stuff I haven’t read

There is a fun meme going round, #iconfessineverread (Con, Rachel and others) and I had fully intended this post to be in similar vein but I seem to have rambled on instead :) Perhaps I will try and list some books I should have read but haven’t, in another post.

It’s fair to say that beyond what was required for school I have read little of the literary canon. I have on occasion dipped my toe into literary waters and at one stage I was at least trying to read Booker winners. That’s mostly a fail these days. Yet what I did read I enjoyed including Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things and Ian McEwan’s Amsterdam. McEwan I particularly liked as he managed to write interesting, intelligent books that were also short :) I haven’t read of his in years either including Atonement which everyone tells me I should read.

A lot of my reading has been more what is termed “genre reading”. Truckloads of science fiction, not to mention thrillers. Later I “diversified” into fantasy and other things. These days I read a mix of SF, fantasy, graphic novels and of course gaming. I’d argue that the games I like to play generally reflect a story telling approach and could be included in a list of “stuff I read”. I’ve recently finished Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, and it was split into sections labelled chapters to chart the plot progression. This worked for me and it felt like I progressed through a story of the classic 3 act approach, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. I think it even had a prologue and an epilogue.

I’ve not been particularly keen on writers’ festivals or conventions either. I’ve been to the odd event at the Sydney Writers’ Festival but mostly skip it. On the other hand, the few times I’ve gone I’ve usually run into people I know in the crowd and had engaging catch ups. Despite my fondness of SF, I’ve never been fond of SF conventions either and usually skip them too. Looking back I think it would have been nice to have got involved in a book club at least. I’ve had friends who’ve been in clubs for years and enjoy the continuing engagement with a group of familiar faces.

This week in fact I have started a book I should have read years ago, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I have no excuse, I even bought the hardcover when it was first published. Disappointingly even though it’s the first edition, it’s the 8th printing. I have had a look around and it seems there was a very nice edition published some years ago by Hill House. Unfortunately it’s also a little expensive.

sciffy bits

I started #blogjune with high hopes of a daily whinge and occasional rant.  I started well enough but then got caught up writing another response about blogging relevancy in response to conversations about blogging as a thing. It was mostly finished in one hit, with good stats on the “golden age” of lib blogging, it just needed a paragraph or two more. As per my usual practice, I had to put it off because life, then procrastination, thus it became a bottleneck and nothing else got blogged. It still sits unfinished and the conversation has moved on though I think it’s still useful to point out that I was whining about my own erratic and infrequent blogging back in 2001 :-)

So sciffy stuff. Con posted an article on 10 SF books that people pretend to have read. Of the list, somewhat surprisingly, I’ve read 4. Top X lists can be interesting beasts, and Con commented that such lists can be good for finding authors you haven’t heard of. I blogged a list of top 100 SF novels in 2012 of which I’d read 32 with plans to read more. 3 years later, I think I’ve only read one or two more. Oops. Both lists have good stuff and I should read more of them. Some books are in common to both lists.

I have however been reading lots of stuff that doesn’t appear on top X lists…or perhaps I’m looking at the wrong lists. I decided to re-read all the Raymond Feist novels…which ended up being a wee bit exhausting and I eventually gave up around Book 15. I’m now re-reading the Vorkosigan Saga and on to book 4. Perhaps I should be looking at fantasy lists, though of course the real answer is the lists themselves shouldn’t matter beyond Con’s original point to find new stuff to read.

The reason I’ve been re-reading series’ stuff is that my other reading had slowed for a while and it’s nice to be able to steadily chunk through novel after novel. Lying in bed reading novels rather than playing handheld games or reading endless article feeds. Revisiting old friends and stories has been fun too and it’s nice to discover that the writing still sucks me in. Have been meaning to re-read Dune too, though I think I’ll do it as a standalone.

shelf by shelf 17 – tales of war

Growing up I loved war stories and escapism generally…unsurprising given all the Biggles’ books I have. One of my favourite movies growing up was “The Great Escape” which was based on a book by Paul Brickhill. I have it, as well the biography of Jerry Sage, simply titled “Sage”. Steve McQueen’s character in the movie, Hilts, took some inspiration from Sage, though wikipedia suggests another pilot and doesn’t refer to Sage at all. I found Sage’s book an engrossing read and Sage himself a fascinating character.

