Category Archives: Science Fiction & Fantasy

Lexicon

[Cover]

Title:   Lexicon

Author:  Max Barry

Publisher:  Penguin Press, 2013

Summary/Review: “Sticks and Stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me” is basically a big, fat lie in the world of Max Barry’s Lexicon.    If a Poet tells you to go shoot yourself, you will.

Emily Ruff, a homeless teenager making money by hustling tourists, is one of the special few recruited to attend a very exclusive school where the students are taught to use words to manipulate the minds of others.  The best will graduate and become Poets.   Emily is already adept at the power of persuasion, a skill she’s had to develop to survive life on the street.  She is, however, lacking in discipline, wary of authority and absolutely ruthless in doing whatever it takes to survive.  Not surprisingly, Emily is tossed out of school but not before learning that everyone has a specific personality type and once you learn what that is you can control them with certain words.  And there are some words that are very, very powerful.

Wil Parke is the exception to the rule.  He is (almost) completely immune to manipulation by a Poet. Wil’s world has become a waking nightmare.  Strange men want information from him that he doesn’t have and they aren’t shy about hurting him to get it. He has vague memories of a happy life but can’t quite recapture them as he’s too occupied with not getting killed.

Will and Emily’s stories play out against a background of potential Armageddon.  An ancient symbol with the power to destroy has surfaced and the race is on to possess it.

Who will like this book: Readers who enjoy a fast paced science fiction thriller that keeps you guessing about who the real “bad guy” is until the very end.

If you like this, try this: Lexicon has been compared to The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman;  NOS4A2  by Joe Hill and  The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

Recommended by: Sue D’num, Technical Services

If you think this could be your next read, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to check availability and/or place a hold

 

The Fear Index

fear index

Title: The Fear Index

Author:  Robert Harris

Publisher: Knopf, 2012

Summary/Review: If you like to read about the stock market,financial markets worldwide, and are concerned about the gyrations in the markets caused by computers using mathematical formulas for lightning fast trades (Remember the flash crash?) then this work of fiction is for you.

Dr. Alex Hoffmann, the main character, is a mathematical genius and is obsessed with artificial intelligence.  When he is unable to continue his work at CERN(due to a mental breakdown), he turned to the development of  a form of artificial intelligence, VIXAL, that utilizes a set of algorithms to buy and sell financial instruments based on what in reality is known as the VIX or volatility index, otherwise known as “the fear index”. The computers monitor events worldwide, and when the sense “fear” they will buy or sell — depending on the situation. Dr. Hoffmann and his hedge fund company become ultra-rich and everyone is very happy with the working of VIXAL–  until events start to go terribly wrong – starting with an intruder at Hoffmann’s home.

At the beginning of each chapter there is a quotation from Charles Darwin’s Origen of the Species– a work about evolution and natural selection.  At first you may not make the connection between the twists and turns of the plot and the quotation, but as you near the end of the book you realize WHAT has been evolving right under the nose of Dr. Hoffmann.

Recommended by: Sue Z, Reference Librarian

Who will like this?: Those who are interested in Artificial Intelligence and its impact on human life.  Those who are looking for a thriller with lots of twists and turns.

If you like this, try this:  If you liked Robert Harris’ writing, he has a number of other books such as “The Ghost” and “Lustrum”.   If the topic of Artificial Intelligence interests you, try the classic “2001: A Space Odyssey” by Arthur Clarke or “I, Robot” by Isaac Asimov.

If you are trying to break into the science fiction genre, try the classic “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card or “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury.  More recent science fiction includes the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins or “Insurgent” by Veronica Roth.

If this looks like a book you’d like to read, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available and to place a hold!

After the Fall Before the Fall During the Fall

[Cover]

TitleAfter the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall

Author: Nancy Kress

Publisher: Tachyon, April 2012

Summary/Review: In 2035, the Earth as we know it is no more. An alien attack by the mysterious ‘Tesslies’ has devastated the planet, transforming it into a poisoned wasteland.  A small band of humans have been culled to survive in The Shell, a futuristic shelter installed on the Earth’s damaged surface by the aliens. Damaged by radiation, the survivors are desperate to reproduce, thrive and restart the human race. In 2013, a brilliant statistician working for the FBI is trying to connect the dots between seemingly random kidnappings of young children and bizarre robberies occurring all over the East coast. All the cases, witnesses insist, end in a bright flash of light and the disappearance of the assailant and whatever they were taking. And in 2014, an undetected bacterium is slowly attacking plant life all over the planet.

Nancy Kress is an award-winning science fiction force and this book is a great introduction to her work. Told in the voices of Julie, the FBI analyst and Pete, a teenager born in the Shell, After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall weaves together three separate timelines that tell the story of the end of the world as we knew it.

Who will like this book? This short novel is a great choice for fans of dystopian fiction and ecological non-fiction. It is suitable for both adults and older teen readers. And with a surprising twist at the end, it’s not as bleak as it sounds.

