Nominations for Book Discussion Group (BDG) from March to April 2001

The nomination period is CLOSED.



Nominated books: 14

Recommendations:


Dorothy Bryant: The Kin of Ata Are Waiting for You
2 synopses on Amazon:
Synopsis 1: A car crash causes a young writer to journey into a dream world, where, for three weeks, he encounters people from the island of Ata and embarks on a series of adventures, accompanied by a woman seeking spiritual and sexual enlightenment. Reprint.
Synopsis 2: Part love story, part utopian fantasy, part spiritual fable, The Kin of Ata Are Waiting for You is "a beautiful, symbolic journey of the soul" (Berkeley Monthly). Into the world of the Ata comes a desperate man,
running from a fast life of fame and fortune, drugs and crime. He is led by the kin of Ata on a spiritual journey that, sooner or later, we all must take.

From the Publisher
The kin of Ata live only for the dream. Their work, their art, their love are designed in and by their dreams, and their only aim is to dream higher dreams. Into the world of Ata comes a desperate man, who is first subdued
and then led on the spiritual journey that, sooner or later, all of us must make. The Kin of Ata Are Waiting for You is part love story, part science fiction, at once Jungian myth and utopian allegory.



Octavia Butler: Lilith's Brood
Omnibus of the “Xenogenesis” trilogy: Dawn (1988), Adulthood Rites (1988), and Imago (1989).


Sharyn McCrumb: Bimbos of the Death Sun
WINNER OF THE EDGAR AWARD!

Description from Amazon.com:
For one fateful weekend, the annual science fiction and fantasy convention, Rubicon, has all but taken over a usually  ordinary hotel. Now the halls are alive with Trekkies, tech nerds, and fantasy gamers in their Viking finery *all of them eager to hail their hero, bestselling fantasy author Appin Dungannon: a diminutive despot whose towering ego more than
compensates for his 5' 1" height . . . and whose gleeful disdain for his fawning fans is legendary.

Hurling insults and furniture with equal abandon, the terrible, tiny author proceeds to alienate ersatz aliens and make-believe warriors at warp speed. But somewhere between the costume contest and the exhibition Dungeons & Dragons game, Dungannon gets done in. While die-hard fans of Dungannon's seemingly endless sword-and-sorcery series wonder how they'll go on and hucksters wonder how much they can get for the dead man's autograph, a hapless cop wonders, Who would want to kill Appin Dungannon? But the real question, as the harried convention organizers know, is Who wouldn't ?

Comments from moi:
You will piss yourself from laughing so hard reading this book.

Further reviews:
by Kevin Lauderdale


Keith Hartman: The Gumshoe, the Witch, and the Virtual Corpse
I read this book quite a while ago, but I still pull it out every so often for a chuckle.  There is also a lot of social commentary in it and a unique vision of a near-future Atlanta.  One of the reasons why I wanted to discuss it is because I liked the politics in it but was unsure of my thoughts about some of the characterizations.  I am curious to hear other folks' opinions.  The book is a page turner certainly once you get used to the jumpy multiple point-of-view style.

All the quotes below are from Amazon
"The date is September 2024. Atlanta is a patchwork of subcultures, coexisting but not communicating. Young gays are all Catholic; since the gay gene was identified, others countenance abortion in the case of homosexuality. Baptists, represented by televangelist media mogul and U.S. Senator Zachary Stonewall,  denounce Wiccans as Satanists (along with most other denominations). The Wiccans worship naked, though, and Wiccan magick actually works. The Cherokee made their pile in casino gambling and seek a return to Native culture in Northern Georgia, led by a  cross-dressing shaman who actually sees the spirit world.

That's the backdrop for The Gumshoe, The Witch, and The Virtual Corpse, a noir mystery-thriller with SF and fantasy elements…"

Charles de Lint, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, June 1999
"If you can get past the unwieldy (and rather too cutesy) title, there's a fine debut novel by Keith Hartman. What  kind of novel I'm at a little of a loss to say. Equal arguments can be made that it's a police procedural, a contemporary Wiccan fantasy, a gay PI novel, a near future sf thriller, a novel of social commentary, and even, in the sections from the point of view of one character, a YA coming of age story.

In the end, it's a bit of them all, I suppose, which is part of what made me enjoy it so much. I love a book that breaks down the walls between genres, that just tells a story, the author trusting himself and the story enough to let it go wherever it leads him."

