Cheeseburger Gothic

E-readers and the death of reading

Posted December 1, 2014 into Books by John Birmingham

Still without internet. Probably won't be back online until Thursday arvo now. One upside, it's forced me to ponder my reading habits. I've been using the new waterproof Kobo for a review when it comes out, but I had a few thoughts about the nature of electronic reading I wanted to think out loud here.


Beeso and I have previously discussed the distracted nature of reading on an iPad. Or rather, my problems with distraction, which he doesn't share.
Back story. I made a decision to stop buying books from Amazon about a year ago. Specifically, to stop buying Kindle titles. I never really used the Beast of Bezos for hard copy titles. I did like the Kindle app, however, and thought the Paperwhite was a good ereader. But my issues with Amazon's business model grew to the point where I couldn't keep supporting them; a decision made easier when they broke their own system with the launch of their com.au site.
I've been using iBooks for about a year. It's not as cheap, and the overall selection is undeniably poor compared to all of the other online bookstores, not just Amazon. But for me, the range of choice in fiction is more than adequate, and the app is a lot more elegant than the Kindle's.
Still, I always had the same problem reading on an iPad. No, not screen glare. I don't read outside. Distraction. Whenever I was in iBooks, there was almost small, remnant part of my attention which was not focussed on the book I was reading. Instead it was flitting over the dozens of apps I knew to be a simple swipe away. Magazines and news sites I could be reading. Aggregators I might profitably trawl. Games I might play. Music to listen to.
A dedicated e-reader (or an old fashioned paperback) render this problem irrelevant of course, and at times I've banned the iPad from my bedside with that in mind. Having the net cut off for the last fortnight, and having the review to write of the Kobo Aura really forced the issue. And raised another one.
A couple of months, maybe even a year ago, I wrote a po-faced retort to Josephine Tovey's essay about her inability to finish any of the books she started reading. I suggested she needed MOAR SPLODEY and less thinky in her reading list. But I think there's more to it than that.
I think distraction is a problem even when the whole world isn't a finger swipe away. Having most of my entertainment options taken from me by those two lightning strikes has not just given me a lot more time to read, it has forced me to spend more time reading. The book I chose to test out the Kobo was Monster Hunter International, by Larry Correia. I picked that up on Murph's recommendation and when I'm finished I'll give it a review too. It's the sort of quality B-List pulp I find hugely enjoyable and usually consume like M&Ms, ie. in lots of short bites.
I've been reading it as I used to read, however, when I had time, in my teens and twenties. Not just a page or two every now and then, but a chapter or three in one sitting.
(Even that's not how I really used to binge read books. I was capable of plowing through hundreds of pages a day. A couple of titles a week. But I was a free man in those days).
Because I've been thinking about the reading experience – remember, Kobo review –
I've been pondering how I might have read this book differently on my iPad. I'd have squeezed in a page or two, here and there, usually late at night when my eyelids were already drooping, with the words skimming across the surface of my mind like dead leaves on a frozen pond, leaving very little trace the next day. Instead, I've been biting off thirty and forty page chunks to chew over in one sitting, often at lunch while I try the Kobo out in a variety of settings.
I honestly believe it's helped me appreciate and enjoy Correia's story more than I would have otherwise. Books are not blogs. They are composed in scenes, and chapters and longer, slower narrative arcs. Not just two hundred word brain farts. To really appreciate a story, we have to let the author tell it at his or her own pace, and if that means you need an hour to fight off the giant stone gargolyes attacking the secret insane asylum for survivors of previous monter attacks, then you need to invest an hour doing just that.
It makes me think I have to find some serious reading time a couple of days each week, and quarantine it from anything that might draw my attention away. And I don't mean the time I already spend reading for work either. That can be up to two hours a day, but it is work, not fun. Study, not relaxation. And unless I'm reading for work, it probably shouldn't be on the iPad anymore.

48 Responses to ‘E-readers and the death of reading’

Noely puts forth...

Posted December 1, 2014
Reading is my most favourite past-time, though, having a small business & family I have found the only way to actually continue to enjoy it is to be strict on it.

So every weekend I have at least one afternoon where I have 2 hours allocated that are mine, the family & everyone else can get stuffed. I sit on the back deck with my book (real book), glass of wine etc and just lose myself in the book. As you mentioned above, you need to read in serious doses to fully enjoy.

I also read every night before I go to sleep, though use a tablet (2nd hand from daughter who needed an upgraded one for Uni) for that, purely because I had to get glasses last year & being able to increase the font size on the screen means I don't need to wear my glasses in bed & get annoyed. BUT I have nothing else at all loaded on the tablet except my books. The Wi-Fi is turned off - I only turn that on when I am actually downloading a book - and that way I have no other distractions when I am actually reading, again, making it more enjoyable.

Dunno if that helps you, but I know it sure as hell helps me & keeps me sane, and reading ;-)

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted December 1, 2014
Whoa, Noely. That's hard core, but not a bad idea. I have so many fkn iPads lying around this place I could easily set one aside to do this. Then again, I also have a heap of ereaders too. I may have a little problem.

Andrew reckons...

Posted December 1, 2014
JB, I second this. I keep a second iPad for just videos and books; - no email, no apps, no distractions. I can go oldskool and use safari and log in to the distractions, but that is a 'nuff of a deterrent

damian has opinions thus...

Posted December 2, 2014
That's definitely what I'm doing when I eventually replace this Samsung phone - the screen is terrific for night reading, so it'll end up dedicated that.

On a side-note the interesting thing about smart phones and possibly tablets is how they continue to be useful after being replaced in their original purpose. Old iPhones are still worthwhile music devices, for instance.

Must say the image of that Kobo in water prods me to think of, possibly want, that feature... I spent a bit of time last summer with the old Kindle in a zip lock bag floating around in the pool under a shade sail (I say sail, it's actually a large trailer tarp suspended in space 20 feet above the pool). With a floating bar, this arrangement worked well and I can see how avoiding the need for the bag would help.

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insomniac puts forth...

Posted December 1, 2014
Most of my e-reading would be on the train, and as I don't have wireless capabilities on my tablet, I don't suffer from the problems of distraction, although there are a few games etc that would still work. Talking books might open up the possibility of "multitasking", but then I'd probably end up doing both things poorly. Of course, if the book was good enough, you wouldn't be thinking of your Twitter account or whatever.

Barnesm mumbles...

Posted December 1, 2014
me too most of my reading, on a kindle, is done on the commute to & from the city each day. That's 50 minutes each way and great chunk of reading to think over.

pi asserts...

Posted December 1, 2014
Same for me. Commutes have always been the time for me to read a book and listen to music. If it is an especially good book, I stop by at the pub on the way home.

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Fakir Farkomungo mutters...

Posted December 1, 2014
You haven't addressed the obvious question (to which the commonplace but wrong answer is "affordances").

(As an aside, I can't bear the Kindle's typography. 21st C tech in the service of 20th C era poorly-typed manuscript? Will be interested to read what you think of the Kobo).

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Blarkon has opinions thus...

Posted December 1, 2014
Check out Nicholas Carr's "The Shallows: What the Internet is doing to our Brains" - available as an audiobook. Discusses the very issue of how our minds are being almost "reformatted" (and how previous technologies, such as writing, also "reformatted" the way we thought)

Dave W has opinions thus...

Posted December 1, 2014

The bigger question of reformatting due to the internet is interesting.


However I certainly found that my reading experience had to be reformatted for the ereader. I initially found it artificial and difficult, however after a couple of months I find it no different to a hardcopy book, in terms of feeling immersed in the book.

she_jedi is gonna tell you...

Posted December 1, 2014
Greg and Dan have a great interview with an anthropologist on SE2KB who's studying the plasticity of the mind and how we can re-program it, deliberately or inadvertently, over time. It probably fits in with the reformatting theory in Nicholas Carr's book. One example was the epidemic rise of myopia across the developed world as computers became mainstream, and our hunter gatherer need for perfect long distance vision for spotting prey has been superseded by the way we read things up close on screens and tablets etc.

