Check It Out Category: Fantasy & Sci-Fi

List: Fantastical Holiday Reads

Now that it’s December, you may be in the mood for a tale trimmed with tinsel. Mystery fans, romance readers, and humor devotees don’t lack for brightly-wrapped packages, but those who enjoy wondering about life in other worlds or pushing the boundaries of what-if won’t need to settle for coal. Fill your stocking with science fiction and fantasy stories that embrace the Christmas spirit!

Christmas Stars book coverChristmas Stars
ed. by David C. Hartwell
A collection of holiday miracle stories by top fantasy and science fiction writers includes the tales of a father’s gift that opens up the universe for all humanity and the original fantasy that inspired the film It’s a Wonderful Life.
Season of Wonder book coverSeason of Wonder
ed. by Paula Guran
Yuletide brings marvels and miracles both fantastic and scientific. The best stories from many realms of fantasy and a multitude of future universes, gift-wrapped in this spectacular treasury of wintertime wonder.
Yuletide Universe book coverA Yuletide Universe: Sixteen Fantastical Tales
ed. by Brian M. Thomsen
A compilation of holiday tales by a range of science fiction and fantasy authors includes contributions by such notables as Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Anne McCaffrey, and Harlan Ellison.

 

War of Gifts book coverA War of Gifts: An Ender Story
by Orson Scott Card
Chaos erupts at Battle School when a student places a gift in another student’s shoe on Sinterklaaus Day, an act of rebellion that forces everyone to make a choice during the War over Santa Claus.
Miracle and Other Christmas Stories book coverMiracle and Other Christmas Stories
by Connie Willis
Multiple Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author Willis captures the timeless essence of generosity and goodwill in stories that transport readers to fascinating realms filled with wonder and joy.
Krampus the Yule Lord book coverKrampus, the Yule Lord
by Brom
When he stumbles upon a magical bag that belongs to Krampus, the Lord of Yule and the dark enemy of Santa Claus, struggling songwriter Jesse gets an unexpected chance to save his daughter and his own broken dreams–and return wild magic to Boone County, West Virginia.

Winner of the 2016 World Fantasy Award: The Chimes by Anna Smaill

The ChimesChimes book cover, an imaginative debut by New Zealand poet and former violinst Anna Smaill, was named Best Novel at the 2016 World Fantasy Awards. In the aftermath of the Allbreaking, memory is ephemeral, writing has been outlawed, and everything is communicated through musical expressions. Teenaged Simon knows his parents have died, but he doesn’t know how, nor does he know why he’s in London. Working with the leader of an orphan band of scavengers, Simon begins to piece together not only his own story but one that could change the world. A veritable symphony of intricate world-building and fascinating quest for truth, The Chimes was also honored as a longlist title for the 2015 Man Booker Prize.

International Latino Book Awards

Make the most of Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept 15 – Oct 15) by checking out a brand new winner of the International Latino Book Awards.  Though not interchangeable, the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino enjoy a great deal of overlap, and you can be assured that each of these honorees celebrates the culture in the context of an exciting, thoughtful, and heartfelt story.

Best Novel

Japanese Lover book cover

Historical Fiction – First Place
The Japanese Lover
Isabel Allende

Map of Chaos book cover

Fantasy/Sci-Fi – First Place
The Map of Chaos
Félix J. Palma

 

Best Latino-Focused Fiction Book

Make Your Home Among Strangers book cover

First Place
Make Your Home Among Strangers
Jennine Capó Crucet

Ana of California book cover

Second Place
Ana of California
Andi Teran

 

Best Young Adult Fiction Book

Shadowshaper book cover

First Place
Shadowshaper
Daniel José Older

Weight of Feathers book cover

Second Place
The Weight of Feathers
Anna-Marie McLemore

 

Best Young Adult Nonfiction Book

Becoming Maria book cover

First Place
Becoming Maria
Sonia Manzano

Enchanted Air book cover

Second Place
Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings
Margarita Engle

 

Eisner Award Nominees and Free Comic Book Day

Saturday is Free Comic Book Day, and it can be a thrilling way to discover new stories and artists. The titles below, finalists for the prestigious Eisner Awards, were represented among the offerings during last year’s celebration. While waiting to discover what this year will bring, excite your imagination with one of these potential winners.

Hip Hop Family Tree_volume 3 coverHip Hop Family Tree, Vol. 3
Best Reality-Based Work
Best Writer/Artist
Bandette coverBandette
Best Continuing Series
Best Painter/Multimedia Artist
Step Aside Pops cover

Step Aside, Pops
Best Humor Publication

 

Supermutant Magic Academy coverSuperMutant Magic Academy
Best Publication for Teens

March_Book Two coverMarch: Book Two
Best Reality-Based Work
Best Publication for Teens

Plants vs. Zombies_Timepocalypse coverPlants vs. Zombies
Best Lettering

 

Free Comic Book Day isn’t free for participating stores. When you pick up your new comic, please consider also making a purchase to support your local business. (Those offered at MPPL are generously supplied by Comix Revolution.) Not sure what to try? These Eisner nominees are among the most buzzed-about publications of the year.

