Genre: Science Fiction

Benchmark Title: Orson Scott Cards’ Ender’s Game

NMRLS RA Round Table meeting: May 25, 2010 notes submitted by Leane Ellis

Discussion of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game

Some saw this book as a morality tale where the author tells one particular story to tell another story that has a more resonance.

Science Fiction asks what if, what do you do if? like Card’s book.

Some had trouble with names, liked the character, the science of war, video games, computers very approachable, and the story did not feel dated even though science has in some ways surpassed what Ender’s world has for cutting edge.

Liked the device—adults’ conversation in beginning of book/chapters

Graphic novel is very good.

Stressed theme: consequences of actions, what exists if I do this? Ethical dilemma for characters and readers—much of science fiction deals with this.

Second Science Fiction Titles:

Eileen: William R. Forstchen’s One Second After

One man struggles to save his family and his small North Carolina town after America loses a war, in one second, a war based upon an Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP) weapon that will send America back to the Dark Ages.

Not too much technical jargon/description in this book. Fascinated by electronic pulse as weapons, Apocalyptic science fiction; (Leane’s note: Like a lot of the zombie books so popular now.) Appeal: Character/thematic/good for those who are paranoid about disasters—reminded Eileen of the movie “The Day After.” Those who like military adventure might also like this.

Taitiana: Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars

For centuries, the red planet has enticed the people of Earth. Now an international group of scientists has colonized Mars. Leaving Earth forever, these 100 people have traveled nine months to reach their new home. This is the remarkable story of the world they create. Winner of the Nebula Award for 1993.

Terraforming other planets to be more earth-like is big SF theme.

Appeal: Setting/Characters/Language
Leane: S.M. Stirling’s In The Courts of the Crimson Kings

Another Mars/terraform book with similar themes as Red Mars but also a great romance and adventure in it. American archaeologist Jeremy Wainman journeys to Mars to explore the long-dead cities of the Deep Beyond, joined by Martian mercenary Teyud Zha-Zhalt, who is linked to the mysterious city where the last aging descendant of the Tollamune emperors resides.

M.T. Anderson’s Feed

In a future where most people have computer implants in their heads to control their environment, a boy meets an unusual girl who is in serious trouble. Excellent Audio because you get the story and feel like you have the feed in your head as well.

Not too far from some of our current dilemmas about the loss of interpersonal interaction and the rise of materialism.

Diane: Andreas Eschbach’s The Carpet Makers

On an extinct world where carpet makers once dedicated entire lifetimes to weaving elaborately knotted carpets for their emperor, a group of strangers arrives to examine the history of the carpets and makes an astonishing discovery.

Father’s make carpets out of their daughters & wives’ hair Morality tale/literary. intellectual SF=bare & lonely planet

Brian K. Vaughn’s Y: The Last man (Graphic novel) series

Plague destroys everyone with y chromosome; violent/sexually explicit/not for younger teens Appeal: East to read/Thriller/Story

Tricia: Alexander Jablokov’s The Brain Thief

After his boss disappears, Bernal Haydon-Rumi has to figure out the strange artificial intelligence device she was funding, all while dodging a weapons-toting anti-AI activist, a local serial killer, and someone who wants him dead. Cyberpunk

Ann Aguirre’s Grimspace; 1st in series

When he is accused of murder, Jax’s job as a jumper for the Corp seems in jeopardy until March offers her an escape from prison in exchange for establishing a new kind of jumper and ending the Corp’s monopoly on outer space travel.

Fast-paced; Romantic tension; action sequences; characters; good story

Michelle: Sara Creasy’s Song of Scarabaeus; 1st in series

Kidnapped by renegade mercenaries, Edie, trained since childhood in advanced biocyph seed technology by the Crib empire, is shackled to a former freedom fighter-turned-slave who will die if she tries to escape.

Bioscience; planet survives in lockdown; slave relationship to friendship; no ST

Nanci: Nancy Farmer’s House of the Scorpion

In this Newbery Award-winner, in a future where humans despise clones, Matt enjoys special status as the young clone of El Patron, the 142-year-old leader of a corrupt drug empire nestled between Mexico and the United States.

Appeal: Story/Character-Driven/ethical issues

Appeal of Science Fiction have a lot to do with the author’s prowess in creating worlds and dilemmas based on things that exist but what could become if…; what path do we take ethically, etc.

