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 Post subject: September 2007 Meeting
PostPosted: Thu Jul 19, 2007 8:30 pm 
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Joined: Mon Dec 04, 2006 2:16 pm
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Location: Hiding behind the book turrets
The September meeting will be on the 20th at 6.30pm.

The books will be
Glenda Larke's The Aware
http://www.infinitas.com.au/Product.php?bar=9780732276508

and
China Mieville's The Scar
http://www.infinitas.com.au/Product.php?bar=9780330392907

Cya
Dan


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 Post subject: Garry's notes on the September meeting
PostPosted: Sat Sep 08, 2007 7:20 pm 
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Location: I am the centre of the universe.
Garry emailed me his notes on the meeting:
Quote:
Topic / Book Choices to be discussed
Fantasy - Empress of Mijack by Karen Miller (Sydney Writer)
SF - Tomorrow when the War began, by John Marsden (Aust Writer)

The Infinitas Bookshop is host to no less than three SF&F discussion meetings each month, a general SF&F discussion group, a SF&F Writers self help group and this 'Book of the Month' style meeting. The dates and times of each of these meetings can be found in the monthly Infinitas newsletters on the shop's website. I chose to attend this meeting as I had business nearby and as the John Marsden book was one that I have had on my bedside to-be-read-soon stack for some time. Too late to 'try before you buy', but it is never too early to hear how other SF readers feel after reading the story before you read it yourself.

I arrived just after 7 pm, and was greeted with the offer of Wine and cheese. They were just starting and I was the fifth person present. Before talking about the two books set for the night we discussed the relative philosophies of the various different SF&F discussion groups that operate in Sydney. This meeting picks one SF and one Fantasy title to read and discuss. An intention of this pattern is to extend their reading range beyond their usual preference for reading SF. I gained the impression that these are 'harder' Lit SF fans than the Sydney Futurians or even Infinitas' first Thursday SF&F meeting, in that they are much more into books than the broader range of Sci-Fi TV/Movies, SF&F Books and comics that the other two groups discuss. The in common with the other SF&F groups, their membership is mostly geographic / transport denominated, i.e. mostly from nearby or West of Parramatta. Most of the group have moved to Sydney from elsewhere, possibly they got the taste for a particular flavour or SF fandom elsewhere and have found in this group / meeting format, a good way to continue their interest?

In choosing books to read and discuss they are to some extent guided by the behind the counter experience of Tim and Dan (that is to say, Tim and Dan have an influence but not necessarily an Agenda!). Consequently they have managed to avoid 'same old same old' Unicorn, Princess and Crystal Quest sagas in their Fantasy choices, and the SF they have read tends to range across most of the significant SF sub-genres. Ten out of ten for that!


Empress of Mijack by Karen Miller

A starting point to review this book is the cover art, it has a Scorpion themed arena, and Scorpions and hand-to-hand combat are a recurring motif in this book. It is a very harsh and cruel world, where the Ghod in charge eats up blood, sadism, suffering and pain as due offerings. Mijak's Ghod prefers a massacre of innocents or a bloodbath to Hymns. He is the sort of Ghod that you can hear Philip Pullman muttering - 'I told you so!'

The social set up for men and women is even worse than in John Norman's 'Gor' series where at least the rise from the bottom of the social order through degradation and suffering is supposed to be 'enobling' on some primitive-ist level. On Mijak the payoff is just less pain and suffering.

I can't conceive of a bloke writing this today and getting away with it! Girls are cattle and they are bred to breed more men, who are sold off as slave labour.
The main Character is a girl from the sticks who is sold off as a small child and is saved from immediate 'common' slavery coz she's smart and good looking, for other more lurid later prospects. She mistakes her slave trader's kindness (actually just 'value adding') for 'love'.

The consequence of this special treatment is that she escapes the usual slave mystic / magic hair colour change (the hands-on Ghod of Mijak is in on the slave trade!) which will allow her to 'pass' as free in Mijak society, a sense of having been betrayed and is an ever present motivation to kill anyone who suspects her real origins. She grows up to be a 'Strong Female Character' (or heartless bitch if you prefer!). She sets out to become a 'Knife Dancer' (a performance artiste or military classification?) member of the War Host. Making a break with her past she makes a deal with Ghod, slashes up her good looks, Blood and Pain as an offerings to Ghod to escape Slave status. She tries out in the Scorpion pit (arena) and having survived that and having had real visions from the Ghod of Mijak, she has Ghodspeaker status and the inside knowledge to go far in the kingdom. She gets up the duff by king, fails to produce an heir, seduces another Ghodspeaker, gets up the duff, passes it off as the King's and achieves Queen status. Ghod speaks to the king, 'A drought is coming, so conquer the other six kingdoms' (why couldn't the Ghod just fix the drought?). As this is advice from Ghod a nice 'Jihad' against the neighbours results. Ghod also says 'Have another son', so she seduces the high priest to give the king 'an heir and a spare'. First son, the heir, falls in love with a 'piebald girl', sends her back to mum with a bun in the oven. Son goes all peacenik (not what the Ghod of Mijak thinks is Kosher!), so Mum kills daughter-in-law, Son is exiled (Exiled 'True Prince', how original in a Fantasy story!). The book ends setting up for a war against another continent as the next phase of the series.