Personally I don't find I'm easily distracted reading stuff on my iPad; but watching TV with the iPad around? I'm a shocker. I'm dipping into the iPad to check what actor is in that movie that I can't quite place, then getting distracted looking at the coming soon section of SBS On Demand to ensure my playlist is up to date, and then just giving up and watching an SBS video on my iPad instead because oh look shiny!

TheWah has opinions thus...

Posted December 2, 2014
You can find our interview with Dr Greg Downey about brain plasticity riiiiiiiiiight here ...

http://smartenough.org/episode/64.0

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beeso ducks in to say...

Posted December 1, 2014
I think I read 70 odd books on the iPad last year, but for some reason having infant twins seems to have killed my attention span, think I'd be lucky to have read ten new books this year.

I never have any problem with what I'm reading on, phone, paperback, iPad whatever. The only one I dislike is large hardcovers. Too heavy.

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Miss Maudy puts forth...

Posted December 1, 2014
When I made the decision to cross over from paper books to an e-reader, I was primarily motivated by space constraints (not allowed to kick out any of the people who live in my house to make room for moar books. Also, in danger of concussion from the to be read and the just need to have beside the bed pile). But I didn't want to be restricted to buying books from Amazon, and I decided I wanted a dedicated device for reading books - pretty much to avoid the distractions and to not break the "no technology in the bedroom" rule we have at ours, so I went for the Sony e-reader, which, while it has really crappy internet capabilities, is most definitely a book. It took a little while, then once I got the hang of it, it was no different to reading a paper book, and because it has a wee light on it, Sir Reginald no longer complains when I read in bed!

The best thing about the e-reader for me was going away on a road trip, being able to make myself a reading list for the trip, carefully select ten or so books for the reading list and have the whole lot fit in my handbag. I've found that there's the odd book that's better on paper (I cannot read Terry Pratchett electronically. There's something analog about him that requires paper.) And I can generally buy books from where ever I choose!

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Murphy asserts...

Posted December 1, 2014
It seems I get more reading done when Cindy is out of town (for those not on Facebook, we are officially engaged today, btw) than I do when she is around. Love is a distraction of sorts and perhaps worthy of a discussion at some point.

I still prefer the paper books. After an initial fling with Amazon's Kindle and their app I've written it off as a waste of my time. I use my iPad Air for many things but reading anything longer than 5000 words isn't one of them.

My consumption of those books is at a much slower rate. Twenty years ago I would have chewed through MHI in days, not weeks. I suspect part of why I go so slow is that I am a notoriously fickle, difficult to please, easy to annoy reader. My patience is slim on the best of days with a writer and if they tread on my nerves one time too many I fling the book across the room.

Thus I savor a good one while I have it because I don't know when I'm getting the next one. The same rule applies to my non-fiction. I've got a number of Classical Roman writers on my shelves and I sip them the same way I would a good bourbon. Once I've finished reading them for the first time I'm done. There will be no more of that first time savor. After that, I'll merely be pour more hot water over old tea leaves.

So, I think part of it is down to age and impatience, which is less an issue of distraction by technology as one might think. The other part is that I tend to read while I eat alone, something I do not do much of these days. When I do have time to myself, I tend to spend it working on my own writing.

My two cents.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

Bangar mutters...

Posted December 1, 2014
Congratulations !

Murphy is gonna tell you...

Posted December 1, 2014
Thanks!

JG is gonna tell you...

Posted December 2, 2014
Congrats, Murph!
JG

Murphy_of_Missouri swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted December 2, 2014
Thanks!!!

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Blarkon mumbles...

Posted December 1, 2014
Here is the article that was the genesis of the book I referenced upthread

"The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains" http://www.wired.com/2010/05/ff_nicholas_carr/all/1


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Therbs asserts...

Posted December 1, 2014
Congrats Murph!

Murphy ducks in to say...

Posted December 1, 2014
Thanks, Therbs. :D

Dave W reckons...

Posted December 1, 2014
@therbs, ditto!

Bunyip mumbles...

Posted December 1, 2014
@therbs, ditto ditto...

BTW, @therbs, if you haven't read any Correia, you should. His elves will amuse you, and his gnomes.... are different.

Oh, and AFAIK no hobbits.

Murphy is gonna tell you...

Posted December 1, 2014
The elves are priceless.

Dave, thanks!

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

damian would have you know...

Posted December 1, 2014
Said it elsewhere but congrats here too!

Anthony is gonna tell you...

Posted December 2, 2014

And again, congratulations.

And I like the Orc chopper pilot.

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Surtac is gonna tell you...

Posted December 1, 2014

I've used a Kindle Keyboard for about three years now, and I've noticed that over 90% of my reading is now on that platform - in fact over the past six months only one book I've been reading has been in paper form, and that's purely because I couldn't find an ebook version (Paul Virilio's The Administration of Fear if anyone is wondering).

This doesn't mean I've stopped buying physical books - far from it. I still buy new release hardcovers from the authors I actively collect, but I'm also more likely now to sling them an extra royalty payment for an e-version as a reading copy. And I'm much more willing to take a chance on something new that has been recommended to me if I can find it readily in e-form, rather than traipsing around actively having to look for it.

I also like the way that Bezos' creation will let me sync my reading between the kindle and my smartphone, so if I find myself with 10 or 15 minutes at a loose end (usually waiting for SWMBO and the family) I can just pull out the phone and continue reading the current book. For me that's a really useful feature.

And yes: congratulations to Murph!


Murphy mutters...

Posted December 1, 2014
Thanks!

damian puts forth...

Posted December 1, 2014
Yeah it's the sync that keeps me locked in. I split my reading between a now aging Samsung phone with the fableous OLED screen that makes it perfect for reading in bed, and the old keyboard Kindle. App on the iPad only where there are diagrams or something.

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Lulu mutters...

Posted December 1, 2014
I still read dead-tree books exclusively. I read a lot from the library, so the cost isn't really a factor, and I like the "tactility" and being able to flick back & forwards easily (particularly with non-fic). There's also something about seeing my bookmark at a certain point: knowing how much I've read, and how much there still is to go.

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Bunyip ducks in to say...

Posted December 1, 2014
Serious answer: This reminds me of having to read PDF technical reports on the same device as that which I had to answer impatient emails asking me if I'd finished reading darn PDFs, and had a draft of my own report. I used have to print the whole darn thang, and read it whilst on the evening or morning commute.

Ditto for reading at night/pre sparrow fart, whilst trying to dispel insomnia. I'll read a cruddy old Sci Fi hardcopy again, specifically because I cannot jump down an interweb / wikipedia rabbit hole. It's the text or yawny boy, and nothing else.

tl;dr Time and places for accessibility? Works for me.

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Shifty Tourist is gonna tell you...

Posted December 1, 2014

I've always been tempted to try some kind of electronic reading device, but haven't taken the plunge.... just to throw a spanner into the works, I am quite partial to an audiobook now and then... especially good after a day of staring at a screen all day, to close the eyes for the train journey home and be immersed. Its a bit of an expensive luxury, I indulge in only once in a while.

Its not good if you are prone to distraction, because if you start internetting while listening invariably you will lose the thread of one or both.

Oddly I did not find it distracting to either task while listening to an audiobook while playing Dark Souls.

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Bangar mumbles...

Posted December 1, 2014
Considering there's no more room on the shelves it's mostly ebooks now. Of course some books have to be purchased, the scribes autograph scrawled across the screen would make reading on it awkward.

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pi is gonna tell you...

Posted December 1, 2014
I have two ipads in my house, but I read my kindle far more than I use either of them. I understand the hate of amazon, and i'll get around to changing it one day, but three clicks to get any book I want... it's hard to say no just one more time.


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bawpcwpn would have you know...