If you like this, try this: “The World Without Us” by Alan Weisman. “Eternity Road” by Jack McDevitt. “Life as We Knew It” by Susan Beth Pfeffer.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

If you think you would like this book, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available and/or place a hold!  [Link will open in a new window]

The Devil’s Alphabet

TitleThe Devil’s Alphabet

Author:  Daryl Gregory

Publisher: Random House, November 2009

Summary: Paxton Martin, a preacher’s son, is returning to his hometown of Switchcreek, TN, for the funeral of a childhood friend. Pax left Switchcreek 12 years ago, soon after an outbreak of Transcription Divergence Syndrome devastated the population of the small town. TDS, or The Changes, killed a third of the people living in Switchcreek and caused three different mutations in most of the people left alive. The victims of TDS-A, or Argos, became gray-skinned and grew to abnormal heights. TDS-B victims, or Betas, became hairless and seal-like, and TDS-C victims, or Charlies, became grotesquely obese. A few residents, Paxton included, were unaffected and remained unchanged. When Paxton returns for the funeral, he finds that there are many unanswered questions surrounding the suicide of JoLynn, and with the help of his friend Deke he tries to unravel the mystery of her death.

I would not describe myself as a science fiction fan, but I really enjoyed this one. It had great characters, bits of mystery and humor, and a few parts that rated about a 9.5 on my ickiness scale.

Who will like this book? Science fiction fans.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

These Children Who Come At You With Knives

Title: These Children Who Come At You With Knives and Other Fairy Tales

Author: Jim Knipfel

Publisher: Simon & Schuster, June 2010

Summary: Fractured fairy tales have long been a popular genre in youth literature, and in this wicked, inspired collection, the grown-ups finally get their own twisted takes on ‘happily ever after.’ If you are expecting a modern-day Cinderella or Little Mermaid story, this is not the book for you.

Instead, you will meet a chicken who is too smart for her own good, a demented gnome bent on world domination, and a gossipy houseplant that would give Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors a run for her (it’s?) money. And it’s not giving too much away by saying that none of the stories has the traditional fairy tale ending. This bold collection will make you laugh and squirm at the same time.

Who will like this book?: Fans of satire. Cynics. People who think to themselves, ‘if Cinderella’s slippers were really made of glass, wouldn’t she cut up her feet?’

If you like this, read this: Another great (albeit less brutal) take on fairy tales for grown-ups, the Fables graphic novel series by Bill Willingham.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

The Tale of Halcyon Crane

TitleThe Tale of Halcyon Crane

Author:  Wendy Webb

Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.,  March 2010

Summary: Hallie James has lived her life believing that her mother Madlyn was killed in a fire when Hallie was a small child. Now 35 years old, Hallie is dealing with her divorce and her father’s terminal illness. When she receives an envelope in the mail, she is shocked to find it contains a letter from her mother. As it turns out, Madlyn has lived the last 30 years believing that Hallie and her father were killed in a kayaking accident on the lake. The letter from Madlyn is accompanied by a letter from her attorney breaking the news that Madlyn has recently passed away. In order to find out why her father went to such lengths to keep her from her mother, Hallie travels to her mother’s home on Grand Manitou, a remote island in the Great Lakes. It isn’t long before Hallie realizes that something supernatural inhabits the mansion and grounds which she has just inherited.

The Tale of Halcyon Crane is an unnerving ghost story that’s setting on a secluded island makes it even creepier.

Who will like this book? Ghost story aficionados.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

Broken Angel

TitleBroken Angel

Author:  Sigmund Brouwer

Summary: Set in a Christian dystopia, in the not-so-far-off future, Broken Angel is the story of religious fundamentalism gone horribly wrong. Caitlin has grown up in Appalachia, an independent country within the United States run by fanatics who have distorted Christianity. Punishments for crimes in Appalachia (including the heinous crime of reading and teaching others to read) range from forced labor to death by stoning. No wonder there is secret network of people, known as the Clan, who help people escape this hell hole. Oops-that probably would have gotten me 5 years of hard labor in the factory.

As Caitlin reaches puberty, her father plans for her escape to the Outside. You see, Caitlin was born with a deformity that they have been able to hide up until now. If this deformity is discovered, she will certainly be put to death. Since everyone’s movements in Appalachia are monitored by the government, escaping is never easy. Caitlin is forced to flee on her own as her father tries to draw the bounty hunters away from her tracks, but she eventually meets up with two other fugitives. Together, they must help each other survive while keeping ahead of their pursuers. Will all three of them make it? What really happened to her father when the bounty hunter caught up to him? Is everyone in Appalachia what they appear to be? What is this mysterious deformity of Caitlin’s? Brouwer does a great job of keeping this a fast paced story with intriguing characters and plot twists.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

Feed

Title: Feed

Author: M.T. Anderson

Summary: Imagine having the Internet in your head. In Feed, a dystopian novel set in a not-too-distant future, Titus has grown up with the feed: a computer chip installed at birth that connects him, and everyone else, to the Feednet. Instant messaging, television, telephone, even shopping (complete with pop-up ads) all hard-wired to his brain.  Life revolves around the feed until Titus meets Violet, a girl who prefers to think for herself. When Violet begins to  question this new society and fight the feed – no matter what the cost, Titus must make a decision: Stand by Violet, or give in to the feed.

This book presents an America taken over by consumerism and technology about to implode on itself. That it is entirely plausible makes this novel even more timely and frightening. However, it retains a sense of humor, and like the best satire, will leave the reader thinking about the book long after the last page is turned.

Who will like this book: Sci-Fi fans, technophobes and IM-addicts

If you like this, try: Be More Chill by Ned Vizzini, Jennifer Government by Max Barry

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian