It’s the End of the World As We Know It

The leaves are falling, the bubble has been popped for awhile now, and the holidays are right around the corner, which means it’s the best time to read dystopian fiction! Knowing these characters have it worse of then we do definitely puts a spring back in my step.

In Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde society is based on a Colortocracy. Those lucky enough to see the higher end of the color spectrum live in a higher social class. Eddie Russett, a lower level Red, has one goal:  to marry into the Oxblood family in order to ensure a higher familial red count. However, this goal goes array when he commits a violation that sends him to East Carmine, a city on the Outer Fringes. He is sent to do a chair census and once there meets Jane, a Grey who instantly captures his heart. Although Jane is a lowly servant girl Eddie will risk all he ever wanted for her attentions. Continue reading “It’s the End of the World As We Know It”

Science Fiction for the Rest of Us

I’ll admit it straight up: I’ve never really liked science fiction.  I’ve never seen a single episode of Star Trek or read a book by Robert Heinlein.  But I’m a librarian, and in order to recommend books to readers of every genre, I have to read outside my comfort zone.  Thanks to a coworker, patrons, blog suggestions, and sheer luck, I’ve found sci fi that I not only like, but truly love and can recommend with sincere excitement!  So for those of you who are absolutely sure sci fi is not for you, try one of these and see if you change your mind.

The Host by Stephenie Meyer.  I’ll admit it, I got as wrapped up in the Twilight series as everyone else.  So when Meyer’s non-Twilight book was published, I automatically checked it out.  Turns out it’s sci fi, and was easily one of the top five books I read last year.  I think I liked this book because while aliens and other worlds are a necessary part of the story, the book hinges on character development.  Before long, you’re so invested in the characters that nothing else matters.  Note: In my personal opinion, the first 75 pages of this book are a tad slow.  Please stick with the book – I promise you it’s worth it!

Eureka on DVD.  My cousin recommended this television series to me.  The concept is unique: the city of Eureka in the Pacific Northwest is the home of the most brilliant scientific minds in the country.  Founded by Einstein after World War II, the normal rules don’t apply in Eureka.  Enter the new Sheriff, Jack Carter, who is not a particularly brilliant mind, but must solve cases usually caused by science gone awry.  It’s filled with laughs, and makes you wonder what might be going on in our country in a small town somewhere.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.  I was finally convinced to read this sci fi classic by a friend who doesn’t usually read sci fic either.  I grudgingly picked it up and was immediately engrossed.  By immediately, I mean by the end of the first page.  Similar to my feelings about The Host, Ender’s Game is all about the characters who happen to be set in a futuristic setting.

The Eve Dallas series by J.D. Robb.  A coworker recommended this series to me.  I was a bit hesitant, because I couldn’t imagine how Nora Roberts (aka J.D. Robb) could write convincing sci fi mysteries.  I was thrilled when I realized that, like all good mysteries, the case was at the forefront, with the futuristic sci fi setting as the backdrop.  The mysteries are fun and complex, the characters are fun, and there are some gadgets Robb has thought up that I’m thoroughly looking forward to in the future!

So please, give sci fi a try.  Those of you reading this post who also used to be sci fi-resistant, please share the sci fi gems that you’ve found in the comments area.

 

Transhumanism in the bleak midwinter

At this time of year, when the cold, grey sameness of winter softly wraps us in the bitter knowledge of our own mortality, I find myself squarely in the mood for a little transhumanist science fiction.  

What is that, you ask? It’s a highly philosophical body of literature dedicated to the rich question of what would it would mean to be human if science made “death” unnecessary. Your body could be killed, sure, but what if your consciousness were transferred to a new body, or a clone, or uploaded into a purely digital universe? Would you still be the same person if you were wearing different skin? What if an accident occurred and you and a clone lived concurrently, with the same memories–which one would control your bank account? How would you find work if no one born before you ever retired? Would life have as much meaning without death as a counterpoint? The right book in this category could fuel an excellent book discussion.

If you’ve never read a book with a transhumanist theme, Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan, is a great place to start. It’s the first book in a trilogy and is driven by a compelling mystery that appeals to all kinds of readers. The main character, Takeshi Kovacs, is a former U.N. envoy who was murdered but had “backed up” his consciousness against the possibility of physical death. When a wealthy man “re-sleeves” Kovacs to a new body as payment for his investigation of a murder, the resourceful loner finds himself caught in a dangerous conspiracy.

Another good choice is Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow. This is a coming-of-age story in which our youthful Continue reading “Transhumanism in the bleak midwinter”

Further down The Road: Dystopian Fiction

image of a street sign in the desert courtesy of moominsean via FlickrIf Cormac McCarthy’s book The Road – or the movie adaptation hitting theaters October 16 – piques your interest in fictional visions of a dystopian, post-apocalyptic world, here are some other books to check out.

There’s been a massive flood and only one family, on an ark, has been saved.  Sound familiar?  The Island at the End of the World by Sam Taylor isn’t Noah’s story, but instead that of Pa and his three children.  When a stranger washes up on their island, the kids begin wondering how alone they actually are, and exactly what happened before the flood.

Into the Forest centers on two teenage sisters living in the woods of California.  Unlike some other books, Jean Hegland shows us the before, during, and after of the surprisingly calm end of civilization, while asking the question – how long do you wait for things to return to normal?

pesthouseIn The Pesthouse by Jim Crace, an unexplained environmental disaster has dismantled society and sent Franklin trekking towards the east coast and the promise of ships headed to a more bountiful Europe.  Along the way, he meets Margaret.  Part love story, part end-of-the-world road trip, this book vividly portrays the societal relationships that spring up to fill the void. 

I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson, was also recently made into a movie.  Robert Neville may be the only human left alive, but that’s not to say he’s all alone – the virus that obliterated mankind didn’t kill people straight out, it turned them into legions of vampires.  Written in 1954, this is still a great read and has influenced a ton of modern horror novelists.

If you were the last living thing on Earth, would you go insane?  Is that what has happened to the woman in David Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress?  Try to piece it together as you read her stream-of-conscious recollections and commentaries.

For a modern classic, you can’t go wrong with Stephen King’s epic The Stand.  The apocalypse is brought about by a strain of super flu accidentally released from a military base, which wipes out nearly the entire population.  Those that are left divide up into two factions – Good and Evil – and battle it out.

Still looking for more suggestions?  Try A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins; or do a subject search for dystopia in the library catalog.

In space, no one can hear you read…

So, there you are bobbing along weightlessly — another dull evening orbiting Earth. How do you pass the time? Well, if you’re on the International Space Station, you do have some entertainment options!

Image of Intl. Space Station provided courtesy of NASAThanks to a Freedom of Information request, NASA recently released a list of all the books, movies, and music currently on the station.

As you might expect from a group of scientists and space enthusiasts, the list of books is rather heavy on the science fiction. But, there are a few surprises, too. Could Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison ever have dreamed that their Federalist Papers would be in orbit? For that matter, do you think David Sedaris ever thought his Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim would make the list? And, if you’ve come to realize that the whole “space thing” isn’t for you, they Continue reading “In space, no one can hear you read…”