Not to be melodramatic, but Finna by Nino Cipri is the book I’ve been waiting for my whole life. It reads in many ways like an American version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – one of my all-time favorite books. The deceptively thin volume is the story of Ava and Jules, a young couple that just broke up a week ago and now has to find a way to continue working together at a Scandinavian big box furniture store. As if the horrors and indignities of working retail AND a breakup weren’t enough, they then discover a wormhole to a parallel universe has opened inside the store — and a customer has wandered through it. It falls to Ava and Jules, as the employees with the least seniority, to go through the wormhole and try to bring the customer home. While trying to survive a perilous multiverse, they must also walk the perilous path from breakup back to friendship.
I fell in love with this book almost instantly, and there’s many reasons why. For one thing, it’s a slim and unintimidating 137 pages, and the writing style and brief chapters make it a quick and addictive read. The humor is dry and wry, realistic about the cruelties and frustrations of both working retail and navigating relationships. Both characters are honest about their own good and bad qualities and while the hurt and defensiveness is real, they don’t flinch away from taking a long, hard look at what went wrong in themselves and in their relationship. Moreover, meaningful as the relationship between the characters is, the book doesn’t get bogged down in it, balancing out the heartfelt discussions with lots of frankly wacky adventures in parallel universes both beautiful and sinister. Finally, this book is one of a very rare type: a novel, with a genderqueer protagonist, that doesn’t focus exclusively on that individual’s gender. In fact, Jules’ gender identity and the social difficulties that come with it are treated as established and routine, mundane everyday details compared to the rest of the plot. As a genderqueer person myself, it is so refreshing to read novels where gender-diverse people exist, live their lives, and do things other than obsess about their gender identity.
If you love slice-of-life sci fi, Welcome to Night Vale, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, or are craving some light-hearted LGBTQ representation, I 100% recommend you check out this book.
Twenty years ago Gary King (Simon Pegg) led his four best pals on a “Golden Mile”pub crawl to celebrate the end of their adolescence. Since then, they have all seemingly moved on with their lives and have found varying levels of success. Well, all of them except King, who has never even tried to change.
Simon Pegg is always at his best in films he wrote with Edgar Wright and The World’s End is no exception. Foul-mouthed and drunk, Pegg’s King is delightfully unlikable and yet, it is easy to see why his friends are all willing to join him for one more pub crawl in their hometown of Newton Haven. King and his friends (each with their own royal pun moniker) Andy Knightly (Nick Frost), Oliver Chamberlain (Martin Freeman), Steven Prince (Paddy Considine), and Peter Page (Eddie Marsan) are all drinking their way toward the storied pub, The World’s End. When they arrive in Newton Haven, there are subtle changes to the town that seem to be for the better. But as the night progresses, the changes seem to take a turn for the sinister, and the friends find themselves increasingly in danger.
A huge fan of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, I went into this movie expecting to love it and was not disappointed. I might even say that it was my favorite of Pegg and Wright’s British bromances disguised as sci-fi and action spoofs. This movie is funny all the way through, and I’m hoping that it only gets better with repeated viewing.
I 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.)
I’m a latecomer to Eureka. It was recommended by friends and Netflix, and still I resisted. When I finally yielded and started watching (from the beginning, of course), I was disappointed that it had taken me so long. It reminded me of a hybrid of three of my favorite shows — Warehouse 13, Psych, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Like the town of Eureka, Warehouse 13 is top secret. Rather than being a town filled with the top brains in the country, it is a storage facility filled with artifacts with ties to history and literature. The employees of Warehouse 13 are tasked with traveling the world to retrieve these supernatural objects and prevent them from causing harm to their owners and protecting the objects once they’re in the Warehouse. A mixture of humor, clever references, and strong character development makes this the strongest contender for Eureka fans.
