Yes, our Book of the Month Club is back and we’re kicking things off with a March 3rd discussion of Matthew Kloos’s Terms of Enlistment, the book YOU selected in our January poll. Aint democracy grand? With February upon is, it’s time for another round of voting as we choose our April Book of the Month Club pick. Like last month, I made use of SF Signal’s handy monthly rundown of genre book releases complete with covers and links to synopses:
I refined the process, selecting only those books available in paperback so that everyone can participate. As a result, some of my hardcover nominees failed to make the cut (The Martian, The Winter People, Influx, Strange Bodies, and The Waking Engine) but, for those of you nevertheless intrigued, I’ll be reading and reviewing them as part of my new “Monthly Reads and Capsule Reviews” which will also include all of the nominated titles in our monthly poll – so that I can inform you whether you made the right choice or not.
Anyway, here are the nominees for our April Book of the Month Club discussion…
SKYLIGHT (Kevin R. Hopkins) Paperback, 400 pages.
One October night, millions died when the air suddenly became unbreathable. Miraculously left alive, Martin Fall journeys home to Los Angeles and watches as society collapses all around him, leaving him to pick up the pieces. But when he’s recruited for a dangerous mission, he must confront his tragic past to rescue a technology that could save the earth from destroying itself.
NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (Davis Grubb) Paperback, 198 pages
Inspired by serial killer Harry Powers, “The Bluebeard of Quiet Dell,” who was hung in 1932 for his murders of two widows and three children. This best-selling novel, first published in 1953 to wide acclaim by author Grubb, (who like Powers lived in Clarksburg, West Virginia), served as the basis for Charles Laughton’s noir classic . Renamed “Harry Powell,” the lead character in this book, with LOVE and HATE tattooed on his fingers, is remembered as one of the creepiest men in book and cinema history.
[This one is, obviously, a re-release of the original book. But I’ve heard mixed reviews of the new edition so feel free to grab any copy if this one wins out].
ANNIHILATION (Jeff Vandermeer) Paperback, 208 pages.
Area X 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.
Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.
They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything.[Jeff is a past Book of the Month Club participant who was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions – included here because I enjoy his work:
January 29, 2009: Author Jeff Vandermeer Sweeps In – Like A Mini-Hurricane!]
THE SUN WARRIORS (Robert Mills) Paperback, 288 pages.
This captivating combination of science fiction and political satire draws the reader into an alternative present, where the threat of alien life destroying our beloved planet is all too real. It’s raining salt-water in the Sahara desert. In Thailand it’s snowing. All over the world, strange phenomena are beginning to occur and the young Thai climatologist, Dr. Thongchai Pakpoom, concludes that there is only one possible explanation: intervention by extraterrestrial beings. He is soon to be proved correct. Fugitives from the unstable Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy have decided to settle on Mars. In order to make it suitable for their needs, they decide to fire missiles carrying warheads into the sun, which proves to be effective for them but disastrous for Earth. Meanwhile, Thongchai is one of four humans who are ‘collected’ by alien scientists as part of their research. As the national leaders of Earth are unable to reach an agreement with their new neighbours, it’s up to the captives to persuade their abductors to change their policy before it’s too late.
[Political satire. Hmmm. It’s all in the execution.]
HER HUSBAND’S HANDS AND OTHER STORIES (Adam-Troy Castro) Paperback, 336 pages
A utopia where the most privileged get to do whatever they want to do with their lives, indulging their slightest whims via the bodies whose wombs they occupy; a soldier’s wife tries to love a husband who is little more than backup memory; a society in which the citizens all make merry for nine remarkable days, and on the tenth get a taste of hell; the last ragged survivors of an expedition to a savage backwater world hunt down an infamous war criminal; a divorcing couple confront their myriad troubles to gain resolution, reason, respect – but not without sacrifice.
[Another familiar name – Adam is also a past Book of the Month club author who took the time to answer our questions. Also included because I enjoyed his past work:
November 15, 2009: Author Adam-Troy Castro Answers Your Questions!]
