Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Genre Reading Group Recap

f you didn’t attend the Genre Reading Group’s science fiction/fantasy meeting last night, then you definitely missed out on some great conversation!  Half of our group was completely new to the genres while the other half had varying levels of experience with both.  We talked about an eclectic mix of alternate history, dystopian fiction, hard-core science fiction, and adventure-filled fantasy.  There was something for everyone! (Reviews taken from Amazon)

Don't miss out next time!  Our next meeting is December 30th at 6:30pm and we will be having a Salon Discussion of our Favorite Books of the Year! Please make plans to join us!  The library will be on Holiday Hours and will close at 6pm but I will be here and I hope you will be too!

The ballot for choosing the next round of genres is now available.  Come by the library to pick up a ballot or send me an email with your name and address and I will get one out to you in the mail.  Choose, but choose wisely...

Without further ado, here is a list of what we talked about:

Ghosts in the Snow by Tamara Siler Jones 
This unique debut thriller combines forensics, fantasy, and edge-of-your-seat suspense like never before. In a world where sorcery is illegal, someone is murdering young women in ways that defy all reason—and all detection. Only one man knows how to track such an untraceable killer…for Dubric Bryerly, head of security at Castle Faldorrah, saving lives has become a matter of saving his sanity. A silent killer is afoot, savagely mutilating servant girls and leaving behind no clues and no witnesses—except the gruesome ghosts of the victims. Ghosts that only Dubric can see.  (READER COMMENTS: feels like historical fiction, gruesome but humorous, this series continues with Threads of Malice and Valley of the Soul

Territory by Emma Bull
Wyatt Earp. Doc Holliday. Ike Clanton.  You think you know the story. You don’t. Tombstone, Arizona in 1881 is the site of one of the richest mineral strikes in American history, where veins of silver run like ley lines under the earth, a network of power that belongs to anyone who knows how to claim and defend it.  Above the ground, power is also about allegiances. A magician can drain his friends' strength to strengthen himself, and can place them between him and danger. The one with the most friends stands to win the territory. Events are building toward the shootout of which you may have heard. But you haven't heard the whole, secret story until you've read Emma Bull's unique take on an American legend, in which absolutely nothing is as it seems... (READER COMMENTS: a good Western tale, but I kept waiting for the magic to happen and it never really did.  I expected more magic and sorcery than actually happened in the book, abrupt ending but a sequel is supposedly in the works)

The Taking by Dean Koontz
A glowing rain begins falling at one a.m. in the San Bernardino Mountains of California, where productive but hardly best-selling novelist Molly Sloan and her ex-priest husband, Neil, live outside a small town. Besides being luminous, the downpour smells strange, Molly thinks, and it brings with it a feeling of oppression. Animals cower from it, as Molly grasps when she sees a pack of coyotes huddling on the porch. They seem to be appealing to her for help, and when she walks out to them, they seem to expect her to lead them. She goes to wake Neil, rescuing him from a nightmare, and to wash--no, scour--her hands where the rain hit them. The torrent continues, taking out the power, but then appliances come on spontaneously, and the hands of clocks run wildly in opposite directions. The Sloan’s conclude they must leave after an interior mirror reflects the house as invaded by ghastly vegetation--but doesn't reflect them at all. Opening sequences come no creepier than this one, and the rest of Koontz's version of the extraterrestrial attack scenario so well lives up to it that the revelation, painstakingly apprehended by Molly, of who the aliens really are, comes as no surprise. Nor do Koontz's authorial insertions about modernity and social degeneracy seem anything but explanatory in the context of this gripping, blood-curdling, thought-provoking parable.  (READER COMMENTS: I snuck away from my family to get in a few more chapters, creepy, atmospheric, I loved it, two other Koontz novels to read are Intensity and Fear Nothing) 

The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure by William Goldman
American writer William Goldman's The Princess Bride is the result of a huge labour of love. He fell in love with Morgenstern's 'classic tale of true love and high adventure' when he was ill as a child. In 1973 he produced his abridged version which concentrates on the fantasy and adventure elements of the original, following the fortunes of wonderful characters such as the mighty Fezzik, Prince Humperdinck and Buttercup, the 'beautifulest' lady in the world. This cult book defies category - thriller, fairy tale, adventure, love story - and is by turns scary, funny and magical. Brilliant stuff. (READER COMMENTS: Everyone has seen the movie but no one ever reads the book.  It was very interesting to see what the differences were.  William Goldman wrote the screenplay for the Princess Bride movie and also for the Oscar-winning movies Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All the President’s Men)

