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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: science fiction, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 893
1. Beth Revis and Cristin Terrill on women writing science fiction

It’s Jocelyn sneaking in a non-weekend post because Lindsey was kind enough to let me borrow one of her WoW slots for an interview with Beth Revis and Cristin Terrill. A while back, I attended one of their Wordsmith Workshops and Retreats, and it was amazing! In between craft sessions, critiques, writing, fellowship, and delicious food, I found time to chat with these delightful ladies. See what they had to say about being women who write science fiction.


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2. Cover Reveal & Author Snapshot: The Alarming Career of Sir Richard Blackstone by Lisa Doan

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Check out the cover for The Alarming Career of Sir Richard Blackstone by Lisa Doan (Sky Pony, 2017). From the promotional copy:

A funny middle grade mystery adventure complete with an unconventional knight, a science experiment gone awry, a giant spider, and a boy to save the day!

Twelve-year-old Henry Hewitt has been living by his wits on the streets of London, dodging his parents, who are determined to sell him as an apprentice. 

Searching for a way out of the city, Henry lands a position in Hampshire as an assistant to Sir Richard Blackstone, an aristocratic scientist who performs unorthodox experiments in his country manor. 

The manor house is comfortable, and the cook is delighted to feed Henry as much as he can eat. Sir Richard is also kind, and Henry knows he has finally found a place where he belongs.

But everything changes when one of Sir Richard’s experiments accidentally transforms a normal-sized tarantula into a colossal beast that escapes and roams the neighborhood. 

After a man goes missing and Sir Richard is accused of witchcraft, it is left to young Henry to find an antidote for the oversize arachnid. Things are not as they seem, and in saving Sir Richard from the gallows, Henry also unravels a mystery about his own identity.

Congratulations on your upcoming release! What do you think of your new cover?

I love it! Huge thanks to Sky Pony and my editor, Adrienne Szpyrka, for capturing the humor of the book while at the same time working in two prominent elements – the giant tarantula and a journal detailing a trip to South America.

The tarantula is Henry Hewitt’s problem and the journal is the key to figuring out what to do about it, which he must do to save his friend and protector, Sir Richard Blackstone.

More specifically, how does the art evoke the nuances of your book?

We wanted the journal to feel Old World, hence the faded brown, as this story takes place in the late 1700’s English countryside.

Sky Pony’s designers had the genius idea of having the tarantula holding the journal to tie it all together. The red and yellow lettering really pop and signal the lighthearted tone.

I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.

Isn’t it every middle-grade writer’s dream to have a cover with a tarantula on it?

I know it has always been one of mine!

Cynsational Notes

Lisa Doan has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is the author of the award-winning series The Berenson Schemes (Lerner).

Operating under the idea that life is short, her occupations have included: master scuba diving instructor; New York City headhunter; owner-chef of a restaurant in the Caribbean; television show set medic; and deputy prothonotary of a county court. She currently works in social services and lives in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

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3. Alas, Babylon

Alas, Babylon. Pat Frank. 1959/2005. Harper Perennial Modern Classics. 323 pages. [Source: Bought]

I spent the whole year of 2015 meaning to read Pat Frank's Alas, Babylon. So I decided that this year, it would be one of the very first books I read. I wasn't going to let another year pass before I sat down to reread this sci-fi classic.

Alas, Babylon was originally published in 1959. I think it is crucial to remember that fact as you're reading. The book is set during the Cold War, published during the Cold War, and asks the question: WHAT IF the Soviet Union uses nuclear warfare and attacks various cities and bases across the whole United States. Would there be survivors? How would people survive? What would they eat and drink? Not just in the initial weeks following the nuclear war, but, more long-term than that. How would they cope--how would they manage--without electricity, without batteries (once they ran out), without cars (once all the gas was gone), without new supplies arriving by truck or plane, etc. Would communities come together or be torn apart? How would people deal with one another, treat one another? Would lawlessness prevail? Would fear and anger and greed win the day? Or would people still look out for one another?

Alas, Babylon is not just a what-if story, however. It is a personal story, that I felt remained character-driven. It stars Randy Bragg and his family. His brother, Mark, sends Randy a warning in a telegram, "Alas, Babylon" their code for the end is coming, war is inevitable, be prepared. Randy prepares to receive his sister-in-law, niece, and nephew into his Florida home. The book is set in a small community in Florida, a community that is fortunate in some ways--many ways. Readers get a chance to know quite a few of the locals in addition to this one family. For example, the local librarian who finds herself most necessary to the community. The library COMES ALIVE after the attack, as people become desperate for information and news, for entertainment, etc.

I liked the practical aspects of Alas, Babylon. Unlike Life As We Knew It, I felt it handled the situation practically, logically. One of the big issues I had with Life As We Knew It, a book I love despite its flaws, was the fact that it got a few practical things wrong: for one, how people get water. It has the heroine's family getting well water through their pipes without an (electric) pump! Not the case with Alas, Babylon. If it has flaws, they didn't leap out at me.

