I know we’ve already reviewed this book, but I think it needs to be revisited. It’s that good. I’ve been told by several people to read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, but I put it off as I always do. I was finally forced to read it and from the first page I was completely absorbed. I have since forced several others to read it and everyone has loved it so far. On the surface it’s a book about a teenager in the future playing video games, but it’s also a coming-of-age story, action-adventure, a little bit romance, a novel about the human condition. This is just a great story, so I’m glad it’s been picked as the K-State Common Book for 2013. We’ll be partnering with them so look out for some opportunities to explore the book further in the fall. I can’t wait to hear what you think about it!
For those of you lucky enough to get a few days off from work or school, Spring Break is a great time to relax with a stack of books or have a movie marathon. Why not celebrate your inner nerd by focusing on techie books or movies?
There are many great techie books out there, but here are a few of my recent favorites:
“Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline
It is the year 2044, and the world is a pretty bleak place. Like many others, Wade Watts prefers to spend the majority of his time in the virtual reality world of OASIS, rather than his poverty-stricken real world. For years, Wade and countless others have been searching OASIS for hidden clues that will lead to the billions of dollars amassed by the late OASIS creator, James Halliday. To find the clues, Wade has immersed himself in the life of Halliday, including his obsession with 80’s pop culture. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, suddenly the whole world is watching him, and Wade realizes that some will stop at nothing ,including murder, to be the first to find Halliday’s fortune. If you grew up in the 80’s, this book is particularly enjoyable, since it is filled with references to video games, movies, TV, and music from the 80’s.
“Robopocalypse” by Daniel Wilson
Set in the near-future, this chilling read recounts the history of a massive war between machines and humans. Dr. Wasserman has created an artificial intelligence named Archos who finds a way to kill off his creator and begin his plan to destroy humankind from the earth. Archos slowly takes control of machines all over the world, including toys, factory equipment, domestic service robots, cars, and military equipment. Few humans notice until it is too late. By then, Archos has launched a full-scale coordinated attack all over the world. Millions are killed instantly, and human annihilation seems likely. Be aware that reading this could lead to significant paranoia!
“Epic” by Conor Kostick
Welcome to a planet where violence has been banned and disputes are settled in the fantasy computing game, Epic. Status and wealth are also dependent upon winning in the gaming world. Things seem to be running along smoothly, until Erik’s dad is unfairly punished by the Central Allocations committee that rules the entire planet. Erik and his friends embark on a quest to bring an end to Epic, but must face dangers within Epic and in the real world. This book is great for middle school grades and older, so after you read it yourself, share it with your teens.
If you need a break from reading, check out some movies. Revisit one of these classic techie movies:
In a future world, Sam Lowry, a bureaucrat, tries to correct an administrative error and inadvertently becomes entangled in a revolution.
Deckard is a blade runner, a cop who tracks down replicants (human clones) and terminates them. He comes out of retirement to track down four replicants who have escaped from an off-world colony and returned to earth.
A cyborg is sent from the future to find and kill Sarah Connor, whose son will grow up to lead humanity in a war against machines.
“2001: A Space Odyssey”
Humans find a mysterious artifact buried on the moon, and with the intelligent computer HAL 9000, set off on a quest to Jupiter to try to find the source of the artifact.
Or, try a newer techie movie like one of these:
“The Social Network”
This is the story of how Mark Zuckerberg, a Harvard student at the time, created Facebook and became the youngest billionaire in history.
“Star Trek” (2009)
Newly commissioned James T. Kirk and his crew of the USS Enterprise head to Vulcan when an emergency arises. Watch this before “Star Trek Into Darkness” comes out in theaters in May.
At the end of the nineteenth century in London, two famous rival magicians battle it out to be the greatest, which results in tragic consequences.
All of these techie books and movies can be found at Manhattan Public Library. Be sure to check out the techie books display in the young adult area for other great techie reads.
The second book in the Lunar Chronicles after Cinder, Scarlet is the story of Little Red Riding Hood set in a dystopian future where the world is under constant threat from aliens living on the moon and plague has devastated the population.
