Sci-Fi Month

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

sfm15_5

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?

Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2015: Time Travel

sfm15_5

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.

As an archaeologist, time travel is an exciting thought. Being able to go back in time and see if your theories are right? Being able to experience those past cultures and civilisations that you’ve studied and obsessed over for years? Yes please. This is one of the main reasons why I love science fiction that features time travel. However, the thought of heading to the future is just as thrilling. I’m always eyeing up the technology on screen in sci-fi films and shows – how cool would it be to get a chance to use some of it?

But the thought of travelling through time is also terrifying.

What if you get stuck in the past or future, unable to return to your own time? What if you change something in the past, however unknowingly or however small, and it has huge consequences on the future? Or even if they are not consequences that affect you, they could drastically alter the life of someone else. What if the people of the past or future see you as a threat or an enemy?

To enjoy time travel in science fiction, you often have to forget about these questions, and just accept it as it is presented. It is such a fantastic element, and I’ve read so many wonderful books featuring time travel:

All Our Yesterdays (All Our Yesterdays #1) by Cristin Terrill The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August Hyperion by Dan Simmons

Of course that’s not all of them – it would take forever to list them all! Those are just recent reads or particular favourites. And there are several titles involving time travel that I really want to get my hands on:

Loop The Time Machine 11/22/63 by Stephen King

Of course, I don’t just love time travel in my books.

One of my favourite television shows, Doctor Who, is based around the concept of time travel. I discussed my love for the show in the first Sci-Fi Month, and also wrote a short guide to the series for new fans. However my interest has waned a little with the Twelfth Doctor, and that’s something I’ll be discussing this month.

Hmm, sorry Doctor, but I won't be taking your reading advice.

Hmm, sorry Doctor, but I won’t be taking your reading advice.

And not forgetting films!

One of my most recent favourites that used time travel was Looper. It was clever in that it didn’t feel too high tech for most of the film, with the majority of it set in an isolated farm house surrounded by cornfields. Now I feel like that is something I should rewatch this month…

I’m having slightly more trouble thinking up video games that feature time travel though. Most science fiction video games that I’ve played involve space travel, rather than time travel. Can anyone help me out here?

If time travel was possible, there’s a chance that my career would become irrelevant. What would be the point in researching history and archaeology, digging up evidence or hunting through ancient documents if you could just travel back to a certain period in time and see what actually happened? So maybe it’s for the best that time travel is fiction. 😉

Do you enjoy science fiction with the element of time travel? What are some of your favourite titles?

Review

Review: Revival by Stephen King

19196719.jpg

5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

Revival was a lovely surprise from the people at Hodder, who actually sent me two copies of the book – so I passed one onto a friend, and we ended up reading the book at the same time. It’s always fun being able to discuss a book with someone who is also reading it, or has just read it. I don’t know if this is what motivated me to pick up my reading speed (read in three days, compared to how it’s been for most of my time during my Masters so far, that is SUPER quick), or whether it was just because the book completely and utterly drew me in.

At first, Revival didn’t feel like your usual Stephen King novel. It didn’t quite have that sense of sheer creepiness, only perhaps a slight sense of unease. And then suddenly, one horrific event, told in full King style gory bits and all, turned it all around. It jumped back and forth in time, throwing shocks in my face and then only explaining them chapters or hundreds of pages later.

Whilst definitely a unique story that explores how one small incident can change so many lives, for better or for worse, as well as being a pretty thorough character story, I felt that Revival didn’t quite deal what was promised. The blurb claims that “This rich and disturbing novel spans five decades on its way to the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written”, and whilst I agree that it is rich and disturbing, it was definitely not a terrifying conclusion. It was, quite frankly, just very, very odd. Odd is something that Stephen King does very well, but apparently not this time. Everything was over a little too quickly, and overall it just didn’t satisfy me.

Despite that, I am more than happy to give this book a five star rating. The build up of the story, the characters (particularly the protaganist, Jamie), the tension – definitely all worth it. I had a lot of fun trying to guess what Jacobs was up to, and what Jamie’s part in it would be. And whilst it’s not creepy and horrific in the style of The Shining, for instance, it is yet another fine example of why Stephen King is so popular – boy, can he write.

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: December 2014

monthlyru16

Every first Wednesday of the month, I’ll be posting a roundup of the month just gone, and writing about what’s to come in the next few weeks.

December 2014

Last month I read a total of thirteen books: The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1) by Stephen King, In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant, Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little, Moriarty (New Sherlock Holmes #2) by Anthony Horowitz, Yes Please by Amy Poehler, The Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez, Seraphina (Seraphina #2) by Rachel Hartman, Across the Universe (Across the Universe #1) by Beth Revis, The Lost Hero (Heroes of Olympus #1) by Rick Riordan, Revival by Stephen King, The Slow Regard Of Silent Things (The Kingkiller Chronicles #2.5) by Patrick Rothfuss, Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix and Confronting the Classics by Mary Beard.

