Tag Archives: dystopia

40 Years of Favorite Part Two: My Favorites From My Twenties

9 Feb

You may remember I started a list of my favorite books or series of books through the years in honor of my milestone 40th birthday with books I loved as child and teen.  I thought I’d finish out my 40th year with part two and three of that post and look at favorite books from my twenties (and in the next post my thirties).

21. The Works of Tanith Lee

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I went through a period as a teen into my early twenties of being a huge fan of the dark fantasy of Tanith Lee and it would be impossible for me to pick only one of her works as a favorite from that time period; unfortunately not all of her prolific work is currently in print.  For vampire fans check out Personal Darkness available from BCCLS libraries.  For those who enjoy retellings of Fairytales, like I do, check out a very adult retelling of Snow White, White as Snow.  You can borrow her Lionwolf Trilogy as eBooks from Hoopla.

22. Ray Bradbury’s From the Dust Returned

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Ray Bradbury’s prose always hooks me into his stories. From the Dust Returned is composed primarily of a series of short stories Bradbury wrote decades earlier, centering on a family of monsters, vampires, and ghosts named the Elliotts. When I was in college I remember being on a Goth Music Discussion email list (these were the days before Facebook and even Myspace) where one of the participants was in love with one of the stories in From Dust Returned and encouraged everyone to check it out; I did and it remains a favorite. The cover art for the novel was provided by Charles Addams, who created his own macabre family, The Addams Family.

23. Poppy Z. Brite’s Lost Souls and 24. Drawing Blood

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Poppy Z. Brite, pen name of transgendered author Billy Martin, was known in the early 90’s for his horror stories.  My two favorites from that time are the haunted house tale Drawing Blood and the vampire novel Lost Souls.  Brite then went on to write several dark comedies in the late 90’s/early 2000’s set in the culinary world of New Orleans in the Liquor series.  Hopefully Martin will chose to come out of authorly retirement and start writing again sometime soon since I’d be curious to see what he has for his next chapter.

25. Spider Robinson’s Callahan Series, 26. John DeChancie’s Castle Perilous Series, and 27. Alan Dean Fosters’s Spellsinger series

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Following my dark fantasy period, there was a time in the 90’s where I couldn’t get enough of funny fantasy and science fiction.  Spider Robinson’s Callahan series is set in a bar where the regulars include a talking dog, a time traveler, and alien life forms; many puns and shenanigans ensue.  Several of Robinson’s books are available from BCCLS Libraries.  John DeChancie’s Castle Perilous series features a castle with thousands of doors, each of which opens onto another dimension; those who enter often receive surprising magical abilities.  Alan Dean Foster’s Spellsinger series features a student who is pulled into a world where animals talk and behave like humans, and the protagonist gains the power of using music to cast spells.  Books in these series are all available from Hoopla as eBooks or digital audiobooks.

28. Connie Willis’s Bellwether

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You may remember my post about Connie Willis’s terrific books about time travel; our book discussion group even read Doomsday Book one month. The book of hers I first picked up my freshman year of college when it came out was Bellwether which looks at a group of scientist who are attempting to study what causes and how to create a fads. Looking back on it now Bellwether seems predictive of the current fad of viral marketing and social media influencers, though at the time I just fell in love with the funny, quirky book.

29. Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic

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I have written previously about my love of my Alice Hoffman’s magical fantasies which feature bold female heroines either in historical or contemporary settings. My first and still one of my favorites is her novel Practical Magic. It is definitely worth rereading since she just published in 2017 a prequel The Rules of Magic, where she writes about an earlier generation of the Owens family: Franny, Jet, and Vincent, set in the 1960’s.

30. Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale

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Speaking of Dystopian works, The Handmaid’s Tale was shocking and thought provoking to me when I read it as a college freshman. The story has gotten a renewed buzz with its adaptation as a streaming series. I also enjoyed Atwood’s other fiction and poetry.  I got to see her at a reading/Q&A when I was in graduate school at a Non-for-Profit Theater in Brookline, MA, which for a book nerd was practically a holy experience at the time.

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

Top 5 Books! Because It’s….August!

26 Aug

What to call this entry? Well, it’s still summer, but the phrase “Summer Reading” calls up doleful memories of schoolwork intruding into free time. “Beach Reading” sounds great in theory, but the actual beach experience–heat, glare, sand, seawater–is not ideal for either e-books or books on paper (especially library books!).