THE 400lb. GORILLA (DC Farmer) Paperback, 232 pages.
Matt Danmor thinks he’s lucky. Not many people survive a near death accident with nothing more than a bout of amnesia, a touch of clumsiness and the conviction that the technician who did the MRI had grey skin and hooves. Still, it takes time to recover from trauma like that, especially when the girl who was in the accident with you disappears into thin air. Especially when the shrinks keep telling you she’s just a figment of your imagination. So when the girl turns up months later looking ravishing, and wanting to carry on where they left off, Matt’s troubled life starts looking up. But he hasn’t bargained for the baggage that comes with Silvy, like the fact she isn’t really an English language student, or even a girl. Underneath her traffic stopping exterior is something else altogether, something involving raving fanatics bent on human sacrifice, dimensionally challenged baked bean tins, a vulture with a penchant for profanity, and a security agent for the Dept of Fimmigration (that’s Fae immigration for those of you not in the know) called Kylah with the most amazing gold-flecked eyes.
[Sounds crazy. Crazy-good or just crazy? That’s for you to decide!]
Start voting! Polls close on Tuesday!
Continuing our Stargate: Atlantis rewatch with…Poisoning the Well!
I offered some insight into this episode a couple of years ago. In the blog entry, I discuss Steve, pro-wraithers, and perhaps the unwieldiest line in Stargate history:
June 10, 2012: Misery! Comic Con! Days of Stargate Past – Atlantis! Poisoning the Well and Underground!
So, what did Akemi think?
Well, right off the bat with the opening scene: “So many humans on these planets. I don’t believe it.” And: “And everyone speak English! And no Asian!”
On Beckett: “He’s so handsome.”
She was impressed with wraith-Steve’s patience in approaching his offered meal: “He was waiting for feeding time politely even though he is super hungry.”
Still, she couldn’t help but notice a certain wistfulness on the part of Sheppard on Steve’s demise: “Maybe Sheppard a little attached to him.”
But then, when he doubled-over and fell to the ground in obvious pain: “Caca?” Probably.
On the bittersweet ending: “Too bad for Scottish guy. Not happy ending. He has such beautiful eyes, don’t you think?”
Overall, a solid episode: “I liked the idea of the underground city. I found pretty smart.”
Our Stargate: Atlantis rewatch takes the long weekend off and resumes on Monday when we watch…Underground!
Randomness writes: “Do you think team Atlantis ever returned to the planet to check on how things were going there? It seems like a whole new chapter unfolding on that planet what with the suicide pact not being needed, do you think they will progress a bit as a society now?”
Answer: Actually, we did revisit the planet – albeit off-screen – in a later episode. Remember? The one where Zelenka returns to Atlantis covered in warpaint? Come on you, SGA-xperts. Which episode was it?
gforce writes: “Also why, after getting an arrow in the chest, did Keras then have his arm in a sling in the scene after?”
Answer: “Er, strained tendon?”
cantdecidewhichchocoalte writes: “They didnt skip number 36-40 on the map! http://www.cityfood.com/media/WalkingMap_LetterSize.pdf“
Answer: Yes, it turns out #36-40 are being offered by Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France.
Mike A. writes: “What do you want, some sort of medal for trying all those hot chocolates?”
Answer: Are you offering? If so, I gratefully accept.
19 thoughts on “February 7, 2014: Planning ahead and picking our April Book of the Month Club pick! Our Stargate Atlantis rewatch continues with…Poisoning the Well!”
ack I got some catching up to do. No wait, did i watch Childhood’s End? wait, yes I did. Love McKay and the kids,that must have been fun scenes to shoot. Do you have any out takes from that?
Joey methinks it’s time to explain to Akemi what ‘slash fiction’ is, and how she just inspired a shitload of it.
RE: New book club. I had to go with Night of the Hunter because none of the others really appealed to me. And since the movie of the same name is a favorite of mine, I would be interested in reading the source material.
