Posts Tagged ‘science fiction’

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Ontario City Library and Best Buy Children’s Foundation

are sponsoring another Teen Book Fest!

May 11, 2013

9:00 AM-5:00 PM

Merton E. Hill Auditorium

(on the Chaffey campus–next to the district offices)

211 W. Fifth Street, Ontario

You must reserve a ticket, but it’s free. Call 909-395-2225.

Doors open at 8:30. Come early and buy a book

so that you can have the author sign it!

This year’s authors include:

Carrie Arcos–Out of Reach

Leigh Bardugo–Shadow and Bone

Jennifer Bosworth–Struck

Jessica Brody–My Life Undecided

Stephen Chbosky–The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Sara Wilson Etienne–Harbinger

Suzanne Lazear–Innocent Darkness

Marie Lu–The Legend series

Morgan Matson–Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour

Gretchen McNeil–Ten and Possess

Gregg Olsen–The Empty Coffin series

Andrew Smith–The Marbury Lens and others

Ann Stampler–Where  It Began

Lex Thomas–Quarantine: The Loners

See you there!


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ashes   Ashes by Ilsa Bick (first in a trilogy)

Alex, seventeen and traveling alone in the Michigan wilderness, is on a mission to bid her goodbyes to the world. She has a brain tumor that appears unstoppable, even with experimental treatments. While Alex is on her backpacking adventure, an electromagnetic pulse—EMP—rocks the earth, killing many people. Yet after the EMP, Alex is not only alive, but changed. The sense of smell she had lost due to her cancer treatments is now so keen that she can smell emotions, such as fear.

Alex discovers that almost all others who are left alive are very old or very young. Generally, after the EMP blast, middle-ages folks are dead and teens become zombie-like—Alex refers to them as ‘brain-zapped.’ While the brain-zapped don’t eat one another, they crave human flesh. The combination of troubles is post-apocalyptic: teen zombies, a dying earth with fried technology and no means of modern communication, and a remaining population with no means of producing goods, including food. The worst in people comes out, and they fight and kill for survival supplies.

When the EMP takes place, Alex happens to be talking to a few people she met on her wilderness hike, a little girl named Ellie and Elle’s grandfather. The grandfather dies immediately, and Alex becomes Ellie’s protector. Later she teams with the hunky but shadowy Tom, who is on leave from the war in Afghanistan. They fear that they, too, will become brain-zapped. Their goal is to travel to safety, to find a town and some help. But along the way, danger separates them. Tom is wounded as survivors are stealing his provisions, and his wounds become infected. In seeking help, Alex finds a surviving town called Rule.

Rule is an odd place. Folks are deeply religious, but in a way that demands subservience from women. The fact that the folks in Rule are helping Alex is more sinister than it first seems. These survivors appear to be as dangerous as the zombies. Except for Chris, who has a crush on Alex.

Bick does a great job of framing her post-apocalyptic world and of explaining how such a thing might happen as well as hinting at the reasons why some young people like Alex, Tom, and Chris have survived. In all, she does a great job with drawing the reader in. Her writing is also very good. Given these things, and the fact that no plot points are concluded, most teens will quickly leap to the next book. However, Bick also spends a good portion of the novel with lengthy descriptions of the gross realities of this new world. Ashes is an A-One gore-fest. Bick has that paradoxical ability to stop the story dead in its tracks to wax on about zombies plucking out eyeballs and livers, and yet to make it feels like this is fast-paced action.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m something of a sissy in these matters. While the blood jets, the shootings and other violence didn’t get to me, I couldn’t stomach the frequent and vivid descriptions of pus—yellow-green, oozing, stinking. I read while waiting for appointments—and thus in public places—and often found myself unable to continue, the bile rising in my throat, the gag reflex operating. For this reason, I’m not going to continue the series. But if you don’t have these sorts of issues, this is a heart-smacking work for mature readers (about 14 years and up).

I’ve thought about why my reaction to books like Ashes is so different from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, which is also set in a post-apocalyptic, violent world of survivalists and cannibals. I think it just comes down to the writing. McCarthy can make me realize all the terror of his world. I have the full emotional impact, the genuine sense of horror and concern for the characters. But I’m never at risk of puking while waiting for the dentist.

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Solitary: Book Two of the Escape from Furnace series

by Alexander Gordon Smith

Just a quick heads up on this series. I reviewed the first book, Lockdown here. I thought it was great entertainment and a perfect choice for guys who have a hard time finding a book they like. I wanted to continue the series and see if the same quick-paced action/adventure continued. It does.

This time Alex is locked up in solitary confinement after his escape attempt. The cell is more like a coffin standing upright. His buddy Zee is also locked in a solitary cell nearby and the two figure out a communication system that helps them stay sane. Still, Alex has many hallucinations, particularly of his old cellmate Donovan, who was taken by the men in black suits and the Wheezers in book one.

