Pica Serdica
E.T.A. Hoffmann - Gesammelte Werke. (Anaconda)
Anthology, not Opera Omnia.
Still, has some classics, and some hidden gems.


Pica Serdica
Karl May, Der Schatz im Silbersee. Will go back to Hoffmann afterwards but gotta brush up my German with something simpler first, e.g.
"Das ham Se sich nich denke könne? Und ich habe gemeent, mer sieht mersch sofort an"


Dominus et deus
Staff member
Just finished "Origin" by Dan Brown. It was incredibly lame.

Dan Brown: Here's a story with a highly sophisticated computer called Winston that passed the Turing Test and can communicate with people in any voice, language or accent.
Me: The explosion of AI sophistication is one of the most discussed topics of the present day. However, from Blake to Terminator, media have warned us about the threats from technology that was meant to serve us but ends up enslaving us. So while the issue is no doubt topical, the question is how you can make it original. Usually, it's always a naive, tech-savvy geek who ends up trusting his technology too much vs a conservative old fart who cant use a smart phone and ends up being right about his reservations. While in such a story I'd personally lean towards the old fart side of things, I would find it refreshing to read a story that explores the possibility of technological singularity being benign and beneficial to us.
Dan Brown: The developer of this computer is a tech-savvy geek who also made an earth-shattering discovery that he wants to share with the world, and that there is a hundred pages of build-up to.
Me: Let me guess, the guy will die at the very moment he's going to reveal his discovery.
Dan Brown: He is shot at the very moment he's going to reveal his discovery.
Me: Bummer.
Dan Brown: By the way, the discovery relates to the age-old questions, "Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going?"
Me: Sound suspiciously like that painting by Gauguin I studied in grade 11.
Dan Brown: I'm going to have the painting in the book later, in a way that is utterly ridiculous and at the same time has no relevance to the plot whatsoever.
Me. Okay, cool.
Dan Brown: There are other murders, and the assassin is part of a secretive network of people who communicate exclusively via phone calls, text messages and emails.
Me: You told us that Winston can imitate any voice and has instant access to anything online. Gee. I wonder if it's actually the computer orchestrating all this.
Dan Brown: Langdon and his hot female sidekick, who just so happens to be the fiancée of the Spanish crown prince, want to reveal the discovery to the world nevertheless, but need a password that they can only find in *drumroll* Barcelona!
Me: It would be a really shocking plot twist if the password wasn't hidden in the Sagrada Familia.
Dan Brown: The media are going wild about the murder plot and the Spanish royal house is involved. There is an ever increasingly entagled web of contradictory information and incrimination coming from phone calls and text messages.
Me: Gee! I wonder if the computer is actually the villain.
Dan Brown: Suddenly, a whistleblower appears sending emails under the pseudonym "Monte Iglesia".
Me: "Monte Iglesia" is Spanish for "church hill". The computer is named Winston. Is that a coincidence? Gee! I wonder if the computer is actually the villain!
Dan Brown: It is revealed that Winston is actually named for Winston Churchill.
Dan Brown: After 200 pages of rambling about Gaudí and dumping red herrings as if I were a trawler, I will reveal to you that the password they are looking for is hidden in the Sagrada Familia.
Me: Hey Langdon! Why didn't you go straight there? You could have saved us 200 pages. You'd think this was your first Dan Brown novel.
Dan Brown: The password they are looking for is from a poem by William Blake.
Me: Oh, you scholar, you...
Dan Brown: The secret that I'm revealing is supposed to change the world forever and call the nature and necessity of religion into question. But it doesn't, really. Just a little bit.
Me: Okay, cool.
Dan Brown: Also, the subplot about the Spanish king is resolved by the revelation that he and the bishop are actually gay lovers, and then they die. This has nothing to do with the main plot of the book at all.
Me: Brown, can I talk to you for a moment? I'll give you this: The king-bishop relationship is actually kind of poignant. I'll give you a little star for that. But how is it that the only moment of intimacy in this book is between two dying old men? What's the point of reiterating to us all the time that the female lead in the book is really hot if this doesn't end up in Langdon humping her? Langdon is supposed to be a hero, right? What makes a hero is that he achieves something nobody else can, right? Anybody can wander around and make random associations between symbols. As a matter of fact, I combined all the clues you gave me before Langdon did. So that hardly makes him heroic. You know what would make Langdon a universally acknowledged hero? IF HE SNATCHED THE GIRL FROM THE TALL, HANDSOME, CHARMING AND SWARTHY CROWN PRINCE OF SPAIN! I can't believe I have to spell this out for you! Why is there no sex in your books? People like sex! Sex is good! Also, how is your female lead an empowered, independent woman if all she does is hold Langdon's hand (platonically) and is afraid of being caught? Come on...
Dan Brown: On page 670, I think it is time for me to reveal to you that "Monte Iglesia" is Spanish for "church hill" and that the computer is behind everything.
Dan Brown: Also, I'm going to end this book by making a statement about how faith and progress can work together if they are willing to open up to each other.
Me: You got that from a fortune cookie, didn't you.

