Three Outstanding Women of Science Fiction

Our sci-fi-guy, Harold Kramer, has some authors to recommend:

Ursula K. Le Guin

The world of science fiction and fantasy lost two of its best writers in recent years: Ursula K. Le Guin and Vonda McIntyre. Ursula K. Le Guin, who I consider one of the greatest science fiction and fantasy writers of the 20th century, died in 2018. She published over twenty-two novels, children’s books, and volumes of poetry and essays. Her works received many awards, including the Hugo, Nebula, and National Book Award.

Her novels centered around two main themes: gender and political systems. Her 1969 novel, The Left Hand of Darkness is about the effect of gender on culture and society,  It won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novel.  An example of novel based on political themes is The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia, also a winner of both a Hugo and a Nebula Award.  It is about two planets orbiting next to each other – that have almost no contact between them and that have totally different economic and political systems – and the scientist who tries to unite the two worlds. I recently re-read The Dispossessed and it is still relevant today, particularly in our current political environment.

The Dispossessed is the first of six books in Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle. These novels are loosely connected by a people called the Hainish, who colonized earth and other planets hundreds of thousands of years ago. The Left Hand of Darkness is a Hainish novel along with Rocannon’s World and Planet of Exile.

Le Guin also wrote The Books of Earthsea, a series that is decidedly more fantasy than science fiction. It full of magical events and it is the story of a young wizard – a sort of precursor to Harry Potter. The first book in the series, A Wizard of Earthsea, is still a great read. The Earthsea collection of novels and short stories won the National Book Award, a Newbery Honor, the Nebula Award, and many other honors.

Vonda McIntyre

Vonda McIntyre passed away in 2019. She was a prolific writer of science fiction novels, novelizations, screenplays and short stories and she was an acclaimed teacher of writing.  

She was well known for her Star Trek novels that include The Entropy Effect and Enterprise: The First Adventure. She also wrote the novelizations of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

Most readers agree that Dreamsnake is McIntyre’s greatest novel and it is based on her earlier novelette, Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand. It is about Snake, a female healer who possesses miraculous powers and a magical Dreamsnake.

Octavia Butler

My final recommendation is Kindred by Octavia Butler. Kindred has been acknowledged as the first widely known novel by a black, woman science fiction writer. It is a time travel story about Dana, a black woman, who in 1976 is abruptly transported back and forth, from her home in California to antebellum Maryland, where she encounters her ancestors and becomes enslaved. At its core, Kindred is about white supremacy, slavery, and, ultimately, survival. Butler is also the author of Lilith’s Brood, a collection of three works: DawnAdulthood Rites, and Imago. These dystopian novels were previously published in one volume called Xenogenesis. The New York Times said thatThe complete series is about an alien species that could save humanity after nuclear apocalypse—or destroy it”—from “one of science fiction’s finest writers.

Most Wanted Books of Summer 2019

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Looking for something to read this summer? Let us help! Our Reader’s Depot has new book lists every month, so you’ll never run out of books to read. For even more recommendations, visit the Reader’s Depot display on the library’s main level.

city-of-girlsCity of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert – Eighty-nine-year-old Vivian recounts her life after being kicked out of Vassar College, living in Manhattan with her Aunt Peg and the personal mistake that resulted in a professional scandal.

 

The Wedding Partywedding-party.jpg by Jasmine Guillory – After mistakenly spending a night together, Maddie and Theo uncomfortably share bridal party responsibilities for their best friend’s wedding, but despite the sharp barbs they toss at each other, a simmering attraction lingers that just won’t fade.

 

The Mistress of the Ritzmistress-of-the-ritz.jpg by Melanie Benjamin – The director of the luxurious Hotel Ritz in occupied Paris and his courageous American wife, Blanche Auzello, risk their marriage and lives to support the French Resistance during World War II.

 

Resistance Womenresistance-women.jpg by Jennifer Chiaverini – Resisting the power grabs of an increasingly formidable Nazi Party in 1930s Berlin, the courageous American wife of a German intellectual and her circle of women friends engage in a clandestine battle to sabotage Hitler’s regime.

 

The Farmthe-farm.jpg by Joanne Ramos – Ensconced within a Hudson Valley retreat where expectant birth mothers are given luxurious accommodations and lucrative rewards to produce perfect babies, a Filipino immigrant is forced to choose between a life-changing payment and the outside world.

 

The Last Time I Saw Youlast-time.jpg by Liv Constantine – In the aftermath of her mother’s murder, Dr. Kate English reaches out to her estranged best friend Blaire Barrington, a mystery author, who decides to investigate when Kate starts getting anonymous texts from the killer.