Oh yes, I enjoyed this novel. Very much. It's a deft, unusual combination of mystery, social commentary, fantasy,  and humor. I couldn't have told you where it was going until the last chapter, but I kept reading faster and faster find out. --P.C. Hodgell

A Fabulous romp-- with some sharp edges. --Nicola Griffith

Liked his hero, loved his plot, and envied his style --Mike Resnick

Witty, inventive, and endlessly entertaining, Hartman's debut novel seamlessly weaves the plausible and the outrageous, the hilarious and the fearful. This is an amazing book. --Nancy Kress

This is a wonderful first novel by an exciting new author. I look forward to seeing more of his work. --Lee Killough

Compelling and engrossing, this book grabbed me and didn't let go until long after the end.  --Nina Kiriki Hoffman



Nancy Kress: Beggars in Spain
Well, thinking ahead to WisCon, I'd like to nominate something by Nancy Kress.

I've read the novella/short story from _Beakers Dozen_ "Beggars in Spain" and found it interesting enough to want to start the trilogy.  _Beggars_ is the FIRST book, and would be about what happens when parents can select to have genetically modified children (who become adults) who don't require sleep and their interactions with the rest of the world.

Info: The novella "Beggars in Spain" (1991) was later extended to the nominated novel Beggars in Spain (1993). Sequels to Beggars are Beggars and Choosers and Beggars Ride.



Ursula K. Le Guin, Todd Barton, Margaret Chodos-Irvine, geor Hersh: Always Coming Home (California Fiction)
Description from Amazon.com:

Ursula Le Guin's Always Coming Home is a major work of the imagination from one of America's most respected writers of science fiction. More than five years in the making, it is a novel unlike any other. A rich and complex interweaving of story and fable, poem, artwork, and music, it totally immerses the reader in the culture of the Kesh, a peaceful people of the far future who inhabit a place called the Valley on the Northern Pacific Coast.

From Locus Index: An unusual combination of sf “novel” by Le Guin, line drawings by Margaret Chodos, and a cassette of music by Todd Barton (plus readings by Le Guin), depicting a far-future California society.
However, from the available information it is unclear whether the edition soon to be published will contain all these parts!



Elizabeth A. Lynn: The Northern Girl
another classic of feminist science fiction

The back cover describes it: "At a time when the use of weapons has been forgotten, and the dancing cheari warriors of Arun are only a myth, a magical land knows peace. Then a young servant girl called Sorren is haunted by her dreams of Tornor Keep - the legendary tower that was created to pprotect the realm from its enemies. To discover the meaning of these visions, she will undergo a quest to the watchtower; and a humble girl will become part of a revolution in which the common people will find the courage to stand up to tyranny..."

The cover also sports favorable blurbs by Vonda McIntyre, Marge Piercy and Joanna Russ.

This is the third in the Chronicles of Tornor, a series whose first volume, *Watchtower*, won the World Fantasy Award in 1980. The three books take place at different times in their world's history and do not have to be read in order. *The Northern Girl* is the only one to be told from the point of view of a female character. I first read it over ten years ago and
remember the way Lynn's matter-of-fact descriptions of sexuality and the power of women bent my brain in new directions. I am eager to reread it and very happy that it is back in print.



Louise Marley: The Terrorists of Irustan



Maureen F. McHugh: Mission Child
Maureen McHugh has been on my 'buy' list since I read and enjoyed China Mountain Zhang.

Reviews of Mission Child on Amazon are mixed - the main 'grumble' theme seems to be that nothing much happens.  Given the rather extravagently packed plot line (which I won't tell you about), this criticism is absurd
at face value.  But it *is* true that the main points of the story are interior rather than exterior - and many are not ever really resolved.&nbbsp; I think it is this, rather any actual lack of action, that the 'anti' reviewers are responding to.

Why might *you* be interested in it?  The lead cover review from Booklist says:

"Another astonishing, compulsively readable movel...McHugh tells a classic story of the clash between tradition and technology as seen with the eyes and heard of an indomitable unforgettable protagonist."

Why might *BDG* be interested in it?

The lead protogonist is female - although some ambiguity develops on this point, which may be of interest to people who have an interest in transgender issues.   The treatment of this element is personal, pragmatic,
and also mystical - not explicitly anthropological or political.

