What if you never needed to sleep? What if you were hyper-intelligent and used your every waking hour better and more efficiently than those who did need sleep? If you were Sleepless, would the Sleepers appreciate or fear you? Nancy Kress’ powerful novel Beggars in Spain asks these questions and more while creating memorable characters and a compelling story. This is science fiction at its speculative best.
There’s nothing like a great story starring a strong, resourceful teenager who thumbs their nose at authority and manages to save the day by being true themselves, instead of bowing to whims of establishment. Whether we’re talking about young adult literature or not (and really, does that distinction matter to us science fiction aficionados?), I have a soft spot for teens that face down not just the usual know-it-all authority figures, but also whatever dangers lurk in the universe of the novel. This past week, I’ve read three exceptional examples of teen protagonists that stand up to the “the man” and don’t back down, even if “the man” happens to be a giant alien that looks like an upside down mop bucket.
After the Fall, before the Fall, during the Fall by Nancy Kress
A young man is caught in the act of kidnapping two little girls and literally vanishes in front of the terrified parents’ eyes. A brilliant mathematician develops an algorithm to track the pattern of the next disappearance. And 50 years in the future, the last survivors of Earth struggle to keep the human race alive by expanding their gene pool. It all adds up to one of Kress’ greatest books a sure-fire contender for a Hugo nomination
Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan
Waverly is on a generation ship when a vicious attack by religious extremists from their sister ship leaves her a prisoner. Meanwhile, the remaining teenagers struggle to both rescue those kidnapped and save their crippled ship. It’s a pulse-pounding story where you’re never sure which characters to trust and the hits come fast and heavy. Also, Waverly is the kind of brave, resourceful and utterly human character that will have fans of The Hunger Games leaping for joy for a new series to love.
Marsbound by Joe Haldeman
A conversational first person narrative about teen Carmen Dula who is more than a little nervous when her parents decide to uproot the family and join the new colony on Mars. As if dealing with her budding sexuality and usual teen problems weren’t enough, Carmen also accidently becomes one half of the universe’s first human-alien encounter. Throw in some mysterious technology, a devastating secret and Haldeman’s warm writing and this book becomes utterly charming. First in a trilogy.