Book Club Newsletter Issue 6


TTRPBC Newsletter No.6
Dateline: February 29, 2020, Lüllemin, Landkreis Stolp, Prussia

Welcome to the long overdue Book Club Newsletter, issue No.6! Here's what's going on in the club, and below you'll find some opportunities to influence club direction.


As February of 2020 comes to a close, we're getting ready to discuss our latest monthly book, The Player of Games by Ian M. Banks, hosted by @dr_mitch in the upcoming days. I've created a discussion category for the book which can be found here, for those of you who like to get notifications:

From the back cover:

The Culture - a humanoid/machine symbiotic society - has thrown up many great Game Players. One of the best is Jernau Morat Gurgeh, Player of Games, master of every board, computer and strategy. Bored with success, Gurgeh travels to the Empire of Azad, cruel & incredibly wealthy, to try their fabulous game, a game so complex, so like life itself, that the winner becomes emperor. Mocked, blackmailed, almost murdered, Gurgeh accepts the game and with it the challenge of his life, and very possibly his death.

Wikipedia page for the book:

March will see us reading the urban fantasy police novel, Rivers of London, by Ben Aaronovitch, the first in a rather popular series of books that goes by the same name. This one's a nomination of @RichardAbbott , who will host the discussion at the end of March. Here's a link to that discussion category:

Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. Too bad his superior plans to assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he’ll face is a paper cut. But Peter’s prospects change in the aftermath of a puzzling murder, when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost. Peter’s ability to speak with the lingering dead brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who investigates crimes involving magic and other manifestations of the uncanny. Now, as a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city, Peter is plunged into a world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals and a long-dead evil is making a comeback on a rising tide of magic.


Our ongoing 'slow read' of N.K. Jemisin's Broken Earth Trilogy (winner of 3 successive Hugo awards!) continues each week. We're now about mid-way through the first book in the series and I think it has many of us scratching our heads for various reasons - which is probably a good thing!

If you've read the series at any time in the past, feel free to jump into the discussion with your 2-cents.


With @RichardAbbott 's pick in March, we'll be at the end of current rotation of nominees, which means it's time to discuss how we'd like to move forward with our monthly picks. Before we do that, though, I'd like to extend an invitation to @WildCard to pick an April book for us and lead its discussion, he we would like to.

Once the first rotation is complete, we can either repeat the rotation as is (which begins with @BarnerCobblewood ), or we can rearrange the order by rolling dice as we've done in the past. This is also the time to ask if there's anyone who's currently in the rotation who wants out, or if there's anyone who isn't in the rotation, but would like to be ( @rossum or @Ray_Otus , for example?) The current rotation looks like this:
1. @BarnerCobblewood
2. @Apocryphal
3. @Michael_S_Miller
4. @NeilNjae
5. @clash_bowley
6. @dr_mitch
7. @RichardAbbott
8. (if willing) @WildCard

Of course, we can always adjust midstream or fit in a one-off host as we see fit. The rotation is really really just a tool to relieve me of the pressure from me if finding a host for each month's book, and it give everyone a fair shake a picking one and leading discussion.


This came up elsewhere, but rather than discuss it there, I thought we could append it to the newsletter.

How literary would you like your monthly picks to be?

For my part, I quite like a literary novel. By literary, I mean that I like it to be well-written, using creative language, and to offer something more than just a story. This might mean well realized characters or setting, but what I'm really getting at here are strong themes, and themes that might not be always obvious to the reader. A literary book, in my opinion, can be appreciated on several levels - not just for what it appears to be on the surface.

In the past, however, we've had several members express a dislike for this kind of book in the club. The reasons vary - some just find this kind of thing to be pretentious, others spent their educational career reading such books and now long for simplicity. These are all fair viewpoints as far as I'm concerned, and our club picks should try to appeal to the tastes of most members.

But really, what are the tastes of most members? Here's your chance to have a say to try to influence what other club members pick for their selection. Do we want literary books in the mix? Or should we stick with books that focus more on adventure, characters, settings, and story-telling. This is, afterall, a club about the way books inspire us to game.




  • 1

    Yes, I will pick a book for April and lead the discussion. When does the selection need to be made?

  • 1
    > @WildCard said:
    > Yes, I will pick a book for April and lead the discussion. When does the selection need to be made?

