Archive for February, 2014

Theresa sent me some information to post here, since Ursula LeGuin’s book, The Left Hand of Darkness, was suggested at our recent planning meeting.

Westmont Library has a SF-F book group which meets at a restaurant in Westmont, and they are discussing The Left Hand of Darkness on Tuesday, March 4th.    So, if your interest was piqued at our meeting, there is an upcoming discussion.   To learn more about this group and their upcoming discussions, you can find them at: http://unrealworldbookclub.tumblr.com/  and http://westmontlibrary.org/unreal-world-book-club/.




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We will meet on Wednesday, February 26th at 7:00 pm to discuss Kraken by China Mieville.

With this outrageous new novel, China Miéville has written one of the strangest, funniest, and flat-out scariest books you will read this—or any other—year. The London that comes to life in Kraken is a weird metropolis awash in secret currents of myth and magic, where criminals, police, cultists, and wizards are locked in a war to bring about—or prevent—the End of All Things.

In the Darwin Centre at London’s Natural History Museum, Billy Harrow, a cephalopod specialist, is conducting a tour whose climax is meant to be the Centre’s prize specimen of a rare Architeuthis duxbetter known as the Giant Squid. But Billy’s tour takes an unexpected turn when the squid suddenly and impossibly vanishes into thin air.

As Billy soon discovers, this is the precipitating act in a struggle to the death between mysterious but powerful forces in a London whose existence he has been blissfully ignorant of until now, a city whose denizens—human and otherwise—are adept in magic and murder.

There is the Congregation of God Kraken, a sect of squid worshippers whose roots go back to the dawn of humanity—and beyond. There is the criminal mastermind known as the Tattoo, a merciless maniac inked onto the flesh of a hapless victim. There is the FSRC—the Fundamentalist and Sect-Related Crime Unit—a branch of London’s finest that fights sorcery 

with sorcery. There is Wati, a spirit from ancient Egypt who leads a ragtag union of magical familiars. There are the Londonmancers, who read the future in the city’s entrails. There is Grisamentum, London’s greatest wizard, whose shadow lingers long after his death. And then there is Goss and Subby, an ageless old man and a cretinous boy who, together, constitute a terrifying—yet darkly charismatic—demonic duo.

All of them—and others—are in pursuit of Billy, who inadvertently holds the key to the missing squid, an embryonic god whose powers, properly harnessed, can destroy all that is, was, and ever shall be. (summary courtesy of Goodreads)

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We met on January 29th to discuss Redshirts by John Scalzi.  I’ll do my best here to summarize what people had to say, but we always welcome more discussion — so comments are welcome!

