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Frontier Incursion
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Book and Film Discussions > July 2017 Group Read: Frontier Incursion #BOM-july-2017

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message 1: by Alex (last edited Jul 08, 2017 12:07AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Alex (asato) | 2963 comments Our seventh group read of 2017 is science fiction. Yay!

Please join us in reading Leonie Rogers's Frontier Incursion
Frontier Incursion by Leonie Rogers
For Shanna, joining the Scout Corps had been a dream come true. The Scouts were charged with expanding their knowledge of Frontier, a hostile planet their ancestors had crashlanded on 300 years before. As the youngest in her class, Shanna struggles to find acceptance and respect amongst her older peers - a task made more difficult by the fact that she has not just one, but two of the colonists' huge feline companions, their starcats. On a routine patrol, she and the other cadets are swept up in the greatest challenge yet to be faced by the settlers of Frontier. Now they find themselves on the very frontline of a war they knew nothing about, and possibly the Federation of Race's last chance against the hostile Garsal. Suddenly their world has changed, and in ways never dreamed of by Shanna and her fellow scouts.
Reading Schedule
Starting on 15 June we can discuss the specified chapters without having to use spoiler tags. Conversely, you must use spoiler tags for any discussion about future chapters.

14 July = First impressions; please hide any spoilers.
15 July = Beginning - Chapter 17
22 July = The entire book

Note:
* These dates are based on the NZ time zone.
* I've reserved approximately the last two weeks of the month to a complete discussion of the book. I believe that doing so promotes more discussion. However, we should be flexible with the dates as best fits the participants.


Alex (asato) | 2963 comments I bought my copy.


Alex (asato) | 2963 comments Would anyone like to volunteer to be the discussion leader?


message 4: by Leonie (new) - added it

Leonie (LeonieRogers) | 597 comments Ooh, I've been flat out all week and have just logged onto Goodreads. Thanks for picking Incursion. Hope you enjoy it!


Graeme Rodaughan | 3268 comments Just bought my copy.


message 6: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Miller | 4087 comments If anyone else wants to be leader, I shall bow out, but if not, I am prepared to do so for a fellow writer stuck in winter :-) (That does not mean I want that to be permanent.)


message 7: by Leonie (new) - added it

Leonie (LeonieRogers) | 597 comments I like winter :-)


message 8: by Alex (last edited Jul 07, 2017 09:54PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Alex (asato) | 2963 comments Ian wrote: "If anyone else wants to be leader, I shall bow out, but if not, I am prepared to do so for a fellow writer stuck in winter :-) (That does not mean I want that to be permanent.)"

thanks, Ian. You brought up some excellent points for discussion last month and since you were the first out of the gate, then w/o further ado, I'll take you up on your offer.


message 9: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Miller | 4087 comments OK, Alex. What I would like, though, is to push the Beginning - Chapter 17 out to at least the 15th of July to allow for late starters.

Leonie, I suspect that view is affected in part by Australia's hot summers, and bush fires, together with quite moderate winters. I found the winters there quite pleasant too, as opposed to Sydney in the summer in a place with no air conditioning.


message 10: by Leonie (new) - added it

Leonie (LeonieRogers) | 597 comments Possibly, Ian. We love travelling to cold countries, preferably with snow, but I suspect that part of that stems from the fact we don't have to deal with it at home. Having said that, my husband grew up in NZ (South Island), so he's fairly au fait with snow and ice.

We lived in the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia for about fifteen years, and I think I've done enough summer for the rest of my life.


message 11: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Miller | 4087 comments Leonie, I had an uncle who was into mining/surveying mineral deposits, and he did some work in central Australia. The stories of the heat suggested that was not a desirable play to be. I don't know abut Pilbara, but knowing where it is I suspect summer was undesirable.


message 12: by Alex (new) - rated it 4 stars

Alex (asato) | 2963 comments Ian wrote: "OK, Alex. What I would like, though, is to push the Beginning - Chapter 17 out to at least the 15th of July to allow for late starters.

Leonie, I suspect that view is affected in part by Australia..."