Posted December 1, 2014
I was on the bus reading the other day and pondering this very idea. It came to me that I am my most engaged in reading when I am on a long train or plane journey, and I've got nothing else to do. Also when I'm at the beach by myself, I was free of other distractions and read quite a lot. I miss consuming books in one session though like I could with Harry Potter's or when I was home sick.

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Jane would have you know...

Posted December 1, 2014
Growing up on the outskirts of Perth we had no TV and no phone (and no internet!) Through sheer boredom I learned to read when I was four. I lost myself in books for years and years and years - still love them and dream of days uninterrupted by children (not that I don't love them) where I can read for days on end without interruption.

My children are both dyslexic and it makes me sad that they will never do this. We compromise with audiobooks but reading for them is more of a chore than a pleasure.

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Darth Greybeard would have you know...

Posted December 1, 2014
I'm splitting my reading between tablet and paper and finding the same problem with distractions on the tablet. So easy to check Twitter, email, Flipboard, news sites or whatever - plus the lighted screen isn't the best way to get to sleep. So if I want to concentrate on something or relax in the evening I'm reading proper books or magazines. Can't read on planes, even with NC headphones. Happier just wandering around in my own head.

NBlob puts forth...

Posted December 1, 2014
Tie some string to your ankle, or better yet bread crumbs, a trail of breadcrumbs. Nothing could possibli go wrong.

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Ciara is gonna tell you...

Posted December 1, 2014
I read what I call fun books on my kindle app, and more serious ones in hard form. The former can be consumed in small chunks. My commute is around 15 minutes, when Metro trains behave, so they're perfect. I have to plan otherwise. Like you I'm easily distracted and have technology everywhere. Strangely once I recognised I no longer had the same attention span I made more time to read.

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El Scurvo is gonna tell you...

Posted December 1, 2014
I just read old fashioned books. I even turn the edge of the page to mark where I am at. The most techno part is turning the reading light on and off and I mastered that one years ago.

Its a tactile preference. Also is a far better weapon against rampaging lifeforms bent on mischief. Try bashing the snotters out of that white tip with your ereader kindle thingie as see how far that gets you.

JG has opinions thus...

Posted December 2, 2014
Same. I'm sticking to paper. Definitely a tactile thing. Just more relaxing. I don't like reading from screens.

Now reading Margaret Atwood's 'Oryx and Crake'. Better late than never. Terrific book, borrowed from my daughter.

Having a book in sight with bookmark inserted prompts me to keep reading; to finish a book started. I certainly don't read anywhere as much as I ought to. I used to devour books as a teen. Probably now only read 5-8 novels a year. Distracted easily (eg reading in snippets online - link play etc), and I don't have the passion for reading that I once had.

Interesting discussion here, particularly the point about technology's role in neuroplasticity.

JG

Murphy_of_Missouri mutters...

Posted December 2, 2014
I always refer to Atwood's novel as Ork and Crackhead. It was the first of her work I read, and pretty much the last.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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Sparty puts forth...

Posted December 1, 2014
You had me at "giant stone gargolyes attacking the secret insane asylum for survivors of previous monter attack".

but back to the topic, read mostly on a kindle (I'm UK based but deliberately registered it to US Amazon for cheaper books ( and no VAT Tax). But I actually probably buy more hardbacks than I used to but more often than not signed by author etc as shelf decoration.

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Vovchara swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted December 1, 2014
Since i've to spend around 3 hours everyday on the way to work/back (including waiting on the train stations for delayed trains :) ), i have a plenty time to read. And e-books are in this case literally god send (if i believed in such an entity), easy to cary, easy to spontaneously to start a mandatory yearly re-read of "weapons of choice" :D, easy to buy a new book to read.

I have to shudder every time i remember when i had to haul 500 pages door stopper with me X)

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Rob is gonna tell you...

Posted December 2, 2014

I have a Kobo but I cant get the software to update on my sons laptop. So its gathering dust at the moment. Just reading a book called Disobeying Hitler (very slowly , its a little dry) but its a hardback. I'm pretty sure if it was on Kobo I would have given up , but its a big book so I feel I as I have money and pride involved I had better finish it. My tablet remains unused except when I feel like pinging angry birds around. I dont get distracted by the internet, I used to when it was fresh and new and crap (pre-google) and funny, I really only visit a few sites, FB, google blogs, The Atlantic, maybe villiage voice. My gaming PC however is a big distration of explosionly goodness but then so is my airbrush, tattoo machines, studio and paint brushes. Blank newsprint pads of paper and ball point pens are where its at.

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Therbs ducks in to say...

Posted December 3, 2014
Reading? such an old fashioned concept.

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w from brisbane ducks in to say...

Posted December 3, 2014
I suffer from the distractability. Most of my sustained reading is on paper books.
Back in the 90`s, I lived in my unit by myself. No computer and no TV, by choice. Gee whiz, I could read some books. At one stage, I decided to get into Dickens. I read Great Expectations, David Copperfield and Bleak House over 3 consecutive saturdays. They are not short books. Start about 9am, pausing occasionally for refreshments, finish the book by that evening. It was an epic way to read a good book. It seemed the proper way. A totally immersive experience. I could not do that now, because internet. It's my failing.

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Caitlin Monroe character bio

Posted November 24, 2014 into Books by John Birmingham

I was organizing my work files when I came across a series of character work ups for The Disappearance series. Tusk Musso was in there, still carrying all of the baggage we loaded him up with in that 'Build Me a Marine' entry back at JSpace.

And Caitlin. My beloved Caitlin. It was fascinating to read the bio I wrote her before I wrote even a single word of Without Warning. Before I got anywhere near that first line:

The killer awoke, surrounded by strangers.

In my early planning she was more of a 'bionic woman' type, loaded up with inserts and biomods. I stripped all that out, along with a lot of the family history you see here. Her father and siblings, you might remember were much more conventional. Nonetheless, whenever I needed to understand how she might respond to an extreme situation, such as her imprisonment and sexual assault by al Banna, I would return to this document and read it through.

Reading it now makes me want to go back to that series:

Caitlyn awakes in a hospital bed in Paris. She has been taken there along with other protesters who were set up. She sustained a head injury and was scanned. A lesion appears to have formed on her hippocampus, leading to memory problems. The lesion is not related to her head injury.

Name: Caitlyn Monroe

DOB: Sept 1. 1976

Current Appearance: Blonde hair. Grey/green eyes. 5"9. 71kg. Surfer's physique. Long, well muscled legs, unusually powerful arms and shoulders. Calloused hands and sides of feet. Some scarring on left upper thigh. Lower back. Old entry and exit wound right shoulder. Some faded, old defensive scarring on her forearms. Small chip set scar within larger scar tissue mass. She moves with a low centre of gravity and a noticeably feline flow of her limbs. Her resting state is still, almost unnaturally so.

Parents: Father Unknown. Mother. Tamsyn Ozorio. Monroe's mother, a Honolulu hotel cleaner died during childbirth. Turned out by her Brethren family for having sex as a teenager, she won a trip to Hawaii in a Wal-Mart store promotion and stayed there. With no known relatives willing to claim the baby, Monroe became a ward of the state. She was fostered out to a series of homes, staying in none longer than six months. She was a problem child and many of the homes were themselves problematic. At the age of six she was 'adopted' by Echelon and raised by them to become a weapon. She had carers and tutors rather than parents, but the Echelon staff were kind and, with four other Echelon babies, they became her family.

The Echelon Parents, Monroe Cohort: Mary Jane Monroe. 'Mother'. DOB Jul 25, 1970. US Army Lt-Colonel. Psychologist. 'Father' Dave Monroe. US Navy Commander. Psychologist.

Echelon children, Monroe Cohort: Michael, born Aug 2 1996(actual); James. born Feb 3 1998 (actual). Trish. born March 12 1997 (actual). Julianne. born October 3 2000 (actual).

The Echelon Program.

