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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

Imitation and Reinvention: Mad Hatters and March Hares and Kill the Farm Boy

12 Sep

Sometimes an author’s world and the words they wrote resonate so deeply that they live beyond the works themselves; there are many retellings of Alice in Wonderland and there are some especially terrific interpretations in the new collection edited by Ellen Datlow.  At other times authors may be inspired not by what stories in the past contained, but what the story leaves out. This is the case for the thoroughly modern fantasy Kill the Farm Boy by Kevin Hearne and Delilah S. Dawson which seeks to reinvent the genre with a modern sensibility.

Mad Hatters and March Hares: All New Stories from the World of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland
edited by Ellen Datlow
MadHattersandMarchHares

Mad Hatters and March Hares is a collection of stories based on not only characters from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and it’s sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass, but many also involve the book and the real people associated with stories like Alice Lidell since the tale of the writing of the books often seems as intriguing to readers and authors as the story itself. The story “Worrity, Worrity” by Andy Duncan takes a surrealistic look at why John Tenniel might have dissuaded Carroll from featuring a certain illustration.  Like the nonsense rhyme that filled originals, the collection begins and ends with two poems, the first of which “Gentle Alice” by Kris Dikeman is in the shape of a teacup reflecting the concrete poetry Carroll used in his own work.  Two of my favorite fantasy authors Catherynne M. Valente and Seanan McGuire have excellent stories included;  McGuire’s “Sentence Like a Saturday” was my favorite of the collection and looks at what happens when a certain Kitty enters the “real” world.  I found it interesting that on the whole the stories were dark fantasy and some in the horror genre reflecting the menace that can be seen just below the surface in the original with characters like the threatening Red Queen and Jabberwocky.  You can read about more Alice in Wonderland related books and movies in a previous blog post.

Kill The Farm Boy: The Tales Of Pell
by Kevin Hearne and Delilah S. Dawson
KilltheFarmBoy
This novel, according to an authors’ note, started as a conversation between Hearne and Dawson in an airport about the need to “kill the farm boy” which they feel represents the cliche of the white young male who lives in a rural area and finds out he is the “chosen one” and goes on to be the center of many adventures. White males can be pretty awesome and many deserve hero status, my dad, husband, and son are all examples of that, but there is definitely room especially in the fantasy realm for more diversity.  This novel made me think of many fantasy novels I’ve read especially the Once and Future King with its interpretation of the Arthur legend.  The novel starts out with the typical farm boy, but he meets an unfortunate accident that keeps him unable to continue his quest and instead the main story focuses on a variety of adventurers including a dark skinned female warrior and her newly met romantic interest a bard who is herself under a spell so that she has rabbit like features.  There were some bits where Kill the Farm Boy had me laughing out loud and it was very original with some of the directions that it took the adventurers in while skewing dated cliches of typical fantasy novels of the past as well as our contemporary society.  The novel manages to be more than just a parody and I hope the fun and original characters of Pell have many more adventures in store for readers.

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Reference

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