My other favourite destination for stories about WWII is P.R. Reid’s The Colditz Story and its sequel, The Latter Days at Colditz. The Great Escape was set in a camp, however Colditz was a castle. I don’t recall if I watched the TV series first or read the books. I recall finding the first book in a box at my grandmother’s place. I think it was actually one of dad’s old books but I’m not entirely sure these days.

Nestled away at the far end of the shelf are the books by Ivan Southall, particularly several in his “Simon Black” series. I think Southall was one of my favourite Australian writers growing up, along with Patricia Wrightson. I don’t think I ever read anything by Colin Thiele, though I did see the film of “Storm Boy” as a child. At the right end of the shelf are the all the Star Trek books I owned. I enjoyed the novelisations of several of movies as well as a few others. I’m a bit old school and really only watched the original series. I tried to get into Nextgen when it started and gave up after 2-3 seasons. Friends assure me it got better with 4th season. I’ve also loved the recent movies that have rebooted the show.

of things…and malazan

Holidays: needed, taken, appreciated. Returned.

My first decent holiday since 2010 when I spent 2 weeks, post LIANZA, in NZ and tramped the Routeburn. I’ve just spent a little over 3 weeks in Borneo, or more precisely in the northern Malaysian part as the island of Borneo is split between Malaysia and Indonesia. I travelled there with a mate on a 22 day trip with Intrepid. Intrepid trips are for small groups, usually up to a dozen with a guide/admin person. This trip was a combination of two trips and there were 8 of us on the first half and 12 on the second (including 4 from the first). Will perhaps speak more of the trip on a future post but I’ve at least uploaded all my photos and am slowly adding descriptions.

For most of the trip, I kept waking in Sydney time (around 7) which alas is around 4am Borneo time. Now that I’m back I’m going to bed around 1.30am Sydney time (10.30pm Borneo) which is really hurting when I have to get up at 7am (10am Borneo). I’m hoping this will resolve itself sooner rather than later.

Pre-trip, I was exhausted. Now, I seem to have topped up my reserves. I’m enjoying being back at work and think I have some balance once again. I have a clearer idea of what I’m doing and why; a better sense of my direction.

Despite a plan to stay offline for the trip, I did check in occasionally. Alas this meant that early on in the trip I saw an email from a bookseller in the UK relating to my Malazan obsession. He’d previously sold me book 2 (Deadhouse Gates) of the Subterranean Press limited edition for GBP270 (around AUD$420) thereby giving me the rights to books 3-10 of the same number as they’re released (approx every six months with book 3 currently on pre-order). The good news was that he’d found book 1 (Gardens of the Moon) of the same number on ebay, the bad news was that the asking price was USD$800. I don’t recall seeing the SubPress edition of Gardens on ebay at all ie it rarely appears for sale and for the same number as the edition of book 2 I have was a rather large stroke of luck.

I left it for a few days and realised that I didn’t really have a lot of choice, though the price was high, I needed it to complete my eventual set. The downside is that I didn’t have great net access in Borneo and was mostly reliant on wifi access in the occasional hotel/hostel. I had a few failed attempts at creating an ebay account and finally succeeded a week or so later. Then spent a week (with jungle treks in the middle), negotiating with the seller. The good news is that they were willing to drop their price to USD$650. That’s still on the expensive end but a little more comfortable than the initial price. Books 3-10 will cost me around USD$150ish each. Even better, the book was waiting for me when I returned home and now sits beside Book 2 on the shelf.

