Dec

21

Posted by : atcampbell | On : December 21, 1999

Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

This discussion drew a small crowd, apparently due to the holidays. Five people attended in person, and another submitted e-mail comments. Hogfather is the latest volume in the large (over 20 volumes) Discworld saga. In this book, Discworld’s equivalent of Santa Claus mysteriously disappears, and Death fills in for him.

All of us enjoyed the book. We considered it to be excellent light humorous reading, and the topic was appropriate for the holiday season. We liked Pratchett’s take on “Mary Poppins”-esque nannies. The insights into the cultural origins of the Hogfather and other similar entities such as the Tooth Fairy were

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Dec

07

Posted by : atcampbell | On : December 7, 1999

Noir by K. W. Jeter

Seven people attended this discussion, and another person submitted comments by e-mail. The book under consideration, Noir, is Jeter’s return to writing “serious SF” after several years writing books in Gene Roddenberry’s and Philip K. Dick’s universes. Noir is a hardboiled cyberpunk detective novel that recalls the edgier material Jeter wrote earlier in his career, including Dr. Adder and The Glass Hammer. Since Jeter will be one of the Guests of Honor at the upcoming World Fantasy Convention in Corpus Christi, we felt it was time we read one of his books.

We all found Jeter’s prose style to be strongly stylish. The first chapter is written in an elaborate stream-of-consciousness style that two of us liked and the rest barely muddled through. The rest of the book is written in a hardboiled

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Nov

19

Posted by : atcampbell | On : November 19, 1999

James Morrow Event at Adventures in Crime & Space

Many of us attended the James Morrow appearance at Adventures in Crime & Space, which was cosponsored by FACT. We heard Mr. Morrow read excerpts from his current and upcoming books, and we were impressed by his wonderful “God voice.” After the reading he signed our copies of The Eternal Footman and his earlier books. Later we took him to dinner at Ninfa’s. We had a big crowd and everyone seemed to have a good time. Morrow was pleased to have so many dedicated and knowledgeable fans.

— A. T. Campbell, III

Nov

16

Posted by : atcampbell | On : November 16, 1999

Distraction by Bruce Sterling

Bruce Sterling’s latest book drew a large crowd and mixed reactions. Eleven people attended the discussion. About half of us loved the book, a fourth of us liked it, and the rest hated it with a passion. Details will be provided below.

First, let’s provide a brief rundown of Distraction. This basic plot is a near-future story about a recently-elected Senator’s campaign staff getting tangled up in a political situation in East Texas involving the governor of Louisiana, a rogue Air Force base, and a national lab that clones extinct animals. Sterling uses this plot

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Nov

02

Posted by : atcampbell | On : November 2, 1999

Newton’s Cannon by J. Gregory Keyes

Nine people turned up for the discussion of Newton’s Cannon. Among the attendees were two first-time visitors who had recently moved to town and were interested in meeting local fans.

Newton’s Cannon is an “alternate science” novel that deviates from our own history when Sir Isaac Newton makes a breakthrough in alchemy in the late 1600s. This discovery yields rapid advances in tchnology and many social changes. The main story takes place mostly in the early 1700s, with interweaving plot threads involving young Benjamin Franklin, Louis XIV, Blackbeard the pirate, a great war between England and France, strange devices, angels, powerful

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Oct

19

Posted by : atcampbell | On : October 19, 1999

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

The discussion of Stardust drew seven participants. Stardust is a fairy tale about a young man who sets on a quest in an attempt to impress a beautiful young woman and win her affections. Along the way he has adventures involving tricky witches, evil noblemen, gypsies, and fallen stars. Unusually, the book is available in two forms: a heavily illustrated version with paintings by Charles Vess, and a plain text version. All of us at the meeting had read the illustrated version, which offered all the words plus some gorgeous art for less cost than the plain text hardback.

We started off with a brief discussion of a comics convention in Austin the prior weekend. Several of us had met Charles Vess at the convention. He had brought many of the original paintings from Stardust with him to the convention, and we

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Oct

05

Posted by : atcampbell | On : October 5, 1999

The Alien Years by Robert Silverberg

Six people attended the discussion of The Alien Years. This is a near future science fiction novel in which aliens invade and conquer the earth. The aliens remain offstage, and the story concentrates on the people living on Earth during the alien occupation. We encounter people forced into alien service, people seeking to serve the aliens, and people trying to overthrow the aliens. A large portion of the book follows members of a family in California that is active in the resistance throughout several generations.

We felt that this book had an intriguing premise, and it was developed well. We liked reading about truly alien extraterrestrial beings that were omnipotent and impossible for humans to understand. The aliens did strange things such as disassembling Stonehenge and reassembling it in a new pattern, and there was no attempt made to explain their actions. All of the characters in the book who tried to understand the aliens failed completely. The aliens were so inscrutable

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Sep

21

Posted by : atcampbell | On : September 21, 1999

The Death of the Necromancer by Martha Wells

The discussion of Martha Wells’s third novel drew eight participants. The Death of the Necromancer is a dark fantasy set in a world much like 18th Century Europe. The main character, Nicholas Valiarde, is a nobleman secretly plotting revenge against the evil Count Montesq, who had Valiarde’s godfather executed on false charges. While attempting to steal a treasure and frame Montesq for the crime, Valiarde encounters a dark supernatural evil. Distracted from his mission of vengeance, Valiarde decides to find out more about the evil force and to try to stop it.

We found this book told an exciting, page-turning adventure story. The plot kept taking unexpected turns, but we were enjoying it so much that we gleefully went

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Sep

07

Posted by : atcampbell | On : September 7, 1999

Secret Realms by Tom Cool

Nine people showed up to discuss Secret Realms, the second science fiction novel by US Naval Commander Tom Cool. Several of us had met the author and been impressed by him at his recent appearances in Texas (at LoneStarCon 2 in San Antonio and at the Turkey City Writers’ Workshop in Austin). Additionally, Tor editor David Hartwell had been praising Secret Realms at last year’s ArmadilloCon, so we felt we needed to discuss this book.

Secret Realms is about a military experiment where a group of people is raised since birth in a virtual reality world designed to teach them to be warriors. The story is largely told from the viewpoint of the experimental subjects, who initially

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Aug

17

Posted by : atcampbell | On : August 17, 1999

Clouds End by Sean Stewart

Eight people showed up for the discussion of Clouds End, a fantasy novel by ArmadilloCon 21 Guest of Honor Sean Stewart. Six had read the book, and the others were present to socialize or observe. The book is a heroic fantasy set in a fully imagined world. The story concerns a group of island people who get wrapped up in a struggle involving supernatural Heroes and the mysterious Mist. A young woman, Brook, encounters a bird that turns into a twin of herself. Worse yet, the twin (called Jo) brings news of an ominous invasion. This causes Brook, Jo, and several of Brook’s friends to embark on a quest of danger and self-discovery.

We found the world of this book to be a brilliant and wonderful piece of invention. Stewart created interesting and fleshed-out civilizations and mythologies. The characters seem like they fit well in this world, and their novel speech patterns

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