Posted by : atcampbell | On : February 4, 2013

The Bookman by Lavie Tidhar

Six people attended this meeting at the North Village Branch Library. Our topic was The Bookman, a 2010 steampunk novel set in a 19th Century England ruled by giant lizards where historical characters move amongst literary figures of the era, particularly from the the Sherlock Holmes mythos. In this story, a young poet protagonist encounters a plot involving terrorists, robots, aliens, and a mysterious and deadly figure called “The Bookman.”

None of us at the meeting had read anything by Lavie Tidar before.  We all started The Bookman but only one had finished it, although two others said they would probably also finish.

A couple of readers read about 1/4 of the book and gave up, citing “standard and dated steampunk tropes”, “pointless name-dropping”, and “nothing interesting.” One of these said the book “thought it was more clever than it actually was.”

Another reader complained that this book’s prose was so purple that he felt he was reading an entry in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.  He felt the prose style

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Posted by : atcampbell | On : January 22, 2013

In War Times by Kathleen Ann Goonan

Seven people gathered at our Organizer’s home for this meeting, and another person submitted comments by e-mail. Our topic, In War Times, is a World War II science fiction novel involving a young American soldier who gets involved in secret physics research projects during the war. The soldier is a big fan of jazz music, which turns out to have a major role in the story. Many of the scenes of military life in the book are based on letters written by the author’s father while he served in the war himself. Three of us had read the author before. All of us started the book, and four finished it.

About half of us thought the book worked best when viewed as a straight historical novel about the war. This group felt the author’s prose style was good, liked the jazz and big band elements, and felt the scenes of military life were well-depicted. The concentration camp scenes were so vivid that they bothered many of us. The

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Posted by : atcampbell | On : October 16, 2012

Wizard’s Bane by Rick Cook

Seven people attended this discussion at the Milwood Library. Our topic was Rick Cook’s first novel, Wizard’s Bane, which was originally published in 1989. The story concerns a computer programmer, nicknamed “The Wiz”, who is magically whisked away from his world into a fantasy world of witches, elves , trolls, and the rest. This new world is decidedly low-tech with nary a computer to be found, but eventually he finds ways to put his expertise to good use in the fantasy land. All of us started the book, and five finished it.

All five who finished the book enjoyed it a great deal. They called it a “fun romp” and “great popcorn.” Several in the group with technical backgrounds appreciated the computer humor that permeated the book.  The Wizard’s work

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Posted by : atcampbell | On : October 1, 2012

Among Others by Jo Walton

Ten people attended this discussion at the North Village Library, including three first-time visitors. Our topic was Jo Walton’s 2011 novel Among Others, a recent winner of both the Hugo and Nebula Awards. The book tells a coming-of-age story about a teenage girl attending English boarding school in 1979-1980. Our protagonist  is a voracious reader of science fiction and fantasy. Four of us had read the author’s work before. All of us started and finished the book.

We found much to like about this book. We thought it was a good portrayal of how a love of reading can get young people through some difficult times. One

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Posted by : atcampbell | On : July 2, 2012

The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi

The reading group met at the North Village Library on July 3 to discuss Hannu Rajaniemi’s The Quantum Thief.  Billed as the first in a trilogy, it was published in 2010 and The Fractal Prince is scheduled for next September.  The author is a Finn with a PhD in mathematical physics.  This first novel received many laudatory reviews.  The comments of the ten members at the meeting, however, were extremely varied.

The tale begins with Jean le Flambeur, a famous “post human” thief and mind manipulator, although there are several viewpoint characters in this extremely complex story.  Jean is in a sort of virtual prison where he is condemned to a daily gun duel with himself which he always loses.  The goal is to work out a way

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Posted by : atcampbell | On : April 17, 2012

Queen of Shadows by Dianne Sylvan

Eight people attended this discussion at the Milwood Branch Library. Our topic was Queen of Shadows, the first novel by Austin writer Dianne Sylvan. The story is about an Austin musician named Miranda who gets involved with the world of vampires. None of us had read the author before. Five of us started the book, and all five finished it.

Everyone at the meeting commented said that they were not in general fans of the paranormal romance/urban fantasy genre to which this book clearly belongs. Despite that, we found the author’s storytelling kept us interested all the way to

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Posted by : atcampbell | On : April 2, 2012

Bug Jack Barron by Norman Spinrad

Nine people attended this meeting at the Milwood Library. Our topic was Bug Jack Barron, a classic sf novel published in 1970 by Norman Spinrad. Spinrad will be Guest of Honor at the forthcoming 2013 WorldCon in San Antonio.The book is about the powerful host of a national television show who comes across a big story involving cryogenics and immortality. Five people at the meeting had read Spinrad previously. Seven of us started the book, and four finished it.

One member expressed difficulty getting through the first chapter. She commented it was “just about the purplest prose you can write” and said the author’s prose style was a mix of bad beat poetry and lots of double-reflexive

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Posted by : atcampbell | On : March 20, 2012

Monster by A. Lee Martinez

Ten people attended this discussion at the Milwood Branch Library. Our topic was Monster, a humorous fantasy novel by Texas author A. Lee Martinez. The story is about a pest control expert who specializes in supernatural creatures like yetis and dragons. Five people at the meeting had read Martinez before. Eight of us started the book, and seven finished it.

One person said that he enjoyed reading a light, quick book with humor but no puns. He liked that the humor seasoned the book but was not the sole reason for it. He wondered in the author consulted a D&D manual in coming up with

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Posted by : atcampbell | On : December 5, 2011

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

The North Austin Reading Group met on December 5th at the North Village Branch of the Austin Public Library to discuss Jasper Fforde’s Shades of Grey.  Eight people attended; all had read Fforde before.  All started the book and 6 finished it.  The book was published by Viking Adult, December 2009.  It is available in hardback, paperback, audio book and on the Kindle.  One innovation, “The Shades of Grey Cheat Sheet,” can be found at http://www.jasperfforde.com/grey/images/cheat.pdf.  It’s a two-page list of some of the high points of a difficult-to-describe book.

This element—being hard to describe—made the book ideal for a discussion group.  The setting is of a dystopian post-apocalyptic society (the Something that Happened) with a pecking order determined by one’s sensitivity to and perception of color.  The “New Order” had undertaken “The Great Leap

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Posted by : atcampbell | On : October 9, 2011

Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds

The North Reading Group met on October 9th to discuss Terminal World, by Alastair Reynolds.  The book was published in mid-2010 by Gollancz and Ace Books.  It is set in the future, in a world with a geography resembling Mars, and begins in a city/structure called Spearpoint.  “Zones” existing at different energy states are inhabited by humans, some modified to exist in specific zones.  The zones are at different technology levels, and transitioning between them requires drugs and may induce debilitating or even fatal biological problems.  The

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