Just finished Terms of Enlistment! Now I hope I can remember it when discussion time rolls around.
Hmmm. I’l have to mull over those new choices. Night of the Hunter was a very creepy movie. But City of Saints and Madmen was bizarre and fascinating – so maybe the Jeff Vandermeer??? Decisions, decisions.
@das: wraith and slash fiction. I think you wrote your share back in the day, filed under the heading of das’ drabbles.
I’ve worn a sling before, not because smashed hand bones require it for support, but as a giant “ahhh, don’t bump into me!” sign.
That episode with Zelenka’s return covered in warpaint was Critical Mass 😀 Loved that one!
Which episode was it?
Season 2 episode 13 “critical mass”
If only the team from Atlantis had some sort of a directive . . . oh forget it!
It was good to see a semi-industrial, dare I say advanced, planet for a change. Although I did think it strange that clothes and fashion seem to be in lock-step with Earth’s industrial revolution. Waistcoats and ties! It’s good to see that the English language isn’t the only thing that’s universal!
I’m just past half-way listening to Terms of Enlistment. I’m enjoying it. I’ll have to give some thought to the next book.
Ugh. I still haven’t received my copy of “Terms of Enlistment” from Amazon. The way it’s going, that book will be all discussed here before I even receive it, let alone read it.
Unlike my equivocation about “Childhood’s End”, I loved “Poisoning the Well”, great character moments and and overarching thought-provoking moral dilemma which in the end would thread through most of the series. I thought the Chancellor (played so well by Alan Scarfe) was a great character, faced with a terrible decision, and making what he thought ultimately was the best for his people. As we’ll find out, in the end it was the wrong decision, but I certainly could understand why he took it.
I can’t remember the episode where Zelenka goes back to the kid planet, but I can picture the scene of him walking by McKay with the face paint with perfect clarity. (Oh, I found it – “Critical Mass”)
I’ll have to mull over those books and get back to you on a selection.
Just got back yesterday from staying with my mom. She’s doing fine but the recovery is going to be rough. Thankfully, my brother lives with her and can help out from here.
I finished two books while on this trip and thought of you when I had problems with my eBook app. I would love to switch to paper books but my eyes won’t allow it. Anyway, the reader app on my iPad kept turning pages FOR me before I was ready! Very frustrating and it might be another reason people would stick to paper. Arg!
Loved Akemi’s observations, as always!
Hot chocolate today? You want to win that medal! Are you upping your workout after all these cocoas?
@ Sparrowhawk – In my defense I never wrote ‘slash fiction’. I wrote humorous, slightly flirtatious scenes where Todd was left leering lustfully after Sheppard, not sexually but voraciously, like a gourmand eyeing up a endless buffet. Of course, the innuendo could suggest either, but in my head it was always about the food. Always.
Of course, for Sheppard it was different. In my head he did have a bit of a crush on the Wraith (and Todd in particular), mostly because of their hair (yes, I transferred my hair obsession onto Sheppard 🙂 ). But it was all in fun, and never in all my little drabbles did I have Todd and Shep doing the beast with two backs every third page like some of the aspiring John Wilmots out there.
RE: Terms of Enlistment. Sat down to read it last night. At first I didn’t like it a bit, but it grew on me and I got about 110 pages in. So far, so good! 🙂
Looks like I’m the only one in for reading an anthology. Still, the leading contender sounds like a decent read. Just hope I can download it and read it on my road trip, from which I will get back just in time to participate.
Akemi REALLY seems to like Carson. Can’t blame him. Charming man, although he has probably the worst luck of any character on the show.While this episode wasn’t one of my favorites, I have grown to appreciate how solid an episode it was. It speaks to the desperation felt by the humans of Pegasus that they would find such a choice viable. And even harder to see a planet with fairly advanced technology AND a form of government that would make them a natural ally choose to take action immediately, rather than being just a little more cautious in their approach. How different events would have been, had they taken the time and developed a less lethal and equally effective means of cutting of the Wraith food supply. They, not the Atlanteans or Genii, might very well have emerged as the leading force among humans in Pegasus. Damn. the more we move on through these flashbacks, the more I miss the show, and season 6.
