Read Friend and Enter!

Welcome to the Beam Me Up International Science Fiction Book Club blog!

“Live long and prosper!” Spock bet Sarek bet Skon bet Solkar

“Some who have read the book, or at any rate have reviewed it, have found it boring, absurd, or contemptible; and I have no cause to complain, since I have similar opinions of their works, or of the kinds of writing that they evidently prefer.” J.R.R. Tolkien

“By Grabthar’s hammer, by the suns of Warvan, you shall be avenged!” Dr. Lazarus of Tev’Meck

All are welcome to join us at our monthly meetings. This is us and this is what we will be reading and discussing.

We’d love to have you at our monthly virtual meeting. Just contact us via the About the Beamers page and we’ll add you to the distribution list.

A star will shine on the hour of our meeting.

James Blaylock’s The Last Coin: Virtual Discussion

The Beamers will conduct a virtual discussion of James Blaylock‘s The Last Coin.

Please join us on February 10 at 7 pm New York time.

The price of immortality…

Two thousand years ago, there lived a man who sold some valuable information for a fee of thirty silver coins. His name was Judas Iscariot and he is no longer with us. The coins, however, still exist – and still hold an elusive power over all who claim them…

Like Andrew Vanbergen, whose attempts at innkeeping bring in stranger business than he ever expected.

And Aunt Naomi, whose most prized family heirloom is a silver spoon – with a curiously ancient-looking engraving.

And especially old Mr. Pennyman, who is only five silver coins short of immortality…

“Weird oddball charm, peopled with the kind of characters usually found in a John Irving novel.” Booklist

“One of the best books I’ve ever read.” Lew Shriner

If you’d like to participate in the discussion, please contact us through the About the Beamers page. We’ll send you all you need to connect to the virtual meeting.

We look forward to seeing you.

A night at the beach

One can drown in a bathtub as well as in an ocean …

Taking off in 2023, the Beamer reading list featured a long-time Beamer favorite, Neil Gaiman, with his short, sweet and bittersweet memories of childhood, The Ocean at the End of the Lane.  Even with a few trigger-worthy (and worrisome) moments, the book was up to the task of entertaining and stimulating discussion among the Beamers.  But would we grant it accolades when measured against the notoriously high “Gaiman scale”?

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Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane: Virtual Discussion

The Beamers will conduct a virtual discussion of Neil Gaiman‘s The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

Please join us on January 13 at 7 pm New York time.

A groundbreaking work as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out.

A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse where she once lived, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Gaiman is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods, Anansi Boys, and Good Omens (with Terry Pratchett), as well as the short story collections Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things. Gaiman’s work has been honored with many awards internationally, including the Newbery and Carnegie Medals. His books and stories have also been honored with Hugos, Nebulas, the World Fantasy Award, Bram Stoker Awards, Locus Awards, British SF Awards, British Fantasy Awards, Geffens, Mythopoeic Awards, and numerous others.

[Gaiman’s] mind is a dark fathomless ocean, and every time I sink into it, this world fades, replaced by one far more terrible and beautiful in which I will happily drown. — New York Times Book Review

If you’d like to participate in the discussion, please contact us through the About the Beamers page. We’ll send you all you need to connect to the virtual meeting.

We look forward to seeing you.

The magic of science

Cover illustration for Elder Race by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Childe Lynesse to the dark tower came …

With the year winding down, the Beamers wound up taking a very pleasant quest in search of a very scary MacGuffin, in the company of four determined folks whose individual instincts help them overcome the isolation imposed by their cultures.  We journeyed with this group of unlikely heroes through Elder Race, a novella by Adrian Tchaikovsky.  Was it fantasy?  Was it science fiction?  Both.  Was it too short?  Was it too long?  Neither.  Was it a book on which the Beamers could agree?  Yes.  And no.

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Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Elder Race: Virtual Discussion

The Beamers return to the present and beyond to conduct a virtual discussion of Adrian Tchaikovsky‘s Elder Race.

Please join the Beamers on December 9 at 7 pm New York time.

Lynesse Fourth-Daughter in a questing hero, seeking the aid of the wizard Nyrgoth Elder to defeat a demon whose malign influence is growing at the edge of her mother’s kingdom.

Nyr is an anthropologist sent to study Lynesse’s post-colonial society and now abandoned by his home, wrestling with depression and absolutely forbidden under any circumstances from interfering with the locals.

Nyr lives in a world of scientific rationality. Lynesse lives in a world of myth and magic. What, then, is the demon…?

Elder Race was nominated for a 2022 Hugo Award. According to the New York Times, “A Ursula Le Guin-like grace… Ten out of 10.”

If you’d like to participate in the discussion, please contact us through the About the Beamers page. We’ll send you all you need to connect to the virtual meeting.

We look forward to seeing you.

The girl with the fiery hair

Cover illustration of Lavinia watching Trojan ships arrive at Tiber River
How does a poet get his own poem wrong?

