Wednesday, November 20, 2013

25 Best Sci-Fi Books of All Time, According to the Internet

Business Insider just published an article on the 25 Best Sci-Fi Books of All Time, and their information came from two Redditt lists (which is where the "according to the Internet" part comes in). There are several key books to the genre, that may come as no surprise, but I will let you make that decision. So take a look at the list, and see if you agree with those individuals who put in their votes. As always, Happy Reading!!!

The following are summaries of the top ten books, but you can visit the article through the link above (or at the end of the list) to take a deeper look at the other fifteen. 

1) To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip José Farmer     SF FARMER       (we also have the movie under DVD RIVERWOR)

(We have this work, along with the second book, The Fabulous Riverboat, under the title: Riverworld)

The first book in the Riverworld Saga begins with everyone who has ever lived on Earth suddenly finding themselves in a new world by a river. All their food is provided, but there is no clue as to the purpose of their new existence. Sir Richard Burton is the first to find the waystation, and Burton and a band made up of Alice Liddle Hargreaves, a Neanderthal, a Holocaust survivor, and an alien decide to travel the river to find out who brought this whole thing about and what their intentions are. 

2) The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe        

(We have this work, along with the second book, The Claw of the Conciliator, under the title: Shadow & Claw)

The first book in the The Book of the New Sun series, this book follows Severian, who is an apprentice in the Guild of Torturers. Severian is soon exiled from the only home he has ever known, when he commits the ultimate sin of his guild by showing mercy to his victim. However, it seems that Severian has a bigger destiny than just that of a torturer.    

3) Anathem by Neil Stephenson

Fraa Erasmas is a young "avout" living in the Concent of Saunt Edhar, (a monastary-like place) which protects the scholars of mathematics, science, and philosophy inside it from the outside "saecular" world and its influences (and technology). During the rite of Apert, fraas and suurs leave the grounds of the concent, and the concent opens its doors to visiting "extras." Neither side is quite prepared, though, for the threat that is coming, and both sides will have to work together, if they want to stop it. Erasmas soon finds himself a key player in the chaos that is coming.

4) Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds

The first book in the Revelation Space series, scientist, Dan Sylveste, knows that the Amarantin civilization was destroyed just as it was on the verge of discovering space flight. Now, he needs to solve the "riddle" of the Amarantin, before it happens again, and he will need the help of the dangerous cyborg crew aboard the starship, Nostalgia for Infinity. There are forces at work that want to stop him, because there was a good reason for the destruction of the Amarantin. 

5) The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

One of the books in Le Guin's Hainish Cycle, The Left Hand of Darkness is considered, by many, to be a "groundbreaking" work of science fiction. Genly Ai, a human man, visits the alien winter world of Gethen as an emissary, where he hopes to discuss with the beings of the planet, the Gethians, their planet's being included in the growing intergalactic civilization. However, he must learn to understand the ways of the Gethens, however different they are, and have them understand his ways (and those of the civilization), in return.

6) I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
SF ASIMOV    (we also have the movie under DVD I)

There are three laws of Robotics: 1) a robot may not cause harm to, or allow a human to come to harm 2) a robot must obey orders of humans (unless it violates the first law), 3) a robot must protect its existence (unless it violates the first or second law). I, Robot is a collection of stories that Asimov wrote about robots from the 1940s and 1950s.

7) The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

Malachi Constant is the richest and most depraved man on Earth, who takes part in several interplanetary wars, traveling from Earth to Mars to Mercury and to Titan. Constant finds out that all of the incidents within his travels came at the hands of Winston Niles Rumfoord. Kurt Vonnegut was a big inspiriation for Douglas Adam's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (I think you will see it too). 

8) Contact by Carl Sagan
SF SAGAN            
(we also have the movie under DVD CONTACT)

After years of scanning the galaxy for any signs of communication from other life forms, a team of scientists, including Eleanor Arroway (the person who discovered the first communication), belive they have found what they were looking for. However, this discovery brings up bigger, more dangerous questions of not just traveling out to meet these new lifeforms (using the plans for the "Machine" that they sent), but if they really should. Sagan also gives scientific explanations on how things work. 

9) Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

The first book in the Mars Trilogy, Robinson looks at the colonization of Mars in the year 2026. A group of one hundred colonists is sent to begin terrforming the red planet. Each member of the group seems to have a different reason for traveling to Mars, and each person's personality also leads to conflict amongst the group. There also apear to be some in the group that would prefer that no changes be made to the planet at all.    

10) Pandora's Star by Peter F. Hamilton

This is the first book in the Commonwealth Saga. It is the year 2380, and the Intersolar Commonwealth is made up of more than 600 worlds, stretching 400 lightyears in diameter. The worlds are connected through transport "wormholes" (tunnel like transportation). An astronomer, Dudley Bose, observes the vanishing of a star. Since it is too far out to reach by wormhole, the startship, Second Chance, is sent to find out what happened. Will they find more than they bargained for?

11) The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournell   SF NIVEN

12) A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.  SF MILLER & AD SF MILLER

13) Excession by Iain M. Banks           SF BANKS  

14) Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein  SF HEINLEIN (we also have the movie under DVD STARSHIP)

15) Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick  SF DICK (found within the book, Four Novels of the 1960s) & AD SF DICK  (we also have the movie under DVD BLADE for Blade Runner)

16) Ringworld by Larry Niven          SF NIVEN

17) 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke    SF CLARKE  (we also have the movie under DVD 2001)

18) The Forever War by Joe Haldeman    SF HALDEMAN

19) Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson       SF STEPHENS & AD SF STEPHENS

20) Neuromancer by William Gibson   SF GIBSON

21) Hyperion by Dan Simmons (we have the first two books in the series under Hyperion Cantos)    SF SIMMONS

22) Foundation by Isaac Asimov   SF ASIMOV

23) Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card  SF CARD & AD SF CARD &               e-book
released in theaters on November 1st

24) Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams   SF ADAMS (the whole series can be found in The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide) & AD SF ADAMS  & we also have the movie under DVD HITCHHIK

25) Dune by Frank Herbert  SF HERBERT (we also have the movie Dune under DVD DUNE and The Children of Dune under DVD CHILDREN)

Once again, if you want to check out the article for yourself clink on this link.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser

This book was first published in 1900.  The print edition that the Moore Memorial Public Library has is the same book that came out in 1900, with the addition of background notes and criticism.  “Sister Carrie” was Dreiser’s first novel.  The story takes place in Chicago and New York, cities in which Dreiser had had experience writing and reporting for different publications.  Carrie, a young 18 year old from Columbus, Ohio, comes to Chicago to live with her older married sister and to find work in the huge bustling city that people were pouring into at the rate of 50,000 people each year. 

Dreiser knew these statistics from his work in journalism, and his familiarity with the social economic classes at the time helped his novel writing.  But he is first and foremost a great storyteller.  While critics at the time found his writing clumsy or ponderous, the reader is conscious of nothing else but his or her interest in the character, and in anticipating what will happen.  Dreiser takes his narrative slowly, and we thoroughly experience the drabness and restriction of Carrie’s sister’s apartment that she shares with her husband.  As part of the struggling lower class, in 1889, they can’t look much farther than getting their wages –her husband cleans refrigerator cars in the stockyard – and paying their food and rent. 

Carrie got a glimpse of another kind of life when she met Drouet, a salesman, on the train on her way to Chicago.  He is a success at his work, and shows it in his dress and in his ability to pay his way in theaters and hotels, and to dine in restaurants with handwritten menus and red carpets. After she has tried to make her way alone, and gotten bruised in the process, Carrie encounters Drouet again.  He offers her a way into this big city, and all that it offers. 

While “Sister Carrie” brought censure on itself by having as its heroine a “fallen woman”, Dreiser saves Carrie from that censure by showing us her modesty, her desire to be married, and her own self-reproach for her actions.   We can see hers and the other characters’ limitations.  Dreiser lets us see their dreams, and how little import in their lives those dreams actually had.  This is his contribution as a “naturalist” writer. 

While reading Dreiser may make you somewhat melancholy, the steady growth of Carrie makes the book worth reading.  She is a woman in a man’s world, but a woman with aspirations, and with tenacity. 
You can find the book here in our catalog.

“For Greater Glory”, a film directed by Dean Wright

Wright was a visual effects supervisor and producer in major films such as “The Lord of the Rings”.  “For Greater Glory” is the first movie he directed.  In an interview, Wright calls himself a “Method” director- needing to feel the emotions of the characters that he’s shooting, and to feel those emotions as authentic. 

Some critics have faulted “For Greater Glory” for being too heavy on the emotions, milking the audience for a tearful reaction by playing stirring music nonstop, and prolonging sorrowful and upsetting scenes.  The movie is about the peasant force in Mexico that rose up in 1926 against the anti-clerical President Calles, whose regime had been persecuting the Catholic faith.  The rebels were called “Cristeros”.  The movie shows how the rebellion was ignited by the brutality exhibited by the Federales, the government troops.  Wright highlights the historical figure Jose Sanchez del Rio, a young boy who was martyred in the rebellion and was beatified by the Church in 2005.  We see the rebellion through his eyes as he witnesses his parish priest killed by soldiers.  Many believers today wonder how they would behave in a similar situation, and in the film, we see some Catholics turning away and others standing firm. 

The acting is good, and while I do agree that they should have spoken Spanish instead of English, that is not a big hurdle in watching the movie.  The rhythm and timing of the film is well done, and that helps enormously with the intimate and emotional exchanges. 

The exact historical picture is not delineated in the film. It is not clear from viewing “For Greater Glory” that in actuality many citizens just stood by and watched, and that the rebel force was in the minority, although the rebellion was very effective.  We see principal players, like the US ambassador,  trying to make a deal with Calles for oil interests, and we hear of Rome’s shifting stance, which was not in open support of the rebellion.  The result of the rebellion was that some religious liberty was restored, although the rebellion failed to bring down the government.

Wright takes artistic liberties in portraying the rebellion’s leader and other key historical figures, to suggest how circumstances can accelerate your belief and propel you into a life-changing situation.  The leader, General Gorostieta, was indeed hired by the rebels and was not a believer.  Wright takes some poetic license by putting Jose Sanchez del Rio, the young boy, under Gorostieta. In the film, Gorostieta slowly takes to the boy, and is compelled and strongly affected by Jose’s faith. 

One reviewer took issue with the fact that the movie seems to be only concerned with the Catholics, and that other religions are not given equal “time”.  Well, in that time, in Mexico, religion pretty much was the Catholic Church.  Viewers can decide for themselves whether the Catholic faith, through the Cristeros, adequately defended the right to religious freedom.