The lead reminds me of the lead in 'Miss Smilla's feeling for snow' by Peter Hoeg (which I think had another title in the US).   She's taciturn, and takes things as they come.  She also has a capacity for survival in the most unlikely and harrowing circumstances, which are supplied in ample measure. And it snows a lot.  The environment in which she acts is reminiscent of Lapland - but is on another planet.   Theere is a Cherryh-like theme of loss of contact with the main thrust of colonial expansion - and rediscovery at some years remove.

Hoeg meets Cherryh by way of McIntyre might be the elevator pitch for this book.  I found it very compelling as a novel.  If it's not chosen for BDG in this round - I encourage you to check it out, if the above description appeals.



Vonda N. McIntyre: The Moon and the Sun
Review from Kirkus Reviews, 07/01/1997:
"A dazzling and spirited evocation of the passions, intrigues, and, preconceptions of the age, along with a dandy pair of misfit, star-crossed lovers: an enchanting slice of what-if historical speculation."

Review from Locus:
"...Vonda N. McIntyre is anything but a standard fantasist....[She] has the skills to explore matters sociological, theological, and thoroughly 'outre', in the course of an absorbing, sometimes harrowing, adventure.... [A] genuinely impressive novel." -- Faren Miller

Review:
A successful sf writer takes a stab at alternate history in this Gothic tale featuring a captured sea monster in 17th-century France.

Review:
Inspired by tales of ancient sea-monsters, McIntyre (The Crystal Star) spins a marvelous alternative-history fable about greed and goodness, power and pathos set at the 17th century court of Louis XIV, France's glittering Sun
King. At breathtaking (and chilly) Versailles, Louis pays for his glory by sacrificing his comfort and privacy. He lusts after bodily immortality and unending treasure, and he hopes to find both by devouring the entrails of a sea-woman trapped by Jesuit explorer Yves de la Croix. Enthralled by the creature's songs and telepathic tales, Yves's musician sister Marie-Josphe must defy brother, king and pope to save the sea-woman from the court butcher. Marie-Jos phe isn't alone in her proto-ecofeminist struggle. She finds an ally (and lover) in Lucien, Comte de Chr‚tien, a great-hearted dwarf whose inner pain and essential nobility recall Cyrano and Quasimodo.
Drawing on deep research (detailed in an afterword), McIntyre vividly re-creates a Versailles poised on the cusp between alchemy and modern science. Her imaginings enliven her history with wonder, but, as in the best fantasy, they serve less to dazzle by their inventiveness than to illuminate brilliantly real-world truthss here, humanity's responses, base and noble, when confronting the unknown. (Sept.)

Further reviews:
by Kevin Lauderdale



Pat Murphy: The Falling Woman
I liked Murphy's _The City, Not Long After_ and I would like to read more by her. In an anecdote Pat Murphy related that an aquaintance told her that he admired the book very much, but it had one fault: there was no significant male protagonist. All important protagonists were women. _The Falling Woman_ won the 1987 Nebula Award.

Reviews are rather mixed. I highlight the more positive:

Under the covers review by Paul Lappen (Highly Recommended)
"Elizabeth Butler is the leader of an archaeological dig on the site of an ancient Mayan city on the present-day Yucatan Peninsula. She basically ran away from home years before, leaving a husband and young daughter, because she was very uncomfortable as a wife and mother. One day, Diane, her daughter, now grown up, arrives at the site to try to connect with the mother she never knew, and to tell Elizabeth of the death of her ex-husband. Because of Elizabeth's inexperience as a mother, the relationship between the two is strained.

Back at the Mayan city, Elizabeth has somehow acquired the ability to see ghosts, or shadows, of the people who lived there centuries before. She is actually able to converse with one of them, a Mayan priestess. The Mayan calendar consists of several cycles at the same time. The very bad part of the calendar is approaching; to appease the Mayan gods, a human sacrifice is expected from Elizabeth.

This is an excellent novel. It is a very good mixture of myth and reality, of ancient and present-day culture, with a bit of fantasy and horror included. Here is a brilliant piece of writing."

The Linköping Science Fiction & Fantasy Archive (review by Evelyn C. Leeper)
"This book won the 1988 Nebula and deservedly so.  It is a fantasy, but not one of those Tolkienesque elves-or-what-have-you-on-a-quest-to-save-the-world-from-the-ultimate -evil sort of novel.  (No slur towards Tolkien--he did it early and he did it better.  But, oh the imitators he spawned!)  THE FALLING WOMAN is about an archaeologist who is very involved with her work, so much so that she communicates with the spirits of those who lived and died where she is digging.  Her work takes her to Dzibilchaltun in the Yucatan where she is visited by the spirit of a long- dead priestess. How she deals with this is the meat of the novel.  There is not a lot of action, but there is a lot of thoughtful character development and a good use of the Mayan setting.  As a well-written, literate fantasy, this is hard to beat."