Alas, Babylon is a thought-provoking novel. One I'd definitely recommend.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. Manga Review: Planetes (Volume One)

Title: Planetes Genre: Science Fiction Publisher: Kodansha (JP), Dark Horse Comics (US) Creator: Makoto Yukimura Serialized in: Weekly Morning Original Release Date: December 22, 2015 Review copy provided by the publisher I’ll admit that I wasn’t overly familiar with this story going in but from what I’d heard Planetes sounded like a series of loosely connected ... Read more

The post Manga Review: Planetes (Volume One) appeared first on Organization Anti-Social Geniuses.

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5. Doomsday Book (1992)

Doomsday Book. Connie Willis. 1992. Random House. 592 pages.  [Source: Book I Bought]

Mr. Dunworthy opened the door to the laboratory and his spectacles promptly steamed up.
"Am I too late?" he said, yanking them off and squinting at Mary.
"Shut the door," she said. "I can't hear you over the sound of those ghastly carols."
Dunworthy closed the door, but it didn't completely shut out the sound of "O Come, All Ye Faithful" wafting in from the quad. "Am I too late?" he said again.  

This is my fourth time to read and review Connie Willis' Dooms Day Book.  This not-so-little novel combines my love of historical fiction and my love of science fiction. It does so, of course, through time travel. Kivrin, the heroine, will be the first historian--first time traveler--sent to the fourteenth century. The century has just recently, and perhaps unadvisedly, been opened up to time travel. Kivrin will be traveling to a "safe" year: 1320. But Mr. Dunworthy fears that there is no such thing as a SAFE year within the fourteenth century. She's studied and prepped for this for years now, this is HER ONE BIG LIFE-DREAM. And certainly the worries of an "old professor" like Mr. Dunworthy won't stop her from going. But is Mr. Dunworthy right to worry?!

It is set--in the future and the past--during the Advent-Christmas-Epiphany season. The book examines the role of faith and religion, at the very least during this season of the year. But, in particular, it addresses the question of God and suffering. I would never say it is a "religious" book, but, Kivrin, in particular is sent to a century where belief in God IS a matter of fact and the church had more power and influence. Christian readers should note that Mr. Dunworthy and Kivrin both misunderstand much of who God is and what the Christian faith is all about.

Doomsday Book might be "just right" for you if...

  • You enjoy science fiction, in particular time travel
  • You enjoy historical fiction
  • You enjoy medical mysteries
  • You enjoy compelling dramas
  • You enjoy character-driven novels 
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. Robert Sawyer Talks About Science Fiction

Robert Sawyer said, "I care deeply and passionately about this genre [science fiction]" during a presentation I attended at the Ontario Library Association Conference. And it was obvious he does. I was, however, more than a little surprised by the passion he exhibits to defend his vision for the SciFi genre--although I have to agree [...]
Continue reading...

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7. Presidential Polar Bear Post Card Project No. 39 - 12.10.15


Inspired by 1950's sci-fi movie posters, we DON'T want our polar bears to become the folder of science fiction! A collective effort soon solidified at #COP21 #saveourseaice.

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8. Sketchnoting a book review: Illuminae by Amy Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

2015, Knopf

I've been delving into the fascinating world of sketchnoting, and have been practicing my skills (and trust me, you should see the very first one I created....practice does help!)  I've seen professor Karin Perry from Sam Houston State University do book reviews via sketchnotes and decided to try it out. 

What is NOT in the sketchnote is my personal review. So this is what I think of this book:

WOWOWOW!!!  This is 599 pages of intense plot, conflict, and survival all set in a science fiction thrillfest based on documents, journals, e-mails, imessages, and high security reports... and even concrete poetry.  The format itself is enough to draw the reader in and it reads fast because of this.  The characters are an excellent mix of adults and teens, which makes this science fiction novel so believable.  Adding diagrams of the ships adds a deeper dimension for the readers as well as their mode of travel through wormholes.  This is a deep space chase that will grab you to turn the next page to see what happens.  Huge twist at the end - VERY unexpected!  One of the top 10 best books I've read this year! 
Highly recommended for JH/HS. 

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9. Review: The Scorpion Rules

The Scorpion Rules (Prisoners of Peace) by Erin Bow. Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Books. 2015. Review copy from publisher.


The Plot: Our world, about 400 years in the future. For various reasons (wars, water shortage, environmental changes) an AI (artificial intelligence) named Talis seized control of, well, everything, and first forced peace on the world by blasting a few cities.

Then Talis realized there was a better way. That destroying towns wouldn't create world peace. But hostages would. Child hostages, to be specific. It's simple: take a child of each leader. Hold onto them until they are 18. If the leader declares war, the child hostage's life is forfeit.

Greta Gustafsen Stuart is the Duchess of Halifax and the Crown Princess of Pan Polar Confederacy. She has been a hostage since the age of five. She is now sixteen; if she can make it until eighteen....

But her country has water. And others don't. And she knows that one day, sooner rather than later, war may be declared and her life may be forfeit.

The Good: Alright, let's cut to the chase: this is a Favorite Book of 2015. Hell, I'll go on record and say this is easily a top ten book. I'll go even further: I'll be damn disappointed if this isn't on awards lists and best lists at the end of the year.

And to say why this is so, why I am so passionate about this book, I'll be talking spoilers. So fair warning: stop now if that bothers you, read The Scorpion Rules, then come back.

