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I used to have a page called "What I'm Reading" on my old website. It's still there on this new(er) website, actually, but I haven't updated it in years. Keep meaning to, but there's too much to do, too few hours in the day.

That doesn't mean I am not reading, however. I read all the time. Usually a chapter or two right before I go to sleep... but sometimes a novel takes hold of me, and I wind up gulping down the whole thing in a night. A long, sleepless night. But I love that when it happens.

Anyway, just thought I'd mention a few of the books I've read recently.

I've already commented, at some length, about two of this year's Hugo finalists, THREE-BODY PROBLEM and THE GOBLIN EMPEROR. You can find my thoughts on those below.

I also read LINES OF DEPARTURE by Marko Kloos. This was part of the Hugo ballot as originally announced, one of the books put there by the slates... but Kloos, in an act of singular courage and integrity, withdrew. It was his withdrawal that moved THREE-BODY PROBLEM onto the ballot. This is the second book in a series, and I've never read the first. Truth be told, I'd never read anything by Kloos before, but I'm glad I read this. It's military SF, solidly in the tradition of STARSHIP TROOPERS and THE FOREVER WAR. No, it's not nearly as good as either of those, but it still hands head and shoulders above most of what passes for military SF today. The enigmatic (and gigantic) alien enemies here are intriguing, but aside from them there's not a lot of originality here; the similarity to THE FOREVER WAR and its three act structure is striking, but the battle scenes are vivid, and the center section, where the hero returns to Earth and visits his mother, is moving and effective. I have other criticisms, but this is not a formal review, and I don't have the time or energy to expand on them at this point. Bottom line, this is a good book, but not a great one. It's way better than most of what the Puppies have put on the Hugo ballot in the other categories, but it's not nearly as ambitious or original as THREE-BODY PROBLEM. Even so, I read this with pleasure, and I will definitely read the next one. Kloos is talented young writer, and I suspect that his best work is ahead of him. He is also a man of principle. I hope he comes to worldcon; I'd like to meet him.

I also read the new novel by Lauren Beukes, BROKEN MONSTERS, a sort of crime/ serial killer novel with some supernatural Lovecraftian touches. Set amidst the urban decay of contemporary Detroit, this one has a vivid sense of place and a colorful and interesting cast of characters, but it gets very strange at the end, where the Lovecraftian elements come to the fore. I don't think it is entirely successful, and it's certainly several notches below the author's last, the brilliant SHINING GIRLS (which would have been my choice for last year's Hugo, but, alas, it missed the ballot by a handful of votes). I found it an engrossing read all the same, and I will be looking forward to whatever Lauren Beukes does next. She's a major major talent.

I also read and enjoyed the new Naomi Novik, UPROOTED. Novik is best known for her popular series of Napoleonic Era dragon books, so this high fantasy is somewhat a departure for her. The whole set-up has a 'fairy tale' feel to it, but draws its inspiration from Russian folklore rather than the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen strains more familiar to modern readers. I thought Novik did a nice job of ringing changes on the old fairy tale tropes, and I liked her characters. But the story rushed by a bit too fast for my taste; I would have liked a longer book, where the characters might have had a bit more room to breathe. And I was seriously disappointed by the ending, wherein several important revelations came out of nowhere.

Next up? Not sure. CITY OF STAIRS and ANCILLARY SWORD and SKIN GAME are all on the stack besides my bed, along with an ARC of the new Ernie Cline novel (yay!). But the new Stephen King has just turned up as well, so...


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Jun. 8th, 2015 02:19 am (UTC)
George, Daniel and Dan claim that Stannis burning Shireen was your idea. Is that true? Or did you just tell them that Shireen is sacrificed and they changed it to Stannis doing it?
Javi Marcos
Jun. 8th, 2015 02:32 am (UTC)
Last episode
George, I hate to talk about an off-topic, but Benioff and Weiss (in the Inside the Episode of 5x09) stated that it was you, only you,your idea, that Stannis would kill his only daughter, his heir, the love of his live, the only Baratheon in the world apart of him. Apart of being, in my opinion, absolutely ridiculous and illogical, it makes Stannis a monster even worse than Ramsay and the Mountain: burning alive, to make her suffer more, not just a child but her own daughter.

So, could you please clarify if it was your idea to make Stannis do something as repulsive?

Thanks and sorry again for the off-topic.
Jun. 8th, 2015 06:55 am (UTC)
Re: Last episode
I like how you know he doesn't want to go off-topic, yet you do anyway. Please go away. Send an email if you must.
Jun. 8th, 2015 02:43 am (UTC)
Wicked Series
Just curious if you have read the Wicked series by Gregory Maguire? I loved all of them but Out of Oz was my favorite. IMHO, Maguire tends to over-intellectualize his writing instead of focusing on developing the actual story. At times i have gotten lost in his language and what he is *trying* to convey. I do love his characters though. (Nothing close to those in AWOIAF!!-Honest)
Another thing worth mentioning is that John McDonough narrates 3 of 4 of his audio books. After hearing Roy Dotrice's MASTERFUL narrations of your books, its difficult to hear other narrators, but John is extremely energetic and talented His Granny voice alone makes Wicked worth listening to.

God, i hope Roy can do your last 2 books. *crossing fingers*
Paolo Pauletto Jr.
Jun. 8th, 2015 02:58 am (UTC)
I am a huge fan and I can tell you I have all the books you released so far from the A Song of Ice and Fire World (including the map collection The Lands of Ice and Fire).

