The year is 2059. Imagine Britain, plunged into darkness and bitter cold. Fifteen-year-old Willo Blake, born after the snows that ushered in a new ice age, encounters outlaws, halfmen, and a starving abandoned girl as he journeys in search of his family who mysteriously disappeared from their secluded mountain home.
In recent years, much speculation has existed about how global warming might affect land, life and culture. Envision what might happen if climage change moved in the other direction. After the Snowoffers readers both a warning–a stark meditation on what might happen in the future and an opportunity to reflect on how we life and who we are in the world now.
Abbey Straw is a Princeton drop-out and amateur astronomer who captures a photo of a meteor that crashes into an island off the coast of Maine. She and her friend Jackie decide to hunt for and sell the meteor. They locate the impact area, but the only evidence of the meteor strike is a deep, straight hole that goes far into the earth. People are dying from wearing jewelry made from “honey” stones, and Wyman Ford, ex-CIA agent, is asked to investigate the mine in Cambodia that is the source of the stones. Rather than a mine, he locates the exit hole from a meteor that has passed through the earth. Mark Corso is a scientist working on a Mars mapping project when he discovers evidence of gamma rays coming towards the earth from Mars. Their lives intersect as they race to discover the source of the meteor and evade a killer who is looking for a hard drive that contains classified information about the Mars project. Impact is a fast-paced thriller that will keep readers guessing until the end and offers an interesting and intriguing view of what first contact with civilizations from other worlds might be like. Preston has create a novel with interesting characters and a plausible story line—a hard-to-put-down story!
Science fiction has a long history of struggling with complex philosophical ideas through elaborate “what if?” scenarios. Science fiction novels ranging from 1984 to The Lathe of Heaven to The Postmortal address a range of moral and ethical quandaries and allow problems to play out in worlds both similar and different to the one we know. Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress is one such work that addresses serious ethical questions about genetic modification, the rights of the individual versus the needs of the community and the questions of how community is defined.
In Beggars in Spain, genetic modification has become a reality. Parents can select for physical traits, certain behavioral traits can be encouraged if not yet selected for, and things like enhanced intelligence can also be chosen. One possible modification is eliminating the need to sleep. Leisha Camden’s father, a firm believer in individual effort, elects to have his daughter be a Sleepless. Other affects of this genetic modification include increased intelligence, a tendency toward having a pleasant disposition and, apparently, a much slower aging process.
The Sleepless change the way the world works. They come to dominate the business world very quickly after some Sleepless reach age 18. The possibilities for normal people who can’t compete against the Sleepless disappear quickly. First rhetoric against Sleepless becomes prevalent, and after the murder of one of the first Sleepless, the Sleepless remove themselves to an orbiting space station they call Sanctuary. The economy segments itself into those who live on the work of others (livers), those who work as politicians and businesspeople (donkeys), and those who pay for it all (the Sleepless). This delicate balance begins to fall apart when the demands of the United States become too great for Sanctuary to continue to comply. But the Sleepless have modified their own children to be even more intelligent than they are, and questions of what the Supers owe to the Sleepless and how they interact recall the way the Sleepless treat unmodified people.
Parallel worlds, both with scientific laboratories in caves miles underground. One world is inhabited by Homo sapiens, the other by Homo neanderthalensis. Ponter and Adikar were using their Quantum Computer to connect to other worlds, when Ponter disappeared. In the other world, a man (Ponter) is found in a tank of heavy water, how could he have gotten there and where did he come from? Security was tight and the tank was sealed. Homo sapien, Professor Mary Vaughan, runs DNA testing and finds that the man is indeed Neanderthal, but how he got there they haven’t a clue. With the help of Ponter’s implanted computer, they are able to communicate, but Ponter has lost all hope of returning to his family and friends.
While back on the Homo neanderthalensis world, Adikar is being accused of murder. A man has disappeared and there is no evidence of where he is. While Adikar has an idea about his disappearance, he is not allowed back into his laboratory. Adikar gets Ponter’s daughter to help him in his trial, but it isn’t enough. So Lute, his woman mate, causes trouble in the viewing room, so that Adikar can get to the laboratory to try and get Ponter back. Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer is the first book of a trilogy. Humans is book two and Hybrids is book three.
The people of the world are scared. Zombies are everywhere, and once you’ve been bitten, there’s no way to avoid becoming a flesh eating, brainless monster yourself. George and Shaun Mason are two of the few people in the world who actually seek out contact with zombies. It’s their source of income since they film and blog about the state of the world in 2039, 25 years after the Kellis-Amberlee virus made the dead stand up and walk. They’re good at their jobs and people trust them to bring them the news and an adrenaline rush, this is why they are asked to join the presidential campaign of Senator Peter Ryman to accompany and blog about his campaign.