Scarlet lives on a farm near a small town in France with her grandmother. When her grandmother goes missing, Scarlet does everything she can to try to find her, including trying to get information out of a very intimidating professional fighter known as Wolf. Wolf may be involved in her grandmother’s disappearance, or he may simply be trying to help her. With no other information about how to find her grandmother, Scarlet goes with Wolf to Paris to confront the gang he says took her, the Order of the Pack.
Cinder’s story is also continued in this novel. Her goal is to find out more about her past since she still has no memory of her childhood before New Beijing.
The third book in the series, Cress, is set to be released in 2014. While Scarlet didn’t have quite the cliffhanger Cinder did, I still can’t wait to see what happens to these characters.
As a huge Doctor Who fan and someone who grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, how could I possibly resist this graphic novel that combines the two? I obviously couldn’t.
The Doctor, Amy, and Rory have decided to visit somewhere cool and foggy and end up in San Francisco. When they run into an android in a bar, they realize the TARDIS has materialized inside the holodeck of the USS Enterprise and they are speaking to Data, Commander Riker, and Doctor Crusher. It doesn’t appear to be a coincidence that the Doctor is suddenly in another science fiction universe when the Cybermen show up. The Doctor tells the crew of the USS Enterprise about his dealings with the Cybermen when they realize the Borg and the Cybermen are working together to attack a planet in Delta IV.
The Doctor starts remembering flashes of something that never happened and realizes that the Cybermen have gone back and changed history. Can the Doctor convince Captain Picard that the Cybermen are just as dangerous as the Borg? Sadly, we all have to wait until January to find out.
After reading Wool Omnibus by science fiction author Hugh Howey, he will be on my “must read” list. This particular book is actually a collection of the five Wool novellas, the first of which was self- published by Howey in July 2011. Wool takes place in an underground “silo” at some indeterminate time in the future. Life in the silo is strictly controlled and orderly. The strict rules and population control are necessary to prevent any more uprisings. Life outside the silo is uninhabitable; at least that’s what everyone is told. The only view from the top floor of the silo is of brown hills, dust storms, and crumbling skyscrapers in the distance. No one who has left the silo has ever come back. It is even forbidden to talk about going outside the silo. Discussing it will get you exactly what you wish. That is precisely what is happening to Sheriff Holston. He used to be the enforcer, and now he is the one being sent outside. He will join his wife who was sent outside three years before. Holston’s story sets off a chain reaction of events with different characters that begin to unravel some of the secrets surrounding the silo. How did everyone get in the silo? Who built the silo? What is in the outside world? Is it really unsafe to go outside? Do the silo’s leaders really have everyone’s best interests in mind? For everyone who enjoys the Wool series, Howey is working on a prequel series as well. You check out his progress on his website: http://www.hughhowey.com/.
Ashes, by Ilsa J. Bick is an American Library Association 2012 Teen Top Ten Nomination. I had heard good things about the book, but hesitated to pick it up because I’m not really into zombies. However, zombies or no zombies, it gripped my interest from the first few pages. Seventeen year old Alex has had a rough life. Her parents died in an accident and shortly thereafter she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After multiple treatments that have not worked, her case is terminal. While her body and mind are still functioning she takes one last trip into the Waucamaw Wilderness where she has camped many times with her dad. Just a few days into her trip electromagnetic pulses are set off, wiping out power and electronic devices everywhere. To make matters worse, the pulse kills off a large portion of the population and turns most young adults into crazed zombies. Alex along with fellow survivors Ellie, a young girl, and Tom, a soldier who is on leave, band together to survive. The plot continually twists and turns and kept me on the edge of my seat. I always felt like some new horror was lurking around every corner (and more often than not it was). Although some of the action sequences are quite gruesome, this part horror/part post- apocalyptic novel kept me riveted until the end. If you like books wrapped up all neat and tidy at the end this is not for you! Virtually nothing is resolved by the end, and there is a cliffhanger worthy of the Hunger Games. Luckily, book number two of this planned trilogy, Shadows, comes out September 25th!
It is the quietest time of year in Manhattan. Most of the summer activities have come to an end and we still have some time before the energy of returning students and school starting up. The recent heat has caused us all to be a bit wilted. A good laugh can help you through the end-of-summer doldrums so you can be cheerful when all our new residents come pouring in.
