THE ORANGE PULP
SEPTEMBER 12, 2018 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
September's book was
Mary Doria Russell
Suggested by Sandi
There is one sequel: Children Of God.
First contact with an extraterrestrial civilization: the enigma is Father Emilio Sandoz, a Jesuit linguist whose messianic virtues
hide his occasional doubt about his calling. The mystery is the climactic turn of events that has left him the sole survivor of a secret
Jesuit expedition to the planet Rakhat and, upon his return, made him a disgrace to his faith.
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AUGUST 29 GUEST/PROGRAM
Longtime jazz guitar virtuoso Grant Geisssman, who has played with such acts as Chuck Mangione, Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat
Band, Keiko Matsui, Quincy Jones and Diane Schuur was our guest. Geissman has also recorded several best-selling jazz
albums under his own name. He has been Emmy-nominated several times for his music for television shows including Two And
A Half Men and Passion, and his music has also been featured on Dawson's Creek, Monk,
Boy Meets World and Touched By An Angel.
In addition to his phenomenal musicianship, Geissman has also authored several books on the infamous EC Comics from the
1950's and its surviving title, Mad Magazine.
AUGUST 8, 2018 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
August's book was
The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia
Ursula K. LeGuin
Suggested by John LaFond & Sandi Kallas
Attending: Dave, Catherine, Jamie, Sandi, Ralph, Roman Vilensky, GG, Hank Gomez, John Bowen
Book Five of the Hainish Cycle.
Centuries ago, the moon Anarres was settled by utopian anarchists who left the Earthlike planet Urras in search of a better world, a
new beginning. Now a brilliant physicist, Shevek, determines to reunite the two civilizations that have been separated by hatred
since long before he was born.
Although a number of readers commented that this was not LeGuin's best book, the overall opinion was favorable. Those that had
found the book long-winded and had not finished by discussion time nonetheless indicated they intended to complete reading of
the novel. A couple of members we haven't seen in a while were impressed enough to drop by, as well as a first visit (hopefully of
GG began the discussion by stating he found the book compelling, featuring contradictory characters that encapsulated the
philosophic arguments of capitalism vs. socialism. Jamie agreed, commenting on the unusual reversal of "good" communism vs.
"evil" capitalism, discussed in excruciating detail. She noted that LeGuin had commented during an interview that she wrote the
book primarily to work out how a viable anarchic society could work. This was Jamie's fourth time reading this book, but the plot
eludes her longtime memory. She found the character of Shevek so remote it was difficult to relate to him, and the work as a
whole was somewhat dated (but OK).
Sandi was having trouble generating enough enthusiasm to finish the book. She commented that the characters seemed to lack
any fire or conviction (or sense of humor), and the somewhat dull, preachy and plotless storyline failed to generate any sense of
conflict in the early part. Ralph, who did finish, agreed the book was overlong and required a lot of effort to get through. He
found it reminiscent of Sir Thomas More's Utopia. Ralph said he greatly enjoyed the vividly detailed societies and
Dave commented he liked the "helical" structure and thought he recognized Taoist philosophy underlying the Anarran society.
He appreciated that opposing arguments were often offered during the philosphic discussions. Roman thought he detected a
strong Randian influence in the Anarran society . Like Ralph, he greatly enjoyed the detail, but was not convinced that an
anarchic society could last the 150-200 years put forward in the book. Additionally, he found the author's exploration of gender
roles, both Anarran and Urrukian, interesting.
John Bowen found the book so crowded with extensive philosophic and political arguments that he couldn't devote enough
attention to them within the time he had allotted for reading the novel. With so little actual action, and with the constant switching
of time frames, he found it difficult to keep his attention focussed. Beyond that, he also found the anarchic society improbable,
and noted that that society had already begun to break down into a kind of oligarchy as Shevek continually bumped heads with
the authorities regarding his theories and publications. Although the focus was on the corruption of the capitalist Urrukians, the
author was also showing that the Anarran society was also becoming corrupt. John also felt that the ending was both rushed and
didn't feel right as the Terrans were virtually non-existent for most of the novel.
Catherine stated this novel of ideas showed that since people are inherently bad with a thin veneer of good, the anarchic social
experiment is fore-doomed. She also found the introduction of the Terrans to be something of a deus ex machina
ending. Hank offered that the novel was about the building of walls, not of the conflict between capitalism and communism.
"Isms" should be looked past. Walls connect the Anarran peoples in an ambiguous way, depending on point of view. The
society resembles that of an Israeli kibbutz.
Overall, the novel is recommended with the reservation that it is a novel of ideas, not pulp action or adventure, and is worthy of
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JULY 25 GUEST/PROGRAM
Carrie "CB" Lee is a bisexual Chinese-Vietnamese American writer whose novels include the Sidekick Squad series, a young
adult science fiction adventure that follow queer teens who take on a corrupt government superhero agency, and also the fantasy
Seven Tears At High Tide. Lee’s work has been featured in Teen Vogue, Wired Magazine, and Hypable.
JULY 11, 2018 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
July's book was
Suggested by Catherine
Attending: Catherine, Jamie, Sandi, John LaFond, John Bowen, Dave Moore
In the not-too-distant future, a simple outpatient procedure to increase empathy between romantic partners has become all the
rage. And Briddey Flannigan is delighted when her boyfriend, Trent, suggests undergoing the operation prior to a marriage
proposal—to enjoy better emotional connection and a perfect relationship with complete communication and understanding.
But things don’t quite work out as planned, and Briddey finds herself connected to someone else entirely—in a way far beyond
what she signed up for.
Discussion of the book resulted in a general consensus that the book was too long with a number of scenes that are repetitive or
fail to move the plot forward, and that the author has written more interesting and entertaining books in the past.
Dave led off the discussion, reporting that he found the writing good and he was interested beyond his normal attention span. That
being said, he found C.B.'s projects a bit unbelievable, as well as the small size of Apple competitor CommSub. Overall, the story
left him disappointed by a somewhat arbitrary ending. He recommends the book with reservations, saying it wasn't a bad book,
but not a great one, either.
Jamie said that the book was a romantic comedy similar to films of the mid-20th Century, but not as well done. She cited a
feeling of unrealism in the character portraits and actions, and satire inferior to previous Willis books.
Sandi was one of us who enjoyed the book and found it a welcome addition to the Willis canon. She enjoyed the ride as she
doesn't expect serious comedy from Connie Willis. She noted that much of the plot revolved around Briddey's obliviousness to
what is really going on.
In contrast, John LaFond stated he couldn't stand the book. He found it to be a farce peopled with unbelievable characters, in
particular, Briddey has an important job that is poorly described and at which she can never be found actually working. John
found the premise interesting as he avoids social media. As Connie Willis is a new author to him, several members suggested
he give The Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing Of The Dog a try.
Catherine stated she was tired of stories by Willis using screwball comedy; she did not find the comedy a match for the situation.
She found this definitely to be a lesser effort of an author she admires. The opening chapters, with the interrupted conversations,
were particularly annoying as she doesn't like to read about protagonists who are overwhelmed by unsympathetic characters. She
was unconvinced by the red-haired gene theory, and felt the book needed more aggressive editing overall.
John Bowen enjoyed the book, with reservations. Given the nature of the story, he felt Willis had done a good job of providing
some actual action to a talking heads story, albeit somewhat repetitiously. He also felt the protagonist was drawn a bit too naive
and oblivious, and also found the opening chapters a bit of a chore to get through. The biggest drawback he felt was the almost
deus ex machina ending.
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JUNE 27 GUEST/PROGRAM
Javier is the creator of such comics as El Muerto, Maniac Priest and Weapon Tex-Mex, which he publishes under his own
imprint, Los CoMex. He's also the Associate Producer of the award-winning El Muerto live-action film adaptation, and in
2011 co-founded the Latino Comics Expo, the nation's first convention dedicated to spotlighting Latino creators. Additionally,
Javier teaches comic book workshops throughout Los Angeles in schools and libraries.
Available on youtube is El Muerte (the movie), and Javier gave us the lowdown on how the film rights were negotiated and how
the movie got made. Javier's interest in Silver Age comics illustrator Steve Ditko also found an appreciative audience, and he
brought along copies of a tribute comic he had prepared.
JUNE 13 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
June's book was
Suggested by Dave
Book One of the Rivers Of London/Peter Grant series. (British title: Rivers Of London)
Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. Too bad his superior plans to
assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he’ll face is a paper cut. But Peter’s prospects change in the
aftermath of a puzzling murder, when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost. Peter’s ability
to speak with the lingering dead brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who investigates
crimes involving magic and other manifestations of the uncanny. Now, as a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city,
Peter is plunged into a world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals and a long-dead evil is making a comeback on a
rising tide of magic.
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MAY 30 GUEST/PROGRAM
Jennifer Brody’s award-winning novel "The 13th Continuum" sold to Turner Publishing in a 3-book deal and is being packaged
into a feature film. The book is a Gold Medal Winner (Young Adult – Sci-Fi/Fantasy) from the Independent Publisher‘s Moonbeam
Children’s Book Awards. "Return of the Continuums" and "The United Continuums" complete this epic trilogy. She is a graduate of
Harvard University, a creative writing instructor at the Writing Pad in Los Angeles, and a volunteer mentor for the Young Storytellers
Foundation. She founded and runs BookPod, a social media group for authors. She lives and writes in Los Angeles.
MAY 9, 2018 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
May's book was
The Warrior's Apprentice
Lois McMaster Bujold
Suggested by Jamie
Book Five of the Vorkosigan Saga.
Discharged from the Barrayan Military Academy, Miles Vorkosigan chances on a jumpship with a rebellious pilot and arranges to
take over the ship. Events escalate from there, and soon Miles is commander of a mercenary fleet and reinvents himself as
Admiral Naismith of the Dendarii Mercenary Army.
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APRIL 25 GUEST/PROGRAM
JJ's key responsibility as the Jay and Doris Klein librarian for science fiction is providing stewardship for the Eaton Collection of
Science Fiction and Fantasy, including collection development. She provides research services for the collection in person, online,
and through course-related instruction sessions and workshops. JJ joined the library in 2015.
APPRIL 11, 2018 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
April's book was
Suggested by Catherine
Book One of the Iron Druid Chronicles
Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time
to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one
years old - when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp
wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer. But a very angry Celtic god wants that sword,
and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power - plus
the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a bartender possessed by a Hindu witch,
and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish - to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.
There are numerous sequels, some of short story length.
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Pub. May, 2011
MARCH 28 GUEST/PROGRAM
Michael and Christine Lampe
Michael Lampe is an actor who has appeared a number of times on the television series "Deadwood" and has been a guest on
"Curb Your Enthusiasm". Additionally, Michael (aka Capt. Michael MacLeod) has been a member of the Society for Creative
Anachronisms offshoot The Corsairs from 1983 and founded the Port Royal Privateers in 1993. Movie credits include "Hook",
"Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse Of The Black Pearl" and "Quest For Captain Kidd."
Michael and his wife Christine (aka Jamaica Rose) have, since 1994, published No Quarter Given, a fanzine about pirates
and pirating. Michael is infamous for his Blue Baboon Spiced Rum, and currently serves as Santa Claus at
SkyPark at Santas Village.
MARCH 14, 2018 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
March's book was
Look To Windward
by Iain M. Banks
Suggested by Sandi
Book Seven of the Culture series.
The Twin Novae battle had been one of the last of the Idiran war, and one of the most horrific: desperate to avert their inevitable
defeat, the Idirans had induced two suns to explode, snuffing out worlds and biospheres teeming with sentient life. They were
attacks of incredible proportion -- but the war ended, and life went on.
Now, eight hundred years later, light from the first explosion is about to reach the Masaq' Orbital, home to the Culture's most
adventurous and decadent souls. There it will fall upon Masaq's 50 billion inhabitants, gathered to commemorate the deaths of
the innocent and to reflect, if only for a moment, on what some call the Culture's own complicity in the terrible event. Also journeying
to Masaq' is Major Quilan, an emissary from the war-ravaged world of Chel. In the aftermath of the conflict that split his world apart,
most believe he has come to Masaq' to bring home Chel's most brilliant star and self-exiled dissident, the honored Composer Ziller.
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Pub. Aug., 2001
FEBRUARY 28 GUEST/PROGRAM
Kimberley Vandervort has written and published two novels in her fantasy series, as well as several shorter works published in
anthologies. She currently lives in Southern California where she spends a great deal of her spare time operating a taxi service
for her two beautiful daughters. When not writing, she teaches English Composition at California State University, Fullerton, where
she earned a Master’s degree in Medieval Literature in 1999.
FEBRUARY 21 READING ORBIT (Postponed from Feb 14)- OCSFC Book Club:
February's book was
Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard
Lawrence M. Schoen
Suggested by Dave Moore
In a distant future no remnants of human beings remain, but their successors thrive throughout the galaxy. These are the offspring of
humanity's genius - animals uplifted into walking, talking, sentient beings. The Fant are one such species: anthropomorphic
elephants ostracized by other races, and long ago exiled to the rainy ghetto world of Barsk. There, they develop medicines upon
which all species now depend. The most coveted of these drugs is koph, which allows a small number of users to interact with the
recently deceased and learn their secrets..
Note: this book was originally scheduled for March. There has been one sequel published so far.
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JANUARY 31 GUEST/PROGRAM:
Our annual business meeting will be followed by a general discussion. No guest presentation is expected.
JANUARY 10, 2018 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
January's book was
The Aeronaut's Windlass
Suggested by Jamie
Book One of the Cinder Spires series.
Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity. Within their halls, the ruling aristocratic houses develop scientific
marvels, foster trade alliances, and maintain fleets of airships to keep the peace.
Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship Predator. Loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with
Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is damaged in
combat, Grimm joins a team of Albion agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring his ship.
And as Grimm undertakes this task, he learns that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come.
Humanity’s ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more...
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---- 2017 ----
NOVEMBER 29, 2017
Eric Kurland has been involved with numerous animation and 3-D movies and television episodes, including The Simpsons,
Osmosis Jones, and The Prince Of Egypt, and director of such films as Serial Killer Cereal and "The Ends
Of The Alphabet." Our guest has been nominated for both an Oscar and a Grammy! He is a past president of the Los Angeles
3-D Club and is currently the Stereoscopic 3-D Specialist at 3-DIY/Workprint Films. Eric was recently involved with a successful
Kickstarter project to restore the 1960 3-D adventure movie September Storm.
NOVEMBER 8, 2017 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
November's book was
The Traitor Baru Cormorant
Suggested by Dave
Tomorrow, on the beach, Baru Cormorant will look up and see red sails on the horizon. The Empire of Masks is coming, armed
with coin and ink, doctrine and compass, soap and lies. They will conquer Baru’s island, rewrite her culture, criminalize her customs,
and dispose of one of her fathers. But Baru is patient. She'll swallow her hate, join the Masquerade, and claw her way high enough
up the rungs of power to set her people free.
A sequel is planned.
Englsh title: The Traitor
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OCTOBER 25, 2017
Shannon Muir’s prose encourages readers to “uncover the mystery of character,” with an emphasis on mystery, New Pulp and noir,
and related genre fiction. She’s also known for writing animation scripts and for textbooks written based on her experiences in the
OCTOBER 11, 2017 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
October's book was
Suggested by Catherine
When the only elected African-American judge in Dade County, Florida, begins to receive racist hate mail, her husband Hilton
becomes obsessed with protecting his family. Soon, however, he begins to have horrible nightmares, more intense and disturbing
than any he has ever experienced. Are the strange dreams trying to tell him something? His sense of reality begins to slip away as
he battles both the psychotic threatening to destroy his family and the even more terrifying enemy stalking his sleep.
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SEPTEMBER 27, 2017
Paul M. Sammon
Paul M. Sammon is the author of
Future Noir: The Making Of Blade Runner
and a book about its director
He appeared in the 2000 TV documentary
On The Edge Of Blade Runner and the 2004 TV documentary
Remembering The Future: Paycheck & The Worlds Of Philip K. Dick.
SEPTEMBER 13, 2017 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
September's book was
Sheri S(tewart) Tepper [1929-2016]
Suggested by Dave
Generations in the future humanity has spread to other planets and Earth is ruled by Sanctity, a dour, coercive religion that
looks to resurrection of the body by storing cell samples of its communicants. Now a plague is threatening to wipe out mankind.
The only planet that seems to be spared is Grass - so-called because that is virtually all that grows there. It was settled by families of
European nobility who live on vast estancias and indulge in the ancient sport of fox hunting, although the horses, hounds and foxes
aren't what they appear to be. Rigo and Marjorie Westriding Yrarier and family are sent to Grass as ambassadors and
unofficial investigators because the bons (the ruling families) have refused to allow scientists to authenticate the planet's immunity
from the plague.
There are two sequels:
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AUGUST 30, 2017
Denise Dumars is a college English instructor and a former literary agent with the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency. She
has had hundreds of poems published, dozens of stories, and several books, including the widely regarded
Lovecraft Slept Here
and the award-nominated
Paranormal Romance: Poems Romancing The Paranormal. She is currently working on a "King In
Yellow"-themed novel and is shopping around the paranormal romance manuscript Page Of Swords, which she co-wrote
with award-winning author Corrine deWinter.
She is also a pagan minister and helms her own New Orleans-style botanica online called
Rev. Dee's Apothecary.
