Wednesday, December 15, 2010


The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I don’t want to live in District 12. I never want to be chosen to participate in the Hunger Games. I do, however, want to hang out with Katniss Everdeen, one of the most valiant and determined female protagonists to hit the printed page in quite some time.

The girl’s got moxie.  Programmed for survival from a young age, and motivated to protect her sister Prim from the Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers to take her place. Her unlikely partner in these games is Peeta Mellark, who once saved her life.  The feelings of obligation and the instinct to survive create a dichotomy that Katniss tries to reconcile throughout the book.  Along the way, the pace of this gladiatorial-esque-SURVIVOR-style game is unrelenting.  I.COULD.NOT.STOP.READING!

The author includes strong commentary on society, on economic privilege, and government oppression within the dramatic tension, mixed alliances, and brutal combat of this story, leaving you to wonder: what happens after the games? What will Gale think of all of this? And how will life improve—or decline for the residents of District 12? 

Books two and three in this series should yield some answers…(Catching Fire, and Mockingjay)

Meanwhile, check out this fan-created audition/trailer that Amber Lansing, our Children’s Librarian, found for the movie. It features  Katniss and Rue….and is guaranteed to make you cry!

Post your comments below and join us for next week's book talk...

-Tina Panik

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Who Fears Death

Nnedi Okorafor's Who Fears Death is a dark fantasy set in post-apocalyptic Africa, many years after the collapse of our current civilization. Members of the dark-skinned, agrarian Okeke tribe are dominated and enslaved by the lighter-skinned, urban Nuru tribe. In fact the Nuru consider themselves to be culturally, intellectually, and morally superior to the Okeke; justification for this relationship comes directly from the Great Book, a holy text filled with fables and myths.
The plot of Who Fears Death is fairly straight forward. Daib, an evil Nuru sorcerer, is planning a military campaign to exterminate the Okeke. Nuru soldiers raid Okeke villages raping and murdering along the way. A byproduct of this is Ewu children, mixed race children who are shunned by both tribes.
The protagonist, Onyesonwu (which means “Who Fears Death”) is an Ewu child. According to a prophecy, Onyesonwu is to become a powerful sorcerer and save the Okeke people by rewriting the Great Book. Naturally, her father is Daib, the evil Nuru sorcerer.

Most of the novel details Onyesonwu’s coming of age. Her female circumcision ceremony is described in detail, as is her discovery and exploration of her magical powers. She is an outcast in her society; she is refused formal magical training because she is a woman, the citizens of her Okeke village fear her because of her heritage, and her father regularly attempts to kill her in her sleep.
In the last part of the novel Onyesonwu leads a small group of friends on a journey into Nuru territory to stop Daib’s genocidal plan. Here is where the novel loses some of its appeal; once Onyesonwu’s teenage companions began having relationship troubles I wanted to stop reading. The book reads more like a young adult novel in this section. Unfortunately this is right when the climactic tension starts building.
Despite the odd teenage love triangle, this is a solid work of fantasy. Without sounding preachy or cliché the novel tackles some tough subjects: wartime rape, violence, gender roles, racism and more. It was refreshing to read such a compelling and creative work. I look forward to Nnedi Okorafor's future releases.

Stop by the library to place Who Fears Death on hold today.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Calculating God

Paleontologist meets giant, six legged, spider-like alien.  A marriage made in heaven?  Well Toronto; if you believe internationally acclaimed author Robert J. Sawyer.  And, that’s just the start of the lives-up-to-it’s-title Hugo Award finalist novel, Calculating God.

Having been a sci-fi fan for over forty years, it’s been a while since I’ve come across a novel that can stand toe-to-toe with Arthur C. Clark classics such as the imposing Childhood’s End, and with a sense of humor to boot.  Calculating God is no light weight, as is recognized by the sci-fi community.  Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine put it best, “Robert J. Sawyer seems to be content on revisiting all the classic themes of science fiction,  often with new twists that arise from a genuine rethinking of their premises…A writer whose willingness to give us new takes on the central questions of SF makes him a valuable barometer of the genre’s health.” 

