve read are:

    1. An Instance of the Fingerpost, Iain Pears, a historical mystery set in 1660s England
    2. Gone, Baby, Gone, Dennis Lehane, a noir crime book set in Boston (from which they made a movie)
    3. The Cat Who Knew a Cardinal, Lilian Jackson Braun, a murder whodunit set in Maine

  16. #16 Ranson
    September 10, 2009

    Let’s see, I’m currently burning through the Nightside series by Simon R. Green, so just pick any three of those. Quick easy reads, overall; the setting reminds me of American Gods blended with Neverwhere, but without the giddy optimism.

    Treating those novels as a single block, the previous items would be The Maltese Falcon and World War Z.

  17. #17 william e emba
    September 11, 2009

    But some of his early stuff, I was never able to find. Then a friend mentioned that it had become available for the Kindle! So I immediately ordered it.

    Sheesh. You were never able to find it since you never really looked.

    The Peace War was reprinted in 2003, and has been available quite easily. It and its sequel Marooned in Realtime, along with a related short story, were all reprinted in Across Realtime, from way back when, and still in print.

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