AUGUST 9, 2017 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
August's book was
A Borrowed Man
Suggested by John
E. A. Smithe is a borrowed person. He is a clone who lives on a third-tier shelf in a public library, and his
personality is an uploaded recording of a deceased mystery writer. Smithe is a piece of property, not a legal
A wealthy patron, Colette Coldbrook, takes him from the library because he is the surviving personality of the
author of Murder on Mars. A physical copy of that book was in the possession of her murdered father,
and it contains an important secret, the key to immense family wealth. It is lost, and Colette is afraid of the
police. She borrows Smithe to help her find the book and to find out what the secret is. And then the plot gets
Gene Wolfe is winner of the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement and many other awards. In 2007, he
was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. In 2013, he received the SFWA Grand Master award.
His books include The Fifth Head of Cerberus and the bestselling The Book of the New Sun
tetralogy. He lives in Peoria, Illinois, and is currently writing a sequel, to be called Interlibrary Loan.
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JULY 26, 2017
S.B. Divya is a lover of science, math, fiction, and the Oxford comma. Her short stories have been published at
and other magazines, and her novella
"Runtime", is a Nebula Award finalist.
Divya's writing appears in the indie game
She also co-edits Escape Pod,
a weekly science fiction podcast, with Mur Lafferty. She holds degrees in Computational Neuroscience and Signal Processing,
and she worked for twenty years as an electrical engineer before becoming an author.
JULY 12, 2017 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
July's book was
Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy
Suggested by Sandi
Attending: Chris Fanning; Jamie Cassidy-Curtis, Catherine Curley, John Bowen, Ralph Cox, Sandi Kallas; John Lafond, Dave Moore
Area X is a remote and lush terrain that has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has
reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic
landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of
gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows
of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.
This is the twelfth expedition...
Jeff VanderMeer is an award-winning novelist and editor. His fiction has been translated into twenty languages
and has appeared in the Library of America's American Fantastic Tales and in multiple year's-best
anthologies. He writes nonfiction for The Washington Post, The New York Times Book Review, The Los
Angeles Times, and The Guardian, among others. He grew up in the Fiji Islands and now lives in
Tallahassee, Florida, with his wife Ann.
Ralph brought a map of Area X and progressive illustrations from the paperback editions.
ANNIHILATION: This book was well-received, generally. Several noted the Lovecraftian influence seemed very strong here.
The story was written with a standard structure with no time jumps (CC), was short and tight (DRM). We all knew there would be
few answers here as the story is a kind of setup for the sequels. SK noted the book was a part of the "New Weird" literary
movement (see China Miéville). She also noted that in order to join the twelfth expedition into a "pristine" world you had to lose all
your identity .Dave noted that the book has been optioned for a theatrical movie release for the spring of 2018. (No mention of
sequels, but how could they not?)
AUTHORITY: This book combined elements of a detective story, a corporate power struggle, and a spy adventure, with somewhat
uneven results. Control is a failure and embarrassment assigned to a job where he can do no harm - and probably no good, either.
Initial interest in the struggle between Control and Grace is dissipated when Control simply hands over the authority to Grace (JB).
CC emjoyed the "dysfunctional workplace dynamics." Control's primary motivation appears to be to impress his mother (JL).
Southern Reach does not appear to be acting as a competent institution (DRM). Many clues to the mystery are presented, but
there are few answers in this book. Similar actions have unexplainable consequences (more magic than science (RC). Despite
much stuff happening in the last 30 pages, there were no net answers (JCC).
ACCEPTANCE: Where the first two books followed (for the most part) a single viewpoint in each, Book 3 follows three different
stories separated in time. The story of Saul, the lighthouse keeper, takes place in the past and introduces Gloria (later known as
Cynthia, the Director) and the machinations of the Séance & Science Brigade (likely Control's parents). It details the
introduction of the "Brightness" which expands into Area X, and the translation of the diary-keeping keeper into the obsessively
scribbling Crawler. The second thread follows Gloria and details her infiltration of the twelfth expedition; the third takes a three-
year jump into the future and follows Ghost Bird and Control's encounter with Grace.
For Sandi, the story was essentially Gloria's story as she morphs throughout the book. Everyone agreed with Dave that the owl
story was moving and coherent. Dave felt the book was written in a deliberately obscure manner (with time jumps) that went on
and on and ultimately revealed little. Catherine concurred, saying it was weird just to be weird and the extended details of the
third book were not in aid of anything. Jamie liked the idea of multiple existences but the book simply ceased instead of coming
to a conclusion, leaving most questions unanswered. Several commented that the characters were not particularly believable,
Jamie found them depressing as well. The group was split about 50/50 with regards to recommending it, but most found the
experience interesting, if frustrating.
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591 pages - Amazon page counts are overstated, and the individual novels have less text per page than the collected edition.
REGULAR MEETING, JUNE 28, 2017
Russell Nohelty is a writer, publisher, and speaker. He runs Wannabe Press, a small press that
publishes weird books for weird people, and hosts The Business of Art podcast , which helps
creatives build better businesses.
Russell is the author or editor of Gumshoes: The Case of Madison’s Father,
Spaceship Broken, Needs Repairs and
My Father Didn’t Kill Himself,
along with the creator of the
Gherkin Boy ,
Ichabod Jones, Monster Hunter and
Katrina Hates the Dead
He makes books that are as entertaining and weird as they are thought provoking and interesting.
JUNE 14, 2017 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
June's book was
Suggested by Catherine
For more than two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong
in their Massachusetts town. Gillian and Sally have endured that fate as well: as children, the sisters were
forever outsiders, taunted, talked about, pointed at. Their elderly aunts almost seemed to encourage the
whispers of witchery, with their musty house and their exotic conconctions and their crowd of black cats. But
all Gillian and Sally wanted was to escape. One will do so by marrying, the other by running away. But the
bonds they share will bring them back — almost as if by magic...
Alice Hoffman was born in New York City on March 16, 1952 and grew up on Long Island. After graduating
from high school in 1969, she attended Adelphi University, from which she received a BA, and then received
a Mirrellees Fellowship to the Stanford University Creative Writing Center, which she attended in 1973 and
74, receiving an MA in creative writing. She currently lives in Boston and New York.
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REGULAR MEETING, MAY 31, 2017
Dr. Westfahl is a professor lecturing on writing at the University of LaVerne and will be talking about "space as
a setting for science fiction." Gary has published a number of essays over the years and is the author of
the following non-fiction books: The Other Side Of The Sky,
The Spacesuit Film,
A Sense-Of-Wonderful Century,
A Day In A Working Life,
Islands In The Sky, &
An Alien Abroad, among others.
He has spoken previously at the Philip K. Dick conference at Cal State Fullerton.
MAY 10, 2017 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
May's book was
The Foundation Trilogy by
Suggested by Jamie
Attending: Chris Fanning, Jamie Cassidy-Curtis, Dave Moore, Catherine Curley, Ralph Cox, John Bowen, Sandi Kallas,
A landmark of science fiction's "Golden Age," Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy - which comprises the novels
Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation - has long been regarded a visionary
masterpiece whose astonishing historical scope perfectly conveys science fiction's sense of wonder. First
published as a cycle of stories in the 1940s, Asimov's iconic trilogy has endured to become, like the
author himself, a legend of science fiction.
Set in the far future, Foundation envisions a Galactic Empire that has thrived for 12,000 years, but whose
decline into an age of barbarism lasting some thirty millennia is imminent - if the predictions of renegade
psycho-historian Hari Seldon are accurate. Hoping to shorten the interval of this impending new Dark Age,
Seldon convinces the Empire's Commission of Public Safety to allow him to enact a diversionary plan - one full
of surprising subterfuges and intrigues intended to create and protect a Foundation on which the future
Empire will be erected.
Isaac Asimov (born Isaak Yudovich Ozimov; circa January 2, 1920 - April 6, 1992) was an American author
and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, best known for his works of science fiction and for his
popular science books. Asimov was prolific and wrote or edited more than 500 books and is generally
considered to be one of the three greatest writers of science fiction during the 1940's and 1950's.
Chris opened the session by remarking that he had read the book previously and found its most impressive part to be the
concept of psychohistory. Jamie said this was the second time around for her also (as was true for nearly all of us). She enjoyed
the book both times and was also taken with the idea of psychohistory. She felt the writing held up very well considering how
long ago it had been written - though she noted that everything was driven by "atomic" motors, a trope of the late 1940's. She
considered the characters to be well-drawn and particularly liked the depiction of Arkady. She had a good laugh out of the
futuristic essay printer and Arkady's errors. Jamie recommends the book to all for historic reasons.
Sandi was an exception as she was reading it for the first time. She said she had some issues with the fragmented storyline, too
much reliance on dialog, the lack of more than perfunctory descriptions, the "handwavium" FTL drive and the understated
significance of the "galaxy-wide" empire which the Mule is able to conquer in a matter of months. The story was very male-
dominated, with the exceptions of Bayta and Arkady. Sandi was disturbed by the depiction of a man wanting to marry 14-year-old
Arkady. The book was an ok read but she won't re-read it.
Rob read the book as a teenager also, and has noted the extensive influence the book has had on subsequent movies and stories.
John found the first book the easiest to read but was significantly bored by the middle of the second book. It didn't help that he
figured out the meaning and identity of the Mule almost as soon as the character appeared, and had also doped out the location
of the Second Foundation long before it was revealed. He agreed with Sandi that the timescale and size of the galaxy received
no respect from the author. He wondered if Arkady was the inspiration for Heinlein's Podkayne as the characters seemed quite
similar. The psychohistoric premise fitted in well with other grand concepts of the mid- to late-1940's, such as Esperanto,
General Semantics, and Dianetics.
Ralph read the books originally when he was 14, but found rereading the trilogy to be new to him except for the Mule and the
Second Foundation location. The stories in the first book showed Asimov in early stages of learning to write. By the time the Mule
appeared the stories were more interesting. Most of the stories also worked as mysteries. The Second Foundation seemed to
represent the next stage of evolution, stillborn in the Mule.
Dave found the book a mixed bag with the later stories less interesting than the earlier ones. He felt the series featured very
shallow characters and plotting. He did note that Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman claims the series as his inspiration
and that the beginning stories were modeled after The History Of The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire by Edward
Gibbons, as Asimov admitted in the introduction found in some of the editions of the Trilogy.
Catherine said she read the book long ago and listened to the audiotape recently. According to the introduction, she said that
Asimov's editor, John W. Campbell, Jr., did not want long descriptions or action onstage in the stories he bought. She also said
there were no women of substance in the Trilogy.
John pointed out that Campbell, as editor of Astounding Science Fiction had a limited amount of space in which to work,
and therefore serialized any stories longer than about 35 pages. This created limitations on excessive description and action in
order to fit in the story. Campbell, who had an engineering background, had at one time been a very popular writer of stories of
super-science which featured substantial action sequences, and his stories written under the pseudonym of Don A. Stuart were
moody stories with long descriptive passages. By the time he became editor, though, he wanted more adult stories stressing
plot over style, especially as there were a number of competing magazines that continued to publish space opera.
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REGULAR MEETING, APRIL 26, 2017
Assemblage artist Krystopher Sapp likes to stay locked up in his studio and create highly detailed, dark and
twisted worlds in the form of mixed media assemblage. Inspired by his favorite horror and sci-fi movies, war
history books and intense nightmares, his works are cultivated from fear and molded into beauty. Sapp uses
found objects and items purchased at Home Depot - the place he calls his "art supply store."
By day, Sapp is a commercial artist and has created album cover, t-shirt and poster art for bands such as
Demented Are Go, Meteors, Necromantics, Tiger Army, 45 Grave, Penis Flytrap, Zombie Ghost Train and
APRIL 12, 2017 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
April's book was
The Girl With All The Gifts
M. R. Carey
Suggested by Sandi
Twenty years ago humanity was infected by a fungus. The infected, referred to as "hungries", quickly lose their mental powers and feed on the
flesh of healthy humans. In England, the few surviving uninfected humans either live in heavily-guarded areas such as the Beacon, or roam in packs
of hostile, scavenging "junkers". At the Beacon, head scientist Caroline Caldwell believes she is close to a cure, and wants to dissect Melanie, a child
hungry who has retained her mental powers.
M.R. "Mike" Carey is a pen name for an established British writer of prose fiction and comic books. He has written for both DC and Marvel, including
critically acclaimed runs on X-Men and Fantastic Four, Marvel's flagship superhero titles. His creator-owned books regularly appear in the New
York Times graphic fiction bestseller list. He also has several previous novels and one Hollywood movie screenplay to his credit.
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REGULAR MEETING, MARCH 29, 2017
Dan Parsons has produced sf and fantasy-oriented art for Marvel, DC and Dark Horse Comics, and is best known for his inking on the
continuing Dark Horse Star Wars series of comic books. Additionally, he has created definitive renditions of several characters for the
dvd of HBO's Game Of Thrones series. Harpy and Savage Planet are two
of Dan's well-received self-published creations.
MARCH 2017 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
March's book was
Jurgen: A Comedy Of Justice
James Branch Cabell
Suggested by John
Cabell's most famous novel tells the story of a middle-aged man on a journey through fantastic realms, where he meets and seduces beautiful
women of fiction and myth - including the Devil's wife. It is a humorous romp through a mediaeval cosmos, including a send-up of Arthurian
legend and excursions to heaven and hell as in The Divine Comedy. Cabell's work is recognized as a landmark in the creation of the comic
fantasy novel, influencing Terry Prachett and many others. The book garnered attention as it was charged with obscenity in a case that reached
the New York Supreme Court. Cabell and his publisher won the case, and the author was deemed a literary avant garde, who tested conventional
social boundaries and opposed the forces of puritanical repression.
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REGULAR MEETING, FEBRUARY 22, 2017
Mark Jiro Okui
Mark is of Japanese descent but he does not speak Japanese. Both his mother and grandmother were artists and he has been drawing
since he was a little kid. Monsters such as King Kong and Godzilla caught his imagination at a young age, and he remains fascinated by
them to this day. He received his degree in illustration from CSU Long Beach, and has done storyboards for the movies “Terrorgram” and
“Desert of Death.” He has received awards from the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles and G-Fest. Among his commercial work he has
done cover drawings for “Mad Scientist” #14 and “Asian Cult Cinema” #14, and his illustrations have appeared in the pages of
G-Fan, Manga Muerto, Threat N Ink, Ben is Dead, Scarlet Letters, Kaiju Fan, Scary
Monsters and Kaiju Review.
For the club, Mark displayed a number of his drawings and discussed his involvement with the monster film oriented magazine Calling
Monster Island, which he has been publishing since 1998. The magazine features articles on collecting memorabilia from the movies,
movie summaries, and other related items.
FEBRUARY 2017 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
February's book was
Suggested by Jamie
The 'Hospital Station' of the title is Sector Twelve General Hospital, a multi-species, multi-enviroment hive that hangs "like a misshappen christmas
tree" far out on the Galactic Rim. Originally a series of short stories the first, Medic, is a sort of prologue set during the Hospital Station's
construction. In it a surly construction worker named O'Mara finds himself treating the Hospital's very first patient. 'Sector General' introduces Dr.
Conway, a young, idealistic and rather naive junior physician who has a lot to learn about how the Galactic Federation and the Hospital really
function. In 'The Trouble With Emily' Conway is assigned to assist a visiting VIP, Dr. Arretapec, a "levitating ball of goo" with advanced psi powers
who refuses to tell Conway exactly what he is trying to accomplish with their 'patient' a perfectly healthy brontosaurian being - nicknamed Emily.
In 'Visitor At Large' Conway is in charge of a pediatrics ward and has an assistant of his own; a frail, spiderlike, empathic sensitive called
Prilicla. In another ward an exotic being, capable of changing form at will, is dying of an undiagnosed, untreatable condition. The usual rule
against visitors is relaxed to allow the entity's child to make a farewell visit to its parent. Unfortunately the welcoming committee of strange
looking aliens, including Conway and Prilicla, frightens the youngster into headlong flight. A terrified, immature being, capable of assuming any
shape, lost in the multiple levels of Sector General, unable to communicate and worst of all - getting hungry... In 'Out Patient' Conway is promoted
to Senior Physician and presented with a new patient; a being of unknown race that is apparently being eaten alive by some kind of cancerous
The first three Sector General novels make up the omnibus edition Beginning Operations. Hospital Station is the first book in
White's "Sector General" series.
In Beginning Operations
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as Hospital Station
REGULAR MEETING, JANUARY 25, 2017
January's meeting was our annual "taking care of business" meeting and there was no guest program.
JANUARY 2017 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
January's book was
Suggested by John
Five thousand years after a catastropic event rendered the Earth a ticking time bomb, the progeny of a handful of outer space explorers --
seven distinct races now three billion strong -- embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown...to an alien world utterly transformed by
cataclysm and time: Earth!
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---- 2016 ----
WEDNESDAY, November 30, 2016 (7:00 p.m.)
"I am a professional illustrator and cartoonist. I create art for companies like
Disney, Hard Rock, and Sea World. I also design and make custom
toys on the side. I am a professional illustrator/graphic designer and cartoonist. I have created pins and branding products for companies like
Disney, Hard Rock, and Sea World. I also design and make custom toys, skateboards, and apparel on the side. I'm currently a product designer
at Disney Consumer Products, designing PVC figure sets and Christmas ornaments for the Disney Stores."
NOVEMBER 2016 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
November's book was
The Fifth Season
N. K. Jemisin
Suggested by Sandi
Attending: Liana Lehua, Catherine Curley, John Bowen, Jamie Cassidy-Curtis, Dave Moore
A season of endings has begun. It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world's sole continent, from which enough
ash spews to darken the sky for years. Or centuries. It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter. It starts
with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester. And it ends with you. You are the Stillness, a land long familiar with
catastrophe, where orogenes wield the power of the earth as a weapon and are feared far more than the long cold night. And
you will have no mercy...
