Featured new additions to DPL’s Science Fiction and Fantasy collections! Click on the book cover or the title to place a hold. For more new books, visit our Upcoming Releases page.

seveneves-681x1024 Seveneves by Neal Stephenson – When a catastrophic event dooms the planet, nations around the world band together to devise an ambitious survival plan in outer space 5,000 years before their progeny organize an audacious return.
A1Yo1fulAfL__SL1500_-697x1024 Uprooted by Naomi Novak –  Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life. Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.
TheWaterKnife-PaoloBacigalupi-687x1024  The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi  – Working as an enforcer for a corrupt developer, Angel Velasquez teams up with a hardened journalist and a street-smart Texan to investigate rumors of California’s imminent monopoly on limited water supplies.
91TULqzHl3L__SL1500_-678x1024  The Book of Phoenix – by Nnedi Okorafor – In a haunting prequel to Who Fears Death, Phoenix, an “accelerated woman” whose abilities far exceed those of a normal human, becomes desperate to escape her “home” in New York’s Tower 7 after the boy she loves, another biologically altered human, takes his own life.
the-gospel-of-loki-9781481449465_hr The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris – The trickster god Loki (sorry, not that Loki) describes the rise and fall of the gods of the Norse, detailing how he left Chaos to serve Odin until the fall of Asgard.
81XbEhMuL2L__SL1500_  The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu – The first book in this epic series, tells the story of two men who become friends through rebelling against tyranny and then turn against each other in defense of irreconcilable ideals. Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, the two quickly become the best of friends. Once the emperor has been overthrown, however, the two find themselves the leaders of two sides with very different ideas about how the world should be run and the meaning of justice
unnamed  Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson – Generations after leaving earth, a starship draws near to the planet that may serve as a new home world for those on board. But the journey has brought unexpected changes and their best laid plans may not be enough to survive.
Of-Noble-Family Of Noble Family by Mary Robinette Kowal – A conclusion to the series by the award-winning author of Shades of Milk and Honey finds Jane and Vincent reluctantly traveling to the West Indies, where Vincent’s family estate has fallen into shambles.

jacketShort story collections can be a hard sell. Unless you’re a reader who already enjoys them, lovers of a longer story often dismiss their briefer cousins and  I admit that I am one of those readers. Even with an intriguing title, I’ll stay on the fence until the end of the first few stories. Science fiction author Gene Wolfe, in his introduction to this collection, acknowledges such readers, and begs us to stay for at least the eponymous story “The Last Plane to Heaven,” if only because this collection truly is the last from Jay Lake, who passed away from cancer in 2014 and because, as the author says in the dedication, “In the end, words are all that survive us.”

This bittersweet acknowledgement of the author’s own mortality (and ours) sets the tone of the wide-ranging collected stories. From a wayward android lost on Earth, to a futile mission against the agents of a Lovecraftian horror,  these stories express both a love of discovering what is over the next horizon and the liberating act of giving one’s life for such adventure. These are not stories that necessarily have happy endings. As with many short stories, they leave you wanting to know what happens next. There is a yearning that suffuses this collection, an admission that we will never know what happens next, at least in this life.

But while we don’t leave with all the answers, Lakes’ stories tell fantastic tales of the past and future. Lewis and Clark’s famous westward expedition uncovers a place that the human race is not yet ready to know of in “Jefferson’s West.” In “The Women Who Ate Stone Squid,” set in the far future, evidence of an ancient, long-dead intelligent species is uncovered, but in this discovery, humankind might invite the same destruction. “Testaments” tells the stories of the Six Sleeping Kings, each who have ushered in seismic changes in human society at the direction of a higher power, and the Seventh, who has yet to wake. The firing of a boson gun in the 1960s sets off the unraveling of the universe centuries later – but who could have imagined?

Lake gives brief introductions to his stories – the hows and whys and wheres of story writing, as well as a rueful admission that the chemotherapy that granted him a few more years of life also destroyed his “writing brain” in a truly Faustian bargain . His voice is strongest in the “Angels” stories that begin and end each section. His final words (for us at least) are written  in “The Cancer Catechism” at the end.

