Archive | Fantasy RSS feed for this section

Reading with the Hoboken Public Library Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club: Revelation Space, Kindred, The Martian Chronicles, When Gravity Fails, and Inferno

7 Jun

The first five months of 2017 have seemed to fly by at rocket speed.  I wanted to take a moment to take a quick look back at the books we have read so far as part of the Hoboken Public Library’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Discussion Group. (Click here to read more about this book club.)  The group meets one Monday each month to discuss a Science Fiction or Fantasy book picked by group members.  Before the book discussion we also typically watch either a film adaptation or a movie in a similar genre to the work being read.  On June 19 at 6 PM we will be discussing the Space Epic Leviathan Awakes by James S. A. Corey.  To join our mailing list email hplwriters AT gmail DOT com.

Revelation Space, by Alastair Reynolds

revelation-space
The group started 2017 reading, Welsh author, Alastair Reynold’s Space Opera Revelation Space. Some of the group found it a bit confusing at first how there were several different plots with different characters set during different time periods, in different places. However, all these diverse plots come together in the end for a satisfying read.  Reynolds has a background in astronomy which he used to infuse the novel with realism. I was particularly drawn to his depiction of the one character who was an xenoarchaeologist who was studying an extinct species who had evolved from bird like creatures. Revelation Space answers the question of why humans seem to be alone in the universe. The novel became the first in the Revelation Space series.

Kindred, by Octavia Butler

kindred.jpg
For African American History Month, we read Octavia E. Butler’s time travel classic Kindred. In Kindred, Dana, a modern black women in the 1970s who dreams of becoming a writer, is suddenly pulled back in time where she must save from drowning the white child of a plantation owner. She is returned to her own time, but several times is pulled back again each time to save Rufus who she learns is one of her ancestors. Kindred looks at the complex legacy of slavery that continues to be felt in our contemporary world. Many of Butler’s other novels also deal with issues of race and gender in unique and illuminating ways which will appeal to even those who are not traditionally fans of the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre.

The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury

martian-chronicles.jpg
The Martian Chronicles is one of Ray Bradbury’s most well-known works. Bradbury combined several short stories along with new materials to chronicle the history of Mars from the first exploration by humans. Some of the group would have preferred to see more of the story centered on the original Martian inhabitants of the novel which are inventively described by Bradbury, however, Bradbury’s beautiful writing style was praised. The group felt the book was fast paced though did feel more like a series of short stories that it started as rather than a cohesive novel.

When Gravity Fails, by George Alec Effinger

when-gravity-fails
Very often cyberpunk novels feel very dated and more reflective of the 1980s than a vision of a future when read today. Effinger’s When Gravity Fails, though published in 1987, the group felt was much more contemporary than other’s in the genre. The novel will appeal to fans of noir mysteries as well as science fiction. When Gravity Fails is set in the Budayeen, a technologically advanced urban ghetto in the Middle East. People can plug in “daddies” to gain new skills like speaking a foreign language and “moddies” to turn themselves into someone else entirely. Many of the characters including the main character’s girlfriend are transgendered. One character has even had surgery to appear as a different race from the one she was born as. This provided interesting topics about identity and responsibility in an increasing technological age. Effinger wrote two other books in the series and started work on his fourth before his death, which a portion of can be read in the short story collection Budayeen Nights.

Inferno, by Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven

inferno.jpg
For May’s discussion, the group read Inferno, a 1976 retelling of Dante’s version from Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven.  In this version a science fiction writer, Allen Carpenter, must make his way through the many circles of Hell as he tries to escape.  Carpenter explores his own beliefs and examines his behavior during his life during his journey.  Along the way he encounters some famous figures from history such as Jesse James, Vlad Tepes, and with some dark humor Kurt Vonnegut’s tomb.  Most of the group found the book to be a quick enjoyable read.  The group had read two of Niven’s science fiction works, Ringworld and Protector previously so it was interesting to see a work of fantasy by him and Pournelle.  A sequel to Inferno, Escape from Hell, was published several decades later in 2009.

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

It Came from the Interwebz: Books that Started Out as Online Phenomena

10 May

Since we are a blog about books, and I love all things meta, I thought it would be fun for this blog post to look at print books that started their life on the internet that I’m going to suggest online that you go read in print (though you can enjoy some of them in digital format too if you don’t want to leave your computer).