Oh, almost forgot, I’ve grown a beard. First time in a decade or so that I’ve had hair on my face…I think 1996 was the last year I had any sort of facial hair. Borneo is a very hot and humid country…so humid that trying to shave while sweating was a little icky. This also meant that my glasses tended to fog up so I stopped wearing them for three weeks too. In addition, not all places I stayed had available powerpoints. So I decided to let it go and see how it turned out.  I’m liking it. All the bits that were bright ginger last time I now grey. The other noticeable change is that last time was still in my shy days and it could be argued that I was hiding behind my beard. These days, it seems to suit, and my sense of me is not lost.

remembering

I sorta ran out of puff on #blogjune. I still had plenty of ideas to blog about but mostly I was tired; new job+filmfest has been a little exhausting. I’m hoping to squeeze in a holiday this year, having missed a decent break last year – though my week or so off in Perth & Margaret River did help. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that work will let me take a few weeks off so I can visit Borneo with a mate later in the year.

It’s rather worrisome, that in the middle of the National Year of Reading, I am struggling to read. I’ve managed but a few books this year, both e and p. Perhaps this year, I should focus more on easy reading and SF. I just bought the e of the ARC (Advance Reader Copy) of the new Bujold and lo and behold, I’m straight into it. Yet other reading has lagged. Perhaps I’m attempting too many “literary” novels at the moment…I’m even midway through a book of a conversation with Umberto Eco on the future of the book. Haven’t touched it a week, but Bujold…oh yeah. Sookie…oh yeah.

It’s been nearly a month since the passing of Ray Bradbury. I still haven’t re-read “Dark They Were and Golden Eyed” though I have at least leafed through it; browsing the occasional paragraph. For that casual examination, I already suspect there’s more to the story than I remembered. That’s unsurprising for a work of Bradbury’s: his work warrants re-readings…re-visitings. Some of his stories I have read several times but I suspect I’ve only read “Dark they were…” the once…and it remains ever stuck in my head. It was the first of his, the first story that really sucked me in I s’pose. Captured me. I’ve just read a blog of Gaiman’s on Bradbury and it contained a certain resonance that I could connect with, and connect my sense of Bradbury.

a passing

Whilst on the bus this morning and browsing through the early tweets, I noticed a few references to Ray Bradbury popping up. As most folk know now, he has passed away at the age of 91. In the middle of a diet of Hardy Boys, Biggles, Enid Blyton, I read a short story collection of science fiction tales…probably around 5th or 6th class. There was one story that haThe Martian Chronicless stuck in my head ever since “Dark They Were and Golden Eyed” by Ray Bradbury. I haven’t read it since but from what I can recall it’s tale of a new land and to some extent assimilation charting that sense from migrant to local. It was also this collection that got me into SF which carried me through my teens and 20s, and on; SF alone probably accounts for about a third of my books.

That story as I later discovered, was a connected story to Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. It wasn’t part of the Chronicles and was only published in a few short story collections. A couple of years ago, Subterranean Press put out a fancy edition of the Chronicles that collected everything into a single volume. I ummed and ahhed long over whether to purchase it. Finally missing out when it was released initially but then jumping on a later opportunity. It included Dark They Were… as well as another short story I vague recall reading in high school “There Will Come Soft Rains” and a whole lot of stuff. I’ve read a few of books by him over the years and numerous short stories.I haven’t re-read that story yet but I think I’ll dig it out over the weekend.

Bradbury has ever remained a writer who made me stop and think.

recent acquisitions

A few weeks pass and more books arrive; such is the manner of my life. I popped into the office this week, first time in a couple of months. I had planned to pick up a couple of folders and some of the books I kept there; ended up clearing out my stuff completely. There is no need to return. Folk in the office, when they’re in the office at least, are going to be moving location in the next couple of months so it was good to to tidy up.

King of the Elves
King of the Elves

On my desk, waiting for me, was a book: it had probably sat there for a few weeks I guess. I think my book purchases are now going to my home but this one was a pre-order from last year, when I was still sending books to the office. This particular book was “The Complete Stories of Philip K Dick, Colume 1: The King of the Elves” – there will be 5 volumes in all, and I have volume 2 on pre-order. It’s a nice edition; bound in leather. I have scored no. 13 of 250. Even better, the publisher is keeping track of who has which numbers so volume 2 should also be no. 13; number consistency is a nice service I think. The volumes aren’t too expensive either, the first was a special of US$45 and the second is at the regular rate of US$60. Dick is one of my favourite authors, though I’ve not read his stuff in a long time. While I have several of his novels, I don’t have many of his short stories. There have been other collections in the past which I never got round to buying. I’m glad I’m making the effort this time.

