Salerni, Dianne K. Jadie in Five Dimensions. Holiday House, 2021. 288 pp. ISBN 978-0823449095 $17.99
I was shocked that my 10-year-old daughter selected a science fiction novel to read at the local library, but the cover was horrifically compelling, so away we went. Thirteen-year-old Jadie grew up believing she was abandoned as a baby and placed into a loving home with people who are part of a secret operation to duck in and out of space/time to make small alterations to set history back on it’s most desirable path. Up until now, she hasn’t questioned much about the missions or her origin story… until one day, something triggers a memory, and leads her down the path of investigating her past and identity, making her question everything she believes in, especially the motives of the Seers who direct her actions. A coming-of-age tale with a science fiction setting and diverse characters, the novel blends fast paced action, adventure, mystery, science, and teen girl concerns into a neatly wrapped package. Jadie is gutsy and likeable.
We both really enjoyed the alternating voices, mystery and suspense, and setting, so much, we went on to read another book about tesseracts, A Wrinkle in Time.
McQuintock, Casey. One Last Stop. St. Martin’s / Griffin, 2021. ISBN 978-1250244499 418 pp. $16.99
I was chuckling within the first few pages, and shed a few tears near the end. In this magical novel, jaded August has moved to NYC in part to escape her missing-persons obsessed mother. Everything about NYC is a little weird–her psychic roommate, her job at a pancake diner, and the cute girl on the Q train.
The writing is almost as lyrical and delicious as Francesca Lia Block’s classic Weetzie Bat, the characters unique and real, and the themes of coming to terms with your past, your sexuality, and the world at large resonates.
Hot sex, heart of gold friends, a campaign to save a restaurant and rescue a relic from the past made this unputdownable. It will find a different audience, maybe, than McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue but the carefully drawn, passionate characters and dialogue will appeal.
I received a digital review copy of #OneLastStop from #NetGalley.
Orwell, George. 1984. Signet, 1961. ISBN 978-0451524935 382 pp. $9.99
The first thing that struck me upon re-reading this 30 years later was the anti-Semitism–someone referred to as a jewess, and the focus of Party’s hate on a Jew. The next thing that struck me was the constant rewriting of history to form a preferred narrative. The next was the utter boredom and darkness of a scheduled existence, the utterly colorless utilitarian life, the drudgery of the every day. The propaganda. The feeling that I had in 1991 that this could never happen here, paired with the horror of our divided USA and the gross divide between the haves and have-nots as the middle class continues to shrink.
I slogged through the manifesto, rolled my eyes at the “romance” and shuddered at the torture. And drained, I shelved the book and turned back to romance novels. 1984 is no longer a science fiction novel for me–it is horror.
Beckett, Bernard. Genesis. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009. ISBN 978-0547225494 150 pp. $20
Set in 2075, this novel follows the four-hour entrance examination of a prospective student to the prestigious Academy. Anax has chosen to be tested on her knowledge of a historical figure who was imprisoned for defying the rules of the isolated Republic where he was born by allowing a stranger with potentially harmful germs to come ashore on the island.
Reading almost like a play, the narrative is take up with the examiner’s questions and Anax’s responses, interspersed with her short breaks each hour. The book is an exercise in rhetoric, philosophical and introspective in tone.
The plot is unique and the writing is very good, but the story itself a bit dry and slow. The author withholds key information from the reader that is revealed in a surprise twist ending, frustrating for readers who prefer to figure things out on their own.
Browne, S.G. Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament. Crown, 2009. ISBN 978-0767930611. pp. $
In this self-proclaimed “zom-rom-com” the undead are the sympathetic characters. Victims of trauma are unexpectedly and unexplainably becoming “reanimated.” The zombies, all at different stages of acceptance, ability and decomposition, are outcasts of society. Their second class citizen treatment ranges from harassment (assault and limb-stealing) to SPCA imprisonment for curfew violations, with termination imminent if a human family member, or Breather, doesn’t bail them out.
Some cope by meeting in AA-styled group sessions. In Undead Anonymous, Andy develops a crush on the lovely Rita (a suicide victim) and meets several unique and interesting individuals, including the charismatic Ray, a self-sufficient zombie who refuses to be disenfranchised and rallies the others for equal rights for the reanimated.
This very funny satire manages to not take itself too seriously without getting campy. Browne deftly balances humor with pathos, and gore with romance. The vivid writing flows, delivering a satisfying pace and many amusing scenes. Characterizations are strong, and the voice steady throughout. My one criticism is that there is a hair of predictability to the story, but the ending still didn’t play out exactly as I thought.
The opening draws the reader in immediately: Andy comes to in his parents kitchen, suspecting he has just killed them. From there, Browne delivers a backstory that relates what life is like as a zombie that one could analogize to being a minority, gay, or even, a teen–others tend to make snap judgments about members of these communities and may be intolerant to varying degrees.
