Friday, July 26, 2013

Summer, Science Fiction, and a Wide Open Day Off

Sunrise was at 5:31(5:40) and sunset will be at 9 (8:51) pm.  (As usual, I get started on a post and get interrupted for a week.  Look at the difference in time in just a week! 18 minutes less daylight in one week.)

This morning is cool and the air feels wet.  The lilacs have a few red leaves already! NOOOOO!  I'm not ready!  Summer just got started!  The air at the downside of the day is hot and a gorgeous shade of yellowy orange, it just feels like summer.  Everyone is in shorts and sandals, walking slowly with bags slung over shoulders.  There are lots of hats.  Getting off the ferry and walking through Pioneer Square in the heat of the day, the scent of summer is redolent of urine, popcorn and beer. Coming through in the morning:  wet, oceany salt air.  Lots of homeless people, local artists, and tourists share the benches and the cobblestones under shading trees in the the park.  It's a beautiful square with a totem pole and a pergola.  Lots of seating and people and a food truck. 

I love reading science fiction in the summer.  I love reading science fiction anytime but especially in the summer- there's something about the heat, the laziness of the day, that makes it easy to imagine the world as it could be, the universe seems so much closer to hand when the twilights are long and the days are hot.  I especially like re-reading my favorites when there isn't anything new to take on:  Dune, by Frank Herbert, Battlefield Earth, by L. Ron Hubbard, Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury, Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card.  But, this summer?  There's some good stuff out there:

Red Rising, by Pierce Brown, is the story of a young man, Darrow, who is made the savior of his people, a group of Helium-3 miners living deep under the red dust and rock of Mars. When Darrow's wife, Eo, is executed for showing him a forbidden garden filled with grass and a view of stars, he is recruited to stand for his people against the extraordinarily wealthy elites who rule the planet. 

Lots of action, lots of gore, lots of twists, turns and secrets,  lots of very effective female characters with some pretty amazing skills, Red Rising is a great read for a hot summer day.  I was pages from the end in the eye doctor's office, double dilation, and had to keep reading in the quiet light while my pupils kept enlarging.  I just couldn't not know how the first in this series of three ended before I could see clearly again!  Oh, it was good!

As much as I loved reading this during the summer days of Seattle, it won't be out until FEBRUARY!  2014!  But I had to talk about it now or I will forget how much I enjoyed it.  If you like this kind of thing, put your name down on your local bookstore's list and you'll have such a nice surprise when those horribly slow, dark, gray days of February arrive.

Red Rising would be good for teens, too, maybe 14 and up as there is a good deal of blood and sex (not such graphic sex, but very graphic violence).  If you need comparisons:  Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins,  and The Testing, by Joelle Charbonneau, and a little of the movie Total Recall (based on the story "We can Remember It for You Wholesale", by Philip K. Dick). Ballantine Books.  Available February 2014. $25.00.

Speaking of The Testing, by Joanne Charbonneau:  For those who love a dystopian novel, this is a good one for you.  Long after the Seven Stages War leaves the planet mostly wasteland, there are signs of recovery.  The people who survived had to find ways to make the world a place for their children.  Over the many years between the war and now, those who were able collected grass seeds, found water, discovered how to make machines and then how to keep them working, and gradually built small holdings that became towns and then cities filled with crops and barterable goods.  Each little holding may specialize in something particular, like especially adaptable grass seed that could be used for grain. 

Once a year, the best and brightest of the holdings' children are tested, these few will go onto college, onto careers.  Those who are chosen will become the heads of their own places or will be sent out to other townships to help with whatever their particular skills include.  First, though, they have to survive the Testing.

Just before Cai Vale leaves to participate in the choosing, her father tells her to trust no one.  Not even friends from her own town.  The best of the Test may not be the brightest, they may just be the one who survives the Test by any means possible.

The Testing was a good read, I loved the environmental issues that were brought up, I thought the way we get to this position in our future history was well thought out - I kind of wish there were other books than Hunger Games to compare it to, though.   Ages 12 and up.  Houghton Mifflin.  Available now.  $17.99. The sequel, Independent Study, will be available January 7, 2014.

My good friends at Orbit Books (part of the Hachette Books Group) just sent me a small stack of brand new science fiction books- I've dabbled in a couple of them and one in particular seems especially good, although it requires serious attention to details.  I'm looking forward to settling in on the chaise out on the patio with a tall glass of something cool and pale with these:

Ancillary Justice, by  Ann Leckie, science fiction about a woman who was once an intelligent starship, now a frail human bent on revenge.  There are aliens in this one;

Fortune's Pawn, by Rachel Bach, science fiction about an ambitious mercenary who signs on to a ship and a mission that could kill her;

Dance of Cloaks, by David Dalglish, a fantasy about "an underworld reaching for ultimate power";

Parasite, by Mira Grant, a thriller about parasites.

I'll let you know about these as I go along!

(No remuneration was received for these reviews.)

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