Selections from the Hoboken Public Library’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club Part 3: Ringworld, Ghost Story, Frankenstein, and Hogfather

22 Dec

The HPL’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club started in January of this year.  We have had great discussions each month of a different science fiction or fantasy book picked by the group.  Along with the selected works, group members discuss other favorite science fiction/fantasy books, TV shows, and movies.    We would love to have you join us in the New Year!  We will be reading Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers for January’s discussion, the first three L. Frank Baum books for February, and David Weber’s On Basilisk Station for March.  You can also check out my previous two blog posts (Part 1 and Part 2) to see other books the group read this past year.

Ringworld, by Larry Niven

Ringworld resulted in a lively discussion amongst the group members and had the biggest turnout of any book discussion this year.  Several of the members of the book discussion group were huge fans of Larry Niven’s work and as a new reader to Ringworld it was nice to get their perspectives.  Niven’s work appeals to those who like hard science fiction and it is driven by ideas and science with characters and plot there to highlight these concepts.  Ringworld is a manmade ring shaped world which was abandoned by its creators who those left behind now worship as gods.  Four explorers: two humans and two aliens, make the journey to Ringworld.  I enjoyed the aliens that Niven created: the cat-like Kzin, and a Pierson’s Puppeteer who has two heads that it also uses as hands and whose brain is located at the top of its spinal column.  The group remarked Niven’s human characters also felt alien since they were living so far into the future and with the help of booster spice had the opportunity to live a long life of leisure.  It is a great adventure story.  The group did note though that the depiction of women was dated and would probably need to be updated if Ringworld was adapted in movie form for a modern audience.  The book has not yet been adapted to television or movies, but the video game Halo’s world was inspired by Ringworld.  If you enjoy Ringworld there are several sequels focusing on Ringworld, and Niven set several other works of his in the known space universe as well.

Ghost Story, by Peter Straub

The book club decided to read a classic work of horror for October’s book of the month, Peter Straub’s Ghost Story.  I’ve been known to have nightmares just from the commercials from horror movies so I decided this book would not be one I would be reading right before bed.  Ghost Story is the tale of “Chowder Society,” a group of friends that gather together to tell spooky tales, but the scariest tale of all is the one they are living through as a supernatural entity is out to seek revenge for an incident that occurred years earlier.  As well as his own works, Straub has also collaborated with friend and fellow horror great, Stephen King.  King has praised Ghost Story.  As is frequent in King’s works, one of the characters in the novel is an author whose own work informs what is going on in the small but not so idyllic town of Milburn, NY.  This book was not amongst the favorites overall of books we have read for the group.  Much of the group felt the pace was too slow and would have benefited from paring down the story significantly.  However, there were portions that were still riveting and the story holds up well even 35 years after initial publication.  Ghost Story seemed to the group to focus on the potential for evil to secretly lurk in those around us.  It also provides a meditation on the nature of long term friendships. The library showed the 1981 film that the book was based on for further discussion.

Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein has become a part of modern pop culture with numerous reinterpretations like TV’s Herman Munster and even FrankenBerry, a cartoon character hawking sugary cereal.  The visuals of the iconic look of the character comes from Boris Karloff’s portrayal in the 1931, but the tragic story of man who sought create a life and instead created a monster came from the imagination of a young Mary Shelley. I read Frankenstein for a literature class taught by one of my favorite professors at Montclair State University.  The class centered on understanding the different types of literary criticism such as new criticism, feminist criticism, Marxist criticism, reader response and more using the text of Frankenstein to see how the book could be interpreted differently by each of these methods.  Having spent a whole semester so closely reading the book 15 years ago, I was looking forward to seeing how the members of the book discussion would react to Mary Shelley’s classic work.  And sure enough the insightful members of the group still had further interpretations of the novel including one unique perspective about the mystery elements of the work.  The wonderful part about book clubs is that they let you see books from not only your perspective, but also gives you the insights from other readers.  If you only are familiar with the films, you should definitely check out Shelley’s Frankenstein, which is often considered the first science fiction novel.

Hogfather, by Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett is my father’s favorite fantasy author.  I can remember him passing along several of his favorites to me when I was a teenager.  Pratchett’s novels are hilarious and we thought his novel Hogfather (a Discworld version of Santa) would be the perfect way to celebrate the holiday season.  The Discworld is a magical realm filled with wizards, witches, and some magical creatures from Pratchett’s own imagination.  His work often pokes fun at other Science Fiction and Fantasy authors such as Tolkien and Lovecraft as well as satirizing modern daily life.  Hogfather takes a humorous look at the commercialism of our holidays.  As a fan of Nightmare Before Christmas, Death’s attempt to take over the part of the m.i.a. Hogfather reminded me and some of the other group members, of Jack Skellington’s similar efforts to replace Santa Claus in Tim Burton’s movie.  You can find many of Pratchett’s Discworld novels at BCCLS libraries and as eBooks for download for Hoboken Library cardholders from eLibraryNJ.  Group members noted that the novel has a more cohesive plot than much of Pratchett’s work and that although it features characters from other Pratchett novels, it is not necessary to have read the other books to enjoy this one.  The movie was adapted as a television movie in the UK and is available on DVD.  Although the movie’s special effects are not always the best, the acting is enjoyable.  Group members especially mentioned liking the portrayal of the villainous Teatime.

Hope to see you for our discussion of Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers in January!

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

3 Responses to “Selections from the Hoboken Public Library’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club Part 3: Ringworld, Ghost Story, Frankenstein, and Hogfather”


  1. Selections from the Hoboken Public Library’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club 2015 Part 1: Starship Troopers, Oz, On Basilisk Station, Practical Demonkeeping, and Ubik | Hoboken Library Staff Picks - July 1, 2015

    […] us for the second half of the year!  You can also check out my previous posts (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) to see what the group read in 2014.  We will be discussing George R.R. Martin’s A Game of […]

  2. Selections from the Hoboken Public Library’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club 2015 Part 4: A Game of Thrones, Dune, and Jurassic Park | Hoboken Library Staff Picks - September 30, 2015

    […] discussions this year.  You can see previous book club posts at these links: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.  Along with the selected works, group members discussed other favorite science fiction/fantasy […]

  3. Selections from the Hoboken Public Library’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club Part 5: Rosemary’s Baby, Slaughterhouse-Five, and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe | Hoboken Library Staff Picks - January 6, 2016

    […] to our mailing list for the group.  You can see previous book club posts here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part […]

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