20 Reading Questions

It has been far too long since I last made an update here (and, among other things, I'm pondering switching from Joomla to WordPress to see if that might motivate me) so when I saw this floating around the internet, I figured I'd answer all 20 questions here. If anyone is interested?

Favourite genre to read?

Can I say "Speculative Fiction" and thereby cover the field? My favourite genres are Science Fiction and Fantasy, but I also read quite a lot of Horror, and I always enjoy a good Thriller. Often these genres overlap -- I'd call SFFantasy setting genres, while Horror and Thriller are plot genres, so give me a good Horror Thriller in a non-mundane setting and I'm happy.

Although, that said, I don't mind Urban Fantasy either.

Basically, I've never been very good at picking favourites...

Current book I'm reading?

I currently have three books on the go.

Most of my reading these days is via ebook, and in that format I'm a few chapters into The Girl with All the Gifts, by M R Carey. I was torn between reading the book or watching the movie first, and a twitter-friend (you know who you are! Wink) suggested I go with the book. Because I'd already seen the trailers and had a vague notion of what the story was about, I suspect I didn't fully appreciate the mystery of the first few chapters, but ultimately, she was right. Always read the book first! I'm thoroughly enjoying what I've read so far!

While commuting, I like to listen to something and for the last few months I've been consuming audio books that way. I'm halfway through Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash at the moment. It was already on my list to read sometime, but I read an article by somebody who absolutely hated Ready Player One, and described it as a cheap hack ripoff of Snow Crash. I guess it's cool to hate on popular books (especially once they get turned into movies) but I remembered enjoying Ready Player One when I read it the first time, so, of course, I decided I'd read both. That rapidly changed into a decision to listen to both instead. I enjoyed Ready Player One just as much the second time around, and I'm now loving Snow Crash -- but I really don't see what the connection is between the two books. Apart from the fact that both feature a virtual reality environment, the two seem to have very little in common. Certainly the Metaverse and the Oasis are very different virtual locations.

Finally, I have a paperback -- anybody remember those? -- in my backpack, with a bookmark in it. Up to a couple of years ago, that was the only way I used to read, but these days, the ebook is just more convenient (most of my reading is done on my phone) and the audiobooks, obviously, are the only way to go while driving! But I did pick this book up at the beginning of the year and figure I'd try to read it. (After my move, there are many books I'll probably have to get rid of, but still a whole bunch I want to keep!) The book is The Coming of the Horseclans by Robert Adams -- book 1 of the series. I've had it for years, and several years back I made an effort via eBay to fill the gaps in the series. I'm only a few chapters in, and so far, well, I'm not sure what I was expecting, but this is not what I was expecting! Pretty good, but it's been in my bag for three months without seeing the light of day...

First book I remember loving?

Hmm. So many books ... and I don't think my memory is what it used to be. I remember several books from my younger years: DuneLord of the RingsThe Sword of ShannaraSword Dancer (or was that this century?) Perhaps for the same reason that I never like to pick favourites, I don't think I've ever really loved a particular book -- certainly not to the point of re-reading it every year as I know some people do. I read it (and, yeah, I love it while I'm reading it, and for a short time thereafter) and then I move on to the next. I'm not a book connoisseur; I'm more like a hungry dog: wolf it down, what's next?

So, that said, what's the first book I remember reading? Probably something by Enid Blyton. The Adventurous Four books spring to mind as standing out from the crowd. (I'd almost like to go back and read them again, but I suspect that would rain all over my fond (if ancient) memories of those books.)

A book/series you wish would be adapted to film?

This was a tricky one -- made trickier by the number of book adaptations that butcher the source material. I was looking back through the list of books I've read in the last few years, thinking it would be fun if somebody gave the Dirk Pitt novels the full James Bond treatment, when it hit me: Modesty Blaise.

Of course there have already been two attempts. The first, cashing in on the James Bond thing, became a parody; it is a bad movie and the last time I watched it, I got a blinding headache. The other, My Name is Modesty, was a small effort at making a prequel (perhaps with hopes of booting a series into life) that might have gone completely unnoticed if Tarantino hadn't taken it under his wing. I actually really enjoyed it -- but apparently Peter O'Donnell, author of the Modesty Blaise novels, hated it almost as much as he hated the first one. So chances are it'd never happen -- but I'd love to see somebody make a serious attempt.

