signal to noise

Love. Friendship. Vinyl records. Music. And of course, magic. Moreno-Garcia has taken the everyday perils of teenage life and added in her own twist: magic found in vinyl records.

In Signal to Noise, readers are introduced to Meche, an awkward fifteen-year-old girl, who is friends with two other awkward fifteen-year-olds, Sebastian and Daniela, in 1988 Mexico City. As they slog and struggle through family and school, Meche soon discovers that in the vinyl records that are scattered throughout her house lies the possibility of magic. Soon the three are off searching record stores and Meche’s house for records that are either hot to the touch or give off a shock when touched. Meche is the one who shows a natural aptitude and ability for magic, something her grandmother both fears and acknowledges will happen as she too was blessed with the gift of magic at a young age, though she was not nearly as strong as her sisters. As Meche and her friends begin casting spells, they realize that this new magic will afford them the chance to become more popular and noticed, fix their broken families, find love, and become more confident with themselves. This use of magic comes with a price though.

Flash forward to Mexico City in 2009: Meche has come alone back to Mexico City for her estranged father’s funeral. Moreno-Garcia accomplishes the switch between 1988 and 2009 by alternating back and forth between the different time periods as the reader progresses. The difference between 1988 and 2009 leaves readers wondering what happened between Meche and her family, as well as what happened between Meche and her friends.

For those of you that are trying to wade your way into the realm of fantasy or those of you who are looking for a break from heavy fantasy, Moreno-Garcia helps these by tempering the amount of practiced magic in her book with stories of magic told by Meche’s grandmother about previous practicing witches and warlocks. The amount of fantasy within the book is also lessened by the fact that the friendships between the three teens dominate the majority of the book with magic being a thread that weaves its way throughout everything. This book worked for me as a good introduction into fantasy since the magic present within did not overwhelm me as I was reading.

hugo_sm_custom-7834b7af955f641ec6cac4fb6d7a793070491ea0-s600-c85Earlier this week, the Hugo Awards for Science Fiction and Fantasy were announced. This year’s Hugo Ballot, and the year leading up to the event, were rife with controversy, leading some SF and Fantasy readers and prominent authors to declare the 2015 Hugo Awards invalid.

First, some background. The Hugo Awards are organized by the World Science Fiction Society and the awards are given each year at the annual World Science Fiction Convention. To be able to nominate and vote, all that needed is to be a supporting member of the World Science Fiction Convention. There are no written rules as to which works qualify as science fiction or fantasy, and the decision of eligibility in that regard is left up to the voters. For each category, the voter may rank “No Award” as one of their choices. Voters are instructed that they should do so if they feel that none of the nominees are worthy of the award, or if they feel the category should be abolished entirely.

Last year’s award winners (find them here), were to some, a sign that the genre was finally opening up to a more diverse perspective. Others felt that an agenda was being pushed and that the awards were sacrificing literary quality over popularity and fandoms. This year, a concerted effort on the part of the latter group (calling themselves “Sad Puppies”) was made to stuff the ballot box with votes and “No Awards” for books the Puppies thought were being ignored. Another group, calling themselves “Rabid Puppies” did the same. Two SF authors, Marko Kloos and Annie Bellet, withdrew their works from the ballot. George R.R. Martin held his own awards ceremony after the Hugo, handing out “Alfies” to authors who would have won at the Hugo Awards if not for the efforts of the Puppies.

For an thorough exploration of the issues, read io9’s “Eight Books You Need To Know About to Understand The Hugo Awards Snafu” by Charlie Jane Anders and Wired’s “Who Won Science Fiction’s Hugo Awards and Why It Matters” by Amy Wallace. There is also a good breakdown of the 2015 votes on the blog Chaos Horizon.

With all that in mind, here are the 2015 Hugo Award winners and nominees in seven major categories, winner in bold. Click on the title to find it in DPL’s catalog, if available. The complete list is here.