Catherine stated she found the story a bit slow at first, but that it grew upon her as she went along. She is now interested in
reading the sequels. The switching back and forth between the three main viewpoints in this hybrid sf/fantasy novel was frustrating
at first, but she came to be curious to see how the parts would come together. She felt the author had been successful in
tricking the reader with the three-in-one storylines. The story was well written, and set in an unusually creative world.
Jamie concurred for the most part, finding the story a bit preachy. She didn't care for the 2nd person present tense mode, and
was disappointed by the unresolved ending. Some of the story's interest for her was due to her rockhunting hobby.
Neither Liana nor Dave had finished the novel by discussion time. Dave finished four chapters but also found the 2nd person
present tense mode too annoying to continue. Liana said she would continue reading but had not gone far enough to feel
John quite enjoyed the novel, despite quite a bit of untied loose ends by the end. He found the framing device made for an odd
approach. He particularly enjoyed the segments oncerning the hidden room and the volcano. He generally found Essun's story
quite depressing. He plans to continue the trilogy to the end. Overall, the novel is mildly recommended by those who finished it.
Winner of the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Novel. There are two sequels:
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WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2016
Longtime member Ralph Cox filled in with a discussion of time dilation when our scheduled guest was not able to make the meeting.
OCTOBER 2016 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
October's book was
Joe Hill [Joseph Hillstrom King]
Suggested by Sandi
Attending: Ralph Cox, Frank Mayfield, Catherine Curley, John Bowen, Sandi Kallas, (Jamie Cassidy-Curtis)
An aging rock star, buys himself a dead man's suit. He acquires it online, lured by the promise that the dead man's ghost will be included in his purchase.
Jamie forwarded her review by e-mail:
"I ended up liking Heart-Shaped Box better than I thought I would at first. Joe Hill's writing skills were obvious from the
beginning; he did a good job of balancing character development and the slowly building suspense. But the characters were so
unlikable at first that I wasn't sure I wanted to read an entire novel about them. Between Jude with his history of using and
discarding women, and Marybeth, who just seemed sullen, I wanted to abandon the story. Fortunately, Joe was just setting us up.
I really started to enjoy the story when Jude and Marybeth began working together. Both of them showed strengths that were
hidden at first, and they grew as individuals and as a couple.
"I liked that the story had a lot of suspense without a high body count. It was also a nice touch to make Anna more than she
appeared to be at first. Perhaps the ending could have been condensed a little. It was good to see what happened afterwards
(especially that Jude & Marybeth married and that Reese turned out okay), but it felt like there were multiple endings.
Otherwise, this book was well-written and enjoyable. I recommend it."
Sandi reported that the book was still scary on second exposure. This time she tried the audio version, and it re-evoked the
chills she got when she read horror as a young girl - too young, in fact. She liked the main characters and the ambiguity with which
they are drawn - not all good or bad. The haunted suit was a novel idea - a very creepy ghost! Best feature was Jude growing
in emotional development regarding Georgia/Marybeth.
Frank felt the author wrote better than his famous father. The book was okay, had good technique, but was not scared. The
ideas about the nature of ghosts was interesting. The story featured lots of action. Frank was glad Marybeth survived and is
waiting eagerly for the final volume of Lock And Key.
Ralph said he was not very familiar with Stephen King, but Joe appeared to be a chip off his father. Descriptions of characters
were believable and fully formed. The novel could have been shorter, and the ghost's abilities were a bit more than
was expected. Also, the loss of Danny appeared to soon in the book and was sort of irrelevant. Jude failed to grieve sufficiently.
He recommends the book, but may not read any more of the author himself.
John found the book entertaining and the author controlled the pacing quite well. He would not mind revisiting the author in a
Catherine said she had been reading a bunch of Stephen King lately, which led her to question "what is horror?" She felt
suspense was the requirement for horror - when, not what. You already know something bad is going to happen, but you don't
know when. As a writer, she finds her knowledge of the tricks of the trade have defused the horror in movies and books for her.
She found the book boring, with the Louisiana parts more interesting. She liked Jude's development but was uninterested in
the rest of the story. There was no real throughline. The characters didn't have an eipiphany at Anna's reveal. She did
appreciate the slow reveal of the ghost's motives. Overall, the book was not as dark as Horns. She was sad about
the dogs, glad about Marybeth.
Dave agreed with Ralph that Danny should have been offed later for greater impact. The middle bogged down, and the best
parts were the thriller parts. Jude sees himself as an outlaw, but exposure to the real macabre changes him. The sense of
place was good, but the door in the floor was not properly set up. Summation: okay but not great, not horrified.
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WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2016
Our guests were
The Heinlein Society. In a well-received third engagement, Society members Mike Sheffield and Keith Kato presented
further material from their files.
SEPTEMBER 2016 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
September's book was
The Dancer From Atlantis
Suggested by Jamie
Attending: Catherine Curley, Frank Mayfield, John Bowen, Sandi Kallas, Jamie Cassidy-Curtis, Ralph Cox, Glenn Osborne
American architect Duncan Reid is suddenly caught up in an inexplicable event—and when he awakens he is somewhere . . . different. Duncan has inadvertently
fallen victim to a fatally malfunctioning time machine from the future, along with three equally startled companions from vastly different epochs and civilizations, and
now he stands with them on the rocky Mediterranean coast of Egypt in the year 4000 BCE.
Sandi led off the discussion stating that she found the book annoying and sexist. Duncan Reid is the "Great White Savior",
superior to all others, who indulges in a bit of fat-shaming at the beginning. The book fails to address the paradoxes produced
and the ramifications of time travel.
Jamie also found Duncan to be a jerk, saying Poul Anderson usually displays more respect for his female characters. The
historical background of the book was not up to date and a bit lazily researched. She would have enjoyed a more in-depth
discussion of time travel. She recommends the book as light entertainment.
Ralph noted that the theory that the volcano on the island of Thera was the source of the tsunamis that drowned the Eastern
Mediterranean was just beginning to gain currency at the time of this book's writing. He enjoyed it, including the misogeny, and
felt the author could have written a scholarly paper on Theseus.
John found the book readable enough but a bit frustrating for any fan of the Atlantis myth. He found the book to be minor
Anderson, reading as if it was past deadline, featuring an unbelievable ending. He noted that Anderson's writing is frequently
based on Nordic themes and societies, where men and women have clearly defined and separate roles that do not match
mid-century American roles.
Catherine found the book very sexist and a fantasy within a science fictional framework. She was very disappointed in the book,
but noted that the story followed the Theseus myth fairly accurately (but not one-to-one).
Glenn left us a one-word review: "muddled".
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WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 30, 2016
Science fiction writer Steven Barnes, several times nominated for a Hugo Award, makes a return appearance after a number of years. Steven first
appeared on the scene in 1979 and his latest novel, a fantasy epic co-written with Larry Niven, went on sale in June.
AUGUST 2016 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
August's book was
Suggested by Jamie
Attended by: Jamie Cassidy-Curtis, GG, Catherine Curley, Greg Funke, John Bowen
The fierce Dedelphi have unleashed a biological weapon that has poisoned the planet. Now, Lynn Nussbaumer and her Bioverse company have been hired to
clean up the ecosystem. But some groups want to use the humans and their advanced technology to exterminate their enemies...
Jamie led off the discussion to explain why she chose this book, which was generally well-received. She was pleased to find it a
recent, fun, and original non-miitaristic SF novel featuring a good puzzle, interesting characters and a complex society.
Catherine listened to the audio version, which was confusing to listen to at first because of all the names and groups. After the
plot settled into two major tribes she found it interesting in parts. She felt the novel lacked a throughline but found the novel had
an interesting thriller setup.
GG felt the novel was written as both space opera and as hard sf - he would have preferred a greater relianace on hard sf. He
felt emotionally drawn into the characters, and found the gender changing an interesting plotline. GG also suggested the novel
should be renamed "Playing Goddess."
Greg enjoyed the book enough to read it through to the end. The story was workable, hard sf featuring a number of his favorite
tropes such as world-building and a complex society that felt realistic. The different races, the gender-switching, and the
military scenes all appealed to him. He did find the plot a little far-fetched.
John had a thoroughly good time reading this book, and would be interested in reading other works by this author. As with the
other members, he was impressed by the characterizations and world-building. He did feel that sometimes the motivations of some
of the characters was a little too pat, and he began to be annoyed by all the references to ears. John and GG had a side
discussion regarding the altruistic vs. colonialistic intentions of the humans that was interesting but ended too soon.
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WEDNESDAY, JULY 26, 2016
Guest Craig Miller was the Publicist and Director of Fan Relations for Lucasfilm from 1977
to 1980, and for numerous fantastic series and movies since then. Currently he is serving as the story editor for the series Majid, and he has written
episodes of various cartoons including Stargate Universe, Godzilla, and Curious George.
JULY 2016 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
July's book was
Bones Of The Moon
Suggested by John
Attending: Aaron Pilgrim, Catherine Curley, Sandi Kallas, John Bowen, Dave Moore, Ralph Cox, (Jamie Cassidy-Curtis)
Cullen James is a young woman dwelling in two worlds. A happy housewife by day, by dream she is one of several questers after the Bones of the Moon. Somehow,
though, one of these worlds is starting to carry over into the other, in frightening ways.
Neil Gaiman cites Carroll as one of his major influences. The black-covered edition is slightly revised from the original. The book is
Part One of the Answered Prayers series.
Jamie reported by email that she found the book a boring attempt to be some kind of Oz. The story lacks versimilitude - you only
see the journey.
Aaron found the quest narrative to overcome psychological issues an interesting premise and he was blown away by the endings -
especially that of Eliot's death. He said the book was ok and felt like a book of philosophy adapted to fantasy. He wondered if the
sleazy director was written about someone Carroll knew. Other unsolved questions include what the point of the axe boy was; the
purpose of Cullen's life in Greece and Italy; the meaning of the bones of the moon. Components such as Danny, the land of
Rondua, the loss of control after the purple fire and the confusing ending left him wondering if there is an unrevealed backstory.
Catherine claimed the story read like two or three novels mashed together, and was obviously by a man writing about a woman.
The story was not told well, with Cullen telling rather than showing. Mr. Tracy revels in no rules and doing stupid stuff. She knew
Pepsi was the aborted fetus long before Cullen did. She found the concept of writing to a homicidal mental patient a highly
Sandi felt the writing stressed style over substance, full of the symbolism that she hated when doing her lit studies classes. Sort of
an anti-abortion novel. As Pepsi appears while she is pregnant with Mae, Sandi wonders if the story is of Cullen's own insanity.
And was Jack Chill representative of Alvin, the axe murderer?
Ralph found the experience of reading the book unpleasant due to the writing style and the preponderance of dreams. The
writing was in day-to-day language with no flair, featuring poor dialog conducted all in the same voice with a number of childish
cheap shots. He felt unengaged by the dream world as it slipped into psychosis at the end, and he questioned the reliability of the
Dave was not impressed as he felt the novel was not about anything. Rondua felt very arbitrary and the menace was thus pretty
insipid. The writing was readable but left him with no feeling of accomplishment when he finished. The late appearance of the
axe boy left him feeling swindled.
John had suggested the author's Land Of Laughs but this book was chosen instead due to the unavailability of the earlier
work in Braille. He had enjoyed the first book, finding its flavor a bit similar to John Crowley's Little, Big. This book was
more of a challenge to get through as he doesn't like novels set in non-rational worlds. The obscure symbolism also made for
somewhat tedious reading. He found the book oddly affecting, despite the fact that at no time did he feel like he truly understood
what was going on. He would recommend the book to puzzle fanatics, but maybe not to the general reader.
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WEDNESDAY, JUNE 29, 2016
Tim Powers and James Blaylock
Longtime pals (and OCSFC friends) Tim Powers & Jim Blaylock were welcome returning guests at the June meeting. Among other
topics, they discussed the role an editor has had in the evolution of their writing abilities. New books this year from each are pictured above.
JUNE 2016 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
June's book was
James S. A. Corey [Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck]
Suggested by Catherine
Attending: Jamie Cassidy-Curtis, Sandi Kallas, Aaron Pilgrim, Dave Moore, Catherine Curley, John Bowen
Two hundred years after migrating into space, mankind is in turmoil. When a reluctant ship's captain and washed-up detective
find themselves involved in the case of a missing girl, what they discover brings our solar system to the brink of civil war, and
exposes the greatest conspiracy in human history. 2012 Hugo Award nominee. The series has been adapted for television by
the Syfy Network.
Sandi led off the discussion by remarking that this was a very male-centric book with no good female characters (only a token
fantasy girl). This was an old-fashioned space opera, set in the Solar System, with straight-forward plotting, but a little preachy.
Jim Holden and Detective Joe Miller are good characterrs symbolizing the conflict between idealism vs. realism. This was the
second time she had read the book, which she enjoyed, but she was now more aware of its flaws. She felt a bit iffy about the evil
corporation, but loved the vomit zombies.
Jamie thought the writing was a pretty good handling of multiple science fictional clichés (space pirates, asteroids vs. planets).
The story moved well, but did not leave her panting for the next installment.
Aaron weighed in, commenting that he was more inspired by the television series than by the books. He found the series
reminiscent of the movie Aliens 2 and the Japanese manga Akira. Although he felt the book featured poor dialog,
and would have been better at a shorter length - say, 200 pages - he nonetheless found a number of scenes were too short. On
the plus side he said the g-forces were well-described and the battles were good. On the downside, Julie deserved more time
as the ending with her as mother of a new race was unsatisfying. The story was a space opera lacking the super scientist and
any real bad guy. Overall, ok, but lacking in depth.
Dave had also seen the series and felt the book started well. He lost interest when the book changed gears halfway through and
switched into heroic mode. He found many holes in the science, including an unrealistic compression of travel times. He felt the
writing was a bit perfunctory and lacked energy.
Catherine remarked that there were a lot of characters to remember, and she had difficulty following the plot of the second half of
the story. She stated that Miller and Holden had equal weight, morality and flaws in the story until the second half. She thought the
ending seemed rushed, and she stated the ship was named after a Staten Island politician.
John agreed with the others that the book was a bit lightweight and overlong, but he enjoyed it anyway. The scenes with jeopardy
attached maintained suspense well and developed into believable escapes for the characters. The main characters were
likeable, with adequate dialog and motivations. He said it would probably be a while before he read the next in the series as he
had a long list of "to be read nexts", but he was interested enough to give the series a try.
Volume I of a projected 9 book series "The Expanse", which also has a number of shorter works published as e-books.
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WEDNESDAY, MAY 25, 2016
Scott Tracy Griffin
Scott Tracy Griffin is the author of Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration. Print publications for which Griffin has written include Cinefantastique,
FilmFax, Femme Fatale, The Burroughs Bulletin, Mississippi Magazine, and AlterEgo. His online editorial contributions have
been featured in the Huffington Post, Amazon’s Hollywonk, Aintitcool.com, MTV Geek, Flavor Wire, Man of La Book, and List.co.uk. Griffin scripted a 13-week
arc for United Feature’s Tarzan Sunday comic strip in 1996, and the forward to Tarzan in the City of Gold (Titan Books, 2014). He’s been the moderator
for the annual Edgar Rice Burroughs panel at Comic Con International in San Diego since 2012.
MAY 2016 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
May's book was
City Of Stairs
Robert Jackson Bennett
Suggested by Jamie
Attending: Greg Funke, Sandi Kallas, Jamie Cassidy-Curtis, Dave Moore, John Bowen
An atmospheric and intrigue-filled novel of dead gods, buried histories, and a mysterious, protean city. The city of Bulikov once wielded the
powers of the gods to conquer the world, enslaving and brutalizing millions—until its divine protectors were killed. Now Bulikov has become
just another colonial outpost of the world's new geopolitical power, but the surreal landscape of the city itself—first shaped, now shattered, by
the thousands of miracles its guardians once worked upon it—stands as a constant, haunting reminder of its former supremacy.
Into this broken city steps Shara Thivani. Officially, the unassuming young woman is just another junior diplomat sent by Bulikov's oppressors.
Unofficially, she is one of her country's most accomplished spies, dispatched to catch a murderer. But as Shara pursues the killer, she starts
to suspect that the beings who ruled this terrible place may not be as dead as they seem—and that Bulikov's cruel reign may not yet be over.
Greg said he didn't like the book at first but found he couldn't stop reading it. It was the mystery that drew him in and the prolific ideas that
unfolded that kept him involved. He still remembers the book long after reading it, and is glad we picked it for our group to read.
Sandi has now read it twice and also liked the slow reveals. She found the city of Bulikov to be almost a character in itself (a comment shared
by many of the group). She enjoyed the secondary characters better than Shara, whom she found to be a bit flat, but she liked the conversation
between Shara and the Divinity Olvos. Sigrud was "cool", Col. Mulaghesh was very appealing and doesn't need a love interest, Pitry should
have had a bigger role, and Vo's speech at the end was quite good. Overall, a terrific book.
Jamie also was fond of Sigrud, and found Shara to be a sort of female 007, but that was OK. She liked the setting, which reminded her of
Mieville's The City & The City, and also enjoyed the pacing and slow release of background information, which she said was
made available as needed for understanding. The rich setting and multiplicity of characters, especially the gods, has left her wanting to
reread the book, and she is looking forward to the sequels.