And failing that, I'd love to see a faithful rendition of the Memoirs of Lady Trent (A Natural History of Dragons and its sequels. Which reminds me, I must get back to that series!)

Favourite protagonist?

It's pretty hard to go past Snow Crash's aptly named Hiro ProtagonistLaughing (How have I not read this book sooner?)

Hiro aside ... I quite liked Anita Blake (before her character changed when her books shifted from urban fantasy to furry-porn!) Modesty Blaise, of course. Lady Trent, of course. Or Evelina Cooper (niece of Sherlock Holmes, in Emma Jane Holloway's wonderful The Baskerville Affair trilogy.) Or Sirantha Jax (of Ann Aguirre's Grimspace series.)

Bonnie Grayduck of The Twilight of Lake Woebegotten was epic!

TBH, when I think back on books I've read, most of the memorable characters seem to be women. Feel free to speculate amongst yourselves as to the reasons for that...

Favourite antagonist?

Meg! (Does a shark count? What about a prehistoric 60-foot shark? I'm somewhat excited by the news that there's going to be a Meg movie coming soon...)

Sharks aside -- Pennywise springs to mind. Of course (once again) I'm really mentioning memorable rather than favourite, but what can you do?

Do you write any stories?

I've written my Array Wars trilogy, of course. Other than that, I've started a few. Every so often I feel the need to write something new, and I write a few hundred (or a few thousand) words before I lose interest or impetus.

A movie you think was better than the book?

I think this actually depends on which version you encounter first. If you read the book first, you'll probably hate all the changes they made to turn it into a movie. And if you see the movie first, reading the book will give you extra insights and make you wonder why they cut all this good stuff out of the ...

Wait. What just happened? Ignore what I said before: watch the movie first! Wink Unless watching the movie spoils the book, in which case ... I just don't know any more.

Anyway. Movie better than book?

Ignoring instances when "the book" was actually the novelisation of the movie (anyone read the Mad Max 2 novelisation? Just ... don't!) I'm tempted to say Blade Runner. (Director's Cut, natch!) When I finally read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep I found myself underwhelmed. Although, hey, maybe I missed something.

Best book you've read this year?

I feel I should come back to this question at the end of the year.

I think the AmazonClassics edition of the Dracula (by Bram Stoker, of course) audiobook was extremely well done, and worth a listen. And hey, it's a pretty good story in its own right. You may think you know the story, but no movie has gotten it fully right. Many don't even come close. Even Bram Stoker's Dracula, probably one of the best adaptations out there, cut the story in half.

As for the books I've actually read (with my eyes) this year ... I think I'd have to pick Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal.

One of your favourite authors?

See, there's that "f"-word again.

Once upon a time, back when I was reading her Tiger/Del series, I actually told Jennifer Roberson she was my favourite author. (In a long rambling email whose true embarrassment factor can only be surpassed by the second missive I sent her after she actually responded! I like to think I've come a long way since then...)

For a while, Stephen King was probably top of the list (and for a shorter while he shared that spot with Dean Koontz.) But these days, I really don't know that I have a favourite any more. So many authors, so little time...

Least favourite genre to read?


Honestly, though, that's quite an unfair thing to say. Certainly I have an impression of the romance books I dislike so much. Most of them have Fabio on the cover, or an equally smooth-skinned, muscled, beautiful man-god lookalike. But can they really be my least-favourite genre to read if I've never actually read any of them? Let's just say I have no particular urge to go and read one, and leave it at that.

Except, of course, I hate to be unfair to anything because of ignorance -- even a genre. I feel like I should read one of these books I'm dissing, just so my opinion is, at least, educated.

In the past I've challenged myself to read books with romance as a sub-genre. That's how I got onto the Sirantha Jax novels ("romantic science fiction") and I loved those. I once read "The Eight" by Katherine Neville and enjoyed it (in fact, I must read it again!) and then years later, found it in a book store filed under "Romance". (Although maybe that was because it was written by a woman. After all, what else could they possibly write, right? Innocent) And for a while, Lady of the Forest by Jennifer Roberson was high on my list of all-time favourite books. So, no, I don't object to romance in my books. I'm just hesitant to read one in which romance is the main focus.