Notes on Mijak Theology - The brutality is structured but not senseless. Dissidents from this order on Mijak are considered to be demon possessed.

Ghod's hand in affairs is micro managed, i.e. all the king's attempts to have a child result in stillbirths, deformed monsters and worse, girl children, until she who will be Empress appears on the scene.

Garry's verdict - A book I'm too sensitive and frightened to read!

Tomorrow when the War began, by John Marsden

Despite it's apparent length (towards 300 pages?) a quick and easy read book which seems to be a deeper and more thought out 'Young Adult' book than usually encountered. I keep seeing this book at Op shops where I source much of my reading material, possibly a consequence of it being on the NSW English Syllabus. The book is about how a bunch of country kids at first evade and then start to resist an armed invasion.

What it is not - It is not 'Red Dawn' the jingoistic movie about US High School 'Patriots' defeating the evil Sandinista lead Soviet invasion of the US, it's a lot more stumbling and realistic, possibly how real people, not cliches would react. Its not a John Wyndham or Edmund Cooper post apocalypse novel (the World ends, sensible people struggle to re-build / the World has ended, lets all go on a sex and drugs bender until all the hotels are trashed and the supermarkets are empty). It is written from a female, teenager's perspective.

The story is set in and around an Australian country town that has the misfortune to be strategically placed, on a road / rail corridor from a natural harbour. The seven teenagers are going away camping for a long holiday weekend (they should have gone to the Natcon instead!). They are 4 guys and 3 girls (there were to be 8 but at the last minute one couldn't go). The weekend of the trip being a combination of Anzac Day / Royal Easter Show week. As soon to be adults, they intend to investigate a place that was scary when they were children. While they are away exploring this landscape of hidden caves, canyons and secret paths the 'Others' strike. They return to deserted homes, dead and dying and untended animals etc. Cautiously they investigate, finding all the adults captive at the show ground (a concentration camp with fairy floss and rides?) under fairly decent conditions. The group decides to re-stock with supplies and to hide out until they can figure out what to do. I.e. they decide to evade rather than to resist. With guards and guns out on the streets their first killing is unintentional, but after this they are fugitives, aided by a local's knowledge of the lay of the land. Towards the end of the book is their first act of resistance, they blow up the bridge that is a conduit for troops moving inland from the harbour.

About the book - The story is told from a female, teenager's perspective. A thing about the book is that the group makes mistakes as they go, their resistance is a gradual learning experience, their behavior is 17 year old credible. The identity of the 'Others' are left intentionally clear, (so as not to offend Indonesians?) so as to avoid racialist stereotypes, even to the extent that one of the seven teenagers is of Chinese / Korean descent.

Garry's verdict - Immediate advancement five books up the to-be-read-soon stack, implying a review after the Freecon in November? The only apparent downside on this book is that it is the first of six or seven in a series, but after I read this I might do a 'compare and contrast' with Patrick Tilley's 'The Amtrak Wars' series.

Will I attend and report on future meetings of this group?

Perhaps.

Having not read either of the books I was attending as a Boswell / Sponge to record other's SF&F experiences. It was better than I had expected.

This group deserves every encouragement, hence why I'm putting this meeting review up where hopefully it can be seen by more potential attendees.

I'm not sure I can find the time and effort to consistently keep up with this group's meeting list.

The other main drawback is that as it immediately precedes the Sydney Futurian meeting that could be up to ten pages of notes to transcribe / edit up on Saturday (i.e. follow Sydney SF&F fandom and spend your time writing up the past!). I would commend anyone with an interest in SF&F books to keep an eye on what books this group plans to discuss. If a book you have read turns up as one of next month's choices, it's well worth the trip to Parramatta to see what other readers have to say about it. In fact, Note to Tim, why not go through the book sales records and automatically notify all Infinitas shoppers who have bought a copy of 'Tales of X, The Quest for Y' of the meeting's details the month that the book is going to be discussed?



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 Post subject: Review Group Meetings
PostPosted: Tue Sep 11, 2007 3:30 am 
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G'day all

Garry, thanks for the great write up about the books that we read/review each month at review group. It's always nice to have other people come along and attend our meetings.

As you can see from the site, we currently have review books until October planned, but if anyone would like to suggest a book or two, we would be happy for the suggestions and then, of course, for you to come along to discuss the books with us.

As mentioned by Garry, we review 1 Science Fiction book and 1 Fantasy book each month. It can be a tough ask to try and read two books a month, especially, since we know everyone has other committments outside of this group. :shock: :lol:

Most months, we have all the members have read at least one of the books due for reviewing.

I must say, over the last 2 years that the group has been running, I've managed to add a whole heap of 'other' authors to the my list of authors to be read (and brought a couple of extra bookcases!). Being a reader of predominantely Fantasy and space opera type stuff, it's been great to strecth my reading boundaries to include a whole heap of science fiction novels that I would never have looked at previously.

So, if you would like to come along and join our group, don't hesitate to attend a meeting. If you haven't read the books for the next couple of months, but would like to suggest some books for the future, either drop Tim an email or add a post to the forum.

I hope to see you at our meeting sometime!

Keep smiling :D

_________________
Jay


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