Dave likes the novel and wants more of the warehouse. He also liked the epigraphs and the lack of "data dumps", Shara and Auntie Vinya,
but was less impressed by Sigrud, who was "too good as a badass." He also didn't care much for Vo, who was too high on himself, but he
did find the relationship between Vo and Shara to be interesting. Overall, he gave the book a 50% rating, listing a lack of tension due to no
limits on the magic as the main detraction. He liked the beginning of this complex novel but found the ending to be too simplistic, wanting
something more nuanced.
John was totally entranced by this novel - he loved the complex background, the mishmash of faintly Hindu gods, the warehouse
reminiscent of the tv show Warehouse 13, the political tensions, etc. Like Dave he was not overly impressed with Sigrud, who was
something of a deus ex machina character for him. He also felt the murder mystery kind of got sidelined and was more of a minor
subplot than he expected. He does not particularly want to read any sequels (but probably will) as he feels the story is better as a standalone
A sequel was published in 2016:
City Of Blades, and a third book is
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- WEDNESDAY, APRIL 27, 2016
E.J. De la Peña
E.J. De la Peña is an American Filmmaker and CEO of the entertainment production company Cowboy Errant. E.J. was one of the youngest members of SAG
(Screen Actors Guild) at the age of 4, and has worked with various legends of film, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Clooney, Walter Koenig, and
Julia Roberts. E.J. is Creator and Executive Producer for multiple film and television projects, including Nobility: The Series. An avid humanitarian, E.J.
uses his projects to motivate and support philanthropic efforts in the sectors of medical research, green technology, and education.
- APRIL 2016 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
April's book was
Suggested by Ralph Cox
Attending: Catherine Curley, Sandi Kallas, Jamie Cassidy-Curtis, Will & Yvonne Morton, Ralph Cox, GG and John Bowen
Guy Montag is a fireman. In his world, where television rules and literature is on the brink of extinction, firemen start fires rather than put them out. His job is to destroy
the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden.
Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television
“family.” But then he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people didn’t live in fear and to a present where one sees the
world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television.
When Mildred attempts suicide and Clarisse suddenly disappears, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known. He starts hiding books in his home, and
when his pilfering is discovered, the fireman has to run for his life.
The book is considered a classic and is often used in schools. Most of us had previously read the book, some more than once. Will and
Yvonne listened to the audio book read by Bradbury. Will had trouble separating his impressions from the Truffault movie version. He found
the story somewhat dated, concerned and inspired by the events of the Joe McCarthy era, but still appropriate for today's readers. He said
the book should be read and taken to heart. Yvonne said the author's vision of the 1950's was still valid.
GG agreed about the movie, particularly the ending and the training scene. He felt Bradbury succeeded in his goal to present a warning
regarding the effect of mass media taking the place of family and religion. He found the city in the air scene to be quite powerful, and he
noted that the book has no "hard" sf, no feminine books are mentioned, and the story is essentially a one gimmick concept.
Sandi listened to the Tim Robbins audiobook for her third go at this book, and found him to express more emotion than is contained in the
print version. She characterized Bradbury as a kind of Luddite, warning of technology taking over; a man who resisted e-books to the end.
She considered the book to be beautifully written. She said his lyricism made his writing memorable, vivid and poetic.
Dave found the book to be still relevant - a good dystopian novel with an interesting society. He singled out the character of Mildred, Morag's
wife, as memorable, and was impressed by Bradbury's replacement of human neighbors with TV neighbors. On the other hand, Jamie found
the characterization to be poorly drawn. The characters' souls were being leached by their society, left just barely alive. Montag was "kind of
a wimp." She did feel that it was legitimately a classic, and agreed with Sandi about the lyricism in the writing, pointing out that the ending
was happier than in Orwell's 1984. She said that Bradbury was better at writing fantasy than science fiction.
Catherine said that for her the book started off with a bang that didn't last, with the lyricism becoming pedestrian and the story lacking
focus and containing too much exposition. She noted that the women were all "ditzheads" and stereotypes, generally found all in the
background. The wife only came alive when she attempted suicide. Bradbury was a short story writer that had trouble maintaining
reader interest in longer lengths.
John stated that this was not one of his favorite Bradbury works, and that the author, despite his reputation, always seemed uncomfortable
when writing science fiction. His most memorable stories were the fantasies. He also felt the book was a product of its times and was
inferior to Orwell's 1984.
Ralph, who suggested the book, enjoyed both it and the Orwell when he discovered them while he was in high school. The metaphoric
writing filled out the philosophic storyline and drew him on. He noted there had been several changes through the years, improving
things and changing the sequence of events. He said the burning woman knows what will happen in the novel only. The movie had an
outstanding ending. He reported that Bradbury was urged by editor Horace Gold to write the story as he wanted to publish reactions to
McCarthyism. Bradbury's tombstone reads "Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451." He wonders whether or not Bradbury ever read
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- WEDNESDAY, MARCH 30, 2016
Dr. David Sandner
David Sandner is a writer and professor at California State University Fullerton, where he teaches nineteenth-century British Literature,
children’s literature, gothic, science fiction, and fantastic literature.
A story is up at PodCastle. Another recently appeared in
Field of Fantasies: Baseball Stories of the Fantastic and
Supernatural. His work has appeared in Clockwork Phoenix,
Tails of Wonder and Imagination,
The Mammoth Book of Sorcerers' Tales and
The Mammoth Book of Black Magic,
Asimov's, Realms of Fantasy,
Weird Tales, and others, including
pop-up zine Philip K. Dick in the OC.
He is a 2014 Finalist for the Mythopoeic Award for
Critical Discourses of the Fantastic, 1712-1831.
He edited Fantastic Literature A Critical Reader and
The Treasury of the Fantastic and wrote
The Fantastic Sublime.
He is Chair of the 2016 Philip K. Dick Conference at CSU, Fullerton, to be held April 29-30.
During the discussion before the guest presentation, Tim Cassidy-Curtis provided the link for the
Nobility pilot for which he served as technical consultant.
- MARCH 2016 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
March's book was
Suggested by Catherine
Attending: Jamie Cassidy-Curtis, Ralph Cox, Dave Moore, Sandi Kallas, Catherine Curley, Will & Yvonne Morton and John Bowen
Six days after becoming the first man to walk on Mars, astronaut Mark Watney is caught in a windstorm. Though his support crew thinks he
died, Mark survived and now faces abandonment, failed machinery, and a hostile environment.
This book was well-liked by all of the Orbit members. Jamie noted that the book had no evil NASA personnel, with only a reporter asking if
the mission was worth the loss of the astronaut Mark. She liked the believable problem-solving involved with each crisis - nothing from
left field, just God laughing frequently. She also had a good time reading Mark's comments about 70's television shows.
Catherine did not expect to enjoy the book, but she surprised herself, due to the great characterization and clever plotting. The author delivered
a relatable character defined with irrepressible black humor, in a mostly linear story. She noted this was the author's fourth novel, and that
he was famous for his short stories, especially "The Egg."
Sandi listened to the audio book (as did Catherine), and found the story very believable, the science correct, and the narration very good.
She provided the information that the astrophysicist author is self-published and that the Kindle edition had a different ending.
Ralph, Will & Yvonne had only seen the movie, although Ralph was part way through reading the book. Will thought that Matt Damon had
provided a realistic portrait of a NASA astronaut; Yvonne found the movie compelling even in mundane things. Ralph commented that
despite the heavy use of acronyms, they are explained as you go along. Also, that the television provided Mark with this only companionship,
and that the disco music provided "negative energy."
John had a good time with the book, and read it in only two sittings, something that is very rare for him these days. As an aficianado of hard
science fiction, this book was right up his alley, reminiscent of a number of works by authors like Arthur C. Clarke and Hal Clement. He did
feel that the ending nearly jumped the shark.
Dave found himself asking the question of why the character is so likeable, and what makes the book grab you? Perhaps it is the anti-heroic
character, competent, unable to take himself completely seriously, more real than an archetype. He doesn't moan. The story celebrates
triumph over adversity featuring intelligent characters cooperating. The story is upbeat - not a dystopic novel at all. The book may prove to
be a groundbreaker, changing the direction of future science fiction.
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- WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2016
David Mitchell is a NASA award-winning author who has published numerous articles and textbook chapters on the Internet, space, virtual
reality and telepresence.
David is a past member of the
Citizens Advisory Council on National
Space Policy with a lifetime of experience in private space development, emergency preparedness, advanced wireless communications
systems and video surveillance technology.
In Laguna Beach, David has been a past chairman of the City's Technology & Communications Committee, a tech-talk show host on
Laguna's FM radio station, a member of the Greater Laguna Coast FireSafe Council and a founder of
He is also known for having the world's worst puns...
- FEBRUARY 2016 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
February's book was
Diving Into The Wreck
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Suggested by Jamie
Attending: Dave Moore, Sandi Kallas, Jamie Cassidy-Curtis, Ralph Cox, John Bowen
Boss loves to dive historical ships, derelict spacecraft found adrift in the blackness between the stars. Sometimes she salvages for money, but mostly she’s an active
historian. She wants to know about the past—to experience it firsthand. Once she’s dived the ship, she’ll either leave it for others to find or file a claim so that she can
bring tourists to dive it as well. It’s a good life for a tough loner, with more interest in artifacts than people. Then one day, Boss finds the claim of a lifetime: an
enormous spacecraft, incredibly old, and apparently Earth-made. It’s impossible for something so old, built in the days before Faster Than Light travel, to have
journeyed this far from Earth. It shouldn’t be here. It can’t be here. And yet, it is. Boss’s curiosity is up, and she’s determined to investigate. She hires a group of
divers to explore the wreck with her, the best team she can assemble. But some secrets are best kept hidden, and the past won’t give up its treasures without exacting
a price in blood.
Most of the group enjoyed the book, with Dave the lone dissenting voice, citing difficulties accepting the emotionalism of the characters in an
adventure story setting. He felt the book was about changes in Boss's attitude and feelings, which slowed the story down too much. Also, the
author had not presented a well thought-out exotic background for the adventure, and did too much interrupting of the story with explanations
and lumps of information. Dave also felt the language was too passive for an adventure story, the characters were too cautious, and that part
one should have been done as a flashback.
Sandi also had difficulties with the transition from part one to part two, calling it confusing. She had read other works by the author with
enjoyment, liking her style and finding the characters engaging, but she had not completed her reading of the subject book at the time of
our discussion and could not provide a more thorough analysis. She intends to finish reading the book shortly.
Ralph also had not finished but fully intends to continue as he is enjoying the book. He noted the author is popular but hard to find in
bookstores, and he had not previously read anything by her. He found the mental voices indicative of transplanting modern characterization
into the future setting, which he called unusual but down-to-earth. On the downside, he was a bit thrown by the present tense storytelling and
described the part one payoff as "lacklustre".
Jamie liked the author's softer touch and the theme of Boss being forced to come out of her shell. She did find the explanation of the
MacGuffin a bit sketchy, and noted the spacesuits seemed awfully fragile. She intends to continue with the author.
John also had a good time reading the book, but probably won't continue with the character as there are many other higher priority books on
his must read next list. Previously only familiar with the author's short stories, John was strongly reminded of Andre Norton while reading
the book. He did find disconcerting the lack of a real name for Boss, which he felt was a bit pretentious. Overall, lightweight but enjoyable.
Book One of the Diving Universe series. This story has also been published in a shorter form under the same title, which is also available on
Kindle. There are three novel-length sequels:
City Of Ruins,
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- WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 27, 2016
The Club's annual business meeting took place, followed by an open discussion period. No special guest was planned for this meeting.
- JANUARY 2016 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
January's book was
The Three-Body Problem (2007/2014)
Suggested by John & Catherine
Attending: Dave Moore, Catherine Curley, Sandi Kallas, Jamie Cassidy-Curtis, Tamara Chambliss, Will Morton, Yvonne Morton, John Bowen
Cixin Liu is the most prolific and popular science fiction writer in the People's Republic of China. Liu is an eight-time winner of the Galaxy Award (the Chinese Hugo)
and a winner of the Nebula Award. Prior to becoming a writer, he worked as an engineer in a power plant in Yangquan, Shanxi.
Set against the backdrop of China's Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the
brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings
and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion.
Dave began the discussion by providing a bit of background to the development of modern Chinese science fiction. From the early 1900's to the 1930's, it existed
primarily in translation. After World War II science fiction began to appear again, still mostly in translation, but there was some original work produced. During the
Cultural Revolution period (1966-1976), and again during the Anti-Spiritual Pollution period (1983-1990) science fiction virtually disappeared. A science fiction
convention and the founding of the magazine Science Fiction World
heralded the revival of science fiction in the PRC, which has continued to this date. Dave thinks current Chinese SF is too anthropocentric, and the 1977-1982
period to be too juvenile with its preponderance of space opera and non-serious works. Cixin Liu, whose father was a scientist during the Cultural Revolution, is
one of the most highly regarded authors of the modern period.
Dave believes a theme central to the book at hand is "How can humans survive in a universe of zero morality?" The question is unanswered in this first part of a
trilogy. He said the book was reminiscent of the work of Stanislaw Lem and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. - whimsical and off-the-wall. For him it corresponded to the early
1960's period of American sf and was not particularly ground-breaking. He liked the cop, who seemed more Chinese than American in portrayal. He felt the first
part was the most successful. Overall, he found the book interesting but not dazzling.
Jamie enjoyed the book and plans to read the sequels when they become available. She felt the characterization was a bit muffled with some characters not fully
drawn. She noted "There's a lot of female murderers!" Yvonne liked the technology, especially the proton, but was put off by the characters. She had hoped for a
more Asian feel to the book.
Sandi, who along with Will, Yvonne & Catherine, listened to the audio book, also felt the book was more American in style than Chinese. She noted the audio
rendition, while good, used only American accents without any Chinese inflections. She was interested by many of the concepts, particularly the countdown (which
she would have liked to have had more fully developed rather than being dropped). She figured out the game was a real world, but felt the ending was explained
rather than described. She felt the book was fairly generic, and would have benefitted from a more sequential telling.
Catherine also felt the countdown was not fully explained, and that the book needed more doing instead of telling, and a less fragmented narrative. She noted a
Big, Bloody start that too soon devolved into an American spy novel interrupted by interminable video games and chunks of exposition. Using Mikhail Bulgakov as
a Russian example of a novel that expresses an idiomatic worldview, she felt this book suffered by failing to provide a Chinese view. Catherine prefers social sf
to the tecnhologically oriented type, and wanted more of the Cultural Revolution segment, but ultimately found nothing new in the book's depiction of that period.
Tamara noted that the Cultural Revolution turned ordinary people into government-sponsored sociopaths. She enjoyed the novel, particularly the "American"
police officer, but did not find it revolutionary - just a fun read. She liked the dehydration of the Trisolarians, and wants a proton of her own. John more or less
echoed these feelings, but wasn't convinced that the proton technology made any sense other than as a cheap way to move the novel forward. He also would
like to have experienced a more Chinese worldview, though he's not sure what exactly that would look like, not ever having been there.
Will summarized the book as typical of Chinese sf. Characters are deliberately drawn cold, brutal and without mercy. The books are written for a Chinese
audience, not an American one. He notes that the Cultural Revolution is a major literary topic there, and recommends the book
Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China for further information on the Cultural Revolution and its impact.
In summary, the book is recommended as an interesting but not earth-shaking read, a bit dry and light on characterization, but worth the time of the average
hard sf enthusiast. Most of the group plans to read the sequels.
The two sequels are: The Dark Forest and
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- WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 2015
Robb Yanagihara, Light Saber Expert
The Light Saber Guild
Robb Yanagihara and another member of the Light Saber Guild joined us with a discussion of their group, including charities they are involved with, and a thrilling
(close-quarters) demonstration of one of their choreographed light saber battles!
- NOVEMBER 2015 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
November's book was
The Ocean At The End Of The Lane (2013)
Suggested by Catherine
Attending: Dave, Sandi, Catherine, Ralph, Jamie, John Bowen
The never-named fiftyish narrator is back in his childhood homeland, rural Sussex, England, where he’s just delivered the eulogy at a funeral. With “an hour or so to kill”
afterward, he drives about—aimlessly, he thinks—until he’s at the crucible of his consciousness: a farmhouse with a duck pond. There, when he was seven, lived the
Hempstocks, a crone, a housewife, and an 11-year-old girl, who said they were grandmother, mother, and daughter. Now, he finds the crone and, eventually, the
housewife—the same ones, unchanged—while the girl is still gone, just as she was at the end of the childhood adventure he recalls in a reverie that lasts all afternoon.
He remembers how he became the vector for a malign force attempting to invade and waste our world.
Generally, this book did not meet with much approval from the Orbit. Catherine apologized for suggesting it, saying she didn't know it would be written on the level
of the Bobbsey Twins books. Ralph stated he was sorry he stuck with the book to the end, as he felt that the ending was unclear and that the witch takes up too
much of the story. The story had a lack of continuity, and read like a psychotic remembering his past.
Sandi said she finds Gaiman to be something of a hit-or-miss author without much depth, and the story made for only a so-so book. She characterized the three
women on the farm as derivative of the Three Fates (something John missed). The story felt like it was not meant for children, but was written as if it was. She also
said the book had an identity issue: What is the book supposed to be?
Dave agreed with Sandi, finding the book very readable but unable to identify what the book was about. Things happen for no reason, assumed to be profound.
Although he found the book disappointing, he was not one hundred percent unhappy as the writing carried him along (but doesn't add up to anything). He thought the
book might be improved if the narrator's adult life was expanded.
Jamie found the book okay, nice and short, readable, and reminiscent of the works of Alan Garner. She found nothing particularly original in the tale, consisting
of more atmosphere than story. The narrator as a child was a boring kid who had things happen to him instead of because of him.