Maybe I just have no romance in my soul. Or maybe I know what I like and there aren't enough hours left in my lifetime to read the books I want to read, let alone adding any more to the pile...

A book you'd recommend to a friend?

Depends on the friend, I guess... Some of them just don't read ... and some of them read books very different to my usual fare.

Lady of the Forest by Jennifer Roberson is a book I've already recommended to several friends, back in the day. The Girl with All the Gifts was recommended to me, and from what I've read of it so far, I'd probably pay that forward. I dunno. So many good books. Maybe that'd be a good use of this site of mine? Book recommendations?!

We'll see.

Oh. And of course, I'm always keen to get more eyes on my Array Wars trilogy... Wink

Favourite film adaptation of a book?

Don't do favourites, blah blah blah...

We recently watched Annihilation, based on the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer, and it was intriguing enough that I went out and read the books. But I think, all things considered, my favourite adaptation would have to be John Carpenter's The Thing. I actually only read John W Campbell's short story Who Goes There? quite recently and was amazed at how well the movie actually follows the source material. Of course, it also changes a few things -- but of the dozen or so movies which fall into my list of fave movies, I believe that's the only one based on a pre-existing story.

Book you've read the most times?

As I said earlier, there is no one book that I've reread a bunch of times. However, there are a few books I've read twice, and a few more I'd like to read a second time.

So far, there is only one book that I'm aware of having read more than twice, and that is The Lord of the Rings. Perhaps you've heard of it? For a while I attended school in England, and we actually started reading it there. Yeah, that's right. The school I was in picked LotR to be our book-of-the-year! Sadly we moved before we got very far with the book -- came back to Australia -- so I went to the library, determined to track down a copy, It was actually out on loan at the time so I put in an order for it. The following week when we happened to go back to the library, I found it sitting on the shelf -- an oversized (and rather hefty) red brick of a paperback. So I borrowed it. And I read it. And when I finished, I took it back -- at which time, because I had my order in, they notified me (probably by mail; this was long before the advent of the internet) that it was available, so of course I went back, took it out again, and reread it.

Heady times!

And since then? I've read it at least once more. I went to read it again when there was talk of a movie (or three) only to discover that my own copy had been loaned out to somebody and never come back -- so, of course, I tracked down a replacement copy, but not in time to read before the movies hit...

A book you didn't expect to like?

Hmm. I guess there's an implicit "... but did!" in that question. There have been a few books I haven't liked, a few that I just couldn't manage to finish (mostly because I found them tedious or difficult and they couldn't manage to hold my attention -- Moby Dick springs to mind.) Even one which I abandoned because it was just awful (and another that I abandoned after the first few pages because the squick-factor was just too high!)

But one that I liked, against expectation? That's a tough call, because I typically don't tend to read books that I don't expect to like -- and on the rare occasions I do force myself to attempt something I don't think I'll like, turns out I know my tastes pretty well.

Favourite classic book?

What makes a book a classic, anyway? I found a list (how many of these 99 classic books have you read?) and Lord of the Rings was not on it -- but Interview with a Vampire was. Obviously the answer to the question is not easy to nail down -- if it was, there wouldn't be a thousand articles out there attempting to nail the definition down. I found one list, 100 Classics to Read in a Lifetime, that looked to be of great interest, that did include The Lord of the Rings, so I'll put that down as my answer. That list also includes such titles as The Kite RunnerThe Book Thief, and Hunger Games, though -- I'm sure they're all great books, but I wonder if they qualify as classics due to their age. Or rather, youth...

As to what constitutes a classic, well, many of the lists I found concern themselves with European works -- mostly English-language works with a scattering of Russian and French authors. But what about something like the Chinese Journey to the West? And one list I found included The Communist Manifesto which made me wonder, well, why not Mein Kampff? (Certainly an influential work to some people...) Or, if "influential" is a criteria, why not The Bible or The Qur'an or The Bhagavad GitaI dunno. I tend to leave such questions to smarter people than myself.