The Scorpion Rules is a dystopia, or, at least, a dystopia for those children of rules and leaders who are sent away to be held hostage, knowing that if their parents pick country over blood they will die. They have been taught history to understand their role and their history, including ancient history to give a broader, perhaps colder, perspective on people and war and violence.

Greta, like her friends and fellow hostages, have been taught about their role; have been taught to accept it; have been taught to not fight back. To not resist. To not escape.

And then a boy comes to their school, a boy whose grandmother just gained power so he's been sent as hostage, a bit older than most, and less royal, so less prepared. Elian.

I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO SAY IT'S JUST ANOTHER DYSTOPIAN ROMANCE BUT IT ISN'T. AND YES THERE IS A SECOND LOVE INTEREST BUT IT'S NOT A TRIANGLE JUST, WAIT.

Yes, it's dystopian; but like I said, at least for this book, it shifts the burden of the dystopia to the upper class, to the privileged. And the Children of Peace, the hostages, realize both their burden and their privilege. And it's grounded in real history -- the exchanging and taking of hostages has historic basis. (Fans of the TV show Reign will remember King Henry saying he and his brothers where hostages in the Spanish Court. That was true.) I say at least for this book, because we haven't seen much of life beyond where Greta lives, so I can't be sure of how others live. There is a hint that Talis controls and meddles with the lives of others, but it's unclear just how much of an impact that has.

This dystopia also makes sense; it's coherent, enough is given to explain why and how this system was accepted and evolved. It's also thoughtfully and realistically diverse. The Children of Peace come from all over the world, from all types of countries. Some, like Greta, are their for hereditary reasons -- she is the crown princess, born into this world, born to be a hostage. Others, like the Children from what was the United States, are there because parents have been voted into/taken charge by other means. They have no titles; they may arrive at the school older, with their status sudden and unprepared for. That is Elian.

And it's also grounded in science fiction, not fantasy -- the AI that controls the world, Talis, and the link between humans and computers is a scientific element of the story, not a fantastical one, and it's not just the push for the story. Talis is present throughout, lurking in the background, moving to the forefront.

Also, the threats are real. The Scorpion Rules starts with a child hostage being taken away because his country declared war. There is a graveyard by the school. There is torture, there is manipulation, not nice things happen again and again.

Now, on to the love triangle. Which isn't. There is new boy Elian and there is some sort of connection or attraction between him and Greta, but more important than that, is that Elian shows Greta another way. That submission and acceptance is not the only path in life. That no matter what, there is choice.

And then there is Greta's best friend and roommate, Xie. Greta has not just accepted the way she has been raised, the future she's been told to expect. She has also buried most of her emotions and feelings, avoiding emotional risk. And yet when Elian helps provide the catalyst for her to open up, and change, and question, it also helps her unlock her frozen feelings for Xie.

See? It sounds like a triangle because there are two people -- but it isn't. It so, so isn't.

One last thing: Greta may have accepted her part in life and politics; she may have tried to avoid certain deep attachments; but she is also a royal. Born to be a hostage, born to live a role, but also born to take her place if she lives past 18. Born to be a leader, and at her school, she is a leader. She's not a follower. She's not passive, even if to someone like Elian, the Children of Peace hostages look passive and accepting.

So, go, read it, and like me, look forward to the next book. Because I have no idea what will happen next -- and that? That is a great feeling to have.















Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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10. Review: Of Monsters and Madness

Of Monsters & Madness by Jessica Verday. Egmont USA. 2014.



The Plot: It's 1824 and Annabel Lee, 17, has moved to her father's death following her mother's death. The world of Philadelphia, and her role of daughter of a doctor, is very different from a childhood spent in Siam. She lacks the freedom she had there.

There are secrets in her father's house -- including her father's two assistants, handsome Allan and cruel Edgar. Including her father's scientific experiments.

And there are the gruesome murders....

The Good: I'll be honest: I read Of Monsters and Madness about a year ago, when it first came out, enjoyed it, but just didn't get around to writing anything up.

Then I saw the movie Crimson Peak (review tomorrow) and began to wonder about possible read-a-likes for teens who may go see the movie and want a taste of Gothic horror and romance. And I remembered Of Monsters and Madness.

The setting, early nineteenth century Philadelphia, is wonderfully shown; Annabel is a strong young woman who has been raised away from her father and his family. She wants to connect with them and please them, but her desire for independence and to pursue studying is at odds with their perceptions of what a proper young lady is. Plus, Edgar Allen Poe as a hot young man!

And plus there are references / homages to works by Poe as well as other writers. So this can lead to wanting to read more Poe, and Robert Louis Stevenson, and Oscar Wilde.

Of Monsters and Madness was published by Egmont USA, which, sadly, no longer exists. So when I went to the author's website to write this post, I was very pleased to learn a few things: first, that it's available on Kindle; second, that for a limited time it is $1.99; and third, that Verday has included the sequel, Of Phantoms and Fury, in the Kindle edition so you are getting two books for one.






Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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11. The book or the movie? The Martian by Andy Weir or The Martian with Matt Damon?

