Science Fiction (2016)

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

It’s a battle of technology vs. magic, of science vs. nature as the world looms near total destruction in this quirky original novel by the editor of While the threat of the apocalypse is imminent throughout the story, the heart of this book is the unlikely coming-of-age relationship between two social outcasts, Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead.
Patricia is only a child when she learns she is a witch.  After discovering she can speak to a wounded bird, she is lead deep into the forest where she is met by an enormous cognizant tree and the Parliament of Birds. From this point on, Patricia waits for the day when she will be rescued from her strict parents and manipulative sister and whisked away to a magical school. In the meantime, she befriends computer nerd Laurence who can time travel and built a computer with ever-increasing artificial intelligence in his closet. The two support each other through the bullying that filled their middle school years, and survive attempts by their guidance counselor (really a deadly assassin) to drive them apart.

Fast forward to futuristic San Francisco, where Patricia is a practicing witch after finishing school at Eltisley Maze and Laurence is a wunderkind working for a tech investor. Each is trying to save society the best way they know how. Patricia works with a small group of witches saving the citizens of the city through a discreet combination of spells and punishments. Laurence uses his skills to create the Pathway to Infinity, an anti-gravity portal to another dimension, designed to rescue humanity when disaster strikes. The two friends are reunited and their relationship and dependence on each other is rekindled. Unbeknownst to either, and simultaneous to their independent efforts, the artificial intelligence created so long ago in Laurence’s closet is at work drawing them together time and time again to save the world as it falls apart around them.

When Superstorm Allegra hits and threatens the future of the planet, which side will be the savior, Patricia’s connection with nature and magical powers, or Laurence’s advancements in engineering? The answer is a combination of both - the ancient wisdom of a magical force of nature working in tandem with technology.

This book is a recommended read for fans of science fiction, fantasy, magical realism and stories about the apocalypse. Chapters alternate viewpoints between Patricia and Laurence, keeping their relationship so much the focus of this novel that the personal and romantic aspects may make in an enjoyable choice for non-readers of this genre as well. With its hip, fresh and futuristic tone, this novel is also ideal for millennial readers and “new” adults. Readers should not get bogged down by the amount of time spent dwelling on Patricia and Laurence’s middle school years, the pace of the novel speeds up once it moves to San Francisco into an unforgettable read.

Duplex by Kathryn Davis
The Magicians Series by Lev Grossman
Just a Couple of Days by Tony Vigorito

Jill Wylie, Hauppauge Public Library

The Forgotten Room by Lincoln Child

Jeremy Logan is an "enigmalogist"—an investigator who specializes in analyzing phenomena that have no obvious explanation. In Newport, Rhode Island, where he has been retained by Symposikon, one of the oldest and most respected think tanks in America, Logan is trying to find out why one of its most distinguished doctors began acting erratically—violently attacking an assistant in the mansion's opulent library and, moments later, killing himself in a truly shocking fashion. He finds an ingeniously hidden secret room, apparently untouched for decades. The room is a time capsule, filled with eerie and obscure scientific equipment that points to a top secret project long thought destroyed, known only as "Project S." Ultimately, the truth of what Project S was . . . and what happened in that room . . . will put Logan in danger.

It is a slow beginning, but about 2/3 of the way in, starts to get a bit more exciting. The author writes a lot of lengthy descriptions of rooms and apparatus, which unfortunately add nothing to the story. There was no character development and the other characters didn’t add much to the story. Very easy to put down, but easy to read also. Relatively quick pace, but not what I would call a thriller.

Deep Storm, Terminal Freeze and The Third Gate (Jeremy Logan Series) by Lincoln Child
Michael Crichton
Clive Cussler
Douglas Preston

Lori Ludlow, Babylon Public Library

And Again by Jessica Chiarella

And Again is the story of four people chosen to participate in a test group for SUBlife, a company that does human cloning and is awaiting FDA approval. The four participants are David, a U.S. Senator who had a brain tumor; Linda, a woman who had been paralyzed from the nose down for the past eight years after being in a car accident; Connie, an actress who contracted a virulent strain of HIV due to drug use and Hannah, an artist who was dying of Cancer. As each character wakes up in his or her new body, each must readjust to their new healthy lives and relearn how to deal with loved ones.

Told from each character's point of view in alternating chapters, And Again is mostly heartbreaking. Linda has no idea how to interact with her kids after only being able to communicate by blinking for the last eight years and spending the last five of those in a nursing facility while life went on without her. Hannah, who was a great artist, can barely remember how to hold a paintbrush and is no longer attracted to her boyfriend. Connie is destitute after her disability checks are canceled and has no family to speak of and Davis is hiding his participation in the study because his Christian constituents won't re-elect him if they know. None of the characters make good decisions and wind up emotionally distraught and a bit self-destructive as their new bodies are almost like teenagers with raging hormones and hard to control tempers.

Although an interesting story, this book can't really be considered science fiction as the cloning is almost an afterthought. It never delves into the science behind it and we meet the characters after the operations are complete. The main focus of the story is more about the characters finding themselves again after being sick and trying to be better people making better decisions. And Again is more a study of human nature and should be given to a reader looking for character-driven books rather than a die-hard science fiction fan.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
A Borrowed Man by Gene Wolfe

Azuree Agnello, West Babylon Public Library

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

The year is 2044. James Halliday, the videogame designer of OASIS, a massively multiplayer online game (MMOG or MMO) has died. Halliday sends a short video film invitation title “Anorak’s Invitation” to all users inviting them to find the Easter egg that he hid somewhere inside the videogame. The first person to find it will inherit Halliday’s entire fortune. Let the hunt begin! Anyone who knows anything about James Halliday knows he has “Harbored a lifelong obsession with the 1980s.” Wade Watts, the story’s protagonist, has read Anorak’s Almanac from cover to cover in order to learn all he can about Halliday. Cline uses the Almanac as a springboard to sprinkle ‘80’s pop culture references throughout the book … “I watched every episode of The Greatest American Hero, Airwolf, The A-Team, Knight Rider, Misfits of Science, and The Muppet Show.”

Ready Player One is a fast-paced nostalgic trip down memory lane. Not to worry if you are not a video gamer, the story line is straightforward and you’ll find that the dialogue and descriptions are nicely balanced. “Land of the Lost, Thundarr the Barbarian, He-Man, Schoolhouse Rock!, G.I. Joe - I knew them all. Because knowing is half the battle.”

The movie, which is to be directed by Steven Spielberg, is scheduled to be released March 30, 2018.

Armada by Ernest Cline
The Eye of Minds by James Dashner
For the Win by Cory Doctorow
Insignia by S.J. Kincaid

Sue Ketcham, B. Davis Schwartz Memorial Library, LIU Post

Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster

This is the official novelization of the latest blockbuster Star Wars film released to great acclaim in December of last year: actually, this print release was delayed so as to not steal thunder from the film debut. The film script, too, was handled with excessive security, kept in a safe when not in use!  

Once again, the forces of good are pitted against the forces of evil. Seeking tyrannical domination of the universe, The First Order has risen from the Galactic Empire defeated years ago by the Resistance which included Luke Skywalker, General Leia Organa and Han Solo. The First Order, led by villains such as Kylo Ren (tragically, the son of Leia and Solo) and Supreme Leader Snoke, wishes to destroy the Republic which is championed still by Leia and some courageous new supporters who feature prominently in this story. Their chief effort is to locate champion Luke Skywalker, to enlist his help.

This adventure is fast-paced, and exciting, with a marvelous cast of characters including imaginative alien creatures and saucy robots. Despite all the elements usually found in science fiction which also include fabulous weaponry and spacecraft, amazing intelligence and perception abilities, it is the human qualities of the story that really stand out- courage, compassion, grace and, above all, love.

The RCN series by David Drake
The Deathstalker Series by Simon E. Green
Other Star Wars books

Suzanne McGuire, Commack Public Library

The Peripheral by William Gibson

The Peripheral features two mildly dystopian futures, each a reflection of unpleasant economic aspects of our present reality. Flynne Fisher lives in a near future rural America. The economy is depressed, the local government corrupt, and the employment options in her town are limited to synthesizing illegal drugs or working retail. Her brother works off the books flying a security drone in a videogame -- he says it’s money for nothing, but when Flynne subs for him, she sees a woman get eaten from the inside out by a swarm of robots, and then someone takes out a hit on her brother. 

Wilf Netherton lives in London in the far future. Eighty percent of the world’s population has died off due to the long term effects of climate change and the world is now run by the ultra-wealthy, who no longer have to pay lip service to democratic values. Wilf works in public relations -- he’s been sleeping with a client and gave her an unusual drone to run security for her. Unfortunately, she gave it away to her sister, who has since disappeared, and the rumor is that Wilf is responsible. 

That’s the first few chapters, and the plot gets more complex from there. If it drives you crazy not to know exactly what characters are talking about, this one isn’t for you. For example, Flynne and her friends frequently refer to a policing unit called “Homes.” It’s not until Wilf asks for clarification near the end of the book that anyone calls it Homeland Security. 

If you are willing to sit back and enjoy the ride, the real fun of this book is in Gibson’s setting, characters, and humor. Wilf’s Russian mafia friend has pet Tasmanian tigers, resurrected through cloning, and his Goth IT girl is covered in tattoos of extinct animals that run away from strangers. Everyone in Flynne’s town shops at Hefty Mart, eats at the Hefty snack bar, and pays using Hefty Pal. An intriguing, complex sci-fi thriller with interesting, multi-faceted characters. Recommended for fans of science fiction. 
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
River of Gods by Ian McDonald
Reamde  by Neal Stephenson

Tabitha Johnson, North Babylon Public Library

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

What would happen to our present world if a flu virus developed that is resistant to current treatments and is high contagious? If the epidemic spread quickly and killed within one to two days? If, eventually, about 99% of the world's population dies? This is what happens in Station Eleven.