Espenson, Jane, editor. Finding Serenity: Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon’s Firefly. Smartpop 2005. ISBN 978-1932100433 256 pp. $19.95
A space western accented with Chinese culture and language and peopled with solid characters had a short-lived run on Fox networks in 2002, but it spawned a crazy loyal fan base of millions, that resulted in the concept being optioned for the big screen– watch for Serenity to debut September 30 at a theatre near you. This is truly an example of the Long Tail effect in action.
Whedon’s following tends to be highly educated, and this collection of scholarly essays deconstructs the 13 episodes of Firefly and examines the role of strong women, the ship as a character, the use of music, chivalry, the sacred feminine and goddess/whore, and the Chinese influence, complete with an episode-by-episode pronunciation guide and glossary. And other themes. Comparisons to other great SF engines are inevitable – Star Wars, Star Trek–but Don Debrandt’s essay comparing Firefly to another cult classic, the Tick, is an unexpected delight. Slamming of Fox network for canceling the series is mostly kept to a minimum. Contributors include science fiction and fantasy authors, actors, fans, and scholars such as Nancy Holder, Mercedes Lackey, Keith R. DeCandido and Joy Davidson.
This title isn’t full of glory though; writers raise questions about the role of the least explored characters on the ship, Shepard Book and River Tam; trash the pilot; take Whedon to task for his (perceived) lackluster commitment to feminism; and speculate about the unexplained Reavers. Hypotheses about what the show could have become (had it not been for it’s early demise) abound. Finally, actress Jewel Staite (“Kaylee”) shares her favorite moments from each episode, demonstrating the closeness of the cast and their love for what they helped make.
Everything is pulled together beautifully by editor and episode author Jane Espenson (Shindig”), who adds context to each entry. A must have for fans, and a great introduction for those who have yet to declare their Browncoat status.
The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
Great science fiction even for those, like me, who aren’t big sci-fi fans. Clones, drugs, eejits, pollution, drug lords, orphans, body part farming and transplanting…what more do you need to make a great story!
Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett
This book is not at the top of my list of favorite books, but for a mystery reader, this is a great choice.
Colfer, Eoin. The Supernaturalists. Hyperion, 2004 (reprint). ISBN 978-0786851485 265 pp. $16.95
Since I was at amazon.com I decided to look and see what people are saying about Eoin Colfer’s The Supernaturalists. I observed that the grown ups like Artemis Fowl better and the kids just love it … why am I not surprised? I think adults have trouble “moving on”. I think we should be more like children and read books on an individual basis…and I know, I need to follow my own advice! But I am a huge Colfer fan and love booktalking these books to any kid who will listen but especially those reluctant readers (most often, boys) and I want people to give this new book a chance!
One of the things I love about Colfer is how he combines technology with the supernatural & folklore. In his latest novel a dystopian future is controlled by a giant satellite…. and a group of kids are desperately and selflessly fighting parasites that prey on the wounded. I loved all the sci-fi aspects of this book… the insane power of the satellite, the complicated but not lethal weapons of the future, the rotating apartment building … yeah, we all love Artemis Fowl but these are the kinds of things that young boys want to read about… sorry, all you grown ups! And despite what the others say, I like the characters and I like that Colfer includes strong females in his books … and he does it effortlessly… they aren’t tokens, they belong here. Oh, and prepare yourself for a sequel… this one is primed!
Anderson, M.T. feed. Candlewick, 2004. ISBN 978-0763622596 299 pp. $8.49
M.T. Anderson’s feed is a haunting look at the future. With the “feed” implanted in almost everyone person’s brain at birth, individuality is a thing of the past. Advertising happens in a constant stream, directly to the brain. People can chat with each other through their feeds. They can send images, memories, and smells to one another through the feed. People can order a new pair of jeans from The Gap through the feed.
When Titus, who has had the feed since birth, meets Violet, he knows there is something different about her. And there is. Violet hasn’t had the feed for her entire life. She is fascinating. And infuriating. And honest. She teaches Titus the biggest lessons that exist on earth. And it all happens during a short-lived fad where young people are wearing riot gear–as in L.A. Riots, Kent State Riots…
Golden, Christopher. Force Majeure. Simon Pulse, 2002. ISBN 978-0743426701 400 pp. $
As if we didn’t have enough to worry about with the bioterrorism threat, now we have to be concerned about manufactured weather that could be used as a weapon. College student and super genius Shane is thrilled to have figured out how to create a tornado in a lab, thinking his discovery is pure science to be used to predict weather; when it turns out he is actually working for a secret government agency interested in using his experiment for harm, he walks out of the project–but when a series of suspicious weather patterns indicate someone has stolen his idea, a confrontation with his supervisor results in everyone whose lives he touches being in danger–as is his own.
This is a high drama tale that would translate well to film. The plot itself is unpredictable but not completely outrageous. The premise of the existence of a group of Truth Seekers working to stall government plots borders on X-Files but could lend itself well to a whole series of books.