Wednesday, April 3, 2024

First Group of Books I Read in 2024

 Reading Period: January 1 - Present

1. The Well of Ascension (A), by Brandon Sanderson


    In a tragic start to my year, I read the first Brandon Sanderson book that I really did not like. Granted, I listed to the entire audiboook during an ultramarathon, and frankly I wasn't in the best mood during the 36-hour race in which I did not sleep a second. Still, I am certain that I would have disliked the book regardless. The plot was slow, the characters were not interesting, and Brandon breaks his own rule: characters should be smart and act in logical ways that don't endlessly frustrate the reader.

    Historically, many television romances with poor writing fall victim to the same tropes over and over again. The most common one that frustrates me is some easily-fixable miscommunication that is dragged out endlessly in order to create conflict between characters. Every time, this simple mis-communication could be solved with ten seconds of dialogue (example: "oh that was my cousin that you saw at my apartment! Not my ex-girlfriend! I get how you were confused, but here's a picture of her as proof). Horror genres often offend me for similar reasons. Often a main character will shoot a "bad guy" once in the stomach, and without literally any checking or proof will walk away and assume that the bad guy is dead. Of course, they are never correct. Still, the worst horror-trope is when characters trust obvious villains that literally anyone with a single brain cell would be suspicious of. I find myself screaming a the screen, yelling "the guy literally looks exactly like a vampire! His fangs are dripping with blood!" But actually, I enjoy this a lot of the time. Especially if the intent of the writers is to provoke such a reaction. The audience is supposed to be "in-on-it" for most horror films, expecting dumb characters who communicate horribly, make terrible decisions, and trust obviously untrustworthy people. But frankly, I expect more from Brandon Sanderson. 

    A microcosm of my dislike of this book is displayed clearly in relationship between Vin and Zane. Zane is the worst character Brandon has ever created, and this character dynamic is easily the most unbelievable and frustrating dynamic of his as well, for all of the lazy "trope" reasons listed above. I don't honestly have a lot to say positive about the book, except for the fact that the ending was executed well. But a good ending cannot sway my opinion of the 80% of the book that didn't resonate.

2. Never Finished (A), by David Goggins


    Also tragic. Simply not a well written book, and there was no content in here that wasn't already covered in much more impactful fashion in Can't Hurt Me. Honestly, David comes off very poorly in this book, seeming like more of a braggart and injury-prone masochist than before. Unfortunately, I feel like his character display in this book makes his previous book worse and less psychologically impactful.

3. Warbreaker (A), by Brandon Sanderson


    Thank the God Emperor! An actually great book, and Brandon Sanderson back in true form! Words cannot express how happy I am to read a very solid addition to the Cosmere, especially after my last read. The worldbuilding is well executed, the characters are engaging, and everyone acts logically! Sure, the characters make pretty grave mistakes that are hammed up a bit, but these mistakes are in character and certainly more interesting than frustrating. The romance is great, the mystery is intriguing, and man do I love Lightsong the Bold. Excited for the next read.

4. The Coming Wave (A), by Mustafa Suleyman


    Awesome book. My central disagreement is regarding his insistence that the superintelligence-related risks of AI are overdone and not really worth worrying about. Also, he is fairly dismissive regarding AI consciousness and general alignment issues, and he is much more focused on near-term risks and the eventual power struggle that will cloud AI development. I strongly agree with the magnitude of AI progress that Mustafa insists will happen. He claims, "over the next ten years, AI will be the greatest force amplifier in history."