Aug

07

Posted by : atcampbell | On : August 7, 2001

Meet Me at Infinity by James Tiptree, Jr.

Thirteen people attended this discussion, including one first-time participant. Also, one person submitted comments by email. The book under consideration was a recent collection of short stories and essays by James Tiptree, Jr. Only one person at the meeting was able to finish the book.

For those unfamiliar with the author, a brief introduction is in order. James Tiptree, Jr. was one of the major SF writers of the 60s and 70s, writing such award-winning stories as “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” and “The Women Men Don’t See.” Tiptree was a recluse who never appeared in public, and no in the SF community knew anything about the author. Finally it was revealed that Tiptree was the pseudonym of Dr. Alice Sheldon, a psychologist who worked for

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Jul

17

Posted by : atcampbell | On : July 17, 2001

Infinity Beach by Jack McDevitt

Fourteen people attended this meeting, and one person contributed comments by e-mail. The topic of this meeting, Infinity Beach by Jack McDevitt, is a science fiction mystery set hundreds of years in our future. Despite centuries of space travel and the colonization of many solar systems, humans have still not encountered other intelligent life. Kim Brandywine, a fundraiser working on a last-ditch project to find extraterrestrials, discovers that her long-lost older sister was involved in an exploratory mission that may have actually made first contact. The plot details her search for what really happened. Eight people at the meeting had finished the book, and three were about halfway finished.

Since this was our group’s fifth discussion of a Jack McDevitt book (most of any author), we had a good idea of what to expect from Infinity Beach. It was a fun mystery with interesting SF elements. We enjoyed following all the twists of

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Jul

03

Posted by : atcampbell | On : July 3, 2001

The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-RĂ©verte

This book and discussion were a bit unusual for us. The Club Dumas was originally written in Spanish, and it was published as a mainstream novel. The plot involves a rare book scout named Lucas Corso who is looking for several manuscripts by Alexandre Dumas and one supposedly authored by the devil. The Club Dumas had recently been filmed as The Ninth Gate, directed by Roman Polanski and starring Johnny Depp and Frank Langella. We kicked off our coverage of this book with a DVD viewing party Lori and I held at our house on the Sunday before the meeting. Ten people and two dogs showed up to watch the film, and we faithfully agreed not to talk about the book or movie until the regular meeting on Tuesday. We had dinner after the movie at Don Pablo’s.

When we held the book discussion at Adventures in Crime & Space, fourteen people showed up. Ten people at the meeting had finished the book, and twelve had seen the movie. Only one person had read other books by the author.

We liked a lot about this literary mystery. The details of rare book dealing were fascinating. We learned a lot about Dumas and his work. We appreciated how

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Jun

19

Posted by : atcampbell | On : June 19, 2001

Galveston by Sean Stewart

The discussion of Sean Stewart’s latest novel drew thirteen attendees. Also, two people e-mailed in comments. Galveston is a fantasy novel set in the near future, after another big hurricane has caused great damage to the island off the coast of Texas. The complex and multi-layered plot of this book involves poker, witchcraft, famous Texas families, Mardi Gras, piano-playing ghosts, cannibals, historic mansions, the devil, first aid, and giant shrimp men.

We had a lot of familiarity with this author and topic. Ten people at the meeting had read Galveston, and eight had read prior books by Sean Stewart. Seven of us had visited Galveston and had seen many of the historic sites mentioned in

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Jun

05

Posted by : atcampbell | On : June 5, 2001

The Prophecy Machine by Neal Barrett, Jr.

Twelve people attended the discussion of The Prophecy Machine, a recent novel by Austin writer Neal Barrett Jr. This fantasy novel is set in a world where many of the world’s animal races have been magically evolved into “Newlies”, creatures with human levels of intelligence and a more-or-less human appearance. The book follows a human inventor named Finn and his Newlie lady love Letitia on a vacation that goes horribly wrong. They get stranded on a strange island, which leads them to get involved with a clan of strange men who have a bizarre invention.