    For an April book we usually announce in Mid March, read during April, and start discussion at the end of the month (or first few days of May).
  • 1

    Scouring the world for the perfect book. :)

  • 2

    I'm happy to try some more literary books. One of the things I like about this group is the variety of books we read, and I'd like to see that continue.

  • 2

    I suppose the only literary book we've had recently has been Sarah Canary which counts as literary, and it meets my two great book club criteria of:

    (a) I enjoyed it, and got something out of it.
    (b) It's something I wouldn't otherwise have read.

    But I don't think Gone to Sea in a Bucket or The Land God Gave to Cain (for instance) count as literary and they both meet these criteria.

    What I'm trying to say is that I don't think people should be scared to nominate literary works for monthly reads. Literary does not mean boring or pretentious (this is true of some things which try really hard to be literary, but that's another issue). Equally I don't think people should avoid more direct works. To give one example, Hiero's Journey was utter tosh, and despite that (and maybe somewhat because of that) rather enjoyable. The same is true of several SF classics.

    But I wouldn't want to read tosh or literary works every month. Indeed, I like quite a few things which fall in between those extremes. Vive la variete (and sorry for the lack of accents on the letters).

  • 1

    I suppose the other thing is trying to pick things people will enjoy for monthly picks. Generally I pick things which I think are good, and hope other people will think are good, often books I've read some years ago that I remember as being good, and want to reread, with the hope they will hold up.

    But if the book doesn't gel with people (as for example was the case with Sword at Sunset)...that just happens sometimes. I feel bad for wasting people's time, but it doesn't occur to me to be offended that others don't like it. And maybe the book isn't as good as I remembered.

    Still, I sometimes spend absolutely ages thinking about a recommendation. And I'd be puzzled if most folk hadn't liked The Dispossessed or Earthsea (the latter not my recommendation, but even so).

  • 2

    How about something very _un_literary for May?

    The Eurovision Song Contest is over 12–16 May. The book Space Opera is basically "Eurovision in Space." It's a joyous book, fluff with a heart (you can read my review). If we read the book in May, we can set "homework" for everyone to watch Eurovision in all its kitschy glory, while they read the book.

    And I'd love to see the discussions of how to make it gaming relevant!

  • 0

    @NeilNjae said:
    How about something very _un_literary for May?

    The Eurovision Song Contest is over 12–16 May. The book Space Opera is basically "Eurovision in Space." It's a joyous book, fluff with a heart (you can read my review). If we read the book in May, we can set "homework" for everyone to watch Eurovision in all its kitschy glory, while they read the book.

    And I'd love to see the discussions of how to make it gaming relevant!

    I remember something about a land-mass called Europe... didn't they have different colour passports or some such outrage? :)

    But more seriously, watching Eurovision would be above and beyond for the book club, as I have so far managed to get to age 60 without once seeing it... but the book you mention sounds great

  • 0
    On the literary fiction issue, there are lots of definitions out there, typically contrasting with "genre fiction". However, most are rather transparently favouring one "side", and so are quite negative about the other.

    I don't think it's accurate to say that literary fiction deploys more formal literary devices, or is necessarily written in more elevated language. But it might be fair to say that it tends to foreground such things whereas genre fiction tends to leave them understated.

    There is a general perception that literary fiction is more ambivalent about setting and character, and makes the reader work harder to fill in narrative gaps than genre fiction. The most recent obvious example I read was The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. That was ostensibly set in a fantasy version of Arthurian England (post Roman, with Saxons beginning to displace Britons), but you were never sure if the various fantasy creatures mentioned were real, or the side-effects of age, confusion, and memory failure. The novel might equally be said to be about Alzheimer's or similar dysfunctions.

    Did it have elevated or formal language? In places, but less so than some genre fiction I have read.

    Did I like it? Hmmm, so so. Kind of 3 1/2 star for me as it was interesting enough to finish (though I had long gaps where I read other things instead) and had some cool ideas, but ultimately its solid refusal to pin colours to masts became tedious. As a historical fiction friend of mine commented when I mentioned I was reading it and was wondering how it would end, "just don't hold your breath".

