The Library Basement
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Tag Robert Jordan

Readings for November 2016

Something long, and something new.

Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan

I feel like I am becoming something of a broken record in these Wheel of Time reviews. I bogged down and took long breaks from this novel to get through it. It just seemed like every time I picked it up, the same characters were in the same places, ruminating over the same problems, with nothing ever changing, chapter after chapter. "Marking time" was the description I used in my last review.

If Lord of Chaos was employing this slow-down for character development, I think it would be OK. However there's no amount of character development which could justify this volume of text. Once again it could have been four or five hundred pages shorter and done better by me as a reader.

At this point I am not recommending the series except to die-hard readers, and perhaps to those who want exposure to an important piece in the history of the fantasy genre. I will of course be continuing.

And Soon I Heard a Roaring Wind by Bill Streever

And now for something completely different. I love libraries, don't you? One of the best parts of a library is the "new books" shelf, which at the local library I have been haunting has one side dedicated to fiction, and the other to non-fiction. On a recent visit I chose one from each side. The fiction entry will be covered next month, but for non-fiction, it was Bill Streever's And Soon I Heard a Roaring Wind.

This book is about wind as a natural phenomenon, but mostly about the history of weather forecasting. It is the sort of casual non-fiction book which I have in the past enjoyed very much but lately had mostly given up on, for whatever reason. It was fully of interesting stories and delightful discoveries and was just plain fascinating.

My only criticism has to do with the structure of the story. Streever frames his delivery of the material on a sailing voyage he undertook with his wife. The voyage itself is mostly boring and a bit anticlimactic (hey, not everything is drama), so while it did provide for topical jumping-off points, it was mostly pretty dull.

Still recommended.

Comics

  • Serenity: No Power in the 'Verse #1

Readings for September 2015

In which I discover that reading on an e-reader may lead to you to forget the name of the novel you are reading.

The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan

I was planning what to read for our family's vacation and wedding travel this May when I decided to read the next volume in the Wheel of Time saga. Luckily my wife had already bought me the paperback, so I grabbed it off the shelf and started reading a night or two before the trip. In the course of reading the first chapter I was getting the most incredible sensation of deja-vu, and upon starting the second it become clear: I was accidentally re-reading the preceding book in the series, which I completed in February 2014.

Well, that was somewhat embarrassing, because I was the one who told the wife which book to buy. The day before the trip, I walked to Powell's from work to get The Fires of Heaven, the fifth book in the series, and the actually correct one. And they literally had every single book in the 14-book series except this one.

With no time left, I decided to try something new: I purchased an electronic copy for reading on my wife's e-reader. That was quite the experience. I really enjoyed not having to lug around a big heavy book, and liked that I could customize the font, the size, and what headers and footers to include (or not). As I alluded in the introduction, I actually forgot the name of the novel by the time I finished it, partly due to a long break in reading, and partly due to never seeing the cover. Ultimately I won't invest more in e-books, since I don't like the terms of service and digital restrictions management which go along with them. Maybe someday the great technology will be partnered with new content without draconian protections.

Great story about e-readers! What about the book? Well, I have to say this was not the greatest read. It felt like Jordan was marking time in this book, not progressing very quickly at all. I feel like it could have easily shed 400 pages and still covered all of the pertinent plot points and character development.

But am I ready to quit the series? Not exactly. I've already invested so much in it, and in a 14-book series, you're allowed to have a stinker or two.

Readings for February 2014

This month: pops!

The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan

I completed the fourth of umpteen novels in the Wheel of Time series. This installment was a bit longer than the preceding, but hopefully the length will not continue to increase on a linear scale. Jordan does a decent job presenting some core conflicts in this novel which give some immediacy to the conflict I know will not be ultimately resolved for ten more subsequent installments. I do not feel weary on the journey thus far, so I will continue reading these one every few months. Recommended.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

I started a re-read of the Harry Potter novels in September of 2008. Let's just say that it has been a fairly slow burn. But having completed the sixth installment, I rush right on to the ultimate, as you, dear reader, will see in my subsequent readings post.

These novels are really enjoyable. In this read-through I am particular enjoying the themes of Harry Potter. Rowling wrote some novels which are interesting to adults not just in a popcorn fashion, but because they appeal to some complex emotions. Which is good! Also: Snape kills Dumbledore. I figure after all this time, I should not need to give a spoiler warning for that. Recommended.

