Category Archives: sci-fi/fantasy

Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld

spill-zoneOh. Em. Gee!  I didn’t even know this book was out until I saw something about the second book coming out this July.  Even though I am not a huge graphic novel reader, I try to push myself to read at least a couple a year so that I can stay in touch with what it out there for my library patrons who do prefer graphic novels.  Since I am also a huge fan of Scott Westerfeld’s work, especially the Uglies series, I figured it was a good bet that I would enjoy this one.  I am happy to report that reading this was a lot more fun than work!  😉  In fact, I read this entire book in only three sittings because it was so hard to put down.

In Poughkeepsie, NY, there has been a Spill.  No one really seems to know what exactly happened.  They just know that it is no longer safe inside the Spill Zone.  Military personnel guard the perimeter and people don’t tend to go inside except government scientists in hazmat suits.  There are all sorts of weird things happening.  Animals morphing into strange creatures.  Inanimate objects moving around despite a lack of wind.  And, in the words of Addison Merrick, the dead have become “meat puppets.”  Though she was not in town when the Spill happened, he little sister was.  Because they are allowed to stay in their home, which is inside the Spill Zone, Addison has taken to exploring and taking pictures she can sell to support her sister.  But, how long will it be before her explorations take her too far?!?

Happy Reading!

P.S.
Speaking of Westerfeld’s Uglies series…  Check this out!  (#squeeeeeeee)

 

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Renegades by Marissa Meyer

renegadesContrary to popular belief, heroes are not always perfectly behaved and villains are not always evil.  In fact, heroes sometimes act out of spite or self-interest, and villains sometimes act selflessly to help other people.  In this story, both the Renegades and the Anarchists are comprised of prodigies — people with special powers, much like the X-Men — but their vastly different ideologies have placed them on opposite sides of the hero-villain spectrum.  The Anarchists honestly believe that society would fare better without so much governmental oversight and interference, i.e. with anarchy.  The Renegades, on the other hand, think that they are doing society a favor by overseeing everyone and bringing back law and order.  Though both sides think their way would be best for the greater good, neither side seems capable of seeing the other side’s point of view.

Enter Nova, aka Nightmare.

Nova was raised by her Uncle Ace [the leader of the Anarchists] after the Renegades failed to protect her family.  Nova has been consumed by a desire to avenge their deaths for as long as she can remember, but none of her plans seem to work out.  Luckily, the Anarchists have an alternate plan that just might work.  Because the Renegades don’t know Nightmare’s true identity, the Anarchists decide to send Nova to Renegade try-outs so that they can use her to gather intel and take down the Renegades from the inside.  Of course, it doesn’t take long for Nova, who takes on the Renegade name of Insomnia, to start to feel conflicted.  Not only does she start to fall for a guy who is a part of the Renegades, but she starts to see *why* the Renegades operate the way they do and that their methods actually have some merit to them.  What’s a girl to do?!?

Happy Reading!

The Eye of Minds by James Dashner

eye-of-mindsBecause I enjoyed Dashner’s Maze Runner series, and am not-so-patiently waiting for the theatrical release of Ready Player One (by Ernest Cline), I thought this seemed like an audiobook I should probably check out.  I mean, what’s not to like about a fast-paced technological thriller, right?!?  Much like in Ready Player One, a lot of this story took place in a virtual world.  Rather than just using goggles and gloves to connect to that virtual world, though, the people in this story use “coffins” that provide their bodies with physical sensations to make it feel as if they are actually experiencing the sensations (both pleasure and pain) of the VirtNet.

Michael is a gamer who spends more of his time in the VirtNet than in actual reality.  And, who can blame him?  Most of his friends are people he has never met in real life, and his hacking skills mean that he can be better, faster, and stronger with only a few lines of code.  Rumors begin to circulate about a “bad” hacker who is using his skills to trap people in the VirtNet against their will, which causes the victims to suffer brain damage and memory loss in real life.  Shortly after meeting a girl who claimed to be a victim, Michael was contacted by someone from the government who asked him to use his hacking skills for good by tracking down the perpetrator.  Sounds simple enough, right?  Yeah…  Definitely not!  If you want lots of action and adventure set in a high-tech virtual world, you’ll definitely want to read this one.

Happy Reading!

The One Safe Place by Tania Unsworth

one-safe-placeDevin never knew life before the Earth got too hot.  All he knew of that time was what his grandfather told him.  But, despite the fact that he grew up in the “after,” he wasn’t really aware of the hardships that affected most people.  Growing up on the farm, he learned how to make due with what the animals and the land provided.  As long as he and his grandfather worked hard, they had all they really needed.  When his grandfather died, though, it became too much for a single person to manage.  So, Devin set off to the city to see if he could find anyone to help him work the farm.  For the first time in his life, Devin experienced true thirst and hunger.  He was also exposed to the darker side of humans when he encountered people who were willing to hurt others and steal in order to survive as well as those who ignored the suffering of others.

After settling in with some other orphaned children who taught him to scam and scavenge enough to get by, Devin began to hear rumors about a special home for children.  If the rumors were to be believed, it was a place in which children would have more than enough food and toys for all.  Even better?  There was a chance that the children could be adopted by families that could provide for them!  Some of the orphans believed in this place, but others thought it was a mere fairy tale.  When Devin met an older boy who promised to bring him to this home for children, though, he decided to take a chance.  As it turns out, this home really did exist… but something was not quite right.  This book is technically “middle grade” fiction, but teen and adult fans of dystopias should definitely check it out.

Happy Reading!