We found this book easy to read. All eleven of us who’d started the novel finished it. Barrett’s playful use of language was fun, and we all had favorite sentences and phrases that we repeated. We enjoyed the interplay between Finn and his pet, an ornery robot lizard named Julia. The island society with its two dominant factions (the Hooters and the Hatters) was a clever invention, and we liked the way this concept was worked so strongly into the book. For example, a business named “Bar” accepted only customers from one group, while the other

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May

15

Posted by : atcampbell | On : May 15, 2001

Accidental Creatures by Anne Harris

Ten people attended this meeting, and one person submitted comments by e-mail. This meeting’s topic was Accidental Creatures, the second novel by Anne Harris. The book is set in a future Detroit where the auto industry has gone into decline, and biotech is the city’s big new industry. The story involves genetic engineering, labor strikes, mutants, evil corporate executives, artificial intelligence, and funny accountants. The large cast includes scientists, white-collar workers, blue-collar workers, fringe people, and some who aren’t really human. Nine of the people at the meeting had finished the book.

We liked a lot about this book. Harris convincingly portrays the passion of the biotech scientists for their work. We don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but we found the secret science project was fascinating. The depiction of people on the fringe evoked a cyberpunk atmosphere that many of us hadn’t

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May

01

Posted by : atcampbell | On : May 1, 2001

The Silk Code by Paul Levinson

Fourteen people attended this meeting, including one first-time participant. The topic of this meeting was Paul Levinson’s first novel, The Silk Code. Levinson is well known in the SF community as (now former) President of the Science Fiction Writers of America. The Silk Code is a near-future SF police novel featuring a New York forensic detective, Phil D’Amato, who was the protagonist of several stories published in Analog. In this book, D’Amato investigates a series of murders and gets wrapped up in a complicated conspiracy involving Amish scientists and a hidden society of Neanderthals. Nine of us had read the book.

This book starts off well with a fast-paced first section, in which D’Amato has his initial encounter with the scientific Amish. He faces weird scientific threats including incendiary fireflies. We enjoyed how he applies logic and scientific knowledge to get himself out of trouble. Levinson’s clean prose style, combined

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Apr

17

Posted by : atcampbell | On : April 17, 2001

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire

Fourteen people attended this meeting. Confessions of a Ugly Stepsister is a retelling of Cinderella from the point of view of one of her stepsisters. The story in Confessions starts earlier and ends later than the traditional story, so we learn more about the history of Cinderella’s step-family and what happens to them after she marries the prince. The author, Gregory Maguire, is best known for his previous novel Wicked, which was the biography of the Witch of the West fromThe Wizard of Oz. Twelve of us had finished the book, one had read half, and the other did not start it.

Several of us loved this book for its premise and Maguire’s execution of it. Comments included “This book kicks butt!” and “Great book! I was hooked by the third paragraph.” We liked how the author set the story in a specific time and place (17th century Holland) and worked historical details and characters into the story. The family develops friendships with several Dutch painters, which allows

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Apr

03

Posted by : atcampbell | On : April 3, 2001

The Road to Mars by Eric Idle

We had a wide variety of participation in this meeting. Ten people showed up at Adventures in Crime & Space to attend the discussion. One regular member of the group submitted comments by e-mail. Another person telephoned the bookstore and gave Willie comments to pass on. And finally, one person visited the store earlier in the day and gave Lori a handwritten note to be read aloud at the meeting. Seven of us had finished the book, four had read half or less, and two had not read the book at all but were just present to socialize.

The topic of discussion was The Road to Mars, a first SF novel by Eric Idle of Monty Python fame. The book is a fast-paced futuristic space adventure involving a comedy team, Alex and Lewis. Alex and Lewis have a few robot servants including Carlton, who’s trying to understand the nature of humor and use it as a topic for his Ph.D. dissertation. The comedians and robots get

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Mar

20

Posted by : atcampbell | On : March 20, 2001

The Marriage of Sticks by Jonathan Carroll

This meeting had fourteen attendees. Eight had read the book, and the rest were there to socialize. Additionally, one person had e-mailed in comments. The subject of this discussion was Jonathan Carroll’s The Marriage of Sticks. Several people in the group were longtime fans of Carroll’s prior work (including The Land of Laughs and Outside the Dog Museum) and had been trying for years to get one of his books on our reading list. The mainstream packaging of his books, combined with their tendency to go out of print quickly, had thwarted those efforts until now. The Marriage of Sticks is an urban fantasy novel about Miranda Romanac, a young woman who owns a used bookstore in New York City. The book starts out reading like a mainstream novel, but gradually some weird stuff happens and Miranda discovers disturbing truths about herself.

Many of us liked Carroll’s evocative prose and the quirky, surreal world he depicted. We liked one of the supporting characters, an offbeat small-town sheriff. A couple of people in the group who’d read Carroll’s previous book (Kissing the Beehive) and next book (The Wooden Sea) said that this book provided some

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