Category Archives: Science Fiction Reader Challenge

SFRC: The Handmaid’s Tale

SFRC Working for the Mandroid
The Handmaid’s tale is a staple of science fiction and yet it’s very much discussed whether or not it actually is science fiction at all. Although the exact year is never given judging by the technology it is set to sometime in the 1980’s or early 1990’s on the East Coast of the United States. The area is suddenly taken over by a movement called “Sons of Jacob” who install a patriarchal theocracy in one fell swoop following a terrorist attack blamed on islamic extremists. The new state is dubbed The Republic of Gilead and one of its very first decrees is to disallow women to work and to hold money. They soon start rounding up young single and gay women and wives from marriages where one partner has been previously married into Red Centers as undesirables to be re-educated into Handmaids. A Handmaid’s job is to act as basically a walking womb for couples who do not have children, though in practice this is only reserved for Commanders of the Gileadan party. Apart from monthly Ceremony nights where the Commander and his Wife ritually rape the Handmaid, her job is only to work on being a healthy and worthy chalice for the coming baby. If a Handmaid fails to conceive in three separate households, where they live for some time, they are declared an Unwoman and sent off to the Colonies.

This book was really hard for me to read. The depression and desperation the protagonist feels is vivid and frankly very creepy. The villains are believable and, worse yet, understandable. Even though you start hating every one of the characters, including the protagonist, at one point or another everyone’s motives are completely understandable. And that’s what makes it all so horrifying. On the other hand, part of the horror is in that it seems like there are a lot of people in the U.S. seem to be salivating at the possibility of the type of society that Gilead represents. That, if anything is damn scary.

In any case, I recommend this book if only for the psychological thriller aspects. Like I said it’s a science fiction staple on par with 1984 and it’s ilk and worth reading for that reason as well. And if nothing else, read it to form an opinion on whether or not it’s science fiction.

YA/MG Science Fiction
Adult Science Fiction
Hugo Winner
Science Fiction Classic – Pre-1950s
Science Fiction Modern Classic – 1951-1992
Steampunk
Robots/Cyborgs/Androids
Spaceships/Aliens
Time Travel/Alternate History/Parallel Universe
Apocalyptic/Dystopia/Utopia
Cyberpunk
Mad Scientists/Genetic Testing/Environmental Disaster

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SFRC: The Handmaid's Tale

SFRC Working for the Mandroid
The Handmaid’s tale is a staple of science fiction and yet it’s very much discussed whether or not it actually is science fiction at all. Although the exact year is never given judging by the technology it is set to sometime in the 1980’s or early 1990’s on the East Coast of the United States. The area is suddenly taken over by a movement called “Sons of Jacob” who install a patriarchal theocracy in one fell swoop following a terrorist attack blamed on islamic extremists. The new state is dubbed The Republic of Gilead and one of its very first decrees is to disallow women to work and to hold money. They soon start rounding up young single and gay women and wives from marriages where one partner has been previously married into Red Centers as undesirables to be re-educated into Handmaids. A Handmaid’s job is to act as basically a walking womb for couples who do not have children, though in practice this is only reserved for Commanders of the Gileadan party. Apart from monthly Ceremony nights where the Commander and his Wife ritually rape the Handmaid, her job is only to work on being a healthy and worthy chalice for the coming baby. If a Handmaid fails to conceive in three separate households, where they live for some time, they are declared an Unwoman and sent off to the Colonies.

This book was really hard for me to read. The depression and desperation the protagonist feels is vivid and frankly very creepy. The villains are believable and, worse yet, understandable. Even though you start hating every one of the characters, including the protagonist, at one point or another everyone’s motives are completely understandable. And that’s what makes it all so horrifying. On the other hand, part of the horror is in that it seems like there are a lot of people in the U.S. seem to be salivating at the possibility of the type of society that Gilead represents. That, if anything is damn scary.

In any case, I recommend this book if only for the psychological thriller aspects. Like I said it’s a science fiction staple on par with 1984 and it’s ilk and worth reading for that reason as well. And if nothing else, read it to form an opinion on whether or not it’s science fiction.

YA/MG Science Fiction
Adult Science Fiction
Hugo Winner
Science Fiction Classic – Pre-1950s
Science Fiction Modern Classic – 1951-1992
Steampunk
Robots/Cyborgs/Androids
Spaceships/Aliens
Time Travel/Alternate History/Parallel Universe
Apocalyptic/Dystopia/Utopia
Cyberpunk
Mad Scientists/Genetic Testing/Environmental Disaster

SFRC: Ringworld

SFRC Working for the MandroidThe eponomous Ringworld on Larry Niven’s book is a constructed world in the shape of a ring. It is built around a small star, its motion is what gives it gravity and the walls surrounding the expanse of foundation material allow it to maintain an atmosphere. Louis Wu is a 200-year old man who’s getting antsy and bored when an alien of the Puppeteer race comes to him wih an offer he won’t refuse. They soon put together a small band of explorers made up of the Puppeteer, another alien of the Kzin race and a second human, Teela Brown. They move through countless miles of space to find the Ringworld and find the truth about its builders.

