Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2016: Blogger Panel #1

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This post is part of Sci-Fi Month 2016, a month long event to celebrate science fiction hosted by myself and Over the Effing Rainbow. You can view the schedule here, follow the event on Twitter via the official @SciFiMonth Twitter account, or with the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

As with 2014, this year’s Sci-Fi Month sees the return of the blogger panel, where I pose a science fiction related question to a selection of book bloggers! If you want to answer the question as well, let us know your response in the comment section below. 🙂 The question for this panel was:

Of all the dystopian novels, which do you think has the scariest setting or events?

Greg @ Greg’s Book Haven

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Greg is a book blogger and Renaissance faire enthusiast who reviews a bit of everything, but mostly fantasy and YA. He also enjoys music and movies, and never met a used bookstore he didn’t like. He has written reviews for Knights of the Dinner Table and contributed to SFSignal in the past. You can find him at Greg’s Book Haven or on Twitter at @GregsBookHaven.

When it comes to dystopians there are no shortage of bleak futures. My initial answer when I read the question was The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. After all they pit children against children for entertainment purposes. How whacked is that? Then I thought maybe The Maze Runner (by James Dashner), but I’ve only seen the movie and I should read the book before making that call. The reason I thought of The Maze Runner though was because on a personal level it seemed terrifying – having no memory, being dropped into the Glade with no control of your future, and of course the terrifying and deadly Maze. But my definitive answer is… Divergent by Veronica Roth. Why? Well, I think growing up in a closed off city, finding out later you were under constant surveillance and being forced at sixteen to join a faction that will dominate your entire future. Regardless of the goal, to do this to so many people is just so manipulative – your whole life is just an experiment. I think that may be even worse than The Hunger Games society.

At the risk of giving too many answers, I’m going to add one more: Logan’s Run, by William F. Nolan. An older dystopian, but imagine having to submit to euthanasia at twenty one (thirty in the movie). Your life has just begun, and it’s over! That may be the scariest one.

Logan's Run

Lisa @ Over the Effing Rainbow

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Lisa is a Glasgow-based blogger and reviewer, who has been cheerfully flailing (and occasionally ranting) at Over The Effing Rainbow since 2012. She’s generally fueled by copious amounts and tea and cake, and for the record those are the best ways to bribe her. You can find her via her website, on Twitter (@EffingRainbow), or presiding over her Imzy community. (Or by leaving a trail of cake.)

First of all I should probably confess that dystopian stories are not among my most widely read of sub-genres. I appreciate the really good ones I’ve read, but I am a bit of a delicate flower and I tend to prefer my reading to be less about doom and gloom and more about hope for humanity. Some dystopian-type books get this right, though the hope is usually accompanied by a LOT of nail-biting and lessons about being careful what you wish for.

It’s actually one such book that I immediately thought of when I considered how to answer this question, and despite the fact that I don’t read much dystopian science fiction, this is one of my absolute favourite SF books in general: Mira Grant’s Feed, which is the first in her Newsflesh trilogy. On the surface of things it is a post-apocalypse zombie novel. What it really is, though, is a really stunningly well-constructed examination of what society might become, not if we’re nearly wiped out by an apocalypse, but if we manage to survive one. It takes the question of “what if…?” and answers it in ways I still find marvellously clever, both in the simplicity of the answer and the terrifying complexity of it. Basically, this “apocalypse” is kicked off when cures for cancer and for the common cold are discovered, and the information leaked to the public before thorough testing is complete. Some well-meaning but vitally uneducated activists steal the cures, mix them and release them using (if I recall correctly) a crop-dusting plane. Bad, bad things happen. You can guess at the results. (Science is damn scary, you guys, and Grant clearly revels in it.)

But the novel takes place after humanity has found stable, relatively safe ground again, a few decades later. Security is tighter than ever, blood tests are mandatory in just about every public place possible – and in every home, naturally. These aspects are fairly par for the dystopian course, but it’s the social aspects that really twist the trope and make this book as interesting as it is. Rather than traditional news/media outlets being relied on to inform the public in general, it was every street-level blogger and capable, levelheaded Average Joe with a social media presence banding together and sharing actual useful, life-saving information and advice that helped humanity to pull through. The News let us all down, so we basically kept our heads and saved ourselves, and in this vision of a post-apocalyptic future, it’s the bloggers we trust. And this book was written and published several years ago. Sounds pretty frighteningly relevant today, doesn’t it?

