Dec

18

Posted by : atcampbell | On : December 18, 2001

Zeitgeist by Bruce Sterling

Twelve people attended the discussion of Bruce Sterling’s latest book. It tells the story of Leggy Starlitz, a music promoter on tour in Eastern Europe with a girl group similar to the Spice Girls. During the course of the book Leggy handles crises with his band, experiences weird political situations, and suddenly has to face the ex-wife and daughter he hasn’t seen in over a decade. Nine of the people in our group finished the book, and the others read about half of it.

Most of us thought Zeitgeist was a lot of fun. Sterling’s writing is humorous and accessible. We liked the whacked-out worldview and the characters from the fringes of society. Leggy seems to be a realistic portrait of a world-weary music producer. We loved his interactions with the band and its entourage, particularly

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Dec

04

Posted by : atcampbell | On : December 4, 2001

Glasswright’s Apprentice by Mindy Klasky

The discussion of Mindy Klasky’s first novel drew ten participants. This is a fantasy novel about a young woman, Rani, who accidentally witnesses a prince’s murder and gets accused of committing the crime. Fearing the wrath of the vengeful king, she goes undercover as she tries to find a way to clear herself.

We were engaged by the premise of the story. Klasky’s prose style was so clear and readable that we all finished the book. The complicated caste system in this book’s society was carefully constructed. We were impressed by how the plot

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Nov

20

Posted by : atcampbell | On : November 20, 2001

The Return by Buzz Aldrin and John Barnes

Thirteen people attended this meeting, and one submitted comments by email. This is a near-future thriller about the space program. Former astronaut Scott Blackstone is the CEO of a private space company dedicated to getting normal people into space. For publicity his company gets a famous athlete to go on a shuttle flight, but the flight turns into a disaster. In the aftermath America’s confidence in the space program goes way down, Blackstone loses his job, and he must defend himself in an expensive lawsuit. And then terrorists in the Middle East start messing around with nuclear weapons. This book was written by former astronaut Buzz Aldrin in collaboration with John Barnes, author of several novels including Mother of Storms and One for the Morning Glory. Nine people at the meeting had read the book.

We enjoyed reading a hard SF novel for the first time in a while. The plot started with a bang and kept us interested to the end. We had complete confidence that the technical details of spacecraft and space flight were correct. We liked reading an insider’s view of the politics and inner workings of the corporate aerospace industry. Blackstone and his family were engaging and believable, and we enjoyed the flashbacks that showed them getting interested in space as

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Nov

06

Posted by : atcampbell | On : November 6, 2001

Perdido Street Station by China MiƩville

Six people attended this meeting, and one submitted comments by email. Perdido Street Station is an ambitious novel about a large, decadent city filled with strange and horrible creatures. The book starts with an eccentric but brilliant human scientist being approached by a bird-creature whose wings were removed as punishment for an unspeakable crime, and who wants the scientist to restore his flight. There are several other plot threads including one about the scientist’s lover, a sexy insect creature who’s commissioned to sculpt a statue of a hideously mutated recluse. The author was a British graduate student when he wrote the book, and now he is a Member of Parliament. Four people at the meeting had finished the book, and another person had read about 20% of it.

Two people said they loved this book, and the rest of us found things to admire about it. The detailed worldbuilding and complex plot showed a vivid and detailed imagination. One person described the setting and the author’s vivid descriptions of it as masterful. The worldview was interesting and original. We enjoyed the

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Oct

16

Posted by : atcampbell | On : October 16, 2001

First Contract by Greg Costikyan

Twelve people attended this discussion. First Contract is a humorous novel about aliens coming to Earth to establish peaceful trade relations. The cheap alien high-tech merchandise drives most Earthly businesses bankrupt. The story follows a former CEO trying to start a new business where he can compete with the aliens. Ten people at the meeting had read the book.