This not just a collection of science fiction, fantasy, steampunk and spirituality, nor is it a joyless recounting of an author’s past glory. Each story piques the imagination, and stays with you long after the tale is over. And what more could an author ask for?

making of middle earthJ. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings consistently tops polls as the best-loved literary work of all time. Now in The Making of Middle Earth, medieval scholar and Tolkien expert Christopher Snyder presents the most in-depth exploration yet of Tolkien’s source materials for Middle-earth – from the languages, poetry, and mythology of medieval Europe and ancient Greece to the halls of Oxford and the battlefields of World War I.

Fueled by the author’s passion for all things Tolkien, this richly illustrated book also reveals the surprisingly pervasive influence of Tolkien’s timeless fantasies on modern culture. (description from publisher)

APRIL 1

anchorman2Anchorman 2 – Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Christina Applegate, David Koechner

Ron and Veronica’s romance falls apart as the duo anchors a weekend broadcast at a New York-based network in 1980. Ron is fired for being the worst anchor anyone has ever seen and so he leaves Veronica rather than live in her shadow. So he re-creates himself at a CNN-type network in the eighties and accidentally invents the soul-sucking brand of non-news that now rules cable as he tries to win back Veronica’s love. Rated PG-13

APRIL 8

hobbit smaugThe Hobbit – the Desolation of Smaug – Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Stephen Fry, Lee Pace, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett

Bilbo Baggins continues on in his journey with the wizard Gandalf and thirteen dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield, on an epic quest to reclaim their lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor. Rated PG-13

 

homefrontHomefront – Jason Statham, James Franco, Winona Ryder, Kate Bosworth,

An action-packed thriller about how far one man will go to protect his family. Widowed ex-DEA agent Phil Broker retires to a quiet Southern town with his ten-year-old daughter and discovers that the idyllic setting is riddled with drugs and violence. When a riveting chain of events forces him to face off with psychotic local drug lord Gator Bodine, Broker must retaliate using the fearsome skills he hoped to keep in his past. Rated R

 

paranormalParanormal Activity – The Marked Ones – Andrew Jacobs, Molly Ephraim, Richard Cabral

The same malevolent demon who claimed Kristi and Katie is back. Jesse starts experiencing several disconcerting and indescribable things after his neighbor’s death. As he looks into these occurrences, he discovers that he has been chosen for possession by this malicious demon. It’s inevitable that he will be under its control; it’s only a matter of time. Rated R

 

august osage countyAugust : Osage County – Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Sam Shepard, Dermot Mulroney, Juliette Lewis

The dark, hilarious, and deeply touching story of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, whose lives have diverged until a family crisis brings them back to the Midwest house they grew up in, and to the dysfunctional woman who raised them. Rated R

 

 

APRIL 15

philomenaPhilomena – Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Sophie Kennedy Clark

In 1952, a young Philomena was sent to the convent of Roscrea in Ireland after giving birth to her first child. When her son became a toddler, the nuns sent him to America for adoption. Philomena then spent the next fifty years seeking for him in vain. Rated PG-13

 

 

secret life of walter mittySecret Life of Walter Mitty – Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, John Daly, Gary Wilmes

Watch the classic story by James Thurber, about a daydreamer who escapes his anonymous life by disappearing into a world of fantasies filled with heroism, romance, and action. When his job along with that of his co-worker are threatened, Walter takes action in the real world embarking on a global journey that turns into an adventure more extraordinary than anything he could have ever imagined. Rated PG

 

flowers in the atticFlowers in the Attic – Ellen Burstyn, Heather Graham, Kiernan Shipka, Mason Dye, Dylan Bruce

A gothic story of four siblings who, after the death of their father, are torn from a peaceful life and subjected to abuse resulting from a dark family secret. Abandoned by their mother and forced to endure unimaginable treatment living in the attic of their grandparents’ mansion, the children form their own family unit. But as the oldest boy and girl come of age, they are entrapped by their family’s sordid past as they try to survive and escape the harsh living conditions.

