Dec

17

Posted by : atcampbell | On : December 17, 1996

Aggressor Six by Wil McCarthy

The topic for our December 17 discussion was Aggressor Six, Wil McCarthy’s first novel. Five people showed up for the meeting at Adventures at Crime and Space, and four others had read the book but could not attend due to illness, childbirth, or scheduling conflicts. The story, set several hundred years in the future, was about a team of people (plus a dog!) trying to figure out the goals and motivations of the mysterious aliens with whom humanity was at war. We all found the premise engaging and generally enjoyed the book. Several felt that McCarthy had constructed an interesting language for the aliens, and thus they enjoyed the alien poetry included in the book. We generally found the prose style compelling, but the author made a few storytelling choices that we felt weren’t successful: too many viewpoint characters, several loose ends, and a lack of visual descriptions. Overall we felt this was an above average first novel, and most of those who attended the discussion immediately bought McCarthy’s followup book, The Fall of Sirius.

–A. T. Campbell, III

Dec

03

Posted by : atcampbell | On : December 3, 1996

City of Bones by Martha Wells

On December 3, eight of us met at the FACT Office to discuss City of Bones, written by Texas author Martha Wells. We quickly determined that the book’s cover summary had little to do with its content. Here’s an example from the cover: “a beautiful woman and a handsome thief try to … stop a fanatical cult before they unleash an evil that will … destroy all the water in the world.” In actuality the main female character is not beautiful, the main male character is not a thief, there is no cult, and no mention is made of destroying water. We also had trouble identifying the book’s genre — the spine of the book says “fantasy,” but our opinions ranged from “soft science fantasy” to “fantasy/mystery.” Most of us didn’t like the cover painting either.

After criticizing the book’s packaging we got around to discussing Martha’s story, which involves a post-holocaust future, archaeological puzzles, mutants, evil spirits, and martial arts. We all liked the book quite a bit. Several praised the prose style and felt that the plot structure (solving a series of intermediate

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Nov

19

Posted by : atcampbell | On : November 19, 1996

Blade Runner 2: The Edge of Human by K. W. Jeter

This month’s report has a multimedia flavor. Our late November book was Blade Runner 2: The Edge of Human (henceforth abbreviated BR2) by K. W. Jeter, which is a sequel both to Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (DADOES) and the movie it inspired, Blade Runner. In preparation several of us read (or reread) the Dick novel, and Lori and I hosted a viewing of the Director’s Cut of Blade Runner at our house. We had a lot of fun rewatching the film, and those of us who’d only seen the original version of the film were surprised by how much the few additional scenes (and the lack of voice-over narration) changed the content of the film. Additionally, I studied all the detailed information and analysis of the movie on the Blade Runner web site (http://www.uq.edu.au/~csmchapm/bladerunner/).

When we gathered on November 19 to discuss BR2, all of our preparation turned out to be helpful. Seven people showed up in person at Adventures in Crime and Space, and one person who couldn’t attend the meeting e-mailed in her comments. We determined that previous viewing of the Blade Runner, preferably

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Nov

05

Posted by : atcampbell | On : November 5, 1996

The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay

On November 5, eight of us met at the FACT Office to discuss Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Lions of Al-Rassan, a fantasy set in a world patterned much after historical Spain. One of the group’s regular members was unable to attend, but she liked the book enough to e-mail me a set of detailed comments to bring to the discussion. Opinions differed widely on this book, as shown by the following comments from early in the discussion: “I LOVE this book”, “bittersweet but believable”, “Kay’s done better but this is still an above average fantasy”, and “as a reader, I felt consistently cheated by Guy Gavriel Kay”. We all liked the story and found Kay’s writing style readable, but several of us felt that he tried to pull off too much trickery in his use (or misuse) of point of view. The book is basically a historical novel full of heroic deeds, romance, and extremely competent men and women, with only a couple of minor speculative elements

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Oct

15

Posted by : atcampbell | On : October 15, 1996

Cetaganda by Lois McMaster Bujold

We gathered at Adventures in Crime and Space to talk about Lois McMaster Bujold’s Cetaganda, a fast-spaced space opera/ mystery featuring Bujold’s best-known character, Miles Naismith Vorkosigan. Our discussion again had seven members, including two newcomers. All but one us had finished the book, and it turned out that most of us had read nearly the complete works of Bujold. That led to an informed and lively discussion, but every few minutes we’d have to steer ourselves from general discussion of Bujold’s ouevre to the specific book in question. We all enjoyed the book, although most felt it was not up to the level of Bujold’s best work (generally acknowledged to be Mirror Dance). Cetaganda successfully depicts a meeting of two distinct alien cultures invented by Bujold. Several striking images are evoked, particularly the “kitten bush”. Notable quotes from our discussion include “began like a mystery, but wasn’t a whodunnit”, “this society is as plausible as any far future”, and “this book should have been either shorter or longer”.

