• Reading 2016

    First full year commuting by public transport, which is where I’ve done the vast majority of my reading, well on public transport or hanging around empty platforms… I thought 52 books sounded very achievable this year.

    1. Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson (reread)
    2. What If? by Randall Munroe - Enjoyable, though I’d read most of it on the blog already
    3. Liveship Traders: Ship of Magic by Robin Hobbs - fantastic fantasy, I waspulled right in to the whole series. Not sure that I’ve read fantasy set on boats since the Dawntreader.
    4. Liveship Traders: The Mad Ship by Robin Hobbs
    5. Liveship Traders: Ship of Destiny by Robin Hobbs
    6. Farseer Trilogy: Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobbs - the first part of the first series in the World of the Ealderlings series. Should have read this trilogy before the Liveship Traders, though it didn’t make much odds. Another fantastic trilogy, possibly slightly better than the Liveship Traders trilogy.
    7. Farseer Trilogy: Royal Assassin by Robin Hobbs
    8. Farseer Trilogy: Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobbs
    9. Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card (reread)
    10. Xenocide by Orson Scott Card (reread)
    11. Children of the Mind by Orson Scott Card (reread)
    12. Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card (reread)
    13. Tawney Man Trilogy: Fools Errand by Robin Hobbs - Really enjoyable series, not quite as addictive as the Farseer Trilogy. You definitely get the sense of this as the start of a trilogy, setting up for the stories to follow.
    14. Tawney Man Trilogy: Golden Fool by Robin Hobbs. Settled back in to the world now, feels like a story in its own right.
    15. Tawney Man Trilogy: Fools Fate by Robin Hobbs, surprised me with the sweet ending. The last 10% of the story, felt like a protracted epilogue though. This trilogy was not quite as good as the Farseer or Liveship trilogy
    16. Fall of the Roman Empire by Peter heather. (reread)
    17. Old man’s war by John Scalzi (reread)
    18. The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi (reread)
    19. The Last Colony by John Scalzi (reread)
    20. Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi (reread)
    21. The human division by John Scalzi (reread)
    22. End of all things by John Scalzi, the reason for re-reading the others was that I knew I had this to read. Really enjoyed reading the whole series yet again.
    23. Good Omens by Pratchett and Gaiman (reread)
    24. The Man Who Cycled the World by Mark Beaumont, quite an interesting non-fiction read.
    25. Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwall (reread)
    26. Little Brother by Cory Doctrow (reread)
    27. A Game of Thrones by GRRM (reread)
    28. A Clash of Kings by GRRM (reread)
    29. A Storm of Swords by GRRM (reread)
    30. A Feast for Crows by GRRM (reread)
    31. A Dance With Dragons by GRRM (reread)
    32. Dunc and Egg by GRRM. Set in the same world as Game of Thrones but much earlier. Really enjoyed having some fresh ASoIAF material to read.
    33. House of Cards 2 by Michael Dobbs (reread) couldn’t remember it very well, so I re-read in preparation for the third in the series.
    34. House of Cards 3 by Michael Dobbs Enjoyed more than the second, neither come close to the first.
    35. Mistborn Secret History by Brandon Sanderson, surprising find, didn’t expect this to exist. Definitely for fans of the mistborn trilogy only.
    36. Frankenstein by Marie Shelley Decided to read something more classic after binging on fantasy, glad I did.
    37. Jekyll and Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. Shame it was so short
    38. The Odyssey by Homer, I really enjoyed it, it’s where a large part of the Greek myths that everyone vaguely sort-of knows comes from. Probably shouldn’t compare it, but I preferred the Illiad - wider variety of gods, more perspectives, more variance. The odyssey has lots of fleet-footed Athene doing things, Odysseus being anointed with olive oil before getting his companions killed and moaning about the suitors.
    39. The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cromwell (second reread of the year) Back to fantasy after areciating some classics. Decided to read the whole series so started at the beginning again.
    40. The Pale Horseman by Bernard Cromwell
    41. The Lords of the North by Bernard Cromwell
    42. Sword Song by Bernard Cromwell
    43. Burning Land by Bernard Cromwell
    44. Death of Kings by Bernard Cromwell
    45. Pagan Lord by Bernard Cromwell
    46. Empty Throne by Bernard Cromwell
    47. Warriors of the Storm by Bernard Cromwell Really enjoyed reading The Last Kingdom series, but binging like this has merged them a bit in my head.
    48. Proxima by Baxter - nice bit of sci-fi, the world building was good, the characters were a bit 2d.
    49. Ultima by Baxter - pretty poor sequel. Romans in space.
    50. Necromancer by William Gibson. (reread)
    51. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller (reread) - still enjoyable, not quite as laugh out loud as he first few times I read it as a teen.
    52. Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson (reread) - still funny.
    53. 3 men in a boat by JK Jerome (reread) - not as funny as I remembered
    54. Seven Eve’s by Neal Stephenson - Absolutely fantastic, especially the first two parts. Kind of get the feeling more could have been done with part 3.
    55. Mort (Discworld) by Terry Pratchett - Quite amusing, not as enjoyable as Guards Guards! but I’ll keep reading and I’m sure it’ll grow on me
    56. Reaper Man (Discworld) by Terry Pratchett - Much more enjoyable than Mort. The first discworld book I’ve had that has dealt so much with the wizards.
  • Reading 2015

