Archive for fantasy

Hugo 2021 nominations

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 13, 2021 by xi'an

I received an email from Tor about their books shortlisted for the Hugo Awards this year, which made me check the nominated novels (as there was little chance I had read novellas, novelettes, or short stories in the other lists, except those by P. Djèlí Clark who did win the Nebula last week!):

Of which I have only read the [great] Network Effect from the Murderbot series, but with Muir’s, Clarke’s and Kowal’s opera on my reading list.

a journal of the plague year² [more of the same]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 29, 2021 by xi'an

Read V.E. Schwab’s The Near Witch, yet another instance of a YA novel not identified as such! Conditional on this category, I found it a rather good book in that the central character (as a female teenager fighting prejudices of her village) is well-made, with depth and (almost) enough imperfections to be credible. The universe where this happens is however restricted to a village isolated in a grassy plain where strangers are so rarely seen as to be immediately an object of suspicion. On the light side, but definitely superior to her Shades of Magic trilogy.

Made hot X buns, mostly successful except for the X that tasted exactly as the dried uncooked flour it was made of!!! And tagliatelle nere agli asparagi, at the very end of the [green] asparagus short season, with more bigoli as well. And sampled a few bentô boxes from [surviving] local restaurants. During a semi-vacation trip to the Brittany coast, cooked large local crabs bought from the local fishermen (back from blockading Jersey!] and fish from the same providers.

Watched some parts of Kingdom, yet another Korean TV series that mixes historical drama with… zombies. A lot of scenes can be [and were] speed-watched as the pace is deadly slow (if not from the zombie perspective!). The end is unexpected, making it almost worth the effort. And Erased, a Japanese TV series derived from a famous manga, which I found remarkable, mostly for the performances of the young actors, as the serial killer is rather easy to spot. And the end somewhat anticlimactic. Also started 47 Ronin, which I thought was related to the book I read two summers ago. But found it so ridiculous with its cheap fantasy, its obligatory Westerner saving the day, the gross misrepresentation of the original story, the many cultural counter-representations, the absurd love story, &tc., &tc., that I gave up. The antithesis of Mizoguchi’s 1941 version.



récits du vieux royaume [book review]

Posted in Books, pictures with tags , , , , , , on April 18, 2021 by xi'an

Following my enthusiastic reading of Jaworski’s Gagner la Guerre at the start of the first lockdown last year (!), I read this March the short stories at the beginning of a single volume called Récits du Vieux Royaume, which I found even better for the care in the writing style, the originality and diversity of the stories, the strong connection with traditional folklore and with the woes and worries of rural people, some of which could have been those of my not-so-remote ancestors, the mostly subtle insertion of details on the . (The connection with role game scenarios is close to invisible here.) It is only when reaching the second half of this book that I realised it contained the book I had bought and read last year. Rather than additional jewels…

“Elle racontait des histoires anciennes, des chroniques séculaires, des légendes à demi oubliées, ensevelies dans un passé fabuleux. Elle racontait la Geste de Leodegar le Resplendissant, ses batailles, ses victoires, l’union des clans autour du jeune héros habité par le souffle d’un dieu. Elle racontait le Vieux Royaume à l’époque de sa splendeur, Chrysophée aux murailles dorées, la prospérité et l’harmonie des campagnes, les forteresses orgueilleuses des trois duchés. Aux heures froides de la nuit elle racontait parfois les heures terribles de la guerre des Grands Vassaux, les morts marchant mêlés aux vivants dans les armées de Malvern, Chrysophée incendiée dans le soir, les derniers héros de Leomance, de Kahad Burg et de Valanael, ivres d’horreur et de désespoir, livrant combat pour défendre la berge de la Listrelle..”

a journal of the plague year [are we there yet?!]

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 20, 2021 by xi'an

Read the next volume of the Witcher series, Baptism of Fire, with even less enthusiasm than for the previous one, as the momentum of the series seems to have stalled… (Despite reading some highly positive reviews.) Some dialogues are funny enough, along with progressive views not particularly common in fantasy, like the support of reproductive rights, incl. abortion (and even less supported in the home country of the author, Andrzej Sapkowski!). But overall, not much happening and too much infodump!

Baked Ethiopian lentils & spinach mix, to get along with a slow cooking Ethiopian beef stew. And cooked more Venetian dishes. And had a great Korean streetfood dinner at (or from) MamiBaba by Quinsou, near Montparnasse, with pajeon (the cousin to okonomiyaki!) and kimchee. Accompanied by a first attempt at baking a chocolate pie.

Watched a few episodes of Alice in Borderland, vaguely suggested as hearsay by my daughter, but despite the fascinating scenes of an empty Tokyo, the plot is not particularly engaging, the tricks towards solving the game often lame, and the characters are not developed at all. Then watched Kurosawa’s Creepy, a gripping if not particularly realist psychological thriller that was premiered at the 2016 Berlin Film Festival. And reminded me of the much more disturbing Losey’s The Servant

Read two further volumes of John Harvey’s Charlie Resnick, in a random order, volumes that I found in and returned to the exchange section in front of our library as usual. And which I found almost as good as the first one, with its insistence on the humanity of each of the characters rather than indulging in manicheism. References to jazz pieces got a wee bit annoying by the third volume… And there is a maximal number of rye bread sandwiches with Polish pastrami I can swallow!

Watched also for the first time the fascinating The Wild Goose Lake (南方车站的聚会 which translates as A Rendez-Vous at a Station in the South), by Diao Yinan, a 2019 Cannes Festival selection, a psychological and violent noir film taking place in Wuhan among local gangs, when a gang boss kills by mistake a policeman after a very gory episode. The classical story line of the chase à la A bout de souffle is both tenuous and gripping, with an painful attention to colour and lightings, most scenes taking place at night with ghastly lights, with an intentional confusion between gangs of criminals and groups of cops, the final scene in full daylight making everything else sounding like a bad dream. The two main characters are striking, with an outlandish swan-like actress Gwei Lun-Mei. This also led me to watch the earlier Black Coal Thin Ice, which I also found impressive in terms of filming [that makes the cold and snow in this Northern city almost perceptible!] and definition of characters, once again involving Gwei Lun-Mei as the central, almost mute, and doomed, woman, but puzzling in terms of psychology and scenarios. (The shootout in the gallery is plain ridiculous imho.)

sixteen ways to defend a walled city [book review]

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 2, 2020 by xi'an

The title of this book, sixteen ways to defend a walled city,  enticed me to order it and after a slow beginning I became hooked to the story. I had forgotten I had read and enjoyed a book by K.J. Parker before, namely Devices and Desires, which was quite pleasant as far as I remember! (Not to be confused with another book under the same title by P.D. James.) The concept is somewhat similar, with the same universe if eons laters: boosted medieval warfare seen from an engineer’s perspective. (Devices and Desires started the Engineer Trilogy to make it clear to everyone!) Which makes for a pleasant change as devious ingenuity usually trumps frontal strength and there is at last attention paid to good, I mean in the sense of good delivery, resources, shortage, &tc.! The style is light and funny, the characters are somewhat too nice overall (until they die), but this makes for a tolerable kind of pastiche, most enjoyable to stand a heatwave! A second book just came out and I may be tempted to buy it, heatwave or not. Although the first one concluded in a rather definitive way, making a sequel unlikely… I may also complete the Engineer Trilogy.