Posts filed under 'Sci-Fi/Futuristic'

“The Wish List” by Eoin Colfer

“The Wish List” is a quick, fun read for anyone looking for fast fantasy fiction. You might recognize the name of the author. He also wrote the “Artemis Fowl” series.

Meg Finn is a not-so-good, but not-too-terribly-bad kid who dies when she agrees to help a local teen delinquent rob old Lowrie McCall. Belch Brennan decides to kill Lowrie during the robbery, and Meg objects, defending the old man. Both trespassers are killed through Belch’s dim-witted action. Belch zooms through the tunnel to the next world and goes straight to hell as his soul mixes with that of his pit bull. Meg, however, hits the wall where the tunnel branches off between heaven and hell. Her soul is up for grabs—it is exactly balanced between good and evil.

Fighting to claim Meg are Satan and his assistant Beelzebub. They could use a creative mind in hell. However, Saint Peter is also on the lookout for Meg. The good and evil players make a bargain to send Meg back to earth to help old Lowrie carry out his final wishes. If she succeeds, she will earn her way to heaven and the opportunity to see her mother again. Unfortunately, the Belch-dog soul is set loose to thwart her.

Lowrie’s last wishes are pretty wacky and add humor to the book. He learns to face his regrets about life and in her way; Meg is helping him with his salvation, just as he is helping her. The various minions in hell are former movie stars and other love-to-hate-them sorts of folks. If you’ll be offended by an unorthodox look at the afterlife, this isn’t your book. But if you like wacky, you’ll enjoy this read.

November 17, 2008

“The City of Ember”

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

With the movie version coming soon, I decided to read “The City of Ember.” It’s a quick, easy read, but very engaging. Science fiction and fantasy fans will like it, but I think anyone looking for an adventure might enjoy it.

Though the novel doesn’t directly state the fact, the reader soon understands that Ember is a city underground, provided for by the “Builders” over two hundred and forty years ago. Ember’s problems are many. The Builders—hoping to create a society that will escape the fate of the world above ground (whatever that is—I thought of a nuclear holocaust), stored provisions to last at least two hundred years. They also provided directions for the residents to leave Ember and come back above ground. But these directions have been mislaid and no one in Ember knows that there is an outside world. There is only their city—artificially lighted through electricity generated with the help of the river. Outside of the city everything is pitch dark and nothing exists. As the electrical infrastructure deteriorates and the food stores run low, everyone is frightened but they don’t know how to solve their problems.

Two teens, Lina and Doon search for clues. Both have been assigned their jobs the same year. These assignments are random and Doon gets ‘Messenger’ whereas Lina gets ‘Pipeworks.’ They agree to exchange and it is through their jobs that they gain some knowledge of the problems the city is facing. They make important discoveries and see a way out of Ember into a brighter future. However, in another matter, they are accused of lying and causing the city’s residents to panic. Knowing that no one will believe what they have discovered and with the mayor’s security force on their trail, they must decide whether to save themselves.

Add comment September 29, 2008

The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan

 Book three in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series finds Percy, Thalia (daughter of Zeus), Grover and Annabeth discovering two new half-bloods or heroes. Unfortunately, Dr. Thorn of the school where the new orphaned heroes reside proves to be a monster. He kidnaps Annabeth. When the heroes team up with Artemis, goddess of the hunt, she too is kidnapped and her huntresses join forces with the heroes to effect a double rescue. Their search for Annabeth and the goddess takes them across the United States. Again this is fun with Greek mythology. Here we meet Apollo, whose sky chariot in now a red Maserati and who composes some really bad poetry. More adventure!

January 24, 2008

Sea of Monsters

Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

I loved The Lightning Thief so much that I had to continue the series. This is the second book in Percy Jackson and the Olympians. This time, Percy is finishing seventh grade and hoping to go back to Camp Half-Blood Hill for the summer. On the last day of school, Percy’s PE class is attacked by Laistrygonians—giant cannibals in Greek mythology—and Percy and a homeless classmate are saved by Annabeth (Percy’s best friend from book one). Immediately, Percy learns that the sacred tree guarding the camp has been poisoned and the camp is under attack. Another surprise is that the homeless boy, Tyson, is a Cyclops and Percy’s half-brother (Poseidon is also Tyson’s dad). Finally, Percy is having nightmares that his friend, the satyr Grover, is in danger.

With the scene set, Hermes sends Percy off on a quest to find Grover, who is the prisoner of the Cyclops Polyphemus (yes, the one that Odysseus fought). To do so, he must cross the Sea of Monsters (now called the Bermuda Triangle) and survive Scylla and Charybdis. At the same time, Percy must retrieve the Golden Fleece, which will heal the sacred tree. Always lurking in the background is Luke, the former friend who betrayed Percy and who is trying to bring the Titan Kronos back to power so that Olmpus can be overthrown.

This second book in the series is another fast-paced adventure, with more hilarious takes on the Greek gods. Circe now turns men into guinea pigs (real pigs are too much like real men and messy) and Hermes wears track shorts and a ‘New York City Marathon’ t-shirt. Oh—and he invented the Internet as well (sorry Al Gore!)

