Dec

19

Posted by : atcampbell | On : December 19, 2000

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling

The discussion of J. K. Rowling’s second novel drew twelve participants. Unlike our discussion of the first book in the series, no one under fifteen was in attendance. This book follows the adventures of Harry and his friends during their second year at wizard school, in which they encounter a ghost who haunts a girls’ restroom.

We liked seeing Harry again and learning more about his supporting cast and the world they inhabit. It was impressive how Rowling told a story that works on multiple levels for readers of different ages. The book is filled with several striking

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Dec

05

Posted by : atcampbell | On : December 5, 2000

The Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

Twelve people, 66.66% of whom were female, showed up to discuss The Parable of the Sower. This is a near-future novel set in Southern California after the USA has taken a turn for the worst. The main plot is the coming of age of a Lauren, a young woman who becomes a leader in this society.

We liked a lot about this book: the “brain-driven” female protagonist, the beautiful prose, and the realistic depiction of societal crumbling. We wondered how much of the story is autobiographical, because the author is also a tall black

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Nov

21

Posted by : atcampbell | On : November 21, 2000

Dark Cities Underground by Lisa Goldstein

Eleven people attended this meeting, at which we discussed Lisa Goldstein’s recent novel and chose new books. Dark Cities Underground is a urban fantasy novel involving trains, Egyptian gods, and children’s books and their authors.

Most of us liked this book a lot. We found the characterization of the children’s author and her son, who was the protagonist of her books, to be believable. Goldstein’s prose was involving and a joy to read, reminding several of us of Jonathan Carroll’s work. The book was full of great archetypes and images (dog-headed men, not-so-jolly green giants, a woman made of rain) that

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Nov

07

Posted by : atcampbell | On : November 7, 2000

Typhon’s Children by Toni Anzetti

The discussion of Toni Anzetti’s first novel drew a crowd of ten people. Typhon’s Children is a science fiction story about a group of humans who have settled on a hostile planet. An expected supply ship is late, and the settlers are running low on necessities. Several key personnel have died, and all of the children born to the settlers have severe birth defects. The book details the colonists’ attempts to survive.

We enjoyed several things about this book. It was the first hard science fiction book we’d read in a while, and the writing style was direct and easy to read. Several people said that they read the book in a single reading. The planet’s

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Oct

17

Posted by : atcampbell | On : October 17, 2000

A Calculus of Angels by J. Gregory Keyes

The discussion of A Calculus of Angels drew a crowd of eight people. This book continues the story begun in Newton’s Cannon, which we discussed last year. In this alternate historical science fantasy, young Benjamin Franklin has become the apprentice of Sir Isaac Newton. Newton and other scientists have made some powerful scientific discoveries that yielded powerful weapons of war, which are being used to destroy great European cities. Mysterious angels have manifested themselves on Earth as advisors to powerful rulers. And then Peter the Great and some French musketeers get involved in the story.

We found this to be a rousing adventure yarn. Benjamin Franklin makes for a great hero, and we appreciated his romantic adventures and clever escapes from diabolic enemies. When a delegation from America arrives that includes the pirate

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Oct

03

Posted by : atcampbell | On : October 3, 2000

Sky Coyote by Kage Baker

Nine people showed up to discuss Sky Coyote, the sequel to In the Garden of Iden. Sky Coyote is another adventure of The Company, a group of people recruited by visitors from the future to help save precious art before it is lost and natural resources before they are extinct. As compensation for the work, the historical recruits are turned immortal. The mission of this book involves saving the culture of a tribe of Native Americans in California before it is wiped out by the invasion of settlers from Europe.

This book was simply fun to read. Baker’s wonderfully amusing prose style, combined with the fast-paced action and relatively short page count, had us all zipping through the book. Baker did a great job of filling us in on the events of the prior book, so that Sky Coyote can be read as a standalone novel. We learn a lot more about the immortals (eating chocolate gives them a buzz) and for the

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Sep

19

Posted by : atcampbell | On : September 19, 2000

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

The discussion of Neal Stephenson’s recent Hugo-nominated novel drew a crowd of sixteen, including two first-time attendees. Cryptonomicon is a complex and long novel (over 900 pages) with several plot threads taking place during World War II and in our present day. Topics explored in this book include code breaking, haiku, pipe organs, early computers, ballroom dancing, Internet startups, dental care, conspiracies, and the proper way to eat breakfast cereal. The WWII segments primarily follow two Americans: Lawrence Waterhouse, a mathematician involving in breaking Japanese and German codes; and Bobby Shaftoe, a tough and competent Marine who travels all over the world pulling off near-impossible missions for the Allies. The present-day sections of the book largely follow the adventures of Lawrence’s grandson, Randy, a gifted computer programmer involved in a high-tech startup company in the Philippines.

We found this book to be a fascinating and engaging reading experience. We were initially intimidated by the book’s size, but soon grew deeply involved in the

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Sep

01

Posted by : atcampbell | On : September 1, 2000

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Nine people participated in this discussion, including two first-time attendees. The subject of this discussion, Pullman’s The Golden Compass, is the first of a planned trilogy called “His Dark Materials”. The setting of this book is a world vaguely like our world in the present day, with some notable exceptions. Politics have had different results over the past hundred years or so, air travel is done by zeppelin and hot air balloon, and there are secret societies of witches and intelligent warrior bears. Additionally, each human has a companion called a “daemon” that looks like an animal, talks only to its designated human, and houses the soul of its human. The story involves a young girl, Lyra, who has been raised as an orphan but discovers that her parents are still alive and on opposite sides of a power struggle among secret societies. Both sides want to kidnap Lyra for reasons she does not understand, so she travels all over Europe as a fugitive, trying to figure out what’s going on and how to keep herself and her friends safe. She carries with her a mysterious compass-shaped instrument, given to her by a kindly Oxford professor, that supposedly is very powerful if she can only figure out what it does or how to operate it.

We liked a lot about this book. Everyone thought the society of bears was cool. Lyra is fully developed and realistic, and we appreciated Pullman’s daring in

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Aug

15

Posted by : atcampbell | On : August 15, 2000

Mad Ship by Robin Hobb

We had a crowd of eleven for the discussion of Mad Ship. This book is the sequel to Ship of Magic, discussed by our group earlier in the year. Mad Ship is a fantasy novel featuring pirates, slaves, talking ships, and dragons.

We liked Mad Ship a lot. Everyone had found the book hard to put down, and all but one had finished it. (Yours truly got too busy working on ArmadilloCon, but I do plan to finish Mad Ship. Maybe after Cryptonomicon…) Three people had even read the sequel, Ship of Destiny, which came out in hardback the previous week. One person said she loved the book completely, noticed no flaws or extraneous

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Aug

01

Posted by : atcampbell | On : August 1, 2000

Stardoc by S. L. Viehl

Nine people showed up at to discuss Stardoc, a book about “doctors in space”. The novel follows the adventures of brilliant young Dr. Cherijo Grey Veil, who leaves the safe confines of Earth to work in a clinic on a frontier planet where she must treat hundreds of different alien species.

Our meeting started a little differently, with the distribution of handouts sent by the author to our group. Ms. Viehl had noticed several weeks earlier on the Internet that we would be discussing her book, so she mailed some giveaways to us at Adventures in Crime & Space. The packets contained autographed

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