My standout books for the month were definitely Revival by Stephen King, and Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. I have a review of Revival coming up so I won’t talk about it now, but Seraphina caught me totally by surprise. I also really loved Amy Poehler’s Yes Please – I have so much love and respect for her. It was also fantastic to finally start The Dark Tower series by Stephen King!

 

Challenge progress:

  • I read five books towards the Avengers vs. X-Men Challenge. The challenge is now over, and I earned a total of ninety-four points for my team! There is now a DC vs. Marvel Challenge for 2015.
  • I read 135 books towards my Goodreads goal, and managed to complete it – my goal was 120!

 

Currently reading:

The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

How was December for you?

Misc.

Horror October: Horror Books Read This Year

HorrorOctober2014

For today’s Horror October post, I wanted to share the books I’ve read this year that fit the theme – some are horror, others more thrillers, others just plain creepy!

Doctor Sleep (The Shining #2) by Stephen King

Doctor Sleep

Doctor Sleep is definitely one of my highlights of the year! I’d been anticipating this sequel to The Shining ever since I first read about it, before the cover was even released. Hodder sent me a review copy earlier in the year, and it was definitely worth the wait. If you’ve already read The Shining then hurry up and read this!

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is not so much a traditional horror, it is really a thriller, but it shows just how horrific humans can be to each other. It’s hard to say much about this book without giving anything away, so I won’t! I’m looking forward to seeing the film of this one too.

  • My rating for Gone Girl: [simple-rating stars=”four-stars”]

The Three by Sarah Lotz

The Three by Sarah Lotz

The Three by Sarah Lotz was an interesting read. It was told entirely from interviews, newspaper articles and other sources of media. Unfortunately its format meant I had no connection whatsoever to any of the characters, and the ending was just incredibly frustrating.

The Quick (The Quick #1) by Lauren Owen

The Quick by Lauren Owen

The Quick was also another unique novel: wonderfully Gothic and rather slow paced. I took a while to read this one for various reasons so I think it might need a re-read at some point, but I enjoyed it a lot. I also had the privilege of meeting the author, Lauren Owen, in April, and definitely made a fool of myself. Oops.

Red Moon by Benjamin Percy

Red Moon by Benjamin Percy

Red Moon by Benjamin Percy had me super excited – it was a werewolf novel with a twist and had such wonderful reviews. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t agree with them. The writing was wonderful but the story just felt… lacking. Also it promised me a good scare and just didn’t deliver!

Midnight Crossroad (Midnight #1) by Charlaine Harris

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris was another disappointment. I really love her Southern Vampire Mysteries series (or the True Blood books if you prefer), even if the last few just felt like a chance to make some easy money. So I was hoping a new series would be a new start, and whilst Midnight Crossroad wasn’t bad, there was nothing special about it.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black is another one that’s had great reviews, but I just didn’t get along with. Too many vampires and falling for the bad boy, ugh… The concept of the Coldtowns was original, but vampires? So overdone right now… It does have one of the most horrific opening scenes I’ve ever read though.

Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1) by James S.A. Corey

Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1) by James S.A. Corey

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey is hard to explain in terms of the horror genre without giving away some big plot points. I definitely wasn’t expecting the horror element when I started reading it, and it’s definitely a memorable part… I read it with my Goodreads book group and it was pretty well received!

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co #1) by Jonathan Stroud

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co #1) by Jonathan Stroud

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud is one of my stand-out books of the year. I wasn’t expecting to love it so much, but it pulled me right in. It may be aimed at younger readers but it is SO amazing. Think a mix of Sherlock and Supernatural, with teenage protaganists.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? Do you have any horror recommendations based on what you’ve read this year?

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: September 2014

monthlyru16

Every first Wednesday of the month, I’ll be posting a roundup of the month just gone, and writing about what’s to come in the next few weeks.

September 2014

Last month I read a total of five books: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, Doctor Sleep (The Shining #2) by Stephen King, Archaeological Theory by Matthew Johnson (ugh yes I read the whole thing voluntarily), Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3) by Sarah J. Maas and The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling #1) by Erika Johansen.

It was certainly a slow month for reading. I haven’t been making the time to read as much since I started uni – I’ve been spending my spare time socialising (*gasp*), reading for lectures or starting to think about my thesis. I kind of feel like I have to fill up my spare time with uni-orientated stuff, which is frustrating, and is exactly how I felt during the three years of my undergrad. However, I found that once I picked up an actual physical book rather than using my Kindle, I was more interested in reading again! Doctor Sleep definitely lived up to its reputation and was well worth the wait – if you enjoyed The Shining, I urge you to pick up the sequel! And Heir of Fire… well, my review will be up soon, but let’s just say AMAZING AND UGH WHY.

 

Challenge progress:

  • I read three books towards the Avengers vs. X-Men Challenge. October’s villain is the Green Goblin, which is pretty perfect for Halloween!
  • I have currently read one hundred and nine books towards my Goodreads goal of one hundred and twenty. This is the fourth time I’ve raised it this year, so I’m not too bothered if I don’t hit the final goal but hopefully I will!

 

Currently reading:

The Martian by Andy Weir

How was September for you?

Review

Review: Doctor Sleep (The Shining #2) by Stephen King

17666439.jpg

5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

Ever since I heard that Stephen King was writing a sequel to The Shining, I knew I would have to get my hands on a copy somehow. And then, lo and behold, the wonderful Hodder sent me a copy to review! I apologise for how long it took for me to finally get around to reading and reviewing it, but it was most definitely worth the wait.

If you’re not familiar with The Shining, I would definitely advise reading it before moving on to Doctor Sleep. Whilst it’s not necessary to have read it and I think you would have no issues following the story, it adds so much more depth. Echoes of moments in The Shining, similar scenes and lines come back to haunt the reader. Despite there being over thirty years between the events of the first book, and the final events of Doctor Sleep, the two books felt so interconnected in many ways.

This is definitely one of those books that’s difficult to review, in that you don’t want to stop and make notes – you want to just keep on reading. One of my best friends mentioned that it was one of those books she just couldn’t stop reading and there wasn’t a dull moment – when someone says something like that you know you have to check for yourself, and she was definitely right. Although I didn’t find it as creepy as The Shining (it was the topiary that got me last time), there was a constant eerie undertone and real sense of danger, to both Abra and Dan.

Speaking of Abra, she could have been a precocious and annoying little kid, with these strange talents to show off, but instead she was witty and mature, if a little naive at times. But that was good, it kept her grounded and reminded the reader that she was just a child. And as for Dan, I felt the book was a really interesting exploration into a character who was created over thirty years ago and not necessarily intended to have a sequel.

Considering that I haven’t been making much time for reading lately, this was definitely the right book to get me back into the swing of things. With a highly original concept, creepy undertones and some great characters, it definitely deserves five stars in my book – but could we expect anything less from Mr. Stephen King?

Past Features

Turning Off The TV #16 – Doctor Who

tottvheader

Welcome to my regular Thursday feature, Turning off the TV! In this feature I recommend books similar to TV shows or films you may have enjoyed, both series and specific episodes.

The TV series this week is: Doctor Who.

Doctor Who

The adventures of The Doctor, an alien time traveler – a Time Lord – from Gallifrey. Together with his companions they travel through time and space in the TARDIS, battling evil where they find it.

I’ve covered Doctor Who in this feature before, but there are so many different books to recommend that I’m going to be featuring it several times! For now these mostly cover time travel, but in a later feature I may target specific episodes.

11/22/63 by Stephen King

11/22/63 by Stephen King

Although 11/22/63 by Stephen King involves something the Doctor would NEVER do – changing the course of history – it’s very much a timey-wimey novel. I also feel it fits in well with the beginning of series six in that it’s set in 1960s America, although Maine instead of Utah. Like the episode The Impossible Astronaut, it weaves the story into a major historical event – the moon landing in 1969 in the case of Doctor Who versus the assassination of JFK in 1963.

Timeline by Michael Crichton

Timeline by Michael Crichton

‘Timey wimey’ is today’s keyword. Timeline by Michael Crichton is about a group of historians who go back in time to 1357 in order to answer a distress call sent all the way to 1999. The book switches between the medieval period and the modern day (or rather, 1999), and the main idea is that quantum computers can be used to ‘fax’ people to different timelines. Ah, if only it was that easy… I was also amused to read about the ‘high tech computer game that should hit the market in 2000’ when reading about this book, so naturally I had to find a review of said game. Actual quote from IGN: “We wish we could go back in time and remake this game.”. Not to worry, the book has MUCH better reviews…

Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos #1) by Dan Simmons

Hyperion by Dan Simmons

I can never recommend Hyperion by Dan Simmons enough. One of my favourite sci-fi books EVER, it’s got some INCREDIBLY trippy, timey-wimey content – although that’s not the only reason I’m recommending it for fans of Doctor Who. I feel like the Shrike would be a pretty good fit with the villains of the show. It’s both terrifying and horrific, but at times it actually shows sympathy or some sort of kindness towards a few people. It protects a young girl later in the series. It may be scary, but it’s also misunderstood, just like many of the Doctor’s adversaries.

Are you a fan of Doctor Who? Do you have any recommendations to add? Are there any other TV shows or films you’d like me to cover?

Past Features

Turning Off The TV #10: Supernatural

tottvheader

Welcome to my regular Thursday feature, Turning off the TV! In this feature I recommend books similar to TV shows or films you may have enjoyed, both series and specific episodes.

