Category archives: Science Fiction

First Line: Dangerous

by May 7, 2014 in Books, First Line, Recommended, Science Fiction

First Line: Dangerous

"The warehouse was coffin dark."

Initially this may strike you as a really solid opener - it gives a sense of foreboding and danger with just a few words. However, as it turns out, I found this first line to be pretty disappointing because of what immediately follows in the one page prologue this sentence initiates. The prologue continues with the sense of fear, finally culminating in "But I didn't want to kill again. And I didn't want to die."

Honestly, this probably wouldn't strike me as such an overplayed, melodramatic start of the book if not for the painful similarities to the opening of each book in the Twilight series, and for the fact that the first sentence in the first chapter was so much better.

"Every superhero has an origin story."

I enjoy this opener so much more for several reasons. First of all, it doesn't bring to mind unfortunate comparisons to Twilight. This book is not a melodramatic romance wrapped inside a silly vampire story. Instead, it's an exciting sci-fi action adventure with original and well-wrought characters. Don't get me wrong, sometimes you want a melodramatic and silly book to read, but to call Dangerous any of those things does the book an injustice.

Second, I like the latter quote better as an opening line because it's more original, at least for me. It doesn't bring to mind any other books I've read, and immediately sets it apart as something I'm interested. Plus, there is more mystery to the idea of reading the origins of a superhero (especially for a 1-armed teenage girl) than there is to foreshadowing a life and death showdown in the first page.

Finally, "Every superhero has an origin story." is a better opening line because it more realistically represents the themes, tone, and style of the whole book, rather than implying it's overblown and unoriginal. This is a superhero story. It is full of adventure, whimsy, and heartache. It has real characters acting in believable ways in an unbelievable situation. To have any opening that does anything other than give that impression is unfair to the excellent book that follows.

I guess what it all comes down to for me is that the "second" opener feels like a more natural fit with the book, and less an attempt to "grab attention". With all that said you should read this book, and if the prologue doesn't hook you, don't worry, Chapter 1 is just a page away.

Comment »


First Line: The Supernaturalist

by April 10, 2014 in Books, First Line, Science Fiction

First Line: The Supernaturalist

SATELLITE CITY: THE CITY Of the FUTURE, proclaimed the billboards.

A straightforward first line, but also one that contains some insights into what we can expect from The Supernaturalist. First of all, we immediately learn where the story will take place - Satellite City. From this it's safe to assume that this will be a science fiction novel that takes place in space, or something like space. Both perhaps obvious from the back cover, but if you are like me and don't read such things, it's good to know what you are getting into from the beginning. This is especially true with a title that may imply a plot that is more about ghosts than aliens.

More than that, though, we can just pick up on the disillusionment that the narrator must have with the claim of the billboard about Satellite City being the "City of the Future". I don't think we would read "proclaimed" if Satellite City actually were the City of the Future, instead it would simply be presented as a fact. "Satellite City: The City of the Future". Obviously Satellite City is not the perfect paradise this advertisement implies.

Finally, I can't help ...

Read more »


The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

by Jan. 12, 2012 in Books, Recommended, Science Fiction

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

I read Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land last year and I didn't enjoy it, despite its strong start. In addition to my disappointment over the book, I was also surprised by the fact that I didn't like it. Here we had what is considered one of the greatest science fiction books of all time, and all I can do is criticize it for being heavy-handed and dull. Shouldn't this be exactly the kind of thing I love to read?

Since my experience with Stranger last year, I really had no intention of reading anything else by Heinlein. Still, he is considered a master in the genre and there were definitely some promising aspects to Stranger. And if C.S. Lewis is right when he says you can't criticize a book the first time to read it (shh...don't tell him I do that every time), I certainly don't have the right to ignore everything else by Heinlein just because of one reading of one book.

And a good thing I didn’t give up on him, because everything Stranger gets wrong, The Moon is A Harsh Mistress gets right. Mistress tells ...

Read more »


Pitching Max Werner

by Jan. 9, 2012 in Books, Fiction, Science Fiction

Pitching Max Werner

Max Werner, 15, can see in the dark - a secret not even his best friend Tom knows. More sly than brave, Max has used his special gift for years to roam the streets of his neighborhood committing petty crimes and various acts of harmless delinquency. He prefers hiding from danger, safe in the shadows that only his sight can penetrate, rather than confronting anything head on.

His misdeeds bring him more than a few stolen goods, however, when he runs across a band of inhuman thieves that don’t take kindly to Max invading their territory. These strange bandits kidnap Max’s little sister as punishment for his indiscretion, forcing him to put what little courage he does have to the test.

Afraid to make the rescue attempt alone, Max must first convince Tom to join the adventure. Even with his perfect night vision, the giant spiders, bottomless pits, and blood-thirsty criminals that stand between Max and his sister may mean that none of them make it out alive.

A Selective History of Max Werner is a young adult adventure for all those who have ever wondered what secrets lay in the deepest shadows, the blackest cave, or the darkest ...

Read more »


Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories

by Aug. 23, 2010 in Books, Recommended, Science Fiction

Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories

I've never felt the need to defend the enjoyment I get out of reading science fiction or fantasy novels. As a result, though, I've never really considered what it is about these types of books that interests me so much. Fortunately, C.S. Lewis has, and in this collection of essays, he perfectly articulates why such stories are worth reading, writing, and discussing.

