Tag Archives: larry niven

Great Science Fiction and Fantasy Reads: The First Half of 2018 with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Discussion Group

11 Jul

The first half of 2018 has been filled with a lot of enjoyable books for our Science Fiction and Fantasy Group. We hope you can join us for future discussions.  On Monday, July 23 we will be discussing Spellsinger by Alan Dean Foster in honor of the summer reading theme of “Reading Rocks.”  We always welcome input into what books the group reads, so we would love to hear your suggestions!  Email hplwriters @ gmail.com to be added to our mailing list.  If you are a Hoboken Resident be sure to sign up for our summer reading program.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
by Catherynne M. Valente
Girlwhocircumnavigatedfairyland
You may remember I wrote about The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making in a previous post about books that were originally published online.  I had loved the novel, so I was excited when one of the group members had suggested it.  There was some discussion of it in comparison to other children’s books we had read – such as the first three Oz books.  The story has a very retro fairytale feel to it which some of the group enjoyed.  Before the book discussion we watched Labyrinth which Valente has said was very influential to her in the author interview that was included at the end of the book.  You can read more about Labyrinth in a previous post I had written in honor of its 30th anniversary.

Mote in God’s Eye
by Larry Niven‎ & ‎Jerry Pournelle
Mote in God's Eye
image from Amazon.com
We had previously read two of Niven’s books as well as the Niven/Pournelle collaboration Inferno.  While the group thought that Pournelle’s influence was felt more heavily in Inferno, overall Mote In God’s Eye seemed more reminiscent of the Ringworld books by Niven we had read previously.  I found the book a little slow moving at first, but found it picked up and had me enthralled by the end with its story of first contact between humans and an alien race.  We paired the book with a screening of the Start Trek movie, Wrath of Khan which the group enjoyed.

The Magicians
by Lev Grossman
magicians
My first experience with The Magicians was its adaptation on the SyFy channel so I was curious to compare it to the book series.  Both feel like a modern and more adult take on Children’s Classics, most notably Harry Potter, Narnia, and The Once and Future King all of which we had read in previous book discussions so we had a lot of talk about them in comparison.  The group felt that although this was an interesting setup with all the borrowing from other works it felt more referential than innovative.  We also watched the first three episodes of the TV show.  I enjoyed both and this may be a rare exception where I did not necessarily like the book more than its adaptation.

Ready Player One
by Ernest Cline
ReadyPlayerOne
The group was curious to read and discuss Ready Player One since its movie adaptation was making its big screen debut.  I think this is another example of where the movie and book are very different in some ways, but both enjoyable and the changes for the movie felt on the whole necessary due to the more visual medium.  I’d definitely recommend the book, if you only saw the film. Ready Player One relies heavily on 80’s nostalgia, but we found interestingly the references did not resonate for some of the older members of the group who experienced the 80’s as adults rather than children, since many of the references are about video games, toys, and cartoons.  I had been curious to see if it was necessary to get all the references to still enjoy the book and film, but the group members who weren’t as knowledgeable still seemed to like the work.  We also watched Existenz beforehand, which the group felt had some interesting concepts about reality, but did not enjoy some of the intense visuals that are a hallmark of many Cronenberg films.

Scythe
by Neal Shusterman
scythe
One of the group members mentioned that she had been hearing a lot of buzz about the award winning Young Adult novel Scythe by Neal Shusterman so I was curious to check it out. The novel is interesting since in some ways it depicts a world which many people would see as a Utopia where disease and injury can almost always be cured and nanites in people’s blood prevent pain and depression.  Yet there is something that seems dulled in the society where death only comes by the hands of designated Scythes who “glean” in order to keep the population numbers down.  I found the book a bit slow in the early chapters where it focused on world building and typical teen concerns, but found it picked up with action and intrigue in the second half.  Beforehand we watched Ghost Rider which on the whole the group found over the top but enjoyable.

Fahrenheit 451
by Ray Bradbury
fahrenheit 451
HBO recently debuted an adaptation of the Science Fiction classic, Fahrenheit 451, which had been on our “to be read” list for a while.  We viewed the 1966 movie adaptation before the discussion.  It was interesting to see how relevant the book was to our current world situation where censorship and mass media are both hot topics.  The group had a great discussion about how Bradbury’s four walls of viewing screens seemed very relevant with VR, Augmented Reality, and people constantly being glued to their cell phones.  We had a large turnout for the 1966 movie adaptation which had an interesting stylized look that to me kept it from feeling dated.  I especially liked that in the movie the protagonist’s wife and a young woman he meets, who seem to be positioned as mirror opposites of one another, was played by the same actress.  The novel is definitely a work you should check out!

