Posted by : atcampbell | On : November 15, 2005

The Family Trade by Charles Stross

Everybody in the room has read at least a part of The Family Trade, and everybody except one person finished it. Several people had also read the sequel, The Hidden Family, which is actually just the second part of the same novel. A significant chunk of time was spent debating why the American publisher decided to split the novel into two parts, whereas in Britain it was published as one book. Several readers vented their anger at Tor, who “took an axe and went down the middle.”

Another big chunk of the discussion was spent comparing The Family Trade with other world-walking SF and fantasy books, such as Bulmer’s The Diamond Contessa, or most notably Roger Zelazny’s Amber series, which reportedly was an inspiration for Stross. Comparisons with Amber were in Stross’s favor, because in Amber, to quote a reader, “everybody can do any damn thing, and it’s really

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Posted by : atcampbell | On : October 4, 2005

Natural History by Justina Robson

All 6 people present at the discussion had read some part of the book. 3 of them had finished it. Two of the remaining people were going to finish it anyway even though they didn’t really like it. None of the attendees have read Justina Robson before.

Only two of them liked the book, at least to some extent. The others didn’t like it for the following reasons.

The author’s descriptive powers are not up to par

One participant summed it up like this, and others agreed. “The author can’t carry a scene. You don’t get good visuals from her book. I don’t think her descriptive powers are up to the scene she tries to have. She was tripping over her language and not getting to her imagery. In a few places she’s got something

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Posted by : atcampbell | On : September 20, 2005

Pandora’s Star by Peter Hamilton

Eight attendees with six people starting the book but only two finished.

Five people had read Hamilton before and quite enjoyed the experience. This book was not counted among his best, however. Comments like “1,000 pages of small print” and “He could teach Umberto Eco how to do description,” dominated the discussion. At one point, struggling to find some good, a reader brightly

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Posted by : atcampbell | On : September 6, 2005

Hammered by Elizabeth Bear

Eight people attended this book discussion. Six people started the book with five finishing it. This was the author’s first book.

Hammered in this case is the name of a lethal street drug. Although the novel starts at the urban street level it soon leads out to the world and beyond. The obvious connection with Elizabeth Moon’s “kick-ass women in military SF” books

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Posted by : atcampbell | On : July 19, 2005

Iron Sunrise by Charles Stross

(More details of the discussion that involve minor spoilers, can be found here.)

The human angle

One reader liked that this book drives a point home that you can’t assume anything about people’s motivations. Especially when the people in question are very alien, living in a society that’s very dissimilar to your own. He thinks this novel is a lot about how much the human mind projects order and organization

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Posted by : atcampbell | On : March 1, 2005

The Fox Woman by Kij Johnson

Seven people showed up to discuss this retelling of an early Medieval (Heian Period) Japanese fairy tale. Everyone had read part of the book, but only four had finished. Three others sent in comments by e-mail and telephone.

This book is an expansion of Johnson’s novelette “Fox Magic,” winner of the 1994 Sturgeon Award. The Fox Woman is now considered the first book of the Heian Trilogy Love/War/Death, with Johnson’s publication of the second book, Fudoki.

The Fox Woman is a magical story of three characters, the choices they make,

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Posted by : atcampbell | On : February 15, 2005

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Fifteen people showed up to discuss this mainstream bestseller and 2002 winner of the Man Booker prize. Thirteen had read part of the book and nine had finished it.

Everyone began the book with a different expectation based on the hype given to bestsellers, the picture of a tiger and boy in a boat on the cover, or on the book jacket quote, “a story that will make you believe in God.” Some of us were

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Posted by : atcampbell | On : February 1, 2005

The Anvil of the World by Kage Baker

Of the 8 people who gathered to discuss this light, humorous fantasy, 6 had started the book and 5 had finished. Five people had read Baker before.

The book is composed of three related novellas about a retired assassin named Smith. In the first novella, originally published in Asimov’s as “The Caravan from Troon,” Smith leads a caravan across a bandit-and-demon-infested wasteland

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