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

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The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher – Butcher’s new series “The Cinder Spires” beings when an airship’s crew become humanity’s lone defenders when an ancient enemy reawakens and threatens the world with monstrous creatures and perpetual darkness.
jacketLD5EKB9B The World of Poo by Terry Pratchett – Putatively written by Miss Felicity Beedle, Discworld’s premier children’s author, but of course by the recently deceased Pratchett, this is a book for all ages that Discworld hero Vimes is given for young son Sam. And that really is Poo, not Pooh: “But interspersed with the scatology was actually quite interesting stuff about septic tanks and dunnakin divers and gongfermors and how dog muck helped make the very best leather.”
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Finches of Mars by Brian Aldiss – It’s been 10 years since humans went to Mars, and in that time none of the children born on the Red Planet has survived. Desperate to figure out why, the colonists are forced to confront a disheartening reality: back on Earth, not many people seem to care what happens to the Mars colony. The survival of the colony could depend on the sacrifices the colonists are forced to make.
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The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickenson – Baru Cormorant believes any price is worth paying to liberate her people–even her soul. When the Empire of Masks conquers her island home, overwrites her culture, criminalizes her customs, and murders one of her fathers, Baru vows to swallow her hate, join the Empire’s civil service, and claw her way high enough to set her people free. But the cost of winning the long game of saving her people may be far greater than Baru imagines.
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Blood Call by Lilith Saintcrow – Anna Caldwell has spent the last few days in a blur. She’s seen her brother’s dead body, witnessed the shooting of innocent civilians, and been shot at herself. The story Anna’s stumbled into is far bigger than even she suspects. Anna wants to survive, her ex Josiah wants Anna back, and the powerful people chasing her want the only thing worth killing for — immortality.
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The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu –  The sequel to “The Three Body Problem” finds Earth reeling from the revelation of a coming alien invasion–in just four centuries’ time. The aliens’ human collaborators may have been defeated, but the presence of the sophons, the subatomic particles that allow Trisolaris instant access toall human information, means that Earth’s defense plans are totally exposed to the enemy. Only the human mind remains a secret. This is the motivation for the Wallfacer Project, a daring plan that grants four men enormous resources to design secret strategies, hidden through deceit and misdirection from Earth and Trisolaris alike.
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 The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin – After the empire Sanze collapses and the vast continent Stillness becomes ravaged by a red rift which darkens the sky, Essun, whose daughter has been kidnapped by her murderous husband, crosses Stillness in a desperate attempt to save her daughter.

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

armada Armada by Ernest Cline – Struggling to complete his final month of high school only to glimpse a UFO that exactly resembles an enemy ship from his favorite video game, Zack questions his sanity before becoming one of millions of gamers tasked with protecting the Earth during an alien invasion.
scalzi The End of All Things by John Scalzi – The sequel to The Human Division finds Colonial Defense Forces lieutenant Harry Wilson investigating a series of alien attacks that are threatening Earth’s survivors and an increasingly under-sourced Colonial Union.
ghost Ghost Fleet by P.W. Singer and August Cole – The United States, China, and Russia eye each other across a twenty-first century version of the Cold War, which suddenly heats up at sea, on land, in the air, in outer space, and in cyberspace. The fighting involves everything from stealthy robotic–drone strikes to old warships from the navy’s “ghost fleet.” Ultimately, victory will depend on blending the lessons of the past with the weapons of the future.
mirror The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley – Forced into a mirror universe as soldiers overran her village, Lilia, the orphan of a blood witch, begins making unsettling discoveries about her past and the nature of the dark star Oma, which has not been seen for two thousand years.
22381326 Half a War by Joe Abercrombie – Princess Skara has seen all she loved made blood and ashes. She is left with only words. But the right words can be as deadly as any blade. The deep-cunning Father Yarvi has walked a long road from crippled slave to king’s minister. He has made allies of old foes and stitched together an uneasy peace. But now the ruthless Grandmother Wexen has raised the greatest army since the elves made war on God, and put Bright Yilling at its head – a man who worships no god but Death. But when Mother War spreads her iron wings, she may cast the whole Shattered Sea into darkness.
moments Three Moments of an Explosion: Stories by China Mieville – London awakes one morning to find itself besieged by a sky full of floating icebergs. Destroyed oil rigs, mysteriously reborn, clamber from the sea and onto the land, driven by an obscure but violent purpose. An anatomy student cuts open a cadaver to discover impossibly intricate designs carved into a corpse’s bones designs clearly present from birth, bearing mute testimony to . . . what? Of such concepts and unforgettable images are made the twenty-eight stories in this collection many published here for the first time.
smug The Good, the Bad and the Smug by Tom Holt – Mordak isn’t bad, as far as goblin kings go, but when someone, or something, starts pumping gold into the human kingdoms it puts his rule into serious jeopardy. Suddenly he’s locked in an arms race with a species whose arms he once considered merely part of a calorie-controlled diet. Helped by an elf with a background in journalism and a masters degree in being really pleased with herself, Mordak sets out to discover what on earth (if indeed, that’s where he is) is going on. He knows that the truth is out there. If only he could remember where he put it.