    The other thing about literary fiction is that most of the mainstream prizes favour it, so it is represented much more frequently in things like Booker than you might infer from reading popularity lists.
  • 1
    I’m a little less concerned with ‘literary fiction’ as a ‘type’ in opposition to genre fiction. I think we all understand that we want to read SF, Fantasy, and so on. The real question is, do we want to read SF, fantasy, historical fiction, etc that is written in a literary fashion? Or more straight foreword storytelling versions of these things? Presumably, a literary approach will be more experimental, and that’s what doesn’t seem to appeal to people. Personally, I like that quality of it, but it can make it challenging to read.

    It sounds like people want a mix of things. I have several ideas for books I’d like to propose- some are literary (The Orenda or Frankenstein of Baghdad or maybe The Lives of the Monster Dogs) and others more pulp fiction type (The Bones of the Old Ones or The Clocks of Iraz or The Lord of Light).

    Some I consider to be both literary and genre, like The New Sun, Dan Simmons The Terror, or A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar.

    Are we equally open to all of these? I think I’m getting that, in moderation at least, the answer is ‘yes’.
  • 1

    I like a variety of styles. I liked Sarah Canary, which someone in our conversations called literary. Although I didn’t participate in the discussion here because I hadn’t yet figured out the notifications, I read it only because it was a selection here.

    I liked The Lies of Locke Lamora, which seems to be a rip-roaring anti-literary book. :)

    I loved Invisible Cities, which was definitely experimental! Does that make it literary? And I think I participated in the discussion here for that book (or on G+ maybe).

    I do prefer science fiction and then fantasy, but on occasion venture out.

  • 1

    @WildCard Have you found the perfect book, yet? 😁

  • 1

    @BarnerCobblewood Are you on for May, or would you like to hold off for a while?

  • 1

    I think this is the right time for LeGuin's Always Coming Home. It suggests an alternate society with a very different economy and relation to technology, which might be particularly relevant now, and might be good for a discussion of how games reflect and lead our ideas of who we communally are. I last read it about 3 years (?) ago, and would like to read it again.

    But we read a lot of LeGuin, so if people want something different I will look around and find another suggestion. Maybe The Pirates in the Deep Green Sea by Linklater?

  • 1
    I'm *always* happy to read more LeGuin.
  • 1

    Either sounds good to me.

  • 1
    @WildCard do you have an April book, yet?

    Btw, if anyone wants to swap months with someone due to real life issues, please don’t hesitate to speak up.
  • 1

    Sure, I suggested Always Coming Home and Pirates in the Deep Green Sea. Do you need more from me?

  • 1
    Just to pick one and make a thread to introduce it, please. And ideally double check to make sure it’s readily available Online in 🇨🇦 🇺🇸 🇬🇧 (I.e. not just in used bookstores or so new it’s only in hardcover.) People won’t be able to go hunting is stores for this one.
  • 1

    So I've posted something, I think in nominations and suggestions. Let me know if it is in the right place.

  • 1

    @Apocryphal said:
    @WildCard Have you found the perfect book, yet? 😁

    I am so sorry to have dropped the ball on this.

  • 1
    It’s no problem, really - though for a time I thought maybe you’d caught Covid and were unable to respond! You can have the June slot, or a later one if you prefer.
  • 1

    I was just depressed and didn’t realize how long I had been away. June works for me.

  • 2
    Ugh. You too? Depression sucks. I’ve been there; had some prolonged episodes that left me shut down for weeks, so I know what it can be like. Glad you persevered though - I’m sure I speak for all of us in saying we like having you around. 😃
  • 0
    > @WildCard said:
    > I was just depressed and didn’t realize how long I had been away. June works for me.

    I've been very much appreciating your recent comments on the books in progress, and am looking forward to your choice of book :)
  • 1

    What Richard said. Times are strange and hard. Priorities change.

  • 1

    Thanks, everyone.

  • 1

    What does everyone thing of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars for the June selection? It has hard science fiction, social science fiction, and it will let me think about political philosophy as they argue about how to govern. The paperback I’m looking at is 572 pages.

    Hmm, maybe there are also themes about how Mars transforms the terraformers. What would that term be? Martiaforming? That sounds awful. I did a few searches, and some people are using the terror “areoforming,” after the Greek counterpart to Mars, Ares.

    I can imagine there’s lots of other stuff to think about.

    I don’t know, though, whether it is a self-contained story or whether you really have to read all three books in the trilogy.

    What do you think?

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