Fabulous Fiction Firsts #223

yuyu

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe* is NOT, a how-to manual. Author Charles Yu a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Award winner (for his short story collection Third Class Superhero) delivers his debut novel, a razor-sharp, ridiculously funny, and utterly touching story of a son searching for his father . . . through quantum space-time.

Minor Universe 31 is a vast story-space on the outskirts of fiction, where paradox fluctuates like the stock market, lonely sexbots beckon failed protagonists, and time-travel is serious business. Every day, people get into time machines and try to do the one thing they should never do: change the past. That’s where Charles Yu, time travel technician—part counselor, part gadget repair man—steps in. He helps save people from themselves. Literally.

When he’s not taking client calls, Yu visits his mother (stuck in a onehour cycle, she makes dinner over and over and over) and searches for his father, who invented time travel and then vanished. Accompanied by TAMMY, an operating system with low self-esteem, and a nonexistent but ontologically valid dog named Ed, and using a book titled How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe as his guide, Yu sets out, and back, and beyond, in order to find the one day where he and his father can meet in memory.

"A fascinating, philosophical and disorienting thriller about life and the context that gives it meaning."

Critics are comparing Yu to Mark Danielewski and an early Douglas Adams. Don't miss this one.

* = Starred review

The Search for WondLa

Fiery explosions rip through the chambers of her underground home, forcing Eva Nine to escape through a ventilation shaft and begin her search for other living humans. Why doesn't her Omnipod recognize any of the plant or animal life on the surface? Who (or what) is chasing her, and why? Is Eva's robot Muthr okay?

The Search For WondLa hovers on the edge of steampunk and alien odyssey. Tony DiTerlizzi, author of The Spiderwick Chronicles, brings us into the richly imagined world of Orbona, a world that in many ways pays homage to the land of Oz. The quirky cast of characters picked up along the way during Eva's quest, the beautifully illustrated pages, and the "girl in a strange land" formula can all be seen in L. Frank Baum's famous Land of Oz series, the first books of which were written over a century ago.

DiTerlizzi has garnered some hot buzz for The Search for WondLa. In addition to being a great read, it is the first book of a planned trilogy, and rumour has it that there is already a film deal in the works. See it here first!

Author Birthdays: Stevens, Greene, Finney

October 2nd marks the birthday of authors Wallace Stevens, Graham Greene, and Jack Finney.

Wallace Stevens was an American poet and lawyer, as well as a two-time winner of the National Book Award and a Pulitzer winner. Both awards went to his 1954 book of Collected Poems. However, he wasn't only famous for his poetry; in the 1930s, Stevens got in a fistfight with Ernest Hemingway.

Stevens was a Modernist. One of his poems, "The Man with the Blue Guitar" was inspired by Pablo Picasso's "The Old Guitarist." This poem in turn influenced artist David Hockney.

Graham Greene was an English writer, known for his books' religious themes. Greene was a Catholic, however the Church didn't always like his writing. Many of his stories were self-proclaimed thrillers, though not all. He liked to note that he wanted his serious works to be the main body used for criticism, not his "entertainments."

Many of Greene's books were made into films, including The End of the Affair, The Honorary Consul (US: Beyond the Limit), Stamboul Train (Orient Express), and The Quiet American. He also wrote both the novella and the screenplay for The Third Man.

Jack Finney was an American writer, probably best known as a Science Fiction novelist. One of his books, The Body Snatchers, was the basis for the sci-fi favorite Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and its many remakes.

Finney also wrote Time and Again, which is a tale of time travel, and includes several illustrations and images, some of which are actually from the 1880s. The story is about a man named Si, who is asked to perform in a secret government project which requires self-hypnosis in order to travel back in time.

Today is also the birthday of Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi, promoter of civil disobedience and non-violence.

Author Birthdays: Burroughs, Cherryh

September 1st marks the birthday of authors Edgar Rice Burroughs and C. J. Cherryh.

Edgar Rice Burroughs was an American writer best known for his characters Tarzan (of the series by the same name) and John Carter (of the Barsoom series).

Burroughs also wrote the famous novel The Land that Time Forgot (first in the Caspak trilogy), which was originally published as a serial. The story is much like other famous "lost world" stories, like Journey to the Center of the Earth. The novel has been made into two films.

C. J. Cherryh is an American author of science-fiction and fantasy. Out of her impressive bibliography, two novels have won Hugo Awards for best novel: Downbelow Station and Cyteen. A department of NASA named an asteroid after her (77185 Cherryh), and said, in reference to it, "She has challenged us to be worthy of the stars by imagining how mankind might grow to live among them."

Among Cherryh's works are at least 15 series and a few solo novels. One of the series, called The Gene Wars, starts out with the book Hammerfall, which Publisher's Weekly summed up as "two women with superhuman powers wage psychic and genetic war for control of a civilization."

Author Birthdays: Parker & Bradbury

August 22nd marks the birthday of authors Dorothy Parker and Ray Bradbury.

Dorothy Parker was an American poet and satirist, noted for being a "wisecracker". She was a founding member of the famous Algonquin Round Table, and was even put on the Hollywood blacklist for being a suspected communist in the McCarthy era.

Parker's poems were published in magazines such as Vanity Fair and The New Yorker. The Nation said that her voice is, "caked with a salty humor, rough with splinters of disillusion, and tarred with a bright black authenticity." The New York Times published an obituary for her in 1967. In it, Alden Whitman wrote, "Miss Parker was a little woman with a dollish face and basset-hound eyes, in whose mouth butter hardly ever melted. It was a case, as Alexander Woollcott once put it, of 'so odd a blend of Little Nell and Lady Macbeth.'"