 

The Never Gamenever-game by Jeffery Deaver – Colter Shaw is an itinerate “reward-seeker,” traveling the country to help police solve crimes and private citizens locate missing persons. When he learns of a reward for a missing college student in Silicon Valley, he takes the job.

 

Queen Beequeen-bee.jpg by Dorothea Benton Frank – A woman wounded by her past comes to Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina to find new meaning in life and to find herself.

 

Meet Me In Monacomeet-me.jpg by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb – Set in the 1950s against the backdrop of Grace Kelly’s whirlwind romance and unforgettable wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco.

 

night-before.jpgThe Night Before by Wendy Walker – A tale told through parallel accounts of the days before and after a fateful blind date follows a woman’s revelatory investigation into her sister’s disappearance and complicated nature.

 

The Paris Diversionparis.jpg by Chris Pavone – After a leisurely start to a normal day, American expat Kate Moore finds herself partnered with a French agent to investigate a bombing threat in Paris.

 

The Night Windownight-window.jpg by Dean Koontz – When people under Arcadian control begin showing signs of instability, Jane Hawk and her supporters confront the center of power in a showdown that will determine America’s future.

 

The Tenth Musetenth-muse.jpg by Catherine Chung – From childhood, Katherine knows she is different, and that her parents are not who they seem to be. But in becoming a mathematician, she must face the most human of problems—who is she?

 

The Turn of the Keyturn-of-the-key.jpg by Ruth Ware – When a high-paying nanny job at a luxurious Scottish Highlands home ends with her imprisonment for a child’s murder, a young woman struggles to explain to her lawyer the unravelling events that led to her incarceration.

 

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creekbook-woman.jpg by Kim Michele Richardson – A last-of-her-kind outcast and member of the Pack Horse Library Project braves the hardships of Kentucky’s Great Depression and hostile community discrimination to bring the near-magical perspectives of books to her neighbors.

 

Under Currentsunder-currents.jpg by Nora Roberts – Returning to his hometown of Lakeview where his father’s abuse made his childhood a nightmare, Zane Bigelow begins a relationship with Darby McCray, a landscape designer, but his dark past comes back to haunt Zane and threatens their happiness.

 

big-kahuna.jpgThe Big Kahuna by Janet and Peter Evanovich – When unlikely partners FBI agent Kate O’Hare and con man Nicholas Fox investigate a missing Silicon Valley billionaire known as the Big Kahuna, they go undercover as a married couple in Paia, Maui, to find the man’s son.

 

Anna of Kleveanna.jpg by Alison Weir – Chosen as his fourth wife by England’s infamous Henry VIII, Anna of Kleve, a princess from a small German duchy, hides a desperate secret in a hostile foreign court.

 

The Daughter’s Taledaughter.jpg by Armando Lucas Correa – A tale of love and redemption based on the 1944 Oradour-Sur-Glane massacre follows an octogenarian’s receipt of a cache of letters, written by her mother during World War II, that uncover decades of secrets.

 

This is Your Brain on Podcasts – a new kind of on-the-go storytelling

PodcastingPodcasting is rapidly becoming the newest and most easily consumable form of storytelling. As of June 2018, iTunes features more than 500,000 active podcasts, including content in more than 100 languages and over 18.5 million episodes. Now if you’re new to podcasts, this number can be overwhelming, how are you supposed to sift through a sea of seemingly endless possibilities to find the hosts, and topic, that keep you listening? To be fair, a lot of listening is trial and error. Maybe you don’t like the hosts tone, or their voice, or maybe the topic just doesn’t grab your attention, but stay vigilant, there are enough podcasts in the world for everyone, there must be one for you! I’ve compiled a list of podcasts that are easy to get into for beginners, based on (of course) your favorite books, all of which can be found at the Cheshire Public Library!

Note : The podcast’s listed here may be explicit, or contain explicit language. 

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood- The most chilling part of the world that          Atwood has created is that it has a strong basis in history, a history that is doomed to repeat itself. If you love history, and the dark origins behind common folklore, you’ll love Lore. Aaron Mahnke, the host and author himself, draws you into the rich history that paints our modern day nightmares. Tune in to learn the humble origins of the werewolf, how fairies terrified and mystified pilgrims, and how Krampus, the Christmas demon, still receives tribute every year in a tiny town in Germany. It’ll make you wish all history classes were this interesting. Released every two weeks on Mondays, Lore is an award-winning podcast that will soon be produced into a television series on Amazon. With 6-million monthly listeners, it has been awarded as iTunes’ “Best of 2015” and “Best of 2016” podcast.