Mandel creates an absorbing account of how civilization would break down. Hospitals would quickly overflow with the sick and dying and hospital staff would die as well. The news would report each development until there were no more news people alive and TV stations would broadcast empty news stations. With police and fire fighting staff dying as well, no help would arrive for emergencies. Eventually electricity and water would stop with most of the world dead and no one to operate power stations. The few remaining survivors would face lawlessness and all the advances in technology and health would disappear. People would die from infected cuts and other diseases since there would be no more medicine. Within time, generations would be born that never new the world before it collapsed.

Mandel interweaves several characters lives and time shifts between pre and post epidemic and gets its title from a graphic novel that one character gives to another. Vividly depicting the fallen world with descriptions of overgrown trees and crumbling buildings, Mandel shows scenes of a post-apocalyptic world that convinces the reader that these situations could happen. It is a gripping novel with the interconnected stories of the characters engaging the reader and a well-developed plot that keeps you turning the page. The tone is suspenseful and the reader experiences the fear and danger the characters face.

J by Howard Jacobson
The Stand by Stephen King
California by Edan Lepucki
The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Myrna Velez, Brentwood Public Library

Planetfall by Emma Newman

A colony consisting of 1,000 people has ventured, via pods, to another planet in order to escape a devastating environment on the planet Earth. The colonists were led on their journey by their visionary leader, Suh. Shortly after Planetfall, Suh mysteriously disappears into what is perceived by all to be God's City. The colony shares the belief that Suh is communing with God and will eventually return. But 22 years have passed and the colonists' anual communal event anticipating the return of an enlightened, all-knowing leader has been an exercise in futility. The story focuses on the colony's top engineer, Ren, and the Ringmaster of the settlement, Mack. The two of them have successfully harbored a secret that, if exposed, could threaten the colony's very existence. Technology and faith have sustained the colony thus far, but the arrival of a mysterious young man, and some shocking revelations about Ren's severe emotional dysfunction, precipitate a series of events that could tear the colony's world apart.

Planetfall is a suspenseful, futuristic novel that thoroughly develops its characters in a plot that takes unexpected turns. Faith, science, love and heartbreak are themes throughout the story, and readers will find it difficult to put it down as it barrels its way to its unexpected conclusion. Mystery, suspense and the price of human foible make Planetfall a page-turning read for science-fiction buffs as well as any reader that enjoys plot-twisting, character-driven novels. 

Half Way Home by Hugh Howey
Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds
On the Steel Breeze by Alastair Reynolds
2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson
Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson

Deborah Formosa, Northport-East Northport Public Library

The Martian by Andy Weir

Six days ago astronaut Mark Watney became on of the first people to walk on Mars. Today he's sure he's going to be the first person to die there. Thought to be dead by his fellow crew members after a freak storm knocked out his suit's link with is team, he finds himself alive but alone on the planet with no way to get off or even to signal Earth that he's alive. What results is one man's mission to survive on a planet with no food and to get home using his intellect and ingenuity. 

Andy Weir tells this story with a great deal of humor while keeping the reader from being bogged down with technology.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Packing for Mars by Mary Roach
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

Kathy Carter, Mastics-Moriches-Shirley Community Library, Retired

The Lost Time Accidents by John Wray

If you enjoyed The Producers, you’ll like Wray’s holocaust caper about a family of amateur physicists who challenge Einstein’s linear theory of time. Our story begins in 1903 in Znotomo, Moravia, when Ottokar Gottfrieden Toula discovers that time travels in a circle and is dispatched by a runaway motor car before he can present his proof to the scientific community. His descendants spend the next 70 years trying to recreate it. Ottokar’s two sons, Waldemar, a brilliant scientist who joins the Nazis, and Kaspar, a teacher who flees to New York with his Jewish wife and their two daughters, go their separate ways.

Wray’s male characters can be divided into brilliant but obsessive loners and responsible family men trying to get by. Women are secondary characters, either sex objects or frustrated wives. Some minor characters are based on historical figures. Buffalo Bill, a distant relative of Kaspar’s wife, sponsors him when he applies for U.S. citizenship. L. Ron Hubbard is the model for the narrator’s father. Wray’s theme is the tenacity and resilience needed to cope with the vagaries of “chance, fate, and probability.” His style is inventive and playful, with an eye for the telling detail. Settings are cosmopolitan and the tone is generally casual. He wanted his book, to be “fun” to read, and it can be. Souffle or matzo, you decide.

Bare-faced Messiah: The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard by Russell Miller
Version Control by Dexter Palmer
Flashback by Dan Simmons
Home Fires by Gene Wolfe
How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu

Jackie Malone, Bellmore Public Library