Tag Archives: science fiction

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.

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut (1963)

catscradleKurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle is a funny and dark satire on government, religion, and life. John is a writer who is writing a book about what important Americans were doing the day the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. He quickly becomes entangled with the children of one of the bomb’s creators who are in possession of another, dangerous invention that portends doom to the entire world. It is an “out of the frying pan and into the fire” kind of story, where each absurd situation leads into the next. This is a fun read.

The Martian by Andy Weir (2014)

martianDid I understand all of the science? No. But it didn’t matter. I challenge you not to get drawn into Mark Watney’s epic quest for survival after he is accidentally left behind on Mars. A thrilling adventure, The Martian is largely told through the log entries of this snarky astronaut with glimpses of NASA personnel on Earth and in space. You may have seen the Matt Damon-led movie adaptation (or at least the previews), but I encourage you to pick up Andy Weir‘s novel!

Neuromancer by William Gibson (1984)

neuromancerWilliam Gibson’s critically acclaimed Neuromancer tells the story of Henry Dorsett Case, a master computer hacker forced into a life of petty street crime after crossing an employer who wrecked his nervous system as payback. As Case spirals down a self-destructive path on the streets of near-future Chiba, Japan, a mysterious benefactor offers to repair his nervous system – allowing Case to once again explore the myriad gleaming pathways of Cyberspace – in exchange for a highly dangerous, confidential job. Case accepts, and is plunged into a tangled web of conspiracies with dire implications.

Neuromancer is fascinatingly paced: the first half or so reads like a series of connected short stories, while the latter half begs to be read in one sitting. The plot is a gripping tale of intrigue, and the characters are compellingly written, but where the novel really shines is in its prediction. Gibson’s deeply atmospheric prose envisages a world dramatically changed by incredible advances in computer science and biotechnology combined with growing corporate influence on political and legal matters.

Neuromancer’s frankly portrayed adult subject matter and occasionally unsettling themes definitely aren’t for everyone. But for everyone else, it comes highly recommended to those looking for an engaging sci-fi thriller.

Seconds by Brian O’Malley (2014)

secondsKatie’s restaurant has been doing really well, but it no longer feels like hers with all of her original staff gone. Looking for a new adventure, she plans on opening a second restaurant, but things are moving pretty slowly and she keeps wondering if she should have chosen somewhere else to build. When one of the waitresses in her current restaurant is badly injured, Katie is visited by the resident house spirit, who gives her the power to restart her day and give her a second chance. The rules are simple: 1. Write your mistake, 2. Ingest a mushroom, 3. Go to sleep, 4. Wake anew. The spirit gave Katie only one mushroom, but when she finds more beneath the floorboards, she tries to reset all her mistakes, including her restaurant location and her last break-up, but things get out of hand quickly.

The art in Seconds is adorably unique and fun, with lots of dynamic and entertaining characters. I greatly enjoyed Katie’s story and the mythology behind the house spirits and their connection to space-time, giving this book both a supernatural and science fiction feel. Readers of Brian Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series should also look closely – there’s a few Easter eggs hidden in the panels for them!

Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson (2011)

robopocalypseA scientist has successfully created artificial intelligence and puts the world in danger when the robot, calling itself Archos R-14, kills its creator and escapes. Archos slowly spreads its influence across the world and takes over many robots, of which this future society is full, and bides its time before launching a major attack against humanity, an event that would soon be known as Zero Hour. All across the world, humans are dying, but some are fighting back.

Told through many perspectives, Daniel H. Wilson’s Robopocalypse seeks to do what many sci-fi and dystopian novels fail to do: show the war in real-time and from a variety of diverse characters, including a Native American police officer, a young girl, a Congresswoman, and a soldier stationed in the Middle East. No longer is North America alone in its struggles!

The audiobook adaptation of this book is told expertly through the narration of Mike Chamberlain, whose voice is perfectly suited to the action hero-type character of Cormac Wallace, who introduces and closes each chapter. The book is written in detailed prose which cleverly balances action and emotion and feels very much like watching a movie.

The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993)

giverlowryThe book is a quick read and well done. In The Giver, an organized community controls its citizens every move and position within the community. The main character is a twelve-year-old boy, Jonas, and how he learns the truth about the community and the world outside.

Did you see the movie? How does it compare with Lois Lowry’s novel? If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the trailer below.

Transhuman by Ben Bova (2014)

index.aspxLuke Abramson, a research biologist, takes his ten-year-old granddaughter Angela out of the hospital without her parent’s knowledge after specialists agree there is nothing more to be done for her brain tumor. Angela’s doctor agrees to go along to protect her patient. Luke begins an experimental therapy that he believes will kill Angela’s tumor as the three go on a cross country adventure dodging the FBI and a greedy entrepreneur determined to control the new technology. Luke also finds ways to reverse his own fatigue and aging process with the new medical techniques. Surprisingly, Luke awakens to a romantic interest in his much younger medical companion.

This story is highly recommended for septuagenarian grandfathers who love their granddaughters and can fantasize about increased vitality when blessed with the company of younger women. Ben Bova’s Transhuman touches on intellectual property policy and corruption of the powerful, but mostly is an exciting adventure for those not annoyed by some unlikely events.

 

Saga. Volumes 1-3 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (2012-2014)

index.aspxIt is completely different than anything I have ever read. Every volume of Saga surprises me in new ways. I definitely recommend Brian K. Vaughan’s latest series for anyone who likes graphic novels and/or science fiction (and doesn’t mind mature content).

If you need any other motivation, check out io9’s list of 10 reasons you should be reading this series or this other review.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (1977)

After almost a century of war against the insectile alien “Buggers,” Earth’s military forces are running out of options. They begin a search for the next great general, identifying children with great potential and taking them to Battle School at a young age. Ender Wiggin is the best chance Earth has—and he may be the last. The youngest of three extremely intelligent children, Ender is the goldilocks fit—not too cruel, not too kind, and just creative enough to change military tactics. At the delicate age of six, Ender is sent off-world to Battle School as their youngest recruit, and must quickly climb the ranks and master complex tactical and physical games in order to become a commander in the war, which is quickly coming to a head.

Ender’s Game is considered a classic among science fiction titles for young adults, but many of the themes transcend that age and remain applicable to adults. The children (the Wiggin children in particular) are all hyper-intelligent and speak as logically and as sophisticatedly as (if not more than) their adult counterparts, easily discussing military tactics and political issues. The writing is focused primarily on plot, with short interludes of dialogue between high-ranking military officials, and is not bogged down by description, which helps the novel to move quickly and span multiple years. Ender and the other children at the battle school are possibly too advanced to be believable, yet they fit well into the genre and remain memorable and sympathetic. Overall, this novel by Orson Scott Card is an engaging, fast read for fans of science fiction or stories of heroic children.