Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #20 on: December 04, 2013, 02:44:13 PM »
I just finished "The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values" by Sam Harris.  I found it to be quite illuminating but those that know Sam Harris' beliefs can likely just watch his Ted Talk on the same topic.

Maybe after we get some more regulars/traffic we can actually start up a monthly or quarterly club to discuss a specific book if people are into that idea.

I would be in to this.

I didn't care for "The Moral Landscape" at all. I agreed with everything he was saying, but his arguments didn't seem very well laid out.
I thought he took too long explaining why we can scientifically look at morals.  I lost interest in the book rather quickly.

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Offline Ghost Spaghetti

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Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #21 on: December 04, 2013, 03:03:08 PM »
I'm most of the way through Stranger in a Strange Land by Heinlein

Generally good, with some amusing commentry on the modern world, but because it's Heinlein, there are some uncomfortable passages, such as a woman explaining that "9 times out of 10, rape is at least partly the woman's fault..."

Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #22 on: December 04, 2013, 04:15:23 PM »
I don't even care to find out what you're doing wrong, but I'm sure you're doing something wrong.

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Offline Sean

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Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #23 on: December 08, 2013, 05:54:44 AM »
I am reading Rousseau's Discourses.
Quote from: sandokhan
You are rushying to unwarranted conclusions

Saddam Hussein

Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #24 on: December 08, 2013, 05:55:02 AM »
It's been a while since I shared my progress in my Discworld marathon:

The Last Hero: I liked this book a lot more than I had expected to.  I'm not a big fan of the Rincewind novels, mainly because they're a bit too loose and unfocused in terms of plot for me - they mostly consist of Rincewind running around and meeting zany characters with very little rhyme or reason, after all - but probably because of the short length of this book, combined with the fact that Cohen the Barbarian's subplot got a lot of attention, that didn't come into play here, and I was the happier for it.  Speaking of Cohen's subplot, I think Pratchett really perfected with it the simple parodying of heroic fantasy that he had in mind when he first began the series, and without spoiling anything, it was a great way to conclude Cohen's mini-story arc.  Also, the illustrations were good.  So good, in fact, that I think I would have enjoyed Eric a lot more if I had read the illustrated version.

Night Watch: I had heard some hype about this one before I began, but I still wasn't prepared for the very abrupt change of tone.  This book is fucking dark.  I mean, shit gets real here.  And it's not very funny, either.  It provided a few smiles here and there, I suppose, but for the most part, the story is serious fucking business.  Now, that being said, it's not bad.  In fact, it's fantastic, and I'd probably rank it up there with Thief of Time as one of the best of the series.  The story is riveting, the action is great, there's some thoughtful exploration of some very complex themes (like remembrance of the war dead), and I'd even go so far as to say that it serves as a surprisingly deep and nuanced character study of Vimes.  It's just that my appreciation of it is on a completely different wavelength, so to speak, than the rest of the series.  As a comedy, it's not very good, but as whatever the hell it's trying to be, it's magnificent.
« Last Edit: January 02, 2014, 04:30:57 PM by Saddam Hussein »

Saddam Hussein

Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #25 on: December 18, 2013, 01:17:49 AM »
Monstrous Regiment: This was the first one in a while that was just sort of okay.  The main problem was that it just rehashed subjects that had already been covered by previous books without really adding anything new.  War, for example, was dealt with in Jingo.  Religion was taken care of in Small Gods - and with a lot more sophistication, too.  At least there Pratchett tried to show us his thoughts on how religions work, and the things that differentiate reasonably good religions from bad ones.  Here, he just comes across as a dumb teenager on r/atheism shouting about how religions are dumb.  The one thing that the book might have been able to explore more thoroughly was gender, and for a while it seemed like it was going to, but any real examination of its role in society soon gave way to - without spoiling anything, a very strange running gag that wasn't very funny, and became very predictable very soon.

Going Postal: Much better.  In direct contrast to Monstrous Regiment, while this book does revisit subjects from previous books, it explores different facets of them.  Things like golems, secret societies, and "chosen one" myths.  There's also new stuff, like capitalism, financial speculation, and the Interwebs.  The story itself is great, the main character is especially likable, and of course, it's very funny.

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Offline Crudblud

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Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #26 on: January 03, 2014, 11:38:33 PM »
Finished Mason & Dixon, finally, and what an amazing experience it was. So amazing, in fact, that today I went out and bought two Pynchon novels at full retail price, something I would normally never do with books as I find them terribly overpriced in general.

I decided to move on to Terry Pratchett's The Colour of Magic (hi sadaam). I wanted to contrast my previous book with something short, simple and reasonably entertaining that I could just steamroll through in a short amount of time. It has proven to be all these things so I'm enjoying it for what it is, despite now being more than a little spoiled by the mad genius of Pynchon.

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Offline Eddy Baby

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Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #27 on: January 04, 2014, 12:34:38 AM »
I recently started and finished Helle Nächte, a German translation of Dostoyevski's White Nights, and today I found a short collection of Heinrich Böll's short stories.
Also, this year a lot of my uni work will revolve around the USSR and GDR, so I'm starting to read a little background stuff, namely Marx's Das Kapital.

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Offline Tintagel

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Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #28 on: January 04, 2014, 12:44:59 AM »
I'm finally getting around to reading The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan.  I've finished The Eye of the World and The Great Hunt, and I'm working on The Dragon Reborn now.  Really enjoying it thus far.

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Offline Crudblud

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Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #29 on: January 05, 2014, 01:00:16 PM »
The Colour of Magic was amusing and easy, which was just what I needed. Next up: Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman.

