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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

Great Science Fiction and Fantasy Reads: The First Half of 2018 with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Discussion Group

11 Jul

The first half of 2018 has been 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, July 23 we will be discussing Spellsinger by Alan Dean Foster in honor of the summer reading theme of “Reading Rocks.”  We always welcome input into what books the group reads, so we would love to hear your suggestions!  Email hplwriters @ gmail.com to be added to our mailing list.  If you are a Hoboken Resident be sure to sign up for our summer reading program.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
by Catherynne M. Valente
Girlwhocircumnavigatedfairyland
You may remember I wrote about The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making in a previous post about books that were originally published online.  I had loved the novel, so I was excited when one of the group members had suggested it.  There was some discussion of it in comparison to other children’s books we had read – such as the first three Oz books.  The story has a very retro fairytale feel to it which some of the group enjoyed.  Before the book discussion we watched Labyrinth which Valente has said was very influential to her in the author interview that was included at the end of the book.  You can read more about Labyrinth in a previous post I had written in honor of its 30th anniversary.

Mote in God’s Eye
by Larry Niven‎ & ‎Jerry Pournelle
Mote in God's Eye
image from Amazon.com
We had previously read two of Niven’s books as well as the Niven/Pournelle collaboration Inferno.  While the group thought that Pournelle’s influence was felt more heavily in Inferno, overall Mote In God’s Eye seemed more reminiscent of the Ringworld books by Niven we had read previously.  I found the book a little slow moving at first, but found it picked up and had me enthralled by the end with its story of first contact between humans and an alien race.  We paired the book with a screening of the Start Trek movie, Wrath of Khan which the group enjoyed.

The Magicians
by Lev Grossman
magicians
My first experience with The Magicians was its adaptation on the SyFy channel so I was curious to compare it to the book series.  Both feel like a modern and more adult take on Children’s Classics, most notably Harry Potter, Narnia, and The Once and Future King all of which we had read in previous book discussions so we had a lot of talk about them in comparison.  The group felt that although this was an interesting setup with all the borrowing from other works it felt more referential than innovative.  We also watched the first three episodes of the TV show.  I enjoyed both and this may be a rare exception where I did not necessarily like the book more than its adaptation.

Ready Player One
by Ernest Cline
ReadyPlayerOne
The group was curious to read and discuss Ready Player One since its movie adaptation was making its big screen debut.  I think this is another example of where the movie and book are very different in some ways, but both enjoyable and the changes for the movie felt on the whole necessary due to the more visual medium.  I’d definitely recommend the book, if you only saw the film. Ready Player One relies heavily on 80’s nostalgia, but we found interestingly the references did not resonate for some of the older members of the group who experienced the 80’s as adults rather than children, since many of the references are about video games, toys, and cartoons.  I had been curious to see if it was necessary to get all the references to still enjoy the book and film, but the group members who weren’t as knowledgeable still seemed to like the work.  We also watched Existenz beforehand, which the group felt had some interesting concepts about reality, but did not enjoy some of the intense visuals that are a hallmark of many Cronenberg films.

Scythe
by Neal Shusterman
scythe
One of the group members mentioned that she had been hearing a lot of buzz about the award winning Young Adult novel Scythe by Neal Shusterman so I was curious to check it out. The novel is interesting since in some ways it depicts a world which many people would see as a Utopia where disease and injury can almost always be cured and nanites in people’s blood prevent pain and depression.  Yet there is something that seems dulled in the society where death only comes by the hands of designated Scythes who “glean” in order to keep the population numbers down.  I found the book a bit slow in the early chapters where it focused on world building and typical teen concerns, but found it picked up with action and intrigue in the second half.  Beforehand we watched Ghost Rider which on the whole the group found over the top but enjoyable.

Fahrenheit 451
by Ray Bradbury
fahrenheit 451
HBO recently debuted an adaptation of the Science Fiction classic, Fahrenheit 451, which had been on our “to be read” list for a while.  We viewed the 1966 movie adaptation before the discussion.  It was interesting to see how relevant the book was to our current world situation where censorship and mass media are both hot topics.  The group had a great discussion about how Bradbury’s four walls of viewing screens seemed very relevant with VR, Augmented Reality, and people constantly being glued to their cell phones.  We had a large turnout for the 1966 movie adaptation which had an interesting stylized look that to me kept it from feeling dated.  I especially liked that in the movie the protagonist’s wife and a young woman he meets, who seem to be positioned as mirror opposites of one another, was played by the same actress.  The novel is definitely a work you should check out!

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Reference

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