Done! I've also moved the full book discussion to 22 July, which still leaves us a weekend and a half. For you and Leonie's convenience, we'll use NZ dates and times for this BoM.


message 13: by Leonie (new) - added it

Leonie (LeonieRogers) | 597 comments Ian wrote: "Leonie, I had an uncle who was into mining/surveying mineral deposits, and he did some work in central Australia. The stories of the heat suggested that was not a desirable play to be. I don't know..."

There was one summer I remember vividly. It was 48 degrees C when we arrived home on the 28th of December. It didn't get below 40 during the day until April. It was a very long summer.


message 14: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Miller | 4087 comments Leonie, after that I can see why you appreciate winter.


message 15: by Leonie (new) - added it

Leonie (LeonieRogers) | 597 comments Ian wrote: "Leonie, after that I can see why you appreciate winter."

Oh, yes!


message 16: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 7767 comments For the winter lovers here - my cousin works near Surgut in Siberia in shifts - month there, month at home. The winter there is regularly around: - (minus) 40C and often going towards (-) 50C and lower -:)


message 17: by Leonie (new) - added it

Leonie (LeonieRogers) | 597 comments Now that is cold!


message 18: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Miller | 4087 comments On the matter of cold, I spent a year in Canada, and met a man who had been a mechanic for the air force in Rivers, Manitoba. A British plane landed there, and when they tried to start it next morning, all lubricant was frozen solid. One time to get his car to move he had to take a primus to the petrol line because the petrol had frozen.

My own experience was less dramatic, but there is a quite odd feeling at about minus 37 C, where the rubber on tyres loses all flexibility, and when you drive off you can feel the "flat bit" judder. And there is no more frightening experience than having to go outside in a blizzard. Maybe not that extremely cold, but the wind chill is frightening. I was told that with more or less ordinary winter clothing your life outside is about 90 seconds. Of course Canadians have really good winter protection, and the padded protection is mandatory, as is an arctic sleeping bag if you take your car out into the coutryside, just in case you end up stopped. The other memory I have is of the cooling system - seemingly a little water added to the ethlene glycol.


message 19: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Miller | 4087 comments Now, back to Leonie's book. This looks like being what I call fantasy, and here there are two very important things to get done quickly. The first is world-building, so that is one issue to discuss . I shall add my two cents worth eventually, but I don't want to disrupt your thoughts.

The second is how quickly we get a feel for what the book is about. There may be more things, to be found later, but I was quite impressed by how Leonie set up at least two potential issues - the insectoids, and Shanna with two starcats. You can see how these will be relevant, but where do you think this is going? A later issue will be, how surprised are you about early guesses going wrong?

So, get your opinions down quickly, before events overtake you :-)


message 20: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Miller | 4087 comments To kick off more discussion, my views on world building in the first few chapters. I thought by and large this was exceptionally good. The place where the settlement was is well described, as is the flora and fauna of this planet. The settlers are back to "bow and arrow" technology, although they are keeping up their learning, and have an interest in physics. This raised three questions for me. The first is, why have they not tried to find minerals and make more advanced things? The second is, why have they seemingly retained nothing from the ship they arrived in? Third, when they discover the Garsal crash, why is there not more discussion of what is inside? Leonie says they carried a lot of stuff away in packs, but surely when they get in for the first time they would want to know what everything was, and see if there was anything there that was really important? What do the rest of you think?

Meanwhile, topic 2 - plot pacing is also up for discussion.


message 21: by Leonie (new) - added it

Leonie (LeonieRogers) | 597 comments Ian wrote: "To kick off more discussion, my views on world building in the first few chapters. I thought by and large this was exceptionally good. The place where the settlement was is well described, as is th..."

Let me know when you want me to comment, Ian!


message 22: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Miller | 4087 comments Hi Leonie, I would like to give it a couple of days to see if anyone else will say something about world building - it is helpful if the author is last because the author knows what ought to be seen, as opposed to what is seen by the reader.


message 23: by Leonie (new) - added it

Leonie (LeonieRogers) | 597 comments Ian wrote: "Hi Leonie, I would like to give it a couple of days to see if anyone else will say something about world building - it is helpful if the author is last because the author knows what ought to be see..."