First mooted in the late 1990s, but not activated until late 2002, the Echelon Program took a small number of state wards from a young age and 'adopted' them into Echelon families. They were to be raised, as the children of Sparta were once raised, to be weapons. In their early years the Monroe Family were 'home schooled' near two military bases where Dave Monroe worked as an Army psyops specialist. The Monroe children grew up around the children of other military personnel, forming friendships with them, playing with them, leading otherwise normal lives. They were told from an early age that they were adopted, explaining their age cross overs and physical dissimilarities. James and Julianne, for instance were olive skinned and dark haired, where Caitlyn blonde and fair.

In addition to their normal schooling however, they received much additional tuition. Firstly in foreign languages. After school, five days a week, tutors would train them in Arabic (Mondays), Chinese (Tuesdays), Spanish (Wednesdays), Russian (Thursdays), French (Fridays). On Saturdays all conversation took place in one of those languages, on a rotating basis. When the children started high school, German and Japanese were added to their curriculum.

They also received intense physical training, although it was never sold to them as 'training'. They were simply raised to believe that everyone should play a lot of sport. Their sports included swimming, cross country orienteering, martial arts, gymnastics, pistol and rifle shooting. From as early as they could recall, their father and his army friends would take all of the children hunting. They were encouraged to stalk, kill, and butcher their prey. Occasionally they even traveled overseas to hunt. Foxes in England. Wild boar in Australia. Bears in Canada. One these trips they would occasionally meet other Echelon children, often described as 'cousins' with very similar backgrounds and skills to their own. Caitlyn had a winter hat made out of white seal fur from a pup she had clubbed and stripped herself on one such trip.

As the children grew they came to socialise increasingly with their 'cousins' and less and less frequently with anyone else. Their training became harder and more dangerous. Their academic lessons more challenging. From the age of ten, they began formal instruction in civics, with an emphasis on the idea of public service. At fifteen they were told the meaning of their lives and what was intended for them. They were shown a video of the Twin Towers attack, and later atrocities. They were asked if they wanted to help stop that sort of thing ever happening again. Of course they did. Their conditioning was akin to that of a suicide bomber, but it was life long and conducted with the full resources of a hyper power, and under the tutelage of psyops experts. From the age of sixteen to nineteen the Echelon children undertook the equivalent of an undergrad degree in espionage. They were assessed and their various strengths analysed by the programs administrators. In spite of their unusual upbringing the children, or young adults by now, were not automatons. They were individuals with their own foibles, strengths and weaknesses. Their controllers gradually came to assign them different roles based on their individual talents and inclinations.

Caitlyn Monroe stood out for a number of reasons. She was unusually intelligent, with a tendency to grow bored if not continually challenged. She had been accelerated at least eighteen months ahead of her age cohort in the Echelon academic program because of this. Program controllers speculated that her unknown father may have been the source of her academic abilities. She had a natural acuity for languages beyond even the norm in the Echelon cohort, which was itself a statistical outlier because of the way the children had been trained so intensively in languages from an early age.

She was off the scale in a number of physical indicators. Again, the Echelon children were stronger, faster and had much grater endurance than the norm, because of their life long training. But within this group, Caitlyn also stood out. Her strength, her fast twitch musculature, her cardio vascular health, her eye hand coordination, pain thresholds etc were all significantly greater than her peers. She could have competed for a men's gold medal in the Olympic Decathlon.

Psychologically she returned high scores along both empathic and competitive axes of personality matrices from an early age. In sports and games she exhibited high drives towards dominating opponents, but without objectifying them. Indeed, as she grew older, her ability to empathise with opponents became an advantage she deployed with great effect. Whether playing chess, paintball or judo, she was better able to 'read' an opponent than anyone else in the progam. In later role playing exercises, she demonstrated a unusual willingness and ability to blend into any group, to establish trust, and to betray it, without a qualm if necessary.

She was emotionally self-contained, not nearly as giving as her 'bothers and sisters', and not needing physical or emotional contact to the same extent. Nevertheless, her empathic nature allowed her to understand others needs in this regard, and although she was naturally happiest with her own company, she was able to 'swtich on' with friends, family members, targets etc.

At the end of her 'undergrad' period she was allocated to a specialist training cadre for assassins.

Job: Killer. Caitlyn Monroe is an employee of the Office of Special Clearances and Research (OSCAR), an executive unit of the Echelon Program. Her pay and conditions are equivalent to a US Ambassador. She specialises in deep penetration and multiple target preperation. Rather than individual targets, she is assigned to target clusters, such as independent cells or leadership cadres. She penetrates the target group, gains their trust, and sets them up for sanction by OSCAR. Her operations are deniable. She sets up cells to be wiped out by rival factions. Money handlers can be sold out to criminal interests. Recruiters from radical mosques set upon by neofascist street thugs. Sometimes however, she is required to take direct action herself, and on those occasions she will simply 'disappear' entire clusters. Killing them all and organising for disposal.

Home: Her only home is in the Echelon reserve, five thousand acres of woodland in northern California, at the centre of which is a small compound a little like Camp David where the Echelon cohorts can gather for family events. Other than that she moves from one safe house to the next, or lives wherever her 'cover' might take her.

Interests: Caitlyn surfs, a legacy of her time in California. She keeps three short boards at the compound and when on vacation (six weeks a year) travels to surf breaks with her brother Michael. She has an extensive memorystick library of surfing videos, going right back to Endless Summer and OSCAR subscribes to three surfing magazines on her behalf. She wants desperately to take on the big wave riders at Mavericks etc, but is restrained from doing so by OSCAR, because very few women have ever ridden those breaks, and she would quickly find herself on the cover of half the surfing mags in the world if she did.

She cooks. As part of her language training, she was frequently exposed to the cuisines of the country's whose languages she was learning. She took French cooking lessons in French. She worked as a kitchen hand in an Italian restaurant. Through learning about the cuisines she also learned about the histories and culture of the subject countries. She can relax when cooking and at family gatherings she has become the kitchen boss, taking over from her father, Dave. Mary-Jane was a woeful cook. The children's meals were often prepared by their language tutors, as part of the training.

Fears: Abandonment. Does this gel with her self contained lonesomeness? Or does it explain it? Perhaps she cuts herself off as an insulation against abandonment.

In her early years in the program both tendencies were noted. Caitlyn was content to be on her own, and spent much of her free time reading or playing by herself. But twice, when she thought she had been lost by the family she displayed neither fear, nor paralysis, but rage. Observed by program analysts, she was later questioned about the incidents, one at shopping mall, the other at a fair ground. They concluded that in fact she had suffered an intense fear reaction to being 'lost', but had referred the emotion into a furious rage. All of the Echelon children display understandable sensitivity to abandonment issues, but when tested most of them exhibited normal 'fear' responses, rather than intense anger.

Prejudices: No known prejudices. The Echelon children were raised to judge people and situations on the merits.

Desires: Autonomy. Like all of the Echelon cohort, Caitlyn has a strong desire to please her adoptive mother and father, a programmed urge which was later transferred to her controllers, without lessening any attachment he felt to her parents. Unlike her siblings and other Echelon cohorts in both the US and partner countries, Caitlyn displayed a notable desire for personal autonomy from her earliest days in the program. Translated into adult behavior this manifested itself in such mundane ways as a stated preference for living alone during her college years, and individual leisure activities such as surfing. More significantly she tested high for an ability to work alone, under extreme duress, as long as she had confidence in her controllers.

Attitudes: Caitlyn consider 99% of men to be undate-able, but acknowledges that she herself falls into this category. She has an almost naïve faith in the idea of one true love, but a realistic appraisal of the chances of meeting him. About three billion to one.

She hates commercial television, but loves romantic comedies and maintains a large collection of them on stick.

She reads cookbooks, popular histories and biography.

She hates exercise classes but loves training on her own in a gym.

Her favorite city is Florence.

Her favorite season is autumn.

She loves airport lounges because there’s nothing to do but relax and wait.

Her favorite snack is coffee and a Spanish donut, which she indulges in once a month.

Otherwise she tries to eat only organic foods when not on a job.

She has a contraceptive subdermal insert.

She hates cigarette smoke, but quite likes the smell of pipe tobacco.

She does not vote.

When at home with her family she likes to play board games and cards.

She describes her religion as frisbeetarian, but she is quietly Catholic, mostly non-practicing.

Her room at the compound still contains many of her childhood toys and she is prone to tantrums if it is disturbed while she is away.

Friends: Caitlyn has no friends outside of Echelon. She surfs with an Australian girl, from another Ecehlon cohort. And when in London she always catches up with a financial analyst, another woman, from the UK program. She has no close male friends among her contemporaries, but her unarmed combat instructor, a former marine, is something akin to a favorite uncle. Now retired, he lives in Florida, and she sends him emails and cards via Echelon. He is a friend of her fathers and sometimes travels out to the compound for holidays. A football fan, she has taken him to a couple of games, including a rugby world cup in France in which the American team was beaten 113 to 6 by Scotland.

Enemies: Her enemies are mostly dead.

26 Responses to ‘Caitlin Monroe character bio’

Drew from OZ swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 24, 2014
"Her enemies are mostly dead." lol.

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Sparty would have you know...

Posted November 24, 2014
Hits home on what Echelon was really about, which to some degree had to play second fiddle to the main MacGuffin - I'd be interested to read a pre - disappearance novel.

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DarrenBloomfield swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 24, 2014
So, now we can explain Jacqui Lambie.

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Therbs asserts...

Posted November 24, 2014
Wiki entries on Birmoverses. Birmopedia sideline. What this sort of detail shows is what sits behind the books, and that's just one character. A great example for those who want to make a series work.

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sibeen mumbles...

Posted November 24, 2014
She could have competed for a men's gold medal in the Olympic Decathlon.

I suspect you're jumping the shark with that one a tad, even for a novel.

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Darth Greybeard reckons...

Posted November 24, 2014
Wife and friend just returned from a talk from Robin Hobb which included some technique. Interesting points of similarity - detailed bios of characters, chapters to clarify characters etc. Apparently Fitz (if anyone reads Hobb) has a whole life story, far beyond what will ever appear in the books. The stories are something that happens to him during a part of that life. Odd coincidence with this topic tonight but innerstring.

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Murphy is gonna tell you...

Posted November 24, 2014
I can see them having an apartment near Monterey, California where the Defense Language Institute is set up. That would account for Caitlin's language training. I wouldn't be surprised if some of her swimming and mil grade skills actually come from the Navy SEAL community, they'd be better suited for some of that work.

As for Northern California, I bet in addition to surfing Caitlin probably enjoys skiing, particularly on Mount Shasta. Having spent some time there with Cindy I have to say there is some pretty interesting terrain there.

I gotta say, I think her martial arts training in Japan, which we saw in Angels of Vengeance, was far more brutal than anything the military could have doled out. As a reader, I have to say it was a breath of fresh air to find that some of her killing skills came from a place other than a standard military organization.

That might also be down to the fact that aside from a month of Tae Kwon Doe and another month of Karate, I don't know martial arts.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted November 25, 2014
Funny thing is, that detail about her having studied old school Aikido in Japan isn't in the character profile. It came to me later after I read Damon Young's Philosophy and the Martial Arts.

Murphy would have you know...

Posted November 25, 2014
And the best part is that your bio didn't become a strait jacket.

I definitely think there is something to be said for improvisation.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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Chicom Mick swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 25, 2014
A very interesting read JB. It gives her character even more depth just reading the above details. It's a bio worth revisiting.

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JohnT is gonna tell you...

Posted November 25, 2014
That was really insightful JB. Man expands Echelon in a way I never suspected and really gives insight into Caitlyn. I also like this idea of fleshing out characters for stories. Thanks for the behind the scenes look.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan asserts...

Posted November 25, 2014
Damn, that was fun.

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Dirk mumbles...

Posted November 25, 2014
Well Murph try googling Sambo or KravMaga and you get a taste.

So three Hoopers and 2 Hooper ebooks in the pipeline and a Hammer.
Wanna do a releasedate agenda for those, JB?

sibeen reckons...

Posted November 25, 2014
Dirk, could you please do the same for when your next Night Beast is out.

Murphy would have you know...

Posted November 25, 2014
Yeah, Dirk. I was taking that Karate class about the same time John got his forearm split in two. He has better medical care so at the end of the day he got better.

I, on the other hand, had a bit of ankle trouble during that class and decided that forty was not the time to be trying out Karate. They tend to amputate first and ask questions later at the VA.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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Surtac has opinions thus...

Posted November 25, 2014


A nice dose of nostalgia - thanks John. I think I now know what to re-read over the Christmas break (after Dave volume 1 of course ...)

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Peter Bradley mumbles...

Posted November 25, 2014
Excellent! But more interesting for me was the contrast between what was there and the back story I had in my head built from what we found out in the books.

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Blake mumbles...

Posted November 25, 2014
Ive often wondered if Frank Herbert (Dune) did the same thing, it always felt to me like he'd invested considerable effort to build this amazing sandbox full of intricately detailed support characters, most of whom are dead or sidelined by half way through the book.

I was never a huge fan of the next few books because i didnt really get into the narrative without the depth the original cast gave. Eventually he does bring them back and tell some stories i engaged more with so i wonder if he too felt invested in the charecters enough that he had writers guilt for killing them.



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Murphy ducks in to say...

Posted November 25, 2014
You know what we need next?

Milosz!

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

spankee swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 25, 2014
Milosz's bio read by Milosz:
"I am always interesting in hear myself talk.."

she_jedi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 25, 2014
Yes to Milosz! He rocks :)

tqft has opinions thus...

Posted November 26, 2014
Yes Polish

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Chaz ducks in to say...

Posted November 25, 2014
Spanish doughnut? oh you mean a churro!!!!!

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pilgrim3 ducks in to say...

Posted November 25, 2014
Thank you,just ordered Without Warning at my library.

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tarl ducks in to say...

Posted November 27, 2014
Minor comment about the "parents". Specifying a rank for a U.S. officer (Lt. Col., CMDR) which lasts for the duration of a childhood isn't viable - an officer gets promoted every 4 years or so, or leaves the service. For something like Echelon, if you were going to use officers, they'd start 3-4 ranks below what they would be when the child graduated. Assuming they didn't get squeezed out as the promotion tree grew narrower.

It's also unlikely you'd have command-line officers in what is basically a technical M.O.S. Maybe warrant officers, who actually will have a rank which stays with the job for a decade at a time. Or retired officers who are working as civilian contractors.

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balri swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 24, 2016
Interesting. I was just read Soul Full of Guns and saw the name Caitlin Montoe mentioned in passing. Hmm. Why does that name sound familiar? A quick Google and here I am. Now I'm pondering the deeper implications of Dave vs the Monsters sharing a universe with the Disappearance and wondering how the timelines mesh. Or maybe I'm over thinking it. Either way, nice Easter Egg

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Ursula K Le Guin serving up some smackdown

Posted November 21, 2014 into Books by John Birmingham

I saw Le G had been gonged this week for contributuions to American Letters, and that she'd given some sort of kick arse acceptance speech. But I didn't realise how kick arse until I read it.

She gives Amazon a kicking, champions SF and Fantasy writing, and makes you think you really wouldn't want to go up against her in a dark alley without a lot of fire support:

Thank you Neil, and to the givers of this beautiful reward, my thanks from the heart. My family, my agent, editors, know that my being here is their doing as well as mine, and that the beautiful reward is theirs as much as mine. And I rejoice at accepting it for, and sharing it with, all the writers who were excluded from literature for so long, my fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction—writers of the imagination, who for the last 50 years watched the beautiful rewards go to the so-called realists.

I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality.

Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between the production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximize corporate profit and advertising revenue is not quite the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship. (Thank you, brave applauders.)