Most of us thought this was a lot of fun. The crazy business meetings seemed real. The former CEO’s journeys cause him to meet many interesting people, including some generous hippies and an unscrupulous art dealer who sells velvet paintings of Elvis for exorbitant prices to the aliens. Many of us enjoyed reading about the process of starting and growing a business. The story culminates in a wonderful interstellar trade show, where vendors have to pay for lots of extras in addition to their exhibit space: air, gravity, etc. Those of us who’d worked at

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Oct

02

Posted by : atcampbell | On : October 2, 2001

Heart of Gold by Sharon Shinn

Seven people attended this discussion. Two also sent in comments by email. Heart of Gold is a SF novel set on a world with two major cultures: a matriarchal society of blue-skinned people called the Indigo, and a gold-skinned patriarchal society called the Gulden. The uneasy but peaceful coexistence of these two groups is threatened by a series of terrorist attacks. We view this world and its time of trouble through two viewpoint characters: Nolan, a traditional Indigo man, and Kit, an Indigo woman raised among the Gulden. Six of us had read the book.

It must be mentioned that this discussion was held when the September 11 terrorist attacks were still fresh in our minds. Reading and discussing a book

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Sep

18

Posted by : atcampbell | On : September 18, 2001

Anonymous Rex by Eric Garcia

We had a wide variety of participation at this meeting. Thirteen people attended in person, two people emailed reports, and one person phoned in comments. Anonymous Rex is a humorous mystery novel. In this book’s world, a secret society of dinosaurs exists in the 21st century. The dinosaurs disguise themselves as humans and participate in society under fake identities. The book tells the story of Los Angeles private investigator Vincent Rubio, a velociraptor looking for his partner’s killer. Eleven of us had read the book.

Many of us liked this book a lot, and one even called it “a hoot!” The secret society was cleverly constructed, and we were amused when celebrities from our world turned out to be dinosaurs. Rubio?s amusing and sympathetic narrator helps make the book a successful noir detective story. Three members of the

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Sep

04

Posted by : atcampbell | On : September 4, 2001

Manifold: Time by Stephen Baxter

Eleven people attended the discussion of Manifold: Time. This book tells the near-future story of Reid Malenfant, a tycoon dedicated to bringing mankind into space. The book invokes several classic SF themes: space exploration, the education of gifted children, time travel, and first contact with aliens. Seven of us at the meeting had read the book, and the rest had not started it.

We enjoyed reading a traditional hard SF novel. It was fun to read about people building spaceships, going into orbit, visiting the moon and asteroids, and exploring time and space. We liked the use of intelligent squids as space pilots. The time travel element is cleverly used to explore recent theories about how

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Aug

27

Posted by : atcampbell | On : August 27, 2001

Dinner With Aaron Allston

We took local author Aaron Allston, author of Sidhe Devil, out to dinner on August 27. Eleven of us gathered for a nice meal at Tien Hong. Since Aaron was formerly a member of our Reading Group and still reads a lot, we discussed books we’d read recently. It turned out that Aaron also liked The Club Dumas. Aaron talked about his experiences writing Star Wars novels, several of which had been on bestseller lists. He mentioned that despite his success, a reader had only recognized him in public once. He said that he started writing Sidhe Devil over three years ago, and that his editor at Baen was ArmadilloCon 23 Editor Guest Toni Weisskopf. We all had a nice evening, and we appreciated Aaron giving us the opportunity to visit with him.

— A. T. Campbell, III

Aug

21

Posted by : atcampbell | On : August 21, 2001

Sidhe Devil by Aaron Allston

Twelve people attended this meeting, and two submitted comments by email. One of the email participants was a person in Tennessee who has never attended one of our meetings in person, but who was a personal friend of one of our group’s regulars. Sidhe Devil is an action-packed fantasy novel that takes place mostly in a fairy world that greatly resembles Earth in the early 20th century. The heroic Doc Sidhe and his band of competent assistants travel to an international sports competition to foil a fiendish supernatural plot. All ten of us who started this book finished it.

We had a lot of fun with this book. It has characters we quickly grew to like, gripping action, and an intriguing setting. Several people compared this book’s urban fantasy world with the world in Metropolitan by Walter Jon Williams. The plot was firmly in the pulp fiction tradition of such classic characters as the Shadow and Doc Savage. There was a lot of good humor. The rules of magic were well established in this book, and the author followed them consistently. Lots of things blew up in this book. Doc’s vehicles (particularly the outrigger

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