mr penumbra's 24 hour bookstoreI’m a cover girl. No, not the makeup kind of CoverGirl, but the type of person who makes her personal book reading choices by whether or not the cover art is saying, “You muussttt reeeaddd meeee,” as I meander the stacks of the library or the book store. That eye-catching cover and blurb is what led me to Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. I was at a conference and saw a poster advertising an author panel that had Robin Sloan, the author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, and several other authors that I was vaguely aware of also as panelists. I just happened to be right down the hall, the blurb about their panel was interesting, and bonus: you could get a free book signed by the author if you came. So I went.

I’m glad I did. I picked up my signed copy of Sloan’s book after the panel ended and started reading. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is the story of the mixture of books and technology, the old and the new. The main character, Clay Jannon, was hit by the Great Recession and lost his job as a web-designer in San Francisco. Walking the streets one night, he stumbles upon Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and manages to land a job working the night shift. Quickly he learns that the patrons of Mr. Penumbra’s store are not like regular bookstore customers. They come and go at odd hours of the day and never buy anything. Instead they find and select somewhat odd and old volumes, books that Clay has been told not to read or touch, through an elaborate and long-standing arrangement with Mr. Penumbra. His curiosity piqued, Clay opens one of those forbidden books and finds them written in code. He decides to bring in some friends to help him solve the mystery of what these people are checking out, as well as the mystery of what exactly is happening in Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.

This book combines elements of mystery, adventure, fantasy, technology, and friendship to bring about a fascinating story of the conflict between the new and the old. Technology and print seem to battle it out within the pages of this book, as Clay soon realizes that Mr. Penumbra’s sudden disappearance from the bookstore has something to do with the mystery books in the store and the people who come to check them out. Add in a secret society called the Broken Spine, something called the Founder’s Puzzle, and Clay and his friends soon find themselves faced off in a race to solve the mystery before the Broken Spine has the chance. Sloan has woven together a story of global conspiracy that draws on the battle between old and new that will leave readers on the edge of their seats waiting to see who will triumph in the end.

This book is also available as a book on cd and as a playaway.

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The 2015 Locus Awards are in! Beginning in 1971, the science fiction magazine “Locus” has used reader polls to determine the nominees and winners. This year the nominees represented quite a diverse array of authors and styles.

Here are the winner and nominees for the top categories. Click on the titles to find the book in the DPL catalog, and you can find the complete list here.

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Winner: Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie – FleetCaptainBreqMianaai has acquired both a human body and command of a starship. Not the worst fate in the universe for a several-thousand-year-old AI component (or “ancillary”) separated from her former vessel’s hive mind. Sent to the planet Athoek as an envoy of the many-bodied Lord of the Radch, Breq must prevent a civil war that threatens the stability of the Radchaai Empire while engaging in a more personal quest for answers about the past.