    I was very busy playing Destiny so didn’t read much this year until Terry Pratchett’s death in March kickstarted me on a Discworld city watch re-read. Commuting via the train rather than driving also meant I read more after August. Too many re-reads though.

    1. We need to talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver - I’d heard bits of this on Radio 4’s Book of the Week years ago and finally got round to reading it. Wish I hadn’t taken so long.
    2. Honourable Friends: Parliament and the Fight for Change by Caroline Lucas - an interesting look into some of the inner workings of Westminster
    3. Guards guards! by Terry Pratchett (reread)
    4. Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett’s (reread)
    5. Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett (reread)
    6. Jingo by Terry Pratchett (reread)
    7. The Fifth elephant by Terry Pratchett (reread)
    8. Night Watch by Terry Pratchett (reread) All of the city watch series are still brilliant, I still need to read the rest of discworld.
    9. A Dance with Dragons by GRRM (reread)
    10. Anathem by Neal Stephenson (reread)
    11. The End of the world running club by Adrian J Walker I really enjoyed this, it was nice to read a post-apocalyptic book about Fred Bloggs set in the UK.
    12. Reamde by Neal Stephenson, it doesn’t quite measure up to his other books in my eyes, possibly not as geeky and part of the subject matter being MMORPGs was a bit of a turn off. I did enjoy it though, it’s an exciting thriller with a fast paced climax.
    13. Baroque cycle: Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson - (reread)
    14. Baroque cycle: The Confusion by Neal Stephenson - (reread)
    15. Baroque cycle: The System of the World by Neal Stephenson (reread)
    16. Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson (reread)
    17. Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel - A slightly different take on a post-apocalyptic world. Very enjoyable.
    18. How to be an MP by Paul Flynn MP - Interesting and mildly amusing in places
    19. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
    20. House of cards by Michael Dobbs
    21. Play the King by Michael Dobbs - 2nd of the house of cards series, can’t believe I didn’t read the third yet. Not as good as first.
    22. Shadow of the Hegemon by Orson Scott Card - reread
    23. Shadow Puppets by Orson Scott Card - reread
    24. Shadow of the Giants by Orson Scott Card - reread
    25. Shadows in Flight by Orson Scott Card - reread
    26. Adrift: 76 days at sea by Steven Callahan (reread)
    27. Lost in the jungle by Yossi Ginsberg (reread)
    28. Walking the Amazon by Ed Stafford (reread)
    29. Naked and marooned by Ed Stafford, interesting, though much less so than Walking the Amazon. Included lots of stuff that was cut from the TV show.
    30. The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwall, read after watching the TV series. Fantastic read, looking forward to reading the whole series except that it’s still being written.
    31. Final empire by Brandon Sanderson (reread)
    32. Well of ascension by Brandon Sanderson (reread)
    33. Hero of the ages by Brandon Sanderson (reread)
    34. Alloy of law by Brandon Sanderson (reread) - enjoyed it much more this time round
    35. Shadows of self by Brandon Sanderson - it’s good. I still prefer the mistborn series though.
    36. Way of kings by Brandon Sanderson (reread)
  • Faster than light

    Faster Than Light (FTL) is an infuriating strategy game. It pits you as a Captain Kirk like figure, constantly rerouting power from the warp drive to power up your lasers (or vice versa). In between the space battles you choose how you want to develop your spaceship & crew and choose your way through random events.