  • Our discussion actually began with some comments about the codas in the book.  Glenn said it was “the best ending ever” — he wasn’t expecting this, and thought it was awesome, and liked how Scalzi tied things together.
  • Menolly said that she really loved the beginning of the book, where the characters are making their various discoveries.  However, she was glad this wasn’t the entire story, and that Scalzi took things much further.  Other readers agreed with this, as well.
  • Burt Macklin, FBI, however, said he was disappointed when the characters found out they were on a TV show — he liked something imposing The Narrative, but he felt the story lost its way when the characters went in search of the writers.   Theresa – made a comparison to another book – Sophie’s World – and here, where they break out of their world and come back – the whole idea of being in charge of your own destiny.
  • There were some readers who really enjoyed the various Star Trek-esque parts.  Rachel, as a longtime Star Trek fan, enjoyed it immensely.  Furry, and other readers, said they loved the part where they are introduced to The Box, which is like a little microwave.  Rachel said this took her back to the original Star Trek show, where they would use something that looked like a salt shaker, but made it into something very sci-fi.
  • Hola made a comparison to GalaxyQuest, which she really liked.  She had started the book thinking it would be a text version of that and liked the turn for the meta that the book took.  She appreciated that the author took it to a deeper level and still managed to keep a lot of humor in the story.   Nathan said he also liked the book, although he said it was a bit lighter than he expected, and he was surprised it won the awards that it did.   Les said he was just relieved that there wasn’t a main smart-alecky character (well, not too smart-alecky).
  • However, lest we go too deeply into the Scalzi adoration …. not all readers loved the book.  Mike said that he “found the book trite, shallow and really thought the ending was like someone called him to dinner and he didn’t come back.”  He said he actually liked the codas better than the story.  However, he read the book twice and still felt there should be more.  However, he admitted that he was never a big fan of Star Trek – he got the joke, but in his opinion, it had occasional flashes of inspiration, like the opening scene with the land worms.  However, he wanted more explanation — although he wondered if it was supposed to be read   like a written episode of Star Trek where there isn’t a lot of explanation?     Taylor said that she liked that it was a short read, but she didn’t have any feelings one way or the other on the book (so for her, this was a middle-ground kind of read).   Another read, who admitted that he is not a huge Scalzi fan, said he felt, to the extent that this works for a reader, it’s a case of being a geek cultural artifact.  People talk about it friends with similar interests.  It’s an homage.  He said the character of Kerensky was a high point for him and that he liked the directions that that went in, and that there is a narrative and people hiding out from the narrative and liked how this fit together.
  • Burt Macklin, FBI listened to the audiobook, which led us to ask how it was (considering it’s read by Wil Wheaton).  He thought it was fine and said he’s found there are 2 different kind of readers — those who read the text (like Wheaton) and some who give everyone their own voice, like Jim Dale, where it’s a performance.    But he thought that Wheaton read it pretty well.  He also remembered that Wheaton “went all Shatnerian” in a few parts, which was funny.
  • Hola stated that she didn’t like that there aren’t many descriptions; you don’t know what people look like, what the ship looks like, etc.   Glenn said he felt there were lots of referential things here, so when Scalzi mentions someone or something, you can tell who it is.   So, a description isn’t necessary.    Rachel pointed out that they are Red Shirts. after all.  Menolly said that for her, Star Trek focuses a lot on the ship and the main characters and you get panning shots, and in this book, it’s not about the ship or the captain; it’s about the ancillary guys who get killed off. Theresa pointed out that in our discussion of Fuzzy Nation, that Scalzi lets us build up our mental image for each character based on their personalities — and that many readers liked this.  Hola said she understood these points, but still felt the characters were interchangable — which other readers thought might be the author’s intention.


Mr. Scalzi was kind enough to answer a few questions that I sent him, on behalf of the group.  I’ll share one of those here:

Do you have a favorite Star Trek episode (original or TNG) or character?    Favorite episode is “Yesterday’s Enterprise” from TNG, which I think is where that series finally got onto solid footing. Favorite characters, in no particular order: Spock, Data, Q.
Please note — we have enough devoted John Scalzi fans in this group that his upcoming book was chosen for our next reading cycle.  There was only a brief synopsis of the book to go on, but we chose it anyway.  That’s dedication for you.

The group gave this book the codes: HAA, SOP, TTL, LEL, HUGO and the averaged-out rating was a 4.   As I mentioned, we welcome more comments to continue our discussion, so if you have something to say, please do!

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We had our annual Planning Meeting on Wednesday, January 29th and it was great.  Seriously, it was — a lot of people brought suggestions, and there was a lot of variety.   We did select books for our next cycle of reading, but I always like to give people the entire list, so that everyone can see it.   I will mention that the “We can’t help ourselves … we’re out of control” comes from our discussion of how hard it is to narrow down our choices, because there are so many books we want to read and discuss.  

So, onward to the suggestions!    I have included links to all of the books on Goodreads, so you can read a summary of the book.   Also, the books chosen for our upcoming selections are the ones with a ** next to them.   

An Unexpected Apprentice by Jody Lynn Nye **
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Variable Star by Robert Heinlein and Spider Robinson **
Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe
Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan **
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon **
The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty
Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
A Call to Arms by Alan Dean Foster
The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters **
The Dragon Griaule by Lucius Shepard **
Elisha Barber by E.C. Ambrose
Lock In by John Scalzi **
Velveteen versus the Super Junior Patriots by Seanan McGuire
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman **
Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear **
WickedLovely by Melissa Marr
The Demons at Rainbow Bridge by Jack Chalker
The Daedalus Incident by Michael Martinez  **
The Dark Mirror by Juliet Marillier **
Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton
Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire
The Princess Bride by William Goldman **
Neuromancer by William Gibson **
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin
The Best Time Travel Stories of the 20th Century

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