Posted by : atcampbell | On : April 21, 1998

Excession by Iain M. Banks

We had nine participants in the discussion of Excession, the latest “Culture” novel from Iain M. Banks. This hard-to-summarize novel includes elements of romance, political intrigue, and reader misdirection while handling such standard SF tropes as Big Dumb Objects and Artificial Intelligence.

Opinions on this book were mixed. Five of us finished the novel, and the other four didn’t find the book interesting enough to finish. All of us who’d gotten to the end had read Banks before, so we concluded that this book was a poor choice for a reader’s first Banks novel. While Excession‘s plot did not depend on plot elements from other books, familiarity with the book’s setting (“The Culture”)

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Posted by : atcampbell | On : April 7, 1998

City on Fire by Walter Jon Williams

Ten people attended the discussion of Walter Jon Williams’s “hard fantasy” novel City on Fire, the sequel to Metropolitan. City on Fire tells the story of establishing a new government in a city-state after a political overthrow. We see these events through the eyes of Aiah, a young woman who becomes a vital part of this new government. The fantasy component of the book is setting these events in a world where a magical substance called “plasm” is treated much like any other natural resource (electricity, gas, water, etc.)

We found the book to be a compelling “page turner”, despite the prose being written in “present tense” (which led to a discussion of grammatical terms like “future perfect” and “past pluperfect”). The characterization of several characters was well done, and we particularly enjoyed the growth of Aiah from a

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