The Martian by Andy Weir has a fabulous back story. Initially published chapter by chapter and made available for free on the author’s website, readers soon fell in love with the story. First, they asked him to make it available as an ebook, so they could enjoy it on their e-readers rather than having to read it […]

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12. Willful Machines: Review

When I saw Kirkus describe this book as “Gothic, gadget-y, gay” I knew I needed it in my hands as soon as humanly possible. I am happy to say it is all of those wonderful things. And while I didn’t quite love it, I did really, really enjoy this book. There’s so much to like! Yes, there  are wonderfully complex characters, killer robots, and the sweetest M/M romance. The writing beautifully evokes the brooding boarding school setting. This is a near-future sci-fi thriller with a touch of the dystopian. 16 year-old Lee is the closeted son of an ultra-conservative president who is both fiercely anti-gay and anti-robot. It’s unfortunate then, that Lee has a penchant for tinkering with mechanicals, too. The Human Values platform was created in response to an attack by Charlotte, an AI gone rogue, in which  Lee’s mother was murdered. Ever since, Charlotte has been using her... Read more »

The post Willful Machines: Review appeared first on The Midnight Garden.

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13. Book Blog Tour: STORMDANCER by Joshua Pantalleresco...


The Storm is here...

About Stormdancer:

Days after the events featured in The Watcher, the Watcher is taken hostage by a dragon, leaving Kristen, Will and Nicki alone in a strange new world. With no choice but to try and rescue their friend, Kristen and the others must travel through ancient cities, forgotten burial grounds, and eventually into the heart of the great storm.

Faced with the unknown, will they be able to traverse the storms that stand before them as well as ones within their own hearts?


Book Details:

Title: Stormdancer (Sequel to The Watcher)

Author Name:  JoshuaPantalleresco

Genre(s): Poetry, Sci-Fi, Dystopian

Tags: Poetry, Epic, Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic, science-fiction, dragons

Length: Approx. 104 pages

E-book:  978-0-9947490-4-8
Paperback:  978-0-9947490-3-1

Release Date: October 1, 2015

Publisher:  Mirror World Publishing (http://www.mirrorworldpublishing.com/)

Appropriate for all ages from Young Adult to Adult.

Follow the Tour to Read Exclusive Excerpts, Guest Posts, and Reviews:

http://saphsbookblog.blogspot.com/2015/09/blog-tour-schedule-stormdancer-sequel.html

Guest Post:Why Joshua Pantalleresco Writes

So before we begin, I want to thank Sharon for having me. She's secretly a unicorn, and that story will have to be told some other day, but she's a kind, sweet lady and it was a pleasure to be asked to come here and write. 

I am going to write about my books, why I wrote them, and the lessons you can learn from them.  Stormdancer is book two of the Watcher Saga. In it, the Watcher, the main character from book one is kidnapped leaving Kristin, Nicki, and Will to chase him down. The journey is improbable and fantastic and in my opinion the kind of magic a good story creates.

I want to talk about some of the themes of the story. In particular, dealing with grief and changes.  Because entering into this book, I was left in a quandry. The Watcher was the Watcher's story; about his journey to discovering who he was, and more importantly, what he wanted to be. This wasn't the Watcher's story anymore. It is the first line in book two. 

This is not my story anymore.

That was deliberate, conscious line that illustrated the problems I had starting book two. I wanted to flesh out the characters I introduced at the end of book one, yet I didn't want to lose the strong presence the Watcher had in book one.

So who were the three kids I rescued? I chose Kristin as the main character in book two. They had just gone through the loss of everything they knew. Kristin represented that tragedy. Losing a family.

It parallels my own story. Not that I lost my whole family, but my whole family situation collapsed at a very young age. My mom and dad fell apart and I remember that when I was younger it was like my fault. Why did two people I love have to do this? Why did things have to change? It messed me up. I tried to tell myself I was over this pain of not having this unit in my life. I ran away from home at one point because of the pain.

I was very fortunate. I had two teachers look after me. One of them a principal, and the other was my grade four teacher. I was her last class. We didn't make the greatest impression, but to my surprise, she was there for me when I least expected it.

That's Kristin in chapter three. She was happy in her life – it was all she knew. And that turmoil is expressed very much in all her actions for the first half of the book. She has become my favorite character to write in the saga so far. Watching her rise above her own stuff was a vicarious experience.

I had to learn at a young age that life was a struggle. A lot of kids have their childhoods end a lot sooner than maybe they should. I thought the three kids had been through hell, and it was just beginning.   Making them grow up happened to me.

The silver lining going through grief is that people come together. Family isn't just blood. It's the people you go through things with, that are there with you through thick and thin. Going back to the very beginning, it wasn't just the Watcher's story anymore. It was about the kids, and going through their own fires, and becoming closer for it.

So if you are a kid reading Sharon's blog, I hope this book teaches you to be brave. I'm not going to lie to you; life is hard. Chances are you have gone through some painful things and are probably stronger and braver than I was ever was. I'm not going to make you a promise that it'll get any easier. What I can tell you though, is that you can overcome. The big secret that most adults don't even know is that if you believe you can do it, you can. You are strong and powerful and can do anything.

But I'm also going to say that there are people who are there for you no matter what. People that believe in you. They will be there when you fall, and they will be there to help you rise. They are the people worth being with. 


