Archive for the ‘Science Fiction’ Category

The Diamond Lens and Other Stories by Fitz-James O’Brien

September 13th, 2012    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, Classics, Fantasy, Fiction, Kelly, Science Fiction

Born in Ireland in 1828, Fitz-James O’Brien moved to the United States in 1852 after running through most of his inherited fortune. Once in the USA, he made a living writing for a variety of publications, like the New Yorker and Harper’s. He also wrote short fiction, and Hesperus Press Limited recently rereleased a collection of his work.

The Diamond Lens and Other Stories contains three creepy gems: the eponymously named Diamond Lens, featuring a scientist’s obsession with a microcosmic world, originally published in 1858; The Wondersmith, a revenge story with soulless mannequins and interesting romantic message, first published 1859; and last of all What Was It, an invisible monster story that predates The Invisible Man and other stories with similar concepts, as it was published in 1859.

If you like Edgar Allen Poe, and macabre stories, this is a collection for you. Early science fiction and fantasy is fascinating both for the sheer creativity but also the worldview it gives to the time period it was published.

On a side note, O’Brien joined the New York National Guard in 1961, after the Civil War broke out. He was wounded in action in February 1962, and died from his wounds later that year.



Title: The Diamond Lens and Other Stories

Author: Fitz-James O’Brien

Source: Publicist

Read: September 2012

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Black Dog Reviews’ First Annual Gift Guide

December 11th, 2011    Posted in Dystopian, Fantasy, Fiction, Kelly, Literary Fiction, Middle Grade, Mystery, Non-Fiction, Other Genre, Pop Culture, Popular Fiction, Science Fiction, Short Stories, Uncategorized, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult

Looking for gift ideas this Christmas? How about giving a book? Here’s some gift recommendations based on books or series we read during 2011.

Literary Fiction
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
About: Effortless novel from one of our favorites.
Best for: Fans of The Virgin Suicides or Middlesex; people who enjoy character studies; Fans of Jane Austen, and also of Victorian writers.
Also consider: Game of Secrets by Dawn Tripp or The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender.


Short Story Collection
20 Under 40: Stories from the New Yorker
About: Sampling of the hottest short-story authors under 40 years old. Great way to find your favorite new literary author.
Great for: fans of short stories, literary fiction.
Also consider: St Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell, Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman.


Adult Dystopian, Sci-Fi, or Fantasy
Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
About: Game of Thrones is a layered high-fantasy novel with high stakes.
Great for: fans of high fantasy, people who like epic sagas.
Also consider: Greywalker by Cat Richardson


Southern Gothic
Ghost on Black Mountain by Ann Hite.
Why: Five different female narrators tell the story of Nellie’s unfortunate marriage to Hobbs Pritchard.
Great for: fans of Southern gothic novels, literary ghost stories.
Also consider: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt


Beach Read
Soulless by Gail Carriger
About: Victorian steampunk with supernatural creatures. Mixes romance and humor with a mystery. Absolutely brillant fun read.
Best for: readers with a sense of humor.
Also consider: Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon


Young Adult Dystopian, Sci-Fi, or Fantasy
Feed by M. T. Anderson
About: Ecological and technology issues, sci-fi, and dystopian blend in this YA novel perfect for boys and girls. Also has one of the best first lines ever: “We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.”
Best for: fans of dystopian or sci-fi.
Also consider: Divergent by Veronica Roth, Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Daughter of Smoke and Bones by Laini Taylor, and Witchlanders by Lena Coakley.


Young Adult, Contemporary
Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
About: Vera’s journey as grieving high school student with broken family has heart, and her journey rings true.
Best for: YA contemporary fiction.
Also consider: Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan


Pop culture
Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein
About: excellent analysis and insight into the “girly-girl” culture invading US society. Go check out the pink toy aisle at your local Target if you don’t believe me.
Good for: parents of daughters, people who deal with children, anyone concerned with the way girls are taught to value themselves.
Also Consider: The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell


For Writers

On Writing by Stephen King
About: Great advice and insight into King’s journey.
Best for: writers.
Also consider: Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder


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A new way to turn on, tune out, and drop out: Feed by M. T. Anderson

March 15th, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, Dystopian, Fiction, Kelly, Science Fiction, Young Adult

Imagine having your brain hardwired to stream music, TV, and advertisements. All day. Learning actual information isn’t that important: you can look it up. Instantly. In your head.

