May always makes me want a long slow read. A book I can sink my teeth into. Something that pairs nicely with the last lazy days of spring. When I can still enjoy an hour or two by a sunny window, and the kids are still deeply involved with school friends and functions enough to let me. All too soon summer will crash into my house, bringing with it the frantic preparations for backpacking trips, and long car rides for exhilarating and exhausting days beachside. We’ve selected Science Fiction for our monthly read. We hope you find something here to match your mood. Spring only lasts a blink of an eye, so slow down and savor it.
Caryn’s Pick: ONE SECOND AFTER by William R. Forstchen
Dr. Forstchen has written over 40 books, many on military history and military technology. Before it even debuted the novel was cited on the floor of Congress as something every citizen in the U.S. should read…“a dire warning of what might be our future…and our end.” Well! That got my attention!
The story takes place in the small North Carolina town of Black Mountain where one man struggles to save his family and his town, after the U.S. loses a war. A war based on EMP—Electro Magnetic Pulse…which means setting off a nuclear warhead miles up over land. The electromagnetic field generated destroys every computer…in a single second! Cars, trains and planes crash immediately. Water and electric power grids fail, medical equipment, phones and radios cease to function. The small town in which the story is set reverts to a barter economy and its shops soon run out of food and medicines. America is thrust back into the Dark Ages. This story is a truly realistic look at a weapon that the Wall Street Journal warns could shatter America. And you can’t help but wonder what you would do in such a situation.
Some of the prose ventured into the “corny” in my opinion, as he loves to have his characters sing the National Anthem at any number of turns and often quotes scripture and literature. He frequently cites scenes from movies as a way of showing how his characters can’t believe this is actually happening to them, and that got a bit tiresome. The story starts out slowly and I would have enjoyed a bigger bang when the EMP hits, but I guess his point is that it took a while for people to truly grasp the dire nature of the situation and it’s global impact. The emerging “love story” seemed awkward at times, but I figure that’s not exactly his forte. The second half picked up and the ending was sad, but riveting, appropriately dismal, with just a touch of hope thrown in to keep us from feeling totally depressed. The other major criticism I have is that the writing could have benefited from another edit. Problems like “could of” and “should of” instead of could have and should have; and when did it become okay to use OK, as in “Everything will be OK.”? I can see it in dialogue sometimes, but he used it excessively, and IMO, incorrectly, to the point of distraction. Lots of repeated words occurred on the same page. And two characters have the same name: Jen and Jennifer. But the message is important and well worth the read.
This is a book everyone should read. Sort of like what Edward Snowden is telling us. Our country has a lot more problems and issues to resolve than the average citizen understands. Wake up America! There is more danger lurking out there than you could ever imagine!
Robin’s Pick: THE 5th WAVE by Rick Yancey
The 5th Wave takes place on present day Earth during an alien invasion. Cassie an average American sixteen-year-old girl, finds herself alone and searching for her family. She has already survived the first four waves of an attack which devastated the world and killed off about 90% of the population. The setting and world building are typical of most dystopian literature. The aliens are unseen, only the passing mention of their ships hovering in the sky creates any sense of atmosphere. To be honest, I was hoping for something with a more traditional sci-fi feel, and with more “science.” This is by no means a new take in alien invasion literature, but it’s not one of my personal favorites. The story opens rather slowly, and I didn’t find it particularly interesting until over a 100 pages in. I found both male leads engaging in different ways. However, Cassie the lead female protagonist, never connected with me. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I will say the book broke one of my reader rules and hurt a lot of young kids. This is something Yancey did in the last book I read by him too. Review here. However both times it was plot related and not gratuitous.
If you’re looking for a book with lots of action, blood, gore, and death, but light on science and world building this might be the perfect book for you. And should you find it highly entertaining, you’ll be happy to hear the second book will be out in a few months.
Heather’s Pick: STARTERS by Lissa Price
Sometime in the future, after a biochemical war killed everyone between the ages of 20 and 60, the only people left alive in America are kids (called Starters) and old people (called Enders). Some Starters have Ender grandparents to look after them, but most are orphans who live on the street (like the main character Callie and her brother), or in horrible orphanages that sell kids into slave labor. Meanwhile the Enders work middle-class jobs or live off their retirement riches. Starters aren’t allowed to work, at least not legally. Which leaves Callie, who needs money to pay for her little brother’s medicine and get them off the street, exploring the only option available to her: renting her body to Enders who want to experience being young again. How does that work? They put a Starter’s brain to sleep, and through a neuro-chip allow the Ender’s brain to take over the Starter’s body, essentially living in it for the duration of the rental period. So creepy!
This novel is a fast-paced action adventure that doesn’t hit you over the head with the deep sociological issues at the root of the story, yet never lets you forget them. Some reviewers wanted more “depth” with regard to exploring these issues, but I appreciated how the author allows the reader to experience them as the plot unfolds instead of preaching them. There’s also a romance that thankfully plays into the plot instead of detracting from it.
So if you’re looking for an action-packed YA sci-fi that also makes you think, check out STARTERS by Lissa Price.