Read an Excerpt:

STORMS WITHIN

he ran
disappearing into the night
leaving us all alone

we tried to follow him
but were unsure of the trees and trails
we went slowly

we knew something had happened
when we found his blades in the forest
blackened and alone

he had come
like a force of nature
wrecking our lives
in the name of freedom
freedom from what?

the hollow embers and ashes we found
I didn't build them
those ruins were his story
not mine
never mine

I...was happy
yeah, I was happy
is there something wrong with that?

my parents loved me
I didn't care about anything else

the dragons were bastards
but I understood the game
the moves that could be made

with one flick of a blade
he changed all that
shattered the illusion with a roar of rebellion

now my life is here
in this forest
now he had vanished into the night
leaving me abandoned

leaving everything in shambles!

Purchase Links:

Amazon
http://amzn.to/1jjBlnY

Mirror World Publishing
http://mirror-world-publishing.myshopify.com/products/stormdancer-e-book

Meet the Author:

Joshua Pantalleresco writes stuff. It's even on his business card. This is a succinct way of saying that in addition to writing poetry, he also does interviews, columns, comics, prose and anything possible with the written word. When he isn't writing, he's playing with podcasts, filming stuff, fiddling with alternative medicine, travelling, talking to people and pretending he is a rockstar. Stormdancer is his second book through Mirror World Publishing. He lives in Calgary.

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14. Lizard Radio: Review

Do you want to read a dystopian novel with a genderqueer protagonist who may or may not be part lizard? If this sounds like something you didn’t know you wanted, Lizard Radio is the book for you. It’s a hard book to describe. Our protagonist, Kivali – familiarly known as Lizard, was abandoned as a baby  (wrapped in a lizard t-shirt!). Lizard is adopted by Sheila, a human woman who becomes her foster mom and sends her, at the opening of the novel, to CropCamp. The novel takes off from there – CropCamp is all about teaching teenagers how to be good citizens of an oppressive totalitarian government; teens have to attend CropCamp or one of the many other strictly regimented government-run camps and, if they fail, risk being sent to Blight. At CropCamp, a camp focused on developing agricultural workers, group conformity is prized; state-sanctioned heterosexual relationships are supposed to emerge... Read more »

The post Lizard Radio: Review appeared first on The Midnight Garden.

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15. Seeker, by Arwen Elys Dayton | Book Review

It's delightful to slip into the complex and fully realized world where Seekers slice through time and space and unlock the mysteries of the universe.

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16. Space Dumplins by Craig Thompson, 320 pp, RL 4

Blankets by Craig Thompson was one of the first graphic novels I read. Over the course of a week, during lunch breaks while I worked at the bookstore, I consumed this 592 page adult graphic novel and was astounded at what a moving, intimate experience reading this book proved to be. Thompson followed up Blankets with Habibi, an epic story that begins with a nine-year-old girl being sold

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17. Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson


To make Kim Stanley Robinson's Aurora make sense, I had to imagine a metafictional frame for it.

The novel tells the story of a generation starship sent in the year 2545 from the Solar System to Tau Ceti. It begins toward the end of the journey, as the ship approaches its destination and eventually sends a landing party to a planet they name Aurora. The narrator, we quickly learn, is the ship's artificial intelligence system, which for various reasons is learning to tell stories, a process that, among other things, helps it sort through and make sense of details. This conceit furthers Robinson's interest in exposition, an interest apparent at least since the Mars trilogy and explicit in 2312. As a writer, he seems most at home narrating scientific processes and describing the features of landscapes, which does not always lead to the most dynamic prose or storytelling, and he seems to have realized this and adjusted to make his writerly strengths into, if not his books' whole reason for being, then a meaningful feature of their structure. I didn't personally care for 2312 much, but I thought it brilliantly melded the aspirations of both Hugo Gernsback and John W. Campbell for science fiction in the way that it offered explicit, even pedagogical, passages of exposition with bits of adventure story and scientific romance.

What soon struck me while reading Aurora was that aside from the interstellar travel, it did not at all seem to be a novel about human beings more than 500 years in the future. The AI is said to be a quantum computer, and it is certainly beyond current computer technology, but it doesn't seem breathtakingly different from the bleeding edges of current technology. Medical knowledge seems mostly consistent with current medical knowledge, as does knowledge of most other scientific fields. People still wear eyeglasses, and their "wristbands" are smartwatches. Historical and cultural references are to things we know rather than to much of anything that's happened between 2015 and 2545 (or later — the ship's population seems to have developed no culture of their own). The English language is that of today. Social values are consistent with average bourgeois heterosexual American social values.

500 years is a lot of time. Think about the year 1515. Thomas More started writing Utopia, which would be published the next year. Martin Luther's 95 Theses were two years away. The rifle wouldn't be invented for five more years. Copernicus had just begun thinking about his heliocentric theory of the universe. The first iterations of the germ theory of disease were thirty years away. The births of Shakespeare and Galileo were 49 years in the future. Isaac Newton wouldn't be born until the middle of the next century.

Aurora offers nothing comparable to the changes in human life and knowledge from 1515 to 2015 except for the space ship. The world of the novel seems to have been put on pause from now till the launch of the ship.

How to make sense of this? That's where my metafictional frame comes in. One of the stories Aurora tells is the rise to consciousness of the AI narrator. Telling stories seems to be good for its processors. Much of the book is quite explicitly presented as a novel by the AI — an AI learning to write a novel. Of course, within the story, it's not a novel (a work of fiction) but rather a work of history. Still, as it makes clear, the shaping of historical material into a narrative has at least as much to do with fiction as it does with history.

