Kattullus' Monthly Random Fiction Book Club

As the title indicates, this will be a book club which discusses one book of fiction per month. The terms "book", "fiction" and "one" will be very loosely defined. The only two rules will be that at least half of the months will feature books by women, and that at least a quarter of the months will feature works in translation. The scheduled works for the first four months are:

Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
Third Reich by Roberto Bolaño

Posts for this club should be tagged: randomfictionbook_club.

January 27

Feeling sheepish

I feel very sheepish about having neglected this page for this month. I severely underestimated how much time I would have for a new project. [more inside]
posted by Kattullus at 4:40 PM - 0 comments

December 1

Book: The Blind Assassin

If The Blind Assassin was a layer cake, the layers would be the impossibility of true love, the inexorable destructive force of time, and chocolate. The frosting is pulp and newspaper. It's a remarkable novel, if only for the way Margaret Atwood weaves together three wildly different genres into a whole. There's the gentle comedy of old age about an old woman living a rather solitary existence in a small Southern Ontario town. There are her reminiscences of her life and family, an old-fashioned bildungsroman or family saga. Then there's a story about a doomed romance and pulp science fiction. Each on their own a very good book, but together form a great one. [more inside]
posted by Kattullus at 4:52 PM - 2 comments

November 27

Book: Second Foundation: "Search by the Foundation"

"Search by the Foundation" is my favorite story in the original Foundation series. Part of it is nostalgic, as I have vivid memories of reading the story as a young boy, but another part of is that it's in this story that you see most of the mundane, everyday world of the series, and it's a fun world to visit. You read about life in the suburbs and traveling by regular transport, and most importantly, you see a lot of the setting through the eyes of Arkady Darrell, a fourteen year old girl. My youthful self, falling headlong into science fiction fandom, was thrilled to find an easily relatable hero. Today, I'm impressed by how skilfully Asimov used this different perspective for expert world-building. And young and adult me agree, Arkady Darrell is the most purely fun protagonist to read about in the Foundation series, with the possible exception of Salvor Hardin. [more inside]
posted by Kattullus at 4:30 PM - 1 comment

November 20

Book: Second Foundation: "Search by the Mule"

Second Foundation is the only one of the original Foundation books that feels like a coherent whole. The two parts, originally titled "Now You See It—" and "—And Now You Don't", feel like they were conceived in one go. Nevertheless, they are quite different from each other, even if both center on the hunt for the elusive "Second Foundation" set up by Hari Seldon. The first section, "Search by the Mule" might just be the weirdest story in the original Foundation trilogy. It brings to an end the narrative of Han Pritcher and The Mule from the previous story, and climaxes in a psychic duel that feels like something out of E. E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman series. [more inside]
posted by Kattullus at 5:48 PM - 7 comments

November 14

Book: Foundation and Empire: "The Mule"

In the imaginary science of 'Pataphysics there's the concept of the "clinamen", or "swerve". As method in the arts, it can be roughly paraphrased as: "To create art you must first create a system. Once you have the system, you must introduce an anomaly which brings the system into a state of chaos. Then you have art." To put it bluntly, until writing "The Mule", Asimov's Foundation series was a perfect system, described by the imaginary science of psychohistory. Things were moving predictably to a predicted end. But then there came a swerve, in the form of "The Mule", a warlord not predicted by Hari Seldon. And in the titular character, Asimov created one of the most interesting anti-heroes of early science fiction. [more inside]
posted by Kattullus at 5:24 PM - 9 comments

November 5

Book: Foundation: "The Merchant Princes"

"The Merchant Princes" is set fairly shortly after the events of "The Traders". The changes heralded in the previous story have become the new status quo. Or almost, the traders are still nominally under the control of the old political order, who fear the independence of this new class. Master Trader Hober Mallow gets sent to the planet Korell to investigate troubling reports that may indicate the arrival of a Seldon Crisis. [more inside]
posted by Kattullus at 5:46 AM - 4 comments

October 27

Book: Foundation: "The Traders"

The next jump forward in the Foundation storyline takes us well into the second century of the 1000 year plan (which, incidentally, was the original name of the the first book). A merchant from the Foundation on a trading mission to a distant planet runs afoul of local laws and customs. Another trader, Linmar Ponyets, is sent to save him. [more inside]
posted by Kattullus at 5:18 PM - 4 comments

October 22

Book: Foundation: "The Encyclopedists"

Science fiction fandom was introduced to the Foundation and psychohistory in a 1942 short story called "Foundation". When it was collected in a book, it was renamed "The Encyclopedists". It is the story of a library on a worthless planet on the far edge of a collapsing empire. And it's the story of a small city mayor who rises to the occasion presented to him by history, becoming one of the most beloved heroes of science fiction, Salvor Hardin. [more inside]
posted by Kattullus at 3:22 PM - 10 comments

October 21

Book: Foundation

The Foundation Trilogy is the space epic's space epic. It follows the history of The Foundation for centuries, from its beginnings as a library on a rinky dink planet on the edge of the Milky Way, to burgeoning galactic empirehood. But before there's a Foundation, there's one guy with a plan, Hari Seldon. [more inside]
posted by Kattullus at 3:12 PM - 14 comments

Introducing the Monthly Random Fiction Book Club

Hello! I have started a book club called Kattullus' Monthly Random Fiction Book Club. I want to explain a little how I'm thinking of running it. Each month will feature one work of fiction, chosen by me (suggestions welcome). The rules I've set myself is that at least half the months will feature works by women, and that at least a quarter of the works will be translated. I'm hoping to tailor the types of posts to each work, because books are varied beasts. [more inside]
posted by Kattullus at 3:08 PM - 2 comments