Tag Archives: scifi

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club Summer Reads: Leviathan Wakes, The Gunslinger, and The Hobbit

6 Sep

The Hoboken Public Library Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club read some great books over the summer that I wanted to share with our blog readers. (Click here to find out what else they’ve read.)  The group meets one Monday each month to discuss a Science Fiction or Fantasy book picked by group members.  New members are always welcome.  Before the book discussion we also watch either a film adaptation or a movie in a similar genre to the work being read which allows those who are SciFi or Fantasy fans but might be busy to read this month’s selection to still participate in the group.  I hope you will check out some of these books and films and consider joining us in September when we will discuss The Stepford Wives by Ira Levine on September 25 at 6 PM with a movie screening at 4 PM.

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

leviathan-wakes
Several members of the group were fans of TV series The Expanse and wanted to read Leviathan Wakes, which the series the show is based on for our June Pick.  Corey is actually the pseudonym of two authors and the book series started out as first a story line for a video game and then a table top game created by Ty Franck before the collaboration between Daniel Abraham and Franck led to the books.  Interestingly Ty Franck worked for a while as an assistant to George R.R. Martin, author of A Game of Thrones, a previous book club pickLeviathan Wakes is set in a future where space travel is common, but faster than light travel has not yet been reached leading people to inhabit Earth, Mars, and an Asteroid Belt, but not yet to have moved beyond our Solar System.  The book has elements of science fiction, horror, and mystery.  It received a very positive response from the group members, several of who braved a severe thunderstorm to get to the discussion.  It was so popular that we may read another of the books in the series in the future.  We complimented the book with a screening of Wall-E, an animated favorite of one of our group members, which has an important environmental message.

The Gunslinger by Stephen King

gunslinger
In July, the group wanted to read The Gunslinger the first in the Dark Tower series before the movie adaptation came out in theaters at the beginning of August.  I’m not always a huge fan of King’s, but I was intrigued by some of the other group members’ enthusiasm and the fact that the idea of the Dark Tower was partially inspired by Robert Browning’s poem “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.” I appreciate taking part in the group since it pushes me to read outside of my comfort zone sometimes.  The book is a mix of fantasy, horror, western, and mystery and is set in a post-apocalyptic world where Roland, the last gunslinger, is attempting to stop the mysterious and powerful sorcerer, the Man in Black.  The group watched a preview the movie studio had put online and discussed the casting (general consensus was we like the choice of casting Idris Elba for the role of Roland, but were less sure about Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black).  I will be interested to hear what the group members think of it once they see the whole film.

Before the book discussion we watched the 1973 movie Westworld, Michael Crichton’s directorial debut.  Before this I had only seen one episode of the recent TV series which was based on the movie.  The movie immediately felt a lot lighter than the TV series and everyone praised the excellent performance by Yul Brynner.  You can also borrow the sequel to the film Futureworld and the TV Series Beyond Future World from the Hoboken Public Library.

The Hobbit by ‎J. R. R. Tolkien

hobbit
You may remember back in January I wrote a blog celebrating that this year was 125th Anniversary of Tolkien’s birth.  We decided to read The Hobbit for our August book.  It was probably about 30 years since I had last read the book as a child and I feel like the book not only held up for me, but I also enjoyed the story even more than when I had first read it.  The other group members seemed to have similar positive experiences upon their rereads.  One of the group was even inspired to reread the books in the Lord of the Ring Trilogy.  The group watched the first in the Peter Jackson trilogy based on the book which many members felt was the best of the three recent adaptations; many of the group members would have preferred that less had been added to the original text to pad out the movies.

If you are interested in other genres, the library has two additional book discussion groups you can join.  Our Lady Memoir Book Club at Little City Books will meet Wednesday September 20 at 7 PM to discuss Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling.  The Mile Square City Readers Book Club takes a page from Oprah’s Book Club this month, and will discuss Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers on Tuesday September 19 at 6:30 PM.  In the fall we are also planning to start a Creative Writer’s group.  The Hoboken Public Library is your source for great books and conversation!

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

More Selections from the HPL Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Discussion Part 7: Mary Poppins, Protector, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and Contact

20 Jul

We continued to have some great discussions about a diverse selection of books this year in the Hoboken Public Library Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Discussion Group.  Here is a peek for those who aren’t able to attend our meetings.

Click here for previous Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Discussion roundups!

Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers

mary-poppins
My mother is a huge Julie Andrews so the movie adaption of Mary Poppins was something my sister and I watched a lot as children, but it wasn’t until the Book Discussion Group picked it for our April selection that I read the novel that it was based on.  Mary Poppins is a little less sweet and a lot sassier in the book than the movie.  Although one group member preferred the film, most of the group enjoyed the depiction in the original novel since it made her a more complex character.  Mary Poppins came to “life” first in stories P. L. Travers told her younger sibling.  The novel is made up of many short stories and lacks the cohesiveness of the Disney film, however, this makes it good if you are looking for something to read to your children over several nights as a bed time story since each chapter feels self-contained.  The illustrations were drawn by Mary Shepard, whose father E. H. Shepard was the illustrator of Winnie-the-Pooh and The Wind in the Willows.  You can check out the book and movie from the Hoboken Public Library.  You can also borrow Saving Mr. Banks, a movie based on the story of adapting the film that several of the discussion members recommended.

Protector by Larry Niven

protector
We had previously read Niven’s Ringworld in September of 2014 for the group, which was our highest attended meeting in the history of the group.  Niven is known as being a master of hard science fiction and Ringworld is his most famous of his Known Space series, which charts the expansion of people across the Universe.  Protector in the timeline of his books occurs earlier, but was published three years after Ringworld.  Although I found Protector a bit slower to get into then Ringworld, I think Protector was overall an even more intriguing work to me.  It brought up some interesting philosophical discussions about evolution, family loyalty, and what it means to be human in our group discussion.  Protector is the favorite novel of one of our group members.

Because Protector has not been adapted as a film, we instead viewed The Fifth Element before the discussion.  The Fifth Element stars Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich; it was directed by Frenchman Luc Besson.  Another film that Besson also directed, The Professional, used part of the second floor reference department for interior scenes featuring Natalie Portman in her first role.  The group enjoyed The Fifth Element and thought it had an interesting view of the future.  Although film came out in 1997, the group thought its unique stylized look kept it feeling fresh.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

20000-leagues
Growing up I was a huge fan of the Disney movie and loved the now closed ride at the theme park, but I had never taken time to read the novel it was based on before our July book discussion.  Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea marked the first translated work that the group had read (it was originally published in French).  I was surprised to learn that the leagues in the title referred not to how far down the protagonists went, but how far across since depth under water is measured in fathoms, not leagues.  Although the group as a whole felt that story was a bit bogged down by some of the scientific descriptions that the main character sometimes goes on tangents about, overall the adventurous story was enjoyed.  The group discussed how the work was inspirational for many other science fiction works today especially the steampunk genre.  The group also enjoyed the movie, but felt that it emphasized the characters more than in the book.  The group thought Peter Lorre was an unusual choice for Conseil, but believed Kirk Douglas did an excellent job as Ned Land.  Director Bryan Singer plans to release a new cinematic adaptation.  I am interested to see if the original ending and several other exciting portions of the novel that were left out in the previous version, perhaps due to the special effects limitations at that time, will be included.

Contact by Carl Sagan

contact
In the month of July we discussed Contact by Carl Sagan; although Sagan is a notable scientist and writer of nonfiction works, this is his only work of fiction.  We had several new faces join us for the movie screening, who also stayed for the discussion.  We always enjoy having new perspectives.  Jodi Foster is impressive in her role as the lead character Ellie Arroway, who is desperately trying to find a signal from alien life.  The group was split with some of the members enjoying the story, while others felt the ending was a letdown based on their expectations of Sagan.   Ellie’s strong connection to her father and his inspiration in her career path reminded me of my father, an amateur astronomer, who fostered in me a love of the stars and science fiction.  To me one of the strengths of the book is that it balances hard science with complex emotional characters.  Sagan’s knowledge made the scientific details seem more realistic than most sci-fi novels I have read and I was curious if some of the supporting characters were based on actual people.  The movie plot diverges in a number of ways from the novel of Contact and leaves out some of the group’s favorite minor characters, but was still quite enjoyable.  Both are recommended.

Coming Attractions!
Join us for more great discussions for the rest of the year.  In August you can discuss with us Jim Butcher’s Storm Front, the first in his popular Dresden Files Series, Urban Fantasy series (as mentioned in this Halloween blog post).  In September we will be reading our first play, the much anticipated Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling.  In October we will read a classic horror work, Bram Stoker’s Dracula; we will be showing three different adaptations of the novel before the discussion.  Then in November join us for a novel by one of my favorite authors, Connie Willis.  Hope to see you at one of the discussions!

And if you love Jane Austen be sure not to miss our other Book Discussion Group, The Mile Square City Readers’ discussion of Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld which was inspired by Pride and Prejudice, on July 28.

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