Cloudstreet
Cloudstreet

I’ve recently started reading Winton’s Cloudstreet, though I’ve stalled on reading altogether this last week. There is actually little reason to continue buying books, with so many waiting to be read. Yet, I remain the captive of a certain compulsive tendency to acquire and collect. It used to be rather bad though I think I’ve managed to restrain it quite a bit in recent times. I’m now buying a lot less and less often for less money ie it’s been a while since I’ve bought an expensive book; the most expensive book I think I’ve bought this year is the pre-order for Dick Vol 2 and that was only US$60 (or about AUD$59.77 :-D). It is somewhat disheartening that I’m cutting back on book buying at a time when the exchange range is so bloody fantastic for overseas purchases from both the US and UK. Admittedly, there a few expensive books I desire but I am determined not to succumb. They shall remain nameless, lest someone else buys them leaving nought for me :-)

a mishmash with a bit of e

A moment.

Been a while; a busy while. Relaxation and exhaustion – they do actually make sense in the same sentence for me.

Since my last post I have chilled, gained a cold, a new phone, a new laptop…not necessarily in that order…not to mention frustration. Oh well, these are but #firstworldproblems. All of the above remain true for the moment.

In pursuit of e. My ereader, a US kindle (thus no wifi in Oz), continues to make me happy…or rather an eink based device with a reasonably sized screen really works for me. I’ve read a few books on it now and it is a pleasure, though the “ooh shiny” effect has worn off and I don’t seem to be reading more or less than prior to having an ereader. That may well be dependent on my choice of reading material. I’m currently reading the 5th book in the Malazan series – books that are ideal for e as they’re so bloody heavy in p. This one drags…and though I’m a fair way through, am finding it a slog. While reading it, I have already finished two other p: The Shop of the Mechanical Insects (a short story by Ray Bradbury, Subterranean Press edition) and finally reread and finished The Shadow of the Wind (by Zafon, Subterranean Press edition) and am halfway through Amberjack (by Terry Dowling, Subterranean Press) and a few stories in to The Complete Martian Chronicles (by Ray Bradbury, Subterranean Press), with another unfinished e: Spook Country by William Gibson which I’m also finding slow. I think this simply proves that while I am loving the convenience of e, it is not changing my reading habits greatly. I am determined to finish Malazan no. 5 as the first 4 have been impressive, and I am looking forward to continuing with the series, challenging they be.

I seem to have acquired quite a few books by Subterranean Press of late, a smallish press specialising in SF&F. I like their approach and their bindings and will continue to buy their stock. I find them nice to hold and a pleasure to read. Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles was an unexpected score. I had been eyeing it for a long time and ultimately decided, now that I am with mortgage, that I needed to stop buying expensive books. So I passed on it and it sold out quickly early in the year. A second opportunity arose around my birthday as they had kept a few in case of damages. I could not say no, and made it a birthday present to me. It is beautiful and I have no regrets.

I have a single bookcase devoted to special books. it is full of gems like the Subterranean Press editions, Don Quixote, and Lord of the Rings; Folio editions and Folio Society.

Curiously I have read articles of late that suggest that folk with ereaders are less likely to go into a print store, or at least p stores have lost some of their shine. I don’t think that is true for me, or at least my approach to e seems to be following similar paths to p. For years now, as I have documented here, I go into p stores and discover new things to fascinate and often I resist the urge to buy but save the ISBN for later recollection; feeding it into booko, looking for the best deal. I find out about books from many sources: gleebook newsletters, blogs and tweets, conversational mentions,  casual browsing of p, amazon recommendations and odd references here and there. Packages used to arrive regularly from places afar: abebooks, book depository and amazon of course (less regular packages not due to buying e but simply that I’m restraining my buying urges). The advent of e doesn’t seem to have changed my book finding habits. Finding interesting stuff, stuff I don’t otherwise come across, seems easier online than off. The exception currently is Australiana, where I am dependent on browsing p physically. Whether it’s e or p, I am tending to buy online and I think it is increasingly the case that my spend at the physical bricks & mortar is decreasing.