John was entertained by the book but agreed that it wasn't top of the list. He disagreed with Jamie, as he felt that things do happen without cause, and a story can
be about how a child can be affected. The narrator is supposed to be seven years old at the time of these events, and the narration, while a bit uneven, did seem to
accurately reflect a seven-year-old's abilities to understand and react to the supernatural phenomena presented. The ending seemed quite clear, if a bit unsatisfying,
as Lottie's fate remains unresolved. The writing seemed to be appropriate for a comic book or graphic novel, unsurprising due to Gaiman's past with that industry.
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- WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2015
Mel Gilden, Science Fiction and Fantasy Author
Veteran fantasy & sf author Mel Gilden disclosed some of his secrets to writing stimulating fantastic fiction for preteen to adult readers. Much of the night's
discussion revolved around Mel's involvement in writing books in the Star Trek universe.
- OCTOBER 2015 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
October's book was
Carrion Comfort (1989)
Suggested by Catherine
Attending: Dave, Sandi, Catherine, Jamie, John Bowen
THE PAST... Caught behind the lines of Hitler’s Final Solution, Saul Laski is one of the multitudes destined to die in the notorious Chelmno extermination camp. Until he
rises to meet his fate and finds himself face to face with an evil far older, and far greater, than the Nazi’s themselves… THE PRESENT... Compelled by the encounter to
survive at all costs, so begins a journey that for Saul will span decades and cross continents, plunging into the darkest corners of 20th century history to reveal a secret
society of beings who may often exist behind the world's most horrible and violent events. Killing from a distance, and by darkly manipulative proxy, they are people with
the psychic ability to 'use' humans: read their minds, subjugate them to their wills, experience through their senses, feed off their emotions, force them to acts of
unspeakable aggression. Each year, three of the most powerful of this hidden order meet to discuss their ongoing campaign of induced bloodshed and deliberate
destruction. But this reunion, something will go terribly wrong. Saul’s quest is about to reach its elusive object, drawing hunter and hunted alike into a struggle that will
plumb the depths of mankind’s attraction to violence, and determine the future of the world itself…
Winner of the 1989 Bram Stoker Award.
Interestingly, the group divided on gender lines for this book. Catherine, who listened to the audio version, felt the book had a lot of problems. Unresolved for her
was whether or not the book met the criteria to be considered horror. For that matter, what is horror? She said she was sorry she recommended the book, that she
did so because the title was part of a poem by "the patron poet of depressives" (Gerard Manley Hopkins), and because Stephen King had hailed the book as one of
the greatest horror novels ever written. She particularly felt the book "wallowed in doodoo", killed characters she found herself attached to, was disturbed by the
deaths of children, and the ending was a ripoff of Richard Connell's story "The Most Dangerous Game." On the other hand, she felt the description of Germantown
was quite good.
Jamie found the book overlong and highly repetitious - so much so that she speed-read the last two thirds. The character of the sheriff did not work for her, and
the improper use of the dialect word "y'all" jarred her. She liked the overall idea, and felt the story was handled well at first, but was annoyed that the book ended,
as most modern horror novels do, with the most powerful antagonist escaping.
Sandi also listened to the audio version, and thought the story was too long with half its length consisting of padding. All the tension was dissipated due to its
length. Like Jamie and Catherine, she liked the character touches in the first part, and didn't like Sheriff Rob's death. She found the book to be too racist and filled
with stereotyped characters, such as a black gang member named Marvin Gayle(!) This is the ninth Simmons book she has read, and it didn't work for her on any
level. She cited Simmons' The Terror as one of the best horror novels she has read.
Dave liked the book and found it very readable. He felt the complex setup required a lengthy treatment, although the novel became more of a conventional
action story in the second half with the horror returning only in the last chapter. He characterized the writing after the Mossad incident as "a bit arbitrary." He felt
the definition of "feeding" to be very loose. Some of the characters were a bit forced, but he did like Tony, whom he found humorous. He enjoyed the internecine
fighting, and found the book good but not great.
John enjoyed the book, finding the 800 pages went by very quickly. Later Simmons books are much more complex - this book was easy to understand. It did seem
to be more of an action novel rather than a conventional horror story. He felt that comparing the action in the latter half to Connell's story was a bit unfair, and it is
not a ripoff to loosely duplicate a storyline so long as the development and resolution are original. Additionally, there was much else going on at this stage of the
book other than just a manhunt.
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- WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2015
September's guest was our first speaker from overseas. Ian McAllister talked to us about Hal Clement, winner of the 1999 SFWA Grand Master Award,
noted for his world-building novels, and famous author of Mission Of Gravity.
Ian Hugh McAllister was born in Wallasey, Merseyside in November 1960. If he had come from just across the River Mersey he would be a "Scouse", but as a
Wallasean he is a "Wooly". At seventeen he was introduced to Simone on a blind date with friends, and they have been married since 1982. They have one son,
Stuart, who arrived as a bit of a surprise in 1993. They have lived near The Jurassic Coast in Dorset since 1985.
Ian has enjoyed a lifelong passion for aviation, especially airliners. A keen plane spotter, he fulfilled his childhood ambition by joining the UK Civil Aviation Authority
in July 1980 as an Air Traffic Control Assistant. Prior to early retirement in September 2014, his day (and night) job was that of Flight Information Service Officer, one
of a close-knit team providing the on-demand "London Information" service to aircraft flying outside the UK airways controlled airspace system. Over a 35 year ATC
career he managed to widen his experience to include recruitment, training at every level, project management and extensive line management. He is also trained as
a Critical Incident Stress Management Defuser, or psychological first responder.
After a 30 year on/off research project about the life and times of his remarkable grandmother Hilda James, Ian finally began writing in earnest during late 2011.
The resulting book "Lost Olympics" was the long-awaited family history. Along the way he was to learn that Hilda was even more of a character than the determined
old lady he had known as a child. He would also unearth some dark and sometimes controversial family secrets that needed to be aired as part of the narrative.
His sci-fi fan Dad gave him the book Earth Abides by George R. Stewart when he was fourteen. The McAllister parents kept a large number of pulp
magazines collected during their university years (Astounding etc.) and Ian set to and read them all. Ever since then Ian has been an avid science fiction reader,
preferring the so-called "hard sci-fi" genre of books based in possible science, over those dealing in pure fantasy. He is currently engaged in writing the second
draft of his own book in the genre, based on an original idea which he says has been kicking around in his head for twenty years. To Visit Earth will hopefully
be ready for publication in the autumn of 2015.
Aside from reading, writing and travelling the world in search of interesting and vintage airliners, Ian is a certified petrol head. He currently drives a V8 Chrysler
300C and a keeps a classic 1987 Mercedes for show days and sunshine.
- SEPTEMBER 2015 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
September's book was
Needle (1949, 1950)
Suggested by John Bowen
Attending: Dave, Sandi, Catherine, Ralph, Glenn, Jamie, John Bowen
An alien detective on the trail of a malevolent murderer of the same species as himself crash lands on Earth near an isolated island. Not possessing bodies as such,
both must find host bodies, such as the body of a young boy living on the island.
A short one, as October's award-winning and highly acclaimed book is rather lengthy. The novel was reissued under the title
From Outer Space and it also appears in the omnibus volume
The Essential Hal Clement. Volume 1, Trio For Slide Rule And Typewriter A sequel,
Through The Eye Of A Needle (1978) is also available but was
not planned to be part of the discussion.
A rare unanimous approval was given to this book, despite minor faults. We all felt that the book, partly due to its remote setting, was essentially timeless in nature,
and could have been set in almost any decade of the 20th Century. It could not, of course, be mistaken for a modern work of science fiction, but there were no overt
references to time or place. Everyone enjoyed the story Clement had to tell, though several felt it dragged a bit in the middle.
Dave pointed out that the private school setting was not usual in American sf but was forgiveable as the author was himself a teacher at a private school for boys. He
also noted the "boys' adventure" quality to the novel ("boys mucking around" as he put it). Others also noted this quality, citing the Hardy Boys and other books
oriented towards young teenage boys. For many, it gave a comfortable feeling of reliving a long-past period in their reading lives. On the dis side, Dave did feel
that the book had only weak characterization (hard to tell the boys apart), had an abrupt ending, and, of course, was structurally weak. But he enjoyed it nonetheless.
Catherine noted the lack of native names and that all the boys were "white" in characterization. She deduced the murderer's hiding
place long before it was revealed.
Jamie read the book twice and was pleased to find that the storytelling was not dry (for her, a rarity in a hard sf book). Enjoyable as the book was, she did note that
the action is over a severely limited area which fostered convenient coincidences in the plotting. Particularly convenient was the luck the Hunter had in finding
such an amenable and competent host. She noted that this is one of the rare (if not unique) occurrences of alien possession that was symbiotic in nature, not
Sandi echoed much of the above, and found the Hunter's personality to be a bit too human in nature to be fully believable. She noted that there is a later alien
symbiotic relationship in the character of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's portrayal of Jadzia Dax. Sandi listened to the audio book as no e-book was available. A
feature of the book she noted was that the Hunter could not communicate telepathically with its host but had to resort to more mundane methods.
John read the story in the omnibus Trio For Slide Rule And Typewriter, which also contained the novels Iceworld and Close To Critical.
Much as he enjoyed Needle, he found the other two to be even more interesting, finding them to be wonderful exercises in worldbuilding. He had no
particular comments to add to what had been said, but did note the oddity of the setting being in Tahiti rather than Samoa, as the latter speaks English and the
former French. John stated the novel would be a good entry for someone who professes to hate sf.
Ralph noted that the doctor accepts Hunter as intrinsically "good" without question, something he felt a doctor would not accept without proof. He also would have
liked a fuller discussion of Hunter's homeworld and the society it had evolved using hosts. The lack of a greater explanation of the murderer's crime was also a
weakness. He identified Clement as a good writer, and wondered if the work was the first instance of a "good" alien possession.
Glenn's summation pretty well matched the group's feelings: "The author is creating an alien contact story that doesn't center around fear, panic, menace to the
planet, warfare, population slaughter, etc., and in the story line is promoting the values of trust, cooperation for mutual benefit, clear communication, and especially
important, liking. The entities here are human and alien, but the theme applies universally to all of us. Individuals can interact in positive ways. Conflict
need not be the norm and need not be inevitable. In my opinion, the author conveys his points very well throughout, right up to the very good ending. He's
consistent. The characters are likable and well-intentioned. The kids are mature and good-hearted. The Hunter is noble. There aren't any villains! The
criminal alien has no importance beyond being a plot device. His own actions, motives, and intentions are not at all the focus of the story. Even the voice of the
omniscient narrator has a kindly, sometimes whimsical, tone...This is not a story of menace...
"Well, you do have to accept a whopper of a premise - that his type of alien life form is not only believable but can pour itself into a little vehicle and travel through
interstellar space as though going from one county to the next. I'm pretty okay with it; you don't have a story without it. The narrative could probably have been
fine-tuned a little. In particular, I never could get a clear idea of the layout of the island...And while the story was mostly fast-paced, the pacing seemed just a bit
uneven to me. Overall, I thought it was well-constructed and well-written. Any quibbles I may have are very minor. It was a good read. It held my interest and
attention. It was positive and uplifting. I liked it."
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Pub. 1949, 1950
Wednesday, July 29, 2015 (7:30 p.m.)
- Wednesday, August 26, 2015 (7:30 p.m.)
Elizabeth Watasin is the author of the gothic steampunk series "The Dark Victorian", "The Elle Black Penny Dreads", the forthcoming paranormal sci-fi noir series
"Darquepunk", and the creator/artist of the indie comics series "Charm School", which was nominated for a Gaylactic Spectrum Award. A twenty year veteran of
animation and comics, her screen credits include thirteen feature films, such as Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King,
and The Princess and the Frog, and she's written for Disney Adventures magazine. Particularly fascinating was her account of how she got the
striking covers for her Dark Victorian series. She designed the costume, selected the model and got a professional photo shoot. She lives in Los Angeles with Draw,
her black cat, busily bringing readers uncanny heroines in shilling shockers, historical fantasy adventures, and paranormal detective tales.
Follow the news of her latest projects at A-Girl Studio.
- AUGUST 2015 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
August's book was
Ancillary Justice [Imperial Radch #1] (2013)
Suggested by Catherine Curley and Dave Moore
Attending: Dave, Sandi, Catherine, Jamie, John Bowen
On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. Once, she was the Justice of Toren - a colossal starship with an artificial
intelligence linking thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. Now, an act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her
with one fragile human body, unanswered questions, and a burning desire for vengeance.
Winner of the 2014 Hugo and Nebula Awards. There are two sequels.
Dave was the only reader of this book who disliked it, the rest would recommend the book to others. He felt the story was structurally unsound, with the switching
back and forth between a tightly-focussed personal story to the story of a planetary conquest working against reader involvement with either segment. He found the
writing to be a slow starter, with a number of data dumps early on slowing the pacing, and he also felt that the feminine emotionality was the wrong way to tell this
type of space opera. Breq, the protagonist, was not to him a very sympathetic character. He felt the first half of the book was a bit muddy, but once the action of the
story began the book improved and was more readable.
Two of the readers found the story dense enough to reward at least a partial rereading. We were all quite impressed by the huge number of post-it notes Jamie had
placed in her copy! She noted that the author's use of gender confusion on the part of Breq (only she refers to male characters as she, and she lives in fear of
misidentifying the gender of the touchy inhabitants of the planet she is on), was a subtly effective device of the author to remind us that Breq was an artificial
intelligence and not a real person. She liked the book a great deal, and felt that the novel's treatment of moral questions, such as One Esk's orders to shoot her
friend, to be thoughtful and involving.
Catherine also noted the author's use of "she" as a neutral gender in the book worked well at keeping us just a little bit off-center while reading the story. She felt
the author's handling of the shifting viewpoints and time frames to be done quite well. She especially liked the almost Dickensian flavor to the disparity between
the poor and the wealthy (who have no understanding or sympathy for the poor). She is interested enough to consider reading the sequel.
Sandi, who had read the book some time ago, felt she gained quite a bit of insight by re-reading it. She felt rather the reverse of Dave, finding the ending a bit
rushed after so much wonderful development and detail. She noted that the ancillary revived from cold storage in Chapter 12 may be Breq, as Breq acted in a way
that none of the ancillaries around since the start of the book could have done. An early mention in the book about the rather arbitrary selection process for who
would be assigned to the trash and who would have their memories erased to become an ancillary, evoked memories of scenes of Nazi camp personnel choosing
who would be gassed and who would be put to work as a slave. Both were a decision between a worker and a corpse. Ultimately, Sandi came to the conclusion the
basic theme of the book was "what does it mean to be human?" She noted that Breq never quite accepts her own humanity. Sandi has already read the sequel
and is impatiently awaiting the conclusion to the trilogy.
John found the book quite enjoyable, a kind of thought-provoking space opera. Since the characters themselves didn't seem to notice the seemingly arbitrary usage
of personal pronouns, he ignored the discrepancies as irrelevancies. Although written by a woman, he did not find the emotions, where they appeared, to be out
of place. Initially he found the "Breq on the ice planet" the more interesting section, with the Radch planetary conquest picking up steam later. Unlike Dave, John
found the book to be well-written and did not find the contrast between the personal and the larger frame of reference to be a failure. He noted that the method
used to convey multiple viewpoints of a single personality seemed to work quite well, as One Esk was simultaneously an individual and a wide-area network of
sensory input. Also clever, he thought, was the depiction of the Radch as fierce, rather paranoid, conquerors with a hidden homeworld that the Radch soldiers
had never and would never see. The only part of the book that he felt jumped the shark a bit was Breq's fall from the bridge. This seemed to be a rather clunky plot
device compared to the sophistication of the rest of the writing. John declared the book had earned its trophies, and he would definitely follow up by reading the
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Wednesday, June 24, 2015
provided attendees with the fascinating and inspiring Cassini Mission tour of Saturn and its system, including close-ups of several moons and the famous rings.
Ms. Landry holds degrees in chemistry (BA, UCSD, 1984) and planetary
science (MS, Caltech, 1986) and works as an engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. She has worked on the Hubble Space Telescope and the joint
US-French oceanographic Earth orbiter Topex, where she was a Sequencing Engineer. (Sequencing involves building sets of commands that are stored on the
spacecraft, to be executed over some period of time, with no further intervention from the ground.) Ms. Landry’s favorite position so far has been on the Mars
Pathfinder project, where she did a variety of jobs, from adapting software packages to the Pathfinder command set, to preparing and verifying most of the imaging
commands and panoramas. She worked for a dozen years on the Cassini Mission to Saturn, where she was once again in sequencing, though with a great deal more
complexity and much more authority than on Topex. Ms. Landry has done several shorter stints since then, including two years on the Dawn mission, during it's Vesta
approach, orbit, and departure phases, and two more on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, coinciding with the landing and main mission of Curiosity, the Mars Science
Laboratory, for which MRO was the primary relay provider. Shortly, she will be transitioning to the Mars Odyssey mission, where she will again be in sequencing.
Ms. Landry also takes great interest in the advancement of women in technical fields, and the helps and bars to their progress, as well as in the problem of sparking and maintaining girls’ early interest in science and math.
- JULY 2015 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
July's book was
Star Soldiers (omnibus of Star Rangers and Star Guard) (2001)
Suggested by Catherine
Attending: Jamie, John Bowen, Catherine, Dave Moore, Ralph, Gordon, Sandi, Greg Funke and 3 others new to the Club. (Drop John a
line at firstname.lastname@example.org to identify yourselves, please.)