Add comment January 24, 2008

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

 The Lightning Thief is quick, easy, good fun. The protagonist, Percy Jackson, is a hero. No, not of the Rambo type. A hero in the Greek tradition—that is, he is the son of a Greek god and a human. Never mind that the story is contemporary. Mount Olympus has been relocated to the 600th floor of the Empire State Building in New York. The entrance to Hades is at DOA Recording Studios in Los Angeles. The gods and other immortals can be found interfering in daily human life, just as they did in Greece thousands of years ago. Of course, their look is up-to-date. Aeres looks like a Hell’s Angel and rides a Harley; Medusa runs a statuary shop (yes, her garden décor is so realistic that it is purchased from all over the world!). 

When Percy, aka, Perseus, is attacked by a monster in the form of his algebra teacher, his mom knows it’s time for him to go to Camp Half Blood Hill for safety and to find out his true identity—that Poseidon, god of the sea, is his father. Unfortunately, Poseidon has been accused of stealing Zeus’s lightning bolt and the fate of mankind rests in Percy’s ability to complete his quest and return the missing property. Check out the modern version of the Labors of Hercules and meet the new rendition of not only Aeres and Medusa, but Poseidon, Hades, Zeus, Procustes, Charon and the Eumenides (Furies). You don’t have to know much about Greek mythology to have fun with this book, but if you do, you’ll love the connections, both subtle and outrageous.

January 24, 2008

I decided to read How I Live Now in my search for good, young-adult fiction because it won the Printz Award for excellence in YA literature. It’s the story of Daisy, an American teen with some serious problems. Her mother died in childbirth and she refers to herself as her mother’s murderer. Her father and his new wife are expecting a baby, and Daisy is the odd-girl out. She is also anorexic.

 

To lighten the family load (or so it seems), Daisy is shipped off to England to stay with her Aunt Penn and her four cousins, none of whom she has met before. They live in a farmhouse in the countryside in a sort of idyll not common in the modern word. The family is sensitive and preternaturally perceptive. Aunt Penn must travel to Oslo to discuss the coming war—a situation that seems to be long in coming, and no one believes it will happen; but happen it does. Suddenly Daisy is in a foreign country without an adult to supervise her or her cousins. At first this is fun—living off the farm—but when the war actually touches their lives, the story changes.

 

Daisy is separated from her male cousins and must look after her nine-year-old cousin, Piper, when they are removed from the farm. They see the devastation of war—cold-blooded murder and the death of animals. Even Daisy must learn to kill an animal to save it from suffering. Eventually, the girls brave the elements and starvation in an effort to return to the farm and find out what has happened to the boys.

 

Daisy is the sort of teen everyone likes—that is in fiction. She’s sassy and audacious. The narrative uses run-on sentences and unusual capitalization to give the reader a sense of Daisy’s ironic sense of humor. As she learns to draw on her resources to live through the war, she matures and becomes much less self-serving.

 

A few aspects of the novel did bother me. One was that, near the end of the book, the author jumps forward in time about six years. I felt this was a way of not having to deal with the end of the war—or even of ever letting the reader know who the enemy was and what the fighting was about. More disturbing was Daisy’s relationship with her cousin, Edmund. Although she hadn’t met him before her trip to England, and he is the sort of boy she would fall for, the fact that they have a physical relationship gives the book a little ‘ick’ factor—after all, he still is her first cousin, whether she knew him previously or not, and such a relationship is taboo. (There are no details, graphic or otherwise, and the two are separated through most of the book due to the war.) However, on the whole, teens will like the book, both the loveliness of life in the countryside and the portrayal of life in a war torn country.

November 14, 2007

One of the comments you’d never see in a professional book review is “The book is graphic enough to appeal to high school guys.”  I hate to admit it, but this is something I think about when I’m reading. Research shows–and anecdotal evidence at Colony High backs up that research–that high school boys rarely read, almost never when they have the choice.

This summer I read a great book–and I mean great in every sense—a literary masterpiece, a stunning work of fiction, an insightful look into a bleak future, a beautiful rendering of the father-son relationship. And–ta da–a book graphic enough that it will appeal to high school guys.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy is the story of an unnamed father and son who are making their way to the sea in a post-apocalyptic world. “A long shear of light and then a series of low concussions” have left the world barren. Animals are dead (or long ago eaten by the few remaining people), plant life is scorched and roads are melted. The air is always gray with ash, as is the snowfall. The sun is blotted out and winter arrives early. All living people are scavengers—and with little left to scavenge, most are cannibals as well.

In a world that is virtually hopeless, it is amazing that McCarthy can wrench the heart of his reader with the love of the father and son. The father has often told the son that they are “the good guys” and while they have to be on a constant alert for others (who might capture and eat them), they would never do such a thing themselves. Though starving and exhausted from their trek, the son reminds the father that the two of them “carry the flame.”  The son always wants to do well, including helping other people. The father knows better and is more wary. Understanding that he is dying, he saves two bullets in his gun so that he can take his son with him.

Some of the situations McCarthy envisions are horrific (people imprison others and eat them limb by limb, cauterizing the amputations) and yet all strike the reader as inevitable in such a world. Too often, I’ve read reviews that describe a new novel as a ‘tour de force.’ After reading the book, I assume that the reviewer was the author’s best friend. The Road is one novel that deserves the praise.

October 24, 2007