May(be): Science Fiction!

This month, we're boldly going where...well, many readers have gone before, actually. Science fiction is a well-known genre, but one of my favorites, nonetheless!

Science fiction is a type of speculative fiction that incorporates scientific (or pseudo-scientific) tropes like space exploration, extraplanetary colonization, time travel, parallel dimensions, alien encounters, and the like. Generally, science fiction has some grounding in actual science (although some stories cross the line into science fantasy).

Although there are several subgenres, our Main Read this month - chosen by The Clockwork Man - is hard science fiction, characterized by a strong connection to physical sciences. Check it out:

The Three-Body Problem
http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/868276526

The Red Union had been attacking the headquarters of the April Twenty-eighth Brigade for two days. Their red flags fluttered restlessly around the brigade building like flames yearning for firewood.

Her life torn apart by China's Cultural Revolution, Ye Wenjie embraces the opportunity to live in virtual exile and imprisonment at the top-secret Red Coast Base. Decades later, nanomaterials expert Wang Miao is confronted with an inexplicable countdown and a warning to shut down his research; his search for answers leads him to a secret society and a strange virtual-reality video game. In Cixin Liu's The Three-Body Problem, physical questions of orbital mechanics (and a really nifty explanation of basic computer programming) are tied into metaphysical questions of human nature, how to solve the problem of evil, and whether we really ought to be calling out into space. What happens if we're heard?

While I can't comment on the original Chinese version (since I can't read it), the translation by Ken Liu is brilliant - skipping between the past and the present, with bits of the future hinted, and occasional forays into a game more real than it ought to be. Ye and Wang are both strong characters, not just vehicles for scientific explanation or action, and their development through the course of the story is natural, though disturbing, at times. It is, ultimately, a Chinese story, but historical and cultural references that may be completely foreign (hehehe) to English-language readers are smoothed by Author's and Translator's Notes. (Like any good philosophy student, I'm a huge fan of footnotes!) Highly recommended for fans of science fiction, although it might not be the best choice for those new to the genre - unless you happen to be a fan of Chinese historical fiction. If you do read and like The Three-Body Problem, be on the look-out for the next two books in the trilogy!


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The Clockwork Man has also chosen a great Quick Read for May - an absolutely gorgeous comic book that may be my favorite series of all time:

Saga
http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/800650553 

 This is how an idea becomes real.

"Am I shitting? It feels like I'm shitting!"

"Just keep pushing. We're so close."

"Seriously, you'll never have sex with me again if I defecate all over you. Unless you're secretly into that. Please don't be into that."

But ideas are fragile things.

Brought together by an absolutely horrible book, two soldiers on opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love and run away to make a new life for themselves - and their child. Hunted by both sides, Alana and Marko are aided by magic and ghosts in their attempt to create a peaceful life for their little forbidden family.

While Saga is beautiful - both visually, as the illustrations are amazing, and creatively, with a rich and original plot - it is important to note that this series is graphic in every possible meaning of the word. If you are upset or offended by the depiction (literal and verbal) of sex, drugs, profanity, prostitution, violence, or...well, anything you could possibly imagine, really...you'll want to avoid the series. While the story is populated by a cast of characters too diverse to relate (including the very awesome Lying Cat), it explores very real human problems - poverty, war, drug abuse, racism, child victimization, and so much more. Recommended for fans of space operas (like Star Wars) - but parents will want to take a look at it before letting their kids read it, to decide if they're ready for such material.

Want another science fiction recommendation? Interested in hearing about other science fiction subgenres? Ask me, and I'll pass your questions along to The Clockwork Man, as soon as he returns from 18th century Versailles. (I'm so jealous - I want to visit 18th century Versailles...)

Happy reading, all, and we'll see you back here next month, with another special reading recommendation from the Readers Advisory Committee!

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