I really hope to see The Winds of Winter soon, but I do understand you want to write a fantastic book as you always did, so I trust the time you are taking :)

By the way, you are my favorite writer.

Greetings from Brazil.
Jun. 8th, 2015 03:01 am (UTC)
I adored Broken Monsters. But I have a weakness for Dionysianesque intrusions.
Jun. 8th, 2015 04:14 am (UTC)
I envy you having a copy of "Armada" I found "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline to be great fun, especially having grown up in the 80's.

My Hugo novel vote goes to "Goblin Emperor" with "Ancillary Sword" a close second. "Skin Game" is more of the same entertainment from Jim Butcher, very readable. I put "The Three-Body Problem" in third, enjoyed the creative elements but the characters just were not compelling enough. "The Dark Between the Stars" was vanilla and I had to read it with coffee in the morning.

Really was hoping to see a few of the "Rogues" anthology stories nominated in the shorter fiction. I thought the Gillian Flynn and Scott Lynch contributions were outstanding. Sad that those categories were completely ambushed.
Jun. 8th, 2015 05:41 am (UTC)
Gillian Flynn won an Edgar for her ROGUES story. Much deserved. It was not SF or fantasy, though, so would have made an unlikely Hugo nomination.

The Scott Lynch would have qualified, though, as would the Patrick Rothfuss, and... well, look, I am the co-editor, so I am completely biased and non-objective where my own books are concerned, but imnsho just about all of the short stories, novelettes, and novellas in ROGUES are better than anything on this year's Hugo ballot. At least based on what I have read so far. (I am still working my way through the nominees).
(no subject) - Stevie Gamble - Jun. 9th, 2015 12:07 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - marlowe1 - Jun. 9th, 2015 03:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 8th, 2015 04:56 am (UTC)
Glad to hear Beukes's newest is good, and I'm looking forward to reading The Three Body Problem. It seems like contemporary sci-fi is in the midst of a golden age, whereas contemporary fantasy is stuck in the throes of a dark age. I know your stance on the meaningless distinctions of genre, but much of what is considered fantasy nowadays is unrelentingly bleak and nihilistic. It seems like many of the authors whom you inspired misunderstand you. They approach characterization by asking, "How can I make every character essentially amoral, so no one's the good guy?" whereas you approach it by making even the most initially unsympathetic characters sympathetic, so few are completely villainous. Fantasy's like a temperamental adolescent nowadays, just doing things its father Tolkien would disapprove of. Do you have any recommendations for contemporary fantasy that doesn't simply wallow in human misery, or employs it in an intelligent way in order to make thematic points, as you do?

P.S. Still reeling from tonight's GOT episode. You're a bloody bastard, Martin.
Jun. 8th, 2015 06:37 am (UTC)
City of Stairs
City of Stairs is an excellent choice; one of my favourite reads of the past year. Can't go wrong with dead old Gods that aren't really dead.
Jun. 8th, 2015 07:02 am (UTC)
Uprooted is Polish, not Russian, though. I mean, come on, it's about 'Polnyans' who are at war with 'Rosyans' and the names haven't even been GRRM-fied from their original Polish. In my experience, Poles tend to get a little pissy when you mistake them for us Russians. :)
Edward MacWhirter
Jun. 8th, 2015 09:48 am (UTC)
If you're looking for some non-fiction to read I highly recommend A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain by Marc Morris. Really a fantastic look at medieval kingship and it thoroughly vindicates your argument that real history was incredibly bloody. The defenders of Berwick would certainly agree; they apparently made the error of baring their backsides in front of the king, he was so enraged he had the inhabitants of the town massacred, later commenting. ‘A man does good business, when he rids himself of a turd’.
Jun. 8th, 2015 01:00 pm (UTC)
I've been reading a book called Auroria by Tim Westover. It was a freebie from Kindle/Amazon. It started out good. The writing is solid. But 400 pages in the story hasn't moved very much. I'm not convinced I'll get to the end.

Jun. 8th, 2015 04:21 pm (UTC)
The Martian by Andy Weir
Since you're discussing good Sci-Fi... I had to jump in. If you haven't read it already... I highly recommend The Martian by Andy Weir. Space-based Sci-Fi (near future). Excellently written.
Jun. 8th, 2015 05:39 pm (UTC)
Re: The Martian by Andy Weir
Read that one last year.
Jun. 8th, 2015 04:30 pm (UTC)
Ancient literature
It would be greatly interesting to know have you read any ancient literature, In particular any of the ancient Irish Annals? or others throughout the world? Also just a quick question slightly off topic which has always intrigued me, is the map depiction of Westeros largely based on Ireland upside down?
Sarah Rhorer
Jun. 8th, 2015 05:33 pm (UTC)
How do you feel about Tad Williams returning to his Osten Ard books? The Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy was my absolute favorite fantasy series growing up!

Also, Skin Game was wonderful. I reread the Dresden Files books about once a year.
Jun. 8th, 2015 05:40 pm (UTC)
I loved the original Dragonbone Chair trilogy, so I'm glad that Tad is returning to that world.
Jun. 8th, 2015 06:08 pm (UTC)
Hey George, have you read The Malazan Book of the Fallen? And if so, what did you think of it?
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George R.R. Martin
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