APRIL 29

47 ronin47 Ronin – Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ko Shibasaki

Kai is an outcast who joins Oishi, the leader of 47 outcast samurai. Together they seek vengeance upon the treacherous overlord who killed their master and banished their kind. They embark upon a quest that challenges them with a series of trials that would destroy ordinary warriors. Rated PG-13

 

 

legend of herculesThe Legend of Hercules – Kellan Lutz, Gaia Weiss, Scott Adkins

In ancient Greece, 1200 B.C., a queen succumbs to the lust of Zeus to bear a son promised to overthrow the tyrannical rule of the king and restore peace to a land in hardship. But this prince, Hercules, knows nothing of his real identity or his destiny. He desires only one thing: the love of Hebe, Princess of Crete, who is promised to his brother. When Hercules learns of his greater purpose, he must choose: to flee with his true love or fulfill his destiny and become the true hero of his time. Rated PG-13

 

gimme shelterGimme Shelter – Vanessa Hudgens, Rosario Dawson, Brendan Fraser, James Earl Jones

Based on inspiring true events, a teenage girl flees life with her drug-addicted mother to find the wealthy father she’s never known. Tells the extraordinary and courageous tale of one girl’s fight against the odds to find redemption and, ultimately, to create a family she can call her own. Rated PG-13

 

 

boneseasonI read a lot about The Bone Season before I started reading the book, which means that I read a lot about the book’s author, Samantha Shannon.  A twenty-one year old recent graduate from Oxford University, Shannon has been marketed as a literary wunderkind. Every interview and review mentions her age or her status as a “young writer”.  As a first-time published author, that is to be expected (here I am doing the same), and I would be lying if I didn’t say that influenced my decision to pick it up.

But this novel stands on its own (well, at least until the next six books in the series are released.)  Shannon has created a fascinating near-future paranormal fantasy novel that includes elements of revisionist history and dystopian science fiction.  Set in Scion controlled London in 2059, this fast-paced novel introduces readers to Paige Mahoney, a member of the clairvoyant criminal underworld.  Scion was formed to find and eliminate clairvoyants like Paige, so being a member of Jaxon Hall’s Seven Dials based gang keeps her a protected and fed member of a family.  But when Paige commits a crime that leads to her arrest and capture, she finds herself in Sheol I, a penal colony for voyants run by Rephaim, a race of non-human clairvoyants.  While in Sheol I, Paige is assigned to the Warden for training and care and she has to decide if she can trust him, as she tries to find a way to save herself and the other humans imprisoned for life in Sheol I.

Shannon has been called the next J.K. Rowling (pressure anyone?) and The Bone Season has been compared to the Harry Potter series and The Hunger Games series.  I understand why, and I would recommend that fans of both series check out The Bone Season.  But I think that while there are elements of each in this book (magical powers, dystopian future, strong female protagonist), Shannon has created something different.  She has said that she was influenced by Margaret Atwood, and this is apparent in her intelligent, literary take on urban fantasy.  This might be my favorite read this year (but there are two more months to go, so don’t hold me to that.)

Margo Lanagan is an artist, and Tender Morsels is a potent story, rich in magic and full of feeling. Liga, with a babe in arms and another on the way – both forced on her in the most unpleasant ways you care to imagine – is rescued from her miserable life by an elemental creature, removed to her Heart’s Desire: her personal heaven, a world that narrowly overlaps her real pre-industrial, vaguely-historical, sort-of-European one. The boundary is firm for a while and Liga raises her daughters in peace and safety, but eventually people start poking their way through – in both directions. What follows is a meditative, surprising, totally unique tale of self discovery, familial and romantic love, magic, fear, and growing up. It’s slow paced and knotted with complex, beautiful language. It’s brilliant and mature and devastating, but uplifting at the same time. Tender Morsels is based on the fairy tale Snow White and Rose Red. It fills in the bones of that story, adding motivation to the characters and a reason to the movements of the plot, which always bends to fit the whims of the magic, and never the other way around.

