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A Year of Speculative Fiction: The Novels and Movies Our Science Fiction and Fantasy Group Enjoyed in 2019

16 Oct

Once a month the Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Discussion Group meets to discuss speculative fiction that has been suggested by participants.  We also feature beforehand a movie/TV adaptation or a film with a similar setting or theme, which is a way for people who don’t have time to read the book to still participate.

Altered Carbon
by Richard K. Morgan
Altered Carbon
We started the year with Cyber Punk Noir Mystery, Altered Carbon.  In the future the rich can live hundreds of years through the use of cortical stacks and clones; others who cannot afford clones may be transferred into other people’s bodies.  Fans of the Netflix adaptation will still find new things to enjoy in the novel which had changes made in the adaptation such as an AI hotel being based on the personality of Jimmie Hendrix in the book being changed into Edgar Allen Poe in the show. We paired the movie with the live action adaptation of the Anime classic Ghost in the Shell.

A Darker Shade of Magic
by VE Schwab
A Darker Shade of Magic
In February we read A Darker Shade of Magic which takes place in a reality where there are not one, but multiple Londons, one of which is similar to our own in the middle ages, but others contain powerful magic.  Few can cross between these alternate dimensions, but when something dangerous is brought between them it may spell disaster to all of the worlds.  We watched the first of the Fantastic Beasts movies.

The Handmaid’s Tale
by Margaret Atwood
Hadmaid's Tale
Before the sequel came out in honor of Women’s History Month we read Margaret Atwood’s cautionary dystopian novel about the dire consequences when women’s rights are stripped away.  We watched the movie adaptation beforehand.

The Calculating Stars
by Mary Robinette Kowal
The Calculating Stars
In April the group read Mary Robinette Kowal’s first novel in her Lady Astronaut’s series which gives an alternate history where a meteor strike pushes the space exploration forward and women get to take part.  We paired the book with a screening of the thrilling modern space exploration movie Gravity, which features a strong performance by Sandra Bullock.

Mortal Engines
by Philip Reeve
Mortal Engines
For the month of May, the group read the Young Adult Steampunk novel Mortal Engines and also watched the movie adaptation.  The group felt the novel was stronger than the movie adaptation.

King of the Wyld
by Nicholas Eames
kings of the wyld
June’s pick was Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames which uses the analogy of old mercenaries being similar to aging rock stars doing one last tour. They must rescue one of their band’s daughters.  Before the book discussion we enjoyed the campy fun of the Hercules TV show.

A Memory Called Empire
by Arkady Martine
Memory Called Empire
This year’s Summer Reading theme was Space, so for July and August the group read two space operas.  July’s novel was A Memory Called Empire which revolved around a planet sized city where an emissary from a remote post must solve the mystery of what happened to her predecessor.  We paired the novel with the Joss Whedon, space western classic, Serenity, the sequel to the Firefly TV Show.

Luna: New Moon 
by Ian McDonald
Luna New Moon
Ian McDonald took the concept of a multigenerational soap opera like Dallas and placed it on a moon colony with all sorts of political scheming and romantic drama in August’s book, Luna: New Moon.  The group wanted to read the second in the series after the first book ended on a cliff hanger for our November discussion (Nov 18).  We watched Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, a colorful space opera based on a French graphic novel.

Strange Practice
by Vivian Shaw
Strange Practice
I was intrigued when I learned Arkady Martine’s wife was also an author and wanted to see how their writing compared.  Vivian Shaw’s Strange Practice features a doctor who treats supernatural creatures like vampires and mummies.  The group felt that this was a very light, funny novel and was an interesting contrast to the more serious tone of A Memory Called Empire.  We also watched the very funny Hotel Transylvania.

Want to join us for some great discussions?  On Monday, October 21 we will be celebrating Halloween with Deborah Harkness’s Discovery of Witches.  The discussion starts at 6 PM.  Beforehand you can also join us for an enjoyable viewing of a family friendly animated movie treat at 4 PM.  Email hplwriters @ gmail.com to be added to our mailing list.   