Divided We Fall by Trent Reedy

divided-we-fallDanny Wright signed up for the Army National Guard when he was 17 years old because he felt compelled to both serve his country and to honor the memory of his father, who died while serving in the Army.  At first, he was proud to wear his uniform and excited to get to train with high-powered guns… but that all changed only a short time after he finished bootcamp.  Why?  He was called in by the Governor of Idaho to help with protests in Boise (about a proposed new federal ID card) and things got very out of hand very quickly.  One accidental shot turned into a firefight in which civilians were injured and killed, and people started making comparisons to the Kent State shootings that took place during a Vietnam War protest in 1970.  Knowing that he fired the shot that started it all, and seeing how quickly people snapped to pass judgement when they did not have all the facts, he was glad that the Governor pledged to protect the identities of the guardsmen who were involved.  But, how long would the Governor be able to protect them when the President of the United States of America was demanding answers?

I especially appreciated the way Reedy worked in both extreme news coverage and polarized social media reactions.  I was impressed to see a YA novel tackle the very complex topic of federal government/federal laws vs state government/states’ rights, but the audiobook impressed me even more.  Much like Countdown, this audiobook uses a variety of sound effects and multiple readers to create sound bites that mimic news broadcasts and to set apart the non-narrative portions of the book.  The only “down side” to listening to this audiobook all at once (on a road trip) was that the “near future” setting seemed entirely too plausible and actually made me feel a little anxious as if I were really listening to the news.  :-/

Happy Reading!

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

ready-player-one As a child of the 80s (having been born in 1979), this book felt so much like coming home.  All of the references to 80s pop culture, especially geek culture, were just so spot-on!  I was not an arcade kid, since we didn’t have an arcade close enough to my house, but I definitely played more than my fair share of video games on personal gaming consoles like the Atari 2600 and NES.  I also have fond memories of playing puzzle and sim games on the Commodore 64 and Mac Classic in “computer class” at school.  I also watched waaaaaay too much TV and too many movies, so most of Cline’s references felt like a conversation with an old friend.  It’s beyond obvious that Ernest Cline was a fellow geek and that he loved all the cheeseball 80s stuff just as much as my friends and I did.  For real…  If you are a fanboy/fangirl of geeky 80s pop culture, you NEED to read this book!

Even better than the reminiscing, though, was the foreshadowing of what could come to be if we (citizens of the world) don’t change our reliance on fossil fuels and unplug a little from the world of “social media” to actually interact with the people and the world around us — in real life!  Imagine, if you will, a future in which most people around the world are so immersed in a virtual reality “utopia” known as the OASIS that they rarely leave their houses.  Since most people no longer have their own vehicles or even the financial means to utilize public transportation, the OASIS was the closest thing they would ever get to traveling.  Kids even started to attend school in the OASIS because the virtual world created it’s own schools to let pressure off of the failing public school system.  When I read one quote, I wondered if Cline was really just that attuned to the forthcoming changes in our society back in 2011 or if he somehow traveled through time to 2016 before he finished his story — “Now that everyone could vote from home, via the OASIS, the only people who could get elected were movie stars, reality TV personalities, or radical televangelists.”

One of the creators of the OASIS, James Halliday, had very few friends and never married or had any children.  By the time of his death, he had even been estranged from his former business partner and one-time best friend for about a decade.  So, before he died, he crafted an elaborate “Easter Egg” hunt within his virtual world to determine who would receive his fortune.  Halliday’s last will and testament was announced to the world with a video chock-full of 80s references and explained that his heir would need to use their knowledge of Halliday’s favorite things to puzzle out the location of three keys and three gates/trials he had programmed into the OASIS.  Everyone went nuts at first, but excitement waned after the first five years and only hardcore Gunters (a condensation of “egg hunters”) like Wade kept up the hunt.  When Wade finds the first key and his name shows up on the leader board, though, the OASIS is suddenly hopping again and the competition stirs up adventure, danger, and even romance. I can’t wait to see how the movie of this book turns out…

Happy Reading!

 

Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

jane-unlimitedJane led a relatively quiet life.  She was raised by her Aunt Magnolia, who was an adjunct professor best known for her work as a wildlife photographer.  Sadly, Aunt Magnolia was lost on one of her adventures in Antarctica, and Jane was left completely alone.  Though able to make ends meet, Jane barely did more than mourn her aunt, work, and construct umbrellas.  Construct umbrellas?  Yes, you read that right.  Jane was a bit of an artist, but her works were elaborately themed umbrellas rather than photographs or paintings.  (One of her favorites, for example, looked like a speckled bird’s egg.)

Everything changed, though, when Jane was visited by an acquaintance named Kiran Thrash.  Kiran insisted that Jane should come home with her — to her estate, Tu Reviens, for a gala.  Though Jane was reluctant to go, she recalled a time when Aunt Magnolia had made her promise that she would go to Tu Reviens if she was ever invited.  With nothing much to lose, she agreed.  And this was where everything went wacky…  Not only did Jane meet a variety of people — everyone from Kiran’s family to the caretakers of the Tu Reviens property — but she also found herself in the midst of a great heist.  Right as everyone was ramping up and preparing for the gala, some very famous (and very expensive) artwork went missing.

This was nothing like the Graceling [fantasy] stories, though I don’t think fans of that trilogy will necessarily be disappointed.  Jane, Unlimited was very much a mystery/spy story, but it had coming-of-age, romance, and science fiction elements as well.  In fact, I can’t imagine having to pin it down to a single genre.  Since it is very character driven, and there are SO MANY characters to get to know, it was a little slow for me to get into this one at first.  I think that perseverance paid off, but I feel compelled to “warn” readers, nevertheless, that this book has a bit of a Groundhog’s Day feel to it.   There were several times where I wondered if I had lost my place and read something over again only to realize that only some, not all, of that information had been revealed before.  I can’t say much more without giving away any spoilers, so I will just have to ask you to trust me on this one and read it when it comes out in September.  (Hope you like it as much as I did.)

Happy Reading!