 “You are a living creature, born to make a real life, however it cracks your heart.”

This book isn’t for everyone: the plot hinges on violence and sexual abuse, so those who are uncomfortable with those topics will be unhappy with this book. It’s written for a teenage audience, but the complexity of the writing and some mature content mean that it’s better suited for older teens or adults who read YA.

Some more novels based on fairy tales:

I can’t believe I’m about to recommend a horror movie. This feels weird. But The Cabin in the Woods is the kind of movie that creates a lot of confusing emotions, and I bet that’s the kind of praise that producer and co-writer Joss Whedon would hope for. Five college kids enjoy a road trip to an isolated mountaintop cabin, complete with a peaceful lake, sinister locals, and a cellar full to bursting with creepy memorabilia. If it sounds too much like a stereotypical slasher, that’s because it is: this cabin is being controlled remotely by a full staff of suited, vaguely government-looking people who are manipulating the kids’ behavior the way the Gamemakers manipulated The Hunger Games (Push the red button for more fire, pull the green handle to unleash monsters, that kind of thing).

This film was shot in 2009 – well before the success of Thor and The Avengers made Chris Hemsworth bigger than his small but hilarious role as the not-so-stereotypical jock – but it wasn’t released until 2012. If you’ve remained unspoiled since then, somehow, I won’t ruin your fun in watching this movie unspoiled. But I will say: it’s darned surprising. Every time you think you have this film figured out, you find out it goes just a little bit further, and gets a little bit better, than you’d imagined. But this recommendation comes with a warning: The Cabin in the Woods is funny, and smart, and satirical, and downright fun, but the fun of lampooning horror movies can’t be had without actually showing a horror movie, so there are lots of seriously graphic scenes here – definitely stay away if you can’t handle on-screen violence. But if you can, and if you’ve ever wondered: “why?! Why on earth do people like these dumb slasher flicks? What are we, as a society, and as an artistic culture, getting out of it?!” here’s a well-made movie that will offer some interesting answers.

Luke Pearson’s Hilda graphic novel series is whimsical, funny, and excruciatingly charming.  Hilda is a blue haired girl living in a magical world filled with trolls, invisible tiny people, exotic birds, flying giant cats, and a lonely wooden man.  Hilda is a kind, thoughtful person, and her character develops nicely throughout the series. Although created for children, this series is a delight for all ages.

hildafolkHildafolk is the first and the shortest book in the series.  This quick introduction to our curious heroine takes the reader on an adventure through (what Pearson calls) the Scandinavian wilderness (with a large dose of magic).  Hilda camps in the rain, draws some interesting rock formations, and has a run-in with a troll.

Hildafolk is followed by the remarkable Hilda and the Midnight Giant.  In this hildamidnightsequel, Hilda begins finding tiny letters demanding that she and her mother move away.  Isolated in the countryside, Hilda cannot figure out who would be demanding that they move (particularly in such a tiny fashion.)  As Hilda solves the mystery, a beautiful hidden world is revealed and Hilda and her mother must decide if they should stay in their beloved home and risk stepping on their neighbors, or moving on to start a new life in the city.

hildabirdHilda and the Bird Parade takes place (spoiler!following their move to the city, where Hilda is trying to learn to fit in.  Used to being able to roam the countryside free of supervision, Hilda and her mother are both trying to navigate city the new dangers and lifestyle changes brought on by city life.  When Hilda befriends a talking raven, she has an adventure that shows her that her new home could be just as exciting and beautiful as the one that she left behind.

