Archive for November, 2012

As always, people have a chance to mention what else they’ve been reading lately — these are the extra books from our November discussion:

Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold; Borders of Infinity by Lois McMaster Bujold; Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold; Cordelia’s Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold;

All the Way to the Gallows by David Drake; The Sharp End by David Drake

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

Pump Six and Other Stories by Paolo Bacigalupi; Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi; The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi

The Spenser Series by Robert B. Parker

The Wire (season 2)


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The group met last night to discuss Paolo Bacigalupi’s book, The Windup Girl.   While this wasn’t one of our more raucous discussions, people did have a lot of comments about the book.   Here’s some of what people (some of whom use an alias) had to say:

  • Furry said that she thought the author did a great job with the parallel stories, and liked that ecology is a big part of the book.  She thought the author’s concepts were interesting, like how there were no petroleum products being used.  She compared the agricultural companies in the story to current-day companies, and talked about the issues with saving seeds.  She also liked the concept of the New People, and mentioned they reminded her of the replicants in Bladerunner, a comparison that other readers echoed.
  • Pokéthulu also really enjoyed the book, and also mentioned how the story made her think of current agricultural companies and their practices.  She liked the characters, and found she really rooted for Emiko.  While she felt some of the characters and story were a little contrived, she expected some of this (since this is fiction).
  • Hola, on the other hand, didn’t like the book very much.  In particular, she didn’t care for the sexual slavery and humiliation of Emiko, and felt that generally, all the characters were pretty horrible.  While she appreciated that the author had  a good imagination, and even a bit of whimsy at time (like with the cheshire cats), that to her, there was almost no glimmer of humanity in the book, and instead, a focus on avarice and greed.   There were other readers who also had an issue with how graphic some of the sex scenes were.   Another reader said that he understood the reactions to these scenes, but pointed out that it all tied into how flawed the characters are, and that they show the motivations for the change that Emiko experiences.
  • There were a few readers who found they had a difficult time finishing the book.   Ed said he thought the book had some interesting concepts, but had a hard time getting into the story.  He felt it was heavy on agenda and light on plot.  Other readers found the book a bit too grim (and too dense) to finish it.  Other readers found it difficult to keep track of all of the characters, and follow the story, and it seemed people who listened to the audiobook especially had that happen.
  • Kathleen said “This is why I read science fiction,” and felt that the book was a great example of a “what happens if this goes on” kind of scenario.  She liked the setting of the foreign country (although it was accessible to the Western mind), and liked the realistic elements of the story.  She is very familiar with the history and structure of Thailand’s government, culture, and politics, and thought the author did a good job with those elements of the story.   She also made the comment that, “Who controls the food supply, controls the world,” which is something we all agreed we could see not only in this particular book, but generally in our own world.   Burt Macklin, FBI said he thought the author was very successful at world building, and even though the story was set outside of Bangkok, that he felt he got a good feel for what the rest of the world was probably like, and the various powers that were competingf or cominance.
  • One person said that he liked the book’s non-American perspectives, and felt it was an intelligent book — he also mentioned that this story reminded him of a more positive story by Neal Stephenson, The Diamond Age, where there is a near-future world revolutionized by nanotechnology.
  • Menolly found the book very dark, but also felt that some authors deliberately make their stories like this as a form of an object lesson.  She mentioned how in our own grocery stores that there is genetically modified produce, and felt that in this story, the author was imagining a possible outcome of this kind of thing.  She felt the author seemed to have an agenda, and to give a wakeup call on some of the issues that we face today.   There were some general comparisons by readers to other books and authors, such as William Gibson, 1984 by George Orwell, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick.    Mike C said that he read this and thought about what he’s read in the news over the last 6 months, and saw many of the same elements: military rule, climate change, etc.     One person said that he thought about the pessimistic feel of the book in relation to a recent article by author Neal Stephenson about pessimism, in general, in modern science fiction.
  • Kathy mentioned that she had enjoyed one of the author’s short stories, The Fluted Girl, and had been looking forward to reading this book.  While she found there were similarities between the two stories, she found this book disappointing, and thought parts of it were too repetitive.  For example, the fact that there was never any change in scenery made the book feel oppressive (although we all figured this was intentional on the part of the author).
  • We had some general discussion of the dark feel of the book, and the society that Bacigalupi gives us in the story.  One reader commented that in today’s world, there are still people for whom every day is a struggle for survival, and that in this book, the author shows that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  There are still politics, corruption and greed, for example.    One person said he wondered what the rest of the world was like.  He mentioned how we don’t really get a picture of how people in other places, like Des Moines, are living.
  • We also had some general discussion of the characters in the story.  Some people commented on how they felt like they didn’t know who to root for, and for a few, they found that at the end, they were rooting for characters that they hadn’t expected to.  One person said that she found that with all of the characters, where their storylines all coverged towards the end, that she felt manipulated; she didn’t feel like it was a natural evolution of the story, but instead, that it felt somewhat forced.  Mike pointed out that we probably react to the non-uplifting qualities of the characters in this story the way we do because we’re so used to stories that give us characters that are uplifting.  Here, we have realistic people.   Pokéthulu commented that we do see some elements that speak to the good of humanity, like how the yellow cards were let in to Thailand.     As far as Emiko was concerned, there were some mixed reactions to her.  Sabine commented that her whole responding to commands was very reminiscent of The Manchurian Candidate, and other readers agreed with her.   Another reader said that she felt that although Emiko was a New Person, that she felt the most human out of everyone in the story.  Burt Macklin, FBI said he wished more time had been spent with Gibbons, because he felt that that character had the most interesting and insightful observation in the entire book (and other people agreed that they, also, would have liked a bit more from this character).
  • Burt Macklin, FBI also mentioned that he thought the use of religion in the story was interesting.   He said that he liked how Kanya’s superstitions were contrasted with Jaidee’s pragmatism, and having his ghost manifest to show her doubts about what she’s done was a good way to show her inner conflict.  Other readers agreed, and one person pointed out that this was another way that the author incorporated Asian culture into the story.
  • Some readers said they wondered about why the author had no alternate power sources in the story — where was the solar power, or the wind power?  What about batteries?   Some people thought it had something to do with the fact that there were no petroleum plastics available, but still wondered about whether there would have been a solution to this.