No worries, Ian, I figured that was probably what you wanted but thought I'd just check.


message 24: by Graeme (last edited Jul 13, 2017 03:31AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Graeme Rodaughan | 3268 comments I enjoyed the opening scenes, and the use of a ceremony to establish cultural values is very clever. Shanna and Kaidan are both relatable.


Graeme Rodaughan | 3268 comments 5% in. Good, professional writing style. Some clever technique with introducing the world and culture of Frontier. Characters are relatable - now trouble has appeared and is about to find them.


Graeme Rodaughan | 3268 comments 12% in. Starcats, Storm & Twister - so sweet. Really loving this story.


message 27: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Miller | 4087 comments As you proceed, Graeme, you can have fun speculating as to why the starcats behave like that.


message 28: by Graeme (last edited Jul 13, 2017 09:53PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Graeme Rodaughan | 3268 comments I think the Starcats are (view spoiler)


Graeme Rodaughan | 3268 comments Leonie - this is really good story telling - well done.


message 30: by Leonie (new) - added it

Leonie (LeonieRogers) | 597 comments Thanks Graham :-)


message 31: by Leonie (new) - added it

Leonie (LeonieRogers) | 597 comments *Graeme


message 32: by Alex (new) - rated it 4 stars

Alex (asato) | 2963 comments For the purposes of this group read discussion, we're basing our dates on the NZ time zone. As such, starting right now, we do not have to use spoilers for any discussion concerning text from the Beginning of the book to Chapter 17.


message 33: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Miller | 4087 comments Still no comments on world building. One last attempt at prodding you into action. One thing that struck me as odd was that during the storm doors and windows were protected by steel shutters, but in other ways they were stuck in "bow and arrow" technology. When Shanna has to choose a career, various things are being one, but no technology, although there is a reference, presumably to a blacksmith, to repair the dented steel shutters. Nor are there any references, at least early on, to anything salvaged from their crashed ship. Anyone care to comment?

Now, pacing. No comments here either. We are a quiet lot. The structure of a book usually includes a problem for the protagonists, and at this stage I assume it is the Garsals landing. So, let's look at what happens up until Shanna sees her first sign of them. We find out the structure of their society and tech age, we get the storm, we get introduced to some characters, and we find out about scout training, and some unspecified training for younger brother. (I was unclear as to why was doing that exercise, other than he will presumably have a part to play later.) We also have a lot of description. So basically the book does not advance terribly far. Now, oddly enough, I am a minimalist, and lots of description usually turn me off, but I found Leonie's story (so far - I don't want to get ahead of deadlines for spoiling) to be quite entrancing, and it seemed to be moving along nicely. Well done, Leonie.

One last point (for this post): all the emphasis on Shanna's training - what did you all think of this? It is a fairly common technique (recall Luke Skywalker in episode 4? - oddly the first intro) and I have used it as well in my version of humans meet a nasty alien for the first time. It enables the author to establish the technology available to the protagonist, the character of the protagonist, introduce some who will be close friends as the story progresses, and in Leonie's case, also to introduce flora and fauna. Thus it sets the scene for the - but what? Trilogy? What do you think of the amount of the book in which this takes place???

Come on - if you are going to be part of BoM, you MUST comment.
This discussion of technique is to help other authors. And there are no right answers.


message 34: by Graeme (last edited Jul 14, 2017 10:38PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Graeme Rodaughan | 3268 comments Reading this, I'm reminded of A Fire Upon the Deep (Zones of Thought, #1) by Vernor Vinge by Vernor Vinge, and The Star Beast by Robert A. Heinlein by Robert Heinlein.

I would not be surprised at all to discover the following conversation.

(view spoiler)


Graeme Rodaughan | 3268 comments I get the sense that Watch Tower is on a high plataeu and the lower lands are filled with dangerous predators that the Garsil have run into.

Worldbuilding is fairly light on in the first 20%. More effort is spent in demonstrating characters, their immediate environments and local customs. There is minimal reference to the past and the broader context.