As you can reliably guess from the fact that I write for this blog, I am a librarian. So I knew I would love Among Others by Jo Walton as soon as I read the dedication page:

This is for all the libraries in the world, and the librarians who sit there day after day lending books to people.

among othersThis book is for me! Awesome!* And this Hugo & Nebula award-winning novel is a treat. Mori is a well read 15 year old who has already accomplished a lot: she overthrew her mother, an evil witch, in a magical battle that killed her twin and left Mori with a shattered hip. She’s read just about everything that’s ever been published in the SF genre (well, everything before 1979, when this novel is set), besides Philip K. Dick, whom she dislikes. In the Wales of Mori’s childhood, magic and fairies are very real, but they aren’t all-powerful. Magic isn’t even the focus of this story; what could have been a bombastic, typical tale of good triumphing over evil (at a great cost) in a climactic magical duel  is instead a bildungsroman, the story of a smart, confident, magical girl discovering her identity. Mori’s most important challenge is discovering the value in her life now that her deed is done and her twin is dead.

When you are the hero, when you’ve already saved the world, and you’re a teenager stuck at boarding school based on the whim of a father you’ve never known, where the other girls taunt you for your Welsh accent and your limp, and where both the fairies and the magic of your childhood and your twin – your other half – can never reach you, what is the point of living? On Halloween, Mori sees the ghostly remnant of her sister near a portal to the next world and is tempted to follow and join her in death, but:

…I was halfway through Babel 17, and if I went on I would never find out how it came out. There may be stranger reasons for being alive.

Her love of books, libraries, writing, and the other worlds of the SF genre buoy Mori through the turbulent year after her sister’s death and lead her to the path her adulthood will take, so though her tale may sound grim, it’s really effervescent and uplifting.

Among Others is a fantasy novel, but Mori’s engagement with the realm of science fiction is so cogent, meaningful, and pervasive in the novel that this is a must read for fans of both genres.

 

*I have to add, though, that we do a lot more than sit and lend books! Sometimes we stand and lend DVDs :)

whathappensinlondonThe Good: What Happens in London by Julia Quinn

This is the perfect Regency romance. It’s funny (actually funny, not just peppered with lines that the characters laugh at but the reader never would), heartwarming (but not schlocky), and steamy (but not gratuitous). There’s a fussy, arrogant Russian prince, a heroine who scorns novels and reads every word of the Times, and a dashing hero who wears funny hats. It’s historically accurate (mostly), but it never gets boring by slogging through too much detail. I devoured this in just two very enjoyable sittings. (Available via WILBOR)

The Bad: A Lady Never Lies by Juliana Gray

aladyneverlies

Oh, dear. This is the kind of book that always made me hate romance novels. It’s nonsensical, it’s boring, its characters have no substance, and the romantic moments are gratuitous and badly written. Gray tries to heighten the drama by having everyone be cagey about their pasts/financial situations/parentage but honestly, it goes over like a lead balloon. Three single young women and three single young men accidentally rent the same Tuscan castle for the summer! They decide to keep both leases and stay in separate wings! They make a wager not to interact with one another to prove some bologna 21st-century-argument that the author has needlessly inserted into an allegedly historical novel! I wonder what will happen!!!???

soullessThe Awesome: Soulless by Gail Carriger

I never thought I’d like a book about vampires, werewolves, and parasols, but I was deeply mistaken. Soulless is a steampunk novel (steampunk: a sub-genre of SF in which the industrial revolution of Victorian times has gone into hyperdrive, producing steam powered dirigibles and other retro-futuristic contraptions and necessitating a lot of metal eyewear with round lenses). Alexia Tarabotti is half Italian and half an orphan, hardly a favorite in London society, but her appearance and parentage aren’t her only problems: in the middle of a ball, she has just been attacked by a vampire. The encounter breaks all the rules of supernatural etiquette AND destroys her plate of treacle tart! Miss Tarabotti soon finds herself in the thick of a mystery, one with potentially deadly consequences for the supernatural vampires and werewolves she befriends and for herself. Alexia is fierce, fun, and generally unforgettable. The romance is well balanced against the world building and it makes sense for the characters, all of which are interesting, exciting, and well written. Brava, Ms. Carriger! I can’t wait to read the other four books in this series. (Available via WILBOR)