All About Books/Periodicals

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All About Books/Periodicals

Postby Cogglamp » Wed Apr 11, 2012 9:41 am

I was chatting with theck and bene last night about some random things and we stubmled upon the topic of what books we were reading, what we like to read, and recommendations. I'm always on the look out for a good book and given our diverse group of readers here, I thought it would be nice to tap into what everyone's reading, books they recommend, etc. I'm happy to start and hopefully others will join in on authors they like, genres they're into, and books they're wanting an opinion on. If it's fiction, let's try to keep the spoilers to a minimum though.

Recent Books I've Read that I Recommend:

- The Worst Hard Time (about the Dustbowl during the 30s and underscores the foolishness of man; another great book by Timothy Egan is The Big Burn.)
- The First Tycoon (Cornelius Vanderbilt; he was one tough son of a bitch)
- All books by Mark Kurlansky (Cod, Salt, The Big Oyster -- all three have an interesting take on how each item helped shape the world in some way)
- Wine & War (a neat and short history of the French, the Nazis, and the wine and how it was fought over)
- The Last European War (a truly seminal work on WW2 leading up to American involvement; anything by John Lukacs is going to be top notch if the size scares you of this one)
- John Burdett's Bangkok series (this series is the only fiction I've read in the past 10-15 years and it's quite splendid)
- Michaelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling (awe inspiring at the detail and scope of the Sistine Chapel's masterpiece; another great book by Ross King -- Brunelleschi's Dome)
- Galileo's Daughter (heart wrenching story on how Galileo tries to balance his faith in the church and his studies as a scientist)

- Other Notables: Devil in the White City, Undaunted Courage, Nothing Like it in the World, Cosmos, A Brief History of time, Killing Pablo

Oh, and btw, am I the only one that remembers the California Raisins singing their rap song about checking out books at the library, reading about cars and stars and electric guitars, the heavyweight champ in his craziest bout?
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Re: All About Books/Periodicals

Postby benebarba » Wed Apr 11, 2012 11:50 am

Just in case it came from me: I should note that the 'Cosmos' I was refering to was the tv show narrated by Carl Sagan. I highly recommend folks watch the first episode, at least. It's nice to get a bit of a sense of things and the fact that the vast majority of the content of the show stands up something like 30 years after it was made is pretty impressive (or somewhat sad depending on your perspective).

Some interesting non-fiction I've read:
'The Clock of the Long Now' by Steward Brand - basically a book looking to convince people to take a longer view on things, and providing historical perspectives. There's also the foundation of a similar name.

'The Medieval Machine' by Jean Gimpel - basically a book which sought mainly to dispel the common myth of a technologically inept medieval Europe that was 'saved' by the renaissance. Downside is that the author presents a somewhat gloomy outlook that at the time of his writing that the world was failing to advance technologically... however it was written in 1977, before the boom of the 'semiconductor age', the internet and nanotechnology really got going.

'The Discarded Image' by C.S. Lewis. Yes, that C.S. Lewis (I didn't know this, but apparently he was a medievalist by profession?). It is a work that tries to give perspective of the world-view of a 'Medieval European' (I think he focuses on 14-15th Century western Europe in particular), as a way to properly frame literature of the time.

"Supergods" by Grant Morrison. I was given this book by a friend who runs a comic book shop, and he's never steered me wrong. It's basically Morrison summarizing the relationship between superheroes and contemporary culture (particularly US, but to some extent British). Towards the end, it becomes almost an autobiography as he discusses his own experiences in the superhero comic world. I'd recommend it to anyone who 'doesn't get' superheroes probably more than I would to fans of the superhero genre.

I'll probably add some more if I can get the time.
Last edited by benebarba on Thu Apr 12, 2012 12:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: All About Books/Periodicals

Postby Shoju » Wed Apr 11, 2012 12:41 pm

I'm a HUGE fan of dystopian literature.

Brave new World - Aldous Huxley. The book changed my life, gave me a lot of direction (not because of the content, but because my AP English teacher in high school used it to motivate me) It really hooked me on the genre.

I'm a fan of other classic dystopian works, 1984, This perfect Day, etc...

I like Maxx Barry as a current author. Jennifer Government really being his best, followed by Syrup, and Company.

I'm currently reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I am not normally a mystery type of guy, but a buddy told me I would love it.

