Before it hits theaters in 2018, catch up on:
Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer
Four scientists enter Area X, drawn by their need for discovery. They are not the first group to undertake this exploratory mission. Previous expeditions have died of illness, gone missing, and devolved into murder. Readers join the twelfth expedition as Area X quickly begins to take it’s toll, eating away at the trust and minds of the expedition members, twisting the meaning of reality.
A biologist, a surveyor, a psychologist, and an archeologist walk into a bar…and by bar I mean a creepy, nature-ruled limbo where logic is rendered useless. Vandermeer landscapes an exciting and utterly unnerving tale of exploration. Guided by his scientific style of writing, I could feel the characters’ fear and confusion as their realities unraveled with each new discovery. I recommend this book for lovers of the strange, of apocalyptic fiction, and of mind-bending worlds.
P.S. Find the movie trailer here.
Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston
Forced into hiding in the aftermath of Order 66, Ahsoka Tano has so far managed to escape the hands of the Empire. She lives a life of necessity until circumstances send her on the run again, leading her to a place where giving up her nomadic and lonely life may just be possible. Of course, nothing is ever so simple. With her new home under threat, Ahsoka must decide how far she is willing to go to protect what little she has left.
As a life-long Star Wars fan, I was over the moon (…space humor? No? Fair enough…) when I found this book. After the release of Rogue One, I was dying to get my hands on additional Star Wars stories. This book felt like the literary version of an afternoon snack. While I wouldn’t say it stands alone outside the context of the Clone Wars and Rebels TV series, I did enjoy having Ahsoka back in my life. More classic characters also crop up throughout the book for a satisfying bit of nostalgia. The brisk writing made for a comfortable weekend read, and the plot held to the classic intertwining style of many other Star Wars adventures. I recommend this book for YA sci-fi fans.
Every book lover has had that “Little Mermaid” moment. That moment where we fall so deeply in love with a fictional world that we’d die happy if we could spend just ten minutes there. But what happens when we’re not just experiencing fictional worlds? What happens when we’re creating them? Creating a fictional world can be challenging, but not to fear fellow mermaids! Here are a few starting tips to leave readers wishing they were part of that world.
As discussed in an earlier post, setting is a powerful tool, so it’s important to use it to its full potential. When designing a fictional world, making borders is a great place to start.Building land-based borders can help define the edges of a character’s world. These edges can be limited to something as small as a single street, or as vast as a universe. There may be entire continents that make up your world, but the ones that really matter are the ones that effect characters.
There are other ways to define borders as well. Unless it’s a Doctor Who-ish world where anything can happen at any time, there are usually basic laws to how things work. Consider: What are the physical limitations of the story and characters? For example, in my novel some people like Rumpelstiltskin use magic, but they can’t go around doing whatever they want. There are lines that cannot be crossed, which adds drama by creating consequences for people who try to overstretch their limits.
Who lives in your world is a large part of its construction. What do these people value and how does it shape their world? Do they blow apart mountains to get to the other side because they value efficiency, or do they avoid the mountains because of folklore? Culture will determine how characters interact with their environment and each other. When considering creating fictional cultures, it can be difficult to find a place to start. Research can help. I often borrow aspects from already existing cultures and integrate pieces into my work to form something new.
Often culture sculpts character. Much of a character’s personality depends on the values she’s gained from her culture. In many cases, it is then her backstory, the specific events throughout her life, that decides whether a she accepts or rejects those cultural values as her own. Culture can then be used as a form of support or conflict for a character.
The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
Young Matt has spent his life living quietly on the edge of the Opium fields. Watching the world through his windows, he has little understanding of what lies beyond the safe walls of his house with Ceila, his devoted caretaker. But everything changes when he’s discovered by the children of Alacrán family, heirs of El Patrón, the lord of the Opium empire. Uprooted from the fields, Matt and Celia are brought to live in the Big House. There, Matt discovers he is the clone of El Patrón, born from science. To everyone else in the Alcrán line, the boy is a monster. So as Matt struggles to understand the world and his place in it, he must also navigate El Patrón’s ruthless family and their fight for power. Underlying it all is a secret Matt may not survive.
If you like subtle science fiction, this book is gold. Farmer seamlessly blends sci-fi with realism and current culture. It’s fast paced without feeling rushed thanks to her quick and casual style. I admit, I had to peek at the family tree at the beginning of the book a few times because there are so many characters, but I loved them. Despite his unique circumstances, Matt was easy to sympathize with and developed nicely. I especially enjoyed the development of his vicious rival, Tom. Through it all, readers are challenged by the ultimate question: What separates monsters from men, and men from the animals? I recommend this book for YA sci-fi lovers.
We’re going to try something different. Today’s post will be in the form of a Mad Lib! Play along and comment your completed story below.
Absolutely Mad: A Scientist’s Tale
This is where it happened, in this (noun/place)-this very spot. Here is where I created my monster. Sit. Allow me to tell you how I defied death. It was late, and I was just about to (verb) when there was a fevered knock at the door. Upon opening it, I discovered a (noun) holding a (noun), which (s)he offered me. A family member had died and (s)he knew of my special talents, specifically my (adjective) ability to (verb) . I admit my curiosity got the better of me. After procuring the body, we hurried to the (noun) to gather the necessary elements. We returned to this spot. Using my (noun), (noun), and a dash of luck, I revived the corpse. What was god compared to (noun)? But then I saw the undead man’s eyes. They were void of all (noun). What had I done? I had conquered death, but at what cost?
The 100 by Kass Morgan
High above Earth’s surface, what remains of humanity survives aboard a network of spaceships. Three centuries after the nuclear fallout that devastated the earth, a hundred juveniles convicted of dangerous crimes are being sent back to the ground. It could be a second chance, but it could also be a death sentence.
A solid choice for lovers of YA science fiction, The 100 follows Clarke, Wells, Bellamy, and Glass as they fight to survive on Earth and above it. Each are haunted by the difficult choices they’ve had to make, and each has a backstory as compelling as the last. I enjoyed Kass’s use of multiple points of view, which added nicely to the suspense of the story. I less enjoyed the focus on romance as a motivational tool, which could be why I favor Bellamy’s storyline, but that’s more of a personal preference. Overall, the book is a fast-paced and easy read, perfect for a lazy weekend.
I’m not normally the type to watch an adaptation before I read the book, but I initially picked up The 100 after feverishly binge watching the television series (which is MIND BLOWING, by the way). The first two seasons are now available on Netflix. If, like me, you met the show before you met the book, I will warn you there are some stark differences. But if you feel the calling, check the book out anyway! And as always…