Paper Girls coverPaper Girls
Best New Series
Best Penciller/Inker

Southern Bastards coverSouthern Bastards
Best Continuing Series
Best Writer

Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage cover

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage
Best Graphic Album – New
Best Writer/Artist

Descender_Tin Stars coverDescender: Tin Stars
Best Painter/Multimedia Artist

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl coverThe Unbeatable Squirrel Girl
Best New Series
Best Penciller/Inker

Bitch Planet coverBitch Planet
Best New Series

Book Discussion Questions: The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian Book coverTitle:The Martian
Author:  Andy Weir
Page Count: 369 pages
Genre: Science Fiction
Tone:  Humorous, Suspenseful, Fast-paced

Summary:
Mark Watney was nearly killed by a dust storm on Mars and was abandoned by his crew who thought him dead. Now he’s all alone with no way of letting Earth know he’s alive, which doesn’t matter because his supplies would run out before they’d get there. Either way, the environment or human error will likely kill him first. Not giving in, Mark works to survive, battling obstacle after obstacle, but will it be enough?

 

SPOILER WARNING:
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

Questions composed by MPPL Staff

1. Whether you personally liked the novel or not it definitely resonated with a lot of people. Who do you think was Weir’s intended audience?

2. Why do you think the core audience grew to include a more mainstream base of readers? In what ways does it stay true to its genre base?   How does it swerve away from “typical” science fiction?

3. Did the humor work for you?

4. How did you respond to all scientific detail?

5. When do you think this story takes place? Does the date matter?

6. Andy Weir, painted quite a visual picture of Mars, what are your thoughts? Any interest in going?

7. Delicately put, the very first line in the novel was “I’m pretty much screwed.” How did that set a tone for you?

8. What characteristics did Mark possess that you think helped to save his life? Was one trait more important than the others?

9. What do you think kept him sane? Or, how was he able to maintain his sanity?

10. While reading the story, did you think Mark would survive or not?

11. Do you think Mark thought he would survive?

12. Why do you think you were rooting for Mark to survive (and if you weren’t why not)?

13. Thanks to the author, we feel we know Watney and most of us are rooting for him, regardless of the expense and the risk that the Chinese probe will never be launched.  Would you have felt the same about the rescue effort if we didn’t know Watney so well?

14. What were your thoughts the first time Mark traveled away from Hab? Can you imagine what it would be like all alone on Mars?

15. Were there any characters, outside of Mark, that you really liked or disliked?

16. When mission control realized Mark was alive, they decided not to tell the Ares 3 crew.  What do you think about that decision?

17. When the crew learned that Mark was alive the crew had very different reactions. Most of the crew was ecstatic but Lewis was upset.  What did you think of her reaction?

18. Teddy did not want to risk the lives of the crew and felt the crew was, too emotionally involved to make the decision about whether or not to rescue Mark. What do you think about this?

19. Why do you think the crew decided to go back for Mark? The Hermes would add 533 more days to its mission to save Mark.  What would you do?

20. Commander Lewis picked Beth Johansen to be the survivor if anything happened to the resupply probe. What did you think of this cannabilism arc in the storyline?  What if it was you they picked to survive?  (Don’t forget Johansen was having a relationship with Beck!)

21. Were you surprised that the Chinese government would be willing to help NASA?

22. Read this passage on page 254. Zho Tao said in a conversation with Venkat, “In the end, we built a beautiful probe. The largest, sturdiest, unmanned probe in history. And now it’s sitting in a warehouse. It’ll never fly”…”It could have been a lasting legacy of scientific research.  Now it’s a delivery run…this operation is a net loss for mankind’s knowledge” What are your thoughts on this passage?

23. Who was ultimately responsible for saving Mark Watney’s life? (You can only choose one person!)

24. How would you have ended the novel?

25. Where do you see Watney’s life going?

26. Would you be open to reading the author’s next book?

OTHER RESOURCES:

Schmoop analysis on The Martian
Lit Lovers’ reading guide
Book and movie differences article by Tech Times
Slate’s Audio Book Club discussion on The Martian (audio)
Reddit Q&A with Andy Weir
“Nine Real Technologies in The Martian by NASA
Video of Andy Weir discussing his career
The Martian themed party ideas

readalikes:
Marsbound book coverRedshirts book cover The Explorer book cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marsbound by Joe Haldeman
Redshirts by John Scalzi
The Explorer by James Smythe

Check out the reading map we created for more suggestions!