The TV series this week is: Supernatural.

Supernatural

Two brothers follow their father’s footsteps as “hunters” fighting evil supernatural beings of many kinds including monsters, demons, and gods that roam the earth.

This is the third of this feature covering Supernatural, as I hope to be looking at this series in more detail. So many creatures and urban legends are featured that it opens up a choice of so many more books!

Enjoyed ‘Provenance’ (Season One, Episode Nineteen)?

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co #1) by Jonathan Stroud

This episode is about a haunted painting that Sam and Dean have to somehow obtain from an auction house, and then dispose of. So what would be a better choice than The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde? This infamous story follows the eponymous Dorian Gray, who sells his soul in exchange for eternal youth and good looks. However, his recently commissioned portrait reflects the extent of his sins, whilst the real Dorian remains perfect – at least in appearance. It was a pretty scandalous book when it was released, and there’s also a fairly recent film adaptation starring Ben Barnes which only builds upon and adds to the scandalous moments. And then there’s The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co #1), the first in a brilliant new series by Jonathan Stroud, about young members of a ‘supernatural agency’. Like the Winchesters, Lockwood & Co have to deal with many haunted and possessed objects. I reviewed this book earlier in the year.

Enjoyed ‘Devil’s Trap’ (Season One, Episode Twenty-two)?

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates

After their father, John Winchester, is captured, Dean and Sam along with Bobby succeed in trapping the demon Meg, who reveals that their father is in Missouri. Unfortunately, he has been possessed by Azazel, the yellow-eyed demon that killed their mother. There are countless books on demons, demon possession and demon worship – and quite a few episodes to do with Ol’ Yellow Eyes throughout the show, so I’ll just recommend three books for now. Firstly, there’s the super obvious one – The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. Do I really need to explain the plot?? A more recent release, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea tells the story of Violet, who lives in a sleepy little town where nothing much happens – until River makes an appearance. It’s a classic tale of that enticing new stranger being not quite what they seem… And finally, The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates describes how a whole town falls under the influence of a supernatural force. Although it’s part of the Gothic Saga, it can be read as a standalone as the series is more a collection of gothic novels by the same author, rather than novels containing the same characters and similar events.

Enjoyed ‘Everybody Loves A Clown’ (Season Two, Episode Two)?

It by Stephen King Joyland by Stephen King Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

The Winchesters investigate a series of murders at a travelling carnival, which turns out to be a Rakshasa (of Hindu mythology), transforming into a clown in order to trick children, before then murdering their parents. Of course, the first book that came to mind linked to this episode was It by Stephen King, which I won’t be reading any time soon thank you very much. Clowns are already creepy enough as it is. Another Stephen King novel with a carnival theme (maybe we should just avoid carnivals and funfairs??) is the more recently released Joyland – now this one I definitely want to read sometime. And now for a non-Stephen King book: Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, in which a creepy carnival (*makes a mental note to avoid carnivals in the future*) comes to town, and two young boys have to save their home from its evil clutches.

Are you a fan of Supernatural? Do you have any recommendations to add?

Past Features

Turning Off The TV #1: Supernatural

tottvheader

Welcome to my new Thursday feature: Turning Off The TV! In this feature I’ll be recommending books similar to TV shows or films you may have enjoyed, both entire series and specific episodes.

The TV series this week is: Supernatural.

supernatural

Two brothers follow their father’s footsteps as “hunters” fighting evil supernatural beings of many kinds including monsters, demons, and gods that roam the earth.

I’ll be covering Supernatural quite a bit in this feature, as there are so many different themes and monsters to discuss – but I’ll make sure to mix it up every week so it’s not just Supernatural for months!

Enjoyed ‘The Wendigo’ (Season One, Episode Two)?

Then you might like these reads that feature a Wendigo in some way. In fact I’m sure almost every Stephen King book could be recommended to fans of Supernatural! I’ve read some of Stephen King‘s work, but sadly not this one – I do like his writing though.

Pet Sematary by Stephen King The Wendigo by Algernon Blackwood The Orphan Master by Jean Zimmerman

Enjoyed ‘Skin’ (Season One, Episode Six)?

Then give these books featuring skin-changers (also known as skin-walkers) a try. Unlike this episode, the skin-walkers are not necessarily the villains. The Sookie Stackhouse Novels by Charlaine Harris is one of my favourite series, if not for amazing writing, then for just being a genuinely fun series to read.

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong Skinwalker by Faith Hunter

Enjoyed ‘Asylum’ (Season One, Episode Ten)?

Asylums are certainly creepy places, and have been widely represented in literature. Here are some more stories to make them seem even creepier… Shutter Island is one of those books that really gets you thinking – one minute you’re sure of something, the next you’re questioning whether it’s the opposite.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? Are you a fan of Supernatural?