Periodicals

  • Scientific American August 2013 - This issue covers several angles of MOOCs - massively open online courses. I took one on natural language processing through Coursera and liked it quite a bit. The numbers are not great in terms of students completing the course, but even the few who progress all the way represent a large group learning from a single course.

Readings for August 2013

Two completely different books in one month.

The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan

Book three of the Wheel of Time series kept things moving at a brisk pace. I have been warned by others that perhaps the series slows down a bit in upcoming books, but I see no reason for stopping now.

Jordan has got me forming strong opinions about his characters, and I think that is an important part of writing an engaging story. I am not sure where the overall arc of the story is going, but I like what I am reading.

Boys Adrift by Leonard Sax

Boys Adrift is the sort of single-issue current events non-fiction book which I do not often read. Kimberly chose it for me for our book exchange this year, and I am glad she did. The book basically makes an attempt at explaining the observation that boys in general in American society are experiencing some relative declines in their achievements. The author addresses culture, environment, and other factors which are playing a part in this phenomenon. As a parent of boys, I am definitely interested in this topic, and so recommend it to any others with boys.

Periodicals

  • Scientific American March 2013 - Apropos of all the NSA surveillance revelations, Erin Murphy reports on the mass collection of DNA by local law enforcement - an increasingly-common practice. Data is being funneled into larger nationally-accessible databases, for good and ill.

Readings for December 2012

Another great year is in the books. I'll proclaim 2013 as the year of getting caught up on peridocials.

The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan

The Great HuntI am still pledging to take the Wheel of Time series one book at a time. I am not committing to read the whole thing. But with this second installment I'll definitely be moving on to the third.

Jordan does a good job of moving the story forward and unveiling some new layers of the mystery in this volume. I can honestly say the ending portion of the novel had me turning pages at a furious pace, wanting to find out what would happen.

I get the feeling there are some fairly significant aspects of the story yet to be revealed, because if anything, this volume maybe pushed the story a bit too far in the context of a 14-book series. I am looking forward to the next one. Recommended.

Periodicals

  • Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet # 19 - This past summer I received a large portion of the back issues for LCRW. As usual this one had some delightful little stories. I still have a half-dozen or more on the shelf, so I should be reporting more and more.
  • Tin House #53 - The Portland/Brooklyn issue did not disappoint. After all, how could an issue which includes a story by Ursula K. LeGuin fall short? Bonus points for them creating a [mix-tape][] for the twin homes of the magazine.

Year-End Notes

In 2012 I read:

  • 30 magazines
  • 24 books
  • 13,384 pages
  • or about 37 pages per day

Readings for August 2012

In August I was in the process of testing, interviewing, and starting a new position, so my reading has dropped off a bit. I am pushing to get back into gear this month with a bunch of periodicals. Yet I still had a few good reads.

The Word for World is Forest by Ursula K. LeGuin

Best to just start this post with the positive recommendation. I love Ursula K. LeGuin's fiction, and so should you. At first I thought this work was new, but discovered it is an oldie (but a goodie). The story is about a clash of cultures and a few brave souls who seek to bridge the gap. As such, I could not help but notice the similarity to theĀ Pocahontas/Dances With Wolves/Avatar trope. However, The Word for World is Forest predates these, and has a much less Hollywood (read: better) take on the theme.

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

A friend and I agreed to tackle Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series now that Brandon Sanderson has completed his work on the final novel. We're going to take it easy, starting each novel at great intervals. It should take us quite a while to get through.

The first novel has definitely got me interested in continuing. The seeds of epic adventure are well planted and cultivated in this work. I must admit at first I was a bit perplexed by some similarities to the Lord of the Rings (e.g. "Mountains of Mist" \~= "Misty Mountains"; "Mountains of Dhoom" \~= "Mount Doom"; a rider cloaked in black). They seemed a bit obtuse to be anĀ homage, but too obvious to be a credibly labeled a rip-off. But never fear, Jordan takes the story in his own direction, and I can already see what subsequent fantasy owes to his work. Recommended for a start, but always start 14-novel series with caution.

Periodicals

Harper's August 2012 - Benjamin Hale's "The last distinction? Talking to the animals" was a real delight. It explores the short history of ape language acquisition and the ethical and scientific struggles surrounding it .Anyone interested in linguistics will be fascinated by this piece.

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