In the dark and dystopian world of M. T. Anderson’s Feed, everyone is connected, literally. “Feeds” are interwoven within brains and allow the USA’s population—well, 78% of the country—to be connected in a sort of wide reaching internet. When Titus spends spring break on the moon—and the moon “sucks”, by the way—he meets Violet, a girl unlike any he’s ever known. She’s pretty, smart, and has been homeschooled away from privileged students like Titus. When a computer hacker attacks Titus, his friends, and Violet, they get to know each other without the influence of the feed.

Lesions are starting to form on the people in the book, but this predicament has been spun to be stylish as opposed to a sign of serious environmental issues. The world is decaying, but Titus and his friends don’t notice or care. It’s not trendy.

In many ways, the lead character Titus is as shallow as the world he lives in. But he has the potential to be deeper, passionate, unexpected. Violet might be able to get Titus to think, but he’s wired to be as consumerist as everyone else. When faced with difficult questions and a heart-breaking scenario, will Titus rise above the feed?

Feed is a great novel for those interested in YA, dystopian fiction, and science fiction. It’s thought provoking and intelligent. The slang takes a few minutes to get used to—think Clockwork Orange, although more, like, contemporary, like, teen—but it’s worth it since this is an excellent novel for both teens and adults.

On a side note, Feed was a Finalist for the 2002 National Book Award, Young People’s Literature.


Title: Feed
Author: M. T. Anderson
Read: March 2011
Source: Barnes & Noble

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Slaughterhouse-Five, Or the Children’s Crusade

February 28th, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, Fiction, Kelly, Science Fiction

Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five is a fascinating combination of science fiction and World War II that’s based on Vonnegut’s own experience of the bombing of Dresden. Protagonist Billy Pilgrim is “unstuck” in time the reader sees his life out of order, as he travels from different points of his life, creating an interesting juxtaposition of moments.

The science fiction and speculative elements of the novel give Vonnegut the leeway to make political and antiwar commentary, like the senselessness of executing a man for a petty theft while digging up hundreds of bodies. Pilgrim is an interesting main character, as he’s awkward, bumbling, and essentially goes along with the flow of his life without making strong decisions. He serves as a sort of puppet in the novel, buoyed along by forces outside of his control.

The occasional interruption of the narrator was an interesting device. I had essentially forgotten about the narrator until he popped up, sick, when Pilgrim and fellow captured soldiers arrived in a German prisoner-of-war camp.

On a side note, Slaughterhouse-Five was the 67th most challenged book from 1990-1999 and the 46th most challenged book from 2000 to 2009.

So it goes.

Title: Slaughterhouse-Five, Or the Children’s Crusade
Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Read: February 2011
Source: Public Library






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Enter the matrix with Neuromancer

February 27th, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, Award-Winning, Fiction, Science Fiction

Neuromancer is considered the seminal work of cyperpunk literature. The novel starts out as former consul cowboy (i.e. hacker) Case survives in the black market of Chiba City, Japan. After stealing from his former partners, they dosed him with mycotoxin and he’s burned out. Literally. He can’t link up with cyberspace, and he’s desperate to find a cure.

Enter a sexy “razorgirl” Molly Millions and her mysterious boss Armitage. They repair Case’s nervous system in exchange for him agreeing to work for them . . . and to ensure he does, they implanted sacs of mycotoxin within his body. If he completes his work on schedule, Armitage will remove the sacs of poison. If Case doesn’t, the sacs will burst, crippling him. So off he goes with Armitage and Molly and the main action of the novel begins.

It’s important to view the novel in context, as it was published in 1984. Gibson coined the term cyberspace in his writing, and it’s easy to see how Neuromancer would have been cutting edge when published. I had issues getting into the novel, finding the language and terminology to be jarring. But I can definitely appreciate how momentous this novel is, and the impact it had on science fiction.

Necromancer won the “triple crown”: Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, and the Philip K. Dick Award.

Read by: Kelly

Title: Neuromancer
Author: William Gibson
Date read: February 2011
Source: Public Library


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