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Artificial Love: Klara and the Sun & Her

1 Sep

So often when we think of Robots in the future, it is of scenes like in the Matrix when they have taken over and controlling the world.  But what if the Robots could turn out to be the more compassionate ones?  Could there be a future that people form bonds not with each other, but with Robots or other forms of AI (Artificial Intelligence)?

Klara and the Sun

Though it was our pick for our August Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Discussion, Klara and the Sun featuring a peak at AI in the future, is one of those books that will appeal to more than just Science Fiction fans; fans of literary fiction will also find a lot to enjoy. 

In the novel Klara is an AF or artificial friend.  She starts the novel in a store interacting with other AFs and the storeowner.  She is solar powered, and quickly picks up new information from those around her.  The story picks up as Klara is adopted by a sickly girl named Josie. 

There is something very simple about the way the novel is delivered from Klara’s limited childlike perspective and yet so much complexity is hinted at in the story that is going on in the wider world.  Klara despite being a robot often seems to have more compassion and sympathy than the humans in the novel. 

I was intrigued to hear what the book discussion group thought of the work and was pleased that they also had enjoyed the work a lot.  We had a great discussion about the future of AI and what it means for society.

Her

Before we discussed Klara and the Sun our book group watched the movie Her starring Joaquin Phoenix.  This was our first movie screening together since Covid and it was great to share a film again that tied to the book we had read this month. The movie was complimentary in that it also involved an artificial intelligence, in this case a Siri or Alexa like virtual personal assistant named Samantha voiced by Scarlett Johansson. 

Her won an academy award for Best Screen Play.  The group was less enthralled with Her than by Klara and the Sun, but we still had a lively discussion related to some topics it brought up.  Although in the case of Her it is a romantic relationship, rather than a friendship, between Theodore and Samantha, the movie touches on many of the same themes as the novel that are brought up about loneliness, humanity, and the place an AI might have in what has become a society centered on the hot new thing and disposability.

If you would like to join us for fun and friendly book discussions and screenings of great movies, sign up for the mailing list for our Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Discussion Group by email hplwriters@gmail.com!  Our next book will be the first in my personal favorite Steampunk series, Soulless, by Gail Carriger.  Soulless is a delightful brew of gaslight fantasy, humor, and romance so check it out and let us know what you think!

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Information and Digital Services

Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror, Mystery, Adventure and even Romance, OH MY!: Gideon the Ninth and Darwinia

11 Aug

Some works are easier to categorize then others.  Two speculative fiction books that easily defy classification, however, are Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (2019) and Darwinia by Robert Charles Wilson (1999).  Both although heavier on fantasy also have elements of horror, science fiction and even a little mystery and romance.  We read both of the titles for the Hoboken Public Library’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Discussion Group which meets monthly.  You can see the complete list of all the past works we have discussed on our website.

Gideon the Ninth
by Tamsyn Muir
Gideon the Ninth is the first novel by New Zealand writer Tamsyn Muir and the start of her Locked Tomb/Ninth House trilogy.  Each of nine planets is ruled by a noble house that practices some kind of necromancy. Although advanced technology for space travel exists, necromancy and close combat ritual fighting are the norm.  Gideon must travel with Harrow, her best frenemy to the another of the planets for an important meeting between all the houses.  The book discussion group overall enjoyed this novel.  If you can imagine a gothic novel with a haunted house in space than you can get an idea of the originality and interesting setting and story for this novel.

Darwinia
by Robert Charles Wilson
We read Darwinia this past July with the book discussion group.  If Gideon the Ninth depicts a future that seems uniquely imagined than Darwinia does the same for the past.  Set when the novel opens in 1912, the earth has experienced a surprising “miracle” overnight.  Europe and all the countries there have been replaced with a mysterious new land filled with giant insect like creatures which Wilson vividly describes.  The novel starts with an exhibition taken by a photographer to capture the new wilderness, but as the novel unfolds there are many mysteries to unravel and a surprising science fiction twist.  Like much of the group I felt the ending could have been stronger, but I felt the first ¾ of the novel were captivating and worth checking out.  Fans of HP Lovecraft and gaslight fantasy will likely be intrigued by the novel.

Our next Science Fiction and Fantasy book discussion will be discussing Klara and the Sun on Thursday, July 28.  If you are mystery fan you will also want to check out the Hoboken Public Library’s monthly Mystery Book Discussion group.

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Information and Digital Services

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