Second Titles

M.T. Anderson’s Feed
In a future where most people have computer implants in their heads to control their environment, a boy meets an unusual girl who is in serious trouble. Excellent Audio because you get the story and feel like you have the feed in your head as well. I find that this story is not too far from some of our current dilemmas about the loss of interpersonal interaction and the rise of materialism. APPEAL: Character/Story/Tone

Grimspace ~ Ann Aguirre
Features Sirantha Jax who is a jumper. Jumper’s have a specific gene that allows them to travel through grimspace. In other words, they can make shortcuts through space. But, each time a jumper goes on a mission, it shaves a little time off of their lifespan. As the book opens, Jax is being held captive by the Corps, the organization that controls Grimspace. Her last jump didn’t go so well. Her partner and pilot Kai along with all of the high ranking officials on their passenger ship were killed in a firey crash. As the only survivor, the Corps Psych team is interrogating her about the crash and trying to convince her that it is her fault. When a man comes to her door, she assumes it’s just another Psych but the man sits down next to her and holds out his hand. There’s a note written on it that says, don’t say anything for 60 seconds. After the time passes, he offers to help her escape.

Appeals: Wonderful characters – Jax =strong yet damaged female lead, March strong yet damaged male with a few secrets up his sleeve. Crew = great secondary characters. Fast paced. The characters spend a lot of time on the run. There’s a scene that made me think of Han Solo and the Millenium Falcon. The book has that same underdog appeal. Nice romantic tension.

One Second After by William R. Forstchen
Post-apocalyptic novel. After three electromagnetic pulses (EMP) from atomic bombs hit the United States, the country is left with no electricity. Meaning… no cars, no trains, no planes, no computers, no cellphones, no refrigeration, no… no modern life. For a generation of people totally dependent upon electricity for survival, society as we know it completely breaks down. This book follows the aftermath and survival (albeit back to the dark ages) of one town, Black Mountain in North Carolina, and the story of recently widowed ex-army man, John, and his family.

Appeal Factors:

For those who like realistic horror, apocalyptic scenarios, adventure, and pace-paced thrillers.

The book, although not the best writing, is thought provoking. It asks what if the unthinkable occurs, and requires one to wonder at what cost would you want to prepare, survive, and live in some type of devastating nightmare. As one back cover reviewer states, “Don’t get scared, get ready.”. After 9/11, Katrina, British Petroleum oil spill – we know we are not invincible, indeed towns and communities need to be having ongoing dialogs and plans to handle catastrophic events.

Song of Scarabaeus – Sara Creasy
When Edie gets kidnapped by a mercenary group bent on undoing the damage the Crib has wrought (while snagging a hefty profit, of course,) she thinks her predicament can’t get worse. Until a former freedom fighter turned slave is mentally bonded to her for her own protection. Winning Finn’s trust won’t be easy; neither will altering the life cycle of a planet. In order to survive, Edie’s going to have to accomplish both.


Edie and Finn both are compelling characters, but the cover is dreadfully misleading; their pose suggests romance, but there’s little to be found here and only the barest trace of sexual tension. However, this is the first in a series, and the promise of romance may be acted upon in later titles. Readers who like biologically driven science fiction that is fast paced will go for this one.

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Like Chris Crutcher’s Ironman and Louis Sachar’s Holes, Hunger Games was written for Young Adults and has a lot of appeal for adults as well. This is a great title for cross generational discussions in the library or at home. There are hints, but no real indication of where this story takes place. Is it earth in the future? Another earth like planet with humans? This part, at least to me remains uncertain. The nation state Panem is composed of 12 districts. Each year, two children from each district are selected by lottery to compete in the Hunger Games, a fight to the death that results in a single victor and a winning district. The winner and his/her district gain food and privileges until the next games. All are required to participate; all are required to watch. It is a particularly brutal (though not terribly graphic) way to control the population. Katniss volunteers to take her younger sister’s place in the games. Katniss and Peeta (her male counterpart) are pitted against competitors who have trained for the games for their entire lives. Hunger Games is the first in a trilogy (2 – Catching Fire, 3 – Mockingjay, published in August) and is a riveting story. I don’t usually wait anxiously for each new installment in a series. I’m planning to buy this one.

Appeal: story with great tension, characters that you really care about, setting that can give you the creeps. These books are very difficult to put down.