Tag Archives: science fiction and fantasy

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

Year End Wrap Up for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club: The Stepford Wives, Interview with a Vampire, Once and Future King, and The Time Machine

27 Dec

We had some great discussion this year as part of the Hoboken Public Library’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club.  If you would like you can also check out my two earlier posts about our recommended reads.  Join us at our next meeting on January 22 to discuss The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente (you can read about my enjoyment of this book in a previous blog post).  In February we will be reading The Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle (you can read about another of the author’s collaboration in a previous blog post).  In March we will be reading The Magicians by Lev Grossman.  You can help us plan what books we will read and movies we will watch in 2018.

The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin

stepford-wives.jpg
For our September discussion, one of the group recommended The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin.  Although The Stepford Wives itself is a fairly quick read, at under 150 pages, it produced a lot of thought-provoking discussion amongst the group about topics such as our changing views of gender and the future of robotics/technology and its effects on humanity.  The group had also read another of Levin’s work Rosemary’s Baby previously and it was interesting to see how the fear and paranoia about the people one is supposed to be able to trust the most were found in both works.  The group on the whole was less positive toward the 2004 movie adaptation starring Nicole Kidman which we viewed, finding it more campy and funny than the original suspenseful work.  Instead some of the members recommend the earlier 1975 adaptation which adheres closer to the plot of the novel and keeps more of its tone.

Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice

interview-vampire
I had written several months ago about being a fan of Rice’s work in my teens and early twenties so I suggested to the group we read Interview with a Vampire for our annual spooky Halloween pick for October.  In addition to the novel we also watched the movie adaptation starring Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, and Antonio Banderas which I remember getting for my birthday back when it was originally released on VHS.  The group enjoyed the adaptation and felt the casting for the movie was excellent.  We had an interesting discussion about immortality and the enduring popularity of vampire fiction.  If you haven’t read this classic, I recommend checking it out.

The Once and Future King by T.H. White

once-future-king
The Once and Future King
is White’s classic adaptation of the stories of King Arthur and his knights.  I was intrigued to read this since as a child I was a fan of the Disney movie The Sword in the Stone which is based on the first part of the book, which was at one time a standalone novel.  The length of the book made it hard to get through for all of the group, but they appreciated the style of White’s retelling.  Much like the Harry Potter series, the book gets darker and more adult as Arthur ages.  Kids and teens had fun decorating paper crowns in the Makerspace as part of our celebration of King Arthur.  We had many people pop in for our double feature of the animated The Sword in the Stone and the live action Excalibur.  Several of the group members mentioned the beauty of the setting of Excalibur which was filmed in Ireland and also the sparkly unique interpretation of the historic costuming as filtered through the lens of late 70’s/early 80’s fashion.  I enjoyed The Sword in the Stone even more having read the source material, my favorite part is the Wizard Duel between Mim and Merlin.

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

time-machine.jpg
In December, with the busyness of the holidays we chose a shorter, though still classic, work The Time Machine by H. G. Wells.  Despite its length we still had an interesting discussion about the book’s view of the future and how it reflects the author and his time periods concern about class divisions.  The group also watched the 2002 movie adaptation that was directed by Wells’s great grandson, Simon Wells.  On the whole the group preferred the book, but thought the special effects held up well.  There was some discussion about how the movie predicted some things 15 years later that have become prominent parts of our lives such as virtual assistants and bicycling vending like we have here in Hoboken as an environmental alternative to cars.  One of the things I enjoy about the group is the opportunity to read books from different periods such as the past four months with books from 1972, 1979, 1958 and 1895.  Next month we will be reading a novel from this decade, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente from 2011.

Hope you can join us on January 22 at 6 PM for our next discussion; stop by at 4 PM for a classic fantasy film! The Library also has two other groups worth checking out: a Lady Memoir Book Club at Little City Books (100 Bloomfield Street) which will discuss Shonda Rhimes’s Year of Yes on Wednesday January 17 at 7 PM and the Mile Square City Readers Book Club, which this month will have author Amy Stewart discuss (via Skype) her book, Girl Waits with Gun, on Tuesday January 23 at 6:30 PM.

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

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