Waterstone's Liverpool One Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club

Waterstones Liverpool One Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club

"This is space. It's sometimes called the final frontier. (Except that of course you can't have a *final* frontier, because there'd be nothing for it to be a frontier *to*, but as frontiers go, it's pretty penultimate...)"
- Terry Pratchett, Moving Pictures

About Us

This is the official blog for the book club held in the book lounge of Waterstones Liverpool One.

The group meet at 6pm on the first Monday of the month to discuss their thoughts and opinions on the books selected. The books range from classic fantasy to brand new science fiction short story collections.

It's a fun and friendly atmosphere and all are welcome: from those who have never read any science fiction or fantasy before, to those who don't read anything else.

The group, and this blog, are administered by Glyn Morgan, the Bookseller responsible for the Science Fiction section of the store and an avid reader of SF who is currently studying for his PhD at the University of Liverpool.

If you would like to comment on any of the books we've read, this month or in the distant past, please feel free to contribute to the comments section of the relevant posts.

Visit this club's little sister: Coffee and Comics

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Event News: Wednesday, 17 March 2010, 12:30PM

I felt I should say that again, it's so rare a pairing of words with regards to the little corner of fiction which I call home: Event News!

Yes folks, that rare thing - a genre book signing is about to happen at Waterstone's Liverpool One.
The author who is gracing our store is Mr. Joe Hill. If that doesn't ring any bells then I'm not massively surprised, he's a young American author just beginning what I'm sure will be an epic journey. At the moment you can pluck such works as short story anthology 20th Century Ghosts and debut novel Heart-shaped Box off the horror shelves, or the superbly gothic Locke and Key, winner of the 2009 Eisner award from the graphic novel section. Other than the Eisner award, other accolades he's collected include Bram Stoker awards for Horror and British Fantasy Awards. He's a New York Times bestselling author, which although it's a phrase we see a lot on dust jackets, is quite a big deal for a genre writer outside of crime fiction.

Obviously he's not just popping in for a chat but to promote his newest release which is a novel called Horns, due out 18th March this year in Hardback.

If none of this has piqued your interest then I advise you to go flick through Locke and Key, have a read of some of the short stories in 20th Century Ghosts ("Voluntary Committal" and the titular "20th Century Ghost" are particularly good). Failing that, if none of the above intrigues you then perhaps the knowledge that this man's full name is Joseph Hillstrom King, yes son of Stephen King.

You can see his wikipedia page here it offers a slightly more detailed rundown of his work than I've managed to provide here. Just over here you can find his official website and blog which I'm sure will be mentioning this same event in the very near future.

So whaddya say? Will I see you there? Tell your friends.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010, 12:30PM

P.S. Whilst I'm on a horror event theme, let me just say that I went to see a play at the Liverpool PLayhouse (under the Radio City Tower) called Ghost Stories and it was superb. If you happen to be able to get a ticket (£10 each) then I urge you to go - it's scary yet satisfying stuff and will be in Liverpool until 20th February.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Martian Time-Slip by Philip K. Dick

Plot Synopsis

Mars is a desolate world. Largely forgotten by Earth, the planet remains helpless in the stranglehold of Arnie Kott, who as boss of the plumber's union has a monopoly over the vital water supply. Arnie Kott is obsessed by the past; the native Bleekmen, poverty-stricken wanderers, can see into the future; while to Manfred, an autistic boy, time apparently stops. When one of the colonists, Norbert Steiner, commits suicide, the repercussions are startling and bizarre.

What Did We Think?

Philip K. Dick is always good for interesting discussions, if not only because he can so split his readers but because everyone tends to take different things from his work. Found to be both compelling and 'disturbing in parts', Martian Time-Slip was written in 1964 and touches on some typical Dick themes such as questions of reality.

A lot of attention was given to the characters in the novel. Praise was lavished on their flawed natures, the fact that the "villains" have redeeming features and the "heroes" have severe flaws, that everyone has neuroses of some description from Dr. Milton Glaub's extreme feelings of inadequacy to the schizophrenia of our prime protagonist Jack Bohlen. A major message of the novel seems to be that everyone is abnormal and thus abnormal is normal. In this way the book was very non-judgemental of humanity's foibles.

Interestingly, the subject of the novel's female characters came up and they were revealed as being more two-dimensional than many of the male characters, not necessarily negative stereotypes but certainly drawn from stock female tropes (the widow, the wife, the mistress, and so on). This was, however, recognised not as a sign of Dick's chauvanims, but rather a sign that feminism wasn't on his list of issues, he was writing for and about very different things.

Taking the novel as metaphor it is at once the Wild West, with remote homesteads, limited resources, prospectors, and peculiar natives; whilst at the same time it's also 1960s LA with sordid backroom dealings, power struggles and a dog-eat-dog race for superiority.

However, whether mirroring Wild West, or contemporary LA society, the novel ultimately shows that society, like sanity may appear superficially functional but is at heart completely dysfunctional.

As ever, the novel's ending was found to be perplexing. Dick has always taken a different approach to endings, refusing to tie things up neatly into conclusive packages and is perfectly content to leave questions hanging and loose ends blowing in the narrative wind (it's something Stanislaw Lem praised him for). This lends an unsatisfactory aftertaste to the novel for readers who either dislike Dick's trippy style or the manner in which he chooses to conclude his adventures.

In summary, the novel was largely (but not exclusively) enjoyed, it generated some interesting discussions on time, place and perception (which I cannot hope to do full credit to here - so please continue the discussions in the comments section below), whilst stylistically awkward, and for some perplexing, the relationships and the manner in which Dick draws his characters was enough of an anchor that many of the readers left the novel feeling satisfied.

The average score given to Martian Time-Slip was 7

The votes fell as follows: 4, 5, 6, 6, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8