Tag Archives: Charlie Jane Anders

Shaping the Universe: Sundiver and Victories Greater than Death

14 Jul

I remember one of the things that always stood out to me while watching the Star Trek series was the idea of the prime directive, the idea that the spacefaring societies tried to avoid interactions with the groups still developing so that those species would be able to create their own societal values and beliefs without being influenced by more advanced groups.  But what if one were to imagine a very different situation where more advanced civilizations purposely manipulated other intelligent groups.  Two novels that examine this possibility are Sundiver by David Brin and Victories Greater than Death by Charlie Jane Anders.

Sundiver by David Brin
Sundiver was Brin’s first book in his Uplift trilogy.  In the universe of the novel, humans are an anomaly, in that there is no record of them being “uplifted” by another intelligent group.  Most alien species have been assisted through genetic manipulation and other techniques to advance by other species.  Humans have “uplifted” dolphins and apes on earth.  Although humans treat those that they have uplifted as equal, in most of the universe the uplifted groups are treated as being indentured and owing the more advanced group that helped shape them.  The alien species in the novel are vividly described and although they are all able to communicate due to technology, they are vastly different in shape, for example one looks like a giant tree and another looks like a teddy bear with tentacles.  There is a mystery in the novel that slowly unfolds about a sabotaged mission to our sun, where it is believed aliens might have secretly been living for centuries.  We read Sundiver for our June HPL Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Discussion Group and the members thought the book still felt fresh and enjoyable even though it was published in 1980.  You can join us in July for a discussion of Darwinia by Robert Charles Wilson in Church Square Park. You can borrow Darwinia and Sundiver in print from the Hoboken Public Library or as an ebook from elibraryNJ (log in with your HPL library card for access).

Victories Greater than Death by Charlie Jane Anders
Victories Greater than Death is Charlie Jane Anders first in her new Unstoppable YA series.  It starts with a teen on earth who has been waiting for years for her true destiny.  Despite looking like a normal American teen, Tina, is secretly an alien clone of a fierce warrior who is the only hope of stopping an evil space force.  Along with her best friend, she also recruits a diverse group of teens from around earth to help on the mission.  Issues of gender, class, and identity are all examined.  One reoccurring theme is that early on in the Universe a group described as the shapers chose to help intelligent symmetrical bipedal groups, but held back groups that did not meet these standards.  The assumption at first is that this may have been due to prejudice by the shapers, but as the book continues a darker motivation is possibly uncovered.  The sequel, Dreams Bigger than Heartbreak is scheduled to come out at the beginning of April 2022.  You can check out our previous review of Anders’s adult novel All the Birds in the Sky (another of our book club picks) here.

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Information and Digital Services

Celebrating Trans and Non-Binary Speculative Fiction Authors for LGBTQ Pride Month

9 Jun

We’ve read some great Speculative Fiction works as part of our Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Discussion Group by Trans and Non-Binary (sometimes you may also see Non-Binary individuals referred to as enby because of the letters n and b) authors recently, which had been recommended by group members, and I thought Pride Month would be a perfect time to share them with our larger library community. You can borrow their books from the Hoboken Public Library as print or ebooks from eLibraryNJ or Hoopla. Hopefully their success will be an example for other individuals who have not yet felt comfortable acknowledging their own identities, and their work will stand as compassionate depictions of diversity for all readers.

Annalee Newitz
Author of: The Future of Another Timeline
I had written a previous blog about Robots that included Newitz’s first novel Autonomous, which I enjoyed a lot, but I think I liked their 2019 novel, The Future of Another Timeline even more.  We read it for our November 2020 Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Discussion.  In the novel two groups of time travelers, use time machines that seemed to have always excited in certain geological formations, try and work against each other to make small changes that could have big consequences in the future.  A chunk of the action takes place in the grunge scene of the 90’s that had me nostalgic for my own young adult years.  My favorite scenes, however, were those set during the time of the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, which Newitz brought vividly to life.  I appreciated that they included information at the end of the novel about their real life inspiration for historic characters and the historic events that inspired them.  Newitz identifies as being non-binary (Newitz started using they pronouns in 2019) and there is a touching side story about a couple, one of whom is trans and is purposefully removed at one point from the timeline due to her identity.  There are moments of violence which could be triggering to some, but on the whole I’d recommend the book especially to those looking for science fiction with a strong feminist and/or queer perspective. Both their books are available from elibraryNJ (Hoboken patrons have exclusive access when logging in with their barcodes).

Rin Chupeco
Author of: The Bone Witch
Rin Chupeco identifies as being pansexual and non-binary.  They are of Chinese, Malay, Thai, and Filipino descent, but currently live in and grew up in the Philippines.  We read their book Bone Witch for our July 2020 Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Discussion.  Bone Witch is the first in a YA trilogy followed by The Heart Forger, and Shadowglass.  The group enjoyed the story of Tea who comes from a family of witches, but whose talent for necromancy while making her the most powerful also ostracizes her from those she loves.  Several members remarked that it had elements of Memoirs of a Geisha, but beyond those references there is a larger detailed world populated by interestingly nuanced cultures and traditions in this epic fantasy.  One of the side characters, perhaps my favorite in the book, was depicted as possibly being trans.  In a recent social media post, Chupeco mentioned that they plans to have a focus on nonbinary characters as protagonists in their fiction that they are currently writing. You can borrow the Bone Witch series from Hoopla.

Charlie Jane Anders
Author of: All the Birds in The Sky
Charlie Jane Anders was founder and co-editor, with Annalee Newitz, of the science fiction blog io9 and currently the partners have a podcast, Our Opinions are Correct.  We read All the Birds in The Sky for last month’s book discussion.  It definitely ranks as one of my favorites we have read as part of our book discussion group and several of the other members also agreed.  It merges science fiction and fantasy, with Laurence, a robotics genius, and Patricia, a witch, who become friends as outcasts in middle school only to be torn apart and then meet again as adults.  In an interview with the Huffington Post, Anders said, ““The feeling of alienation and of difference is something that is threaded throughout speculative fiction. My experiences as a trans person always come back in my writing,” particularly “the desperate struggle to claim your identity … an identity that people either don’t understand or are hostile to.”  Both Patricia and Laurence want to save the world, but what that looks like for magic and what that looks like for science are two very different things.  Can two such diverse people come together?  I really enjoyed the humor and creativity in the work.  I look forward to reading more works by Anders in the future (her new YA novel Victories Greater Than Death came out in April). You can borrow All the Birds in the Sky from eLibraryNJ (Hoboken patrons have exclusive access when logging in with their barcodes).

Have a favorite book with a positive depiction of a Trans or Non-Binary character, or a favorite author to read for LGBTQ Pride Month?  Share them in our comment section!

If you are interested in our Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Discussion Group you can email hplwriters@gmail.com for more information and to be added to our mailing lists. We read works by a diverse group of authors, everything from classics of early Science Fiction like Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to contemporary Urban Fantasy like Vivian Shaw’s Strange Practice. You can read some of our past book club blog posts here.

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Information and Digital Services

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