Book club: a new book to read every month and free coffee. People who like books and take time out of their life to come and drink free coffee and discuss what they read.Given that two of my most favourite things in the word are reading and coffee, I don’t understand why it took me so long to join a book club.

It all started with my husband asking me what I think about him joining a sci-fi book club. I said it was a great idea… and joined it instead of him. Since childcare demands Superman/Clark Kent sort of thing, he hasn’t got a chance to attend yet.

Joining a sci-fi book club rather than a literary one gives me a bit more focus and feeds my sense of nostalgia; sci-fi is what I grew up on even though it is not something I read regularly these days.

I looked forward to diving sideways in my reading habits. My own poetry writing is in a bit of a rut, and I didn’t want to read more poetry as a reminder of what I’m not doing enough of. Sci-fi reading feels like pure pleasure 🙂

I missed the first meeting where Asimov’s Foundation was discussed, although I did overhear about a quarter of the meeting because I happened to be in the bookshop. There are moments, I’m sure, every socially awkward introvert has had when one can distinctly picture standing on the crossroads of two timelines:

Timeline 1: I come up to the group, introduce myself, and ask to join at the next meeting.

Timeline 2: I give in to the strong instinct to avoid all human contact, see them all leave, never come to a meeting, and regret it for the rest of my life.
(Yes, I am also prone to drama.)

I have forced myself into Timeline 1, and so far it has been great. I have been introduced to some great books both old and new (but all new to me).

Jo Zebedee’s Abendau’s Heir
Brian Aldiss’s  Non-Stop
Martina Devlin’s About Sisterland
Ursula Le Guin’s  The Dispossessed
(which I, alas, didn’t get to discuss because I got sick on a wrong day)

Unlike the majority of the club members, I have enjoyed all I read so far. Maybe it’s the thrill of engaging with something I forgot I loved and the joy of rediscovery… but, frankly, who cares!

I never fancied myself as much of a critic and, for an aspiring writer, I am not really that well read (I blame being a recovering scientist). So I probably miss a lot of more well read people might see. Also, it does feel really weird pointing out what I wish was different in a book while being extremely aware of how absolutely delighted I would be if I could produce anything even half as good as what we’ve read so far.

But even so, sci-fi being a narrower slice of the literary world than, say, literary fiction, I could pick up some parallels – like the little people on a spaceship and intelligent rats of Aldiss being reinvented in Terry Pratchett’s Bromeliad Trilogy and Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents. Seeing connections like these whether they are real or just perceived by me is rather fun.

Another surprising result is that I am learning what I like. Of course, I know if I liked something I have just read, but I have never given much thought to what sort of things I like in general.

It looks like I’m a bit of an epic fantasy kind of gal 🙂
My main issue with the first three books on the list was “I want more details!” (which is something good to say about the stories themselves, if they didn’t grab me I wouldn’t want details anyway). This was particularly the case with the Abendau’s Heir. It is a 300-page novel that could easily be 600. I crave detail, I want to know more about the worlds themselves, what they look like, feel like. My mind does fill in the gaps and the action propels the story and induces a satisfying ‘what’s next?’ but I do wonder if I’m seeing what the author is seeing.
It does give a certain cinematic, script-like quality, but given that it is not a film (yet? 🙂 ) I would like more description.
Similarly, About Sisterland was even more script-like for me: women-in-charge dystopia is an interesting concept. The main character is very believable too, but I have to take too much on faith. What was it like growing up in Sisterland? We’re told about boys and girls being kept separate in “girlplace” and “boyplace” but very little detail is provided about what it was really like.
I get it intellectually but I don’t get it emotionally, which for me needs to come through the direct experiences of the character.

The Dispossessed is absolutely beautiful in that regard – Le Guin walks us through what it’s like to grow up in an isolated anarchist colony from birth to adulthood through the eyes of main character Shevek. The narrative alternates present day and the back story so they finally join in the end. As a result one might say there’s less space for the dramatic stuff to happen, on the other hand, what does happen feels so lived through and so real that the overall impact is huge.
Can’t wait for the next book club meeting – Neuromancer by William Gibson. 🙂


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