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A Year of Speculative Fiction: The Novels and Movies Our Science Fiction and Fantasy Group Enjoyed in 2019

16 Oct

Once a month the Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Discussion Group meets to discuss speculative fiction that has been suggested by participants.  We also feature beforehand a movie/TV adaptation or a film with a similar setting or theme, which is a way for people who don’t have time to read the book to still participate.

Altered Carbon
by Richard K. Morgan
Altered Carbon
We started the year with Cyber Punk Noir Mystery, Altered Carbon.  In the future the rich can live hundreds of years through the use of cortical stacks and clones; others who cannot afford clones may be transferred into other people’s bodies.  Fans of the Netflix adaptation will still find new things to enjoy in the novel which had changes made in the adaptation such as an AI hotel being based on the personality of Jimmie Hendrix in the book being changed into Edgar Allen Poe in the show. We paired the movie with the live action adaptation of the Anime classic Ghost in the Shell.

A Darker Shade of Magic
by VE Schwab
A Darker Shade of Magic
In February we read A Darker Shade of Magic which takes place in a reality where there are not one, but multiple Londons, one of which is similar to our own in the middle ages, but others contain powerful magic.  Few can cross between these alternate dimensions, but when something dangerous is brought between them it may spell disaster to all of the worlds.  We watched the first of the Fantastic Beasts movies.

The Handmaid’s Tale
by Margaret Atwood
Hadmaid's Tale
Before the sequel came out in honor of Women’s History Month we read Margaret Atwood’s cautionary dystopian novel about the dire consequences when women’s rights are stripped away.  We watched the movie adaptation beforehand.

The Calculating Stars
by Mary Robinette Kowal
The Calculating Stars
In April the group read Mary Robinette Kowal’s first novel in her Lady Astronaut’s series which gives an alternate history where a meteor strike pushes the space exploration forward and women get to take part.  We paired the book with a screening of the thrilling modern space exploration movie Gravity, which features a strong performance by Sandra Bullock.

Mortal Engines
by Philip Reeve
Mortal Engines
For the month of May, the group read the Young Adult Steampunk novel Mortal Engines and also watched the movie adaptation.  The group felt the novel was stronger than the movie adaptation.

King of the Wyld
by Nicholas Eames
kings of the wyld
June’s pick was Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames which uses the analogy of old mercenaries being similar to aging rock stars doing one last tour. They must rescue one of their band’s daughters.  Before the book discussion we enjoyed the campy fun of the Hercules TV show.

A Memory Called Empire
by Arkady Martine
Memory Called Empire
This year’s Summer Reading theme was Space, so for July and August the group read two space operas.  July’s novel was A Memory Called Empire which revolved around a planet sized city where an emissary from a remote post must solve the mystery of what happened to her predecessor.  We paired the novel with the Joss Whedon, space western classic, Serenity, the sequel to the Firefly TV Show.

Luna: New Moon 
by Ian McDonald
Luna New Moon
Ian McDonald took the concept of a multigenerational soap opera like Dallas and placed it on a moon colony with all sorts of political scheming and romantic drama in August’s book, Luna: New Moon.  The group wanted to read the second in the series after the first book ended on a cliff hanger for our November discussion (Nov 18).  We watched Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, a colorful space opera based on a French graphic novel.

Strange Practice
by Vivian Shaw
Strange Practice
I was intrigued when I learned Arkady Martine’s wife was also an author and wanted to see how their writing compared.  Vivian Shaw’s Strange Practice features a doctor who treats supernatural creatures like vampires and mummies.  The group felt that this was a very light, funny novel and was an interesting contrast to the more serious tone of A Memory Called Empire.  We also watched the very funny Hotel Transylvania.

Want to join us for some great discussions?  On Monday, October 21 we will be celebrating Halloween with Deborah Harkness’s Discovery of Witches.  The discussion starts at 6 PM.  Beforehand you can also join us for an enjoyable viewing of a family friendly animated movie treat at 4 PM.  Email hplwriters @ gmail.com to be added to our mailing list.   

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Reference

My 2017 Review in Books: Book Riot Read Harder Challenge and Reading with Nieces Wrap-Up

5 Jan

It is now 2018, and I wanted to use my first post of the year to wrap up some of my 2017 reading.

I followed the 2017 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge last year (more about that here), and completed 13 out of the 24 tasks–a lot further than I’ve gotten in past challenges! It motivates me for the 2018 Read Harder Challenge, for which I have already read one book. I will discuss that in another blog post.

Two completed Read Harder Challenge tasks that I didn’t get around to writing up were:

  • Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative
  • Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme of other than love

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

behold-dreamers

Behold the Dreamers, Mbue’s debut novel and the pick of the Mile Square City Readers Book Club that I co-lead in September, is about Cameroonian immigrant Jende Jonga and his family living in New York City before the Great Recession of 2008. It was well received and generated an excellent discussion among the group, in particular about Jende’s wife Neni who was a pivotal character. This book will pull you in with the characters’ secrets and some surprises.

Pearl translated by Simon Armitage

pearl

Pearl is an allegorical poem about a man grieving the loss of his daughter that dates back to the fourteenth century. The original Middle English text is printed on one side of the page, and the modern English translation is printed on the facing page. I admit to reading the translated side as Middle English was too daunting. The poem was a beautiful depiction of loss and mourning. Click here for examples of Old English, Middle English, and Modern English to see the differences.

Another reading challenge I assigned to myself was to read books with my nieces. My two older nieces had formal summer reading assignments, which I wrote about here and here, that I followed. My youngest niece Samantha, now in fourth grade, at first pushed back when I asked her to pick a book to read together. Then one evening she called and told me she wanted to read The Power of Poppy Pendle by Natasha Lowe.

Poppy Pendle was born on the floor of a bakery, which instilled in her a passion for baking. She is also a witch–her parents want to focus on developing her powers but she would much rather bake. This leads to a clash between Poppy and her parents, which causes her powers to go out of control.

The Power of Poppy Pendle by Natasha Lowe

power-poppy-pendle

Truth time: I didn’t get around to reading this book in the summer. After finishing the book in the fall I called Sam to get her thoughts. Turns out she didn’t finish the book! She told me that she “barely has time to do anything.” Oh, kids.

Even though Sam didn’t read much of the book, I see why she picked this title: recipes are included at the end! Sam loves baking. When we are together we bake. She is not as interested in cleaning up after baking, leaving the messes for me, but she is getting better in that area.

Maybe next summer Sam will have more time and we can read a book together. 🙂

IMG_3246

By the way, this is Sam

I read lots of other things in 2017, but wanted to keep this post brief. I am active on Goodreads. Join me at either the Lady Memoir Book Club at Little City Books on January 17 and the Mile Square City Readers Book Club on January 23.

Happy Reading in 2018!

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

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