@das: I was thinking more of the attraction and less for the outright sex aspect of slash fiction. Ya know, the stories where the mystery and tension is still there…
So hubby finished the book? Good! How did he like it?
I had a bit of trouble getting into it at the start as well. then bogged down a bit a little ways in, but the last half was excellent! I’ll save commentary for the official discussion next month.
This was the first Atlantis episode where I cried.
from: for the love of Beckett, who’s having trouble with WordPress log-ins lately.
Poisoning the Well is one of my favorites, because it’s a strong Carson Beckett episode. 😀 Akemi has good taste in Atlantis heroes. Carson is very hansamu. Yeah, the blue eyes get me every time. (Have Akemi and you ever had lunch/dinner with Paul McGillion?)
Beside that factor, I like this episode because it explores their future survival while teetering on an ethical dilemma. Despite (or because of?) their fox-hole situation, Carson quickly develops a working and caring relationship with Perna, only to be heart-broken by her loss. This episode gives us a plot that makes us think and characters who make us cry. The combination works; if we weren’t emotionally invested in the Atlantis team before, we certainly are now.
Surprisingly, Carson Beckett’s character was not given such a central role as protagonist or romantic hero again. It wasn’t until the 5th season of Stargate Atlantis that the beloved doctor was allowed to revisit those themes of romance, in Whispers, and courageous heroism — over the same ethical dilemma, in Outsiders.
Question for the mailbag: Was there concern that Beckett was too well received, that his character might draw the leading-man limelight from Sheppard? Is that why there was a drought of lead-character episodes for Carson between seasons 1 and 5? He did play pivotal parts in the first 3 seasons, but none equal to Poisoning the Well.
This was tough! I am intrigued by Skylight, Annihilation, and Sun Warriors. I’ll be adding all three to my amazon wishlist no matter what wins.
That said, I hope Night of the Hunter doesn’t win; thanks to Criminal Minds, an actual scary/creepy serial killer story is rather rare for me.
I liked Poisoning the Well for it’s mass ethical dilemmas. It’s one of the things I liked best about Atlantis; the show always managed to address and bring up a LOT of philosophical/ethical issues in a way I found more satisfying and darker than on SG1 (which was often Daniel just yelling at everyone about the consequences and everyone ignoring him) but it did so in a way that didn’t really interfere with the fun aspects of the show. It was a light-hearted show that nonetheless, if the audience took the time to think, provided a great deal of depth and many underlying issues found in sci-fi.
Oh, meant to add: if Akemi wants some Asian spoken, have you introduced her to Firefly? 😉 It at least makes an attept.lol
I like this episode because it was a in your face on who has the moral superiority. I appreciated Sheppard Geneva Conference quip. As a matter of scientific inquiry I thought the rush to production was quicker than I am sure the Hothens would have liked considering their original time table had been upset.
Of which Asian language would Akemi prefer, Mandarin? I know you need to move the story along; to use translators would eat into the story time, and there are no translator microbes to inject. Yet, the Ancients could have some sort of universal translator devise (The Torment of Tantalus).
I will take Akemi’s word that Becket has Dreamy eyes.
Random question of the day: what would a (Milkyway or Pegasus) Stargate look like fresh out of an Ancient factory? Shiny like polished chrome?
Or is the Atlantis gate the cleanest version of a Stargate we’ve seen (as I guess the Ancients kept it clean and and dusted it off every once in a while while they were living in Atlantis)?
Thank you for picking only paperback books. I have a thing about hardcover books, I just wont buy them anymore. I do not understand, well $ whys I do, why they cannot come out with the hardcover and paperback version at the same time. That way the people who love hardcover can buy them and those of us who wont buy hardcover and get the book at the same time.