It's not worth summarizing each of the essays here (they are so efficiently executed that it's hard to trim anything out in summary), but there are a few points that Lewis makes that I want to highlight.

First, he repeatedly points out that, regardless of audience or subject matter, a good book is simply a good book. If it's not good enough for adult's to read, then why should our children? He also enjoys emphasizing the idea that one should not arbitrarily choose a genre, but should let the story dictate the best means of delivery. These are just two of the many points he raises, and I'm hardly doing them justice. Lewis brings so much warmth and humor to each essay that you should really just read them.

In ...

Read more »


The Handmaid's Tale

by Aug. 14, 2010 in Books, Recommended, Science Fiction

The Handmaid's Tale

Wow, it's been so long since I last posted that you're probably thinking I decided to read The Tale of Genji all over again. I did not, though, so I promise that's the last reference to the length of Genji that I'll make (in this post). No, the real reason I haven't been posting is due to a combination of being on vacation with no internet, and laziness. I was still reading, however, so let's get to that.

The Handmaid's Tale, sexual pun intended, is set in a futuristic dystopian society and tells the story of a Handmaid - a religiously and politically sanctioned concubine. The Handmaid who serves as our narrator is not a huge fan of her new role in society.

Though Atwood does an excellent job of creating a cohesive, well-realized, and clearly defined society, I would not go so far as to say the events she portrays are believable. I don't think our own society is just one step away from heading down this particular path. That isn't a criticism, however, because I don't think you have to consider this a real possibility to appreciate what Atwood ...

Read more »


Cringe Worthy Covers: Ender's Game

by June 30, 2010 in Books, Covers, Science Fiction

Nathan's recent rant has inspired me to start a new semi-regular feature on the blog. It won't be "every Wednesday", but I'll try to do it about once a week. Depending, of course, on how frequently I can find good examples of bad book covers. The idea here is simple - even the best books can have the most terrible cover art, and any publisher who commits such a crime deserves to be ridiculed.

Let's start things off with one of my all-time favorite novels: Ender's Game.  I was originally planning on elaborating more on the various covers, but I realized that's unnecessary.  These are going to be awful, and you don't need me to convince you of that fact. So here we go.

Good idea:

Bad Idea:

Way to go publisher!  You made cover art so bad I can't even find this edition of the book for sale on Amazon.  High five!

Read more »


Perelandra

by June 11, 2010 in Books, Recommended, Science Fiction

Perelandra

Instead of listening to audio books during my daily commute, I have recently been enjoying lectures from The Great Courses.  These cover all types of subjects, from classical mythology, to Einstein's theory of relativity.  The one I just finished, however, was a 12 lecture series on the life and writings of C.S. Lewis.  I complimented this listening experience by reading Perelandra, the second book in Lewis's classic Space Trilogy.

I've read Perelandra before, as well as a number of Lewis's other works, but by listening to lectures discussing major themes of his work in general, while simultaneously reading a single work in depth, I was able to enjoy it at a much deeper level.  I encourage anyone with the time or opportunity to do something similar.

As for the book itself, Perelandra follows Ransom (a professor of philology) on another interstellar adventure - this time to Venus (or Perelandra).  While there, he becomes involved in Perelandra's own Edenic struggle to resist temptation.

I loved reading Perelandra. Lewis's ability to make the temptation believable, and compelling, is extremely impressive.  In fact, the dialogue of this book is far more exciting than the "action" moments.   Full ...

Read more »


The Ringworld Engineers

by June 7, 2010 in Books, Recommended, Science Fiction

It was probably 5 years ago that I read Ringworld - the tale of a group of 3 adventurers who are tempted to travel to beyond the known universe to explore a giant Ringworld in search of treasure and fame.  Unfortunately, that's about all I remembered about the first book, and so when I was looking to read the sequel last week, I decided to check Wikipedia for the details I could not recall.  To my great disappointment, Wikipedia had only an extended, spoiler free summary.  Yet another reason I wish I had started my book database years earlier!

Despite my failed memory and lack of information online, I went ahead and read The Ringworld Engineers.  In this sequel, Louis Wu and Chmee return, against their will, to the Ringworld in search of a mysterious object.  Louis and Chmee, however, spend most of their time looking for freedom from their paranoid Puppeteer captor.

Ultimately, not remembering the details of the first book was a minor point.  I wish I had, but only because I think it would have added depth to the development of Chmee and Louis Wu as characters.  As it was, I could only watch them grow within ...

Read more »


Unwind

by May 25, 2010 in Books, Not Recommended, Science Fiction

Unwind

I learned about Unwind from a coworker whose son was reading it for school. Apparently there was some controversy among the parents. Having just finished Don Quixote I figured this would be great light reading to bridge the gap before vacation. While easy to read, this definitely wasn't exactly the light reading I had expected.

Unwind is set in a dystopian future in which America has fought its second civil war. Only this time, the fighting was over abortion. The war eventually ended with the signing of the Bill of Life. According to this document all life was protected from conception to the age of 13. From 13 to 18 a parent could choose to retroactively unwind their children. Unwind follows the story of 3 children who are set to be Unwound.

Unwind is full of interesting ideas and deals with the difficult subject of abortion with subtlety. However, the writing itself is just mediocre. It is worth reading if you want to start a discussion on abortion with a teen, but probably not otherwise.

In fact, the most interesting thing for me in regards to Unwind was finding the parallels between it and Jonathan Swift's A Modest ...

Read more »


Currently Reading