Birthdays, spicy reveals and even a tag, oh my!

As today, in the last day of Middle Earth’s Old Year, we both celebrate our Birthday, we decided to celebrate it with a post that will reveal some hard truths and clear some popular misconceptions about the two individuals running Re-E since 2015, OlaG and piotrek!

OlaG’s name is Aleksandra (like the Cohen’s song), so she’s female and Polish, not a male Russian lumberjack named Oleg as I believe someone used to think 😉 Below – a proof 😉

Piotrek is a local version of Peter, he answers to both (and Pio, too) 😉 A very popular name, there were four of us in my high school class.

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Going Kindle…

I know it does not make me an early adopter in 2021, but I decided to buy a Kindle this month. It was a decision long time coming, so I decided to make use of a special offer on Amazon.de – one that we need to use in Poland, to get our stuff quickly, cheap and duty free. Curse you, Brexit…

Why an e-reader? Why Kindle? Why now?

I’ve been observed to loudly preach the superiority of paper books. The feel, the smell, the look of these physical objects are unmatched by anything the devices might offer. The books that are really important to me, I will always want to have on my shelves. My library is more than a source of reading material. It’s the extension of my self, my identity, a statement you can’t fail to notice when you enter my flat.

And I don’t even need e-reader on my vacation, I happily carry huge volumes to the beach.

But lets face it, I’ve read an occasional epub on my phone and it wasn’t super-comfortable, but I still had fun. That’s how I read a few Warhammer novels in 2020. And, full disclosure, I actually was a relatively early adopter, buying a Barnes & Noble Nook almost exactly 10 years ago. There weren’t many e-readers in Poland back then. I read a couple dozen books, buying some from Kobo, and receiving a disc with free e-books from Baen, with my first Honor Harrington hardcover.

In the long run, it did not take. Most of the e-books were not priced significantly lower than the proper versions, not all were available to me. I could not buy them from Barnes & Noble, my device’s producers, as they did not sell to my country. Kobo was the only option back then, and they were ok, but I preferred to pay for physical object, not files..

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Matt Ruff, Lovecraft Country (2016)

Author: Matt Ruff

Title: Lovecraft Country

Format: Paperback

When Atticus Turner, a Black ex-soldier fresh from the Korean war, gets a mysterious letter from his father, he goes back to Chicago, and later to a small town of Ardham, Massachusetts. Along with him goes his childhood friend Letitia and his uncle, George, publisher, writer and researcher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide, and they have to fight both the cosmic horrors straight from the Cthulhu Mythos and the no less real horrors of their fellow human’s prejudices. It’s a bit like a crossover of Call of Cthulhu and Green Book.

Ok – it’s political. My next post after Ministry for the Future, and another unashamedly political novel. Matt Ruff’s Lovecraft Country is a subversive pulp horror, just as Guardian quote on its cover claims, and I’ll try to say a few words on whether it’s smart further in the review 😉 I would also like to emphasize it’s solely about the book, I’ve seen only the first episode of the TV show, liked it enough to stop and order the novel, and I’m yet to go back and watch the rest of it.

Let me start with some praise for the cover – I just it. Pulpy, lovecraftian, with some KKK undertones – fits its contents perfectly, even the “now a major HBO series” sign does not make me angry. I’m happy I own a physical copy!

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Kim Stanley Robinson, The Ministry for the Future (2020)

Author: Kim Stanley Robinson

Title: The Ministry for the Future

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 576

Ola is somewhere in the woods, counting on me posting something this week, so I’m motivated to actually deliver on my resolution to write more in 2021 😉 There are some reviews I planned for weeks, like one of the excellent Lovecraft Country, but that can wait, as I just finished reading something big and quite popular around here. The Ministry for the Future is the latest brick by Kim Stanley Robinson, a serious and prolific author who seems to start with choosing a specific topic and develop his characters and plot from there. It might be a neolithic society he so plausibly depicts in Shaman, or humanity reimagining itself to withstand the climate change – in this one. It was quite favourably reviewed by Andreas and Bart, and so I decided to get it from Book Depository, in what might be my last order there, as they had to pause sending books here due to Brexit.

Shaman wasn’t the most thrilling of novels I’ve ever read. It was rather slow, had a limited cast of characters and a plot to fit the scale of small hunter gatherer societies at the dawn of humanity. But it was amazing! A very rewarding book, immersing the reader in the most ancient history of our species. Was it a reconstruction? No, we will never be able to fully learn how the culture was born, what these people thought and believed in. But this is as close as we can come to it right now, a very believable speculation. And, ultimately, stuff happens, this really is a novel. I’m a patient reader, I loved it!

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The Worst of 2020

Oh, 2020. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… And here we’ll focus on the worst 😉 Or, to be more fair, just on the most disappointing for us personally, for as you will see, most of the works mentioned below enjoyed quite a lot of acclaim and following.

To be true to our title, we should probably start and stop this post at COVID-19, the wellspring of our woes (though there are a few hopeful signs along the way, from the evidence of effective and efficient trust-based cooperation above the national level to the human-caused limitation of greenhouse gases emissions). But as this is predominantly a book blog, with a small but significant addition of comics, TV series and movies, we feel we need to elaborate a bit and avoid easy finger-pointing.

As in the previous summary post, we wanted to divide our choices into a few categories: Fiction, Non-fiction, Comics, TV Series; but as Non-fiction this year proved to be a major hit without any misses (YAY!), we’ll omit this category.

Ola’s Worst of 2020 in Fiction

Here the choices are easy, at least for me – though for many might seem quite controversial, as some of these books seem to have become fan favorites ;). But what can I say? By now you really shouldn’t be surprised by any of this 😛 So without further ado, here it is:

R. F. Kuang, The Poppy War (2018)

That’s the only book on this list that I wrote a review of; I felt this instant favorite of the bookish community deserved a critique, and whether I achieved the goal of making it measured and not just scathing, it’s for you to judge. So let me just quote the crux of my review here:

Nanking Massacre was a truly horrible event, an atrocity for which there can be no excuse. The world should learn more about it, so that it stops being a footnote in history books. But using it in a fantasy book as a plot device designed to further the main character’s evolution into a vessel for a demonic/demigod entity and as a rationale for her own acts of genocide seems beyond bad taste.

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