New Book Spotlight: Tin Stars by Jeff Lemire

Descender_Tin StarsA boy named Tim wakes from a ten-year sleep on a moon mining colony. He is a companion android designed to entertain and protect an assigned human child, but he finds himself alone and under attack. Tin Stars, the first collected volume of the Descender series by Jeff Lemire, begins with shocking galactic catastrophe, but it’s when we meet the earnest young Tim-21 that it truly launches.

A grown-up story of both wonder and action, real fears of technology-run-amok are balanced with complex character and heart. In addition to a plot that excites the mind, the gorgeous watercolor illustrations by Dustin Nguyen evoke a nuanced future both beautiful and terrible. The end result is a fully-realized shared vision, one that transports, provokes, and captivates.

 

Staff Picks: Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins

Gold Fame Citrus book coverCarol from Community Services suggests Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins

In a parched southern California of the near future, Luz, once the poster child for the country’s conservation movement, and Ray, an army deserter turned surfer, are squatting in a starlet’s abandoned mansion. Armed vigilantes have prevented these desert refugees from freely crossing borders to lusher regions. Holdouts like Ray and Luz subsist on rationed cola and water, and whatever they can loot, scavenge, and improvise.

When Luz and Ray cross paths with a mysterious child, they set out for the safety of the east. But they are waylaid by a cult that has formed a colony in a mysterious sea of dunes.

In this hyper-lyrical dystopian fantasy, you can feel the sand between your teeth, the dirt crawling on your skin, and the taste of precious black-market fruit. The quest for gold and fame and citrus has fueled our drive west for centuries. In Watkins’ novel the west is a place where our ambitions and limitations give rise to a whirling cloud of dust that can either engulf or redeem, and shows us a way to hope in a precarious future that may be our own.

For more dystopian literature try…

Oryx and Crake book cover
The Year of the Flood book cover
MaddAdam book cover

 

Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, and MaddAdam make up a three-book series on the effects of genetic engineering and environmental disaster. Through expert world-building and strange but sympathetic characters, Atwood asks us to think about how technology and society will continue to influence each other.

Life as We Knew It book cover

 

While Life as We Knew It is a young adult novel, author Susan Beth Pfeffer captures the attention of all ages as she imagines what would happen on earth if a meteor knocked the moon out of orbit.

 

 

 

A Canticle for Leibowitz book cover

 

Walter M. Miller, Jr.’s A Canticle for Leibowitz set a standard for dystopian literature. In this post-apocalyptic tale, the human race starts over again after a nuclear catastrophe. But can we keep from making the same mistakes the second time around?

Staff Pick: The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason

Picture of ColleenThe niece of Sherlock Holmes meets the half-sister of Bram Stoker in this steampunk mystery by Colleen Gleason! Filled with action, snark, fascinating characters, Egyptian mythology, and a mystery that keeps you reading until the last page, The Clockwork Scarab is perfect for anyone who enjoys alternate history novels with a great mystery!

Games in Books and Movies

shall we play a game?The fantastically entertaining Press Start to Play is the newest addition to thrilling stories constructed around complex games. Try one of the spotlighted titles below, and check out the lists for others that invite you to play along. Solve the riddles, beat your opponents, and save the world!

Games in Novels:

The Player of Games book coverThe Player of Games
by Iain M. Banks

In the human-machine symbiotic society called The Culture, there have been many great game players, but Gurgeh is a master of every board, computer, and strategy. He travels to the Empire of Azad to try its game, one so complex and like life itself, that the winner becomes emperor.

The Glass Bead Game book coverThe Glass Bead Game
by Herman Hesse

Since childhood, Joseph Knecht has been consumed with mastering the Glass Bead Game, which requires a synthesis of aesthetics and scientific arts, such as mathematics, music, logic, and philosophy, in order to become a Magister Ludi.

This is Not a Game book coverThis is Not a Game
by Walter Jon Williams

In a near-future world that is dominated by an alternate-reality game without boundaries, players find their real lives increasingly and violently overshadowed by the game and its escalating demands.

Ready, Player One, for more?  Click here for a list of books about all kinds of games.

Games in Movies:

The Running Man DVD coverThe Running Man

Based on the book by Richard Bachman (aka Stephen King), a wrongly convicted man must try to survive a public execution gauntlet staged as a game show.

Battle Royale DVD coverBattle Royale

In the future, the Japanese government captures a class of ninth-grade students and forces them to kill each other under the revolutionary “Battle Royale” act.

The Game DVD coverThe Game

Wealthy San Francisco financier Nicholas Van Orton gets a strange birthday present from wayward brother Conrad: a live-action game that consumes his life.

 

Not ready to concede defeat?  Click here for more movies about games.