Megan E. O’Keefe’s Velocity Weapon is an excellent entry into the annals of modern science fiction, tackling many of the major through-notes at the core of the genre since science fiction became a genre all its own. It raises all of the best questions of science fiction, and does so in a thoughtful manner that provides answers as much as it provokes questions. Around these, O’Keefe builds a devastating, astonishing, and ultimately hopeful story that is ripe for a lively and lengthy discussion.
Whether your book club is preparing to discuss it, or you’ve read it on your own and are looking for more, I hope the questions below will help guide you.
Note: If you haven’t read Velocity Weapon, you can read my review of it here.
Please let me know if you use these questions, find them helpful, or think I missed something. And of course I would love to see your answers to any (or all) of these questions in the comments. Happy discussing!
Of course, MAJOR SPOILER WARNINGS below:
What did you think of the book overall, and how did your impression change as the story evolved?
Before the introduction of Tomas, how did you feel about the cast of characters? Did you enjoy the juxtaposition of the populated world full of characters in the “past” against the lone characters of Sanda and Bero in the “future”, or did you think it was limited?
How did you feel about the character Bero? O’Keefe went to great lengths to examine the question of whether an AI as sophisticated as Bero was a “person” or not. Where did you land on that question, and how might your feelings about Bero’s personhood have influenced your impression of the story?
Did Bero remind you of any other AI in science fiction?
Sanda revisited the question of Bero’s personhood over and over, and her shifting opinion of him clearly influenced her behavior. More than once she justified to herself that she did think of Bero as a full person, even as her actions or private thoughts indicated otherwise.
Underneath all of this runs a deep river at the heart of science fiction going back decades and decades: what makes a person a person? Can a sufficiently advanced AI be a person? How did O’Keefe answer these, both in her characters’ opinions and with her own narrative?
How did you react to Tomas as a new character? Did you side more with Bero or with Sanda? What do you think O’Keefe did in writing him to influence the reader one way or the other?
How did you enjoy Velocity Weapon as a science fiction narrative? Did you enjoy the balance of science, politics, action, and the human element?
How do you feel O’Keefe handled common scifi tropes? Which ones stood out to you?
Did this story remind you of any other science fiction stories? What were they, and in what way were you reminded?
Is it a flattering comparison?
How well did you feel O’Keefe realized the characters? Did their various mannerisms, dialects, and character-establishing descriptions work for you, or did you find them annoying or distracting?
What did you think of the characters’ problem solving? These characters are facing not only life-threatening but truly catastrophic dangers, and from a number of threats. Did any of the characters’ approaches lose your buy-in (through ineptitude or through extraordinary capability), or strengthen it?
How did you feel about the world building? How well did O’Keefe define the world for you, and create expectations (even if later she broke them)?
Was it an enjoyable world to read about? Did it feel realistic and well fleshed-out?
How did you respond to O’Keefe’s reliance on descriptive imagery to reveal plot points?
For instance, many of Sanda’s revelations were instigated or confirmed as she saw, through a lens, a window, or on a screen, the “reality” of the situation. Were those environmental descriptions clear enough for you to understand the impact of what she was seeing – and what it meant for the story you were reading?
Velocity Weapon turned on more than one “wait, what?” moment, with each new reveal having a profound impact not just on Sanda’s understanding of the problems she was facing, but on fundamental parts of the story. Did O’Keefe retain your interest the whole way through, or did you suffer surprise fatigue?
Will you read the sequel?