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
With his wife dead and buried, and life nearly over at 75, John Perry takes the only logical course of action left him: he joins the army. Now better known as the Colonial Defense Force (CDF), Perry's service-of-choice has extended its reach into interstellar space to pave the way for human colonization of other planets while fending off marauding aliens. The CDF has a trick up its sleeve that makes enlistment especially enticing for seniors: the promise of restoring youth. After bonding with a group of fellow recruits who dub their clique the Old Farts, Perry finds himself in a new body crafted from his original DNA and upgraded for battle, including fast-clotting "smartblood" and a brain-implanted personal computer. All too quickly the Old Farts are separated, and Perry fights for his life on various alien-infested battlegrounds. Scalzi's blending of wry humor and futuristic warfare recalls Joe Haldeman's classic, The Forever War (1974), and strikes the right fan--pleasing chords to probably garner major sf award nominations. (READER COMMENTS: a great series that has romance, humor, and mind-bending discussions of humanity, war, and colonization, highly recommended, readers of the Ender’s Game novels would enjoy this and vice versa, the series continues with The Ghost Brigades and The Last Colony.  There is a standalone novel set in the same universe called Zoe’s Tale) 

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
Readers of epic fantasy series are: (1) patient--they are left in suspense between each volume, (2) persistent--they reread or at least review the previous book(s) when a new installment comes out, (3) strong--these 700-page doorstoppers are heavy, and (4) mentally agile--they follow a host of characters through a myriad of subplots. In A Game of Thrones, the first book of a projected six, George R.R. Martin rewards readers with a vividly real world, well-drawn characters, complex but coherent plotting, and beautifully constructed prose, which Locus called "well above the norms of the genre."  Martin's Seven Kingdoms resemble England during the Wars of the Roses, with the Stark and Lannister families standing in for the York’s and Lancaster’s. The story of these two families and their struggle to control the Iron Throne dominates the foreground; in the background is a huge, ancient wall marking the northern border, beyond which barbarians, ice vampires, and direwolves menace the south as years-long winter advances. Abroad, a dragon princess lives among horse nomads and dreams of fiery reconquest. There is much bloodshed, cruelty, and death, but A Game of Thrones is nevertheless compelling; it garnered a Nebula nomination and won the 1996 Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel.  (READER COMMENTS: well worth the investment of time, somewhat resembles Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth but with a bit more violence and adult content.  Brave but deceitful knights, beautiful yet lethal women, back-stabbing court intrigue…this book has it all.  The series continues with A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows and the fall 2009-to-be published, A Dance with Dragons) 

His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik
In this delightful first novel, the opening salvo of a trilogy, Novik seamlessly blends fantasy into the history of the Napoleonic wars. Here be dragons, beasts that can speak and reason, bred for strength and speed and used for aerial support in battle. Each nation has its own breeds, but none are so jealously guarded as the mysterious dragons of China. Veteran Capt. Will Laurence of the British Navy is therefore taken aback after his crew captures an egg from a French ship and it hatches a Chinese dragon, which Laurence names Temeraire. When Temeraire bonds with the captain, the two leave the navy to sign on with His Majesty's sadly understaffed Aerial Corps, taking on the French in sprawling, detailed battles that Novik renders with admirable attention to 19th-century military tactics. Though the dragons they encounter are often more fully fleshed-out than the stereotypical human characters, the author's palpable love for her subject and a story rich with international, interpersonal and internal struggles more than compensate. (READER COMMENTS: I particularly enjoyed Capt. Laurence’s developing relationship with Temeraire and the secret integration of women into the Aerial Corps.  Great historical fiction with a dash of dragon, readers of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey Maturin series should take note of these titles, the series continues with Throne of Jade, Black Powder War, Empire of Ivory, and Victory of Eagles)

Happy Reading!


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