Sunday, March 06, 2011

Candidate books for Science and Religion in Fiction book club

This post will be mainly of interest to the members of, or those who have an interest in, the Science And Religion In Fiction book club at the Center For Inquiry Austin. Here are the books we are considering for our upcoming discussions.

March meeting will be an encore of Ted Chiang "Stories of Your Life and Others", which was originally scheduled for January, but none of the interested parties could make it to the meeting. It's a collection of relatively short speculative fiction stories, though some are novella-length. They cover many fascinating topics such as superintelligence, religion, Singularity, how language shapes our perception of time, and others.

Here are the candidate books for the upcoming months:

Greg Egan "Incandescence"

From review: "Hugo-winner Egan, champion of ultra-hard SF, devotes most of this slim novel to the efforts of the Arkmakers, who live in a neutron star's accretion disk at the center of the galaxy, to develop orbital physics from first principles and save the artificial world created by their more sophisticated ancestors. Meanwhile, Rakesh, a more or less human member of a distant posthuman society, sets off on an unrelated quest to find the Arkmakers and is soon trying to save them from their current danger. Whole chapters are devoted to physics problems and include a variety of diagrams and cited sources."

John Scalzi "The God Engines"

From review: "Captain Ean Tephe is a man of faith, whose allegiance to his lord and to his ship is uncontested. The Bishopry Militant knows this -- and so, when it needs a ship and crew to undertake a secret, sacred mission to a hidden land, Tephe is the captain to whom the task is given.

Tephe knows from that the start that his mission will be a test of his skill as a leader of men and as a devout follower of his god. It's what he doesn't know that matters: to what ends his faith and his ship will ultimately be put -- and that the tests he will face will come not only from his god and the Bishopry Militant, but from another, more malevolent source entirely...

Say your prayers...and behold The God Engines."

John Scalzi is mostly known for light, humorous space opera, but this bok promises to be a much darker fantasy novella that "takes your expectations of what fantasy is and does, and sends them tumbling".

Helen Collins "Neurogenesis"

From review: "Helen Collins' second SF novel, NeuroGenesis, continues her compelling exploration of the meaning of "intelligence" that she began with her first novel, Mutagenesis." According to a reader review, it involves a spaceship with a carbon-based operating system that "begins to evolve in erratic and unexpected ways, and finally reprograms the ship to land on a planet inhabited by an intelligent and startling human-size saurian species called Corvi. The crew struggles to survive, to determine how the Corvi sensed the OS and saved the ship, and to find a link between the race of humans and the race of Corvi."

Ellen Klages "The Green Glass Sea"

A young adult novel. From review: "Two girls spend a year in Los Alamos as their parents work on the secret gadget that will end World War II. Dewey is a mechanically minded 10-year-old who gets along fine with the scientists at the site, but is teased by girls her own age. When her mathematician father is called away, she moves in with Suze, who initially detests her new roommate. The two draw closer, though, and their growing friendship is neatly set against the tenseness of the Los Alamos compound as the project nears completion. Clear prose brings readers right into the unusual atmosphere of the secretive scientific community, seen through the eyes of the kids and their families. Dewey is an especially engaging character, plunging on with her mechanical projects and ignoring any questions about gender roles."

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