Ray Bradbury is an American novelist, best known for writing the dystopian Fahrenheit 451. In honor of his sci-fi greatness, Wikipedia notes that "an asteroid is named in his honor, "9766 Bradbury", along with a crater on the moon called "Dandelion Crater" (named after his novel, Dandelion Wine)."

However, Bradbury also wrote fantasies, horrors, and mysteries. Among the horrors is Something Wicked This Way Comes, which tells the story of a pair of 13-year-old boys who encounter a creepy traveling carnival. Bradbury's mysteries include a trilogy, narrated by an unnamed screenwriter. The first is Death is a Lonely Business, and it focuses on a string of murders in Venice, CA.

Suggestions for Hunger Games fans

Attention Hunger Games fans! Worried that you won't have anything thrilling to read after Mockingjay comes out on Aug. 24? Fear not! Try one of these novels and immerse yourself in another disturbingly delightful dystopia!

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Feed by M.T. Anderson
The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines
The Diary of Pelly D by L.J. Adlington
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer
Exodus by Julie Bertagna
Unwind by Neil Shusterman
Salt by Maurice Gee
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
The Silenced by James DeVita
The Other Side of the Island by Allegra Goodman
Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Shade's Children by Garth Nix

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #218

When a critic remarks that "Michael Crichton might have produced this had he had a literary sensibility. Thoroughly well-written, grounded in science and a sorrowful sense of human nature, this book is utterly memorable", you pay attention.

Science writer and journalist Laurence Gonzales' debut novel Lucy** is "explosive and daring".

Scientist Jenny Lowe rescued Lucy, the fourteen-year-old daughter of a primatologist from the jungles of the Congo during a civil war uprising and brought her to live in the suburbs of Chicago. It turns out that Lucy's incredible physical and intellectual powers are due to her unique heritage: she is half human and half bonobo. Forced to go public, Lucy becomes an instant and endangered celebrity, accruing marriage proposals and death threats.

"Lucy is irresistible, her predicament wrenching, and Gonzales' imaginative, sweet-natured, hard-charging, and deeply inquisitive thriller will be a catalyst for serious thought and debate", raising profound questions about identity and family, the moral, ethical, and philosophical issues of genetic engineering.

As part of his research, Gonzales observed the largest colony of bonobos in the world at the Milwaukee Zoo, an hour from his home. Bonobo extinction is a real threat, hear and watch the many faceted discussion on the Diane Rehm Show.

For a first person account of working with bonobos in the wild, read Vanessa Woods' Bonobo Handshake : a memoir of love and adventure in the Congo (2010).

Readers interested in relationships between primates and humans will not want to miss Sarah Gruen's Ape House coming out in September. This is her new novel after the blockbuster of a debut Water for Elephants.

** = Starred Reviews (In the interest of full disclosure, reviews are mixed. You be the judge but I LOVED it).

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #216

Urban fantasist Seanan McGuire writing for the first time as Mira Grant introduces a new series with Feed* - a gripping, thrilling, and brutal depiction of a postapocalyptic 2039, the first in the Newsflesh Trilogy.

Twin news bloggers (as in RSS. Get it?) Georgia and Shaun Mason are thrilled when Sen. Peter Ryman, the first presidential candidate to come of age since social media saved the world from a virus that reanimates the dead (that's right, zombies) invites them to cover his campaign. Then Ryman's daughter is killed. As the bloggers wield the power of new media, they tangle with the CDC, a dark conspiracy behind the infected and the virus with one unstoppable command: FEED.

With "genuine drama and pure creepiness, McGuire has crafted a masterpiece of suspense with engaging, appealing characters who conduct a soul-shredding examination of what's true and what's reported."

* = Starred review

Alright, so you are still not quite sure you trust me. Would you trust NPR? Here is the poll for the 100 All-Time Best Killer/Thriller and do you see what's on the list of the finalists?

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #214

Debut novelist Dexter Palmer's The Dream of Perpetual Motion** is "Shakespeare's The Tempest in a steampunk setting".

It opens with Harry Winslow, a lone narrator floating endlessly in an enormous zeppelin, with only the voice of his beloved Miranda for company. In a wild tale full of tin men, monsters, a magical playhouse, and a unicorn, Harry recounts his history with the Taligent family: Miranda, his lifelong love, her mad scientist of a father, and the role he plays to render them virtual prisoners in perpetual motion.

"Intoxicatingly ambitious", this novel is pointedly a commentary on language, art, technology, and alienation... It walks the tightrope between madness and genius, between profoundly difficult truths and pure nonsense, without a safety net for either writer or reader. A novel of ideas that holds together like a dream". Thoughtful, challenging and totally captivating.

Dexter Palmer holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from Princeton University, where he completed his dissertation on the works of James Joyce, William Gaddis , and Thomas Pynchon.

** = starred reviews

Recent Fiction Award Winners

In the past month or so, a few big awards have been announced in fiction in various genres. Paul Harding’s debut novel Tinkers won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. A New England clock repairer lies on his deathbed. The novel intertwines his final thoughts, with the memories of the death of his father, with an intricate look at life and death. Many star reviews for this eloquently written work. Apparently the book was rejected several times from publishers before being picked up.

John Hart’s The Last Child, won the 2010 Edgar Award for best novel, presented by the Mystery Writers of America. (This is the second Edgar in a row for Hart, as he also won it in 2008 for Down River.) In The Last Child, 12 year old Alyssa goes missing in rural North Carolina, and her twin brother Johnny is determined to find her. His family fell apart after the disappearance, a local officer is trying to solve the case, a year later another girl goes missing, and Johnny is convinced it was the same perpetrator. A well written stunner of a case.

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America awarded the 2009 Nebula Award for best novel to Paolo Bacigalupi for The Windup Girl. This debut novel is a tale of Bioterrorism in a post-petroleum future Thailand. Calories become currency and bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profit. Star reviews are all over the place for this book.
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