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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

Another View on Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

4 Aug

Mexican Gothic involves a young woman, Noemi Taboada, who is sent by her father to check on the welfare of her cousin Catalina. Catalina has married into a family living in a decrepit mansion in a part of Mexico that is damp and misty and creepy. Catalina sent a letter to Noemi’s dad that leads them to question her physical and mental state. It all takes place in the early 50s.

Every gothic novel has to have some of these elements: the creepy mansion with a name (High Place), the weird social/familial relationships, the haunting aspects. Check, check, check.

What makes this novel so interesting is the strongly feminist Noemi, who is pretty feisty for a woman back in the early 50s. She is willing to stand up to the weirdness demonstrated by Catalina’s new family, and try to save her cousin, all the while you sense she is in increasing danger from…….well, you don’t know exactly what, and neither does Noemi. But you knew there was going to be trouble when the family totem depicts a snake swallowing its own tail.

Noemi won’t obey the rules of the house that she is expected to follow. She suffers nightmares, and sleepwalks. She hears voices. She can’t trust her own senses. She is isolated and repulsed (you will be too!) by the wetness, mold, and mildew that surrounds her.

While not a fan of the horror genre in general, I ended up really enjoying this book. It was well written, suspenseful, and weaves in some wider horror — societal horror — to boot.

Mexican Gothic is available in print from BCCLS, in eBook from eBCCLS and eLibraryNJ, and as audiobook from eLibraryNJ and eBCCLS. You can also read a previous blog post written by one of my colleagues about this fantastic book.

Written by:
Victoria Turk
Reference Librarian

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