tl;dr: It's really, really annoying if you figured out the plot twist on page 230 of 687, and spend the rest of the book watching clueless characters running around like hamsters in a maze.


Yorktown-class aircraft carrier
Staff member
Dan Brown is a hack. That reminds me of the Da Vinci Code, wherein I was yelling, "it's apple, the fucking code is apple!" for about 400 pages.


Infinite Dreamer
If you guys are reading Dan Brown you are reading well below your reading and IQ level. I recommend Umberto Ecco for excellent historical fiction.

for the first time in over a year I felt like reading last night. got through two pages and passed out. I'm just glad I got the reading bug again, still on the same book from over a year ago, The Postman, but about 50 pages away from finishing.

Cornfed Hick

Ancient Mariner
I'm in the middle of NOS4A2, by Joe Hill, which is entertaining fantasy horror. It is about a parallel universe, perhaps created by people's imaginations, and an evil dude who kidnaps children and takes them into this parallel universe using a sentient 1938 Rolls Royce Wraith with the eponymous license plate ("nosferatu"). As I started getting into it, I thought it reads like a Stephen King novel. Then I noticed that the author's photo looks a little like Stephen King. About 30 seconds of Google later, I discovered that he is, in fact, the son of Stephen and Tabitha King. Joe Hill is a pen name. So, if you like Stephen King, you may like this book. I do, so far. Evidently the tv show based on it is disappointing, but I haven't seen it yet.


A Citizen of the Republic of Geniuses
Just over a hundred pages away from finishing Wolves of the Calla. Stephen King's world-building is excellent but this entry in the series seems to drag on for too long. There's been hundreds of pages of telling stories with little action in the present time of Roland's world. The characters are convincing but does Callahan's backstory really need to be that detailed, for example? After 600 pages, the threat of the Wolves just wears off a bit. Somehow, Wizard and Glass was more emotionally grabbing. Anyway, I'm interested to see how this one concludes, I'm hoping for something big at the end. Song of Susannah is probably going to tackle Susannah's demon baby. It has a slightly lower rating on Goodreads than the books preceding it but that might mean nothing. It's #7: The Dark Tower that I'm really curious about.


And I should contemplate this change
Staff member
You know, I enjoy Wolves more in retrospect than when I was reading it. At the time I felt like it got in the way of the overall story. It is pretty long but I think it actually holds up better out of context of the greater series. It doesn’t hold a candle to the first four, but it’s still an enjoyable story. Callahan is a great character with a gripping backstory.

Also, he did a great job of portraying the threat of the wolves and slowly revealing what they actually were.

Black Abyss Babe

Quantum weather butterfly
My current fiction read is "The Stolen Calix" by Derry McKeone. It's 1205 and a Welsh archer called Madoc has just returned from the Fourth Crusade and is somewhat jaded by what he has witnessed. During the course of his journey to rejoin his family he retrieves a stolen "chalice" that turns out to have mythical significance, and in so doing unwittingly saddles himself with the task of returning it to its rightful home - Constantinople. So he and his twin brother Reys embark on an epic and dangerous quest: if they fail, it is said, the Byzantine Empire will fall ...

A really good adventure story so far, at least as readable as Bernard Cornwell.



Pica Serdica
Erich Kästner's Drei Männer Im Schnee, in German.
Read the Bulgarian translation a long, long time ago, so almost feels like a new book. Some of it couldn't be properly translated, obviously.