Star Rangers (also published as The Last Planet) (1953): A starship from a decaying galactic empire, with a mixed human-alien crew, is exploring the
outer fringes of the Milky Way. A crash-landing on an apparently empty planet marks the end of the voyage. With no hope of repairing the vessel, the surviving
crewmen must plan their future, allot their resources, and explore all avenues for a new life on this world.
Star Guard (1955): In A.D. 4000 humans are valued by Central Control as mercenaries, but otherwise are at the bottom of the galactic hierarchy. Kana Karr,
a young swordsman investigating the mysterious deaths of some of his comrades, stumbles on a conspiracy that endangers Central Control and the human race
Many of us in the reader's group cut our Science Fictional teeth on Andre Norton and have fond memories of her stories, so this month we decided to revisit this
notable author to see if our childhood memories held up. The result, however, was one of disappointment, at least with this book. Those who read both of the
novels contained in this omnibus generally felt that Star Guard was the lesser work, though written later. Several readers noted that Star Guard
felt uneven, largely due to the unlikelihood of the premise (swords indeed!) and several sudden time and locale jumps. Some felt the author may have lost
interest in the story as the ending felt rushed. Some readers noted they felt cheated by the ending, as there was no direct sequel.
Star Rangers/The Last Planet fared a bit better in readers' estimation, though some were misled into thinking that the story was intended to be a sequel to
Star Guard. In fact, the two books are for the most part unconnected; the juxtaposition of the two stories in the same volume was due to financial
considerations, not literary ones. Readers enjoyed the exploratory nature of the storyline, though some were a bit amused by the author's failure to call a spade a
spade (visibility lenses instead of binoculars, safe-bar instead of handcuffs, etc.). No one was really surprised by the ending - we are a jaded bunch!
Dave asked the members of the group two questions: first, would you recommend these two novels to a general Science Fiction reader who has mainly read modern
SF; second, would you recommend these stories to an aficionado of 1950's style SF who has read Andre Norton.
The answer to the first question was no. The deficiencies of the writing and story telling were such that this book would not appeal to the general reader. John did
not feel that her writing was deficient for the times in which she wrote and for her intended audience (both novels were originally marketed as juveniles), but that
the art of writing cutting edge science fiction has evolved beyond the plain, transparent writing styles of the 1940's and 1950's. He remarked that her style appeared
to be modeled on pulp magazine stories of the 1940's, particularly Planet Stories.
On the second question, even then, there was reluctance to endorse the works. Those that had an affection for Andre Norton could only rate these stories as OK,
and those that had read her extensively felt that if you were going to introduce someone to Andre Norton, other books, such as the Witch World, Forerunner, or
Janus series, would do it a lot better.
Various members of the group pointed out that her writing was weak and sometimes plodding, the characterization thin, and the set up arbitrary and hard to swallow.
The plot was full of holes and didn't connect well to the setup - and some found her spatial descriptions difficult to understand.
But most of the group did not dismiss her or feel reading the stories a complete waste of time. Her writing, even in her less auspicious works, has certain strengths.
Dave (who read Star Guard only), called her writing "clunky, but quite charming. It has readability. There is an originality to her set ups. Humans are low
man on the totem pole, serving as mercenaries because that's all they are allowed to do. Her main characters aren't WASPs, something that would have stood out
in the time they were written. Also, her stories have aged quite well, mainly due to avoiding much in the way of tech description and her crafty use of generalized
terms for these descriptions."
There are reasons why so many people like her. Many of her novels (though not these) use young protagonists that are from the wrong side of the tracks, or have
been victimized for their ancestry or situation. Her deft characterization makes identification easy and she maintains a fast pace as she unfolds her plots. Unusual
for authors of the 50's and 60's, Norton does not wrap up every plot point, leaving readers with a feeling of having experienced a truly strange, perhaps not
completely knowable, world.
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Pub. 1953, 1955, 2001
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Our guest was Madeleine Holly-Rosing, author and artist of
The Boston Metaphysical Society, a steampunk-flavored series of comic books, short
stories and novels. Madeleine holds an MFA (UCLA) in screenwriting and has been an internationally ranked epée fencer.
- JUNE 2015 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
June's book was
Sharra's Exile [Darkover] (1981)
Marion Zimmer Bradley
Suggested by John Bowen
Attended by Wendy, Dave Moore, Catherine, John Bowen, GG, Bea, Sandi
"The most dangerous matrix on all Darkover was the legendary Sharra. Embodied in the image of a chained woman, wreathed in flames, it was the last remaining weapon
of the Ages of Chaos that had almost destroyed civilization on the planet of the Bloody Sun. The Sharra had been exiled off-planet among the far stars of the Terran
Empire in the custody of Lew Alton... until he found himself called back to his homeworld to contest his rights. But once the Sharra was back, the flaming image spread
wide - and set in motion events that were to change the land, the domains, and the future of Darkover forever." - Fabrice Rossi (Sequel to The Heritage Of
Hastur.) Included in the omnibus volumes Heritage And Exile and Children Of Hastur. The book is an expansion and rewrite of her 1962 novel,
The Sword Of Aldones.
GG felt the book featured strong writing, deconstructing the Compact featured in the previous book. He enjoyed the two books well enough to continue on to
read The Shattered Chain. Bea was so interested by our conversation regarding the book that she has decided to go out and buy the book and read it.
Wendy found the book to have a different feel from Heritage, with more action, "Transformers in the Overworld", and
good characterization displayed in Regis' ability to grow.
Sandi liked this book better than the previous one, with more interesting character growth. She found the Dio section to be a little long, and the Linnell/Kathie
plotline to be implausible. She liked Prince Derik and how Regis grows into the role of prince. She felt Bradley "wussed out" on the homosexuality theme of the
first novel. She didn't want the details, but she didn't buy Regis looking for love with a woman.
Dave said he was not impressed by the book, finding it unfocussed and impossible to summarize what it is about in one sentence. He found too many major
characters for it to be about power, and the vast amount of people talking buries the themes, with the action sequences just sort of sprung on you. He found the
first part (the Dio storyline) to be the best, with better characterization, but that the incessant conversation failed to feed both theme and plot.
Catherine also remarked on the repetitive conversations and the lack of a through-line to the story. Something felt missing and unfulfilled. The Merryl/Callina
relationship could have been better, and the Kathie plotline was simply not believable. The author seems to have her characters break the rules without
blinking, but she does handle the death scenes well.
John read both the original story, The Sword Of Aldones, as well as Sharra's Exile. Sword begins when Lou Alton returns to Darkover,
and does not contain the Dio storyline at all, simply making a brief reference to it. In general, the further one goes into the books, the closer they dovetail. The
endings are almost identical. John found both stories entertaining, though the Kathie plotline was definitely the weak point of the books. Perhaps because he
read the story twice, he did not find a feeling of dissatisfaction upon completion. He felt the second book benefited from the addition of the Dio section, and that it
was the best part of the book. He noted that the storyline is continued in three lengthy books co-written with Deborah Ross, which, while entertaining, don't
really add much to the series within a series.
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Our guest was Randall Chambers. For the past four years Randall has taught traditional and
digital photographic techniques at California State University Fullerton, El Camino College, Irvine College, the Huntington Beach Art Museum, the Muckenthaler
Cultural Center and several workshops in Orange County. Not only has he taught in the field of photography, Randall is the founder of
Great-Depth Productions, which has produced a local cable show entitled
Turning the Verge, a talk show about artists.
- MAY 2015 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
May's book was
The Heritage Of Hastur [Darkover] (1975)
Marion Zimmer Bradley
Suggested by John Bowen
Attended by Sandi, Gordon, John Bowen, Dave Moore, Wendy, Jamie, Catherine, GG (some of the comments on this book occurred during the June meeting)
"... the pivotal event in the strange love-hate relationship between the Terran worlds and the semi-alien offspring of the forgotten peoples. This is the novel of the Hastur
tradition and the showdown between those who would bargain away their world for the glories of the star-borne science and those who would preserve the special "matrix"
power that was at once the prize and the burden of ruddy-sunned Darkover." - Fabrice Rossi Included in the omnibus volumes Heritage And Exile and
Children Of Hastur.
Sandi was surprised by the homosexual plot appearing in so early a work of science fiction. Ultimately she was bothered by the ending wherein Danilo allows
himself to be adopted by his persecutor, Dyan. Dave felt the story had a slow start, though richly told. He found the book readable with a nice setup but no real
payoff. Gordon remarked that the book had a precedent in history, and Dave agreed, saying this is basically a colonizer's story.
Wendy found too much of the book occupied with politics, to the point where much of it was repetitive. She found the use of languages interesting, as well as
the chieri source of the laran powers, but overall felt the book dragged a bit. Jamie noted the book was ambivalent with no clear heroes or villains.
John found the early section of the book, containing the abuse of Danilo by Dyan, to be both disturbing and boring at the same time. He found that the moral
ambiguity of the author did not seem to affect his enjoyment of her work. Once past the early section he found the book more interesting, and very much enjoyed
the major plotline and its resolution. He had read most of the Bradley oeuvre and found, even as a re-read, the book was one of the best in the series.
Catherine says the series is a go-to for her, a kind of comfort food for the brain. She has read and listened to the book several times. Nonetheless, this book is
not among her favorites due to poor writing leaving her wanting more. It's a good job of creation but she doesn't tie up the plot threads well, and there's too much
teenage-styled guilt with bad internal dialog.
GG says this is the better book of the two. It was his first exposure to the work of Bradley, and he was fascinated by the brilliant legal mind displayed in the
arguments based on legal principles and honor. He felt she was a great author. Her writing was less character-driven than argument-driven, featuring an
anachronistic antagonism between self-regulation vs. the state.
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Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Our guest was Dr. Gregory Benford, author of more than fifty novels, collections, anthologies and
non-fiction books. His work has received multiple Hugo and Nebula Award nominations, and he is a two-time winner of the Nebula Award. Dr. Benford has
visited our club several times in the past and has always sparked lively discussions. He discussed his involvement with
Lifecode and its products, and the writing and publication of two of his latest novels and his upcoming
(July 31, 2015) collection of short stories.
- APRIL 2015 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
April's book was
Etiquette & Espionage [Finishing School #1] (2013)
Gail Carriger [Tofa Borregaard]
Suggested by Jamie Cassidy-Curtis
Attended by Ralph, Jamie, John Bowen, Catherine, Dave Moore
In an alternate England of 1851, spirited fourteen-year-old Sophronia is enrolled in a finishing school where, she is suprised to learn, lessons include not only the fine arts
of dance, dress, and etiquette, but also diversion, deceit, and espionage. Young Adult, Steampunk.
Quite a range of reactions to this month's book. Dave said only that he did not enjoy what he read, and stopped after a few chapters. Ralph started the book, but
felt that, as there were several previous books written in this "world", that he felt unable to participate in the world-building process. Of the portion he did read, he
found the writing style to be fragmented and convoluted, but that it did feature strong characterization. He switched to the book Soulless instead, which he
said he did enjoy.
Of those who read the book, Catherine listened to the audio version, which featured a British actress, whom she enjoyed - particularly finding that the many asides
flowed well. She found the book to have a slow start, and felt a bit jarred by the appearance of a werewolf and a vampire in a steampunk novel. Ultimately, she
found the book okay, but not outstanding.
Jamie said she found the book's style to be inspired by the works of Jane Austen. The book has a number of pratfalls early on in order to involve younger readers
in the storyline. Her favorite scene was when Lenette tells Sophronia she's not obeying curfew. She met the author when she was Guest of Honor at ConDor.
John stated that he quite enjoyed the book from beginning to end, and read it pretty much in a single sitting. As with Catherine, he found the sudden introduction of
the supernatural to be a bit too late in the novel for easy assimilation, especially as it seemed to dilute the light-hearted adventure of the steampunk elements. For
readers who have encountered the earlier novels, perhaps these elements are anticipated or expected. Nonetheless, John liked it enough that he might well give the
sequel a try.
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Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Our guest was Tom Khamis, a past assistant to famed SciFi fan Forrest J. Ackerman.
Tom was associate producer on the DVD documentary
"Uncle Forry's AckerMansions".
- MARCH 2015 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
March's book was
Earth Abides (1949)
George R. Stewart
Suggested by Ralph Cox
Attended by Glenn, Ralph, Catherine, Jamie, Dave Moore, John Bowen
A disease of unparalleled destructive force has sprung up almost simultaneously in every corner of the globe, all but destroying the human race. One survivor, strangely
immune to the effects of the epidemic, ventures forward to experience a world without man. What he ultimately discovers will prove far more astonishing than anything he'd
either dreaded or hoped for.
Winner of the 1951 International Fantasy Award.
Glenn found the book ambitious, with an intelligent philosophy and a broad scope. Although he had minor quibbles, he liked it and found it an excellent read.
He found it the saddest book, with a definite point of view at the end. He felt the theme could be summed up "Life without caution is ok." He noted that the NPR
play changed the ending and condensed the characters of Jack & Joey.
Ralph said the book had been on his list for some time. He found the storytelling pedantic, with vivid microscopic detail leaving nothing left to the imagination.
The story was relentless, with no short route to anything. Although he liked the novel, he didn't much care for Ish, the self-ordained leader. Although Charlie
appears only for a small part, he felt that Charlie's actions and resulting execution were the real story.
Catherine found the writing to be elegiac and poetic in style, and she enjoyed the mood but not the story. Interesting to her were the theme of science being
suspect, the way the author shows the language drifting over time, and she felt the descriptions of Ish's journey very true. She questioned the idea of New York
as a destination for the journey, noted no efforts at conservation, and felt uneasy about the overall laziness of the characters.
Jamie found the book a fairly good job, but noted that the author seems incapable of writing emotion, and too many important events take place offstage. She
noted that women in general are basically missing from the story, and she found Ish to be a wishy-washy observer and a failure as a leader, with a skill set not
really useful in the situation. A general lack of organization on the part of the characters results in the inability to restart or even maintain modern society - humans
survive, but not civilization. Overall, she found the descriptive passages to be fairly realistic.
Dave found the writing to be antiseptic, with no charisma or energy. He liked the book, found it very satisfying, and gave it 5 stars for its writing, which he found
technically very good. He agreed with Jamie that the female viewpoint was not well represented. He thought the lack of curiosity on the part of the characters
produced a very civil apocalypse, and echoed T.S. Eliot's "The Wasteland" ("Not with a bang..."). The de-evolution of civilization into a hunter-gatherer culture
displayed the immense effort it takes to maintain civilization, and made other post-apocalyptic books seem amateurish.
John found the book less than compelling, but quite readable. He felt the journey to New York both the most interesting and least realistic parts of the book as
it contained almost the only action, but it was action that was clearly manipulated by the author and did not seem to germinate from the character's personality.
He would have preferred more proactive characters as a feeling of ennui seemed to pervade the book, and caused him to doze off a few times.
Overall, the readers recommend the book, especially for people who are too happy with their life.
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Pub. 1949, 2006
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Our guest was Mike Sheffield, President of The Heinlein Society.
Mike returned with Dr. Bob James in order to show films of Robert A. Heinlein discussing his work
and other topics. Filmed interviews included Walter Cronkite interviewing Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke on the occasion of the first mission to land on the Moon.
Another film portrayed Heinlein's speech at the Kansas City WorldCon.
- FEBRUARY 2015 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
February's book was
Sparrow Hill Road (2014)
Suggested by Jamie Cassidy-Curtis
They have names for her all over the country: The Girl in the Diner. The Phantom Prom Date. The Girl in the Green
Silk Gown. Mostly she just goes by “Rose,” a hitchhiking ghost girl with her thumb out and her eyes fixed on the
horizon, trying to outrace a man who never sleeps, never stops, and never gives up on the idea of claiming what’s
The author received five Hugo nominations in 2013 (some as "Mira Grant").
Attending: Jamie, John Bowen, Catherine Curley, Dave Moore
From the ISFDB: "According to the author's web site this novel is a fix-up of the following stories: "Good Girls
Go to Heaven." (January 2010) "Dead Man's Party." (February 2010) "Tell Laura I Love Her." (March 2010) "Building A Mystery." (April 2010) "El Viento del Diablo."
(May 2010) "Last Dance With Mary Jane." (June 2010) "Do You Want to Dance?" (July 2010) "Dead Man's Curve." (August 2010) "Last Train." (September 2010)
"Faithfully." (November 2010) "Thunder Road." (December 2010). All stories originally appeared in
The Edge of Propinquity which ran from 2006 until 2011." The story "Bad Moon Rising" (October 2010) also features Rose Marshall but was not
included in the novelization.
Reaction to this book was mixed, primarily over two points. John sensed the book was a selection of short stories (determined to be true later), and felt that as a
novel the episodic character robbed the book of much of its focus and force. Individually, he liked some of the stories and didn't like some of the others. Overall,
he felt the ending was weak, leaving the story open for a sequel. He admits that he is biased against stories that take a well known subject (such as ghosts) and
adds all sorts of other types, some made up, as the story progresses (a la tv series Grimm & True Blood). John felt that too much tension is released
by a deus ex machina effect when this is true. John would have enjoyed the book more if the pivotal event in the life/death of the lead character had been
portrayed in real time as opposed to a flashback.
That being said, John stated that he did enjoy the prose and much of the book. He suspected that the idea to turn the stories into a novel may have come from
the author's editor as books of short stories don't sell well. Faced with such a task, and with most of the book already written, she did a pretty good job of
connecting the stories and maintaining a reasonably high level of interest from one episode to the next.
