Mar

06

Posted by : atcampbell | On : March 6, 2001

A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold

Fifteen people turned up for this meeting, including one first-time attendee. All but one of us had read the book. The topic of this discussion, A Civil Campaign, is the latest in Bujold’s science fiction series about the adventures of Miles Vorkosigan, a nobleman of the planet Barrayar. The previous books in the series have been military/spy adventures, but this volume tells a different type of story. The thirty-ish Miles has become smitten with a young widow named Ekaterin, and he’s trying to win her affections. His attempt at courtship takes place against a backdrop of court intrigue, a strange business venture by Miles’s not-so-evil clone, and preparations for Emperor Gregor’s wedding.

We had a lot of fun with this book. The emphasis of the story is romantic comedy, but the plot has several unquestionably SF elements including cloning and space travel. Miles gets himself into a series of increasingly strange and

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Feb

20

Posted by : atcampbell | On : February 20, 2001

Half Life by Hal Clement

This discussion had fourteen participants. Only six had read the book, and the others were present to vote on books at the end of the meeting. This meeting’s topic, Half Life, is the most recent novel by SFWA Grandmaster Hal Clement. It involves an expedition of scientists in the near future to Saturn’s moon Titan, where they hope to find clues about the origins of life.

We liked getting to read a traditional hard SF novel, where people solve “problems in space.” This book is full of interesting facts about chemistry, biology, and physics, and none of us found any technical errors. The level of detail presented as the scientists explore Titan gave us almost the feel of a travelogue. The extreme discipline of the scientists and their rigid set of rules for

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Feb

06

Posted by : atcampbell | On : February 6, 2001

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

Eighteen people showed up for this discussion, which made it our largest crowd ever. One person was a first-time participant. The book discussed, The Anubis Gates, is a complicated fantasy featuring time travel, classical poets, ancient Egypt, werewolves, body swapping, and Beatles music. Although it was originally published in 1983, this novel had been out of print for several years until recently, making it a new book to many of us. Our attendees included several folks who read the book when it first came out, and we also had a person who was born the year the book was published.

Every one of us finished the book, and we found a lot of different things to like about it. Many people liked the complex, involving story with its many plot threads. One person empathized with the protagonist, a college English professor, so much that she reported jumping up and down and yelling at him to “watch out” at particularly tense moments. Many of us liked the cool Medieval and

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Jan

16

Posted by : atcampbell | On : January 16, 2001

There and Back Again by Pat Murphy

Our discussion of There and Back Again drew twelve participants. The book is a light, humorous space opera by Pat Murphy. Since Murphy is best known for serious “slipstream fiction” such as The Falling Woman, this book represents a substantial change of pace for her work. The plot of There and Back Again follows a mild-mannered man named Bailey Beldon, who joins up with a group of adventurers on a quest for the center of the galaxy.

We all found this book to be a lot of fun to read. The unlikely hero Bailey is clever at avoiding capture by slavers and pirates, even on occasion resorting to yodeling. We liked reading about a hero who was not in great shape and who

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Jan

02

Posted by : atcampbell | On : January 2, 2001

Starfish by Peter Watts

We had a large crowd of fifteen for this discussion, including two first-time visitors. The book under consideration, Starfish, was a first novel by Peter Watts. It involves an undersea scientific experiment being conducted by a large corporation. The team living underwater and doing the work is mostly composed of criminals who are doing this dangerous job instead of going to prison.

The details of living and working underwater seemed believable. One member of our group is a scuba diver, and he found no technical problems. We were not surprised to learn that the author is an ocean scientist.

The heart of the novel is an examination of how people work together on this dangerous mission. The team members are not simple thieves and swindlers, but

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