Posted by : atcampbell | On : December 15, 1998

The Gift by Patrick O’Leary

Nine people attended this meeting. Eight had finished the book, and four had also read O’Leary’s prior book Door Number Three. Typically for O’Leary, The Gift is hard to describe succinctly. It’s a fantasy novel full of traditional tropes like a cursed prince, a woodcutter’s son, a quest, and dragons, To further complicate things, the book is structured like a set of fairy tales wrapped inside one another. And the plot is an ambitious story about the “last magic makers on Earth.”

We were impressed by this book’s ambitions and its many successes. The story is at times delightful, charming, and dark, and it is told in spirals and twists. And best of all, the spirals are wrapped together in a logical way that comes together

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Posted by : atcampbell | On : December 1, 1998

Eternity Road by Jack McDevitt

Ten people attended this meeting, including two first-time visitors to the Reading Group. One regular member e-mailed in her comments since she couldn’t get away from work. The book under discussion, Eternity Road, is set 1000 years in Earth’s future after our civilization has fallen. The story follows a group of people attempting to rediscover the lost science, culture, and literature of their past — and our present. They wander across North America from the banks of the Mississippi to Canada on their quest.

Seven of the group had finished the novel, and most had read McDevitt before (two of his books had been discussed previously in the Reading Group). We found the prose easy to read without being simplistic. The observations on our present culture are interesting and amusing, and also painful at times. Ideals are discussed without becoming preachy. We liked how our travelers encountered

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Posted by : atcampbell | On : November 17, 1998

Godheads by Emily Devenport

Eight people attended the discussion of Godheads. This is a far future science fiction novel with elements of suspense and mystery. The basic plot follows a young woman sent by a human intelligence organization to infiltrate an alien computer network. Before joining the intelligence organization, the protagonist had been a convicted criminal who was punished by having her mind wiped and being sentenced to several hundred years of cryogenic slumber. Supposedly rehabilitated and retrained, during the course of her mission she begins to have strange dreams and flashes of memory from her pre-wiped self. Ultimately she starts to question everything she knows. The story involves interplanetary travel, psychedelic drugs, lots of sex with aliens, and shopping at a futuristic mall. The fast-paced story never lets up.

All of us finished the novel, except for one who hadn’t had a chance to start it. Only one person had read Devenport before, but that didn’t hinder our enjoyment. We all enjoyed the book quite a bit. The author dealt with

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Posted by : atcampbell | On : November 3, 1998

The Calcutta Chromosome by Amitav Ghosh

Eight people showed up for the discussion of Amitav Ghosh’s novel The Calcutta Chromosome. Five had finished the book, and the others hadn’t had time to read much of it. Although this is not Ghosh’s first book, it’s his first to be marketed to SF readers. The story concerns a medical historian working on the biography of a British Army doctor who made early significant breakthroughs in malaria research. In the course of his studies, the historian begins to suspect that the doctor, who did this research while stationed in Calcutta, may have had guidance from an unknown source. Traveling to India for more information, the historian stumbles across a deep network of secret societies and conspiracies before uncovering the “secret history” of malaria research.

We liked this book a lot. The author’s writing style was compelling, and it evoked a mysterious and surreal atmosphere. The characters were well drawn and complex, and each had a distinct speaking pattern. The story had a lot of

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Posted by : atcampbell | On : October 20, 1998

Spiritride by Mark Shepherd

Four showed up for this discussion, and two additional people submitted comments via e-mail. Spiritride is a hard-to-describe fantasy novel involving elves, motorcycles, and Native Americans. The story follows a group of elves hunting for their enemies, who have fled to the world of humans. Along the way, the elves enlist the help of a Native American biker and several “guardian angels” of bikers. Complications ensue, and eventually a Satanic cult gets mixed into the plot.

Despite most in the group stating that this is “not the type of book I usually read”, no one had any trouble reading the book. The tone of the book, the inclusion of a teenage boy character, and the emphasis on motorcycles made us feel like this novel was aimed at teenage boys who like motorcycles. None of us fell into that category, but we liked the book anyway. We found Shepherd’s prose style to be technically solid and very readable. The fantasy and Native

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Posted by : atcampbell | On : October 6, 1998

An Exchange of Hostages by Susan R. Matthews

Ten people attended the discussion of An Exchange of Hostages, the first novel by Campbell Award nominee Susan R. Matthews. This is a science fiction novel about a military doctor who is forced to attend a school for torturers. The story describes the training in detail and also depicts the complicated political and psychological environment at the school and in the world outside.

This book produced strong and varied responses. Eight people finished the book and had positive things to say about it. Two of us were so turned off by the graphic depiction of torture sequences that we were unable to finish the book. I fell into the latter category, and had to quit halfway through the first

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Posted by : atcampbell | On : September 15, 1998

Corrupting Dr. Nice by John Kessel

Nine people attended the discussion of John Kessel’s Corrupting Dr. Nice. This is a time travel novel featuring elements of screwball comedy, romance, and social commentary. The plot involves a wealthy scientist who travels back in time to get a dinosaur specimen, and the complications that arise when he encounters a father-and-daughter con artist team in ancient Jerusalem on his way back to the 21st century.

We all found the book readable and slickly written, and none of us had any trouble finishing it. We thought the story was clever and funny. Kessel’s concept of time travel was original and well-developed. The characters were mostly stock roles from screwball comedies, and we could imagine Cary Grant and Katharine

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Posted by : atcampbell | On : August 31, 1998

Dinner with Peter F. Hamilton

Fourteen of us took author Peter F. Hamilton out to dinner at Chuy’s on Barton Springs. The food was good (Peter had the Elvis Presley Memorial Dinner), and conversation was lively. We only talked to Peter about his work a little, since he’d discussed it at length at the just-concluded ArmadilloCon. He did mention that the supernatural elements in his space opera novels weren’t influenced by the work of horror novelists like King and Barker. Rather, he was inspired by a Bob Shaw novel entitled The Palace of Eternity, which featured a rare intermingling of supernatural and SF elements. Most of the rest of the conversation was devoted to recapping gossip from the recent ArmadilloCon, particularly the romantic escapades of a local writer. We all had an excellent time, and hope to have another dinner with an author soon.

— A. T. Campbell, III



Posted by : atcampbell | On : August 18, 1998

Black Wine by Candas Jane Dorsey

Eight people (six women and two men) showed up at Adventures in Crime & Space to discuss Black Wine, a recent winner of the Tiptree Award. One of the attendees was a newcomer to our group, and two others were back for a second time. Black Wine is a surreal, complex novel with several interweaving plot threads featuring female protagonists. The story explores the relationship between a language and those who use it, alternate family structures, alternate sexuality, slavery, mental illness, and an evil grandmother. It is difficult (and probably meaningless) to classify the genre of the book as SF or fantasy since neither technology nor magic is used much, and the setting of the tale is described sketchily.

We all found Dorsey’s prose readable and were able to finish the book. We appreciated the author’s willingness to tackle new subject matter and use an ambitious storytelling style. The development of power relationships within the society was interesting. We felt that the scenes of graphic sex were integral to

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Posted by : atcampbell | On : July 21, 1998

Overshoot by Mona Clee

EIght people showed up for the discussion, including three newcomers. One regular member couldn’t attend in person due to missing her bus, but she telephoned in during the meeting to give her comments.

Overshoot is a near-future science fiction novel set on an Earth where abuse of the environment has triggered the Greenhouse Effect, producing dramatic weather and climate fluctuations that threaten the survival of the human race. The story is told by an aging lawyer living in San Francisco, interweaving events

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