Aug

03

Posted by : atcampbell | On : August 3, 1999

Cosm by Gregory Benford

The discussion of Gregory Benford’s latest hard SF thriller drew a crowd of ten people. Eight had read the book and were there to discuss it, and two showed up just to socialize and join us for dinner. The book is a near future story about a young physicist, Alicia Butterworth, who makes a breakthrough discovery. A large part of the novel is a straightforward but unglamorized portrait of the life of a working academic scientist.

Everyone found the writing style compelling and readable, particularly compared to the stylistic experimentation of Benford’s Galactic Center books. We felt that the portrayal of a scientist’s life and work is realistic. The details of Dr. Butterworth’s life ring true, particularly her obsession with work and her neglect

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Jul

20

Posted by : atcampbell | On : July 20, 1999

The Dazzle of Day by Molly Gloss

Six people showed up for this discussion, including one member we hadn’t seen in more than half a year. The Dazzle of Day is a science fiction novel about a generation ship filled with multiethnic Quakers. After a brief prologue set before the launch, most of the book is devoted to the generation that will reach the ship’s destination.

This book has interesting elements. The use of a Quaker society is an interesting innovation, and the book portrays it accurately as far as we could tell. The characters seem like they fit into this society. The author uses various types of personal relationships to portray cultural diversity. Gloss displays a great ability to display daily life with all its ticks. This book has more bathroom scenes than

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Jul

06

Posted by : atcampbell | On : July 6, 1999

Children of God by Mary Doria Russell

Six people participated in the discussion of Children of God, which is a current Hugo nominee. This book is the sequel to Russell’s Tiptree Award-winning “Jesuits in space” first novel, The Sparrow. The story starts as Father Emilio is finally learning to enjoy life again after the devastating first contact mission to Rakhat. Then the Catholic Church decides to send a second mission to Rakhat, and Emilio is forced to participate. When Emilio and the rest of the mission team arrive, they find that their first visit led to major changes on Rakhat as well as on Earth.

All of us found the story and Russell’s prose compelling. One person had not read The Sparrow, but he found the author did a good job of filling him in on the necessary background. Emilio is a sympathetic character, so we are pleased

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Jun

15

Posted by : atcampbell | On : June 15, 1999

Moonfall by Jack McDevitt

The discussion of Moonfall drew eight participants. This is a near-future SF disaster novel where scientists discover a comet on a collision course with Earth’s moon. Earth’s leaders have a little over a week to figure out how to save the people of the heavily populated moonbase and in an orbiting space station. Then the Earth needs to be saved from the effects of the tidal changes and large debris that result from the collision.

We found this to be a well-written, fast paced thriller. McDevitt established tension and suspense well, and he used the time deadline effectively. The characters were well drawn and interesting. We particularly liked the US Vice President, who is visiting the moon when the trouble starts and thus finds himself

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Jun

01

Posted by : atcampbell | On : June 1, 1999

Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman

Eight people attended the discussion of Forever Peace. This novel, which won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, combines elements from several literary traditions: hard SF, cyberpunk, and war. While this book has a similar title to Haldeman’s earlier book The Forever War, the two books are not related. The story, set in the near future, involves a group of American soldiers who operate remote-controlled military robots. The main character, a soldier who works as a physicist when he’s not jacked into a robot, is involved with an experiment to build a supercollider in orbit about Jupiter. These story elements converge in a fast-paced thriller.

We found this to be a book full of good ideas. The military robots (called “soldierboys”, “sailerboys”, and “flyboys”) were a fascinating premise. A side effect of the mind-controlled robots is that the platoons of robot operators can

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May

18

Posted by : atcampbell | On : May 18, 1999

Greenwar by Steven Gould and Laura J. Mixon

Ten people showed up for this meeting, which took place at a pool party hosted by Elaine Powell. Additionally, one person e-mailed in comments. Much of the evening involves splashing around, eating, and visiting, but we managed to work in a short book discussion while waiting for the delivery man from Mangia Pizza.

Greenwar is a fast-paced technological thriller involving terrorists who attack high-tech facilities in the name of saving the environment. The story is told from the viewpoints of three characters: Emma, the engineer who designed a facility

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May

04

Posted by : atcampbell | On : May 4, 1999

Mars Underground by William K. Hartmann

At the first May meeting, our group picked new books for the reading list. This event drew good attendance (eight people), including a few folks we hadn’t seen in a while. As per our regular ritual, we put all the candidate books on a table for members to examine during the discussion. Choosing books was somewhat distracting, so the book discussion was less detailed than usual.

Five of us had read Mars Underground, the first novel by a noted Mars scientist and space artist. The book is a mystery/thriller set on a human-colonized Mars in the near future. The plot involves an inquiry into the disappearance of a

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Apr

20

Posted by : atcampbell | On : April 20, 1999

Jack Faust by Michael Swanwick

Eight people attended the discussion of Jack Faust, and one person submitted comments by e-mail. One of ArmadilloCon’s co-chairs and her daughter dropped in briefly at the beginning to consult on fannish matters.

Jack Faust is a science-fictional retelling of the Faust legend, previously recorded by Marlowe and Goethe. It involves a 16th Century scholar who makes a deal with Mephistopheles in exchange for knowledge. He uses this knowledge from a wide

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Apr

06

Posted by : atcampbell | On : April 6, 1999

A King of Infinite Space by Allen Steele

Eight people attended the discussion, including one we hadn’t seen for several meetings. Steele’s book concerns a rich young man from the 20th Century who awakens from a cryogenic hibernation several hundred years in the future, where he tries to find a place for himself in the interplanetary civilization he discovers.

This book was the first futuristic space adventure we’d discussed all year, and we welcomed the change after several historical novels. Most of us had read Steele’s work before, so we began with a discussion of his prior body of work. Generally we’d liked earlier books but not loved them, so were curious to see

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Mar

16

Posted by : atcampbell | On : March 16, 1999

The Border by Marina Fitch

Eight people showed up for this meeting, and one person e-mailed in comments. The topic of our discussion was Marina Fitch’s novel The Border. This is a present-day magic realistic fantasy novel involving a family that tries to flee Mexico and escape into California for political reasons. The family is separated at the border, and not all of them make it across. Years later, the daughter who remained in Mexico tries again to cross the border and reunite with her family. The book’s fantasy element is a “spirit friend” who guides the woman in her journey.

This book has several interesting elements. The spirit guide has an intriguing personality and nature. A couple of the characters in the book practice origami (the Japanese art of paper folding), and we liked how this was worked into a strong plot element. The book is divided into two sections with radically different

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