Yet I see sales departments given control over editorial; I see my own publishers in a silly panic of ignorance and greed, charging public libraries for an ebook six or seven times more than they charge customers. We just saw a profiteer try to punish a publisher for disobedience and writers threatened by corporate fatwa, and I see a lot of us, the producers who write the books, and make the books, accepting this. Letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant, and tell us what to publish and what to write. (Well, I love you too, darling.)

Books, you know, they’re not just commodities. The profit motive often is in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words.

I have had a long career and a good one. In good company. Now here, at the end of it, I really don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. We who live by writing and publishing want—and should demand—our fair share of the proceeds. But the name of our beautiful reward is not profit. It’s name is freedom.

Thank you.

17 Responses to ‘Ursula K Le Guin serving up some smackdown’

Buck has opinions thus...

Posted November 21, 2014
Fantastic stuff. The world and publishing both need more voices like Le Guin's.

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Naut would have you know...

Posted November 21, 2014

Nice sentiment and all, but publishers aren't in just for the fun of it. They can be generous about art once they have a squillion dollars.

Surely in this digital age it is much cheaper and easier to self-publish an e-book and reach a wider market for your niche product than ever before?

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Barnesm ducks in to say...

Posted November 21, 2014

<font face="Times New Roman">

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"Books, you know, they’re not
just commodities" and there I think you can in a single question divide
all those who come to this discussion and what sort of world they would shape
if their view comes ascendant.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p></font></font>

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Barnesm is gonna tell you...

Posted November 21, 2014

"Books, you know, they’re not just commodities" and there I think you can in a single question divide all those who come to this discussion and what sort of world they would shape if their view comes ascendant.

Comment now with less formating cues

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Surtac mutters...

Posted November 21, 2014


Thanks for giving us the whole thing John. I watched this explode on my twitter feed yesterday arvo and it was obvious she'd touched a nerve. Every single response I saw was in full support.

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Naut would have you know...

Posted November 21, 2014

I disagree Barnesm, I don't see books as JUST commodities. But I also don't think corporations can be forced to invest into something just because someone has defined it as "Art".

If Ursula is so concerned, why doesn't she set up an alternative? How is she going to determine what is art?

If the retailers are behaving unreasonably then set-up a writer's union and take your product elsewhere. Find a business partner that is willing to take a risk and leverage the art angle.

The speech strikes me as taking the high moral ground without offering solutions or offering to be part of the solution.

Barnesm puts forth...

Posted November 21, 2014
"I don't see books as JUST commodities. But I also don't think corporations can be forced to invest into something just because someone has defined it as "Art" never thought they should.

Naut mutters...

Posted November 21, 2014
Ok, so what do you think?

Barnesm has opinions thus...

Posted November 22, 2014
What do you mean, I think a lot of things.


Naut ducks in to say...

Posted November 25, 2014
Very true and I suspect you think a lot more things than I.

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ShaneAlpha mutters...

Posted November 21, 2014
Look just submit already.

You know that you are desperate to read that new series by that well known author "Dave Hooper fights monsters" sponsored by Amazon and Pepsi. See if you can pick the subtle product placement. Marvel at the brilliant wordplay as Amazon and Pepsi are both mentioned in every paragraph. (as legally required).

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JBtoo mutters...

Posted November 21, 2014
She is awesome

Bunyip ducks in to say...

Posted November 21, 2014
Agreed.

Respect.

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Abe Frellman asserts...

Posted November 22, 2014
I've read 'The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas' as part of a course in ethical leadership and the 'good society'. Indeed it bookended the course, and how your perspective on the story changes after doing the course is used as a tool to see how far you have moved away from any 'utilitarian priors'.

Worth the read.

Bunyip is gonna tell you...

Posted November 22, 2014
I can still remember the joy and shock of reading "The Dispossessed"

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Mordwa asserts...

Posted November 22, 2014
Consider me a dunderhead (many do!), but where is the smack down? Art and commerce nearly alway clash; I naively believe that clash is irrelevant as long as the art is good. Or to put it another way; is it more important to be good or popular? And *how much* more important? If "art" is the goal, how much does the money... matter?

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Sweet Jane Says mumbles...

Posted November 24, 2014
Careful, Birmingham, you're supporting a liberal cause for art to be used to progress the ideas of freedom. Her words stand against art becoming captive to capitalism and she hopes for the human right to be free of fear.
A lot of Australians under Abbot understand her wish for a future where freedom is not only remembered - it is advanced.

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Respond to 'Ursula K Le Guin serving up some smackdown'

My mother's bookclub.

Posted November 21, 2014 into Books by John Birmingham

Little help here? My mother's Bookclub is doing a modern classic for their next pick, and Mum needs to choose the book. She asked me, but I only read books that go BOOM, or nonfiction titles for work. So I'm of no use.

I did think Evelyn Waugh's Scoop would be a good choice. But Mum would like a few more.

So, something published in the last, say, 100 years, that's a recognised classic, and a bit humorous.

Anyone got anything?

56 Responses to ‘My mother's bookclub. ’

Surtac has opinions thus...

Posted November 21, 2014


I immediately thought of Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome, but that's older than your 100 year limit so maybe not.

P G Wodehouse perhaps? Some of those Bertie Wooster stories are funny.

Or for something more recent, maybe Tom Sharpe? Riotous Assembly and Indecent Exposure are the ones that got him deported from Sarth Effrica, but there are a bunch of others - Wilt, Blott On the Landscape, Vintage Stuff, Porterhouse Blue and so forth.

sheps asserts...

Posted November 23, 2014
Tom Sharpe was my first thought. The throwback is my fave.

robW asserts...

Posted November 24, 2014
Riotous Assembly and Indecent Exposure were both works of genius. Wilt was amazing.

I see that Mr. Sharpe died last year at 85.

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Surtac would have you know...

Posted November 21, 2014


And I completely forgot to include Orwell's Animal Farm.

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Peter Bradley mutters...

Posted November 21, 2014

A couple I keep coming back to are

A catcher in the rye, JD Salinger or A confederacy of dunces John K O'Toole

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mutters...

Posted November 24, 2014
A Confederacy of Dunces is one of my all time favorites. Every now and then the memory image of Ignatius J. Reilly dancing on a table in a New Orleans garment factory in an impromptu attempt to favorably impress his "Moorish" coworkers makes me laugh out loud.

There is actually a statue dedicated to him in New Orleans. If you are ever there, go see it outside of:

The Old DH Holmes
819 Canal St
New Orleans, LA 70112


Buboe mumbles...

Posted November 24, 2014

Came to the thread to suggest this one. Bump it up

Timmo is gonna tell you...

Posted November 24, 2014
I may have to give that another try. I started it some years ago and got quarter the way through, finding the style or characters a bit obnoxious. I also seem to have lost my copy.

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zoot mutters...

Posted November 21, 2014
It's a bit long, but Catch 22 meets the criteria.

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon asserts...

Posted November 21, 2014
i'm reading Dandeline Wine by Ray Bradbury at the moment. Not really a belly tickler though. Has some wry moments? Might be a trip down memory lane for the older set.

The title probably should have been "Nostalgia Wine"

FormerlyKnownAsSimon asserts...

Posted November 21, 2014
oh and that should have been "Dandelion Wine"

Barnesm swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 24, 2014
not "Dandelion Whine"?

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Bunyip has opinions thus...

Posted November 21, 2014
Not sure how heavy or thinky ya mum and her mates want to take it, but...
  • Steinbeck: "
  • *glitch*

Bunyip asserts...

Posted November 21, 2014
FFS.
..."Grapes of Wrath",
Harper Lee: "To Kill A Mockingbird"
Ecco: "The Name of The Rose"

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Charles King reckons...

Posted November 21, 2014
Our book group recently read The Great Gatsby but included the two movies (with Redford and DiCaprio each playing Gatsby) as part of the deal. It was more enjoyable than I expected. The book holds up pretty well, and it was interesting/entertaining to see how different Hollywood generations interpreted Fitzgerald's work. Might be fun for your Mum & her group.