Psych is a comedy detective show focused on Shawn Spencer and Burton “Gus” Guster, two childhood friends that own a psychic detective agency. Neither one of them is a psychic, but Shawn’s strong detective skills make him pretty impressive at pretending to be one. Psych is filled with lots of cultural references and silly capers. Eureka fans have to suspend disbelief pretty often, and this skill will be useful when watching Psych.
You’ve probably already seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer. A show about a normal high school girl that happens to be the one chosen slayer, endowed with strength and skill mismatched to her petite frame. The show follows her and her group of friends (and Watcher/Librarian Giles) from high school to college, as she fights vampires and demons. But let’s say you haven’t seen Buffy, or you’re thinking, “Why would someone suggest that Buffy and Eureka are watch-alikes?” I have one word for you — camp. Some may call them cheesy, breathlessly pointing out how saccharine the dialogue can be or how ridiculous the special effects are (something that can be said for Warehouse 13, as well), and I understand those arguments. But these self-aware, absurd shows are fun in many of the same ways.
Might I also recommend Castle and Angel (and point out that I probably watch too many television shows?)
You’re twelve years old, sitting in your backyard at night with your two best friends. You are looking up at the sky, and without warning, preamble, or explanation, the stars flare as one and then abruptly disappear. A mere facsimile of the sun – a perfect yellow disk unmarred by solar flares or sunspots – rises in the morning, but the stars are gone for good. This is what Tyler Dupree and his friends, the brilliant twins Diane and Jason, encounter. These three friends grow up under ‘the Spin,’ as it is soon called – a barrier around the earth placed there by some unknowable alien intelligence, for a purpose they can only guess. Even more perplexing: time is passing much, much faster outside the barrier than inside it. A satellite sent up to explore the phenomenon breaks through and then comes crashing down immediately, but instead of the pristine machine launched hours earlier, what crash lands on earth is a banged up satellite with weeks, months, of data recorded. A moment on earth is measured in millennia outside the Spin, which is dire news: at that rate, humanity will live long enough to be destroyed by our own decaying sun, which hasn’t slowed its life cycle down at all. The timeline? About 40 years on earth until the sun expands far enough to fry us where we stand.
How would you choose to spend those 40 years?
Jason dedicates his life to pure science, learning more about the Spin than any other earthling. Diane finds refuge in one of the many new religions that spring up in the wake of the slow disaster. Tyler plows ahead with life as usual, becoming a doctor and as “average” as any citizen can be under the Spin.
Spin falls on the hard side of the science fiction spectrum, which means there is lots of real science in addition to speculation in the plot. It also means that even the invented aspects of Wilson’s universe are imbued with a plausible explanation based on real science; for example, the scary global epidemic he invents, CVWS, is fake, but its symptoms (similar to tuberculosis) are familiar and its behavior – a disease crossing over to humans from cattle – is all too real. Because of this it’s a better pick for established fans of speculative fiction; if you like the genre already, the sophisticated plotting, satisfying conclusion, and smart characters will delight you. If you just have a casual interest, you might have a bad time trying to wade through all the science on display here.
submitted by Georgann
I’m so glad to read this newest offering about the Liaden Universe fro Lee and Miller. They have become some of my favorite Sci-fi authors. I have loved and enjoyed each of their books I have read so far! I am glad to report that each of their books in the series is being republished and DPL is in the process of acquiring them all. Even if you aren’t a Sci-fi fan, I think anyone who likes adventures with a great romance tossed in would enjoy these books.
Theo Waitley, the main character in Fledgling, was introduced at the very end of a previous book, I Dare. I was left quite interested in finding out more about her story. Actually, each of the books left me felling like that. I didn’t want them to end! Theo is coming of age in a culture with stringent rules and not much room for awkwardness. Theo is on the verge of being coerced to conform to the standard. Meanwhile, her mother, who is a professor for the planet’s galaxy-renowned university, discovers that someone has been tampering with the school’s library. To save Theo and the university’s reputation, the two travel off-world.
This was such a fun story! I am eagerly anticipating the next book, Salutations.