Ringworld is an odd book. I listened to the audio and the first two or so hours of the 11+ hour long audiobook sounded more or less like a civics essay. It took me very long to get past that point. Much longer than it should have because I kept cheating on the book with others. But once I did, boy howdy was I glad I stuck it out. After the civics essay Ringworld is a book about Big Ideas, aliens, rocket ships, adventure and, surprisingly, about playing at being God. It is, in short, everything a good science-fiction book should be. There are things that I would like to geek out about because they were done so well although some were a little heavy-handed with the clues, but they’re full of spoilers and so I won’t.

What I do want to say about this book is that I was a little surprised about how forward thinking (for its time) it is about gender relations. Human women are more or less equal in the Ringworld universe and sex is recreation as well as reproduction. The book was published in 1970. Much like Niven didn’t assume that technology would be the same everywhere, he didn’t assume that gender relations would remain the same even at a time when space flight is commonplace a long time before something like women in armed forces was even a glint in the feminist’s eyes. That, as much as his technological inventions, makes him a science fiction visionary in my eyes even though the tech is what I’ll remember from this book.

YA/MG Science Fiction
Adult Science Fiction
Hugo Winner
Science Fiction Classic – Pre-1950s
Science Fiction Modern Classic – 1951-1992
Steampunk
Robots/Cyborgs/Androids
Spaceships/Aliens
Time Travel/Alternate History/Parallel Universe
Apocalyptic/Dystopia/Utopia
Cyberpunk
Mad Scientists/Genetic Testing/Environmental Disaster

SFRC: Redshirts

If you’ve never heard of the redshirt phenomenom you need to watch more original Star Trek. The basic idea being that pretty much all the extras wore red shirts. Whenever the cast came upon an alien world (which was almost every episode) they would form an away team. On the away mission pretty much two things always happened; Captain Kirk would have sex with an alien lady and a guy or gal with a red shirt gets dead. Usually with the sole reason of showing the audience how dangerous this new place is and mostly in really, really silly/stupid ways.

Enter John Scalzi. He has a reputation for writing fun, action-packed science fiction books with great characters. Put these two things together and you get something great. Redshirts, as can be expected is about a bunch of people joining the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, a ship boldly going where no man has gone before. It doesn’t take them long to catch on to the fact that there’s something very odd going on on the ship. I won’t go further in to the plot for fear of spoilers.

I cannot describe how much I liked this book. From beginning to the end even through somewhat foreseeable plot developments it was good. I loved every one of the characters and would have gladly spent even more time with them. In the end there are two more short stories of a more experimental nature, one told in the second person and the other written as a blog. I especially loved the blog one. The fact that the audio book was read by Wil Wheaton only made the whole thing greater. It was full of geek culture references, meta and all kinds of fun. I heartily recommend it for everyone and anyone, whether you’ve ever seen a single episode of Star Trek or not. It’s a great story with engaging characters and the geek culture references only make it better. But it’s a good book even without the references.

YA/MG Science Fiction
Adult Science Fiction
Hugo Winner
Science Fiction Classic – Pre-1950s
Science Fiction Modern Classic – 1951-1992
Steampunk
Robots/Cyborgs/Androids
Spaceships/Aliens
Time Travel/Alternate History/Parallel Universe
Apocalyptic/Dystopia/Utopia
Cyberpunk
Mad Scientists/Genetic Testing/Environmental Disaster

SFRC: Arctic Rising

Science Fiction Reader Challenge
Science Fiction Reader Challenge
Anika Duncan is a pilot with the UN Polar Guard. She took the job to get away from the danger in war-torn Africa. Global warming has turned the Arctic into a veritable for anyone and everyone who wants to make a profit. Unfortunately that includes people who want to dump toxic and nuclear waste into the depths of the Arctic ocean. Finding and tagging these criminals is her job until the day she is shot down into the freezing ocean for doing it. What follows is a frantic scramble to find out who shot her down and why. When her partner dies in the hospital there is nothing for it but a good old-fashioned smash-everything-to-bits-takedown of the parties involved. The thing is though that it turns out not to be so simple.

The plot of the book, while excellent, pales in comparison to the characters. Not just another set of white, straight 30 somethings, the cast is instead wide and varied across ages, nationalities, skin colors and sexual orientations. And I loved every one of them. Anika most of all of course but also the drug lord, Vy, with a soft-spot in her heart for Anika and last but not least Roo, the spy from the Caribbean Islands. Not that the villains can be left far behind. There are two different villain camps who are both scary and both have believable, if not completely acceptable, motives for their villainy. Trying not to give too much away is killing me here. 😀

I really loved the big idea behind this book. Global warming is a real threat in many respects but countries and areas around the arctic circle are most likely to be the beneficiaries in that catastrophe whereas the countries that are already poor and somewhat unempowered are likely to be the biggest losers and without much say in the big picture that’s causing it. Mr Buckell managed to weave that reality deep into the plot and characters without being finger-waggy about it.

All in all the book is as action-packed as any good thriller with a solid science-fiction setting and gorgeous characters. One thing though; don’t read the back of the book synopsis. For some reason it has major plot points all through it that are just simply better coming from the text itself. Also, it kind of sucks and paints the book as something I at least didn’t find inside it.

YA/MG Science Fiction
Adult Science Fiction
Hugo Winner
Science Fiction Classic – Pre-1950s
Science Fiction Modern Classic – 1951-1992
Steampunk
Robots/Cyborgs/Androids
Spaceships/Aliens
Time Travel/Alternate History/Parallel Universe
Apocalyptic/Dystopia/Utopia
Cyberpunk
Mad Scientists/Genetic Testing/Environmental Disaster