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insomniac is gonna tell you...

Posted November 21, 2014
I second A Confederacy of Dunces (the back story is worth noting too)

and add A Room With a View

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Bunyip would have you know...

Posted November 21, 2014
Formatting F'up will be in my first post. FFS with bells on, apparently.

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Lulu mutters...

Posted November 21, 2014
Not absolutely classics, but High Fidelity or About A Boy (both Nick Hornby).

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan reckons...

Posted November 21, 2014
Anything by Dean Koontz. That bloke is a genius.

Barnesm mutters...

Posted November 21, 2014
and that TV adaptation of his novel 'The Langoliers' should ahve got an oscar.

robW would have you know...

Posted November 23, 2014
Yes, and the acting in The Langoliers was awesome. This scene:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYa54e91hfY

is right up there with Marlon Brando's "Hey, Stella!" in A Streetcar Named Desire:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S1A0p0F_iH8

;-)

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Misfish mutters...

Posted November 21, 2014
Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons. A parody of the kind of book no one reads any more, but hysterically funny none the less.

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted November 21, 2014
Yes! That's the one.

JBtoo mutters...

Posted November 21, 2014
I saw something nasty in the woodshed

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Quokka has opinions thus...

Posted November 21, 2014
Come in Spinner - by Dymphna Cusack & Florence James.

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Murphy has opinions thus...

Posted November 21, 2014
To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee.

No Country for Old Men, Cormac McCarthy.

The Things they Carried, Tim O'Brien.

Just a few.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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Stuart swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 21, 2014
The World According to Garp.

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Barnesm swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 21, 2014

I will recommend David Foster Wallace's 'Ininite Jest' becuase its brilliant and the only time anyone actually reads it is if is required.

but my go to book for these things 'My year of Meat' by Ruth Ozeki .

NBlob mutters...

Posted November 21, 2014
You are a very bad man.
Infinite Jest is is samizdat.

Barnesm puts forth...

Posted November 22, 2014
"gesundheit"

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nick mutters...

Posted November 21, 2014
a fraction of the whole by Steve Toltz ,

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Therbs puts forth...

Posted November 21, 2014

Not many "classics" in Oz lit that try and make you laugh, they're all so fkn serious and needy.


"How To Hypnotise Chooks" - Max Walker


"You wouldn't Be Dead For Quids" - Robert G Barrett


"They're A Weird Mob" - Nino Culotta


"Johnno" - David Malouf


"In The Worst Possible Taste" - Dr Yobbo (unpublished rock'n'roll friendship shits 'n giggles)


"Merry Go Round In The Sea" - Randolph Stow (fkn mandala symbols, man)


"The Glass Canoe" - David Ireland (written in The Beauchamp Hotel, Darlinghurst in the 70's)


"

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ShaneAlpha mumbles...

Posted November 21, 2014
Watership Down.

The Princess Bride

The Last Continent

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Quokka is gonna tell you...

Posted November 21, 2014
The mere mention of that merry go round book still makes me want to stick my head in the oven & turn up the gas.
Senior year at school & again for Australian lit at uni.
*shudders & heads for kitchen.

Therbs reckons...

Posted November 21, 2014
I did it at uni. Loved it. The book as well.

Timmo would have you know...

Posted November 24, 2014
I vaguely remember doing it at school too. Can't remember a thing about it....

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Steph reckons...

Posted November 21, 2014
I am in the midst of racking my brains for my own book club selections for next year!
To kill a mockingbird- Harper Lee
In cold blood- Truman Capote
The harp in the south- Ruth Park
All quiet on the Western Front- Eric Remarque

And I really enjoyed The Rosie Project by Graeme Simision :)

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Peanut mumbles...

Posted November 21, 2014
Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series - lots of references to classic books.

Thoreau's Walden could be thinky+

Naked Lunch starts weird, stays there.

On The Road, Kerouac. Or Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

If they can find copies; Elvissey, or even Random Acts of Senseless Violence by Jack Womack.

The Three Musketeers and sequels.

Carpentaria by Alexis Wright (won the 2006 Miles Franklin award)

Tiddas by Anita Heiss - it's "about five women who have been friends since childhood who come together for book club meetings". In Brisbane.

Non-fiction - Zombie Economics - John Quiggin. Fer Shere.

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JBtoo puts forth...

Posted November 21, 2014
Three Dollars by Elliot Perlman
Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

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GhostSwirv mumbles...

Posted November 21, 2014

JB - you've probably already settled on recommending a tome for your mum but has she and her kind read any of the following excellent choices:

Weapons of Choice by JBirmingham
Designated Targets by JBirmingham
Final Impact by Birmingham
Without Warning by JBirmingham
After America by JBirmingham
Angels of Vengeance by JBirmingham

or even the classics

He Died with a Felafel In his Hand by JBirmingham
How to Be a Man by JBirmingham & Dirk Flinthart





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Halwes mutters...

Posted November 21, 2014

Seven Emus by Xavier Herbert. Funny as hell with a terrific plot that twists and turns to the end.

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Rob mumbles...

Posted November 21, 2014
Bluebeard, the Autobiography of Rabo Karabekian (1916–1988) by Kurt Vonnegut

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Anthony mumbles...

Posted November 21, 2014
I asked SWMBOB who is a book clubby sort of person. Her recommendation is either "The Rosie Project" or "Mateship with Birds".

Timmo puts forth...

Posted November 24, 2014
The Rosie Project is light-hearted and fun, but not likely to reach classic status just yet...

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted November 22, 2014
I know you are looking for fiction, but if nonfiction is ever on the menu:

Zealot by Resa Aslan
Cooked: a Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan

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Durand mumbles...

Posted November 22, 2014
Classic 20th century fiction, with a bit of humour?

The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Roald Dahl's adult books, e.g. Kiss Kiss, Tales of the Unexpected.
Perhaps Terry Pratchett

But if you can stretch to non-fiction:

Anything by Bill Bryson.
Anything by Dave Barry (the 20th century's funniest writer.)

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Sinnysider has opinions thus...

Posted November 22, 2014
I would also like to nominate 'Cold Comfort Farm' by Stella Gibbons, perhaps including a viewing of the exellent movie that sticks faithfully to the original plot.
Josephine Tey's, 'The Daughter of Time', in which an injured bedridden detective tries to unravel fact from fiction regarding the reign and death of Richard III ; would make for lively discussion.

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w from brisbane mumbles...

Posted November 22, 2014
The Kings County Distillery Guide to Urban Moonshining: How to Make and Drink Whiskey
By David Haskell and Colin Spoelman

This book is full of whiskey love. It includes the history of whiskey making, a detailed guide to home distilling, plus cocktail recipes. It is a fascinating read and perhaps a gateway to a new and enjoyable hobby for anybody's mum. Recommended.



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BigWillieStyle has opinions thus...

Posted November 22, 2014
"Lucky Jim" by Kingsley Amis


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robW has opinions thus...

Posted November 23, 2014
As your mother would be a woman of a certain age, she certainly would remember Herman Wouk and his incomparable The Winds of War, War and Remembrance, The Caine Mutiny and Marjorie Morningstar.

It turns out Herman Wouk is still alive and kicking, and will be 100 years old in a few months. Two years ago he published his last novel at the age of 97:

The Lawgiver

which is a book about Hollywood, scriptwriters, and Moses of Old Testament fame. No doubt the book is not his best, and it's probably like watching a recent BB King concert (he's 89 and still romancing his famous guitar, Lucille), but nonetheless, it's a helluva sendoff for a novelist who has been publishing novels consistently for the past 72 years and has been keeping a daily journal for 76 years...and, of course, the book could always be a springboard for going back and revisiting The Winds of War.

robW has opinions thus...

Posted November 23, 2014
P.S. Apparently there is a strong Australian component to the book.

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Dirk is gonna tell you...

Posted November 25, 2014
Well Irving's Ciderhouse rules is always a fine choice, but if she want to go eclectic she could go for Harry Mulisch The Assault.

