Posted by : atcampbell | On : December 16, 1997

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

Attendees: A. T. Campbell III, Fred Duarte, Mona Gamboa, Elaine Powell, Carrie Richerson, Jeff Rupley, Willie Siros, Lori Wolf

We had a huge group for the discussion of The Sparrow, a first science fiction novel about a group of Catholic missionaries who establish First Contact between humans and aliens. The story deals with grown-up topics like Ethics and Morals and Religion. The book is structured in a flashback style, and we found both the events in the “present” and “past” so fascinating that the book was hard to put down. The characters of the missionaries are well-drawn and distinctive, and we grew to care about them. The alien society seemed believably structured. The culture clashes that grew from the First Contact situation developed logically, and tragically, without any characters (alien or human) being villains. Several of us liked the book enough to have already read it multiple times. This was one of the best SF novels we had read in several years. We were awed that a first novel could be so good, and we’re eagerly awaiting Ms. Russell’s next book.

— A. T. Campbell, III



Posted by : atcampbell | On : December 2, 1997

Emerald House Rising by Peg Kerr

Attendees: Renee Babcock, A. T. Campbell III, Lori Wolf

A small but loyal group gathered to discuss Emerald House Rising at the FACT Office. The book is a slickly written first fantasy novel about a young woman who’s training to be a gem cutter but discovers that she has a talent for magic. We felt that Kerr’s storytelling was excellent. We were impressed by the thoughtfully constructed society and the vivid descriptions of political intrigue. The magic system in the book was unusual, and it was worked well into the plot. There were a few problems: many of the minor characters seemed like “stock” characters, and the plot seemed to flow almost too smoothly for much of the book. We felt this book was a well-above-average first novel, and we look forward to Kerr’s future work.

— A. T. Campbell, III



Posted by : atcampbell | On : November 18, 1997

The Bones of Time by Kathleen Ann Goonan

Attendees: A. T. Campbell III, Karen Meschke, Jeff Rupley, Lori Wolf

We had a small but loyal turnout at the FACT Office to discuss Kathleen Ann Goonan’s second novel, The Bones of Time. The book interweaves two story lines. In the first story, a mathematician in the early 21st Century has a time-traveling romance with a Hawaiian princess from hundreds of years ago. The other story, set a couple of decades later in the future, is a complicated adventure involving a clone of King Kamehameha, travel between dimensions, espionage, the space program, and the Dalai Lama.

We all found the romantic story line interesting and compelling. The passions of the characters seemed real, and the mathematician’s life was depicted well. The clone story was less satisfying. Its elements were contrived, the writing seemed

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Posted by : atcampbell | On : November 4, 1997

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

Attendees: A. T. Campbell III, Shirley Crossland, Cyndi Dunn, Wes Dunn, Willie Siros, Lori Wolf

We had a good turnout at Adventures in Crime & Space to discuss Assassin’s Apprentice, the first book in a fantasy trilogy by Robin Hobb. The book is well-written adventure story involving a young boy whose father was a prince but whose mother was not the prince’s wife. Due to the boy’s heritage he can’t be treated like a regular member of royalty, so instead he gets trained to be an assassin working for the king.

Our impressions of the book were favorable. Hobb’s prose style was smooth and compelling, and it didn’t get in the way of the story. Willie liked the book because it violates the assumptions of high fantasy. He’d felt it was too polished a work to be a first novel, so he wasn’t too surprised when Hobb turned out to be a

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Posted by : atcampbell | On : October 21, 1997

Fair Peril by Nancy Springer

Attendees: Cyndi Dunn, Wes Dunn , Shirley Crossland, and Willie Siros.