You might have heard of Lisa Scottoline’s suspense novels. What is less well known is that she partners with her daughter to write nonfiction that will crack you up. Her latest, Best Friends, Occasional Enemies: the Lighter Side of Life as a Mother and Daughter talks about the close and challenging relationships in families, while making sure to see the humor in life. Another nonfiction favorite is Bill Bryson, known best for his travel memoirs. Whether he’s on a trip across the pond in Notes from a Small Island or traveling back in time with The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid Bryson’s work is known for causing annoyance to those near readers because of the constant chuckling and the repeated phrase “You’ve got to hear this.”
Romance is a genre ripe with scenarios of people making idiots of themselves for our reading enjoyment. In Summer at Seaside Cove by Jacquie D’Alessandro, Jamie Newman escapes New York for the beach in an attempt to regroup after a failed relationship, only to face a run-down shack, an ever-present family, and a difficult (but of course attractive) neighbor/landlord. The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig takes us back to the French Revolution with the story of Amy Balcourt. Amy heads out to France with hopes to become a spy with the league of the Purple Gentian. Secrets, misunderstandings, and clumsy spying attempts don’t bode well for her career, but the Purple Gentian finds that he wants her close by anyway.
If you like your romance heavy on the humor but light on spice, you might like these Christian authors. A Bride in the Bargain by Deeanne Gist tells the story of Washington settler Joe Denton who needs a wife to keep his land and Ana Ivey who unknowingly signs off as a bride when she just hopes to escape to the west to find a job cooking. Full of witty dialogue and likeable characters, Gist’s books are a treat. In Fancy Pants by Cathy Marie Hake, Lady Syndey Hathwell escapes to her long lost uncle’s ranch disguised as a man. Ranch manager Tim Creighton is disgusted by his new ranch hand’s hardworking but inept and weak attempts to live up to his expectations.
For humor with a more mysterious turn, you might try The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection, takes up the case when characters suddenly begin to disappear from great works of literature. A mix of fantasy and mystery is delightfully witty. Alan Bradley takes you into the world of the engaging Flavia de Luce, eleven year old chemist in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. When she discovers a dying man in the garden, she revels in the joy of investigation.
Some of us like our humor to be a little otherworldly. In A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore, neurotic hypochondriac and recent widower, Charlie Asher, is faced with the challenges of a new baby and a new and unwanted job as a merchant of death. Scott Rockwell has adapted Terry Pratchett’s Discworld into Graphic Novel format, maintaining the bizarrely humorous feel from the original novels about a parallel world that rests on the backs of four elephants balanced on a giant turtle hurtling through space.
When the hot, slow days start to get you down, just remember the words of MarkTwain, “Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.”
Ready Player One, the debut novel by Ernest Cline is a great read! The story takes place in the not too distant future of 2044 and the world is a pretty bleak place to live for most people. The main character, Wade Watts lives in the “Stacks” a trailer park where the trailers are stacked on top of one another. Like many others, Wade prefers to spend most of his time in the virtual reality world of OASIS which is much more pleasant than the real world. Wade, along with fellow gunters (Easter egg hunters) spend all of their spare time searching for an “Easter egg” hidden in the virtual reality world of OASIS by multi billionaire James Halliday, the recently deceased creator of OASIS. The person that finds the egg first, will inherit Halliday’s vast fortune. The Sixers are a particular group of gunters that work for IOI, a large corporation that is determined to inherit Halliday’s billions and take control of OASIS. They will stop at nothing to find the egg, including murder. To find clues to where the egg is hidden, gunters must immerse themselves in the life of James Halliday and the things that he loved. Chief among those is 80’s pop culture and video games. If you grew up in the 80’s (like myself) you will particularly enjoy this book. It was fun to reminisce about old episodes of Family Ties, playing Atari, and watching movies like Back to the Future. Didn’t grow up in the 80’s? This is a great way to educate yourself about the 80’s while having a great time! Fans of the book will also have the movie to look forward to, as the movie rights have already been sold to Warner Bros.
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 Snow offers 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.
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.