I'm also a Stephen King fan.
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Re: All About Books/Periodicals

Postby firstamendme » Wed Apr 11, 2012 1:05 pm

I, too, tend to veer toward dystopian literature.

My favorite is: The Futurological Congress by Stanisław Lem
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Re: All About Books/Periodicals

Postby benebarba » Thu Apr 12, 2012 8:21 am

benebarba wrote:I'll probably add some more if I can get the time.


And now, the fiction!

I'm a huge fan of the sword-n-sorcery fantasy genre, so that colors this list:

The Black Company series by Glen Cook. If you want to read a Tolkienesque fantasy told from the grunt's perspective, this is it. Interestingly (almost ironically, in a way), it also has some of the the strongest female characters of any fantasy series I've read.

The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. A great mix of humor and drama, though I'd recommend starting with a later, mostly standalone, book like 'Reaper Man' (when Death decides he needs a vacation), rather than the earlier books. Through the series, Pratchett's improvement is pretty clear. I'm a huge fan of the books involving the characters of the Night Watch and Death. Not so much with the witches or wizards.

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. Again more great deadpan humor and drama. Set in modern day Chicago, though sometimes the details are a bit off, but hey, it's about the only wizard in the phone book. :P

'Good Omens' by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. From what I gather this was more Pratchett than Gaiman style, but basically a book about what happens when the antichrist was accidentally raised by a normal suburban English family instead of the cult he was supposed to due to being switched at birth.

I'm a fan of the Eragon/Inheritance books, though I have to admit they are not nearly as well done as any of the above. By the last book the story seems to finally have figured itself out.

As an aside - I was having a discussion with a friend earlier about the Inheritence series... does anyone else seem to remember that initially it was billed as a trilogy (it ended up as 4 books)?
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Re: All About Books/Periodicals

Postby poptart » Thu Apr 12, 2012 8:49 am

Currently re-reading the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson in anticipation of the final book 14 being released in Jan 2013.

While Jordan "lost his way" a bit in the middle of the series, it is by far the most fleshed out world I have ever read/encountered. I am a huge fan of the whole "lost ancient world" concept where the current generation of characters is trying to piece together/rediscover older technology/magic/abilities/world structure and the Wheel of Time series delivers that in spades.

If you have a year (11,000 pages, 4.06 million words estimated) and are into "sword&board/magical" type fiction, I highly recommend it.

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Re: All About Books/Periodicals

Postby KysenMurrin » Thu Apr 12, 2012 9:12 am

I actually just read the Black Company novels (the first trilogy) a couple weeks ago. Pretty good. I'd already been a fan of Steven Erikson's Malazan series, which borrows a lot of Cook's style.

I used to read constantly in school and university, and somehow this year I've managed to get back towards that.

Best book I've read so far this year is probably Big Questions by Anders Nilsen. Great big graphic novel, about a group of small identical birds, but the writing and art is excellent at giving them character. It starts out as simple humour then grows into much more.

If you want to be unbearably strict about what "book" means and rule out the above as a graphic novel, then I think the book I'm reading now would be around the top of the list: Palimpsest, by Catherynne Valente, wherein four visitors arrive in the surreal city of Palimpsest, which is reached through sexual encounters with others who have also been there.
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Re: All About Books/Periodicals

Postby Arnock » Thu Apr 12, 2012 11:48 am

Right now I'm also in the midst of re-reading Wheel of time, I just finished book 4, and after that, if I remember right, is where Jordan started to... lose focus, for lack of a better term. I'm actually reading hunger games at the moment, at a recommendation from several friends. (on a quick tangent, if anyone else read the Pendragon books when they were younger, doesn't the general idea of hunger games' plot seem almost too similar to that of The Quillan Games?)

At any rate, a few other recommendations for fantasy books would be the staples of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, and G.R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire.

Another series that I enjoyed quite a lot, but seems to be rather obscure, would be Roger MacBride Allen's Chronicles of Solace

As an aside - I was having a discussion with a friend earlier about the Inheritence series... does anyone else seem to remember that initially it was billed as a trilogy (it ended up as 4 books)?


It was originally supposed to be a trilogy, but as Paolini was writing the third book, it was becoming a lot longer than originally planned (I think because of the sloan plotline) so he expanded it into 4. I enjoyed those books a lot, even if a lot of what he wrote seemed to be very... derivative.
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Re: All About Books/Periodicals

Postby benebarba » Thu Apr 12, 2012 12:04 pm

Arnock wrote:
As an aside - I was having a discussion with a friend earlier about the Inheritence series... does anyone else seem to remember that initially it was billed as a trilogy (it ended up as 4 books)?