Feed is set in a world where using zombies as a weapon is considered an act of terrorism and still carries the death penalty. This makes the acts of sabotage that plague the campaign and infect members of Senator Ryman’s camp even more unthinkable than they would otherwise be. George and Shaun are determined to get to the bottom of the attacks, even if they don’t survive to see the end of the campaign season.
Some other science-based horror novels worth reading: Peeps by Scott Westerfeld andThe Passage by Justin Cronin.
Gwyneth is sixteen, relatively normal, and lives with her extended family in a huge house in London. She does a lot of pretty normal teenage girl things: hanging out with her best friend, Lesley, chatting about boys and clothes, and dealing with her weird family members. She can also talk to ghosts, but she tries to keep that from becoming general knowledge. Things take an unexpected turn when Gwyneth starts making uncontrolled jumps into the past. That particular gift was supposed to be inherited by her cousin Charlotte. Charlotte has therefore been trained in self-defense, multiple foreign languages, proper etiquette and any number of other skills Gwyneth has not been taught.
This turn of events not only complicates things for Gwyneth, it complicates them for the secret society that guards and studies time travelers. The Lodge of Count Saint-Germain, also known as The Guardians, are trying to keep Gwyneth in the dark about many of their secrets while also using her to accomplish their ends. She is left trying to figure out the intricacies of time travel and its rules while also trying to figure out how she feels about her fellow time-traveler, Gideon de Villiers and the members of The Guardians.
Ruby Red is the first book in a series translated from the original German. The second book, Sapphire Blue, will be out in spring of 2012.
“In this world nothing is certain except death and taxes.” Benjamin Franklin What if that were no longer the case? The Postmortal by Drew Magary is based on the premise that death is no longer certain when a “cure” for aging is accidentally discovered by a geneticist looking for a way to genetically alter the color of his hair. What happens next is a look at what would potentially happen to the world with an indefinite end to the human lifespan. People no longer have goals, they stop getting married (because who wants to commit to a relationship that could last centuries?), ageism turns extreme, insurance companies won’t cover bypass surgery for a 28-year-old but more and more people need a bypass at that physical age. The world becomes more and more overcrowded as people continue to have babies but not enough people are dying from disease and unnatural causes to keep the population in check.
We see all of these developments and repercussions through the journal of John Farrell, a man with the “cure age” of 29. He turns down marriage to the mother of his child because he can’t imagine making that kind of commitment. He stops working and travels for a decade because he will never reach retirement age. He also joins the emerging field of “end specialization” when he returns to work. In this position, he works with a company where people can contract to voluntarily end their lives (fees on a sliding scale with the government subsidizing for those who can’t afford the fee). Through all this, we witness John’s relationships with his family, friends, lovers and co-workers as the world increasingly slides into chaos.
A chilling look at what the future could be that’s made more alarming by how realistic and believable Magary’s dystopian future is.
Interested in time travel and exploring the galaxy? Check out the DVD series Doctor Who. This adventure and humor-filled series from BBC was revived in 2005 after the first series was shown on British television from 1963 to 1989. The Doctor travels through time and space in his ship the Tardis–a blue police box–exploring new worlds and saving the Earth from alien threats. His travelling companions from Earth, beginning with Rose, are curious and adventuresome and offer the Doctor insights into human feelings and relationships. The Doctor delights in showing them the wonders of the universe. The Doctor’s character is fascinating–humor, excitement and frenetic intelligence are combined with bravery and wisdom. The element of time travels offers the characters the opportunity to interact with the likes of Charles Dickens and Agatha Christie. The show has won many British television awards and is currently in it’s 6th season on the BBC. Seasons 1 through 5 are available for check out at Manhattan Public Library. Other delightful BBC series available include Ballykissangel and Monarch of the Glen.
>Dream a little with James Patterson as his imagination allows children to flap their wings and fly. In The Angel Experiment children have been taken from their parents and injected with avian DNA by evil scientists. They may be 98 percent human, but the 2 percent avian DNA creates wings that allow them to soar. They are on the run from their captors and must use other special abilities to protect themselves from the Erasers, wolf-like, extremely strong, genetically-modified creatures who want them back in order to do further experiments. This group of kids looks out for each other and have compassion for each other’s failings and abilities. After freeing Angel, the youngest of their adopted family, the setting varies from Death Valley to the subway of New York City as the kids flee from the Erasers. More books follow to continue the story of Maximum Ride, the leader of the bird family and narrator of The Angel Experiment.