Offline Socker

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Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #30 on: January 07, 2014, 01:31:50 PM »
Just finished reading The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. It amazed me how he went from such a great series to a very mediocre last book. Still probably worth reading though if you're into that kinda stuff.

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Offline Crudblud

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Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #31 on: January 08, 2014, 09:43:32 PM »
I feel somewhat bad about this, but yesterday I shelved The Third Policeman to start Pynchon's Vineland, by his standards a slim volume at a mere 400 pages.

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Offline Ghost Spaghetti

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Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #32 on: January 19, 2014, 09:56:56 PM »
Finally finished Stranger in a Strange Land.

Apart from the casual sexism resulting from its time, this really is a great book. The society that Heinlein so ably skewers is still recognisable today so a lot of the barbs still stick. The first half of the book is an especially clever way of looking at our society with the eyes of an outsider and all the time you end up feeling the same way you feel when a foreign visitor points out just how loopy some of our conventions and traditions are, whilst the second half looks at the way someone who sees how a system works, but is not bound by it, is able to play the system and tilt it in their favour.

Next I have to read a draft manuscript by someone in my writer's group for a feedback session in February.

Saddam Hussein

Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #33 on: January 19, 2014, 11:37:50 PM »
It's been a while since I shared my progress in my Discworld marathon:

Thud!: This was great.  It would have been easy to just give a simplified message of "Racism is bad, mmkay," but Pratchett went more into detail about deep cultural differences and historical feuds, which is definitely a more accurate reflection of the conflicts in our world.  It was great to see all the members of the Watch back in a more procedural-like format, and Vimes's relationship with his son was genuinely heartwarming.

Making Money: Perhaps not great, but still very good.  It can't have been easy to write a book about monetary policy and high finance and still make it funny, so I was definitely impressed.  And needless to say, this is definitely a book that gold bugs like Thork should read.  Anyway, yeah, the characters were good, the story was good, and while nothing really groundbreaking about its subjects were explored, what was explored was done in a funny way.

Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #34 on: January 20, 2014, 03:24:20 PM »
Discworld is meh. The first three (any three) are good but then it just gets formulaic.

I'm currently reading The Fistings of Anne of Cleves by Hilary Mantel. It's part historical and part fantasy.

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Offline jroa

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Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #35 on: January 20, 2014, 05:59:38 PM »
Flat land.  It is a love story. 

Saddam Hussein

Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #36 on: January 22, 2014, 01:08:48 AM »
Unseen Academicals: I feel somewhat misled.  The title, cover, and jacket description of this book suggested that it was going to be about the Unseen University going into athletics and creating a football team.  And that is what happens in the book, but it's really only the b-story.  The main story centers around Nutt and his friends, and I guess that worked out okay.  Not great or anything, but they were fun characters, and their relationships were cute and all.  It was probably for the best, really, as I think the wizards make better side characters than leads.  Anyway, it was pretty good.

Snuff: Unfortunately, this book wasn't very good at all.  There were almost too many issues with it to list.  I didn't like the new setting.  I didn't like the new characters.  In fact, I didn't even like some of the old characters.  For example, Vimes's loyal butler Willikins has been Flanderized into a thug whose only distinguishing feature is that he's an unparalleled master of combat.  He's not funny, he's not interesting, and any and all tension is sapped out of a scene the moment he appears, because you know that Pratchett's just going to write something dumb like "A cloud of dust rose into the air, and when it settled, everyone could see [insert bad guy here] rolling around on the ground in agony."  And Vimes's relationship with his son, which I really liked in Thud!, has now been reduced to poop jokes.  No, that's not an exaggeration.  It's literally poop jokes.

But the biggest problems of all are with the overall story.  It's extremely dull (far too much space is devoted to tedious exposition and long-winded descriptions of the scenery), what little humor it has is terrible (see: poop jokes), and to top it off, the narrative soon falls into a clichéd, predictable "white man's burden" plot.  The goblin culture is fascinating, and I think a great book could have been written about it, but Pratchett seems to be far too busy with his "Racism is bad, mmkay" message to say anything new or insightful.  A huge step down from Thud!, and in general.  Bah.  Or should I say, BAAAAAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
« Last Edit: January 30, 2014, 03:46:37 AM by Saddam Hussein »

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Offline Crudblud

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Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #37 on: February 15, 2014, 06:20:49 AM »
Thomas Pynchon - Vineland

Originally got a lot of flak as it apparently compared unfavourably to Gravity's Rainbow. I thought Vineland was very smart, very funny, dramatically compelling, the conspiracy stuff was highly engaging, and above all it really made me feel like I had lived in the time it was set. Not many books can do that, in fact, Juan Rulfo's Pefro Páramo and Pynchon's own Mason & Dixon are the only other ones I can think of that really brought me to another time and place.

J.D. Salinger - The Catcher in the Rye

Catching up on stuff I probably should've read as a teenager. It's very funny, very sad, the colloquial prose style is very warm and inviting and I feel like I really got to know Holden Caulfield's character and what he's all about just through the little things, the sudden and almost post-modern tangents that he goes off on, talking about something he remembered from years ago etc. Really fantastic.

Now reading: Ernest Hemingway - For Whom the Bell Tolls

So far it is very boring and the prose style is clunky as fuck.

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Offline Rama Set

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Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #38 on: February 15, 2014, 11:32:36 AM »
Read The Old Man and The Sea if you have not already. Phenomenal novel.
FE'ism requires suspension of disbelief...

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Offline rooster

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Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #39 on: February 15, 2014, 06:01:58 PM »
I really dislike Hemingway's style. His stories aren't terrible but they're written in a way that ruins any enjoyment.