Tag: science fiction

That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E. K. Johnston

That Inevitable Victorian Thing by EK Johnston

That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E. K. Johnston (9781101994979)

Set in a world slightly in the future, this teen novel explores what might have happened if the British Empire had continued to be in power. Canada is part of the empire and the United States is a struggling land of revolutionaries and poverty. When Victoria-Margaret is allowed to have one year of freedom and visit Canada incognito, she discovers new friends, plenty of balls and parties, and a new understanding of the empire she will one day govern. One of her new friends is Helena, who doesn’t know who Victoria-Margaret actually is and who is also keeping her own secrets from Margaret and her beau, August, who also has troubles to occupy his time. As the three of them head into the Canadian country to spend time at their families’ lake homes, the truth must eventually be shared in between newfound love, country dances and letter writing.

Johnston, author of Exit, Pursued by a Bear, has created a novel that could have been entirely frothy and filled with dresses, dances and divas. Instead it is a book that explores many aspects of life from honesty to family honor to the truth of who someone actually is, deep inside. Set in the near-future, the book also has a computer that finds genetically beneficial matches for people. For Helena, this computer reveals that she is actually intersex. That fact almost topples Helena, but as she lives with it for awhile she finds herself exploring new parts of her personality and of romance.

Written with grace, this novel for teens is a lovely introduction to alternative history science fiction. The flair of the debutante season, the touches of British life throughout the realm, and the pressure on all three teens to find proper matches create a whirl of a novel. The two female lead characters are refreshingly different from one another and yet make ideal friends. There is a quiet to them both, an introspective quality and also a merriment and delight in simple pleasures.

A great book for fans of The Crown and Victoria, get this into their hands. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Dutton Books for Young Readers.

Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson

Landscape with Invisible Hand by MT Anderson

Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson (9780763687892)

The author of Feed returns to dystopian science fiction in this short and thrillingly sharp novel. Adam can remember the time before the vuvv came to Earth. They brought technologies, medical breakthroughs, and new money for the economy. But as everything was replaced with alien technology, it moved behind a pay wall that made clean water, medical treatment and safe housing impossible for most humans to afford. The lucky wealthy humans live in floating cities high above the decaying world. Adam though is trapped on Earth, looking for a way to save his family. He and his girlfriend decide to make films of their lives for the vuvv, but it all has to be 1950’s style romance and nothing kills real love faster than having to produce it on a schedule. As Adam’s romance fizzles, he comes up with one last chance to save his family but his illness from drinking polluted water may take away his one shot.

Anderson’s writing is refreshingly frank. Adam narrates the book with a bleakness that is understandable and exactly the right tone. There is a sense of horror as the book continues; the ramifications of pay walls, levels of society, and the denial of simple necessities ring very true and very close to home. Even without an alien invasion, this could be the future of our society, one that is brutal, unconscionable and desperate. It is the frenzied need to attract the vuvv’s attention that makes this book so riveting. One can’t look away, particularly as the climax becomes so horrifying.

Anderson skillfully places fine art into the mix of the book, giving Adam the gift of art and the decision of what to capture with his old-fashioned paint and canvas. It is art that shows the desolation of Earth but also what might prove to be Adam’s salvation if he is willing to modify what he does for the vuvv.

Get this one into the hands of dystopian fans. It is also short enough at 160 pages that it could be shared in a classroom setting and would lead to fascinating discussions about society today and in the future. Appropriate for ages 15-18.

ARC received from Candlewick Press.

Star Scouts by Mike Lawrence

Star Scouts by Mike Lawrence

Star Scouts by Mike Lawrence (9781626722804, Amazon)

Avani’s father has signed her up for Flower Scouts so that she can make friends in her new town. But all of the other girls are interested only in talking about makeup and boys. Then Avani is accidentally teleported into space by an alien named Mabel, who is working on her own badges for her scout troop. Being a Star Scout like Mabel is a whole lot more interesting than being a Flower Scout, so Avani starts joining them instead of her earth-bound scouts. As Avani learns to build robots, teleport things, drive space ships, and race jetpacks, she finds a place where she fits in. Now she just needs to get her father to sign off on a permission slip for her to go to Camp Andromeda for a week!

This friendly science fiction graphic novel is filled with humor and lots of action. Avani is a main character of color with her Indian heritage that plays a role throughout the graphic novel in things like language and food. She is game for the entire adventure, allowing herself to try new things, push herself to learn and even form a real rivalry with another troop of scouts.

The art is playful and fun with the dialogue working well to move the book forward at a fast pace that will please young readers. There is lots of action, plenty of space exploration and even camp pranks and jokes. The pleasure is in seeing camping tropes used on an asteroid by alien creatures.

Funny and warm, this graphic novel has strong STEM overtones and even a few poop jokes. Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from copy received from First Second.

 

Felix Yz by Lisa Bunker

Felix Yz by Lisa Bunker

Felix Yz by Lisa Bunker (9780425288504, Amazon)

Felix’s life changed when he was caught in an accident in his father’s lab at three years old. A fourth dimensional being named Zyx was fused inside him. Now the time is coming when Felix and Zyx have to be separated or they will both die. Felix begins a secret blog where he shares his experiences of being fused with Zyx and the days leading up to the Procedure. There are details about normal things like his family, bullies at school, and his crush on a cute boy at school. Then there are the Zyx related aspects that draw Felix to the beauty of jazz music and immensely gifted chess playing. Even as Felix hopes to be able to fix the physical manifestations and pain brought by being with Zyx, he wonders about what his life will be like without him and if they will both potentially die as they are separated.