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Babes puts forth...

Posted November 26, 2014
100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
To Kill a Mockingbird (I just picked up a copy on impulse, because I named my character Atticus and so it seemed responsible)
Bluebeard (it turned me onto Vonnegut when I found a library copy face down, spine open in the parking lot of the trucking company I temped for as a receptionist during my first year of college)

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pi puts forth...

Posted November 26, 2014
Life of Pi.

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pi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 27, 2014
Pun not intended.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan asserts...

Posted November 27, 2014
If it wasn't intended, then that ruins it for me.

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War Stories. eds Liptak & Gates

Posted November 7, 2014 into Books by John Birmingham

Haven't read this one yet but like Three Body Problem, it's on my Xmas list. Military Sci-Fi doesn't get much lovin' from the genre community, outside of the Baen lounges and a few outposts such as the Burger.

War Stories looks a solid anthology, with some of the contributers having served in one military branch or another. I'm not sure if there's an Australian distributor for the hardback, which comes from Apex in the US. (Note, I earlier identified Apex as a UK company, but Murph put me to rights). If not, the ebook is definitely the way to go. Five bucks, instead of thirty.

It's got a near perfect score on GoodReads and a nice write up here:

Norwich University's Andrew Liptak has pulled together — along with his coeditor, Jaym Gates — a collection of lean, absorbing and well-executed prose that was authored, in part, by those who have experienced war firsthand or have a working familiarity with military life.

Accordingly, War Stories places the emphasis less on alien battlegrounds and futuristic military gadgets than on very human, or humanlike, soldiers who wage war, and the toll it exacts on their psyches.

Escapist fiction it's not.

"The point of this anthology was not to champion war but to stand back and look at it on a broad canvas, and do so in a way that people find interesting and entertaining," explains Liptak, a 2007 Norwich grad who currently works as student-services adviser for the military university's online graduate program.

War Stories is divided into four sections: "Wartime Systems," "Combat," "Armored Force" and "Aftermath."

7 Responses to ‘War Stories. eds Liptak & Gates’

Murphy swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 7, 2014
Actually, Apex Publications is based in Lexington, Kentucky and run by Jason Sizemore. Their magazine component, Apex Magazine, purchased The Limb Knitter back in 2008.

Aside from that, I am aware of this anthology.

The less I say beyond that, probably the better.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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John Birmingham asserts...

Posted November 7, 2014
Hmm. How odd. All the sites I went looking at sent me to the UK, for this.

Anyway, I stand corrected.

Murphy puts forth...

Posted November 7, 2014
Tis not a problem. The two reasons I pointed out are as follows:

1. I've done business with that company.
2. Tis sorta my job.

Errors happen. Tis the way of things. At least it didn't happen to you in front of a lecture hall full of students.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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Barnesm mutters...

Posted November 7, 2014

This one is my summer reading list as well. Hoping I can entice the_weapon to take a short break whilst plowing through the complete Warhammer 40000 novels (Dan Abnett a favourite author) to read something different.

He is somewhat of a completest and wants to finish them all before moving on

Don't know where he gets that from

so I am hoping this will be attractive enough to provide a distraction. The school text books he is offered aren't exactly winning him over, Diary of a part-time Indian, Holes. One of next years texts is Scott Westerfield but he has already read that one.


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Lobes mumbles...

Posted November 8, 2014
That reminds I have prepurchased the three body problem. Must connect the old kindle sometime and see if it downloads. It just comes automatically right?

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted November 8, 2014
No. It isn't automatic. Not for you. It only works for the virtuous.

Barnesm would have you know...

Posted November 9, 2014
Use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?

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21st century China as 1950s America

Posted November 5, 2014 into Books by John Birmingham

I'm really looking forward to release of Cixin Liu's The Three Body Problem. Partly because it's about invasion by space aliens (who must surely get their space lizard arses kicked, as is only right), and partly because it's a Chinese take on a very western genre.

Liu is a power plant engineer, so the science is probably going to be reasonably accurate; not that I give a shit. And it's been a genuine best seller in his home country already, so I'm guessing the story chops are the goods.

The Wall Street Journal ran some interview extracts recently, including a question about the reasons for Liu's success in the SF genre. His answer was revealing of a China we don't often think about, a modern industrial and even post industrial state emerging from thousands of years of agrarian backwardness.

Why do you think your book has generated so much interest?

It’s hard to say. I asked this same question of a person who has a lot of experience in selling books. He didn’t know either. Perhaps it’s linked to the fact that Chinese society is industrializing rapidly. Chinese people are increasingly considering the world not from the perspective of their own nation, but from the perspective of all mankind. They are concerned with the problems of all humanity. Those problems are often philosophical in nature. More and more Chinese have begun to care about where we come from, where we are now and where we are going. And they have begun to care about the fate of our planet and the entire universe. This is especially true of young Chinese.

You could say this about America, or any of the anglophone countries in the early to mid 20th Century and you would not be far wrong, I reckon.

9 Responses to ‘21st century China as 1950s America’

Barnesm ducks in to say...

Posted November 5, 2014

I have been looking forward to this one a lot, then its tempered by how much I was looking forward to reading Ancillary Justice until I actually read it.

I am torn between cheering China on with is endeavours in space and renewable energy and booing their attitudes to freedom of expression and voicing dissent.

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted November 5, 2014
I'm still struggling through the first chapter of AJ. After 6 months.

Barnesm would have you know...

Posted November 5, 2014
I wonder if AJ is one of those books more reviewed than read.

pitpat mutters...

Posted November 5, 2014
Just finished AJ, and it felt like the eternity that I waited for something to actually happen. It was a well written back story and in all probability just exposes my preference for things to go BOOM at irregular and surprising intervals. For my sins I have started the latest Hamilton opus and am having the same problem of actually giving a rats.

Blarkon swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 6, 2014
Book awards aren't necessarily about the quality of the work, but may be more about the people that vote for the awards.

AJ's much awardedness may be more about burnishing the SF community's progressive credentials than it is about rewarding a groundbreaking, thought provoking, paradigm redefining work of fiction.

(There is certainly the same sort of bitter controversy within the SF community that there is within the gaming community with progressive and conservative factions each attempting to define the nature of the community)

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Surtac swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 5, 2014


Liu's book looks really interesting. I'll look out for it.

Re Ancillary Justice, which I enjoyed immensely btw, I think the issue is that Leckie has been heavily influenced by the writings of CJ Cherryh and the particular style in which she writes. CJC will never infodump at you and you as the reader are expected to handle a lot of the heavy lifting working out the background that the action takes place in. And CJC's themes are almost always sociological in nature - it's not all about the 'splosions..

Full disclosure - I'm one of the moderators of a message board forum dedicated to CJC in particular and SF/F in general. We don't see her around there much anymore, but Leckie has been a member there for longer than I have.

Pitpat, I'm reading the new Hamilton right now too and I'm finding it quite engrossing halfway through.

Barnesm would have you know...

Posted November 5, 2014
"it's not all about the 'splosions".... HERESY

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pitpat mutters...

Posted November 5, 2014
Thanks Surtac, I will keep going. I didn't mean it to sound like I was dissing AJ or Leckie. The book has a refreshing POV and her writing style is polished with more than a little bit of subtlety. And yes the reader is expected to work for the reward which is generally a good thing. If I could I would blame my children for my inability to concentrate. It is easier to blame society as a whole for bombarding me with useless shit that I just have to read or watch. Ah fuck it I blame the Internet. and Santa.

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NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted November 5, 2014
I think of America leading the world into the machine age. A tsunami of mechanisation eddying around the Appalachians, surging up the Mississippi and crashing onto the great plains. Great mighty scale technology of cast iron and grease. Capable men learnt the systems of coal and oil as the horse age passed. This is still part of the culture with bike & car customisation.

Now the digital age is surging and another nation is finding themselves. I wonder what ripples will eddy through the future.


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