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