When I spoke to my partner about this topic, she suggested that Interview With a Vampire belonged on the list because it redefined the world of vampires -- or, at the very least, brought their hinted-at erotic undertones out into sharp focus. In that case, I argued, why not Twilight? It, too, has redefined vampires (although whether the whole sparkly thing will catch on remains to be seen.)

Book that's impacted you the most?

I dropped a dictionary on my foot once.

(That's a joke, Mabel.)

As I've said, I read, and I move on. Occasionally I'll pause to ruminate -- and sometimes I wish I had the opportunity to chat about a particularly enjoyable work with other fans before moving on to the next.

What about non-fiction, though? Oh, sure, then a few books leap into focus.

I'm an introvert -- but until recently I thought that was synonymous with shyness. That all meshed nicely until I lost a lot of my shyness but my introversion remained. Only when I discovered the two states were related but distinct did things make sense again, and Sophia Dembling's The Introvert's Way was the first book I read to attempt to learn why I was the way I was.

Around ten or so years earlier, I found myself wrestling with depression. I actually had a moment of perfect clarity -- after reading a little about Buddhism I started thinking of it as a moment of enlightenment -- which snapped me out of those miserable depths for a while, and while the peace which that insight brought didn't persist, it did put me on the path to reading a few so-called self-help books. Of those, most were forgotten as soon as I'd read them, but two stand out as having clicked with me, as having actually made a difference. The first was Choosing Happiness by Stephanie Dowrick. The second was -- hmm. Okay, I know I read both Buddhism Plain and Simple by Steve Hagen, and Buddhism For Busy People by David Michie; one of those put me on the path to keeping depression at bay, and the other helped confirm it, but off-hand I'm not sure which one to give the most credit. I'm leaning towards Hagen' s book, though.

After reading the books about Buddhism, it became clear that many of the individual tips from Stephanie Dowrick that had really resonated with me were actually giving advice which was essentially Buddhist in nature. I certainly don't consider myself a Buddhist by any stretch of the imagination, but some of the core tenets of that philosophy do seem to be very effective at keeping the black dog on a leash.

Oh, and Carl Zimmer's Parasite Rex and Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark were both pretty mind-blowing too -- but once I start down that road, forever will it dominate my desti... uh ... yeah.

If you could meet one author (living or dead) who would it be?

If it's not clear by now, I have trouble restricting myself to one anything! Not to mention that my introversion (plus the residue shyness that still clings to my soul) would render the very thought of meeting one of my idols a nerve-wracking nightmare.

Do I even have idols?

So, to pick one author -- and bearing in my mind that my answer would probably change from one moment to the next -- let's say Philip Jose Farmer.

Why him? I actually don't know a whole lot about the guy, to be honest, and so far none of his books have made any of my lists. But I think it was him, more than anyone else, who taught me that it could be cool to play in other people's fictional worlds. Long before I ever heard the term "fan fiction" (which my own Array Wars most assuredly is) PJF's Tarzan Alive opened my eyes, even if only on a subconscious level, to the possibilities inherent in merging two or more fictional realities. Maybe he wasn't the first to do so, but that one book in particular stands out in my mind.

Of course, if I'm to have lunch with the guy I should probably read a few of his other books first!

My second choice (or maybe, now, my first choice -- a few seconds have passed, after all) would be a toss-up between Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. (And those two, well, I've pretty much read all of their books!)

An author you think more people should know about?

Margaret Cavendish. I was only recently made aware of her myself. Many people credit Mary Shelley with the invention of Science Fiction, but Margaret Cavendish wrote her proto-SF-esque The Blazing World a full 150 years earlier. (Of course, having actually made the effort to read it, I'm not sure I could actually recommend it to anyone -- I found it quite a slog -- but for anyone interested in the history of Speculative Fiction it's worth tackling.)

As for a more contemporary answer, go read Emma Jane Holloway's Baskerville Affair trilogy!

Favourite book/series of all time?

Ah, the "f"-word again. I'm not sure I could pick a favourite book to save my life -- but favourite series? Discworld by Terry Pratchett. Amazing stuff. I think I still have a couple of those left to read, but up until the last few years I was basically devouring each one as it hit the shops, ever since I was introduced to The Colour of Magic back in '89 or '90.

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