>In this wonderfully inventive debut, Mark Hodder pulls together a variety of genres (including time travel, steampunk, alternate history, mystery and more) into a rolicking story set in an alternate Victorian England. Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton, a Victorian era Renaissance Man, follows a different path in life when he is asked by the prime minister in 1861 to investigate the sightings of the (possibly mythic) figure Spring Heeled Jack. What follows is a tale of werewolves, a talking orangutan, steam-powered velocipedes and rotorchairs as Burton tries to locate Spring Heeled Jack and find out why boys from the East End are disappearing. Burton recruits his friend, the poet Algernon Swinburne, to aid him in his investigation as he faces off with such Victorian era giants as Charles Darwin, Laurence Oliphant, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Florence Nightingale. The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack is the first in the planned Burton and Swinburne series. While Hodder pulled everything together into a satisfying ending for Spring Heeled Jack, there is more than enough there for another narrative featuring the intrepid Burton and Swinburne.
>There are a ridiculous number of books being published right now featuring vampires (and werewolves and zombies). The Passage by Justin Cronin happens to feature vampires. But if you’re not a Twilight fan, don’t let the vampires put you off of The Passage. These vampires don’t sparkle and don’t get involved in melodramatic love triangles. These vampires are out of the Stoker tradition, although in this wonderfully captivating novel the vampire condition is caused by a virus harvested and modified by the government to create super soldiers.
One hundred years after “virals” escape a government testing facility in Colorado, there live a group of people in a place known as “The Colony” in what was California. On a maintenance trip to the power station powering the lights that keep their settlement from being overrun by the virals, they find a girl on her own. She has a chip implanted in her neck recording her vitals that has been recording for approximately the past hundred years. They have also discovered a radio transmission repeating the message “if you found her, bring her here.” The obvious conclusion is that the transmission refers to this mystery girl.
A small group sets out to discover the source of the transmission and find out if the reason this girl is still alive after one hundred years is information that can save the rest of humanity. The lights at The Colony are failing, and there isn’t much time to find an answer.
>The Hunger Games trilogy has become a cultural phenomenon over the past couple years, and the final book in the trilogy, Mockingjay, goes on sale tonight at 12:01 AM. Like Harry Potter, there will be midnight release parties for this one. If you’re on the hold list for Mockingjay (or The Hunger Games or Catching Fire, for that matter), below are some other books you’ll find in the library that might appeal to you.
Uglies is the first book in a trilogy by Scott Westerfeld. In this dystopic future, people go through surgery to become “pretties” at 16, a change that enhances similar characteristics and shifts features toward the ideal of beauty. Teens are then free to party and play. Tally is one young Ugly who yearns to become a Pretty, but things get turned upside down when her friend Shay runs away and Tally is told to go spy on her or never be allowed to become a Pretty.
Yelena is convicted of killing a general’s son and sentenced to death by hanging. Granted a reprieve in exchange for becoming a poison taster for the Commander, ruler of Ixia, Yelena is soon caught up in castle politics. She also realizes some people want her dead and Ixia is not a terribly stable country at the moment. Poison Study,with a strong leading female character, complicated political machinations and a riveting romance will suck in readers as surely as The Hunger Games did.
For a more grown-up version of The Hunger Games, Genesis may appeal. In this near-future dystopia, Anax is a young historian living in an island society that is a refuge from the rest of the devastated planet. The island is founded on security and order above freedom, modeled after Plato’s Republic. Anax wants to enter the Academy, and completes her entrance exam paper on Adam Forde, a soldier who rescued a young girl from a raft and was sentenced to work with an advanced robot named Art as his punishment. This short novel is a philosophical work centered on the interaction of humanity, technology and the environment, but it manages to read like a thriller the whole way through.
A few other ideas for books like those in The Hunger Games trilogy include:
Suzanne Collin’s second book in the Hunger Games trilogy is another riveting sci fi thriller that kept me on the edge and wanting more. Katniss succeeded in winning the first Hunger Games and disrupting the Capitol’s one-winner rule with the help of Peeta. Now it is time for the Victory Tour and the next games and the President has horrible plans to keep the districts in line once again.
Dystopian novels are defined as including an often futuristic version of a society in which conditions of life are miserable and characterized by poverty, oppression, war, violence and terror resulting in widespread unhappiness, suffering and other kinds of pain. So why would someone want to read such dismal fare? Catching Fire also includes characters who define what is great about humankind. They show sacrifice, love and humility for each other and in this case, fight for the greater good.
The final outcome of Panem will be revealed in the third novel due out next fall. If you cannot wait that long then try another exciting dystopian novel, The Maze Runner by James Dashner.