Posted by : atcampbell | On : September 3, 2002

Ventus by Karl Schroeder

This meeting was held at Charles and Willie’s place. We had ten participants, including one person who came directly to the meeting from the airport after flying into Austin. Another person submitted comments by email. The topic of our discussion was Ventus, the first solo novel by Canadian physicist Karl Schroeder. The story has a strong element of mystery so we won’t reveal a lot of plot details, but it does involve talking rocks, magic, quests, and supernatural winds. All of us had started Ventus, but only four finished it.

Many of us found the story engrossing and enjoyed the ambiguous setting. The characters were all three-dimensional and we even understood the motivations of the “bad guys.” The story alternated between viewpoint characters with different ideas about this world, and we enjoyed piecing together their diverse impressions. One person especially liked how everything on this world was intelligent, including rocks, doors, and water. A couple of people found themselves staying up late at night reading this book.

We had trouble deciding whether this book should be categorized as fantasy or sf. The story is told like a medieval fantasy, but gradually it is revealed that there are some vaguely scientific things going on in the background. Since we felt the scientific element was minimal, hand-wavey and just plain inaccurate, many of us still think the book should be labeled fantasy. One person complained that since most of the stuff on the sf/f shelves of bookstores is fantasy already, we don’t need any sf books that read like fantasy.

We thought that Ventus was a book full of interesting ideas, and Karl Schroeder might be a writer to watch. After the meeting we had dinner at Garcia’s.

–A. T. Campbell, III