Want to check out more of Mahnke’s writing? Check out his novel list here.

Do you comb the stacks looking for self help books, that lay forgotten about because, really, who has time? Don’t feel alone in this pursuit, it’s hard to read someone else’s proA1J-Xl6I7CLmises of a better life. After all, who really has all the answers? One book I found refreshingly honest is Jenny Lawson’s Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things . Lawson, an American journalist, author, and blogger, is known for her hysterically skewed outlook on life, and her candor about her struggles with depression and mental illness. If you’re looking for a podcast that doesn’t take themselves too seriously, and focuses on the bright side of life, look no further than Wonderful! , a podcast for joyful and enthusiastic peopwonderful cover art final_57le that like hearing about the passions, big and small, of other people. Each week Rachel and Griffin McElroy will talk about things they love and invite listeners to write in with their treasured items of enthusiasm. Topics may include movies, television, sports, books, drinks, eats, animals, methods of transportation, cooking implements, types of clothing, places in the world, imaginary places, fictional characters, and fonts, to name a few. It’s a delightfully sweet and genuine series, and a quick break from a world full of negatives.

Now if you’re a true crime lover like me, I’m always searching for a new case to dissect, and foJacketr a new podcast or book that leads me through the facts of the case. That’s exactly why I was drawn to Adnan’s Story : The Search for Truth and Justice After Serial . A full-length account of the story investigated by the award-winning Serial podcast draws on some 170 documents and letters to trace the experiences of Adnan Syed, who in 2000 was sentenced to life for the murder of his ex-girlfriend and who the author and other supporters are certain is innocent. Ifserial-itunes-logo you want to listen to the podcast that brought the case to light in the first place, check out Serial season one. I’d compare it to a classic radio drama, the pacing and tone is incredible and keeps you on the edge of your seat, and the journalistic research that goes into every episode is admirable. It’s a great place to start if you’re just getting into true crime podcasts, or need something to listen to after binging the first and second season of Making a Murderer on Netflix.

Lastly, if you’re looking for a podcast that brings the book club to your home (without having people over to your actual home), look no further than Overdueoverdue-podcast-642x336. Overdue is a podcast about the books you’ve been meaning to read. Join Andrew and Craig each week as they tackle a new title from their backlog. Classic literature, obscure plays, goofy murder mysteries: they’ll read it all, one overdue book at a time. While not actively encouraging you to return your books late (insert finger wagging from behind the return’s desk) this podcast encourages the over zealous reader in all of us to take the time to head back into the stacks for the book you might not have otherwise checked out.

If you’re having trouble accessing podcasts or don’t know how to start, check out this easy to use guide provided by  Gimlet : How to start listening. It’ll take you step by step on how to both download, and enjoy the hundreds of podcasts iTunes has to offer.

 

 

 

Science Fiction and the Red Planet

Today’s post is by our sci-fi-guy, Harold Kramer.

Mars, our nearest planetary neighbor, has always fascinated science fiction writers here on planet earth.  Science fiction about Mars began with Jules Verne and his 1865 novel From Earth to the Moon.  This novel, like many others by Verne, was accurate in concept, although technology in his day made many of his ideas impossible to execute.

During the first half of the 20th century, science fiction writers were obsessed with Martians. Belligerent Martians invaded earth in H. G. Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds. Orson Welles’s 1938 radio broadcast of War of the Worlds even caused a nationwide panic.  Written in 1950, The Martian Chronicles, a collection of strange and haunting short stories by Ray Bradbury were about an expedition to the red planet. Another early Mars novel was A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs who was a master of fast-moving adventure stories, whether in the jungle with Tarzan or on the moon with the Princess.  I have recently re-read some of these early science fiction novels and, while definitely not scientifically accurate, they still are good reads.

Beginning in the 1970s, the first NASA and Russian probes and rovers obtained real scientific data about Mars. Once sci fi writers realized that there were no little green men on Mars, science fiction tackled more realistic Martian topics and focused on the challenges of human colonization on the red planet.  A major sci fi theme was terraforming Mars to make it into a self-sustaining environment that was fit for life that developed on earth. Another major theme was what type of society and governmental structure might exist in a Mars colony.

One of the first works that explored these ideas was The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson. This series consists of three books:  Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars. Red Mars won the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1993.  Blue Mars won the 1997 Hugo Award. The trilogy begins with Red Mars when the first colonists arrive on Mars and simply try to survive. Green Mars and Blue Mars and continue the story one hundred years in the future when Mars has been terraformed into a green and politically independent world. My favorite of the three is the first book, Red Mars.