My choice of e or p is content dependent; my purchasing source is more and more online regardless of format.

shifting

I now have, and have paid for, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (HHGttG), in 3 different formats: paperback, leatherbound hardcover and now ebook. Short of seeking out a pirated digital edition, there was no real easy way of shifting the content from one form to another, or rather to shift it easily from pre digitial to digital. I’m hoping I don’t have to shift it again, whenever I get a non kindle compatible ereader. In that instance I may well need to hack the DRM and convert it to a standard format so I can be device independent. I figure these are early days yet for ebooks and ereaders – the market hasn’t really hit critical mass though it is now expanding at a good rate. I’d like to think that in a few years time, as things settle down, that format shifting, once in digital format, will be a straightforward affair. For now, it’s a bit of a headache.

As to why I’ve purchased yet another copy of HHGttG…well it’s my birthday in a few weeks and I turn 42. It’s also the first time in several years that I’ll be celebrating my birthday at home. In years gone by I’ve had enjoyable celebrations in Italy, Canada, UK, France (Paris of course) and even in transit (though that wasn’t so pleasant). I initially had ambitious plans of hiring a hall and catering, an animal on a spit, 50 or so friends and colleagues. As the event draws ever nearer, time is no longer on my side and my plans have changed, as have my desires. For the first time ever, I’m going to host a party at my place. Having successfully hosted for 3 guests, I figure I can handle 20-25…foolish chap I am.

A few folk have said my flat is big enough and can handle that many, so I’m off to a promising start. I am at least hoping to buy a fancy cake from somewhere and have started seeking quotes. For starters, possibly a mix of snacks and cheeses. Finger food is the go for the evening and I am still undecided as to whether I should brave cooking something myself or outsourcing that bit at least, to professionals. I’m a very basic sort of cook, trying to get up to speed with the rest of the world. I have a sneaking suspicion that yet another rendition of thai greeen curry is not the path to follow, though I’d like to do something a little more upmarket than sausage rolls and party pies. I should get in a case or two of wine too – folk will expect a tasty wine, so I shall pop over to Kemenys and stock up.

As it is my 42nd birthday, I will be encouraging all to dress up for a Hitchhiker’s theme. It’s been many years since I read the book myself (though I have read it several times), I figure an e-version was the best way to go so I can read it while I’m travelling. I have no idea what my own costume will be, or what ideas to base it upon. Whatever it is, it must be odd…and I like the idea of something obscure ie not Ford Prefect or Arthur Dent. I turned up to a mate’s 42nd at the start of the year with a pot of petunias, and told everyone I met I was having a whale of a time. I won’t be repeating that effort, though enough people got it.

Don’t panic, I just had an idea for the cake decoration.

of words and such

I’ve noticed mentions here and there, that Oxford have made freely available, the Australian National Dictionary. As far as I can tell it’s the fulltext of the 1988 edition. I think I have a copy of the print somewhere…it’s hard to say exactly where as almost all of my books are in boxes. One day they will be free again. In the meantime, I seem to be accumulating new additions to my library at a rapid rate. Perhaps having books around me provides a certain degree of comfort; interestingly, and happily, I continue to read at a decent rate.

Albeit a quick read, I just raced through Paul Auster’s Travels in the Scriptorium, which I found a little ho hum and reminiscent of some Golden Age science fiction. Though at the same time I enjoyed his writing and would be interested in his other offerings. This particular one may have been less annoying as a short story rather than a 140 odd page novella. I had been anticipating the new Dessaix, and an interview with Dessaix on the weekend only served to increase my desire. I bought it the following day and the initial pages read well. Just wanted to polish off the Auster before I got stuck into Arabesques properly. I will eventually get round to blogging about the books I bought on my recent trip; I bought a few too many and came perilously close to my luggage limits. In other news of words, the government has been urged to assist in the preservation of indigenous languages.