It’s the level of apparent prescience there, as much as if not more than the more horror-centric zombie factor, that’s truly scary to me. We do, generally speaking, have a troubling habit of reacting rather than acting when faced with dangerous and/or violent situations, and thanks to the age of information, we often don’t bother with the context of facts; we tend more often to grab the facts and run with them. This is a potential future in which we literally do just that, and while the fact that we survive lightens the end of that tunnel, what’s really frightening is all the lessons we still haven’t learned, and the ways in which we still wrap ourselves up in fear and call it sensibility.

If you’ve ever found regular people to be scarier than zombies, which it feels like I do just about every day now, then this is one future that’s likely to scare the socks off you – and it’s really not as far-fetched as the zombies make it seem…

Feed

Jess @ Curiouser and Curiouser

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Jess is a 25 year old book blogger from the UK currently working in academic publishing. A feminist killjoy, history nerd and unicorn enthusiast, she enjoys nothing more than reading books about well-written women and the men they make cry. You can find her on Twitter (@JGofton) or via her blog, Curiouser and Curiouser.

If a dystopian novel doesn’t creep you out, even the tiniest amount, then it’s not doing its job properly. The Hunger Games doesn’t seem like an all too distant reality in a world obsessed with reality TV and The Handmaid’s Tale continues to be read widely in schools and universities because there’s still so much to say about feminism and equal rights. For me, though, the most terrifying dystopian novel has to be the ‘big brother’ of them all: George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. It’s bleak, cruel and devoid of all hope, and nothing freaks me out more than the idea of a place like Room 101, where your worst fears are quite literally realised. That the government in Nineteen Eighty-Four are able to make you think how they want you to think and essentially torture you into obedience is horrific – I’d genuinely rather live in Panem!

1984

Crini @ All About Books

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Crini is a blogger from Germany who mostly tours foreign worlds of fantasy novels with occasional detours into space and explorations of magical realism. When she is not too busy re-watching Pacific Rim for the 100th time, she is probably re-reading one of her favorite books yet again. She can be found on her blog, All About Books or on Twitter (@xcrini).

Dystopian settings like those in The Hunger Games or The Maze Runner certainly are brutal and not a place I would ever want to be in, but they don’t necessarily scare me. That’s mostly because I don’t really see myself ever being in a similar situation. I don’t expect to end up in a fight for my life like that.

One series/book that definitely did scare me though (as rare as that is) was Neal Shusterman’s Unwind. If there is one thing in books that always make me break out in cold sweat, it’s situations where the main character isn’t allowed to decide for themselves (anymore). That someone else could be in charge, like being committed to a mental institution, against your will, even if it’s with good intentions, always freaked me out. And Neal’s book is a lot worse than that. That parents can decide that you’re not good enough anymore and better off as an organ donor is as scary as it gets for me. Reading about kids on the operating table, knowing exactly what’s to come, made this quite intense too.

Unwind

What do you think about the panelists’ responses? Let me know your answer to the panel question in the comments below!

Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2016: My Top SF Novels of 2016

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This post is part of Sci-Fi Month 2016, a month long event to celebrate science fiction hosted by myself and Over the Effing Rainbow. You can view the schedule here, follow the event on Twitter via the official @SciFiMonth Twitter account, or with the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

With what has become something of a tradition amongst my Sci-Fi Month posts, here are my top science fiction novels of the year, in no particular order! This includes novels read this year, regardless of year published.

Revenger Calamity Vicious by Victoria Schwab

I received a copy of Revenger by Alastair Reynolds for review at the end of September, and had read it within a few weeks. I just absolutely love the whole premise of following a spaceship crew, and Revenger tells the story through the eyes of one of the new recruits, plus it has space scavengers, robots and space battles. Calamity (Reckoners #3) by Brandon Sanderson is the final book in the series, and was an excellent conclusion. The whole trilogy has just been hugely fun from the very beginning, and I honestly have never not enjoyed a Sanderson book. A previous book group read, Vicious by V.E. Schwab was one that I devoured in a couple of days. I loved reading a villain origin story!

The Lives of Tao Long Way Morningstar

The Lives of Tao (Tao #1) by Wesley Chu was a book I picked up by chance from the library, and I’m so glad I did. It is so clever and unique, and confirmed my belief that Chu is an excellent writer, after reading another of his books last year. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers #1) by Becky Chambers was, quite honestly, one of my absolute favourite books this year in ANY genre. It felt like it was written just for me, and was exactly what I needed to read. Like I mentioned above, I love stories that follow spaceship crews, and this does nothing but. It’s more about the relationships between the characters and their backstories than any action. In fact, I almost want to re-read it again this year. Morning Star (Red Rising #3) by Pierce Brown was the conclusion I sorely needed for the entire Red Rising trilogy. I fell in love with the first two books the instant I read them (almost back to back) and waiting for the final book to come out was utter agony. Another series I want to re-read already!