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Reference

Reading with the Hoboken Public Library Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club: Revelation Space, Kindred, The Martian Chronicles, When Gravity Fails, and Inferno

7 Jun

The first five months of 2017 have seemed to fly by at rocket speed.  I wanted to take a moment to take a quick look back at the books we have read so far as part of the Hoboken Public Library’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Discussion Group. (Click here to read more about this book club.)  The group meets one Monday each month to discuss a Science Fiction or Fantasy book picked by group members.  Before the book discussion we also typically watch either a film adaptation or a movie in a similar genre to the work being read.  On June 19 at 6 PM we will be discussing the Space Epic Leviathan Awakes by James S. A. Corey.  To join our mailing list email hplwriters AT gmail DOT com.

Revelation Space, by Alastair Reynolds

revelation-space
The group started 2017 reading, Welsh author, Alastair Reynold’s Space Opera Revelation Space. Some of the group found it a bit confusing at first how there were several different plots with different characters set during different time periods, in different places. However, all these diverse plots come together in the end for a satisfying read.  Reynolds has a background in astronomy which he used to infuse the novel with realism. I was particularly drawn to his depiction of the one character who was an xenoarchaeologist who was studying an extinct species who had evolved from bird like creatures. Revelation Space answers the question of why humans seem to be alone in the universe. The novel became the first in the Revelation Space series.

Kindred, by Octavia Butler

kindred.jpg
For African American History Month, we read Octavia E. Butler’s time travel classic Kindred. In Kindred, Dana, a modern black women in the 1970s who dreams of becoming a writer, is suddenly pulled back in time where she must save from drowning the white child of a plantation owner. She is returned to her own time, but several times is pulled back again each time to save Rufus who she learns is one of her ancestors. Kindred looks at the complex legacy of slavery that continues to be felt in our contemporary world. Many of Butler’s other novels also deal with issues of race and gender in unique and illuminating ways which will appeal to even those who are not traditionally fans of the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre.

The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury

martian-chronicles.jpg
The Martian Chronicles is one of Ray Bradbury’s most well-known works. Bradbury combined several short stories along with new materials to chronicle the history of Mars from the first exploration by humans. Some of the group would have preferred to see more of the story centered on the original Martian inhabitants of the novel which are inventively described by Bradbury, however, Bradbury’s beautiful writing style was praised. The group felt the book was fast paced though did feel more like a series of short stories that it started as rather than a cohesive novel.

When Gravity Fails, by George Alec Effinger

when-gravity-fails
Very often cyberpunk novels feel very dated and more reflective of the 1980s than a vision of a future when read today. Effinger’s When Gravity Fails, though published in 1987, the group felt was much more contemporary than other’s in the genre. The novel will appeal to fans of noir mysteries as well as science fiction. When Gravity Fails is set in the Budayeen, a technologically advanced urban ghetto in the Middle East. People can plug in “daddies” to gain new skills like speaking a foreign language and “moddies” to turn themselves into someone else entirely. Many of the characters including the main character’s girlfriend are transgendered. One character has even had surgery to appear as a different race from the one she was born as. This provided interesting topics about identity and responsibility in an increasing technological age. Effinger wrote two other books in the series and started work on his fourth before his death, which a portion of can be read in the short story collection Budayeen Nights.

Inferno, by Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven

inferno.jpg
For May’s discussion, the group read Inferno, a 1976 retelling of Dante’s version from Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven.  In this version a science fiction writer, Allen Carpenter, must make his way through the many circles of Hell as he tries to escape.  Carpenter explores his own beliefs and examines his behavior during his life during his journey.  Along the way he encounters some famous figures from history such as Jesse James, Vlad Tepes, and with some dark humor Kurt Vonnegut’s tomb.  Most of the group found the book to be a quick enjoyable read.  The group had read two of Niven’s science fiction works, Ringworld and Protector previously so it was interesting to see a work of fantasy by him and Pournelle.  A sequel to Inferno, Escape from Hell, was published several decades later in 2009.

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

%d bloggers like this: