Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Sci Fi Month: Introduction and Top Ten SF Books.


Hello and welcome, whether you're one of  my handful of regular readers or if you've come to this blog because of Rinn's event. This is the fourth year of Rinn's Sci-Fi month, but it's my first time taking part. A month-long inter-blog celebration of all things science fiction? I couldn't resist, despite it clashing with National Novel-Writing Month, so I'm having to be very organised for a change and these posts written and scheduled ahead of time.

So, for those of you who don't know me, my name is Katie and I live on the Isle of Wight. I'm a relatively new fan of science fiction, although I've been reading fantasy since I was a kid. I started watching Doctor Who when it was relaunched back in 2005, but it wasn't until my best friend showed me Joss Whedon's cult classic TV show Firefly that I really got hooked on all things in time and space. And there are no half-measures for me; if I become interested in a thing, then it takes up a lot of room in my imagination.




Over the next month, I plan to post twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays, with reviews of sci-fi books, films and TV, discussion posts and general fangirling. Next week will be Star Trek week, in celebration of the franchise's fiftieth anniversary earlier this year. But today, let me start off with a top ten list of my favourite science fiction books.

10: The Girl With All The Gifts - M. R. Carey. I think it's best to read this book without knowing too much about it, although now there is a film adaptation out there, I don't know how possible that is. It's a tale of human survival in an uncertain future, of hope, and an unusual but very important little girl.
9. Terra - Mitch Benn. By comparison, Terra is a happy little book, the tale of a human girl adopted by aliens and brought up on another planet; a celebration of cultural diversity and finding similarities in apparent differences. 
8. Sleeping Giants - Sylvain Neuvel The third in a row where a novel's catalyst is a small girl. When Rose Franklin is a child, she makes a discovery that will shape not only her own future but that of the whole world, and possibly beyond. But what shape will that future take? Is every scientific discovery doomed to bring the human race closer to destroying itself, or can it be saved from itself?
7. The Time Machine - H. G. Wells. The book that started all modern time-travel stories. Written in the Victorian age, The Time Machine reads as though it were written this year; with a humorous protagonist, science that even I can make sense of, and a surprisingly spooky ending. Without this book, the worlds of science fiction would be very different.
6. 2001: A Space Odyssey - Arthur C. Clarke. I saw the film of this first; a very strange movie, slow-moving with a weird beginning and a freaky ending, and (aside from the bits of music you associate with the film) the most unearthly, terrifying soundtrack imaginable. Not one to watch at midnight in an empty house. I was on edge throughout the "Beyond the Infinte" section! But the film made a lot more sense after reading the book, which was written alongside the screenplay and explains a lot of the weird stuff you see on the screen. It also reminded me in a roundabout way about how when I was seven or so, I was obsessed with my space encyclopedia and used it almost as a travel guide, mentally planning which planets I most wanted to visit when I was grown up and space travel was as common as getting on a bus. (My inner seven-year-old is still mad we haven't even sent anyone to Mars yet.)
5. Redshirts - John Scalzi. You know in Star Trek, whenever Captain Kirk and the main characters beam down to a planet on an away mission, they always have a few unknown crew members come with them in order to die horribly and create a sense of peril for the characters who must survive? Redshirts is their story. Very tongue-in-cheek,"recursive and meta," and snort-your-drink-up-your-nose hilarious. Use caution when reading in public.
4. Ready Player One - Ernest Cline. A wonderful treasure-hunt story set almost entirely in a virtual-reality universe, a celebration of gaming and geek culture, and especially that from the 1980s. You don't have to know all the references - of which there are multitudes - although every recognition adds an extra layer of insider-enjoyment. A fabulous page-turner.
3. The Martian - Andy Weir. If an astronaut got accidentally stranded on Mars, how could he possibly survive long enough for another rocket to come back for him? Answer: with a quick-thinking scientific mind, a twisted sense of humour, and the first potatoes grown on Mars. I took my time getting into The Martian on my first reading, but by the end I was gripping the book tight, desperate to know what happens next. An intelligent, believable but often comical sci-fi novel. It has also been made into a movie, in which, once more, Matt Damon is in need of rescuing.
2. 11.22.63- Stephen King. You probably think of Stephen King as a horror writer, but he is so much more than that. 11.22.63 tells the story of a man who is shown a door that will take him back in time to 1958. The same day, every time, always resetting back as if it was the first time that day came around. His mission is live in the past for five years, in order to prevent the assassination of president John F. Kennedy, then come back and see how the world would be changed as a result. But his task is complicated when he becomes attached, and meanwhile, time itself seems to be fighting back. 11.22.63 is not a horror story, more a historical novel than anything else, with a new approach to how time-travel works. I enjoyed losing myself with Jake in the '50s and '60s, and forming a life for himself there, just as much as the suspense-filled main plot. Stephen King makes you care about his characters, and then fear for them. There was a TV adaptation earlier this year, but while it kept the shape of the story roughly the same, the details were different, and most of the little things that I loved about the book were either passed over or changed. It's a beast of a book, about 800 pages, and yet it never drags. It is a book you can enjoy spending time in.
1. The Long Way to a Small Lonely Planet - Becky Chambers. Anyone who has been book-shopping with me this year will not be surprised to see this book at number one. Just as Stephen King took a new approach to time-travel, so Becky Chambers (the only woman on this list - shocking!) has given us a fresh look at the space-opera genre. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is, as the title suggests, the story of a small crew on a journey; not a military vessel, nor even a starship on a noble quest for knowledge (albeit heavily armed for self-defence) but an unarmed engineering ship building wormholes. The setting is a space alliance between many planetary cultures, but unlike Star Trek's Federation, Star Wars'  Empire or Firefly's Alliance, humans are a very new and insignificant addition to the Galactic Commons. The crew of the Wayfarer is vastly diverse, both among the humans (who are still the majority on this ship) and the other members. It is a story of relationships between people who have to work at close quarters together, and it's absolutely gorgeous. I've been recommending it to everyone I know with an interest in sci-fi and they've all loved it. 

17 comments:

  1. Glad to have you onboard for the event, Katie :D

    Some excellent choices there - The Girl With All The Gifts was so unique, I'm really looking forward to catching the film, although it doesn't seem to have showed at my local cinema :( And I'm so glad that Small Angry Planet is number 1! It gives me the warm fuzzies.

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    1. Thank you Rinn! I haven't seen The Girl with All The Gifts yet, but the book was so great, a different take on a sub-genre that doesn't normally interest me at all. And Small Angry Planet is absolutely a warm-fuzzy sort of book. I love it so much.

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  2. Aghhhh I wanted to do nanowrimo this year but I don't even nearly have the start of an idea. Agh, my life lol. Anyway. This definitely seems like a YOU event 😊 I shall read with joy and anticipation!

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    1. Since writing this post I actually changed my mind about doing NaNoWriMo this year. I still plan to use November to focus on writing, but shorter pieces and not a word-count target.

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  3. Nice to discover your blog (through SciFi Month). Looking forward to your Star Trek thoughts. I agree about The Time Machine, I must admit I've never read the book but I like the old movie version (I think it has terrifying moments even with the cheesiness) and 2001 is so intriguing. I read that book as a kid, remember almost nothing and the movie would probably make a LOT more sense if I tried it again.

    That's a very convincing case For Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and I definitely want to read it!

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    1. Thank you Greg! I haven't seen the film of The Time Machine so I can't say how it compares with the book, but I want to watch it soon. And yes, definitely, go and read Small Angry Planet, it's really amazing!

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  4. I would genuinely worry about anyone who didn't enjoy Angry Planet. I hope you get round to the sequel soon!

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    1. I've got that right here beside me now. I've just started it, and interestingly I'm also watching Humans - two very different takes on the humanoid AI ideas. Maybe there could be a compare-and-contrast post later on this month.

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  5. Hi Katie! I'm planning on reading 'Ready Player One' for this Sci-Fi Month and I'm really looking forward to it. And you're from the Isle of Wight? Nice! I've never been there myself but I really want to as all of the pictures that I've seen of the place look so lovely, lol!

    Have a great November!

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    1. Hello Hannah, thanks for stopping by. I think you'll love Ready Player One. I'm thinking I am overdue a reread, if only my pile of unread books was not so enormous!

      The Isle of Wight has a lot of gorgeous scenery. It's best to come in the summer as everything seems to close down in winter, and some of the towns are rather sad with lots of empty shops (I suppose many high streets have the same problem these days.)

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  6. So many of these books are my favorites too - Ready Player One, 2001 space odyssey, Martian, Time machine. Looking forward to reading your posts this month.

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  7. Oooo yes to all these books, they are all so good!!! You are doing this and NaNoWriMo? When will you sleep!!!

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    1. Actually, sleep is happening too often this week! I am having too many naps. But sadly, since writing this post, I decided against doing NaNoWriMo this year, although I still intend to focus on writing and editing this month.

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  8. Great list of books! im hoping to read Sleeping Giants this month

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    1. Well, I hope you enjoy it! There's a sequel due out early next year.

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  9. The movie version of The Girl With All The Gifts is pretty good. It's nowhere near as good as the book (which I loved) but it holds its own. I got half way through Redshirts when it first came out, put it down and never went back to it. I definitely need to give it another go.

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