Further reviews:
Award Winner's Reviews, by Michael Rawdon



Alice Nunn: Illicit Passage
In addition, to the previous blurb I sent a few weeks ago , _Illicit Passage_ was also shortlisted for the 1994 Tiptree Awards.

As for availability, the book went out-of-print when the original publisher folded in 1995 - However, remaining copies are held by the author, and even with shipping/postage the cost is well below original retail pricing.
I understand some members of the list have already placed orders with Alice, but she has recently indicated that individual orders are somewhat overwhelming!

So, if it wins selection in the BDG, it would be preferable for a bulk order to be placed with Maryelizabeth at Mystery Galaxy for US/Canadian orders. Australian/New Zealanders can order through me for pricing details.



J. Neil Schulman: The Rainbow Cadenza
(Australian/NZ - is available through Angus & Robertson orders on-line or stores - price highly variable, 1st ed tends to crop up in 2nd-hand collections)

This was another book which unfortunately went out-of-print for several years, after original publication in the 80s, and winning the Prometheus Award in 1984 so I was pleased to find it had been reissued.

"After appearing in hardcover from Simon & Schuster and winning the Prometheus Award in 1984, Baen Books withdrew an offer to reprint it in paperback after Schulman refused to edit out the book's most controversial
sex scenes--scenes which set up the character conflicts for the climax of the story".

Although it has been several years since I read it, it has always 'haunted' me.

Some of my favourite reviews include:

"The book left me feeling for three days that I wished I'd been born without a penis"' --Larry Niven,

"[I]n The Rainbow Cadenza, J. Neil Schulman has touched yet another nerve. The damn book haunted me for days after I read it. ... Schulman has given us not only a fine story but a great deal to think about -- perhaps especially if we think ourselves sexually unprejudiced." --Poul Anderson, Reason Magazine

"Wickedly funny, highly satirical and suspensefully chilling at the same time. Reminiscent of Orwellian and Huxley visions of Paradise as Nightmare"
_______________________________________________________________

In this speculative future - the Earth is finally 'politically correct' - The People Who Care have remade the earth in their image, and it's paradise. War, hunger, crime and violence are conquered etc. Gays and lesbians are not only accepted, but are the 'ruling class'.
But why do men outnumber women 7 to 1 ?  Why is reproduction strictly controlled through fertility manipulation and cloning? And why is there an underclass called the 'Untouchables' (hunted for sport) in such a 'perfect world'? In a world with no rape, why are women drafted to 'serve' 3 years in the sex service, the Gyn Corps, from age  18-21?

The book is centered on Joan Darris, a lasergraphic composer and performer-holographic laser art has replaced music as the pre-eminent form of entertainment on Earth - and her struggles for freedom and artistic expression. The adage "Make Love, Not War" has been taken to its ultimately logical, but ridiculous conclusion: females are drafted into sexual service. Despite her budding talent, and the likelihood of exemption from the Draft, Joan is drafted.

Is it her destiny to play music for men's eyes, or to make herself a plaything for their desires? Why does her love for her mother threaten to subject her to three years of institutionalised & valourised legal rape, and why does her family--the very politics on Earth in her time--tell her it's her duty to comply? How does the murder she witnessed at five years old make serving in the Gyn Corps seem the lesser of evils twelve years later--and how does the lingering horror of that murder threaten not only to rob her of her artistic triumph but threaten the life of a man she loves but who can't give himself to her without betraying everything he believes in?



Virginia Woolf: Orlando : A Biography
Decription from Amazon.com:

In 1928, way before everyone else was talking about gender-bending and way, way before the terrific movie with Tilda Swinton, Virginia Woolf wrote her comic masterpiece, a fantastic, fanciful love letter disguised as a biography, to Vita Sackville-West. Orlando enters the book as an Elizabethan nobleman and leaves the book three centuries and one change of gender later as a liberated woman of the 1920s. Along the way this most rambunctious of Woolf's characters engages in sword fights, trades barbs with 18th century wits, has a baby, and drives a car. This is a deliriously written, breathless-making book and a classic both of lesbian literature and the Western canon.


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