It was originally supposed to be a trilogy, but as Paolini was writing the third book, it was becoming a lot longer than originally planned (I think because of the sloan plotline) so he expanded it into 4. I enjoyed those books a lot, even if a lot of what he wrote seemed to be very... derivative.


OK, since neither of us could dig up anything that said it, we were both wondering if we'd gone crazy :P

That said - I think the worst thing to happen to that series was the movie. I have had a hard time convincing anyone who saw it that the books actually were actually pretty good, if derivative (though I actually quite like how they ended, and felt the improvement as the series progressed was noticeable - derivatives in literature are nothing new).
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Re: All About Books/Periodicals

Postby KysenMurrin » Thu Apr 12, 2012 12:13 pm

I never saw anything of the movie (can't even remember seeing a trailer), though I heard the bad press. I just remember the terrible reviews for the first two books.
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Re: All About Books/Periodicals

Postby Arnock » Thu Apr 12, 2012 2:06 pm

http://www.alagaesia.com/kvetha/paolini ... cement.pdf


I liked the last book, but I actually wasn't too happy with the ending, it felt like he kinda lifted it from LotR, and in a way that didn't offer enough closure IMO.


As for the movie... I try to forget that it ever happened.
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Re: All About Books/Periodicals

Postby theckhd » Fri Apr 13, 2012 3:30 pm

I don't get time to read a lot of books lately, but I've been on a fantasy/medieval kick again. I tend to oscillate between non-fiction and fiction in cycles. Last cycle I was reading WWII nonfiction, including:
"Crusade in Europe" by Eisenhower, which was sort of dry, but an interesting look at what goes into making a military operation work. It's a lot more logistics and "how do I keep X troops fed/armed/supplied" than detailed combat tactics.

"Operation Mincemeat" by Macintyre, which was a really neat story about the covert operation that helped misdirect the Germans and Italians before the invasion of Sicily. Kind of cool that it was Ian Flemming's idea (in part), years before he started writing James Bond novels.

"Operation Drumbeat" by Gannon, about one U-boat's attacks off of the North American shoreline early in the war.

After that I went back and re-read Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follet. I had read the book once or twice years ago, but I wanted to re-read it because I just got the sequel, and wanted to refresh my memory.

The book I'm currently on is "The Witch Watch" by Shamus Young, a blogger that I've followed for some time. The basic premise is that a powerful wizard's lackey accidentally re-animates the wrong corpse, leading to a very confused undead fellow. He claimed the inspiration was WoW's undead starting zone, because while playing through it, he thought, "wouldn't it be funny if they accidentally raised the wrong guy?"
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Re: All About Books/Periodicals

Postby Nakama » Fri Apr 13, 2012 5:16 pm

A) This is what GoodReads is for! :)

b) Anything by A. Lee Martinez is amazing. I recommend "Monster" to start with.

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Re: All About Books/Periodicals

Postby sfrog » Fri Apr 13, 2012 10:36 pm

I recently discovered my smart phone (I call it Bob) will let me buy books and read them on it. I'll read almost anything, but I do have a few favorites I love dearly.

The Seven Daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes. This isn't - despite the title - a religious book at all. Instead it's about how most modern humans can trace their mitochondrial DNA back to one of 7 women. For curious about human migration, DNA, and some really nifty science, this is amazing.

"Soul of the Night' by Chey Raymo. Basically a collection of extremely well written essays about Astronomy and philosophy, all of which are accompanied by wood engravings. I was introduced to this book in high school, and I have actually had to replace it twice since then. His essay on creation myths, and the dark of night are my two favorite.

"The Sweet Potatoes Queen's Big Ass Cookbook and Financial Planner" by Jill Conner Browne. Contains such excellent things as Coke Brownies, and Pig Candy, as well as giving this Alaskan a view into how the far Southern states from which her mother hails from, works.
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Re: All About Books/Periodicals

Postby Fridmarr » Sat Apr 14, 2012 9:53 am

I recently finished the Hunger Games books, they were pretty good. After not really liking the last book much, the more I think about it and ponder the ending, the more I think I enjoyed it the most.