I ruin my own reading experience quite fine by myself–getting up every few minutes from a book to Google an unfamiliar concept or bit of history I come across. That works fine for Trivia Night, but would leave any self-respecting storyteller grinding their teeth. So when The World’s Worst Reader™ actually finishes a book, it’s cause for celebration, no matter what you call it. So here are five books that TWWR™ has found truly worthwhile and would happily push upon any innocent bystander. (All items mentioned are available in the BCCLS system.)

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

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A thoughtful apocalyptic dystopia with an emotional tug. It opens on stage, with an actor collapsing while playing King Lear. Soon the Georgia Flu has wiped out virtually all humanity. Some time later we catch up with a small band of players roaming a deserted America, entertaining pockets of survivors for shelter and food. There’s an intriguing use of an airport–that symbol of transit and ephemerality–re-purposed as a poignant museum of permanence, featuring a precious few things saved from the wreck of mankind. This early sentence, describing an impromptu tribute to the dead actor, hooked me and many other readers: “Of all of them there at the bar that night, the bartender was the one who survived the longest. He died three weeks later on the road out of the city.”

I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

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This is a first novel, but Hayes, a veteran screenwriter, clearly has nothing to learn about craft, plotting, pace, or characterization. A diabolical and terrifyingly plausible scheme to destroy the United States, carried out by a radical Islamic mastermind who nonetheless stands as a fully-formed character. And the only person who can stop it is Pilgrim, a single flawed but brave government agent pulled out of retirement for one last case. Yes, we’ve been here before, but never so inventively and with such care at building both character and suspense.

Hayes seems to consider it a sin to release narrative tension for a second, and the string remains taut as we venture from a tenement hotel in the East Village, to a beheading in Saudi Arabia, to a suspicious shooting in a lavish mansion in Turkey on the shore of the Aegean Sea. We follow in rapt fascination as the cat-and-mouse game draws the two men together, the terror scheme followed through with deadly patience, skill, and single-minded ruthlessness, with Pilgrim equally creative and inspired in pursuit. Each seemingly random occurrence is part of a complex, many-sided puzzle box, every piece sliding into place with a satisfying click by the end. A bravura performance, with not an inch of fat in its 600-plus pages.

The Wreck of the River of Stars by Michael Flynn

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For want of a nail….We’re on board The River of Stars, a once majestic, now-obsolete space vessel, on its last sail when a catastrophic engine failure puts the trip in jeopardy. But no reason to fret: There is expertise and material aplenty on board, and time enough to solve the problem…if not for all the attendant perils flesh is heir to and which no technological advancement has eclipsed: Pride, stubbornness, lust for glory. The space-faring odyssey unfolds with Shakespearean inevitability–the end is right there in the title. But though the actual misfortune is telegraphed, the two-column roster of the survivors and the doomed is sorted with the scary randomness of real life. No heroes or villains are on board, just a human-sized story against a vast backdrop of space. Naysayers found it a trifle slow going and overly crammed with technological detail, but I found it powerful in its purposeful, doomed majesty.

John Dies at the End by David Wong

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Speaking of giving away the ending. In this oft-hilarious monster rally of a horror novel, John and Dave are a Clerks-style buddy act getting by in a Midwest town whose name remains undisclosed for the readers’ protection–a town under the sway of Soy Sauce, a street drug that opens up doors of perception leading into a nightmarish alternate dimension oozing with hideous creatures and sickening gore. It’s pitch-black macabre comedy with a truly sincere feeling of doom. If you found clowns creepy before….

Y: The Last Man by writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Pia Guerra

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In this dystopian action saga, a comic series published 2002-2008, Vaughan imaginatively thinks out the ramifications–political, societal, and sexual–of a world where every single male mammal has mysteriously perished save one, underachieving escape artist Yorick Brown, now a wanted man in every sense.

The “Y” in the title is a nod both to the Y chromosome that makes Yorick a He, and to the story’s core question–why did all the others males die, and why did this one survive? Even more impressive than the world-spanning plot is Vaughan’s world-building, how deeply he’s thought about how different a world composed solely of women would be. Just one detail: Female Democratic members of Congress are confronted with an armed band of widows of former male Republican congressmen, demanding the seats of their deceased spouses in a battle to balance the institution left leaning to the left by the disappearance of men. (Editor’s note: This series was recommended last year by another staff member!)

Shameless Plug:

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Death in the Eye, my self-published murder mystery in the cozy Agatha Christie tradition, is available as a Kindle book and a paperback, and through the Hoboken Public Library’s Technology Lending program.

-Written by Clay Waters, Library Assistant

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