The Wheezers are back as are the mutant rat boys, only this time they are out for Alex’s blood. In Solitary we also get a good look of the horror of the infirmary—we figured Donovan had been taken there to be transformed into some sort of creature at the end of book one. Now we know for sure.

This book, like the first, certainly has lots of disturbing images and description. It’s hard for me to say why it doesn’t bother me in the same way that it bothers me in many books. I think, for me, it all plays pretty well into the nightmare of Furnace, so it doesn’t have the same gratuitous feel that I’ve experienced with other science fiction for reluctant guy readers. However, I’ll give you an idea of what some professional reviewers thought:

“The gross-out factor is high in many sections” (School Library Journal)

“Readers who relish lurid imagery and melodramatic prose will continue to be riveted and left eager for the next disgust-o-rama episode” (Booklist)

So, that’s the caveat (warning)—meanwhile, I’m on to book three, Death Sentence.

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Lockdown: Escape from Furnace: Book 1

by Alexander Gordon Smith

Beneath heaven is hell.

Beneath hell is Furnace.

So begins the Escape from Furnace series, now complete at five books.

Lockdown is a great ‘guy read,’ full of injustice, desire for revenge, courage, and survival. It’s also full of weird creatures like hell hounds—dogs of muscle and sinew, but no skin—and tormentors with gas masks sewn into the skin of their faces and bandoleers full of dirty hypodermic needles.

Alex lands deep underground in Furnace Penitentiary after he’s convicted of killing his best friend, something he didn’t do. Not that Alex is a good guy. He’s a bully and a thief. But he’s no murderer. Yet in the group of boys who land in Furnace on the same day, the others that Alex meets are also framed. Later, when Alex meets his cellmate, Donovan, he finds that he was convicted of murder because he killed his mother’s boyfriend after he had beaten her one too many times.

Why is this suddenly happening to all these boys?

Furnace is a private company that contracts with the government to house juvenile murderers. It just so happens that after the Summer of Slaughter, people are afraid. They want harsh punishments for teen killers, and they consider those killers as good as dead once they are locked up in Furnace. You, reader, start thinking that there just may be some extra money to be made for the Furnace owners when they can add more guys to the number locked up. But there’s something more, too.

When Lockdown is announced with siren blasts, the skinless dogs are on the loose, and guys are hauled away in the middle of the night. What happens to them? Why are there so many bizarre creatures in Furnace and such nasty food in ‘the Trough?’

Despite all the terrors of Furnace, Alex is a thoughtful guy, one who reflects on how his bullying behavior out in the world is mirrored in Furnace by the roving gangs who torment inmates. This is a can’t-put-it-down page-turner that ends on a cliff hanger. You’ve got to go for this series.

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Adult Books for Teens: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Wall-sized televisions that simulate interaction and communication with the person existing within the confines of the ‘living’ room don’t seem much like science fiction anymore, but when Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 in the late 1940s, he anticipated much that has since come to pass. And although the technology—ear buds with wireless communication capabilities, robotic creatures with homing devices—make this fascinating science fiction, the reason this novel has remained popular and very much worth reading is that it both warns of then contemporary threats to liberty and anticipates a future when communication is just a constant stream of shallow information, without any real meaning. The onslaught makes it impossible to think deeply.

The novel is titled after the temperature at which pages of a book will burn. In interviews, Bradbury says that he asked around about what that temperature was and got an answer from the LA Fire Department, and hoped that it was right.

Montag is a fireman, but in Bradbury’s vision of the future, firemen don’t put out fires; they create them. In fact, it is against the law to read books, and so anyone caught having books in the home has his or her house burnt down by the fire department and is then carted off to prison.

As the novel opens, Montag meets a teenage girl, his neighbor, who enjoys life, asks many questions, is intuitive about him and reads. She fascinates him. Montag is also fascinated by the fact that some people will risk their homes in order to read. When he goes to start a fire at a home of a woman who refuses to leave, who decides that she will die in the fire with her books, Montag can’t put it out of his mind. He does what must tempt any fireman—he steals a book. And then his life really explodes. Because in reading, he finds a connection to others, to their thoughts and hopes. Books are living documents of human struggle.

I realized recently that it was already time for celebrating ‘banned books,’ and that I had been too busy to do much about it. So, I thought it would be fun to have another look at Fahrenheit 451. I think the novel is paced differently than some novels written today. There is a lot of action and a lot of danger; but the climax comes earlier and the resolution is a bit longer. I found this interesting—that the resolution was given so much weight, that it really did matter as much as the action.

And yes, Fahrenheit 451 is a living document of human struggle, a book that has stood the test of time and will engage the reader with its poetic language and its fast action. The more sinister elements of the totalitarian society are still, unfortunately, fresh warnings.

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