I'm not a particularly discerning reader, most books that I read I end up enjoying, but they are generally on recommendations by others. A few noted here in this and other threads are on my list, and I'm sure I'll probably enjoy them. I don't really focus in on any particular genre.

I'm currently reading Unbroken (Non Fiction about a WWII POW), and I'm pretty hooked on it, though it's rather depressing at this point.
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Re: All About Books/Periodicals

Postby Mannstein » Mon Apr 16, 2012 8:05 am

poptart wrote:Currently re-reading the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson in anticipation of the final book 14 being released in Jan 2013.
(...)If you have a year (11,000 pages, 4.06 million words estimated) and are into "sword&board/magical" type fiction, I highly recommend it.

Poptart

"The Wheel of Time" - Very Good, i like it and can't wait if for the end, i don't like the new enemy/friend/army is more powerful that the last one feel/approach specialy after 14books. I recomend very much.

"Mistborn: Final Empire" - (Trilogy) - From Sanderson, it's very good and a very different twist - heavy on the magic/fantasy. I recomend very much.

"Song of Ice and Fire" - Games of Thrones- George R.R. Martin. VERY Good. But there is a catch:
1st book: Excelent
2nd book: Excelent
3rd book: Goo
4th book: barely readable, 1k pages of world building
5th book: slightly better then the 4th, but i couldn't take it anymore, more 1k pages of world building is too much for me.
I would recomend only reading the first three, but to be honest on this foruns there are some strong supporters for the lasts books.

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Re: All About Books/Periodicals

Postby benebarba » Mon Apr 16, 2012 10:01 am

I've found that the Song of Ice and Fire series seems to be a seriously polarizing force amongst fantasy fans. I'm not a fan, though I actually like the TV series.

Oh, I'll toss in another fiction work I liked (and the zombie talk a couple days ago reminded me): World War Z by Max Brooks. Possibly the 'scariest' fiction book I've ever read because it drew heavily on how we (as in society in general) actually have responded to large-scale disasters, global poltics and war. I felt it was also written in an interesting manner - as a set of interviews carried out by an imaginary near-future version of the author after the 'war'. I must admit I think it is possibly over-hyped at this point though, but I really liked it.
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Re: All About Books/Periodicals

Postby Shoju » Mon Apr 16, 2012 10:43 am

Fridmarr wrote:I recently finished the Hunger Games books, they were pretty good. After not really liking the last book much, the more I think about it and ponder the ending, the more I think I enjoyed it the most.

I'm not a particularly discerning reader, most books that I read I end up enjoying, but they are generally on recommendations by others. A few noted here in this and other threads are on my list, and I'm sure I'll probably enjoy them. I don't really focus in on any particular genre.

I'm currently reading Unbroken (Non Fiction about a WWII POW), and I'm pretty hooked on it, though it's rather depressing at this point.



I started reading the hunger games at the behest of my son. I never made it past half way through the second book. I hated the ending of the first book. I hated the big "surprise" at the Cornucopia, and I thought that the "push back" to the hunger games in the second book was contrived.
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Re: All About Books/Periodicals

Postby Nakama » Mon Apr 16, 2012 5:40 pm

I second the recommendation on World War Z, especially if you've been watching The Walking Dead at all. It was damn well written.

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Re: All About Books/Periodicals

Postby halabar » Tue Apr 17, 2012 11:48 am

Mannstein wrote:
"Song of Ice and Fire" - Games of Thrones- George R.R. Martin. VERY Good. But there is a catch:
1st book: Excelent
2nd book: Excelent
3rd book: Goo
4th book: barely readable, 1k pages of world building
5th book: slightly better then the 4th, but i couldn't take it anymore, more 1k pages of world building is too much for me.
I would recomend only reading the first three, but to be honest on this foruns there are some strong supporters for the lasts books.


Hmm.. I finally got around to ordering the set of the first 4. We'll see how it goes. Will hold off on #5 until I read the rest.
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Re: All About Books/Periodicals

Postby Arnock » Mon Apr 30, 2012 9:37 pm

So I just finished reading Ender's Game and, wow, that was the best book that I've read in ages. I've always heard that it was a good book, but hearing the general premise of the story from friends sounded pretty cheesy, and I wasn't really eager to read it, but I'm glad that I finally got around to reading it.

