Category Archives: science fiction

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

book coverI wasn’t ever going to read The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes on the assumption that, like many books written as late additions to an already stellar series, it wouldn’t hold up. I decided to give it a try and this book is a wayyyy better end than Mockingjay. I 100% recommend this book to anyone who liked the Hunger Games, since previous knowledge gives you more of those “omg I get what’s happening!” moments, but honestly you could read this as a solo book as well. Totally gripping and creepy.

Availability: USMAI and COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Izzy Lott
Rating: Recommended
Challenge: YA with diverse cast of characters

February 1999,Ylla by Ray Bradbury

The Martian Chronicles



“February 1999,Ylla,” is a short story from Bradbury’s the The Martian Chronicles. The twist is the story is from the point of view of a Martian woman trapped in an unromantic marriage. She has visions or dreams of the coming astronauts from Earth through telepathy and develops a special connection to one of them. Her husband pretends to deny the reality of the dreams, but eventually becomes jealous.

Availability:  COSMOS and SMCM
Review Submitted by: Maggie D. Brace ’82.
Rating: Must Read

Clade by James Bradley

book coverClade follows one family in a radically changing world, marked by global warming, civil unrest, catastrophic floods, and oh yeah, a pandemic. This book was published in 2015 and it was pretty eerie reading it as we are still in the midst of a pandemic ourselves. The structure of the book is at times a little hard to follow. The story starts with Adam, a scientist in Antartica, and his wife, Ellie, who is an artist in Australia trying to conceive a baby through IVF. The resulting chapters begin in the midst of an event and it takes time before we as the reader figure out how much time has passed between this section and the one previous, and sometimes we don’t know how the character we are currently reading about is connected to the two main characters until later. But despite the at times chaotic quality of the book, it ends on a note of hope, something many of us are just starting to feel ourselves as life begins to slowly get back to normal.

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Kaylie Jasinski, class of 2014
Rating: Recommended
Challenge: Book with a one word title

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Fifth SeasonDespite it’s 400+ page length, I read The Fifth Season in 3 days. N.K. Jemisin is a truly unique writer within the genre of Sci-Fi/Sci-Fantasy, creating characters with depth and relatability, and a world full of representation. I particularly enjoyed how I got to learn about the world Jemisin creates without direct definitions or explanations, but rather through the eyes and experiences of the characters. That being said, to even partially grasp the complex conflicts, I think I’ll have to read all 3 books in the trilogy, and I wish the first book had a more stand-alone, satisfactory ending. Not for the sci-fi beginner, but a million times more interesting than Dune.

Availability: USMAI and COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Izzy Lott
Rating: Recommended
Challenge: book with number in the title

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

black-sun-9781534437678_hrThis is a fantastic and very fast read! Available in the amazing COSMOS collection. I was gripped from the first chapter, rarely does my heart start pounding while reading but this was the book to do it, from page one!

I knew nothing going in except that it came highly rated as having good representation of non-binary characters. It definitely does that, using a third pronoun xe/xir. The non-binary characters are accepted, pronouns are used without problem, very refreshing. Besides that it’s an amazing scifi/fantasy book based on cultures from the pre-Columbian Americas, another thing you do not see so often, and Roanhorse does an wonderful job character and world building.

I highly recommend listening to the audiobook version, by Simon and Schuster audio, as I did. There are four voice actors narrating the four characters, which I haven’t come across before in an audiobook. It was fantastic! Each actor really brought their character to life in a way a single narrator couldn’t have done. They also pronounced the words based on indigenous languages far better than I could have, which again breathed life into the story.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Emily Nelson Ringholm
Rating:  Must Read
Challenge: Audiobook

The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley

book coverIn the future, Earth is owned by corporations and administrates the war against the Martians. Dietz joins one of the corporation’s military in order to become a hero, gain citizenship, and to get revenge on Martians for the destruction they ravaged on São Paulo. As the war progresses, some soldiers come black changed…

The book has an interesting plot and concepts. The main character can be brash and rude, however this makes her more fleshed out and realistic. In the first half of the book Deitz is very confused about what is really going on with the war, mainly by being kept in the dark by the corporation, but suddenly and without explanation she learns and understands what’s going on which was a bit odd as a reader. Overall, this book is recommended for people who are interested in science fiction that has an interesting concept and for those who would like to read more fiction with queer main characters.