    It’s infuriating because it’s fiendishly difficult, the levels, events and items available in the shop are randomly generated so it’s different every time and most of all if you get game over you have to start again from the beginning. It’s rogue in a spaceship I guess.

    I’ve been playing off and on (most off) for weeks now, and it’s took me until my 21st attempt to beat the game on easy mode.

    If you try it beware of giant spiders.

  • Reading 2013

    During 2013 I have read 47 novels, as compared to 57 last year. A big part of the reduction was that in 2012 I spent a lot of time reading while feeding Hugo.

    Here’s what I’ve read in 2013, in a rough chronological order:

    1. Foundation by Asimov - for the umpteenth time
    2. Foundation and Empire by Asimov - again, a re-read
    3. Second Foundation by Asimov - again, a re-read
    4. War & Peace by Tolstoy - It’s a large time commitment and took a while to settle into, but it slowly pulled me in, and I ended it thinking how fantastic it was.
    5. Night Watch by Pratchett - after finishing War & Peace I needed something lighter to read, as usual for discworld, this was funny and brilliant.
    6. The Ghost Brigades by Scalzi - a continuation of Old Man’s War which I read last year, not quite as good but still really good.
    7. The Sagan Diary - Scalzi - set in the Old Man’s War universe, but not a novel as such. I didn’t enjoy this.
    8. The Last Colony by Scalzi - another novel in the Old Man’s War universe. Probably the second best in the series. I read it again after reading Zoe’s Tale.
    9. South: The story of Shackleton’s 1914-1917 expedition - I thought this was brilliant, a stoic story of a great escape.
    10. Tom Crean - An Unsung Hero: Antarctic Survivor - A biography of a man who was involved in Scott’s fatal journey to the South pole as well as Shackleton’s 1914 expedition. Again, really interesting to see the understated way in which great feats were accomplished. They make Bear Grylls seem like an amateur.
    11. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow - Reread. Typical Doctorow novel, technology, civil rights, a bit heavy handed but very enjoyable.
    12. For The Win by Cory Doctorow - Reread. Probably Doctorow’s best.
    13. Eastern Standard Tribe by Cory Doctorow - Reread. Mediocre.
    14. Nightfall (the novel) by Asimov & Silverberg - Didn’t seem like a typical Asimov novel, probably because it’s cowritten. It has a really interesting premise.
    15. A Storm of Swords - Another re-read.
    16. A Feast for Crows by GRR Martin - Another re-read
    17. A Dance With Dragons by GRR Martin - Another re-read
    18. Adrift: Seventy-six days Lost at Sea - Continuing on the survival theme from the Antarctic related reads. Surprisingly interesting non-fictional account of 76 days drifting in the Atlantic
    19. Walking the Amazon - A non-fictional account of a walk from Peru to the Brazilian coast following the Amazon. Surprisingly not repetitive.
    20. Lost in the Jungle - The documentation of a reckless expedition in the Amazon gone wrong. The sudden changes in the river level are quite scary, it underscored the challenges faced in Walking the Amazon.
    21. Cloud Road: A Journey through the Inca Heartland - This was slightly repetitive in places but really made me want to go and visit Peru.
    22. Adventures with Extremists by Jon Ronson - An amusing look at islamic fundementalists, klu klux klan leaders, and the Bilderberg Group. Apparently there’s an accompanying TV series that I haven’t yet watched.
    23. The Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson - More amusing non-fiction, this time at paranormal ‘x-files’ American army units
    24. The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson - More funny non-fiction, this time about how people are classified as psychopaths.
    25. Just a Geek by Wil Wheaton - I’m not a trekkie, but this was quite enjoyable.
    26. Homeland by Cory Doctorow - the sequel to Little Brother, less novel but probably a better novel.
    27. Spin by Robert Wilson - Excellent sci-fi about time dilation and the end of the world
    28. Axis by Robert Wilson - Sequel to spin, not as good
    29. Vortex by Robert Wilson - Sequel to Axis, not as good.
    30. Playbourhood by Mike Lanza - A documentation of one families efforts to make their neighbourhood better for children. An inspiring example.
    31. The Last Unicorn (plus sequal) by Peter Beagle - I vaguely remember watching the movie as a child, I never realised it was a fantasy classic. After reading it, I don’t think that it is. 1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline - An interesting novel with a fast paced storyline set in the near future when mmorpg is better than real life and attracts nearly everyone. Full of 80s references, so I suspect that people older than I would enjoy it even more. 1. Boneshaker by Cherie Priest - Steampunk Zombies. This was a nice surprise in a Humble Bundle. I’ve just realised that there are many more to read in the same universe.
    32. Machine of Death - A collection of short stories about a machine that can predict your method of death but is often vague or ironic. Some of the stories are brilliant, some are just good.
    33. Shards of Honour (Vorkosigan saga) - This is the first book of the Vorkosigan saga - a space opera. I mean to read more.
    34. I Can Make You Hate by Charlie Brooker - essentially a collection of his grauniad columns, ok coffee table book.
    35. The Illiad by Homer - Brilliant. Epic.
    36. Thud by Pratchett - Another light hearted ‘breather’ novel. Sad to say it’s the last of the Guards! discworld series :(
    37. The Circle - fast paced satire of social networking and google
    38. Zoe’s Tale by Scalzi - A retelling of The Last Colony from a different perspective. Equally as enjoyable.
    39. The Human Division - Another Old Man’s War universe novel, this time with different characters. Uses several short stories all following a similar format.
    40. Final Empire: Mistborn by Sanderson - Reread.
    41. The Well of Ascension by Sanderson - Reread.
    42. The Hero of Ages by Sanderson - Reread.
    43. Jurassic Park - Reread.
    44. The Lost World - Reread.
    45. Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela - Mandela’s life was always interesting. I enjoyed studying apartheid politics at school. The downside is that it got vaguer as it went on.
    46. The Poison Eaters and Other Stories by Holly Black - A collection of mainly paranormal or urban fantasy short stories. Some were great, some were poor. OK as a whole.
    47. Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link - Another collection of ghost/fantasy stories. Some (The Specialist’s Hat) are great, some are a bit half baked.
  • The circle