I'm kinda brushing in those areas with broad strokes as the focus of the story is on Shanna and her rapidly changing circumstances.

One thing I'm finding a bit odd is the absence of challenging opponent characters. Apart from Tara, who herself is not much of a problem (yet), everyone is for the most part, competent, well-adjusted, socially adept and community focused to a level which could (but hasn't yet) strain believability. (Everyone is really nice, hard-working, and nice).

Were the original colonists genetically screened to maximise community commitment and social adaptability?

Is being marooned in a harsh landscape going to optimise social community (Australia's experience is a touchstone) or create a dog eat dog society, or something in between?

Then again, don't want to read too much into it - just want to enjoy the story.


Graeme Rodaughan | 3268 comments 20% in (Ch 7 complete) The Garsil operate by using (view spoiler)


Graeme Rodaughan | 3268 comments I'm also thinking the human colony on Frontier is small, between 10K and 100K people.

Which may factor into the lack of technology. How do you support a high tech society without an extensive tech/industrial base to support all the necessary specializations and in numbers to allow for critical work to be done.


message 38: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Miller | 4087 comments Graeme wrote: "How do you support a high tech society without an extensive tech/industrial base to support all the necessary specializations and in numbers to allow for critical work to be done."

Exactly. In one of my novels where an advanced alien species approached and a war started, and a human who had been in an even more advanced society arrived, there were problems when he refused to give details of the highly advanced technology. There were various reasons, but one was, you couldn't use it, even if you knew what it was. The reason - you may know what to do, but how to do it is a completely different matter. Suppose any reader here were to be put on another planet, do you think you could even make steel? You may think you know the principles, but there are some rather subtle practical difficulties along the way. Then there is the question of finding the ore. The reason I raised this issue, however, is because the steel covers for the storm are an anomaly. If you can make steel (and not simple iron, which would be so brittle it would not "dent") and make the fittings to secure it to the windows, etc, (which is somewhat more difficult) then why is there nothing else using such skill? I know - this is a very minor point and I raised it to see whether anyone else had even noticed it.

Graeme's other point: "the absence of challenging opponent characters" is more interesting generally. It never bothered me because I could see two possible reasons. The first is that in small communities everyone knows everybody else, and this encourages them to get along better together. This will be even more so when under stress. If you have ever been in a small community when there is a flood, a very severe storm, or some other stressor, you will know what I mean. People do put aside petty disagreements to help out others they know, and this community is barely surviving.

The second possibility for Shanna is she has joined the scouts, which is a bit like a military organization. If you have ever had military training, the first thing the regular NCOs do is knock out individualism. Effectively, the objective is to break down any such problems, and all those undergoing this sort of treatment develop a cameraderie where they support each other - which is the object of the training in the first place. The whole point of the military is each person MUST support all the others without question.

So, now a chance for Leonie to explain what she did - why is there the absence of challenging opponent characters?

Also - is anybody besides Graeme reading this? A comment please, even to acknowledge participation :-)


message 39: by Leonie (new) - added it

Leonie (LeonieRogers) | 597 comments So, now a chance for Leonie to explain what she did - why is there the absence of challenging opponent characters?

There's a couple of reasons - and the major one is as you've surmised. These communities are scattered and small (by world standards), and they've been established as the result of much hardship. For most of my adult life, I've lived in small, and sometimes remote, communities who always pull together in the face of disaster, no matter what their issues.

And yes, the tech knowledge is there, but the resources are poor. How does a small population base, living on a small plateau (well done, Graeme!) even search for mineral wealth, and then mine it in quantity, when a lot of stuff is out to eat you or you might end up being swept away in a storm? Essentials only - so while you only see steel storm shutters, in this society, those are essentials when you have a very small population base.

So, at this point in the narrative, apart from Taya, there are few human antagonists.

And the Scouts are the crème de la crème of this kind of society, and although they can, and do, operate individually, their structure is based around small groups.

Having said that, as a writer, several years down the track, I admit that I'd write this book a little differently if I was writing it now. Although I did want to demonstrate the above points, and always still would want to, nowadays I'd add a little more angst into some of the supporting characters to demonstrate that it isn't a perfect place all the time.