Bunker has created an exceptional book for middle grade readers. She has seeped it full of diversity of the LGBT community. Felix himself is gay, his mother is bisexual and his grandparent is gender queer. The beauty is that this is not the focus of the novel, just background information, a matter-of-fact look at what openly queer families can be.

The real focus of the book is Felix himself, caught in a unique situation that makes him the target of bullies. He still connects with others, his crush on a boy growing with natural pacing. He speaks in a voice that is witty and rich, his writing filled with small details of his life but also with humor. There is a sense of an impending ending but also the slim possibility of a future as well that keeps this book steeped in the small wonders of life but also immensely hopeful.

A dynamic mix of LGBT, science fiction and growing up, this novel is entirely unique just like its main character. Appropriate for ages 12-14.

Reviewed from ARC received from Viking Books for Young Readers.

 

The Adventures of John Blake: Mystery of the Ghost Ship by Philip Pullman

The Adventures of John Blake Mystery of the Ghost Ship by Philip Pullman

The Adventures of John Blake: Mystery of the Ghost Ship by Philip Pullman, illustrated by Fred Fordham (9781910989296, Amazon)

This is Philip Pullman’s first graphic novel and what a way to start! It is the story of the Mary Alice, a ship that is caught traveling through time. Her crew is from all over the world and from all parts of time. But they are in danger as one of the most powerful men in the modern day is searching for them because the boy on board the Mary Alice, John Blake, knows his secret and could ruin him. When an Australian girl falls off of her family’s boat, she is rescued by John and taken aboard the Mary Alice. Now she has a chance to save them in return, if she can.

Pullman’s graphic novel reads like a film script. It is full of guns, explosions, and fights that make it a wild read. Then there is the historical piece to it, something that slows the intense momentum and makes the book warmer and more vital. Add in the touch of ghostly science fiction that moves the ship through time and you have a rich mix of genres that is impossible to stop reading.

Fordham’s art is done in full color, rich and vibrant on the page. His art is clear and precise, offering children reading this book a real feel of adult graphic novels. There is no cuteness here, just a realistic science fiction ghost story that is exactly what will lead young readers to search for more graphic novels and comics to read.

Get this into the hands of children who love super hero comics and they will fall hard for John Blake and the Mary Alice. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.

 

Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson (9780062393548, Amazon)

Released June 13, 2017.

This is a novel told in three different time periods, each featuring a woman finding love and yearning for change. There is Adri from the year 2065, who has been selected to live on Mars. She is aloof and prickly and spends her last weeks on Earth with her sole surviving relative, an older woman she has never met. Adri discovers the letters of the other women and is soon drawn into their lives and the mysteries of what happened to them. Catherine lives in 1934 in the midst of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. In the midst of dust storms, she manages to fall in love and then has to decide whether to stay with her mother on their deteriorating farm or leave and take chances in a large city. Lenore lives in England in 1919, recovering from the loss of her brother in World War I. She meets a scarred young man who is living in an abandoned house on her family’s estate and isn’t sure what parts of his story are true.

The stories of these three characters are vivid and remarkable. Adri’s story is told in prose while the others are done in letters. The book folds out into a series of letters, origami-like and wondrous. Anderson cleverly creates a point in the book where one isn’t sure if the ending of the women’s stories will be fully revealed or not. It creates a breathtaking moment of mystery and inconclusiveness that adds to the already appealing story. Throughout, Anderson demonstrates her skilled writing and gorgeous prose that is full of emotion and possibilities.

The three female characters whose stories are told in the novel are vastly different from one another and yet the stories nest together into one complete whole. While they are distinct and unique women, the stories all speak to their tenacity, deep caring and independence. Even as they make critical decisions in the midst of impossible situations, there is a sense of community and connection that weaves throughout the novel, showing that we are all stronger together.

Engrossing, intelligent and incredibly rich, this novel for teens is truly exceptional. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and HarperCollins.

Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld

Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld

Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld, illustrated by Alex Puvilland (9781596439368, Amazon)

Addison lives inside the protected border of the Spill Zone, where an event changed the city of Poughkeepsie. No one is allowed into the spill zone, but Addison has found a way to support herself and her younger sister by taking photographs of the strange things happening inside the city. A certain energy keeps the dead floating in the are with glowing eyes, creates strange wolf-like lightning creatures, makes designs out of objects and flattens others into the ground. Addison has only a couple of rules that keep her alive, like not getting off of her motorcycle and never entering the hospital where her parents died. Soon though, a strange woman who has been collecting Addison’s photographs offers her a huge payout for Addison to take on a dangerous mission and break all of her own safety rules.

Westerfeld excels at creating parallel worlds for readers to explore. This graphic novel is no exception, inviting readers to ride fast alongside Addison into a confusing and neon-bright world with rules all its own. Westerfeld combines horror elements and science fiction in this graphic novel, a combination that is vastly appealing and allows Westerfeld to twist and change the world, filling it with surprises that either delight or dismay. Perhaps the best of these is the doll that Addison’s younger sister has that comes alive thanks to energy in the Spill Zone, a secret that Addison isn’t aware of.

The art of the graphic novel is crucial to bringing Westerfeld’s twisted world to life. The play of normalcy against the dangers and horrors of the Spill Zone makes both of them darker and even stranger. The elements of the Spill Zone splash across the page in a blaze of color and oddities. One both wants to return to that area and also avoid it, thanks to the depiction on the pages.

A very successful first book in a new graphic novel series, this one will be popular with Westerfeld fans and fans of horror and sci fi. Appropriate for ages 12-15.

Reviewed from copy received from First Second.