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April 18th, 2018

Oh, yeah, Reading Wednesday. I should get on that bandwagon. Memeward ho!

Finished since last update:

World of Cultivation, Fang Xiang -- I can't help comparing this to I Shall Seal the Heavens, the other Longass Chinese Fantasy I've finished, especially as to how larger scales and stakes are handled. On the one hand, this one does a better job of weaving earlier plot details into the resolution, so it feels better plotted; on the other, in the last third, with the transition from warlord to kingdom, the larger political scales make things less personal, whereas ISStH instead shifts the scale to cosmic. It doesn't help that during that part, many of the MC's power-ups and setting shifts feel somewhat gratuitous, and the overall storytelling more sketchy. So: the ending is carefully set up but comes rather more rapidly than expected. One way this is distinctly better than ISStH is female characters: there are many women with power and in power, none of whom are denigrated or otherwise humiliated for being powerful. (For being silver-spoon brats, yes, in all but one instance grouped with similarly arrogant male peers.) Their number is nowhere near parity with men, but they're present through most of the story. Also, there's very little sexualized violence, which frankly is refreshing in a Chinese work.

Gentleman Free-Flowing Cloud (闲云公子), Yu Qing (于晴) -- a wuxia Romance originally published in Taiwan. It's got wuxia sect shenanigans, it's got ridiculously competent martial artists (including ridiculously effective disguises), it's got a heroine escaping from bondage (with all the twitches expected in her type of survivor). At 10 chapters, it's also pretty short as such things go, so it makes a decent sampler for the genre. Content warning: characters with multiple, often similar names.

In progress:

Monkey King, adaptation by Wei Dong Chen, art by Chao Peng -- a manhua retelling of Journey to the West, though as of the end of volume 3 we are still assembling the party (no Piggy or Sandy yet). Read aloud a couple times through to TBD, who is confused by parts but enjoying it even more than picture book and story book versions we've done in the past. It's a pretty faithful version so far (I'm pleased they retained Sun Wukong's pissing on, as well as writing his name on, Buddha's finger). We'll see how it handles some of the gorier bits to come, and how comprehensible Piggy's chronic backstabbing is. Finished volumes 1-3, in the middle of 4.

The Earthly Paradise, where I finished "Bellerophon at Argos" and "The Ring Given to Venus". The former is far from the most briskly paced verse narrative I've read, but it's in no way flabby. The pacing is controlled, like the pacing of a panther, and there's hardly any fat on the bones. I'm rather impressed with Morris's craft here. It is, however, only the first half of the story -- another tale (just started) covers the "kill this messenger" letter.

The Avalon of Five Elements (五行天, lit. "five-way heaven," and I want to know how the translators decided on the title change), Fang Xiang, another xuanhuan (Chinese-source fantasy) webnovel that's something of a sequel to World of Cultivation, albeit set in a far future where the world has greatly changed. This one starts out as a straight-up magic academy story, though it will no doubt shift genres as the scale opens out, as it will have to do given length. The MC is an outsider student who picked up a few survival practical skills but is utterly lacking in basic theory for the five-element magic system, and unconcerned about anything but making up for his deficiencies. There's a lot of broad humor in the opening chapters, but given WoC I'm willing to stick with it as of chapter 169. Fair warning: it's still ongoing in China, currently around ~730 chapters, though the translation is slowly catching up (FWIW, most of the author's books have been 800-900 chapters).

On hold:

It's Not Easy to Be a Man After Travelling to the Future (穿越未来之男人不好当), Madam Ru (汝夫人), another Chinese webnovel with reincarnation, this time science fiction: Ling Lan, dying young, is reborn female (with full memories) in the far future and raised male in order to inherit her father's military benefits. There is institutionalized gender essentialism. There is xianxia-style cultivation guided by AIs. There are mecha. (There is also heavy-handed Chinese nationalism, with Japanese cartoon villains.) Fair warning: it's slow-paced, with short chapters each covering few events -- by chapter 100, MC has just turned 7, at which point we're alligator-deep in magic military academy tropes. (I don't think there are any tropes specific to magic military academies, but if you take the union of magic academy tropes and military academy tropes, you won't be far off.) On hold because I caught up with the translation at chapter 177. Still ongoing in China at 1450-odd chapters.

Also, returned to The King's Avatar, Butterfly Blue, because I was in the mood for something where everything is explained in detail instead of needing interpretation between the lines, and because almost 200 chapters had been translated since I left off. Ye Xie is just as excellent as ever at controlling the aggro of others, both PCs and NPCs. Caught up at chapter 1018, in the middle of the final match of the tournament arc we've been building towards for the better part of 800 chapters.


Subject quote from Epilogue, Robert Browning.

Originally posted at https://larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/675531.html (where it has comment count unavailable comments). You can comment here or there.