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Reference

Super Science Fiction and Fantasy Reads: The Third Quarter of 2018 with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Discussion Group

17 Oct

The summer of 2018 continued to be filled with a lot of enjoyable books for our Science Fiction and Fantasy Group.  We hope you can join us for future discussions.  On Monday, October 22nd we will be discussing the short stories of HP Lovecraft for our Halloween Read at 6 PM.  At 3 PM and 4:30 PM we will be showing two Classic Spooky Comedies.  Then in November we will be discussing Red Shirts by John Scalzi; stop by the reference desk to get a print or ebook copy.  We always welcome suggestions for what books the group reads!  Email hplwriters @ gmail.com to be added to our mailing list.

Spellsinger
by Alan Dean Foster
Spellsinger
In July we discussed Spellsinger by Alan Dean Foster in honor of the summer reading theme of “Reading Rocks.”  I had enjoyed the book as a teenager and was interested to see how it held up after so many years and what the group thought of it.  You may remember I referenced the series along with others in the funny fantasy genre in my post looking back on my favorite novels over the year.  It was a fun light read for summer focusing on an average guy who becomes a hero when he is accidentally sent to an alternate dimension where he can do magic by playing cover songs from earth. The book ends on a cliffhanger leading in to the second book in the series, but many of the group agreed that it felt like the novel came full circle on an emotional development with the main character expanding his definition on what it means to truly be a person.  The group watched the R rated animated sci-fi cult classic Heavy Metal before the discussion.  Besides being available in print, you can also borrow Spellsinger along with other books in the series, as ebooks from Hoopla.

The Three-Body Problem
by Cixin Liu
translated by Ken Liu
3BodyProblem
We had previously read another book in translation, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne which was originally written in French, but The Three-Body Problem was our first translation of a more modern science fiction novel.  Besides print you can borrow it as a digital audiobook from Hoopla.  The group on the whole found the beginning of the work with its exploration of China’s Cultural Revolution a bit slow, but felt it picked up as the main story of first alien contact was introduced.  Several members of the group planned to read the other two works in the trilogy The Dark Forest and Death’s End.  I thought Liu’s use of VR game technology in the novel was especially interesting in comparison to Ready Player One, which we had discussed previously and you can now see a movie adaptation on Blu-ray or DVD.  Unfortunately a planned movie adaptation of the novel, The Three-Body Problem, was shelved a few years ago so instead we watched the classic Forbidden Planet, which is available on Blu-ray and DVD.  The movie, though from the 50’s, holds up well in both look and plot and its retro vibe only adds to its charm.

Lady of the Forest
by Jennifer Roberson

LadyoftheForest

book cover from eLibraryNJ

We read Lady of the Forest by Jennifer Roberson for our August book.  The book hooked readers with its suspenseful opening.  The group enjoyed that the book had many different characters’ perspectives and how it told the story of not just how Robin evolved into the character of myth and legends but how his merry men also met and joined him. The book especially focuses on Marian who goes from being an intelligent but more conservative, traditional lady of the day to finding her inner warrior.  It is an interesting twist on Robin, who is depicted as having PTSD from fighting in the crusades.  I think my favorite character was Eleanor, the sheriff’s daughter, who despite making several very bad decisions still intrigued me as a depiction of how a more independent oriented women would be treated in that era.  Besides print, Hoboken residents, can borrow the book from eLibraryNJ as an ebook.  Roberson also wrote a sequel Lady of Sherwood.  We watched the movie Robin and Marian which looked at the couple towards the end of their lives rather than the beginning of their adulthood in the book; it provided an interesting look at how their relationship would have evolved.  My heart still belongs to the animated Disney version, but I also enjoyed this more serious interpretation and thought Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn gave stellar performances in the title roles.  You can learn more about the history of the Robin Hood legend from Robin Hood–The Outlaw Hero, Episode 9 of Heroes and Legends, part of The Great Courses series of lectures available for streaming from Kanopy.

I hope you will join us for upcoming discussions.  And if you like mysteries check out the Hoboken Public Library’s New Mystery Book Club!  You can email rosary.vaningen @ hoboken.bccls.org for more info about the Mystery book club!

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Reference

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