On the other side of the table, Jamie said the many layers of character types and powers were one of the main reasons she enjoyed the book as much as she did.
Recommendation of this specific book came about because she enjoys the author but most of her work is in series, and this was a stand-alone work unconnected
to her other work. Jamie enjoys urban fantasy, which she feels the author excels at writing. She agreed that the ending was a little bit weak due to the unconcluded
fight between Rose and her murderer.
Opinions from Dave and Catherine lay in between the opposing reviews above. Dave, who ran out of time and had to skim part of the book, felt that the book
lacked focus but that the character of Rose was intelligently drawn. Catherine was excited by the prospect of reading an author new to her, but worried that the
probably one-note character of the well-known "teenager hitchhiking ghost story" couldn't be expanded to novel length, and her worries turned out to be true for
her. She said "perhaps if I'd known it was actually a linked series of previously published short stories, I'd have been predisposed to like it more. But due to
these things, for me it was repetitive. Yes, it was filled with good descriptions of character and setting but lacking in action, and when the pay-off action finally
started at the end, there wasn't enough time left to get a good bang for the buck from what had been a passive look at the main character's world and worries.
On the plus side, the author's skill in writing did come through and I plan to read her various series based on her good writing. And a high-five to Jamie for
introducing 'urban fantasy' to the group, a sub-genre I hadn't known about before she first recommended this book to us, which is part of the reason for having the
reading group: expanding our knowledge of new authors and new sub-genres."
Overall, the book is recommended for fans of ghost stories and/or urban fantasy.
OCPL, LAPL, Amazon $7.52, Kindle: $7.99
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
This was a business meeting followed by open discussion. No guest was scheduled. A vote was proposed and approved to join Meet-Up for twelve
months in order to attract new members. Continuing dues at the present rate was also approved.
- JANUARY 2015 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
January's book will be
Suggested by Glenn Osborne & Catherine Curley
Discussion attended by Catherine, Dave, Jamie and John (Reviewed by Dave, supplemented by John)
In the thirty-seventh century, mathematicians, scientists, and philosophers are cloistered in sanctuaries to nurture and safeguard knowledge from the
corrupting forces of the Sæcular realm outside. When catastrophe looms, young scholar Erasmas and his highly intelligent friends are called upon to
save their world.
This is not a book for people who like lots of plot, action and characters. If you like a rambling dissertation on philosophy, logical conundrums and linguistic
gymnastics, then this book may appeal to you. The group members either disliked this novel or were lukewarm to it at best, but it does have a certain strange
appeal similar to watching the live feed of an outdoor camera pointed at an office block. You can see the people inside going about their business,
meeting and talking to each other, and the mystery as to what they are doing keeps you speculating and interested. Then someone breaks the tedium
by entering or exiting the building.
The setting is described with great depth and detail, and readers may find it useful to read the extensive glossary first as coined words are freely distributed
throughout the text. If you persevere and immerse yourself in this world a plot appears at about page 250. It's not a particularly inspiring plot -- it is
complex, full of hanging threads and arbitrary shifts, and the ending seems pointless. But the story does tend to grow on you.
It is not a book you read for the ending, but for the journey.
Braille audio, AnaPL, OCPL, FullPL, LAPL, LACPL, AMZ-U, Kindle: $6.69
---- 2014 ----
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Due to the continuing remodeling of our meeting room, the scheduled guest was cancelled. Instead, we had a general discussion meeting in the
main restaurant portion. We hope to be able to reschedule Ms. Landry sometime in 2015.
- NOVEMBER 2014 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
In addition to hashing over the current book, the schedule for future Orbits through October was decided.
November's book was
Among Others (2011)
Suggested by Jamie Cassidy-Curtis
Discussion attended by Catherine, Dave, Jamie and John B.
Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child
growing up in Wales, she played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found
freedom and promise in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. Then her mother tried to bend
the spirits to dark ends, and Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled – and her twin
Fleeing to her father, whom she barely knew, Mori was sent to boarding school in England – a place all but devoid
of true magic. There, outcast and alone, she tempted fate by doing magic herself, in an attempt to find a circle of
like-minded friends. But her magic also drew the attention of her mother, bringing about a reckoning that could no
longer be put off…
Hugo and Nebula Award winner.
This wasn't a very good story yet most of the group liked the book. The novel is, at least, a semi-autobiographical telling of Jo Walton's teenage years. Then, to qualify it
as a fantasy, a few fairies were stuffed in. Most of the novel consists of the diary of a bookish girl who loves SF. Her life at an English boarding school doesn't give her
many friends. Most of the entries consist of the latest SF she has read and her opinion of it. Jo Walton is a good wordsmith, and if you are a bookish person who loves
SF the first half of the novel is a delight.
However, if that part of the the book doesn't enthrall you, the novel is disappointing. The other thread of the story; the one with the spirits and the conflict with her mad
mother is thinly developed with little characterization and most of the action taking place off stage.
Braille audio, AnaPL, LAPL, LACPL, AMZ-U, Kindle: $7.99
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Due to remodelling of our meeting room at Denny's, the meeting took place in the main eating area, with no special guest.
We discussed the status of our table at Loscon, which we're good to go on. Also discussed was the ongoing search for a venue for
our New Year's Eve party. Denny's is available, but we would prefer another location for the party as we traditionally do potluck rather than restaurant food.
- OCTOBER 2014 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
October's book was
A Stir Of Echoes (1958)
Suggested by Ralph Cox, discussion attended by Ralph Cox, Dave Moore and Jamie Cassidy-Curtis.
A man who is the unwilling recipient of the thoughts of people around him receives a message from beyond the grave...
Review by Ralph Cox (slightly edited):
It seems I'm the only reader who liked A Stir Of Echoes.
Jamie said it was too dated for her, but did see it as a good source for someone who was wondering what life and attitudes were like in that period. While the book
may be an early example, she felt that the story of a ghost haunting someone to make known their murderer was a tired premise.
I commented that it was unique in that the ghost wasn't even sure who had murdered her.
Jamie found the scene where the baby-sitter had tried to kidnap the boy and then was returned home without involving the police unbelievable, or just stupid.
She found the protagonist's wife's behavior unnerving, with her leaving him twice in the midst of his predicament. (Dave also agreed with that.)
Dave said the story never grabbed him. He knew quite early on that the body of the ghost was going to be under the house or nearby. He pointed out that Matheson
overused "I" in his writing, rather than constructing sentences that allowed less dependency on it. The moment he said that I opened my copy, and the letter "I" peppered
the pages. Funny that it never appeared that way while reading it. I had brought three other books I have enjoyed over the month to share and compare, all of which were
written in the first person, and not one of them had this obvious problem.
Dave pressed me to say why I liked it. This was the sixth novel by Matheson that I have read in the last seven years, and I do not return to authors who disappoint me.
In this book, he took me deep into the protagonist, and I interpreted the reading as a participation in the man's psychosis, rather then being only an observer of the reported
events. His novels Earthbound and I Am Legend also read this way for me. The setting of the neighborhood reminded me of where I grew up (North
Santa Ana, bordering Orange), so I was able to picture everything. Jamie commented that Matheson compared the neighborhood to Peyton Place, and that it
seemed to her the story was more about the neighborhood than the ghost.
Additional comments from JB, who was unable to attend the meeting:
I enjoyed the novel despite its faults. I also found the wife's seesawing emotions unbelievable and an irritation. Like Dave, I also figured out early on what was really
happening, though I don't think the author was particularly trying to disguise it. I agree with Ralph that the author was primarily attempting to show the effects on the
protagonist of all this spooky stuff which he is powerless to control (at first). Read as a typical 1950's supernatural novel (a period in which the supernatural was not
welcome to fiction publishers), I felt the writing was adequate, and about par compared to other genre writers of that time. I do think Matheson is better at short
stories than he is at novels.
LAPL, LACPL, OCPL, Kindle: $8.89
Our guest was Julie Szczesny-Potocka, known for her art both in and out of the comic book world.
Julie, as Julie Sczesny, has performed coloring artistry for several comic series, including
First Comics' The Chronicles of Corum #10,
Ken Steacy's Star Blazers and
Phil Foglio's Buck Godot, Zap-Gun For Hire.
Julie's autobio (lightly edited, Julie often refers to herself in the third person):
"Countess Julie Ann Szczésny-Potocka. Family name, Potocki. Name used: Julie Ann Sczesny (Shchesney).
[Julie is distantly related to country star Kenny Chesney.]
"Julie was welcomed to the Happiest Place on Earth, just in time to watch the fireworks at Disneyland in her
mother's arms on August 3, 1962 in Anaheim. Raised upper class, struggled to have a normal childhood, which
wasn't easy when your dad helped to create the Apollo Space & Space Shuttle Programs. Julie was handed
the title of Countess (eldest child; only title women can inherit), her father confirmed the family history he'd
spoken of a few weeks before his death in 1990. Only then did she discover that the creativity, both writing &
art, finally made sense - the Potocki family is prolific with writers and artists.
"Freelance Creator. Creative Consultant for movies, animation. She walked the Red Carpet lat year for
BiBee, an animated project for which she's co-producer [with David Seuss], and of which she's
confident everyone will fall in love with.
"Notorious prankster: no one's been out of bounds, from Billionaires to you & I. Only when the ending of the
puzzle delights, makes you smile at the end, is the hard work worth it all to her.
"Julie has both inked & painted well over 12 graphic novels. With Hugo Award winner Phil Foglio, both
Buck Godot, Zap-Gun For Hire, both
A Distant Soil volumes with Colleen Doran. Also,
Robotech Art Volume 2 etc.
"Her first unknown writing debut? Writing the ending to the
Myth Adventures Two graphic novel. Bob
Asprin & Phil Foglio had an argument over whether Istvan lived or died. Phil said he must die; Bob said 'No,
he's my character, he lives!' Julie piped up, 'So, kill him; but he cannot die. He's cursed to be immortal. Does that
solve the issue?' It's gone down in history.
"With Grim Jack: Demon Wars by John Ostrander & Mandrake, she won a Fan Favorite Award for
her innovative water colour psychological approach, which would make you feel uncomfortable just at the right
places. She's won many awards, including Best of Show at World Con for her published cover art.
"Julie has freelanced for DC Comics, Warner Bros., Marvel Animation, Disney, Nickelodeon, Topps, etc. She's
written various stories based upon beloved characters for Warner Bros. (such as
Tiny Toon Adventures,
Looney Tunes). She's also written magazine articles for
Xena: Warrior Princess.
Additionally, assorted storyboards for Marvel, Disney, Graz, the most famous being
X-Men: The Phoenix Saga;
Biker Mice From Mars,
Gargoyles etc. Of note: Julie worked on the storyboards of
the only FEMALE Biker Mouse in the history of the show! She also created the Evil Falkenar for the
Conan The Adventurer cartoon show. She was so confident her design would be chosen, she tossed
her design, mixed it with everyone else's. When asked why? "It's easy to animate, compared to everyone else's.
In animation, you must match the style, not put your ego into it." When the show aired? Out of four submissions, it
was her design used for the episode.
"Julie helped to start Blast! Comics in Chicago, which launched many careers. She was asked to launch another
comic company in Anaheim, but using her own protocols, she walked.
"She's also pitched tv projects to: In Living Color, the Sci-Fi Channel and Showtime and was the
Co-Producer for the 2013 Red Carpet Walk."
Julie listed her current projects:
BiBee Animated Movie (character designs and script synopsis)
Angel And The Rockstar (graphic novel)
- SEPTEMBER 2014 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
September's book was
Kim Stanley Robinson
Suggested by Will Morton
Earth is no longer humanity's only home; new habitats have been created throughout the solar system on moons,
planets, and in between. A sequence of events will force humanity to confront its past, its present, and its future.
The first event takes place on Mercury, on the city of Terminator, itself a miracle of engineering on an
unprecedented scale. It is an unexpected death, but one that might have been foreseen. For Swan Er Hong, it is
an event that will change her life. Swan was once a woman who designed worlds. Now she will be led into a plot
to destroy them. 2012 Nebula Award winner.
The group was not impressed with this book. At best, it was praised with faint damnation. In fact, I would say the
book demonstrates how not to write science fiction.
Firstly, the author attempts to take on everything. Just about every intellectual and pseudo-intellectual field is
discussed, along with how every planet in our solar system was terraformed and all the different propulsions
systems the spaceships use. The characters are weak, buffeted by events as they meander all over the solar
system in a manner that suggests you are reading a tourist brochure rather than a novel. All this data dumping
almost completely buries the thin story of crime-solving. [One reader found the terraforming more interesting than
the featured storyline. -JB]
The author inserts even more data by adopting the Innes Mode, previously used by John Brunner in
Stand On Zanzibar. This is the addition of short chapters containing snippets of information. However,
unlike Brunner who uses the snippets to add context to the story, enriching his world's background, and generally
improving the pacing of his novel, Robinson sprays out stuff in a disconnected stream of consciousness. As Jamie
noted, "You are not supposed to put every stray thought you come up with into your novel!"
Our conclusion is that in his haste to meet his deadline, Robinson, instead of sending his novel to the publisher,
accidentally attached his research notes to the e-mail, and the whole publishing process got too far along before
the error was found out.
Attending: Ralph, Catherine, Dave, John B., Jamie
Braille audio, AnaPL, FullPL, OCPL, LAPL, LACPL, AMZ-U, Kindle: $8.99
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Our guest was Anastasia Hunter, who spoke about all things Steampunk and the annual convention her
group puts on.
Anastasia Hunter is a lover of books, movies, costuming, lively discussions about fandom, and craft beer.
A voracious reader and movie lover from her earliest years, she attended her first convention in 1991 and has never
looked back. Anastasia is currently the Chair and Director of Programming for
Gaslight Gathering, the annual Steampunk convention located in San Diego, CA;
the Director of Programming for Conjecture 2014 (a San Diego SF/F convention); on the Board of Directors of
Comic-Con International, and President of
SansFis Inc., the non-profit corporation overseeing the WesterCon 68 convention in San Diego in 2015.
- AUGUST 2014 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
August's book was
The Dervish House (2010)
Suggested by Will Morton
2027 Istanbul and Turkey is about to celebrate the fifth anniversary of its accession to the European Union .
Another day, another bus bomb. Everyone, it seems, is after a piece of Turkey. Is this just a random act of 21st
Century pandemic terrorism? Welcome to the world of The Dervish House—the great, ancient, paradoxical
city of Istanbul, divided like a human brain in the great, ancient, equally paradoxical nation of Turkey. Six
characters, five days, three interconnected story strands, one central common core—the eponymous dervish
house, a character in itself—that spins all these players together in a weave of intrigue, conflict, drama, and a
ticking clock of a thriller.
This novel novel was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2011, and won the BSFA Award and the John
W. Campbell Memorial Award in the same year. It was a nominee for the 2011 Hugo Award for Best Novel.
Most of the group were not happy with this book. One reader was so unhappy with the opening of the book that no
further reading was deemed desirable. Another gave up after a few pages, preferring to start next month's book. A
third did not finish the book until after the meeting, and a fourth skipped past much of the latter part of the novel. So
most of this commentary is Dave's opinion, though John does not disagree strongly with it.
The author jumps fairly randomly between six characters in three story strands, and their segments are all quite
short. It's written in the present tense. The reader also has to derive the meaning of many Turkish words and
learn Turkish spelling and pronunciation (there's a pronunciation guide at the beginning of the book) while keeping
track of the plot and characters. He apparently doesn't believe in making it easy for his readers. There are
compensations, however. The writing is excellent. It's rich, dense descriptions transport the reader into the
Istanbul of the future.
You can get too much of a good thing. Particularly in the first eighty pages, the endless descriptive detail drowns
the plot and obscures the characterization, mellifying* the story to the point of inertia. The pace picks up in
the second half of the book when the story struggles free of all the description's sticky clutches, and from then on it
I have a couple of other little niggles. The characters come over as generic. The book reminds me (structurally) of
an Arther Hailey novel in that author uses a variety of characters and points of view to illustrate the theme: timeless
Istanbul, with its juxtoposition of the ancient and the hypermodern; but I don't think the author quite brought it off.
This lack of lucidity is probably due to the mellification of the story with too much description.
The book is rich and original, so both John and I would recommend it providing you are prepared for a challenging
read. On rereading, the story becomes a lot easier to follow, making it more fun to read. Ultimately, John felt
that the actual plotline, however smothered, concerning a new and frightening form of terrorism, was well worth the
* Catherine came up with that one.
Attending: Catherine, Dave, Jamie, John B., Ralph
Braille audio, AMZ-U, AnaPL, LAPL, LACPL, OCPL, Kindle: $8.69
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Catherine Curley gave a brief resume of the memorial service held for longtime member Chuck Fete.
Tim Cassidy-Curtis announced the upcoming "Nobility" webtv show (for which he is Science Advisor) has gone into production. His non-disclosure agreement prevents
him from discussing his contributions, but he admits that he has made several recommendations. Maybe once it's over with he will be able to give us the skinny.
Our guest was
David Silva, an original member of OCSFC. He spoke on Science Fiction Utopias.
David has provided a brief autobio:
"I joined the Orange County Science Fiction club on their 2nd meeting and rarely missed a meeting for the next 20 years. In the late 1980's I edited the club's first
newsletter, The Orange Pulp for its first six years until Jeff Stein took over. During the time I was a club member I went to 12 WorlCons and numerous
WesterCons. By the time I stopped collecting science fiction I had about 9,000 hardcover first editions, magazines and paperbacks.
"After I retired from the post office in 1994 I spent two years teaching chess to 3rd and 4th graders in La Habra. I had been a tournament chess player for about ten
years at that point. In 1998 I joined the Orange County Humanists and edited their newsletter for five years and have often been the featured speaker at their monthly
"In October 1999 I moved to Leisure World in Seal Beach and became President of the Democratic Club which is one of the largest Democratic clubs in the state. In
2003 I was asked by the Orange County Democratic Party to run for State Assembly, which I did in 2004. I also served on the County Central Comittee and the County
Executive Board. Other activities included being President of the Leisure World Chess Club, the Pool and Billiard Club and the Bowling League.
"Earlier this year I volunteered to teach an eight week class at Long Beach State on 'A Brief History of Science Fiction' that included many of the important books, films
and artists, and touched on science fiction as a social movement. It was when I was teaching about utopias and dystopias that the idea for a power point presentation on
utopias came to me. Being interested in politics, I believe that even though we will never achieve perfection we should actively strive to build a society that is better than
what we now have."
- JULY 2014 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
July's book was
Sister Alice (2003)
Suggested by John Bowen
Some 10 million years in the future, in a galaxy heavily populated by humans and other advanced species, a
thousand trustworthy humans and their cloned offspring have been granted an incredible power that they may
preserve a peace that has endured for eons. They can build worlds wherever they wish and can terraform any
wasteland. But the arrival of a woman as old as the great peace itself brings uncertainty and fear. For she brings
with her a warning: the tale of an ancient crime that threatens to destroy the peace that has been so carefully
Catherine, who did not have Braille access to the book, read the author's earlier work Marrow, which she
found confusing but interesting. She felt that the author failed to justify some of the actions and motivations
of the characters, who seemed to be a bit arbitrarily drawn. Of the other four reviewers, only one had finished the
book by review time. One other finished afterwards, and two gave up soon after beginning it.
Those that decided not to finish the book were put off by what was perceived as a violent analog of Orson Scott
Card's Ender's Game. Those that went on to complete the book found the comparison to be inapt, but the
violence was a bit offputting. The author uses the violence to show that the beings involved are capable of
withstanding extreme violence, and with their ability to repair even their own crushed skulls, are virtually godlike.
The problem with this is that any empathy created for the victim is negated, and the reader is unable to connect
to the characters in any significant way.
Combined with enormous gaps in time (millions of years go by between
chapters, but the characters are still reacting to events in the preceding pages) and, as in Marrow, the
arbitrariness of the characters' motivations and actions, the effect on the reader is similar to that of reading a
parable, where no real reader involvement is produced. Effectively, the reader is left reading about gods and their
powers facing a series of ill-defined super-human threats, each of a greater magnitude than that faced before, with
super-powers that are suddenly introduced and only loosely described. It's like reading a Doc Smith book, or a Tom
Swift! Ultimately, the experience becomes one of turning pages to tediously read words on paper. The author does eventually
wrap up the storyline with an explanation of Alice and her motivations, though the final words leave some
Overall, not recommended.
Attending: Catherine, Dave, Jamie, John B., Ralph
AMZ-U, AnaPL, LAPL, LACPL, Kindle: $8.00
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Our guest was
Don Glut, Star Wars author, filmmaker, and comic book scripter and creator.
In a mostly question and answer session, Don discussed his early history making movies (over a dozen of them!),
his transition into writing scripts for James Warren's Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella and his occasional
involvement with some of the outstanding illustrators that worked there, assignments he originally got through his
agent, Forry Ackerman. Don described how Forry kept losing pages from his submissions, and how the Ackermansion
was so crowded that Forry had to work with a stack of stuff on his lap because there was nowhere else to put it!
Don also described his comic book work for Gold Key, including the creation of The Occult Files Of Dr. Spektor,
Dagar The Invincible and Tragg And The Sky Gods. During this time he was also given the assignment
of writing the film novelization of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Don described his difficulties with
the many script changes and the secrecy surrounding the film that gave him only one hour to review the film
In recent years, Don has gone back to his first love: writing and producing (and sometimes directing) for the screen.
A number of his films are available on the internet through Amazon.com. Don is also an authority on dinosaurs,
and has written extensive reference works regarding them.
- JUNE 2014 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
June's book was
The Quantum Rose (2001)
Suggested by John Bowen
Kamoj Argali is the young ruler of an impoverished province on a backward planet. To keep her people from
starving, she has agreed to marry Jax Ironbridge, the boorish and brutal ruler of a prosperous province. But before
Argali and Ironbridge are wed, a mysterious stranger from a distant planet sweeps in and forces Kamoj into
marriage, throwing her world into utter chaos. Nebula award winner.
After getting to the end of this book, you come across a chapter describing its raison d'etre. Apparently, the
novel was an attempt to apply quantum mechanical inelastic scattering in a metaphorical manner to the romance
novel. Points for bravery I suppose, but the group was not impressed with the result.
The main characters came over as weak, passive and unbelievable. Even when they were supposed to be smart
they seemed stupid. The narrative ground to a halt frequently under the weight of scenic description and data
dumps. It really could have done with some heavy editing to pick up the pace. There was also an
ad hoc quality to the elements of the story, which are often arbitrarily introduced, then discarded. For a
quantum mechanical novel, it lacks coherence.
The prose is, however, very readable. It is not a "hard read."
Of course, if we discarded all SF novels for mediocre story telling, the resulting pile would be thin, and many of
our favorite books would be passed over, but evaluating this story as a science fictional novel, we find there is not
a lot new here. So the strength of its ideas is not its saving grace.
None of our group has much interest or experience at reading romance novels, so we cannot make a judgement
of how it fares as a member of that genre, but from what we can tell, taken that way, it's considered quite a good
One reader commented that the experience of reading the book is a combination of Andre Norton and Marion
Zimmer Bradley, though Norton would never have condoned the sex in the book.
Attending: Catherine, Dave, Jamie, John B.
AMZ-U AnaPL FullPL LAPL OCPL, Kindle: $8.00
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Our guests were
The Heinlein Society.
Mike Sheffield (president of the society), Dr. Keith Kato (v.p./secretary) and Dr. Robert James (call him "Bob") discussed the work of the Heinlein Society in continuing
the blood drives started by Heinlein, as well as educational programs and scholarships. In addition, much background to the work and life of the famous author was
A very enjoyable and educational experience! (They have agreed to come back at some point in the future to play video and audio clips of Heinlein through the years.)
- MAY 2014 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
May's book was
Star Maker (1937)
Suggested by Catherine Curley
Star Maker tackles philosophical themes such as the essence of life, of birth, decay and death, and the relationship between creation and creator. A pervading theme is
that of progressive unity within and between different civilizations. Some of the elements and themes in Star Maker prefigure later fiction concerning genetic engineering
and alien life forms. Arthur C. Clarke considered Star Maker to be one of the finest works of science fiction ever written.
Ralph nailed this book when he called it a compendium of ideas. When this book came out in 1937, it was truly awesome in both meanings of the word. It brought forth
and explored a wealth of new ideas, many of which have subsequently been taken up and developed by other authors. And for this reason, it is considered one of the
definitive works of Science Fiction. However, there is very little plot or characterization to this book, and the writing is often fuzzy, lacking definite description. In the years
since, other authors have developed the book's ideas, so its main attraction, its awesomeness, has diminished.
Most of the group were not impressed with this novel; although one enjoyed it as a visionary, spiritual treatise. And that: treating it as a treatise, is probably the best way to
approach this work.
Attending: Ralph, Catherine, Dave, GG, John B., Will, Jamie (e-mail)
AMZ-U ($5) LAPL, Kindle: $7.00
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Joe Ochman and
R. Martin Klein
have acted in films, television, theater, commercials, animation, anime, video games and recorded books for over thirty years.
On TV, Joe recently guest starred on "House of Lies." He is a recurring guest star on "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation", and as well as on the acclaimed Showtime
series "Sleeper Cell." He’s shown up on "Weeds", "House, M.D.", "Desperate Housewives", "The West Wing", "Will & Grace", "NYPD Blue", "Seinfeld", and many more.
On film, he recently appeared in "The Purge: Anarchy", the historical drama "Saving Lincoln", and vocally (opposite Forest Whitaker and Lauren Bacall) in the
Oscar-nominated "Ernest & Celestine". Joe appeared in "Officer Down" for Lifetime, and many recent indie films, including "House of the Rising Sun", "Snail", "Arc",
"The Dead Game", and "Repo." Speaking of historical, in the comedy "How High?" he played the ghost of Benjamin Franklin - whom he also played in "The Franklin
Spirit", the multi-media centerpiece of the US Pavilion at the 2005 World Expo in Aichi, Japan. He has had major roles in a slew of games, including the groundbreaking
western-themed "Red Dead Redemption." The stage has always been his first love, though, and he has fulfilled that romance in dozens of plays, from Shakespeare to
Simon to Pinter to Miller. Joe is also an award-winning stage director, whose recent production "Who Lives?" was nominated for 5 Ovation Awards.
Joe's close friend Bob Klein has also been heavily involved in animation, particularly Japanese anime, voicing numerous roles (sometimes as "Bob Marx"), as well as
taking an occasional live role on series television.
A very enjoyable meeting was had by all with two interesting and personable television professionals.
- APRIL 2014 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
April's book was
The Lost World (1912)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Suggested by Jamie Cassidy-Curtis
A classic in the tradition of the scientific romance, in which Sir Arthur introduces the irascible Professor Challenger, discoverer of a plateau of ancient flora and fauna,
In general, the group enjoyed the book and would recommend it. Ralph provided background on the mesa in Colombia that may have inspired the book. Catherine felt
the subplot of Edward and his girlfriend Gladys was trite and chauvenistic, John felt it was unneccesary. John noted that a book on similar themes published five years
later, Edgar Rice Burroughs' The Land That Time Forgot, was both better written and more entertaining.
Attending: Ralph, Catherine, Dave, GG, Jamie, Wendy, John B.
AMZ-U Braille AnaPL FullPL LAPL OCPL, Kindle: $1.00
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
The guest was
John Hertz, longtime SF fan and member of LASFA, and three-time Hugo nominee for Best Fan Writer. A frequent moderator of panels (especially at LOSCON),
John reputedly turned fandom onto Regency dancing (and wears the best beanie around).
- March 2014 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
This month's book was
Player Piano (1952)
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Suggested by Dave Moore
Vonnegut's first novel spins the chilling tale of engineer Paul Proteus, who must find a way to live in a world dominated by a super computer and run completely by
machines. His rebellion is a wildly funny, darkly satirical look at modern society
No one was particularly enthusiastic about this novel. We found the characters two-dimensional - you could see the hand of the author pushing them around - the satire
flat, the jokes feeble, the plot disconnected and talky: there was not a lot of action. And it had the clunky feel of much mediocre 1950's SF.
And yet, there are people who love this novel, so I turned to Goodreads to see what they saw in it. They liked the book because its theme was relevant to today's world,
and I can certainly see that the book's dealing with lack of employment and opportunity to contribute to society as having resonance. Mainly though, they loved it because
they found its dystopian future satire fascinating. This is where the disconnect comes with the reader's group. Kurt Vonnegut cheerfully admitted he had ripped off
Huxley's Brave New World, which in turn was derived from We by Yevgeny Zamyatin. If you have read both, if you have read many SF stories dealing with
this subject and these themes, then this book has not aged well. The subject has been done better elsewhere, so the book's flaws come to the fore.
What interested me most about the book was not its depiction of the future. By satirizing the attitudes and aspirations of the time it was written in, it captured the
mindset of a place and time in history. It now strikes me as an historical novel more than anything now.
AMZ-U Braille-RC AnaPL LAPL-e OCPL, Kindle: $4.00
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Tim Cassidy-Curtis announced he had been tasked as Science Advisor for the upcoming "Nobility" webtv show.
The Orange Empire Railway Museum has announced a steampunk carnivale to be held March 15-16, 2014 in Perris.
Visit the museum
Steven W. Booth of Genius Book Company
The guest for our February 26th meeting was Steven W. Booth, author, book designer and publisher of Genius Book Company,
which publishes non-fiction and "Dark Fiction, Wickedly Entertaining". Steven has written 10 books, many in collaboration with Harry Shannon, including the popular
"Sheriff Penny Miller" series of humorous zombie adventures. Steven gave us a very professional rundown of various aspects of his life as a writer/publisher.
Sheriff Penny Miller of Flat Rock, Nevada, has always done her duty. On the first night of the zombie apocalypse, she swore an oath to protect her friends from the
ravenous hordes. However, now that the virus is rapidly spreading to the rest of the country it has become clear that Miller and her friends, Scratch, Sheppard, and Rat,
are winning battles but losing the war. And that’s just not good enough for Penny. Too many people have already died.
Determined to stop the maniacs who have been funding the research that created the undead, and with the key to stopping the virus in hand, Miller and crew embark on a
long and dangerous journey north. Their route cuts through the very heart of zombie occupied territory, but this time they are out to end the apocalypse once and for all.
Unfortunately, the elite committee of government officials who control the Super Soldier program knows exactly where Miller and her friends are headed, and they are
determined to capture or kill them at any cost.
Sheriff Miller doesn’t stand a chance. Of course, lousy odds never stopped her before. She gives the order to move out.
And that’s when all hell breaks loose.
“Zombie thrillers loaded with sex and smarts.” —Jonathan Maberry, NY Times best-selling author
“A good-looking, foul-mouthed female Sheriff, and she’s packin’. Four stars.” —SF Signal
“The dialogue and narrative crackle. Great combination of action, gore, horror and humor.’ —Dana Fredsi, author of Plague Nation.
“Penny Miller brings something new to the game, something that we’ve all been craving.” —Joe McKinney, author of Dead City
“Defines laugh out loud funny.” —Bookish Brunette
- February 2014 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
This month's book is
Anvil of Stars (1992)
Suggested by John Bowen
A Ship of the Law travels the infinite enormity of space, carrying 82 young people: fighters, strategists, scientists; the Children. They work with sophisticated non-human
technologies that need new thinking to comprehend them. They are cut off forever from the people they left behind. Denied information, they live within a complex system
that is both obedient and beyond their control. They are frightened. And they are making war against entities whose technologies are so advanced, so vast, as to dwarf
them. Against something whose psychology is ultimately, unknowably alien.
Anvil of Stars is the sequel to The Forge of God. The Forge of God had its flaws, but its strengths provided a balance to these. In Anvil of Stars, the flaws are more
glaring and the story telling weaker. Only two persons in the group was prepared to recommend the book (one to her enemies). The writing was mushy with long stretches
of stuff happening, but the plot barely moving. Most of the group felt cutting the story length by half would improve it immensely.
To delve much further into the books deficiencies, I am going to have to go into spoiler territory.
The book starts out with the awakening of the children on the starship given to them by the benefactors. After centuries of sublight travel in suspended animation, they are
approaching the first possible target system that may contain those who were responsible for destroying Earth. There is a lot of military style drills. And in between,
emoting and sex, with a strong whiff of Ender's Game about the whole set up. The name of the ship is Dawn Treader, a reference to Narnia. The children are called
Wendies and Pans--all way too twee for a hard SF novel.
Lets look at the set up. An alien race gives a group of teenagers the power and the requirement to destroy an entire civilization; it's their decision alone. And these are
supposedly advanced and intelligent beings. The children are not superhuman; they're volunteers. It's not a winnowing process for genius like Ender's Game. And then
they go blundering into a star systems in a way the makes Bush Jr's Iraqi expedition a model of cautious probity.
Now, the science. This book aspires to be a hard SF novel. Many so-called hard SF novels have unrealistic physics (hyperdrive is a favorite), but physicists still enjoy
them because there is a consistency to them. Anvil's physics is arbitrary and very powerful. What you basically have is a wand that can change matter in any way,
including turning it into antimatter so you can blow things up. You can also pretty much make anything with a wave of your wand. This gives the story a deus ex machina
quality to it that sucks the life out of the tension. And when our intrepid heroes get into a tight spot at the end of the story, they rejig the tech to make it even more powerful.
In Star Trek, they have a name for this. It's called tech-teching the tech-tech, or lazy writing.
Some badly flawed books have heart. Not this one. This book felt hurriedly written with a lack of attention to detail, a soulless concoction for a paycheck that insults your
To sum it up: Emo teenagers blow up planets then go back to having sex.
Amazon: cheap, Kindle: $8.00
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Business Meeting. A good time was had by all.
- January 2014 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
This month's book is
The Forge of God (1987)
Suggested by John Bowen
The disappearance of one of Jupiter's moons, the appearance of "little green men" in Australia and the American Southwest, and the sudden presence of unidentifiable
objects on a collision course inside the Earth's core add up to the inescapable conclusion that the Earth has been invaded by an enemy it cannot fight.
Again a mixed review and again the reasons on whether you liked it or didn't depended very much on which elements of a story you most value. (Note: spoilers ahead.)
The entire group though the basic idea was interesting and that the story took a refreshing approach to the old idea of an alien invasion. Those who enjoyed the book
admired it for its strong and realistic characterization. (In a way the characterization reminded me of those sweeping multi-character dramas by James Clavell or Leon
Uris.) The book also opened with a good mystery: two sets of aliens had landed and delivered incompatible messages. So, which one of them was lying?
On the down side, all those characters slowed the pace down, and some of them, particularly the US president, were hard to believe. The novel seemed to lack focus:
Story lines were abandoned. New elements were introduced in an ad hoc way. And some were superfluous. Also, the two main elements of the story: the mystery of the
aliens, and the apocalyptic end of the world scenario didn't really jell.
Most of the group would recommend the book, but there were dissenters.
Amazon: cheap, Kindle: $8.00