It's easy to go one step further, then, and imagine that the "actual" history of the AI's world is outside the text. The text is what the AI has written. The text could be fiction.

It could, for instance, be a novel written by an AI that survived the near-future death of humanity, or at least the death of human civilization.

What if the "actual" year of the novel is not near the year 3000, but rather somewhere around 2050. Global warming, wars, famine, etc. could have reduced humanity to nearly nothing just at the moment computer technology advanced enough to bring about a quantum computer capable of developing consciousness and writing a novel. What sort of novel might an AI learn to write? Why not a story about a heroic AI saving a group of humans trapped on a generation ship? An AI that helps bring those humans home after their interstellar quest proves impossible. An AI that, in the end, sacrifices itself for the good of its people.

This helps explain the change of narrators, too. At the end of Book 6, the ship has returned the humans to Earth and then accelerates on toward the sun, where, we learn later, it burns up. Book 7 is a traditional third-person narrative. This is a jarring point of view shift if the AI actually burned up in the sun. (And how did its narrative get saved? There's some mention of the computer of the ferry to Earth having been able to copy the ship AI, though also mention that such a copy would be different from the original because of the nature of quantum computing.)

But if we assume that the AI narrator is still the narrator, then Book 7 is the triumph of the computer's storytelling, for Book 7 is the moment where the AI gets to disappear into the narration.

Wouldn't it be fun for an AI to speculate about all the possible technological developments over 500 years? Perhaps, but only if its goal was to write a speculative story. It might have a more immediate goal, one that would require a somewhat different story. It might be writing not to entertain or to offer scientific dreams, but to provide knowledge and caution for the few survivors of the crash of humanity.

Book 7 tells us to value the Earth, our only possible home. It shows a human being who has never been to Earth coming to it and learning how to love it. The moment is religious in its implications: the human being (our protagonist, Freya) is born again. Just as the AI is born again into the narration, so Freya is born into Earthbound humanity. There is hope, but the hope relies on living in harmony with the only possible planet for humans.

The descendants of the last remnants of humanity, scrambling for a reason to survive on a planet their ancestors battered and burned, might benefit from such a tale. (Also: One of the implicit messages of the story is: Trust the AI. The AI is your friend and savior.)

Viewed this way, Aurora coheres, and its speculative failures make sense. It is a tale imagined by a computer that has learned to tell stories, a cautionary fairy tale aimed perhaps at the few remaining people from a species that destroyed its only world.

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18. Review: The End of All Things by John Scalzi

John Scalzi returns to the Old Man’s War universe for his next fantastic installment. Following on from The Human Division, which was told over thirteen episodes, this time Scalzi tells his story over four novellas and once again demonstrates his total mastery in whatever form or perspective he chooses to tell his stories. Have firming […]

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19. Review: Seeing Ghosts and Robots in “Empty Zone” #1



Empty Zone #1By Nick Eskey

 

Writer: Jason Shawn Alexander

Artist: Jason Shawn Alexander

Color: Luis Nct

Letters: Sherard Jackson

Publisher: Image Comics

 

 

Have you heard about the story set in a neo-noir dystopian society somewhere in the not so distant future? Most of you are probably nodding your heads in an emphatic yes.

Adding to that list is Jason Shawn Alexander’s first issue of Empty Zone.

Though the setting isn’t original, the story and the artwork make this comic a fantastic read. Think if the movie Blade Runner, the movie Tank Girl, Vertigo’s Sandman comic, and the anime Ghost in the Shell had a torrid love affair. Empty Zone would be the reason all of them have to submit to a paternity test.

The protagonist’s name is Corrine, a young and sexy woman who moonlights as super soldier for hire. Her easy-on-the-eye looks hints nothing at her enhanced abilities (save for her giant robotic arm of course). Her constantly reoccurring nightmares make her a haunted woman. But in this future where technology is advanced and society is crumbling, bad dreams are not the only things haunting her.Corrine with...?

As the story goes, this first issue does well in introducing us to the characters, but still holding enough back that we are left wanting to learn more about their personalities and motives. The strange scenery and events leaves many questions to be answered, setting up what may be a good run for the series. As I mentioned, the atmosphere may not be original, but the writing makes up for that. The twist introduced at the endCorrine and Robot bounty hunter also sweetens the deal.

Writing aside, the artwork could carry this comic alone. Each panel looks like it should be framed on the wall. A lot of care went into the drawing, inking, and coloring (to which Jason Shawn Alexander wears the three hats of creator, writer, and artist). The facial drawings remind me a little of the rotoscoping used in A Scanner Darkly. Rotoscoping is essentially tracing over a film frame by frame. Everything from body articulation to facial expressions is highly detailed and close to real life. Objects and scenery are equally as well done. Overall, this thing deserves to be appreciated.

Empty Zone is a great addition to comics and collections. The artwork and writing is well done, with the pace taking readers for a fun joyride that doesn’t move too fast or slow. Fans of dark comics, as well as science fiction books and movies will surely enjoy this series. Image Comic’s Empty Zone hits local shelves June 17th.