Ben Bova has written four related novels about Mars: Mars, Return to Mars, Mars Inc. and Mars Life. The planet Mars is the fourth  stop on his Grand Tour – a series of related novels that take place in the 21st Century and that focus on exploration and colonization of every planet in our solar system.  I enjoy reading Ben Bova’s books because of his clear writing, scientific imagination, and expansive ideas.

The Martian by Andy Weir, written in 2011, is my favorite book about Mars.  I couldn’t put it down once I started reading it.   It won the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Science Fiction in 2014 and the Audie Award in 2015 for best science fiction audio book. The Martian is a modern-day Robinson Crusoe story about an American astronaut who is presumed dead but who is actually alive and stranded on Mars. What makes it so interesting is that the technology is highly credible, and the writing is taut. It was made into a movie in 2015 that was directed by Ridley Scott and starred Matt Damon.

​Many other great science fiction novelists have written about Mars.  These include Greg Bear’s Moving Mars and Arthur C. Clarke’s The Sands of Mars. Also notable are Larry Niven’s Rainbow Mars and Robert Heinlein’s classic, Stranger in a Strange Land.

Although this is a science-fiction blog post, I would like to mention a non-fiction book about Mars and planetary exploration and colonization. It is called The Future of Humanity: Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality, and our Destiny Beyond Earth, by physicist Michio Kaku.  This scientifically based work is an extraordinary projection of the future of humanity as it moves from earth to the stars.

Fooled by Fiction – 11 Books with Surprising Plot Twists

Ever read  book and gotten to a part where you just had to put it down for a minute and go “WHAT???”. If you’ve ever felt a little pranked by a plot twist you didn’t see coming (and even liked it!), here are 11 books that fool you into thinking one thing, then a “big reveal” changes everything …

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood—those with common, Red blood serve the Silver-blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court and she discovers she has an ability of her own.


The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey. Melanie knows that she is a very special girl, but she doesn’t know why. Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, a gun is pointed at her while two of people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh… wait till you find out what’s so special about this girl.

Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben. Former special ops pilot Maya, home from the war, sees an unthinkable image captured by her nanny cam while she is at work: her two-year-old daughter playing with Maya’s husband, Joe—who was brutally murdered two weeks earlier. The provocative question at the heart of the mystery: Can you believe everything you see with your own eyes, even when you desperately want to?

The Girl Before by JP Delaney. Seizing a unique opportunity to rent a one-of-a-kind house, a damaged young woman falls in love with the enigmatic architect who designed the residence, unaware that she is following in the footsteps of a doomed former tenant.

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena. Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all—a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night, when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately lands on the parents. What follows is the nerve-racking unraveling of a family—a chilling tale of deception, duplicity, and deadly secrets.

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane. U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels has come to Shutter Island, home of Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Along with his partner, Chuck Aule, he sets out to find an escaped patient, a murderess named Rachel Solando, as a hurricane bears down upon them. But nothing at Ashecliffe Hospital is what it seems. And neither is Teddy Daniels.

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh. Jenna Gray as she moves to a ramshackle cottage on the remote Welsh coast, trying to escape the memory of the car accident that plays again and again in her mind and desperate to heal from the loss of her child & a painful past. As police try to get to the bottom of the hit-and-run accident, they are frustrated by unexpected twists in the case.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel.  A zookeeper’s son sets sail for America, but the ship sinks and young Pi finds himself in a lifeboat with a handful of remaining zoo animals. Soon it’s just Pi and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, lost at sea for months together. When they finally reach land, the tiger escapes, leaving Pi to relay the story of their survival at sea to authorities, who refuse to believe his tale and press him for the “truth”.

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. The rise of a terrorist organization, led by a waiter named Tyler Durden who enjoys spitting in people’s soup.  He starts a fighting club, where men bash each other, which quickly gains in popularity, and becomes the springboard for a movement devoted to destruction for destruction’s sake. But who is Tyler Durden?

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris. Perfect socialite couple Jack and Grace seem to have it all. But why are they never apart? Why doesn’t Grace ever answer the phone? How can she cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim? And why are there bars on one of the bedroom windows?

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for her sister Kate, who has been battling leukemia most of her young life. As a teenager Anna begins to question her moral obligations in light of countless medical procedures and ultimately decides to fight for the right to make decisions about her own body. The ending of this emotional novel is a stunner.