Question for those of you who have read the other books in the series, Enders Game ended really well, in my opinion, and it was excellent as a standalone novel. Are the other books in the series worth reading?
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Re: All About Books/Periodicals

Postby Skye1013 » Tue May 01, 2012 12:15 am

benebarba wrote:The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. Again more great deadpan humor and drama. Set in modern day Chicago, though sometimes the details are a bit off, but hey, it's about the only wizard in the phone book. :P

He's got another good series that I'm currently reading called Codex Alera. First book is Furies of Calderon, which is about a teenage boy (Tavi) that lives in a world of people that control magical (mostly) elemental beings called furies. He's considered a freak because he's the only one of his kind that doesn't have a fury. Without giving too much away, he basically has to try and save his homeland from Marat invaders. The Marat are people that have an affinity to certain animals and have formed tribes based on these animals (think, Native Americans to some degree.)

Also, I enjoy the Xanth series by Piers Anthony (there are currently ~35 books in this "trilogy.") It's a magical land that's (currently) shaped a lot like Florida. If you like magic, humor and puns, then this is definitely a series to pick up.

Another series by Piers Anthony is the Incarnations of Immortality. It's eight books, each dealing with a different Incarnation of Immortality (shocking, no?)

1 On a Pale Horse (Death)
2 Bearing an Hourglass (Time)
3 With a Tangled Skein (Fate)
4 Wielding a Red Sword (War)
5 Being a Green Mother (Nature)
6 For Love of Evil (Evil)
7 And Eternity (Good)
8 Under a Velvet Cloak (Night/Secrets)

It's very intricate in how the books correlate with one another, and if I had to pick an office for myself, it would probably be Evil (who isn't inherently evil, it's just that office's particular method of doing business.)

TL;DR - I suck at synopses and if you like magic and humor, pick up Jim Butcher or Piers Anthony.
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Re: All About Books/Periodicals

Postby tinalt » Tue May 01, 2012 6:41 pm

I absolutely need to recommend The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson for any high fantasy fans. It's a great read, the biggest problem I have with it is that it's Sandersons entry into long series fantasy, so I'll be forced to deal with waiting for each new book for the next decade or two.
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Re: All About Books/Periodicals

Postby Nakama » Tue May 01, 2012 8:56 pm

Arnock wrote:So I just finished reading Ender's Game and, wow, that was the best book that I've read in ages. I've always heard that it was a good book, but hearing the general premise of the story from friends sounded pretty cheesy, and I wasn't really eager to read it, but I'm glad that I finally got around to reading it.

Question for those of you who have read the other books in the series, Enders Game ended really well, in my opinion, and it was excellent as a standalone novel. Are the other books in the series worth reading?


The Ender's Game books are almost all really well done. I especially recommend Speaker for the Dead and Ender's Shadow.

The fact that Orson Scott Card can write a book talking about the exact same events from a different character's point of view and make it compelling (i.e. Bean instead of Ender) is awesome to me. It doesn't make up for him being bat-shit crazy, but his writing for almost all the books in the Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow series is darn good.

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Re: All About Books/Periodicals

Postby Brekkie » Wed May 02, 2012 1:51 am

Arnock wrote:So I just finished reading Ender's Game and, wow, that was the best book that I've read in ages. I've always heard that it was a good book, but hearing the general premise of the story from friends sounded pretty cheesy, and I wasn't really eager to read it, but I'm glad that I finally got around to reading it.

Question for those of you who have read the other books in the series, Enders Game ended really well, in my opinion, and it was excellent as a standalone novel. Are the other books in the series worth reading?


The continuation of the Ender plotline is very hit-or-miss with people, because it is quite different in tone and focus than Ender's Game. It gets weirder, and more moralistic.
Speaker for the Dead, however, I highly reccomend. It works as a stand alone novel as well.

If you liked Ender's Game for the tactics, sneaking, strategy, and epic feel, go with the Bean plotline next, starting with the parallel novel Ender's Shadow. I found that I liked Bean much more than Ender (who always struck me, even in adulthood, to be rather self-pitying), and his story kind of takes off right from where Ender's Game ends with the events on Earth and the eventual establishment of a multi-world human civilization. The follow-on Ender books kind of skip way ahead in time because of his relativistic travel, and you just sort of hear vague descriptions of how his brother Peter became Hegemon and unifies the people of Earth and eventually dies. With Ender the timeline just skips ahead to Suddenly-Galactic-Empire.
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