August Booklogging
By Dwip August 31, 2013, 8:57 pm Comments (0) RSS Feed for this post

I’m backdating this to August, but we’re a bit late this month, for which you can blame XCOM, about which I will undoubtedly have something more to say later.

About this month in reading, well, let us just say that the non-fiction reading goes slower than the fiction reading, and some non-fiction goes slower than other non-fiction.

Video games have nothing to do with this, of course.

YTD stats:

January: 3 total; 3 fiction (1,712 pages)
February: 3 total; 3 non-fiction (1,098 pages)
March: 13 total; 10 graphic (2,432 pages); 2 fiction (1,462 pages); 1 non-fiction (290 pages)
April: 7 total; 2 graphic (1,200 pages); 2 fiction (1,776 pages); 3 non-fiction (1,244 pages)
May: 1 total; 1 fiction (1,040 pages)
June: 5 total; 5 fiction (2,480 pages)
July: 5 total; 5 fiction (1,934 pages)
August: 4 total; 1 fiction (608 pages); 3 non-fiction (776 pages)

Year to Date: 41 total; 12 graphic (3,632 pages); 19 fiction (11,012 pages); 10 non-fiction (3,408 pages)

Details for August after the jump.

08/05/2013 S. M. Stirling, Conquistador (2003 Roc hardcover, 608 pages – Personal collection, 2003)

Picked this back up for the first time in a while a couple of days ago, when some of the elements in it struck me as inspiration for a project I’m thinking about. It remains a pretty good book, if a bit rushed at the end, and as a historical artifact you can kind of see where Stirling is in his thinking between his earlier Nantucket books and the later Change sagas – vaguely Lawful Evil fuedalistic noble houses wedded to romanticized views of the past ought to sound really familiar.

Too, there’s an awful lot of talking about the imperialist and racist attitudes of pretty much every character in the book not one of the main heroes that nobody really does anything about, and I suspect there would be a fairly interesting sequel in there somewhere if Stirling ever felt like writing it. Of course, I am reminded of various newsgroup arguments back in the day that, as I recall, devolved into flamewars between Stirling and random internet people over this very topic, and not only do I think the Change books are something of a reaction to this, there’s a rather more fiery callout in the acknowledgements of this book, and I quote:

And a special acknowledgment to the author of Niven’s Law: “There is a technical, literary term for those who mistake the opinions and beliefs of characters in a novel for those of the author.

The term is ‘idiot’.”

So, you know. Maybe not.

I could go on about more stuff, but I think that’s probably more geekery than one post needs.

08/07/2013 Melanie Wiggins, U-Boat Adventures: Firsthand Accounts from World War II (1999 US Naval Institute Press hardcover, 288 pages – Corvallis Public Library)

08/10/2013 Charles Robert Jenkins, The Reluctant Communist: My Desertion, Court-Martial, and Forty-Year Imprisonment in North Korea (2008 University of California Press hardcover, 232 pages – Corvallis Public Library)

It turns out, as we learn early on in this book, that making impulsive decisions to defect to North Korea are not, shall we say, the best life choices, and you’ll probably regret it as Jenkins most certainly does.

It also turns out to the surprise of nobody that North Korea is a deeply bizzare place, and the level of lunacy and paranoia described by Jenkins would be hard to believe if I hadn’t already had a pretty good idea from other sources that this is how things are there. I’m at a loss to describe a lot of it, but will say that very few people have ever had a stranger courtship than Jenkins and his wife, a Japanese abductee. Strange, strange things get described in this book.

Heartily recommended, though I wish it had been rather longer – it gets rather short on detail in places, and while Jenkins is pretty forthcoming about his flaws, one does get the sense that there’s a whole lot more here that isn’t getting told, particularly as regards his fellow defectors/inmates in the asylum of North Korea. But never mind, it’s an engaging and quick read and I’m happy to have read it.

08/23/2013 Jordan Vause, Wolf: U-Boat Commanders in World War II (1997 Naval Institute Press hardcover, 256 pages – Corvallis Public Library)

Right around the time of the last Steam sale a month ago, it was decided that the submarine game Silent Hunter V would be a good purchase. I confess that I find the game to be pretty dry, with a confusing set of controls and long stretches of boredom or frustration. It did, however, spark an interest in reading up on U-boats, hence the two books this month.

Of the two, Wolf is a better overall summation of the experience, and the author does a very good job weaving together the big picture with the stories of individual officers with a good idea for detail and a better eye for highly readable prose. You could do worse than to start here for an introduction to the subject.

U-boat Adventures takes a slightly different tack, focusing more on the enlisted crewmen and individual stories over a chronological narrative. There’s some very interesting stuff here, too, but makes a better supplement than sole source.

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