From everyday life in contemporary America, the Beamers visited everyday life in ancient Italy, taking up the tale of Lavinia, wife to the Trojan hero Aeneas.  Seen but not heard in her husband’s epic poem, Lavinia gains voice thanks to the skillful writing of Ursula Le Guin, a contemporary Vergil whose characters often take control of their own stories (or so she liked to claim).  Would the Beamers take control of a story set before the city of Rome was even a collection of huts on seven hills, or would this saga of dispossessed exiles weave its own spell on us and render us unable to speak ill of it?

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Lavinia: My First Review

Date: 4/6/10
This novel was another well-written book that could only be the result of Le Guin’s fusion of her intelligent imagination, detailed research, and able integration of cultural details regarding day-to-day life. It is a pleasure to read even if you aren’t familiar with The Aeneid (I have only scant knowledge of it).
For this long-time fan of Le Guin’s, I found her usual underpinning of Tao philosophy well replaced with the religious experience of the early Latin practitioners (though without the sense of a practitioner).
Some readers may find the interaction with the poet and discussion of flash forwards a distraction they could live without. I think they help remind us of the author’s creation and how it relates to the epic poem. Le Guin’s discussion in the afterword should resolve any lingering issues of her choices and direction for this work. It fits well with her earlier critical discussions/essays on her work.
Le Guin again proves that the best “formula” is a well-told story. Give this one its due (a second reading also bears this out).

And the winner is …

Cover illustration for The House of Rust by Khadija Abdalla Bajaber

The 2022 winner of the Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction is The House of Rust, a story of a young woman who goes looking for her missing fisherman father, in a boat of bones, accompanied by a talking cat. Did I mention having to deal with Baba wa Papa, the Father of all Sharks? This fabulist work is the first novel written by its author, Khadija Abdalla Bajaber, and it also won the inaugural Africa Fiction prize from its publisher Greywolf Press. The Le Guin jury was quite impressed, too, saying:

“Scene after scene is gleaming, textured, utterly devoid of cliché and arresting in its wisdom. The novel’s structure is audacious and its use of language is to die for.”

In addition to the $25,000 cash prize, the winning author, as well as all the finalists, will receive a print specially created for the occasion, featuring an excerpt of Ms. Le Guin’s essay, “Some Thoughts on Narrative” (found in her collection Dancing on the Edge of the World), with each recipient’s name and book title hand-lettered onto the purple ‘sticky note’ in the print.

Illustration of Le Guin Prize physical award, print with Le Guin essay excerpt and awardee name and book title.

Ursula Le Guin’s Lavinia: Virtual Discussion

Continuing their journey into the past, the Beamers will travel approximately 3100 years from the 19th century CE to the 13th century BCE and conduct a virtual discussion of Ursula Le Guin‘s Lavinia.

Please join the Beamers on Friday, November 11, at 7 pm New York time.

The book is readily available in your friendly neighborhood libraries and bookstores.

She speaks … and blushes

The Aeneid was written by the Roman poet Vergil between 29 and 19 BCE, and tells the legendary story of Aeneas, a Trojan who fled the fall of Troy and traveled to Italy, where he became the ancestor of the Romans. The first six of the poem’s twelve books tell the story of Aeneas’s wanderings from Troy to Italy, and the poem’s second half tells of the Trojans’ ultimately victorious war with the Latins, under whose name Aeneas and his Trojan followers are destined to be subsumed. Le Guin’s last novel, written in the first-person, in a self-conscious style, recounts the life of Lavinia, the sheltered daughter of King Latinus. Lavinia is fated to play a key role in Aeneas’s life and the world.

Beamer John has helpfully posted the write-up from the inside jacket cover of the first edition of Lavinia.

If you’d like to participate in the discussion, please contact us through the About the Beamers page or leave a wooden statue by our gates. We’ll send you all you need to connect to the virtual meeting.

We look forward to seeing you.

Lavinia: An Introduction

Jacket design by The Design Works Group/Charles Brock.

Taken from the inside jacket cover on the hardcover First Edition:

In The Aeneid, Vergil’s hero fights to claim the king’s daughter, Lavinia, with whom he is destined to found an empire. Lavinia herself never speaks a word in the poem. Now Ursula K. Le Guin gives her a voice in a novel that takes us to the half-wild world of ancient Italy, when Rome was a muddy village near seven hills.

Lavinia grows up knowing nothing but peace and freedom, until suitors come. Her mother demands that she marry handsome, ambitious Turnus. But omens and prophecies spoken by the sacred springs say she must marry a foreigner – that she will be the cause of a bitter war – and that her husband will not live long. When a fleet of Trojan ships sails up the Tiber, Lavinia decides to take her destiny into her own hands. And so she tells us what Vergil did not: the story of her life, and of the love of her life. Lavinia is a book of passion and war and the cost of war, generous and austerely beautiful, from a writer working at the height of her powers.

“Le Guin approaches Lavinia’s world, from which Western civilization took its course, as unique and strange as any fantasy. It’s a novel that deserves to be ranked with Robert Graves’s I, Claudius” 

                –PUBLISHERS WEEKLY (started review)

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