Over the past few days I've purchased nine books. Of these, four are English A1 texts. The other five include: Shadow and Pattern by K.J. Parker, being the first two novels in her Scavenger trilogy, Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb, being the first book of her Liveship Traders, trilogy, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, and The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks, a Culture novel. I shall probably purchase more over the holidays. My current list includes:
Memory by K.J. Parker, being the final book in the Scavenger trilogy
Excession by Iain M Banks, a Culture novel
The Mad Ship and Ship of Destiny by Robin Hobb, being the second and third books of Liveship Traders trilogy
Spin by Robert Charles Wilson
The Darkness That Comes Before and The Warrior Prophet by R Scott Bakker, being the first two books of the Prince of Nothing trilogy,
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (assuming I can locate it)
The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake
Drawing of the Dark by Tim Powers
Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
I'm impressed with Bank's work. He manages to combine fast-paced action with a compelling picture of an almost utopian society that's very fully realized and intricately detailed. Although the construction of that sort of post-scarcity, machine-governed, fundamentally intellectual-hedonistic society may have been fraught with some difficulties owing to the state of human nature; as it is, humanity's need for material fulfillment is yet one of the primary problems of government and society. Culture society is a vision of libertarianism combined with a sort of lassiez-faire centrally planned economy. It is a bizarre sort of standoff that is not really that explored in the novels; although it probably might be resolved by the fact that the machines, or Minds, can fully anticipate the desires of its populace or, failing that, retains the capacity for rapid construction of the desired commodity for fast gratification in the event that the demand has not been met. Still, waste in a pose-scarcity economy is not a liability. Politically, the Culture is a federated anarchy, where individual habitats retain their own governmental capacity (or such that is necessary for this "perfect" society) while subscribing to a lack of central governmental structure. The problems of anarchy have been resolved in this Culture; factors that lead into chaos in anarchy (such as inability to pool national resources, uncontrolled and unmitigated social ills and violence - which in turn stem from non-access to material wealth - and lack of national purpose) have been excised through the fact that there is no lack of resources, gene engineering has removed undesirable traits from the populace, and that the Culture is bound by no law, which "takes away all incentive to push the limits of what is permissible". Also, although it has no national identity, Culture citizens are bound with a common identity and purpose - as veritable caretakers of a galaxy, and gatherers of knowledge.
Reading Shadow. Interesting but frustrating in its myraid, seemingly unrelated, plotlines. Somehow I sense this is heading for some odd, baroque conclusion. Very formal, dry sort of British wit fills the novel, abit like Susanna Clarke, but less apparent.
Re-read Devices and Desires recently. Refreshingly straightfoward and more lighthearted than Shadow. I look forward to the next book, although it'll be in hardback. Curse these publishers!
Neverwinter Nights 2. Story-driven is good. I've been craving for a good RPG with a stunning, cinematic campaign like the one in Kotor. NWN2 seems to be a good candidate.
Natasha Bedingfield is good.