Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Celebrating Sci- Fi Month

It's Sci-Fi Month and we're crawling out of our skins to share our all time favorite Science Fiction Literature with you! From the futuristic Star Wars to old school science methods, from post apocalyptic to traveling through time... we've got it all covered.

Melanie's Favorites:

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. 

This work takes places just before an apocalypse purposefully orchestrated with science. While life is improved by science (including crossing species to make new ones), it is also controlled by big corporations. One person feels that starting over with a better version of human and total destruction of compounds and corporations is humanity's best bet.

Octavia Butler

I don't have a particular book to recommend, but Butler is one of the most important science fiction writers that the U.S. has seen because she dared to imagine the genre differently: as a black woman. Science fiction hasn't always been friendly to people of color, and has only acknowledged those who aren't white by ignoring them or obviously attributing them as "aliens." However, Butler wanted to see black people at the forefront of a genre she so dearly loved and wrote many books of science fiction, including the Xenogenesis trilogy.

VAS: An Opera in Flatland by Steve Tomasula. 

In this work you won't find ray guns or any super science the likes of which we often find in comic books. Instead, Tomasula uses science to tell a story. A family of three (husband, wife, daughter) are content, but should they permanently decide three is enough? The book uses old science that is now outdated, eugenics, charts, data, and more combined with the story of this family and whether or not the husband should get a vasectomy. As you're reading more about the science (tied in with gender and politics), you realize that you're being told an entire story about the significance of permanent methods of birth control, which have been used for various means to an end throughout history. 

Lindsey's Favorites:

I’m not so much a Sci Fi fan as I am a huge Star Wars fan; I’ve read nearly 70 Star Wars books and counting. The Thrawn Trilogy (Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command) by Timothy Zahn is truly a defining piece in the Star Wars Extended Universe (that Lucas Arts is now calling the Legends series). This series introduces not only a new key character to Han, Luke and Leia, but also a hauntingly unique villain. Every reader/Star Wars fan needs to get their hands on this series, whether in print our audio.

Or, The Martian Chronicles. Or basically everything by Ray Bradbury. I know he’s mainstream, not a hidden gem, but his science fiction is so well written, so clear, so inventive without being crazy. I particularly like Now and Forever, which is a set of two very different novellas. The second of the set, Leviathan ’99  is a retelling of Moby Dick, but in space. Enough said, right?

Kate's Favorites:

Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy

Connie is a Latina woman who has been institutionalised because she’s apparently insane, but Connie believes she has the ability to communicate with an alternative future.

The book was published in 1976 and says much about the preoccupations of the time. Some of it has dated but much has not. It bursts with ideas about science, the environment, gender and race. The questions it raises about mental health, about the medicalisation of distress, the line between treatment and control and who gets to decide what is “normal” seem more relevant than ever.

Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut

I’ve only recently discovered Vonnegut, in fact, spurred on by the recent TNBBC feature on audiobooks, I decided to make this my first attempt to listen to a novel. I was feeling unwell at the time and, being a fast reader, decided to listen at 1.5x normal speed. This made for a breathless delivery which, along with Vonnegut’s hallucinogenic writing perfectly complemented my half-waking state.

What’s it about? A crazed satire on consumerism? A failed science-fiction writer about to tip a man into madness? Vonnegut’s attempt to “clear my head of all the junk in there”? All of that and more. I found it stunning.

The Bees by Laline Paull

I’m a keen gardener so I spend a lot of time watching and wondering about bees. This book is a dystopian novel about a young worker bee, Flora, who fails to conform to the “hive mind”. Paull has done a lot of research and people who know about these things have praised her accurate depiction of life in the hive.

It’s a great story, which asks many clever questions about the nature of society, about the benefits and the costs of belonging, about what makes an individual. It’s also about as close as you’ll get to knowing what it’s like to be a bee.

Drew's Favorites:

For as much as I really loved sci-fi as a kid (heavily into Stars both Wars and Trek - we can coexist, people, I swear it), I realize that I've let my sci-fi reading slip away in favor of excellent sci-fi films like Ex Machina or Primer or shows like Battlestar Galactica. That doesn't mean I don't read it anymore, but my standards are way more demanding, maybe actually more demanding than they are in any other genre. Here are a couple that I've read in the last few years that were up to snuff. 

Embassytown by China MiĆ©ville.

I'm absolutely over the moon for MiƩville's stuff and Embassytown, his last full-length for adults, is one of my favorites. The idea is that on a planet way out on the edge of the universe, humanity coexists with the Ariekei, whose unique physiognomy means that they have two heads that speak simultaneously to form words. They only understand humans who are paired together and trained to speak the same way. It's an intense concept but he really delivers, both on the high-minded stuff and on the broad action/adventure of the setting, too.

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples. A currently-running comic about a war between a planet and its moon, about a star-crossed couple (one from each place) who have a kid and go on the run. But it's also about so much more and it is truly deserving of its grandiose title. I felt, reading the first volume, like I did seeing Star Wars for the first time.

Dune by Frank Herbert. An oldie, but a goodie. The rest of the series goes pretty far off the rails (although the next two books were also decent) and this one takes a little while to get going... but the scope and invention of this book captivated me as a kid and I never forgot about it.  The houses, the sandworms, Muad'Dib, the Spice... I haven't read the book in maybe ten years but I remember it like I read it yesterday. 

Lori's Favorites:

So my definition of science fiction may be a little looser than yours. Does apocalyptic and post pandemic count? I mean, it is all depicting alternate futures and takes science into consideration, right? Whatever. I'm going with it....

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndhan

Nothing can beat old school science fiction. I mean, seriously, a man-made plant raised on farms for its oils, a comet of strange green lights, and waking up to a world so far removed from any that we have had to survive before? The pacing and tension made the story. I had to chuckle at the fact that everyone in the book was waiting on America to come save them. 

Above all Men by Eric Shonkwiler

This book blew me away. But you know that already. A soft science fiction novel that walks us through the brink of a dustbowl apocalypse. It's a bleak tale of the beginning of the end of the world. Of a family man who feels the weight of everyone's worries on his shoulders. Of this man who, regardless of consequence, is determined to make sure everyone is alright, even if it means hurting the ones he cares about most. It's a tale of survival as much as it is one of destruction. And Shonkwiler pulls it off effortlessly.

The Only Ones by Carola Dibbell

In a near future, a series of back-to-back viruses and infections plague the country and wipe most humans out. People are still getting sick and dying and this novel's concerned with just one thing... keeping our species from going extinct. So Carola's focus turns towards genetics and cloning and playing god by manufacturing hope for humanity in a petri dish. It's an amazing post-pandy novel that plays with language and conception in an unforgettable way. 

The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman

This novel polarized many of its readers. Newman created a brand new dialect in a post-pandy world populated by children who will die of posies before they reach adulthood. It's the perfect blend of Lord of the Flies and Clockwork Orange. It's heady and ballsy and manages to break every dystopian barrier there is with a sophisticated ease. Oh yeah, and we're discussing it with the author this coming week over at TNBBC on goodreads!


  1. Okay, I have to admit that I read the first three books in the Barsoom series (there are many more than three) by Edgar Rice Burroughs, famed creator of Tarzan. The books are so amped up that you almost feel like you're running around yourself! I had doofy fun reading them, and they are great pulp sci-fi! :)

    Why do I always think of more books AFTER the post?!

  2. Great list! We just did the audiobook for The Only Ones and it is SO GOOD.