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A Scientifically Fictional Future…? November 8, 2012

Posted by stacey in Genre Book Discussion, Science Fiction.
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Yes, there are a few of us who really do enjoy this genre but for the most part the majority of our group doesn’t care so much for Science Fiction. Why? I’m not sure. If you really think about it, these books are written by extraordinarily creative people, who also have some degree of scientific knowledge on which they build their premise, and they offer some of the thought-provoking story lines. Where else would you be able to find a discussion of Darwinism as a means of alien lifeform destruction? Or future worlds where human experimentation has left us without free air, genetic mutations preventing reproduction, and even vampirism? How do you work in the science, the character creation, and action scenes, all in one plausible plot? I think that’s amazing! So, good job Sci-Fi authors! (Now aren’t you curious to see what everyone had to say about their books?!)

Chris: Farthing by Jo Walton is the traditional English country mystery with the addition of alternate history. It opens with the British upper class coming to spend a weekend at Farthing’s country house. One of the daughter’s, Lucy, is bringing her new husband David Kahn. David, being Jewish, is not really welcome and the couple even wonders why they were invited. Odder still, the first evening one of the house guests, Sir James Thirkie, is murdered and left with a Star of David pinned to his chest. Did the family just want to pin the murder on Kahn? Or did he actually do it? Or maybe it was a political enemy of Thirkie since he was instrumental in bringing about the 1941 peace with Hitler and Germany? Or maybe it was Thirkie’s wife? Follow Inspector Carmichael’s search for the murderer and discover much, much more.

Steve: A Scanner Darkly, by Philip K. Dick, is a bit of a mindbender. Written in 1977, it takes place in the near future, 1994. Undercover agent Fred infiltrates a group of druggies, with his eye on the leader Bob Arctor. While under cover, Fred develops a huge drug addiction to the drug of choice, Substance D. Fred, as an undercover agent, returns daily to the police station to watch undercover footage, via holographic cameras, of the drug house. In the future, all undercover agents wear a scramble suit, which blurs the wearer’s physical identity so other cops in the station can’t identify Fred as a narc. Soon though psychologists in the police department notice Fred exhibiting signs of Substance D abuse and begin to piece together coincidences between Fred and Bob. This story can be hard to wrap your mind around, and wanders at a slow rate, but in the end is worth it if you are looking for something different.

Carol: Told in snippets of gathered intelligence found by Cormac Wallace, a leader of the human resistance, Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson is a science fiction thriller, set in the near future, that tells the history of a war between robots and humans. From the time just before the robot uprising, to “Zero Hour,” when all robots attack, and to almost 3 years afterwards, this book follows the struggles of a small group of heroes all over the world who rise against the machines. As scary as early Stephen King, this book contains truly horrifying moments as a virus, spread by the powerful Artificial Intelligence that calls itself Archos, systematically takes over robotics all over the world. Archos, who uses a little boy’s voice to communicate with humans pits other robots against humankind because he thinks that humans evolved in order to create something better—him, and since now that they’ve done this, their time is up. First, machines begin to act up, like the little girl’s doll that comes life and threatens the welfare of her family, but soon it’s bad enough that personal assistant robots are straight up murdering their human owners. Soon machines start herding people into work camps in order to build stronger, better, smarter killing machines. Lucky for us, humans don’t give up so easily in this action and suspense packed read! Steven Spielberg is making this into a movie next year and I, for one, will be seeing it! Word of warning: Robopocalypse might just make you question your reliance on electronics. I highly recommend this bloody sci-fi read to fans of the genre, and in particular, fans of the Terminator films.

Emma: Sometime in the future it is illegal to own books according to Fahrenheit 451. Guy Montag, a fireman whose job is to burn books, is secretly hoarding a few in his house. Montag is greatly disturbed when a lady refuses to leave her books and her house and burns to death after igniting the fire herself. Mildred, Montag’s wife, is only interested in her television “family” who occupy three walls of their living room. After Montag reads poetry to Mildred and her friends, Mildred turns her husband in to authorities and he is forced to burn his own books and home. Montag then turns the flamethrower on Captain Beatty killing him. A runaway murderer, Montag ends up with professors, authors, and clergymen considered dangerous to society living along deserted train tracks. Each has memorized books hoping to be allowed to write them down one day. Written in nine days by Ray Bradbury, the book originally appeared in the second, third, and fourth issues of Playboy magazine after being paid $400 for the story.

Dori: I read The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers, an Arthur C. Clarke award-winner set in the not-so-distant future when a virus strikes, killing women who become pregnant and thus ensuring the end of humanity. 16-year-old Jessie is, at first, not concerned about the virus, but as life becomes more uncertain, and friends and relatives affected, she begins to look for purpose and meaning in the chaos. When her father, a scientist, tells her about a research program enlisting young woman as volunteers to become incubators for frozen embryos, Jessie feels like she’s found something within her power to do, the ultimate sacrifice for the future of humanity. This bleak and harrowing novel addresses a variety of social themes within a coming of age story.

Rosemary: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle is one of my all-time favorite books. High school student Meg Murry‘s physicist father has been missing for a year, when, on a stormy evening, a strange woman appears at her home. Mrs. Whatsit convinces the Murry’s that their father can be rescued from the world in which he is being held captive. She will help Meg, Charles Wallace Murry, and Calvin O’Keefe, a friend of Meg’s, travel through a tesseract, or a wrinkle in time, to save Mr. Murry. There are many positive themes in this story of good vs. evil, but the most compelling one is the awesome power of love. The library has added to our collection the graphic novel of this book just published in 2012. I can hardly wait to see this version of the enduring classic.

Megan: Breathe by Sarah Crossan is the first in a new science fiction series for teens. In the future there are no trees and the earth’s atmosphere is so depleted of oxygen that the air is unbreathable. Fortunately for humanity the Breathe Corporation devised a method for manufacturing oxygen. People now live in a safe pod where they can purchase the oxygen they need. When Bea and her best friend Quinn leave the pod for a camping trip in the Outland, they make a startling discovery that will change their lives forever. This exciting series opener reads like a futuristic The Lorax for teens. Plenty of twists and turns and startling surprises will keep readers guessing until the end and eager for more.

Ann: The Twelve by Justin Cronin continues the story which began with The Passage. It is now 97 A.V. (after the virus created by a government experiment gone horribly wrong has turned many humans into vampire-like beings). A large group of survivors has created somewhat safe colonies in Texas. But there are other survivors in Iowa who are controlled by the darker side of this new “humanity.” A young woman named Amy was part of the original experiment. She survives as a woman who barely ages and who possesses super-human powers. Amy, along with her friends who fight for good, is determined to defeat both the dictator-like controller in Iowa and the Twelve (the original carriers of the virus). An exciting part two in a projected trilogy by Cronin.

Stacey: War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells could arguably be one of the first Steampunk novels -ever! Mr. Wells created a world where Martian machines and high-tech weaponry arrived on Earth to fight against the cavalry and foot soldiers of late Victorian England. An unnamed narrator is on the frontlines for key moments: from seeing strange flares on the planet Mars, to the metal cylinders that landed near his home, to the epic battle between man and machine, to the final conclusion, and tells readers of his experience. After centuries of being in publication, you might think this book would be dry or dull. You’d be wrong! It’s full-on creepy, and spooky, and great! After reading this book, it’s easy to see why Orson Wells chose this for his epic October 30th radio broadcast and why it’s been the genesis of so many other books and films.

Next time? We celebrate the Winter Holidays! Find a Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, or New Year’s Eve book, and you’ll be reading right along with us! Enjoy!

— Stacey

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