Category Archives: science fiction

Low Chicago ed. by George R. R. Martin

low chicago cover

Low Chicago edited by George R.R. Martin is a collection of short stories tied together in an overall plot – I don’t think they can really be enjoyed individually. This is not the first wild card book In the series, but it is the first that I have read; I’m not sure if someone more familiar with the series would have been less overwhelmed in the beginning. Low Chicago is a type of poker, and the book starts out with a poker game and turns into a time travel adventure (much more interesting than poker).

I did enjoy the book, and I plan to try the first book in the series. I liked “Meathooks on Ice” the best … and I now know how the great Chicago fire started (the cow was innocent). There was a surprising amount of politics in the stories.

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Andy Ashenfelter
Rating:  Recommended
Challenge: Published in 2018

From the Dust Returned by Ray Bradbury

From the Dust ReturnedRay Bradbury is a man of many gifts. If you like sci-fi or horror fiction with a dash of fantasy, chances are Bradbury has something for you. From the Dust Returned by Ray Bradbury is one of his later books, and collects a few stories published elsewhere throughout Bradbury’s career, as well as some new ones. Everything is tied up around one family of sorts in Illinois that is made up of all sorts of strange creatures, from a kindly uncle with wings to a sleeping Egyptian princess whose mind explores the world and minds around her. The main conflict that is explored throughout the book is the threat of an increasingly unfazed and secular world against creatures who rely on their fear to thrive and exist.

If you read one story in this book and find it isn’t for you, there’s a good chance that you will find some character and story to hold close to your heart. There’s mortal Timothy’s preparations for the family Homecoming and his inner conflict over whether or not to join his mysterious family in immortality. There’s Cecy and her journey to experience mortal love. There’s Uncle Einer’s adventures into the world, and the life he finds out there. Uncle Einer’s marriage is particularly touching to me, but it may be different for you depending on what you like. I wouldn’t call this my favorite Bradbury book, but it’s still well worth a read.

Availability: USMAI
Review Submitted by: Kimberly Boenig
Rating: Highly Recommended

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea By Jules Verne

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea coverI was first introduced to this novel as a young girl via Illustrated Classics and the Disney film. Immediately, something about this world that exists alongside our own fascinated me, and I set about consuming all I could on the subject. So, I thought this summer might be a good time to reread “20,000 Leagues” to see if it holds up.

In answer to that question, I certainly think so. In fact, “20,000 Leagues” is easily my favorite of Jules Verne’s novels. The imagery, which is so important in a sci-fi fantasy book, was fantastic. My favorite three images of the novel are of the people on board a sinking ship, the giant pearl that Captain Nemo guards and cultivates, and the slow reveal that the Nautilus has come upon Atlantis. Most importantly, though, with a book of this genre, is that it spurs on my imagination, and lets my mind dwell in the places that the characters visit. There is also so much mystery around Captain Nemo that I love to think about, which is vital for his sort of character. As for the main character of the novel, he’s so unremarkable that I can’t remember his name, but that does allow the reader to use him as an avatar. Ned Land is a fun side character, if not a bit wild. You should be warned, however, that, this being a 19th-century adventure novel, the characters do come upon indigenous peoples at some point, and they are not referred to in the best of ways, though not quite at a Joseph Conrad level of imperialism. The moment is, blissfully, only a few chapters long, but still, a bit troubling, so just be aware of that if such subject manner is particularly annoying to you. I won’t blame you.

Availability:  SMCM, COSMOS, and USMAI
Review Submitted by: Kimberly Boenig
Rating:  Must Read
Challenge: A translated book; book to film

Buy Jupiter by Isaac Asimov

Buy Jupiter cover

Buy Jupiter is a collection of some of Asimov’s earlier short stories, with commentary by the author himself. In the introduction, he claims that the book is sort of an autobiography; he says there’s no interesting aspect about his life “except [his] typewriter, and therefore no need to write a full autobiography, so the commentary and timelines in this book accompanying each story will have to do (this edition was published in 1975; Asimov would later go on to write actual autobiographies).

