This past Wednesday evening I decided to sit in on a meeting of the San Diego Book Discussion Group at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore on Clairemont Mesa Blvd, and I was treated to an energetic and opinionated yet friendly gathering of intellectuals. Warmly welcomed as “fresh blood,” I sensed immediately that the group is comprised largely of regular attendees. Don’t let this deter you from joining in the fun, though; as the Mysterious Galaxy website explains, participation is open to all readers regardless of whether they have completed a particular book – it’s the perfect opportunity to branch out and find new favorites. The environment was one of acceptance and enthusiasm for intellectual literary discussion, and I felt right at home with this eccentric assemblage. I was even invited back for the holiday party!
Led by their Fearless Leader Christine, the November 28th discussion analyzed and interpreted Kage Baker’s Empress of Mars, a science fiction novella published in 2003. It won the 2004 Sturgeon Award and was nominated for the 2004 Hugo Award for Best Novella as well as the 2004 Nebula Award for Best Novella, and was later expanded into a novel published in 2009. Even with all of these accolades, however, the general impression of the group was one of indifference. After listening in on the discussion, Empress of Mars – a novel comprised of a number of vignette-style “short operas” as the group deemed them – didn’t make it onto my “Books to Read” list. While this collection of short stories strung together into a novel came across to an outsider as choppy and seemingly lackluster, the collection of people who gathered at Mysterious Galaxy to argue the victories and failings of the book piqued my interest. The group agreed that one hundred pages was a fair length at which one may decide to put down a novel if it has not grabbed their attention and earned the right to more of their time (which a number of people decided was the case with this meeting’s book selection); well, I considered this first experience with the San Diego Book Discussion Group my 100-page trial period, and I metaphorically want to keep reading!
There were 12 people in attendance, which seemed to be near their average turnout – an intimate yet verbose and thought-provoking gathering of people who all share the same passion for reading stories that our journal would happily term “bizarre,” with a range of books from mystery to steampunk to hard sci-fi. Christine’s partner, an incredibly friendly and helpful gentleman (whose name I couldn’t remember if my life depended upon it, but not because he wasn’t memorable… I am simply shamefully terrible at remembering names!), assisted in providing a tour of the well-stocked shop and offered suggestions for my next good reads (I walked out of the store with Mira Grant’s Feed, Linda Farstein’s Silent Mercy, and China Mieville’s Embassytown, so don’t be surprised if some new book reviews pop up soon!). The next novel being discussed is Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas, but in light of the holidays coming up, the next meeting unfortunately isn’t until January 2013. After such a scintillating first experience with the group, my calendar is marked!
*For more information on upcoming San Diego Book Discussion meetings, check out the Mysterious Galaxy calendar, and be sure to get on their mailing list!
Editor: Lindsay Duncan