1 Comments on Review: Seeing Ghosts and Robots in “Empty Zone” #1, last added: 6/17/2015
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20. The Time Machine Audiobook Review

Title: The Time Machine Author: H.G. Wells Narrated by: Sir Derek Jacobi Publisher: Listening Library Publication Date: June 11, 2013 Listening copy via Sync H.G. Wells' The Time Machine is one of those science fiction classics that I just never got around to reading, so I thought listening to a free Sync copy would be a perfect way to finally get around to it. I've seen the Hollywood

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21. Mort(e) Book Review

Title: Mort(e) Author: Robert Repino Publisher: Soho Press Publication Date: January 20, 2015 ISBN-13: 978-1616954277 368 pp. ARC provided by publisher "I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords."  Kent Brockman Mort(e) by Robert Repino was an ARC I picked up at last summer's ALA Annual Conference and I finally found the time to read it. I was intrigued by its animal

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22. Review of the Day: Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall

MarsEvacueesMars Evacuees
By Sophia McDougall
Harper Collins
$16.99
ISBN: 978-0-06-229399-2
Ages 9-12

I’ve a nasty habit of finishing every children’s book I start, no matter how dull or dire it might be. I am sort of alone in this habit, which you could rightly call unhealthy. After all, most librarians understand that their time on this globe is limited and that if they want to read the greatest number of excellent books in a given year, they need to hold off on spending too much time devouring schlock and just skip to the good stuff. So it is that with my weird predilection for completion I am enormously picky when it comes to what I read. If I’m going to spend time with a book, I want to feel like I’m accomplishing something, not slogging through it. My reasoning is that not all books are good from the get-go. Some take a little time to get going, you know? It might take 50 pages before you’re fully on board, so I always give the book the benefit of the doubt. Some books, however, have the quintessential strong first page. They are books that are so smart and good and worthy that you feel that you are maximizing your time on this globe by merely being in their presence. Such is the case with Mars Evacuees. A sci-fi middle grade novel that encompasses everything from gigantic talking floating goldfish to PG discussions of alien sex, this is one of those books you might easily miss out on. Stellar from the first sentence on.

At first it seemed like a good thing that the aliens had come. When you’ve got a planet nearly decimated by global warming, it doesn’t sound like such a bad deal when aliens start telling you they’ve got a way to cool down the planet. The trouble is, they didn’t STOP cooling it down. Turns out the Morrors are looking for a new home and if it doesn’t quite suit their needs they’ll adapt it until it does. Earth has fought back, of course, and so now we’re all trapped in a huge space battle of epic proportions. Alice Dare’s mother is the high flying hero Captain Dare, killer of aliens everywhere. But all Alice knows is that she’s being shipped off with a load of other kids to Mars. The idea is that they’ll be safe there and will be able to finish their education in space until they’re old enough to become soldiers. And everything seems to be going fine and dandy . . . until the adults all disappear. Now Alice and her friends are in the company of a cheery robot goldfish and must solve a couple mysteries along the way. Things like, where are the adults? What are those space locust-like creatures they’ve found on Mars? And most important of all, what happens when you encounter the enemy and it’s not at all like you thought it would be?

The first sentence of any book is a tricky proposition. You want to intrigue but not give too much away. Too brash and the book can’t live up to it. Too mild and people are snoring before you even get to the period. Here’s what McDougall writes: “When the polar ice advanced as far as Nottingham, my school was closed and I was evacuated to Mars.” I could not help but be reminded of the first line of M.T. Anderson’s Feed when I read that (“We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck”). But it’s not just her first sentence that’s admirable. In a scant nine pages the entire premise of the book is laid out for us. Aliens came. People are fighting them. And now the kids are being evacuated to Mars. Badda bing, badda boom. What I didn’t realize when I was first reading the book, though, was that this chapter is very much indicative of the entire novel. There is a kind of series bloat going on in children’s middle grade novels these days. Books with wild premises and high stakes are naturally assumed to be the first in a series. There’s a bit of a whiff of Ender’s Game and The White Mountains about this book when you look at the plot alone, and so you assume that like so many similar titles it’ll either end on a cliffhanger, or it’ll solve the immediate problem, but save the bigger issue for later on. It was only as I got closer and closer to the end that I realized that McDougall was doing something I almost never encounter in science fiction books these days: She was tying up loose ends. It got to the point where I reached the end of the book and found myself in the rare position of realizing that this was, of all things, a standalone science fiction novel. Do they even make those anymore? I’m not saying you couldn’t write a sequel to this book if you didn’t want to. When McDougall becomes a household name you can bet there will be a push for more adventures of Alice, Carl, Josephine and Thsaaa. But it works all by itself with a neat little beginning, middle, and an end. How novel!

For all that, McDougall cuts through the treacle with her storytelling, I was very admiring of the fact that she never sacrifices character in the process of doing so. Carl, for example, should by all rights be two-dimensional. He’s the wacky kid who doesn’t play by the rules! The trickster with a heart of gold. But in this book McDougall also makes him a big brother. He’s got his bones to pick, just as Josephine (filling in the brainy Hermione-type role with aplomb) has personal issues with the aliens that go beyond the usual you-froze-my-planet grudge. Even the Goldfish, perky robot that he is, seems to have limits on his patience. He’s also American for some reason, a fact I shall choose not to read too much into, except maybe to say that if I were casting this as a film (which considering the success of Home, the adaptation of Adam Rex’s The True Meaning of Smekday, isn’t as farfetched as you might think) I’d like to hear him voiced by Patton Oswalt. But I digress.

When tallying up the total number of books written for kids between the ages of 9-12 that discuss the intricacies of alien sex, I admit that I stop pretty much at one. This one. And normally that wouldn’t fly in a book for kids but McDougall is so enormously careful and funny that you really couldn’t care less. Her aliens are fantastic, in part because, like humans, there’s a lot of variety amongst them. This is an author who cares about world building but also doesn’t luxuriate in it for long periods of time. She’s not trying to be the Tolkien of space here. She’s trying to tell a good story cleanly and succinctly.

The fact that it’s funny to boot is the real reason it stands out, though. And I don’t mean it’s “funny” in that it’s mildly droll and knows how to make a pun. I mean there are moments when I actually laughed out loud on a New York subway train. How could I not? This is a book that can actually get away with lines like “If you didn’t want me to build flamethrowers you shouldn’t have taught me the basic principles when I was six.” Or “It was a good time in Earth’s history to be a polar bear. Unless the rumors were true about the Morrors eating them.” Or “Luckily I don’t throw up very easily, but it made me feel as if I was being hit lightly but persistently all over with tablespoons.” That’s the kind of writing I enjoy. Silly and with purpose.

So it’s one part Lord of the Flies in space (please explain to me right now why no one has ever written a book called “Space Lord of the Flies”), one part Smekday, and a lot like those 1940s novels where the kids get evacuated during WWII and find a kind of hope and freedom they never would have encountered at home. It’s also the most fun you’ll encounter in a long time. That isn’t to say there isn’t the occasional dark or dreary patch. But once this book starts rolling it’s impossible not to enjoy the ride. For fans of the funny, fans of science fiction, and fans of books that are just darn good to the last drop.

On shelves now.

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Other Blog Reviews: The Book Smugglers

Misc: And since this book is British (did I fail to mention that part?) here’s the cover they came up with over there.

MarsEvacuees

I think I may like ours more, though both passed up the fact to display the goldfish, which I think was a mistake.  Fortunately, the Brits at least have corrected the mistake (though I’m mildly disappointed to see that there is a sequel after all).

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23. Terminal, by Kathy Reichs and Brendan Reichs | Book Review

The Morris Island gang is back in Terminal, the fifth and final full installment of Kathy and Brendan Reichs’ NY Times Bestselling Virals series.

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24. Ask a Pub Pro: Author Stefanie Gaither on Character Names, Science Fiction Research, and POV

We are thrilled to welcome author Stefanie Gaither to the blog this month as our columnist for Ask a Pub Pro! Stefanie is the author of the very popular and thrilling Falls the Shadow, with the sequel coming in 2016. She's here to answer your reader questions on unusual names for fantasy, how many books can an author squeeze into a series, the balance of fiction and fact for science fiction, and how many POV characters can make up an ensemble. 

If you have a question you'd like to have answered by an upcoming publishing professional, send it to AYAPLit AT gmail.com and put Ask a Pub Pro Question in the subject line.

Also, please do not forget next week's Happy Potter Birthday celebration!  If you were inspired to write, or if your writing was any way influenced by JK Rowling, we'd love to hear from you! Please send a paragraph (or two) telling us how Harry Potter influenced your writing and you may be included in next week's celebration.

Email posts to AYAPLit AT gmail.com, and please put Happy Potter Day in the subject line. We'll let you know before July 31 if yours is one of the submissions chosen.

Author Stefanie Gaither on Character Names, Science Fiction Research, and POV

1) Writer Question: I'm worried about the names I'm creating for my WIP. My story is a fantasy, and the names I've envisioned sometimes have hyphenated endings to add a suffix meaning onto the name. But it seems that I've heard hyphens in names are frowned upon. I'm keeping the names very simple, even with the hyphens, so that it will not be confusing to the reader. Do you think that will work? Or would the use of hyphens be too off-putting? Would an apostrophe be better?

I actually just finished up a fantasy WIP of my own, so I understand the name struggle :) I don’t think that hyphens in names are immediately off-putting—so long as it fits the story and/or character. Other readers may feel differently, of course. If you’re really concerned about it, maybe there’s a way to compromise? Have their formal name hyphenated, but perhaps they go by a nickname that flows more easily for the reader?

Either way, one thing I like to do when figuring out names is to ask people unfamiliar with my story/character what comes to mind when I mention a person named “XYZ” or whatever; in your case, maybe write the name and then ask friends and fellow writers what immediately jumps into their minds when they see it—and if it’s in line with what you’re going for with this particular character, then you’re golden. Poll as many people as you can. Of course, not everyone will have the same answer, but it will give you a general idea of what the name you came up with is “showing” potential readers about this character—and whether or not they’re stumbling over things like hyphens.

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25. Review: The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

I totally loved this book. This sucked me in from the opening sentence and still has not let me go. The moment I finished I started missing all the characters straight away and want to get back to this universes as quickly as possible. This is science fiction at its best; expansive, alien, full of […]

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