The averaged rating from the group was a 3.5, and the codes assigned to the book were: DOM, ECO, NFW, POL, and UTP (as well as HUGO and NEB).

As always, more discussion is welcome — if you’ve read the book and would like to leave a comment, please do!

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Hi Gals and Guys,

If you have not already guessed I try to stay well informed when it comes to environmental and climate change issues.  SO, with that being stated here are a few snip-it’s that I found interesting and some articles that relate to the basic idea of the quote referenced.


  • ‘…research clubs in Des Moines.’ Page 2


A wonderful info graphic that shows where our seed comes from, I highly suggest that you read.  I would also suggest that you watch the video midway down the page and take a quick glance at each company’s web page.  I know that it has been edited but it is still worth a view.

  • ‘…illegal dung fires.’ Page 3


A clean cook stove that burns found wood not just charcoal and can help prevent deforestation and carbon emissions.

  • ‘…spending millions to produce trash that will cost millions more to destroy.’ Page 11
  • ‘Pollen wafts down the peninsula in steady surges; bearing AgriGen and PurCal’s largest genetic rewrites, while cheshires….’



http://www.dailytech.com/Monsanto+Defeats+Small+Farmers+in+Critical+Bioethics+Class+Action+Suit/article24118.htm  A really good article about contamination and cross-pollination in neighboring fields that do not use Monsanto seed. March 1, 2012

  • ‘.. .the winding man did not load enough joules.’ Page 63


http://www.passivehousemidwest.com/Home.html  ‘Passive houses’ that require no furnace. http://chicagotonight.wttw.com/2011/01/19/passive-house a spot from Chicago Tonight.

  • ‘…they undoubtedly tossed aside fruit that was even the slightest bit bruised’ Page 64




We already produce enough food to feed everyone on the planet plus more.  Above are some interesting articles and food facts.

  • ‘…light propane tank twice a day.’ Page 67


Not about lighting propane tanks but in many countries the water is turned on only twice a day.  Every year illegal water pumps are confiscated in India.

  • ‘And then came the oversight of power contracts trading in pollution credits and climate infractions’ Page 121

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-pollution-credits-20121120,0,1417750.story  California’s first carbon-credit auction.  Nov. 20, 2012

  • ‘Jadee passes a woman selling bananas’ Page 121

http://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/2008-06/can-fruit-be-saved  A live science article about how the banana is going extinct.  Funny how in this world we do not have peppers but the banana strives.

  • Algae-based fuel on sale in Bay Area


  • I also highly suggest you watch the documentary Food Inc.


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At WindyCon, I attended another book discussion, hosted by the Phandemonium Book Club.   And yes, another nice group of people — so I wanted to post information about them, as well.     Helen Montgomery, who I met at the book group, gave me some information on the group:

We meet on Sunday evenings at 7pm at the Cosi restaurant in downtown Evanston.  1740 N Sherman Ave, 60201

 Upcoming meetings will be:

Sunday, January 13 – Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart

Capricon 33 (February 7-10) – Robopocolypse by Daniel H Wilson (our Author Guest of Honor) – exact day/time is TBD, it’s usually on Friday or Saturday of the convention.


You can find more information on Phandemonium and the book group on their official BLOG, and also on their FACEBOOK page.

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I wanted to pass this information along in the blog, and I’ll also be bringing some info with me to our November book group meeting.  When I recently went to WindyCon, I attended a book discussion of the Chicago SF, and they were a really nice group of people.
Chicago SF is the Chicago Speculative Fiction Community, and they have a monthly meetup, but they also have a reading group, game nights, movie outings, and more.    Click on the link to learn more about them, and see what they have coming up in their schedule – here’s their calendar link.  I see that their December book discussion choice is Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card.  That book discussion group meets on the 3rd Saturday of every month at 2:00 pm at the Oak Park Public Library.

Their calendar shows other book discussion groups that are SF-F oriented (including ours, which they have nicely included on their site), so if the third Saturday in Oak Park doesn’t work for you, there might be another one that does.  And, as mentioned, they have other events going on, so definitely check them out.   🙂

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WindyCon is this weekend, at the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center — and I saw in the programming that there will be 2 book groups meeting at the Con.    So, if you’re interested in what they’re discussing, or what they have to say, here’s the info:

Saturday at 11:00 am: Phandemonium Book Club
The Phandemonium Book Club will be discussing this year’s winner of the Hugo Award for Best Novel, Among Others by Jo Walton

Saturday at 1:00 pm: Newsflesh Book Discussion
Hosted by the Chicago SF Reading Group, led by Kathy Lehman

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Our November selection is The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi.   Here’s the summary (courtesy of GoodReads):

In this Time Magazine top 10 book of the year, Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen’s Calorie Man in Thailand. Undercover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok’s street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history’s lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko. Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. Regarded as soulless beings by some, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich in a chilling near future in which calorie companies rule the world, the oil age has passed, and the side effects of bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe. What Happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits, when said bio-terrorism’s genetic drift forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution?

We’ll be meeting on Wednesday, November 28th at 7:00 pm in Meeting Room B.  I’m not sure yet what to bake …. any suggestions ???

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