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_Aristoi_, by Walter Jon Williams
Bar Harbor
alexx_kay
This book has been on my radar for years as one of those books that a small number of people recommend with extreme vigor. Having finally read it, I see why. It's got a rare set of qualities, and executes on them very well.

I am reminded most, curiously enough, of Eco's _The Name of the Rose_. Both books start slowly and deliberately, with extremely dense ideas, and almost no action. I know that Eco is on record as deliberately using this structure to "create his ideal reader" -- that is, to drive away any reader who doesn't share enough of his tastes; I suspect Williams is doing the same. Both books, after this opening section, open up into rip-roaring plots in well-tread and traditionally rather 'lowbrow' subgenres (Space Opera and Historical Mystery). The exciting plot continues to require a great deal of work on the reader's part to keep up, but rewards that work with Crowning Moments of Awesome. And both end up using genre tropes to raise some of the fundamental questions of human nature, and to offer some interesting potential answers.

Also, each book is packed to bursting with intertextual allusions, understanding of which is not necessary to grok the main plot, but which does add significant texture if you do get them. At one point, he uses the word "Heliogabalian" -- correctly! -- and I nearly squee-ed aloud. I doubt that many readers of even this LJ will understand the reference, but I did, and loved it.

The book is by no means perfect, but I find most of its imperfections charming. That said, I rather wish I had read it in paper. The ebook opens with an apology from the author that he couldn't work out a way with current ebook technology to properly do a 2-column layout, so some of the experimental layout effects in the original print edition had to be abandoned. Also, the ebook has a significant number of unrepaired scanning errors of one sort or another. All that said, even the ebook is Highly Recommended.
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I think it is worth mentioning to your readers that the scanning errors are in the official ebook you purchased from Tor, and not due to poor scanning on my part. I find this to be an extremely annoying trend: publishers creating ebooks from poorly proofread scans of the paper books. Very sloppy, sighties, very sloppy. It's also poor form in SF ebooks, as sometimes it is difficult to guess what the word is supposed to be from context.

I find this to be an extremely annoying trend: publishers creating ebooks from poorly proofread scans of the paper books.

I've seen this, too. The ebooks of Bujold's books are just full of places where interior monologue has lost its italics. They aren't DRMed, so every time I read them (about once a year...) I'm tempted to sit down and fix them; but I've got better things to do with my time.


I admire your strength of will;I can't help myself, I am usually compelled to proofread as I go, at least, if the text is one which I intend to reread. If it's something which Alexx reads after me, he adds another layer of proofreading the things I've missed, usually formatting. For texts which I have scanned, I put an asterisk next to questionable text/words, and Alexx proofreads using the paper and ink book.

At one point, he uses the word "Heliogabalian" -- correctly! -- and I nearly squee-ed aloud. I doubt that many readers of even this LJ will understand the reference, but I did, and loved it.

I remember that. I had to look it up—which I'm sure I didn't do when I read the hardcover (from the library), but reading the ebook on my tablet made it easy.


Certainly there was a time when the paper books from Tor were so poorly proofed and full of typos that they were actually hard to read. Some level of mediocrity is eternal, I guess.

Without any context, I would take "Heliogabalian" to mean "of or pertaining to the infamous emperor Elagabalus" or perhaps referring to some particular degeneracy attributed to him. But I'm sure there can be other meanings (didn't he take his name from some Oriental version of Sol Invictus, for instance?) Maybe I should read the book and look for the adjective...

I said that I doubted that *many* of my readers would recognize that word. I figured odds were strong that *you* would :-)

But many of your readers, I should have thought, will at least have heard the claim "I quote in elegiacs all the crimes of Heliogabalus" :-)

True, though that is one of the mot-often-cut lines. Without the existence of that line, I expect he would be even *more* obscure today.

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