But there are the subsequent sequels ;-) which are already published, and hopefully within those, you'll see what happens when the stress levels continue to rise. (Should you wish to continue reading after this one.)


message 40: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Miller | 4087 comments Leonie wrote: "So, at this point in the narrative, apart from Taya, there are few human antagonists."

Yes, and I would question why Taya would have been permitted to stay a scout.. I have deliberately not gone further than about 45% through so as not to spoil my attempts at generating comments, although now I shall finish it.


message 41: by Leonie (new) - added it

Leonie (LeonieRogers) | 597 comments Ian wrote: "Leonie wrote: "So, at this point in the narrative, apart from Taya, there are few human antagonists."

Yes, and I would question why Taya would have been permitted to stay a scout.. I have delibera..."


I shall look forward to your thoughts, Ian!


Graeme Rodaughan | 3268 comments Hi Leonie,

That all makes sense to me.

I was also reminded of the "Plateau" from A Gift from Earth (Known Space) by Larry Niven by Larry Niven.


Graeme Rodaughan | 3268 comments So the environment of Frontier ... "Is being marooned in a harsh landscape going to optimise social community?" worked to optimise social community.

Cool.


Graeme Rodaughan | 3268 comments Ian wrote: "Leonie wrote: "So, at this point in the narrative, apart from Taya, there are few human antagonists."

Yes, and I would question why Taya would have been permitted to stay a scout.. I have delibera..."



Hi Ian, that question occurred to me too. I would have washed Tara out of the program...


Graeme Rodaughan | 3268 comments Mind you, I suspect Tara has some trauma in her past that is manifesting as her issue. Perhaps this will be revealed and resolved and an opponent will become a friend?

Perhaps of the most loyal sort.


message 46: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Miller | 4087 comments Hi Graeme - I suspect Leonie is having quite a few smiles at our comments :-)


message 47: by Leonie (new) - added it

Leonie (LeonieRogers) | 597 comments You could say that! 😝


Graeme Rodaughan | 3268 comments Hi Leonie, I'm finding your writing and story telling to be at a good professional level. When I say that your story reminds me of other writers such as Vinge, Heinlein and Niven. I mean that in the best possible way.

Thanks for writing this book - loving it so far.


message 49: by Leonie (new) - added it

Leonie (LeonieRogers) | 597 comments Graeme wrote: "Hi Leonie, I'm finding your writing and story telling to be at a good professional level. When I say that your story reminds me of other writers such as Vinge, Heinlein and Niven. I mean that in th..."

Thanks, Graeme, I really appreciate that. Although I've read a fair few Nivens, I haven't read the one you've referenced above, so I've just added it to my TBR list. (Which is always out of control.)

What I've hoped with this book, is to tell a good story, and to tell it well enough that readers invest in the outcomes and the characters. I'll be keen to hear what has worked for you, or not worked for you by the end.

There are two subsequent books to finish off the trilogy, but I'm currently writing a completely different series, and I'm at the editing of the first book stage and there's always stuff to learn from readers.


Graeme Rodaughan | 3268 comments Hi Leonie, happy to provide feedback.

I don't see any real dramas, your craft and narrative style is different from mine (good thing) and I'm just enjoying the ride. If I see anything that stands out, I'll PM you.

Actually, I think it would be really fun to write in your universe. I would love to run a combat sequence between scouts, starcats and garsil. Although the scouts would have to weapon up I think, probably with stolen kit. However the terrain and local fauna/flora sounds really deadly and I would be looking at tactics to seduce the garsil into a trap vs some apex lowland predators...

If I was writing your training sequences, someone would be dead by now as an object lesson to the other class members... the lead scouts would begin by saying that only 6 out 10 recruits survive training, 2 will wash out and 2 will die, "Make sure you're not one of them!"

And this is why my feedback will be carefully limited, as I wouldn't want your story to be anything other than what it is right now. I know you're not going to change anything anyway - it's just feedback that might help going forward.

Frankly - I'm in love with starcats. Can I have one please....

Cheers Graeme


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