This book begins with a woman who has just turned forty and is trying to get her life back together after her divorce. Walking through the park one day, she runs across a frog who tries to convince her that a kiss will turn him into a handsome prince. Buffy has had enough of men lately, charming or otherwise, but decides a talking frog would be a good addition to her professional story-telling repertoire. So she takes him home, never thinking that her teenage daughter may be more susceptible to a charming frog’s wiles…

Despite rumors that many of the male members of the reading group stayed away on the grounds that this is a “woman’s book,” the two men who were present seemed to have enjoyed it. Willie commented that it’s nice to see someone break out of the Celtic high-fantasy tradition to do something this new and creative. Springer combines some very humorous updating of traditional fairy tales with a

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Posted by : atcampbell | On : October 11, 1997

Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold

Attendees: A. T. Campbell III, Cyndi Dunn, Wes Dunn, John Gibbons, Karen Meschke, Shirley Crossland.

We gathered at ArmadilloCon 19 in Hunt, Texas to discuss Bujold’s latest book. Memory is another adventure of her continuing character Miles Vorkosigan, and in this book Miles turns thirty and his life falls apart. He’s forced to reevaluate his career and personal relationships and literally reinvent his conception of himself.

Our group contained people who’d read Bujold’s complete body of work, plus some who’d never read her before. We all found the prose readable and had no trouble finishing the book.

Opinions of the book were mixed, though generally positive. Many of us found Miles to be a well-developed character and we were sympathetic to his attempts

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Posted by : atcampbell | On : September 30, 1997

Pasquale’s Angel by Paul J. McAuley

Attendees: A. T. Campbell, III; Shirley Crossland; Fred Duarte; Jeff Rupley; Willie Siros; Lori Wolf.

We had a good discussion of Pasquale’s Angel, an alternate history set in a Renaissance Italy where Leonardo concentrated on engineering instead of art. The story starts with a series of mysterious deaths being investigated Holmes-and-Watson style by Niccolo Macchiaveli and a young artist named Pasquale. Along the way they encounter political intrigue, many other famous folks from the

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Posted by : atcampbell | On : September 16, 1997

The Fortunate Fall by Raphael Carter

Attendees: A. T. Campbell, III; Shirley Crossland; Cyndi Dunn; Wes Dunn; Jeff Rupley; Willie Siros; Lori Wolf.

We gathered at Adventures in Crime & Space to discuss The Fortunate Fall, a recent cyberpunk first novel Although many of us had grown tired of cyberpunk in recent years, we found this story to be interesting and well-told. The characters, especially the narrator, were well-developed and the prose style was eminently

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Posted by : atcampbell | On : August 19, 1997

Ancient Shores by Jack McDevitt

Attendees: A. T. Campbell, III; Fred Duarte, Jr.; Cyndi Dunn; Wes Dunn; Emily Gamboa; Mona Gamboa; Ruben Gamboa; Jeff Rupley; Willie Siros; Lori Wolf.

A large group gathered at Adventures in Crime and Space to discuss Ancient Shores, a near-future novel involving the discovery of alien artifacts on a North Dakota farm, and the implications of this discovery on the discovers and the rest of the world. All of us over one year old had finished the book. Initial comments varied from “first draft, no heart” to “boring” to “liked everything except the ending” to “loved it.”

This book had a lot of elements we liked. The archaelogical theme was interesting, and there was a good sense of the thrill of discovery. The exploration of the impact of this discovery on the rest of the world was a fascinating and seldom-used approach. McDevitt presented carefully thought-out speculations of

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Posted by : atcampbell | On : July 15, 1997

Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

Attendees: A. T. Campbell, III; Fred Duarte, Jr.; Jeff Rupley.

We had a small group at Adventures in Crime and Space to discuss Kim Stanley Robinson’s Blue Mars. This book is the concluding volume in a trilogy about the near-future terraforming of Mars. I’d not yet read up to page 100, but Fred had finished the novel and Jeff had re-read the entire trilogy! We all felt that this book was the weakest of the series. Jeff felt that Blue Mars had nothing to offer readers who’d already read the first two. Fred summarized the plot as “Angst happens, technology advances.” I’d detected a tendency to repeat successful elements from the previous books, and Fred and Jeff assured me that it happened throughout the novel. We thus declared this book to be Stan Robinson’s “Return of the Jedi.”

— A. T. Campbell, III