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Fantasy Novel
Winner: The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison – When his estranged father, Emperor Varenechibel oftheElflands, perishes in an airship crash, 18-year-old MaiaDrazhar is recalled from exile and proclaimed heir to the Elfin imperial throne of Ethuveraz. Maia, whose late mother was a goblin, is immediately transformed from pariah to messiah– attracting sycophants, schemers, and enemies in short order. If Maia is to survive life at court, let alone rule, he’ll need to distinguish false friends from true and use his wits to navigate a treacherous world of conspiracy and political intrigue.

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Winner: Half a King, Joe Abercrombie – Heir to thethroneYarvi, prompted by the murder of his father, embarks on a kingdom-transforming journey to regain the throne, even though having only one good hand means he cannot wield a weapon.

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Winner: The Memory Garden, Mary Rickert – Bay Singer has bigger secrets than most. Not that she knows about them. Her mother, Nan, is sure that the burden of those secrets would be too much, and that’s why she never told anyone the truth … not even Bay. There’s a lot that Nan has kept quiet over the years, especially those times with Mavis and Ruthie–times that were dark and full of guilt. When the three meet again in Nan’s garden, their reunion has spellbinding effects that none of them could have imagined, least of all Bay.

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Collection
Winner: Last Plane to Heaven, Jay Lake (Read my review here) – Lake (1964–2014) was a well-known author of science fiction and fantasy novels, but he was also a prolific short story writer. This final collection shows the range of styles that Lake was comfortable with and showcases his clever way with words.

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.

index The Vorrh by B. Caitling – Next to the colonial town of Essenwald sits the Vorrh, a vast—perhaps endless—forest. It is a place of demons and angels, of warriors and priests. Sentient and magical, the Vorrh bends time and wipes  memory. Legend has it that the Garden of Eden still exists at its heart. Now, a renegade English soldier aims to be the first human to traverse its expanse.Listen to Alan Moore read his own introduction to the book here:
index22 Vermilion by Molly Tanzer – Gunslinging, chain smoking, Stetson-wearing Taoist psychopomp, Elouise “Lou” Merriwether might not be a normal 19-year-old, but she’s too busy keeping San Francisco safe from ghosts, shades, and geung si to care much about that. It’s an important job, though most folks consider it downright spooky. Some have even accused Lou of being more comfortable with the dead than the living, and, well… they’re not wrong.Read Andrew Liptak ‘s review on io9 here:

(caution, some spoilers.)

index The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins – Carolyn and a dozen other children being raised by “Father,” a cruel man with mysterious powers, begin to think he might be God, so when he dies, they square off against each other to determine who will inherit his library, which they believe holds the power to all Creation.
index The Border by Robert McCammon – Two powerful, mysterious alien races are at war; Earth is caught in the middle, collateral damage. The planet is devastated, its people made nearly extinct. Those who have survived the catastrophic destruction caused by the alien war are succumbing to fallout from the battle, which is turning them into half-human creatures preying on those who are still human. Mankind seems doomed, but there is one small hope: a young boy who possesses powers that could save humanity.
indexQ91V0FBG The Burning Dark by Adam Christopher  – Relegated to a Fleetspace station after saving an Earth of the distant future, Captain Abraham Idaho Cleveland navigates hostile workers and persistent malfunctions before receiving a mysterious warning from thousands of light-years away.
indexAIB87K3C Desert Rising by Grant Kelley – The Temple at Illian is the crown jewel of life in the Northern Territory. There, pledges are paired with feli, the giant sacred cats of the One god, and are instructed to serve the One’s four capricious deities. Yet Sulis, a young woman from the Southern Desert, has a different perspective—one that just might be considered heresy, but that is catching on rather quickly …
index Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Judd Trichter – Set in a near-future LA, a man falls in love with a beautiful android — but when she is kidnapped and sold piecemeal on the black market, he must track down her parts to put her back together.
index City of Savages by Lee Kelly – Living in Manhattan, which is now a prisoner-of-war camp, sisters Skyler and Phee set in motion a series of events that forces them to join a group of strangers on an escape mission through a city rife with cannibals and sadistic cults.

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)