–A. T. Campbell, III

Oct

01

Posted by : atcampbell | On : October 1, 1996

Memory and Dream by Charles de Lint

After an absence of several months, here’s a new installment of the adventures of several FACT members on a quest for good books…

On October 1, seven folks showed up at the FACT Office to discuss Charles de Lint’s Memory and Dream, an urban fantasy involving magic and the visual arts. Due to the intrusion of two factors (ArmadilloCon and Real Life), few of us had read much of the book. Three people were at or past the halfway mark, and the rest had barely started. No one found the book hard to follow, but precious time to read had just not been available. Comments by those who had read significant portions of the book include “sober and adult but not dark”, “de Lint seems to dismiss creativity in areas other than the Fine Arts”, and “interesting take on how things happen and how we remember them”.

–A. T. Campbell, III

Jul

23

Posted by : atcampbell | On : July 23, 1996

Dinner with Bradley Denton

Following the success of last month’s dinner with Bill Spencer, we took Brad Denton out to dinner on July 23. Eleven of us, including Brad and his wife Barbara, gathered at the Shady Grove Cafe for a lovely meal of burgers, sandwiches, and “frings”. The group was so large that Brad had to go back and forth from one side of the table to the other to answer all his fans’ questions. We learned about Brad’s writing process: “I always finish a book before I try to sell it, to lessen the chance of editors screwing it up”, “I wrote the chapters of Lunatics in order but I skipped around a lot on Blackburn“, “I always do at least 8 or 9 drafts”. We had fun visiting with Brad, and we’ll probably do another “meal with a writer” in a couple of months.

Due to conventions and other conflicts, we’ll only have one August meeting. We’ll be discussing Metropolitan by Walter Jon Williams on August 20 at Adventures in Crime and Space. For the latest information, check out our web page. Newcomers are always welcome.

–A. T. Campbell, III

Jul

16

Posted by : atcampbell | On : July 16, 1996

Lunatics by Bradley Denton

Six of us got together on July 16 to discuss Bradley Denton’s Lunatics, which has been described as a “coming of middle age” novel. The book, set in Austin, is about how a group of late-thirtiesh friends reacts when one of them claims to be dating a goddess from the moon. The book mixes humor and drama well. We all liked the book. Interestingly, women readers tended to like it more than the men did. Comments included “the women in the book are well-done but not too catty”, “I liked how the goddess had difficulty with high heels”, “…best portrayal of women by a man since Tom Robbins”, and “…even though this is not the type of book I usually read, I loved it”.

–A. T. Campbell, III

Jul

02

Posted by : atcampbell | On : July 2, 1996

The Terminal Experiment by Robert J. Sawyer

The July Reading Group activities started on July 2 with a splash — a pool party at Elaine Powell’s house. We had lots of fun eating pizza and watermelon, and most of the nine of us got into the pool. In the midst of all the party atmosphere, we actually did spend some time discussing Robert J. Sawyer’s The Terminal Experiment. This novel, a techno-thriller about a medical researcher delving into the nature of human consciousness, recently won the Nebula Award and is a current finalist for the Hugo Award. Our members all appreciated Sawyer’s slick writing style — none of us had any trouble finishing the book. We were divided in how much we liked the premise of the book. The book’s fictional advances in medical technology are used for some controversial purposes that troubled several in our group. We all found it to be a thought-provoking story that prompted interesting discussion, and many of us will be looking forward to reading Sawyer’s next book.

–A. T. Campbell, III

Jun

18

Posted by : atcampbell | On : June 18, 1996

The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson

On June 18 we met at Adventures in Crime and Space bookstore to discuss Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age, a current Hugo nominee. Everyone was favorably inclined toward the book, but opinions ranged from “outstanding but annoying flawed” to “I’m happy he’s finally learned to write a big, complex novel” to “Brilliant! The best thing he’s ever written.” Unfortunately, I didn’t get to finish the novel until a couple of days after the discussion, but I think I agree most strongly with one member’s comment: “The middle 80% of the novel is much better than the beginning or ending 10%”.

Our next meeting will be a pool party at the home of one of the discussion group’s members (see elsewhere in The F.A.C.T. Sheet for details). We’ll be discussing Robert J. Sawyer’s The Terminal Experiment, recent Nebula winner and a current Hugo finalist.

–A. T. Campbell, III