Just bringing this discussion over to ning...

What books are you reading right now that don't have a narrative driven by images as well as words?

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Citadels of Mystery (a/k/a Ancient Ruins and Archaeology) by L. Sprague and Catherine C. DeCamp

As far as I can recall, I've never read any of DeCamp's fiction.  But his non-fiction work in history and archaeology is terrifically engaging.  In addition to this one, I'd definitely recommend Lost Continents: The Atlantis Theme in History, Science, and Literature and The Ancient Engineers.

I recently read Nancy Mitford's biography Madame de Pompadour. It's full of detail and anecdotes about the personalities and behaviour of the French court during the reign of Louis XV, like her book on Louis XIV, The Sun King. The book's scope is smaller so it feels more thorough: Louis XIV reigned 72 years, while Madame de Pompadour was only a court figure for 19. Louis XV succeeded Louis XIV and was his great-grandson.

She was a commoner until she became the new royal mistress and was made Marquise of Pompadour. Becoming the royal mistress was her career goal, which she pursued despite being married. Louis chose her as his new mistress after his previous one died. She was an art-lover who liked building and decorating, and held Louis by her projects and diversions, and by involving herself with his duties. She could dance and act, and performed plays for the court with other court figures. The king moved on to other mistresses, but she remained his confidant and the important woman in his life emotionally. Mitford thinks she lacked real religious feeling. She died at the age of 42.

In the Doctor Who story "The Girl in the Fireplace" the Doctor says she got on well with the queen. In Mitford's account the queen had no hold over the king. She accepted Madame de Pompadour's ascendancy, but wasn't really her friend.

The first version of this post displaced the thread 'The Walking Dead' Season 8 from the homepage.

I just finished The Wizard of Linn by A. E. van Vogt. Vogt's Empire of the Atom is a fix-up novel about a future solar empire which has a culture like the Roman Empire's in the 1st century. The central character is a member of the imperial family named Clane who has a deformed body due to his mother's exposure to radiation while he was gestating. The five stories incorporated into Empire follow his birth, growth and rise to power. The Wizard of Linn is a novel-length sequel.

I found Vogt's SF recasting of Roman culture and history in the first book a ton of fun. In this one Clane faces the alien invasion he was warned about at the other book's end. The pseudo-Roman element is still present, but not as central and not as cleverly elaborated, so I didn't like this book as much.

Jill Lepore's The Secret History of Wonder Woman, which is like the recent film on Marston except the writer felt bound to, you know, the facts.

Dave Cullen (the journalist, not the idiot on Youtube)'s book on Columbine: some people have disputed some of his findings, but it's well-researched, and it emphasizes the eventual police conclusions (blended with Cullen's own views) that absolutely everything initially reported about the event was wrong, other than the names of the shooters and the fact that they killed a whole bunch of innocent people. Which, in all fairness, are pretty important facts.

I'm about to start Edgar Cantero's Meddling Kids, a tribute/satire/deconstruction of a group of middle-aged adults who, back in the 70s, when they were teens, solved mysteries with the aid of their dog. The past, of course, casts long shadows, or something.

Juni Taisen: Zodiac War, by Nisioisin

Today I got about three chapters into Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now by Douglas Rushkoff. This is another book about what the internet is doing to us individually and as a society. It's crazy; no matter how many of these books I've read, there is always more to find out and more to realize.

It's interesting, because I didn't realize this book was out there until I bought the graphic novel Aleister and Adolf by the same author (with Michael Avon Oeming). Amazon led me to this book. It's amazing how many of the other books recommended are ones I've already read...

James A. Michener, The Bridges at Toko-Ri

Short Korean War novel about missions flown from an aircraft carrier. The book comes across as accurately depicting the military aspects. (Michener had been a reporter embedded with the navy.) The middle section, in which the ship docks in Japan and the men go on leave, reminded me of the depiction of this kind of thing in contemporary movies.


 W. Somerset Maugham, Far Eastern Tales, and James A. Michener

Selection of Maugham's stories. Most are about the British in Malaya. They explore the frustrations in people's lives and the expatriates' behaviour. The best story might be "Before the Party", in which a widow tells her stuffy family the truth about her life in Malaya with her late husband. "Mr. Know-All" is a very satisfying shipboard story. My favourite was "Mabel", which is a short, amusing trifle.

I think "Quantum of Solace" from Ian Fleming's collection For Your Eyes Only was likely intended as an imitation of Maugham's stories in this vein.

Hard Times, by Charles Dickens

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Tales of Pirates and Blue Water

This collection is divided into two parts. The first, "Tales of Pirates", opens with four stories about a cunning 18th century pirate named Captain Sharkey. He's a thoroughly evil figure, and in the final story he gets his just deserts. "The "Slapping Sal"" is set sometime after Trafalgar, and involves a pirate who shows his patriotism. "A Pirate of the Land" was originally titled "One Crowded Hour". It's about a modern-day highwayman, and was evidently retitled to justify including it in the collection.

The stories in "Tales of Blue Water" have contemporary settings. They're more enjoyable than the "Pirates" ones. "The Striped Chest" and "The Fiend of the Cooperage" are stories about confounding mysteries. "The Captain of the "Polestar"" is a ghost story set in the Arctic. "Jelland's Voyage" is a crime story about the downfall of two clerks. "J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement" is a fantasia based on the mystery of the Mary Celeste. Doyle named his fictionalised version of the ship the Marie Celeste, and his story has the form of an eyewitness account of what happened. "That Little Square Box" is humorous.

Dan Cushman The Jewel of the Java Sea

Adventure story involving stolen diamonds set in Southeast Asia. The novel was first published as a Fawcett paperback in 1951. Indonesia's recent independence is a background element, but it's not important to the plot.

This post displaced the thread 'Gotham' Season 4 from the homepage.

John Wyndham The Seeds of Time

A collection of SF stories. Some depict strange situations in the present, others are stories of the future. Some are humorous, and others have stings which are really jokes too. "Meteor" is a tiny aliens story. "Pawley's Peepholes" has the wittiest plot: an English town is plagued by phantom sightseers from the future. "Survival", about a spaceship trapped in orbit around Mars with an insufficient supply of food, has the best final sting. "Pillar to Post" has the most interesting situation: a man suffering permanent pain finds himself in the body of a future man who has swapped minds with him; after he's returned to his own body he schemes to obtain the future man's body permanently.

Richard Newnham, ed. German Short Stories 1

Collection of eight very short stories by post-war authors. "Pale Anna" by Heinrich Böll depicts a soldier's readjustment at the end of the war. "Story in Reverse" by Ilse Aichinger tells the story of a young woman's life backwards, in the manner of a reversed film. This is the saddest story: the woman became pregnant out of wedlock and died from an abortion. In "The Host" by Hans Bender a criminal's discovery of a lost box with a consecrated host reawakens his religious nature. "When Potemkin's Coach Went By" by Reinhard Lettau is the most amusing tale: a Russian official who has been assigned to create a Potemkin village finds it turning into a real one. The other stories are by Gertrud Fussenegger, Gerd Gaiser, Wolfdietrich Schnurre, and Wolfgang Borchert.

I've had John Wyndham's The Seeds of Time in my too-be-read pile for some time. I've read his The Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos (filmed as The Village of the Damned). I need to get back to his books.

His well-known novels appeared in the 50s and 60s, but he began his SF career in the 1930s with a couple of short ones and wrote a lot of short stories.

Village of the Damned was followed by The Day of the Triffids and a sequel, Children of the Damned. British and American TV anthology shows also did adaptations of his stories. He died in 1969. Quest for Love, from "Random Quest", appeared in 1971 (and is pretty dire).

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