The HPL’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club returned in 2015. We’ve had some great discussions this year. Along with the selected works, group members discussed other favorite science fiction/fantasy books, TV shows, and movies. We would love to have you join 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 Thrones in July, Frank Herbert’s Dune in August, Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park in September, and Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin in October (we read a classic horror novel each year in honor of Halloween)! Come to the upcoming meetings and you can help decide what we read for the rest of the year. We will be showing films before some of the Book Discussions. You can email hplwriters AT gmail DOT com, to be added to the mailing list for the group and find out more information and get reminders about the books being discussed.
Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers
Starship Troopers was our first book of the year and is a science fiction classic. This is the second Heinlein book the group had discussed. In February of 2014, we discussed Stranger in a Strange Land. I was curious to read Starship Troopers since it is the basis for one of my husband’s favorite movies as well as an inspiration for the Halo video games. Starship Toopers centers around one recruit’s experiences training for the military in a society where only those who serve have the right to vote in elections. Military service starts as a way to impress a girl he likes, but becomes for Juan a moral and philosophical imperative. Those who have only seen the movie may be surprised how much focus is put on the training rather than the battling “the bugs.” Heinlein’s pro-military novel, which was originally marketed as for Young Adults, was so controversial at the time that it lead him to being dropped by his current publisher. The group had a lively discussion about the book. Starship Troopers is available as an audiobook from Hoopla.
Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Marvelous Land of Oz, and Ozma of Oz
In May, The Wizard of Oz turned 115. In celebration the book discussion group read the first three of L. Frank Baum’s books in his Oz series. Some of the group also watched the cult classic Return to Oz movie, which is based on The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz. The books have been called the first American fairy tale and their quirky sometimes unnerving characters are very different at times from those of the Judy Garland Musical, but the timeless charm of them is undeniable. The group enjoyed the book and movie and felt that they were ahead of their time in some ways. The group was impressed by the books, which were unusual for the early 1900’s in that they primarily feature female protagonists who rather than staying at home are instead brave, clever, and actively explore the world around them. The group was split on which was their favorite of the three books. I think my favorite was The Marvelous Land of Oz with its twist ending. Some of the Oz audiobooks, as well as the film Return to Oz, are available from Hoopla. Or you can read the The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as an ebook from eBCCLS or eLibraryNJ.
David Weber’s On Basilisk Station
On Basilisk Station is the first in the Honor Harrington series. Honor was conceived as CS Foster’s Horatio Hornblower rewritten as a female spaceship captain. Honor is sent with her ship to a distant outpost and despite her crew at first feeling demoralized by what they see as a punishment, they are able to turn things around and Honor proves to be a brave and capable leader. The group enjoyed the clever references to naval history and the twists and turns the plot took. My favorite character was Nimitz, Honor’s “pet” treecat who through a telepathic link can tell how she is feeling. There are currently thirteen books in the series so if you are looking for a new series to immerse yourself in over the summer months this might be an enjoyable choice.
Christopher Moore’s Practical Demonkeeping
Image via Amazon
Practical Demonkeeping is Christopher Moore’s first novel. Several characters and the town of Pine Cove, California occur in two of his later works, The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove and The Stupidest Angel so it is a perfect place to start to get a sense of his quirky, darkly humorous sensibility. Practical Demonkeeping primarily focuses on a hundred year old immortal, Travis, who accidently released Catch, a human eating demon, and has been trying to minimize the damage Catch causes ever since. He heads to Pine Cove in hopes of finally banishing Catch. There are cast of other quirky townies who make the best out of their bad situations, as well as a salt loving genie. The group felt that the book had a very cinematic quality and several members who were new to his work said they planned to read more of his novels in the future.
Philip K. Dick’s Ubik
Even if you have not read any of Philip K. Dick’s books, if you are a fan of science fiction you probably have encountered one of the movies based on his work. In June, we saw another of my husband’s favorite films, Blade Runner (we even have a poster from the movie in our basement hallway), before our Ubik discussion. Blade Runner is based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and both it and Ubik are set in a near future, and both question the nature of humanity. Dick is infamous for his mental health problems which included anxiety, paranoia, and hallucinations. He was able to successfully channel these issues into his works which often have a sense of unease and the possibility that reality is not what it seems. Ubik deals with a group who can block psychics from reading their minds and telling the future, as well as people who are placed in a type of half life, in a surreal limbo between living and death so they can continue to communicate with those they left behind. The group praised the quality of writing and creativity in the novel. Ubik is available as an audiobook from Hoopla.
I hope you’ll check out these great science fiction and fantasy works (all are available in print from our library or as an ebook on one our eReaders for loan at the reference desk) and join us on July 20 at 6 PM, when we will be discussing George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones! You can sign up here. We will even have Game of Thrones themed snacks (not including poisoned wine, of course).
-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference