Category Archives: science fiction

3001: The final Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

3001 the Final Odyssey

Over the years, I’ve read most of Arthur C. Clarke’s books including the 2001, 2010 and 2061 series. I didn’t know this book existed and was pleasantly surprised that I could add this to my collection. Reading ACC books is usually a joy, though I tried reading one of his first Sci-Fi books and couldn’t stomach it. If you read 2001: A Space Odyssey, you’ll recall that HAL killed astronaut Frank Poole before trying to dispatch Dave Bowman who escaped and was transformed by the monolith. We begin with a space salvage operation recovering the body of Frank Poole who, thanks to the marvels of technology in the 4th millennium, is brought back to life. Imagine how you would feel if you woke up 1000 years in the future? ACC notes how someone from 1001 who woke up in 2001 would experience extreme culture shock. Frank experiences a similar, though not as extreme, immersion into 3001 since the technology of 2001 was heavily electronic. And then there’s what’s become of Dave Bowman. Read on!

Availability:  COSMOS, USMAI
Review Submitted by:  James Tyler Bell
Rating:  Highly Recommended
Challenge:  Book with a number in the title

Battlestar Galatica Season Zero Omnibus v.1 by Brandon Jerwa

Battlestar Galactica (BSG)I’ve never read a graphic novel before. I looked over the display and picked this one. I’ve never watched Battlestar Galactica (BSG) or read any of the books. In the book Captain Adama and his crew are battling the Cylons. Reading the book with no background on Battlestar Galactica is extremely confusing. The book was fast paced, with a lot of action as the cover suggested. It had a lot of rough language and violence and shouldn’t be read by a young child, even though it is basically a comic book. It probably does appeal to young men and Battlestar Galactica fans. I think these books are good if they can keep young people reading. I didn’t like it.

[Editor’s note: Adapted from the 2004 – 2009 TV series.]

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Shelley Clark
Rating: Not Recommended

Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler

Parable of the TalentsOK- so this is the second and final novel of Butler’s Parable books. The first is The Parable of the Sower and I’m 99% sure there are some old reviews of that in SMCM summer reading blogs past. It’s a great book. Check it out. But that’s that, and this is Parable of the Talents [published in 2000], which I recommend, but not nearly as lovingly as Parable of the Sower.

Really, all I am going to say about this book is this: it’s set in a near future dystopic world where people are poised to elect a boisterous, faux-religious, jingoistic non-politician that exploits American’s fears and bigotry. His name’s Jarrett, and his election slogan is (I’m not kidding):

“Help us to make America great again” (Butler 20).

Laura Oye Olaimina, the leader of the small community, Acorn, doesn’t trust this Jarrett fellow, and for good reason. Radical fundamentalists emboldened by Jarrett’s demagoguery soon enslave, torture, rape, and kill “heathens” and “witches.” Butler spares little detail in describing the monstrous actions of the “Christian Americans” (the self-given name of Jarrett’s followers) and, like Parable of the Sower, one could call large sections of this book outright grotesque and brutal. But like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale or Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, the graphic violence and oppression are part of a larger social commentary that all good sci fi is engaged in.

I liked that this book calls into question some of the taken-for-granted goodness and laudable traits of characters we meet in Parable of the Sower, and that it doesn’t rehash all the same things (“tortured economies and ecologies”) that are highlighted in Sower. There’s plenty to delve into in considering religious extremists and demagogues.

Make reading great again! Read Parable of the Talents.

Availability: SMCM USMAI and COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Shane D. Hall
Rating: Highly Recommended

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

Journey to the Center of the Earth

I’ve always been curious about the writings of Jules Verne, ever since I first saw the Back to the Future movies and Doc expressed his love of the author. Several weeks ago, I enjoyed Around the World in 80 Days and was absolutely thrilled and enthralled by the story and writing. I went into this novel excited and with high hopes. I was slightly disappointed, to be completely honest. So much of the story was serious and the thoughts of the characters and their overly consuming singular traits were bothersome. Each of the main characters could be easily defined by a single word: obsessive, fickle, or persevering.

Despite all of this, I don’t mean to say that it was a bad novel. I actually enjoyed it very much. Unfortunately, there were so many little things that consistently irritated me (which could either be because of how much I enjoyed the previous novel or the stress of starting a new job projecting onto an innocent novel). If you are a science or fact-based person, I would highly recommend this book. Even if you are not, I would still recommend it, but would urge you that the main character is likely to make you want to smack him on occasion.

Availability:  SMCM, COSMOS, and USMAI
Review Submitted by:  Breanna Thorne
Rating:  Recommended
Challenge: A translated book

All the Birds in the Sky By Charlie Jane Anders

All the Birds in the SkyOutcasts as young teens, both Patricia and Laurence discover they have special abilities. Patricia is a witch that can talk to animals and transform into a bird. Laurence is a gifted science and computer nerd, who builds his first “two-second time machine” while still in elementary school. Although their abilities initially drive them apart, the two reconnect while living in San Francisco ten years later.

Charlie Jane Ander’s new novel, All the Birds in the Sky, is set in the near future, as climate change and international conflict threaten the existence of both humans and the earth as a whole. Laurence and Patricia must both harness their powers to build a viable future for humanity, while also bridging the gap between the “science” and “magic” communities.

As the editor of i09 and the winner of a Hugo Award for her short story “Six Months, Three Days,” Anders is very familiar with both sci-fi and fantasy. This playful book celebrates geek culture while also genuinely addressing the limitations of the genre – a great summer read!

Availability:  USMAI
Review Submitted by: Kaitlyn Grigsby
Rating:  Recommended
Challenge: Book published in 2016

Serenity: Those Left Behind by Joss Whedon

Serenity: Those Left Behind
Serenity: Those Left Behind bridges the gap between the show ending of the show Firefly and the movie Serenity. It answers the question when and why did the various crew members start to leave and how did the agent from the film get involved in the first place. The plot is a bit muddled, but overall this is a strong continuation to the series. The artwork is excellent, particularly the characters. Frankly though, the opportunity to fly with the crew of Serenity again is what’s really worth the price of admission.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Andrew Polgreen
Rating:  Highly Recommended

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian
This book is simply amazing. Robinson Crusoe on Mars hardly does it justice, but it works as a concise description. Weir crafts an incredibly engaging tale of survival In one of the harshest environments a person could be subjected to and still come out alive. The narrative follows the mission logs of Mark Watney who has been left for dead on the surface of Mars after he is struck down by flying debris during a wind storm. He must figure out how to survive for several years off of nothing but Thanksgiving potatoes and the magic of science, before rescue is even a possibility. The story is intelligent, the characters are memorable and the pacing is excellent.

View The Martian movie trailer or read Lisa Grossman’s review of The Martian.

Availability:  COSMOS, SMCM, USMAI
Review Submitted by: Andrew Polgreen
Rating:  Must Read