Unwind The Forever War New Pompeii

I thought a little while about adding Unwind (Unwind Dystology #1) by Neal Shusterman to this list, and then decided I would. I was expecting it to be a rather typical dystopian YA, with a horrendous cover that quite honestly reminds me of The Human Centipede, but actually… well, it was terrifying. And really very disturbing. I wasn’t expecting it to affect me in the way that it did, which is why I ended up giving it a higher rating. I’m not normally a fan of military science fiction, but The Forever War (The Forever War #1) by Joe Haldeman was an excellent book. It’s less about the military action, and more about the impact. If these soldiers have to travel through time and space to fight their wars, what happens when they finally return home and hundreds of years have passed back on Earth? How do they adjust to life without families and friends, and in an unfamiliar world? I immediately bought the next two books after reading this. New Pompeii by Daniel Godfrey was a book I first saw mentioned in the back of A Darker Shade of Magic, and one that I just KNEW I had to read, as it sounded a bit like Jurassic Park meets the Roman Empire. It’s such a clever story, and that cover is genius!

What were the best science fiction books you read in 2016? Have you read any of the ones on my list?

Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2015: It’s The End of the World As We Know It

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This post is part of Sci-Fi Month 2015, a month long event to celebrate science fiction hosted by myself and Over the Effing Rainbow. You can view the schedule here, follow the event on Twitter via the official @SciFiMonth Twitter account, or the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

A common trope of science fiction is to show the Earth greatly transformed, or even completely destroyed, in some way. Our poor planet has been used and abused throughout the history of the genre. Here’s a brief guide to the (post-)apocalypse, or dystopian future, covering books, TV, films and video games.

Aliens

Mass Effect The 5th Wave Defiance The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells War of the Worlds Independence Day The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham 826847

In these titles, Earth is either destroyed or invaded by aliens. In the latter, it is altered to a state where it is unrecognisable: either through the collapse of society and government, or destruction of large portions of the planet. Sometimes the extra-terrestrials are aggressive, sometimes they are just inquisitive, and other times we’re not even aware of them until it is too late.

Mass Effect, The 5th Wave, Defiance, The War of the Worlds (plus the 2005 film version), Independence Day, The Day of the Triffids, The Midwich Cuckoos.

Illness/Disease

The Passage by Justin Cronin Blindness Oryx and Crake Partials by Dan Wells Parasite I Am Legend by Richard Matheson The Stand Children of Men The Strain

These titles show an Earth ravaged by illness, disease or plague, including technological viruses and biological warfare. In many of them, the illness transforms humankind into something else, often zombie or vampire-like creatures.

Humankind

The Hunger Games Divergent The 100 The Years of Rice and Salt Unwind The Man in the High Castle How I Live Now A Canticle for Leibowitz

Science fiction frequently shows how humankind causes its own downfall, often through war or revolt. This is a particularly popular theme in current Young Adult dystopian fiction, although it’s not exactly a new trend in the genre. This is one of the more frightening sides of sci-fi: how we become our very own worst enemies. Occasionally, it shows a glimpse into an alternate future or past.

Natural Disaster

2012 The Day After Tomorrow The Maze Runner by James Dashner Deep Impact Armageddon The Drowned World

This could also technically come under ‘Humankind’, because most of the time the natural disasters are caused by people, namely through global warming and climate change. This category includes these as well as other things such as asteroids/meteors, tsunamis, earthquakes etc.

2012, The Day After Tomorrow, The Maze Runner, Deep Impact, Armageddon, The Drowned World.

Brainwashing/Government

1984 Brave New World by Aldous Huxley Fahrenheit 451 Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand V for Vendetta

Another terrifying thing about science fiction is how government is often portrayed. Often it is shown as being a totalitarian or ‘Big Brother’ society, a term coined from George Orwell’s 1984. Citizens often have very little freedom, or even free will, having been brainwashed into behaving in certain ways.

Machines/Artificial Intelligence

I Robot Robopocalypse Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick Love In the Age of Mechanical Reproduction Prey Neuromancer

Okay, maybe there’s a lot of scary things about science fiction – another one being the very thought of the Earth being overrun or overtaken by machines or artificial intelligence. Many a sci-fi tale tells of the invention of some fantastic new technology, only for it to become sentient and rise up against mankind.

Can you think of any other titles that would fit in these categories, or any categories that I have missed?