Nominations for Book Discussion Group (BDG) from April - July 2005

Nominated books: 12.


Armstrong, Kelley: Bitten: Book 1

Bujold, Lois McMaster: Ethan of Athos

Nominated by: Bridgett T.

I've been thinking a lot about reproductive ethics and would therefore like to renominate....

Ethan of Athos is a fun little novel set in Bujold's Vorkosigan universe. It isn't the sort of book to win grand honors, and I doubt it inspired any award winning academic papers. It is a stand alone space opera with the sort of cover illustration that makes me want to buy one of those quilted purple flowered contraptions people hide risque romance novel covers with. But this is just the surface.

Ethan of Athos examines issues such as homophobia, ethics involving donated reproductive material, and the value of parenthood. Though most of the action is set on a space station, the glimpses we have of life on the all male planet of Athos are intriguing. Bujold does an excellent job of fleshing out this utopia, even though it is not really central to the action oriented plot.

Ethan of Athos also features one of the Vorkosigan series' strongest female characters, Elli Quinn. Quinn is a kick butt warrior woman who is both intelligent and resourceful. When Quinn meets the naive Athosian Dr. Ethan Urquhart, hilarity follows.

In one of the book's funnier scenes, Quinn rescues Ethan from a bar room brawl. Relieved to find an area free of women, Ethan enters the pub and issues a general invitation to emigrate to Athos. Coming from a planet where homosexuality is normative, Ethan is dismayed by the reactions of the homophobic bar patrons. Here and throughout the book, serious issues are examined with a levity which is refreshing.

Ethan of Athos isn't the type of serious, provocative literature usually discussed by the Book Discussion Group. On the other hand, it is one of the few books available featuring an all male utopia. Though we have many visions of female utopias in science fiction, our visions of the male utopia seem nearly absent. What would a male utopia look like? Would it really look like Athos, where parenthood is valued above all else?

I think this could be an interesting discussion.

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins: Herland

Nominated by: Crystal W.

An early example of feminist science fiction, first published in 1915 and reissued several times. I have come across at least two recent editions listed and it seems to be listed widely on and other online bookshops.

There is a lot of info on Gillman on the net, with the site below giving a brief biography and loads of links.

Inside Flap Copy
On the eve of World War I, an all-female society is discovered somewhere in the distant reaches of the earth by three male explorers who are now forced to re-examine their assumptions about women's roles in society.

Book Description at online bookshop:
Delightfully humorous account of a feminist utopia in which three male explorers stumble upon an all-female society isolated in a distant part of the earth. Early 20th-century vehicle for Gilman’s then-unconventional views of male-female behavior, motherhood, individuality, privacy, sense of community, sexuality, and many other topics. Mischievous, ironic approach used to telling effect.

Jakober, Marie: The Black Chalice

Nominated by: Angela B.

I would like to nominate Marie Jakobar's The Black Chalice. I bought a copy after being mesmerized by hearing her read the first chapter at a convention a couple of years ago. I believe that it has been nominated several times.

Below are some snippets of review I found on google.

If you'd like to read the first chapter before voting go to:

The Black Chalice tells the story of the struggle between pagan and Christian beliefs in medieval Germany. It's a historical novel insofar as Jakober has done her research on the conditions of life, as well as the typical ways of thinking, of the era. It's also a fantasy novel, with many of the trappings of such, like magical powers and artifacts. The closest comparison is to The Mists of Avalon, especially in the conflict between the fading pagan ways and the ascending Christian ones, also in the explicit favouring of pagan over Christian. Jakober's book might be a thematic descendant of Bradley's, but The Black Chalice is far more tightly written and situates itself with greater detail in a historical moment. The Black Chalice also has some interesting parallels to Guy Kay's Sarantine Mosaic, most pertinently in the concern over whose version of events will survive for later generations. Jakober is less subtle than Kay in this regard, as we will see . . . As I said, Jakober has done a great deal of research on the era. Two main points emerge from the narrative: the crusades were a bad idea, and medieval times were filled with misogyny. No news flash in either case of course! But Jakober takes a somewhat nebulous idea like medieval misogyny and explicates it lucidly and fully. Most of that comes from the narrative itself, but Jakober has also chosen the chapter epigraphs with care.