Availability:  COSMOS,
Review Submitted by:  Joanne Hoppe
Rating: Highly Recommended

Timeline by Michael Crichton

book cover

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The first half was a little slow, but once the characters were transported to Medieval France, the action was nonstop. I’m glad I stuck with the story. Crichton did a fantastic job of making the reader feel the energy and danger of the time. It is a fantastic story and a fast, easy read. I particularly liked the ending but won’t give it away.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Julie Hamilton
Rating: Highly Recommended
Challenge: Book to film

The Power by Naomi Alderman

booik coverThe Power is a book within a book. One story is letters between the author and his editor, while the inner book is about a world where women around the world suddenly develop electricity conducting abilities. This book presents an interesting premise, however there are some concepts that could have been fleshed out more such as how trans people would fit in this new world dynamic. The characters are very interesting and well rounded, and the different story lines cross in satisfying ways.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Joanne Hoppe
Rating:  Recommended

The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling

cover artThe Luminous Dead is a psychological thriller about a young woman named Gyre who fakes her caving credentials to land a very lucrative job so she can get off the planet to search for her mother who abandoned her. Unfortunately, Em, the financier and support staff of the expedition has goals of her own and will seemingly stop at nothing to achieve her mysterious ends. The book is very suspenseful and keeps drawing the reader in to see if Gyre can win the battle against the cave…and her mind.

Availability:  COSMOS,
Review Submitted by:  Joanne Hoppe
Rating:  Recommended

Recursion by Blake Crouch

book coverThis fascinating novel forces readers to consider what makes us who we are, memories? experiences? both? I was sometimes afraid to continue reading this book. I found myself reflecting on all the pain and suffering humanity is currently experiencing and every time I picked up this book I kept thinking about “what ifs.” What if we could change things? What if we could go back to be with the people we’ve lost? How many lives together would be enough? Would changing the past make the future so much worse? This novel brings a fresh perspective to a genre and story that’s been told countless times. It was a solid summer read. While this author isn’t Michael Crichton, this story was the first I’ve read in a long time that echoed some of Crichton’s scientific creativity.

Availability: COSMOS, USMAI
Review Submitted by: Kristina Howansky
Rating: Recommended

Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

book coverThe story begins with Phileas Fogg firing his servant for bringing him shaving water that was 84 degrees Fahrenheit instead of 86 degrees, and then hiring Frenchman Passpartout as his replacement. Fogg lives his life with mathematical precision, and does not tolerate deviation. Fogg also spends his days playing Whist at the Reform Club, of which he is a member. On October 2nd, Fogg enters into a debate with his fellow Reform club members over a newspaper article that states it is now possible to travel around the world in 80 days with the completion of the railroad in India. The other club members argue it’s impossible. But, Fogg wagers half his fortune (£20,000) that he if he were to set out that very night, he would be able to traverse the world and arrive back to the Reform club by 9pm on December 21. Bet made and bags packs, Fogg hops on the 8:45pm train from London to Suez Egypt, dragging a reluctant Passpartout with him. Traveling by train, steamer, and elephant, they continue on their journey. All the while, they are being followed by Detective Fix, who thinks Fogg matches a vague description of a London bank robber and is just waiting for an arrest warrant to come through so he could arrest them. They are also joined by a young woman named Aouda in India, who they rescued from being burned against her will on her husband’s funeral pyre. Despite encountering many obstacles on their journey, they were ultimately successful.

This was the first time I read this book (or a Jules Verne novel in general), but I knew the story very well from various adaptations I’ve seen in tv and movies, from that Disney movie years ago to a TV show I watched as a very young kid where all the characters were anthropomorphic animals. I do recommend reading the book, as it was entertaining and easy to read.

Availability: SMCM, USMAI and COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Marissa Christensen
Rating: Highly Recommended
Challenge: Book to film,

The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon

book coverThis book is a sequel to The Mime Order and should be read afterward. Paige has successfully taken over the London clairvoyant syndicate, but her reign is to be filled with dangers of the Scion government discovering ways to oppress the clairvoyants of the UK even further.

The Song Rising has a similar pacing issue to the previous books in the series where the first half is a bit slow, but the last half (and particularly the last few chapters) are much faster paced. It also is mainly setting up for its sequel, so it is short and not as much happens when compared to the previous books in the series. However, the story telling and the world Shannon created over all is still interesting and a fun read.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Joanne Hoppe
Rating:  Recommended