Sunday Status Update: July 17, 2022

Kat: Only three books read in the last two weeks. Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, and the only slightly related John Scalzi’s The Android’s Dream, were both very entertaining. The best book, and actually a 5-star book for me, was Jonathan Carroll’s The Land of Laughs. I loved it!


Since my last status report I’ve read:

  • The Deep and Shining Dark By Julie Kemp
  • The Extractionist by Kimberly Unger
  • Stan Lee by Bob Batchelor
  • The Rise and Reign of the Mammals by Steve Brusatte
  • Dancing Cockatoos and the Dead Man Test: How Behavior Evolves by Marlene Zuk
    Whalefall, a collection of poetry by David Baker
  • All is Leaf a collection of essays by John T. Price
  • The Great Indoorsman, a collection of essays by Andrew Farkas

I’m currently halfway through (and quite enjoying) Tad William’s newest Into the Narrowdark. As for media, my son and I are nearly done with season four of Stranger Things (mostly good), I enjoyed nearly all of Obi Wan Kenobi, most of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (back half of season a bit uneven), and enjoyed put Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness but place it in the middle of Marvel films.

Marion: I started Daniel Abraham’s Age of Ash, book one of his new KITHAMAR trilogy. The epic fantasy is structured a bit differently from most trilogies I’ve encountered; each book follows a different main character through the same year – the one year reign of an ill-fated prince in the city of Kithamar.

Sandy: Moi? I am currently reading still another classic sci-fi novel from the catalog of Bison Books, this one being Hugo Gernsback’s Ralph 124C 41+, which was initially released in 1911. Despite the fact that the book functions more as a predictor of futuristic gizmos than as a novel itself, I am definitely enjoying this one, and am the final third to really be picking up. I look forward to sharing some thoughts on this piece of dinosaur sci-fi with you all very shortly. On the home-viewing front, I have to say that I have just been absolutely LOVING the current season of The Orville, currently streaming on Hulu. The first two seasons of this show were just terrific, but this third season has been absolutely phenomenal, with every single episode coming off like a smashing feature film. The scripts, acting, sets, and special FX have all been remarkable. My highest recommendation for this stellar program!

TerryI’m always happy for a new David Baldacci thriller, and The 6:20 Man was exactly what was necessary for a pleasant summer week. I immediately thereafter started The Last Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz, another of my favorite thriller writers, and it’s right on target. Lest you think I’ve given up on SF/F/H altogether, though: I read Alexandra Bracken’s Lore, and I’m still trying to figure out why I don’t think it quite worked. I’m also reading Benedict Jacka’s last ALEX VERA novel, Risen, and I continue dabbling in Samantha Schweblin’s surreal short stories in Mouthful of Birds.

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TIM SCHEIDLER, who's been with us since June 2011, holds a Master's Degree in Popular Literature from Trinity College Dublin. Tim enjoys many authors, but particularly loves J.R.R. Tolkien, Robin Hobb, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, and Susanna Clarke. When he’s not reading, Tim enjoys traveling, playing music, writing in any shape or form, and pretending he's an athlete.

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  1. Paul Connelly /

    Maybe two books is not enough to declare a pattern, but I noticed with Elizabeth Bear’s The Origin of Storms, as with Mark Lawrence’s The Girl and the Moon, that my reading slows down and I take more breaks just as the story is reaching its climactic battles and the fate of the world is teetering on the brink. The opposite of what you would think should happen.

    Is there such a thing as “trope fatigue”? Because even though I moderately liked both books, the accumulation of plot threads, protagonists with what seem like super-powers, evil godlings, and an overflowing cast of heroes and villains just becomes too much of a good thing. Especially when you strongly suspect the ending will be good triumphing over evil and that it’s just a question of how much huffing and puffing will be needed to get you there.

    • Trope fatigue is why I’ve cut back so much on my YA reading/reviewing, where I find it most prevalent. It is a thing for sure I think, and it’s why, as I (and many others repeatedly say), the execution has to be so good if you’re trafficking in tropes (which becomes tropes for a reason after all). The same holds true I’d argue in subverting them, which can become just as drearily predictable. I found Bear’s book went on too long (can’t speak to the other) with the climactic battle scene, something I’ve noticed in other works as well, though not as frequently as in the movies, where the belief seems to be if it’s longer it must be better: longer car chase, longer one-on-one fight scene, longer huge battle, etc.

      • Paul Connelly /

        The long climaxes may be a reaction against the criticism leveled at some recent works that the climax was rushed or otherwise a letdown. But how many ways can a magical battle be fought? Either people are shooting bolts of “energy” out of their hands or eyes at each other, or they have taken the form of monstrous beasts that are ripping at each other. Bear has both (three battles going on at once, I think). Or sometimes just a mental battle of each opponent trying to subvert the other’s will. After a while you’ve seen these kinds of climactic battles too often.

        For a genre said to be dependent so much on Tolkien, I think it’s worth noting that almost all (maybe all) of the battles in The Lord of the Rings are physical. Even the two that involve magic (Gandalf against the Balrog and Eowyn against the Lord of the Nazgul) involve physical grappling or sword strokes. So the types of magical battles we see so much of in current fantasy must have a different lineage.

  2. Terry Weyna /

    Paul, I think trope fatigue — a great coinage, by the way — may be why I’m suddenly reading historical fiction and mysteries and even the occasional mainstream novel or work of nonfiction lately. I haven’t read the series you mentioned (though, of course, I own them (eye roll at own tsundoku)), but I’ve had the same experience of suddenly finding myself uninterested in picking up a novel I’m one-half to three-quarters of the way through.

    A thriller really might be just what you need to break things up! I recommend Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series or Gregg Hurwitz’s Orphan X series, which are completely unrealistic and a great deal of fun.

    • Paul Connelly /

      I actually broke things up by reading Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle, Terry. Sometimes I go back to less melodramatic books set during (and written in) the century before I was born, in order to get out from under both trope overload and the apparent certainty of current authors that what they believe is universally true for all people in all times. For instance, authors like Sarah Orne Jewett, Jerome K. Jerome, Willa Cather, L. M. Montgomery, and Smith. Something makes their characters a little easier for me to relate to, and the multiverse doesn’t have to be saved by someone going cross-eyed and invoking their inner “power”.

  3. Paul Connelly /

    Locus has a nice review of Comeuppance Served Cold, Marion, with their reviewer calling it the “most original book I’ve read in a while”. It took me most of part 1 to get my head around the time jumps between the chapters, after which I enjoyed it quite a bit, but the Locus reviewer was quicker on the uptake than me in catching on to the importance of the date and time labeling on the chapters.

    • I LOVE that review! Thank you for reading it. I do demand a lot from the reader, but I hope I reward them at the end.

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