. . . So begins the story told in Marie Jakober's The Black Chalice, a novel that will engross readers who love medieval historical fiction, neo-pagan fiction, or feminist fantasy. The Black Chalice's representation of this struggle between militant Christian piety and sensual pagan magic deserves comparison to Marion Zimmer Bradley's Mists of Avalon and Guy Gavriel Kay's A Song for Arbonne, as well as to less ambitious popular classics of medieval historical fantasy like Katherine Kurtz's Deryni books or Judith Tarr's The Hound and the Falcon series. Like all of these works, its plot is built on a conflict between an ascetic, rigid Christian orthodoxy and a broader view of a sacred world that celebrates compassion, sensual pleasure, and magic as well as the worship of God or the gods.

Lee, Tanith: Metallic Love

Nominated by: Bridgett T.

Tanith Lee's The Silver Metal Lover was a BDG selection for February, 2003. One of the primary criticisms of this much-loved novel was our inability (as adults) to relate and empathize with Jane/Jain, the rather immature, poor little rich girl who falls in love with a sentient robot. Another was that the narrative did not allow us to really know and understand the robot, Silver, who seemed rather simplistic. The archived discussion can be read here:

But what if we really did get to know Silver? And what if the protagonist were someone different, say an orphan from the wrong side of town? What would happen then? Tanith Lee revisits The Silver Metal Lover in her new novel, Metallic Love, and opens by asking:

<<What do you do when you have a story that has a beginning, a middle and an end--and one day you find that the ending has altered--into a second beginning?>>

Are you curious? I am. Let's read it together.

Lessing, Doris: Mara and Dann

Nominated by: Crystal W.

Lessing's latest venture into science fiction, in this case set on earth in the far future, was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2001 and there was an entire conference session devoted to it at the 1999 MLA conference. I am busy reading it at the moment and thought it would be interesting to discuss it on this group.

The book blurb is below and the following site is a good intro to Lessing and her work. I don't even want to think how many others there are out there.

Product Description:
Thousands of years in the future, all the northern hemisphere is buried hundreds of feet deep under the ice and snow of a new Ice Age. At the southern end of a large landmass called Ifrik, two children of the Mahondi people, seven-year-old Mara and her younger brother, Dann, are abducted from their home and family in the middle of the night. Left in the care of a sympathetic Mahondi woman, Mara and Dann are raised as outsiders in a poor rural village. They learn to survive the hardships and dangers of a life threatened as much by an unforgiving climate and menacing animals as by a hostile community of Rock People who wish them ill. Eventually they join the great human migration North, away from the drought that is turning the southern land to dust, and in search of a place with enough water and food to support human life.
Trekking through a barren countryside, Mara and Dann discover different people and places and survive a series of hazardous adventures. They outwit hostile travelers and city dwellers who would kill them for a pittance, and join the increasingly desperate struggle for subsistence in a world transformed by unpreditable climatic change. Captured and enslaved by the Hardon people, they eventually escape and continue North, through the wet heat of the River Towns, only to be captures again by a military commander in the country of Charad. Dann becomes a general in the army, while Mara is recruited as a spy and even abducted for breeding purposes by a rival ethnic group. Traveling across the continent, the siblings enter cities rife with crime , power struggles, and corruption, learning as much about human nature as about how societies function.

Mara's mind is as restless as her feet, and she hungers after knowledge and answers to her questions: Who are my parents? Where do Dann and I come from? Who once lived in these ruined cities we find in Ifrik, and when? And why did they disappear? What will we find up North, and where, exactly, is the North? All the while she dreams of water, trees, and beautiful cities, and of gentle, friendly people. Powerful natural forces, indifferent to human life but essential to its survival, determine the course of Mara and Dann's journey. And Marawith a thirst to learn almost as strong as her thirst for water, and a compassionate, loving nature that survives despite the cruelty of the environment and of human behavioris one of Doris Lessing's most appealing heroines. Filled with shrewd observations and a clear-eyed vision of the human condition, Mara and Dann is imaginative fiction at its best from a master of the genre.

Lethem, Jonathan: Girl in Landscape

Nominated by: Susan H.

Morehouse, Lyda: Archangel Protocol

Pratchett, Terry: Monstrous Regiment

Slonczewski, Joan: A Door into Ocean

Winterson, Jeanette: The PowerBook

Wylie, Philip: The Disappearance