    David Egger’s The Circle is a fast paced and addictive read, it’s a blunt satire of the pervasiveness of social networking and people’s need to share.

    The Circle is an internet company that has replaced Facebook, Twitter, Google, Amazon, Justin.tv and more. As such it knows a lot about a lot of people. The novel is about Mae Holland, as she starts work at The Circle’s google-esque campus in the customer experience department. Mae quickly realises what is expected of her as a Circler - sharing everything and feels obligated to comply, culminating in lifestreaming her waking life. During the interview where she announces this, she says, and the company is quick to echo

    SECRETS ARE LIES SHARING IS CARING PRIVACY IS THEFT

    The Circle’s ultimate goal is total transparency to improve the world - if everyone knows that they may be being watched and their behaviour publicly discussed. This is very relevant to one of the current hot internet issues - the requirement for YouTube commentators (notoriously rude and useless) to be linked to their google+ profile - which requires a real name.

    Mae’s journey from an everyday person, to one of the elite “T2K” circlers is accompanied with her love interests - her puppy-dog colleague, who like every good Circler believes in sharing everything, her ex-boyfriend who is a sceptic (and given his monologues, I think he is Egger’s voice) and her shadowy, mysterious colleague Kalden and with her parents changing attitudes towards Mae and her job.

    The novel is black and white with it’s arguments against social networking, the only grey statement I can remember, is one that I agree with in general <blockquote>my problem with paper is that all communication dies with it</blockquote>

    I use facebook (due to network effects), twitter and Google+, I let Google track where I am so they can tell me about travel times etc, I scrobble my music to last.fm so I can get suggestions from my friends and strangers, I post on various forums, not always using a pseudonym. I’m aware each time that I’m giving away some privacy, each time the trade off always seems worthwhile. Heavy-handed and satirical the novel may be, but I think it’s totally correct about how things are changing. There is no cabal, it is happening incrementally. Someone comes up with an idea that will improve your life if you share this little thing with the company, someone else comes up with something else, a company decide to make some of the data you share with them slightly more visible.

    The book is not all about bludgeoning the reader about the internet, there is some levity, mainly poking fun at the earnestness of the inhabitants of the Circle campus.

    There’s something ironic about me having rated this book on amazon, tweeted and facebooked about having read it and now blogging about it.