The stories themselves are a mix of thought-provoking, funny, and just interesting to read. Some of my favorites from the book are “Does a Bee Care?”, “A Statue for Father”, and “Each an Explorer”. Having read two other collections of Asimov’s later short stories, I personally think that his later works are a little bit better and more involving than these earlier works. However, Asimov is a renowned sci-fi writer, and these stories are still a reflection of that talent. Buy Jupiter is a fun read and good introduction to his work. I do wish that there would be diversity in his characters –  almost all stories focus on scientists, astronauts, and politicians who are unfailingly male – but that is a reflection of the time in which Asimov wrote his stories.

Availability:  COSMOS and USMAI
Review Submitted by: Hannah Yeager
Rating: Highly Recommended

Kindred by Damien Duffy & John Jennings; Octavia Butler

Kindred graphic novel cover

Adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s novel Kindred.

I’ll admit that I have not read the original novel of Kindred by Octavia E. Butler so I cannot say how successful this adaptation is. That said, on its own, I enjoyed this graphic novel. The main concept is that the main character, Dana, is a young black author in 1970s California, who finds herself transporting to the past against her will every time her ancestor in the early 19th century is risking his own life. The twist? Her ancestor is a white landowner in Maryland, and she has to make sure he survives to reproduce with Alice, a free black woman who later becomes his slave.

The pain of Dana is really palpable every time she feels herself about to transport back to the past, especially when her white husband finds out and ends up in the past with her. While the main ethical issue of basically ensuring that you survive later on by letting a man repeatedly rape a woman is not as thoroughly explored by the main character as I would have liked, it is an interesting issue. For a good portion of the black American population, it is an inescapable truth that some of their ancestors were the product of rape during their enslavement. This is interesting given the white time travel narrative, like Back to the Future where the morality of hooking up one’s parents is not as much of an issue since questionable power dynamics are not present. I would like to see if this is explored to a greater extent in the original novel, but at least this adaptation got me thinking about that aspect of ancestry.

Availability:  USMAI, COSMOS, SMCM
Review Submitted by: Kimberly Boenig
Rating: Recommended
Challenge: Book with a one world title

Snowpiercer by Lob Rochette

Snowpiercer cover

I loved Snowpiercer the movie, and so when I found out there was an original source material, I had to read it. The film is fantastic, and it has one of my favorite Hollywood Chrises in it, so I still recommend it. But I can’t say the same for the graphic novel it is based on.

Let me explain. The premise of Snowpiercer is still very compelling. There is a boiled down version of classism through the back vs front of the never-stopping train. The surrounding cold wastelands are pretty terrifying. Snowpiercer at times feels like an extended episode of The Twilight Zone, especially with the ominous repetition of a narrator’s voice in the comic. So those things are pretty positive.

However, I took great issue with the treatment of women in this comic. I get it, post-apocalyptic life is not ideal for either sex. But there is only one female character beyond a simple prostitute, and within a few pages of meeting the male lead, they make out. Nothing in their conversation warranted this. They just introduce each other, yell a little, and then kiss. Great. This happens again when they mess with some of their guards, which works a bit better, since you get a sense that they have bonded a little over their shared experience. Then, later on, they find each other after being separated and have sex. This could work. I’ve seen it work in other pieces of media before. But the major failing of Snowpiercer is that none of their sexual attraction feels warranted. It just feels like the author thought to himself, here is a boy, here is a girl, now kiss. This nagged at me for the rest of the novel and kind of ruined it for me. I think I’d rather have no women in a comic than one who just exists to provide a sexual escape for the male.

I’m still not sure. Maybe I will enjoy the rest of the series more?

Availability:  COSMOS, SMCM
Review Submitted by: Kimberly Boenig
Rating: Not Recommended
Challenge: Book to film; translated book

Mooncop by Tom Gauld

Mooncop cover

Have you ever arrived at a party after it’s basically over? Mooncop explores that feeling by following a lonely cop on the Moon, as the population shrinks down. It’s a cute and thoughtful little story, which will take you less than half an hour to read, so why not? Indulge in the loneliness of the cop on an empty outpost and see what you find in it.

Availability:  COSMOS, SMCM
Review Submitted by:  Kimberly Boenig
Rating:  Recommended
Challenge: Book with a one word title