Aardy R. DeVarque (aardy) wrote,
Aardy R. DeVarque

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Books that I read in October

Books that I read in October:

44. Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes (Great Books of the Western World, vol. 5) (649 p.)
(Contents: Aeschylus: The Suppliant Maidens; The Persians; The Seven Against Thebes; Prometheus Bound; Agamemnon; Choephoroe; Eumenides; Sophocles: Oedipus the King; Oedipus at Colonus; Antigone; Ajax; Electra; Trachiniae; Philoctetes; Euripides: Rhesus; Medea; Hippolytus; Alcestis; Heracleidae; The Suppliants; The Trojan Women; Ion; Helen; Andromache; Electra; The Baccantes; Hecuba; Heracles Mad; The Phoenician Maidens; Orestes; Iphigenia Among the Tauri; Iphigenia at Aulis; The Cyclops; Aristophanes: The Acharnians; The Knights; The Clouds; The Wasps; The Peace; The Birds; The Frogs; The Lysistrata; The Thesmophoriazusae; The Ecclesiazusae; The Plutus)

45. Bujold, Lois McMaster. A Civil Campaign (Vorkosigan Saga) (534 p.)

46. Peters, Ellis. One Corpse Too Many (2nd Chronicle of Brother Cadfael) (214 p.)

47. Bujold, Lois McMaster. Diplomatic Immunity (Vorkosigan Saga) (367 p.)

48. Weber, David. Field of Dishonor (Honor Harrington)) (367 p.)

49. Brust, Stephen. Tiassa (Vlad Taltos novels) (335 p.)

October total: 2466 pages
2012 YTD total: 17,360 pages

While I did indeed read and finish all of these this month, I didn't actually start all of them this month. In fact, I started the Great Books of the Western World collection of Greek plays three years ago, and have been slowly chipping away at it ever since, often putting it aside for months at a time; I originally thought I'd finish it around this time last year, but that obviously didn't happen. Part of the reason for that is that the GBotWW series is (or at least the early volumes are) printed in miniscule type in two columns-- I have another collection of the same translation of three of those plays of Aristophanes, and their page count there is around 3 times longer. So, in essence, this could be considered roughly equivalent to a 1,500- to 1,800-page book. It's also very dense literature that's difficult to skim and still get a good sense of what's going on, so it takes a lot longer to read, and had a distinct tendency to put me to sleep; over the last few years, reading a page or two of this book has been my sure-fire cure for insomnia, because all through the plays of Euripides and the first few of Aristophanes, that's all I could get through before I fell asleep, no matter what time of day it was or how much sleep I'd gotten the previous night.

Since I read most of those plays a year ago or more, they aren't all fresh in my mind, but I know I generally had a lot more fun reading Aristophanes' comedies than I did Euripides' dramas. Some of them I'd love to see staged, or as the basis for a modern adaptation, in particular, The Frogs, Lysistrata (which I have seen staged and built sets for in college), The Thesmophoriazusae, and The Ecclesiazusae--the latter three have a lot of fun with gender politics. Also, having read the Illiad and the Odyssey before starting this volume, I was a bit surprised (and in hindsight, naive) to discover how much of the "classic" stories of Greek mythology, particularly those surrounding the characters in Homer's sagas are actually known from plays like these rather than from Homer. (For what it's worth, in this volume, the plays of Aeschylus and Aristophanes were poetic translations and the plays of Sophocles & Euripides were prose adaptations.)

Since I'm mostly reading what I have on hand rather than trying to track down intermediate volumes (except when there's only one, and sometimes not even then), I was concerned about how much of Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga I'd be skipping to jump from Barrayar and Young Miles to A Civil Campaign & Diplomatic Immunity, but thankfully, Bujold makes each book relatively self-contained by almost seamlessly including in each book the true "need to know" background details from previous volumes, so while I could tell that I'd missed a lot of good details by having not (yet) read the intervening books, I didn't feel lost here. Both of these books are good, but they have very different feels; A Civil Campaign being more of a comedy of manners, and Diplomatic Immunity being more of a crime/espionage procedural. I enjoyed & would recommend them both (the latter a little more), though I don't think either would make a particularly good first Vorkosigan book for someone to read.

I've read a few of the Brother Cadfael mysteries before, and was happy to get my hands on a few more; they're always excellent, and this one was no exception. (In fact, after reading this, I wondered who might join the good monk as a member of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen of the 1100s.) In this case, it's up to Brother Cadfael to figure out what really happened when 94 losers of a battle are hung in one night as traitors, but 95 bodies were then laid out for burial.

I've said elsewhere that the Honor Harrington books, while I find those I've read enjoyable, exhibit two trends that I'm not generally comfortable with--1. the main character has Jack Ryan's tendency to get promoted at the end of many of the novels and thus the series seems to be incrementally moving away from the story elements that I find the most enjoyable, and 2. As the series has progressed, it's become diluted with spin-offs and multiple threads of sequels (some written by different authors), making it very difficult (and/or expensive in time & money) to keep up with what's going on with your favorite characters enough to properly follow later novels in whatever series thread you choose to read. This one is something of an exception to #1, in that Honor doesn't truly get yet another promotion at the end (and one of her previous promotions is essentially undone, at least temporarily), and it occurs before the splintering of #2 set in, so I could put those worries aside and enjoy it on its own merits. This one (like Bujold's A Civil Campaign) is much more about political maneuvering than starship combat or time-of-war espionage than the previous books in the series were. It's generally well-done, but I liked the previous books better.

The story in Tiassa feels a bit like either a bridge between major story arcs in the series (that therefore doesn't really accomplish much of note on its own), or an author flailing about to pad out a short story to full novel length by linking together a few short stories with a common macguffin and a frame story of sorts (rather than, say, just owning up to writing a collection of short stories). It's also a crossover between Brust's Vlad Taltos series and his Khaavren Romances (mostly set several hundred years before the Vlad Taltos books). I haven't read the Khaavren books yet, so that might be coloring my reaction some (as, unlike Bujold and most of Brust's earlier books, vital details for understanding character motivation are not properly recapped here), but I think this may be the weakest of the Vlad Taltos books so far. It doesn't help that Vlad isn't even the point of view character (and barely meets the criteria for being supporting cast) for almost half of the book. And, while the character of Khaavren intrigues me enough that now I want to make sure I track down copies of those books at some point, his speech patterns & personality have some tics here that I find to be annoying and distracting even just in the short span they occur here; I'm a bit concerned about how much worse I might find them trying to wade through an entire book with those verbal tics. In any case, I was very happy to see Cawti get more screen time here, wish Vlad & Loiosh would have been the point of view for more of it, and look forward to the next book in the series. And even if I think this is, overall, a "miss" by Brust, he's a good enough author that this is still an above-average novel-- but I would only recommend it to those who have read the previous seventeen books (twelve Vlad novels and five Khaavren novels).

Feudalism: Serf & Turf
Tags: books, reviews
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