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente

girl-circumnavigated-ship
In Valente’s novel, Palimpsest, she had a character discuss a book they read as a child, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (at the time the book did not exist). Valente then began what would become Fairyland as a crowd-funded project and published the story online about a lonely young girl, whose father is off fighting and mother is busy working at a factory to help the war efforts, while she is lured to fairyland.  Although appropriate for middle graders, the story equally charms teens and adults with its wildly imaginative description of a fairy land which feels both fresh and modern and yet hearkens back to earlier fairy tales.  It reminded me of the magic and wit of the Oz books.  You will also want to check out others in the series including: The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two, The Boy Who Lost Fairyland, and The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home.  You can borrow several of the books as digital audiobooks from Hoopla.  I had previously blogged about Valente’s fantastic adult novel Radiance in a previous post and dubbed it one of my favorite books of that year.

Welcome to Night Vale, by Fink Joseph

welcome-night-vale
If you are fans of podcasts you have probably at least heard of Night Vale which reached the top of the iTunes chart and well deserves its popularity.  In the small desert town of Night Vale odd things like floating cats and mysterious disappearances are recounted as ordinary daily events by the host of a local radio broadcast.  I love that podcasts like this one bring back the storytelling of radio dramas for a new age.  Just be forewarned the librarians in Night Vale aren’t the helpful, friendly staff you will find at HPL, but creatures to be feared.  Welcome to Night Vale expands on the events of the podcast.  You can also borrow Mostly Void, Partially Stars : Welcome to Night Vale episodes, Volume 1 and The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe: Welcome to Night Vale Episodes, Volume 2 which include material from the podcast as well as art, commentary, and a peek behind the scenes.  You can borrow eBook and digital audiobook copies from eLibraryNJ.

Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong, by Jen Yates

cake-wrecks
The award winning blog Cake Wrecks started out when Jen Yates saw an unintentionally funny cake reading “Best Wishes Suzanne Under Neat that We Will Miss You.” She found other cakes that were misspelled (like my son’s fourth “birthay” cake), poorly (and therefore hilariously) iced, and just plain silly. Although the cakes are funny in and of themselves, it is Yates witty writings that brings back readers for more delicious helpings. Like the blog, the book includes pictures of cakes with her commentary (75% of which is not also featured on the blog). If you need to take a quick laugh break from holiday stress, checkout the sequel Wreck the Halls: Cake Wrecks Gets “Festive.”   You can borrow Wreck the Halls as an eBook on eLibraryNJ.

Gothic Charm School: An Essential Guide for Goths and Those Who Love Them, by Jillian Venters

gothic-charm-school
Jillian Venters took her popular Gothic Charm School site and transformed it into a Miss Manners guide for those who want to be both darkly spooky and polite.  It includes such practical information as what to wear on a job interview and how to handle disapproving family members.  My husband and I attended the book launch potluck tea party in Green-Wood Cemetery when it came out back in 2009.  Although obviously the years have passed and some reference may not be as au courant, there is still some solid timeless advice in the book for the alternative set.

John Dies at the End, by David Wong

john-dies-end.jpg
A recommendation from my husband, David Wong’s comic horror novel, John Dies at the End, began life as a free web serial by Cracked writer/editor David Wong (aka Jason Pargin). My husband was a fan of the humor site Cracked (which arose from the ashes of its print counterpart) and introduced me to it around the time of my son’s birth, a period where being up for what seemed at times like 24 hours made a good laugh a necessity.  Think of the novel as what would happen if the raunchy, clueless characters of Clerks or Harold and Kumar were living in HP Lovecraft’s Innsmouth. A sequel This Book Is Full of Spiders, was published in 2012. John Dies at the End was adapted into a 2013 movie which you can borrow from Hoopla. Scheduled to be released in October will be What the Hell Did I Just Read: A Novel of Cosmic Horror.

Want more?  You can also read several previous posts were I discussed books that were birthed from blogs including:
Voracious
based on Cara Nicoletti’s blog Yummy Books
Molly on the Range for fans of Molly Yeh’s blog My Name is Yeh
Adulting How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps based on Kelly Williams Brown’s blog, Adulting
Bon Appétempt based on Amelia Morris’s blog Bon Appétempt
Eating Wildly arose from Ava Chin’s Urban Forager blog for the New York Times
My Berlin Kitchen comes from Luisa Weiss’s blog, The Wednesday Chef
Plus you can read about fanfiction inspired books and DVDs to checkout in a previous post. 

Have other picks for books that made the transition from the internet to print?  Share them in the comments!

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

%d bloggers like this: