Tag Archives: science fiction

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (1992)

doomsdaybookThis book hit all the right notes: likable, interesting characters; gripping story told from multiple perspectives; and historical fiction blended with believable time travel. In 2048 England, students and professors at Oxford have mastered the art of time travel as a means to fill in the gaps in the historical record. Budding historian Kivrin plans to visit 1320 Oxford to learn more about everyday life in the Middle Ages; instead, she ends up in 1348 at the height of the Black Death. A mysterious epidemic in 2048 also creates chaos, preventing Dunworthy (Kivrin’s mentor) from bringing her home.

A compelling narrative, Doomsday Book will propel you forward, frantically turning to pages to discover the fate of those in past and future. My first foray into Connie Willis’ novels—but it won’t be my last!

Forty Signs of Rain by Kim Stanley Robinson (2004)

40signsCharley Quibler works part-time as a Senate environmental aid, which gives him plenty of time to bond with toddler son Joe, and wife Anne continues her career as a department head at the NSF.

When Anne meets the newly arrived envoy from the island nation of Khembalung (in the Bay of Bengal), she invites them to dinner to talk to Charley about flooding problems on their island. Charley arranges a meeting with a senator to discuss their concerns about the rising sea levels but to no avail. Soon the rains do come, underscoring all the Khembalung’s concerns with problems close to the Quiblers and all the Washingtonians.

Kim Stanley Robinson’s Forty Signs of Rain treats us to an enjoyable visit with the engaging Quibler family and raises questions of how our nation may deal with some of the very wet problems of climate change. Check out other books in the series.

The Circle by Dave Eggers (2013)

circleImagine if Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft, and Apple were all bought out by the same mega-company. All of your data, from your food preferences to your medical history, would be linked and readily available. All of your work and your social life would be online. Then imagine there are cameras everywhere that you can check feeds of at any moment to keep an eye on revolts in the Middle East or the surf conditions at your favorite beach. All of this and more are possible with the Circle—and this future is not too far off from our own.

The main character, Mae, is a newbie at the Circle, working in Customer Experience, answering tech questions, but her role at the media giant quickly grows as the Circle becomes the center of her life. Readers will follow in awestruck terror as Mae becomes tied up in this world, even at the risk of her parents and former friend, even at the risk of her own privacy. This book is not a thriller, but at times, it might feel like one, as you shout helplessly at the page for Mae and others at the Circle to change their ways. Dave EggersThe Circle – a sci-fi dystopia – will feel all too familiar to anyone concerned with technology, social media, and privacy, and serves as a warning as well as being a page turner you won’t be able to put down.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster (2015)

starwarsforceLove the newest Star Wars movie, but wish it had more detail? Or want to experience it all over in a new way? Check out the novelization of The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster. This book follows the same plot as the movie, but with a few extra scenes, and a little more insight to what the characters are thinking and feeling.

The true magic, however, is in the audiobook. Brilliantly narrated by Marc Thompson, who has recorded dozens of Star Wars audiobooks, this adaptation does something most audiobooks don’t: it includes sound effects and music. While sound effects can often be distracting and unwanted in audiobooks, this one blends them in seamlessly and the soundtrack by John Williams really grounds the story—and even adds to the drama when you hear a character’s familiar theme starting to play in the background.

Overall, this is a great way to experience what, by now, is likely to be a familiar story. If you’re going on a road trip, this is an excellent audiobook to listen to with your whole family.

Lock In by John Scalzi (2014)

lockinRequired: a willingness to suspend disbelief and go along for the gripping ride. In this near futuristic thriller, newly minted FBI Agent Chris Shane gets thrust into a complicated case on his first day.

NPR summarizes the premise best: in this world, Haden’s Syndrome is “a global, meningitis-like pandemic that, in addition to killing lots of people, also left a certain percentage of them completely paralyzed. This paralysis is called ‘lock in.’” Shane is a Haden and uses a personal transport device to navigate the world (hence the futuristic technology part).

Science fiction isn’t my go-to genre, and it may not be yours, but if you enjoy fast-paced adventures with a mystery to solve, give this one a shot. In John Scalzi’s Lock In, the world is grounded in enough reality that theoretically it could happen. And Will Wheaton does a fantastic job narrating the novel. Highly recommended.

The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu (2015)

darkforestCixin Liu’s The Dark Forest (Vol II) indeed is dark and is best understood if The Three-Body Problem (Vol I) is read first. This sequel allows the reader to look at the strategies and attitudes of earth inhabitants when astronomers confirm aliens from Trisolaris are in route and will arrive in a few hundred years. Nations work together for the defense of earth, some with great confidence, but some groups believe all hope is lost (defeatists) and others that a remnant must escape (escapists) into space.

As was seen in Vol. I, the Trisolarians somehow have access to most human technology (sophons?), but lately it was discovered secrets could be hidden in the human mind. In some early and infrequent communications, the Trisolarians expressed confusion that humans needed different words for thought and speech because with them all thought was public and a principal means of communication. Could this be important for earth defense or in negotiations?

Towards the end of this volume, an advance probe from the Trisolarian fleet enters our solar system and is found to be of beautiful raindrop shape and mirror-like exterior. In a most stressful attempt to capture and examine the probe, one described it as a tear from the Mother of God and all approached it with much apprehension.

The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993)

giverMany of the recent popular dystopian series like Divergent, The Hunger Games, and Legend (by Marie Lu) can trace their storylines back to The Giver, the book which started it all. In a distant future, people live in a utopian society where everything is controlled—what people say, and think, and do. At age 12, Jonas will go through “the ceremony” to find out what he will do for the rest of his life, but what he soon learns about the past will change his whole world.

Check out the classic by Lois Lowry today.

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (2014)

3bodyproblemCixin Liu‘s The Three-Body Problem begins with a top secret Chinese project just after the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and on into the future, Earth tries to (and perhaps does) make contact with the civilizations of Trisolaris, a planet several light years away. Trisolaris, dominated by three suns, has eons of stable, then chaotic seasons in which culture flourishes then crashes with disastrous results. Inhabitants dehydrate their bodies to survive. Scientific efforts to predict gravitational motion in a three body system have perplexed physicists on Trisolaris (and Earth) for ages. Only a few on Earth know of these extra-terrestrial efforts begun by the Chinese and later appearing in strange video games.

If the Trisolarians migrate to our solar system to escape the certain destruction of their planet, should Earth welcome them as superior beings or fight an invading enemy?

Check back in a few weeks to check out my review of the second book in the series: The Dark Forest.

The Dark Between the Stars (2014) and The Blood of the Cosmos (2015) by Kevin J. Anderson

darkbetweenstarsLove wide worlds full of details and interwoven stories similar to A Game of Thrones, but want something more technologically advanced? The Saga of Shadows is the ideal series for you.

In the far future, humanity has moved out among the stars and formed clans and colonies throughout the galaxy, working alongside alien races like the Ildirans. Twenty years after the elemental war, as told in Kevin J. Anderson’s previous series, The Saga of Seven Suns, this trilogy follows the lives of dozens of characters and their families through multiple points of view as a new threat rises in the form of the Shana Rei, shadow-like creatures who want to destroy all of creation.bloodcosmos

Anderson does well to balance the large-scale battles with more individual struggles, such as the loss of one’s home, disease, love, and family. The first book, The Dark Between the Stars, is an excellent start, and the Hugo-nominated sequel, The Blood of the Cosmos, is even better. The third book in the trilogy, Eternity’s Mind, is expected to release in summer 2016.