It’s not just the ‘hard core’ sci-fi cognoscenti that appreciate Sawyer.  The short lived, unfortunately,  ABC television series FlashForward is based on Sawyer’s same titled novel.  Oh, and if you happen to enjoy international magazines;  the latest issue of the British based Philosophy Now magazine has an engrossing interview with Sawyer.    

Lastly, next time you’re surfing the net, you might want to check Sawyer’s complimentary (includes reading group guides for his novels) website:

Read On!
Tom C Smith

P. S. The Avon Free Public Library does not own this title but we will get it for you if you request it. Call us or stop by.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Gardens of the Sun

Gardens of the Sun by Paul McAuley

The Quiet War is over; the forces of Earth have defeated the Outers and conquered the colonies around Jupiter and Saturn. Some of the Outers escape to Uranus and Neptune while the Three Powers Alliance of Earth competes to plunder the economic and technological spoils of their newly won territories.

This hard SciFi space opera, and sequel to The Quiet War, traces the paths of various characters during the aftermath of the Quiet War. Many of these characters will be familiar to those who read the previous book, the gene wizard Avernus, the spy Ken Shinto, Sri Hong-Owen, Macy Minnot, and others.

Most of the characters are well developed and the plot lines held my interest. McAuley’s vision of the future is well worth checking out. However the one thing that keeps me from loving this book is all the scientific “explaining” that happens. I found myself skimming sections of genetic techno-babble. There are certainly readers who would enjoy this sort of realism in a SciFi novel. However I am not one of these people. I don’t want to know why or how the technology works; I want to see it in action on the page.

Overall the novel is compelling and worth a read if you don’t mind the techno-babble. Stop by the library and take a look. Thanks for reading.

Leave your comments & questions below.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Boneshaker, Clockwork Century #1, by Cherie Priest

In Seattle, during the 1860’s, Leviticus Blue invents the Boneshaker; a mining machine, financed by the Russian government, intended to make Yukon gold more accessible. Unfortunately the Boneshaker’s initial test destroys much of the downtown area. To make matters worse a toxic gas begins seeping from the ground turning all who breathe it into ravenous zombies. Fast-forward about a dozen years and the story begins.
Leviticus Blue’s widow, Briar Wilkes, ventures into the walled-off zombie infested ruins of downtown Seattle in search of her son, Ezekiel, who has gone looking for answers about his father. Briar and Zeke meet a cast of remarkable characters as they encounter air pirates, mysterious Chinamen, criminals, a mad inventor (who  might be Levi Blue in disguise), and hordes of hungry zombies.
Boneshaker is an interesting steampunk fantasy adventure. It won the 2010 Locus award for Best Science Fiction Novel, the PNBA award, and was nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula awards. I recommend it to anyone who is into steampunk, alternate history, or fantasy.
Stop by the library or place it on hold. Also check out the next novel in the Clockwork Century series Dreadnought.
Thanks for reading. Leave your comments or questions below.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Unincorporated Man

The Unincorporated Man explores a distant future in which people are incorporated at birth. Citizens of this future spend most of their lives trying to achieve majority ownership of themselves. Want to go to college? You’ll have to sell some shares of yourself. Want to change your job? You better ask your investors if they’ll let you.
The story traces the experience of Justin Cord, a billionaire businessman from the past. His revival from suspended animation causes social and political turmoil since Justin has not been incorporated. Justin has to adapt to this future world that is vastly different from the one he came from. While he is adjusting, factions maneuver to cash in on the “discovery” of Justin. Who owns him? Who will profit off him? Who will determine Justin’s fate?
This strange future world explores and critiques ideas of economic freedom, self determination, and profit motive. At times this is thought provoking, other times it’s longwinded. The future world is well detailed and believable. Overall the book was a good read and is highly recommended. It won the 2010 Prometheus Award for Best Novel.

Visit the library or place it on hold. Also check out this book's sequel The Unincorporated War. I haven't had a chance to read it yet so I'd love to get someone else's opinion.

Thanks for reading, leave your comments below.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Thorn of Breland Trilogy by Keith Baker

I like books with strong female protagonists. I enjoy those books even more when the protagonist has warrior skills, espionage training, and a talking dagger for a companion.  This series takes the reader through a mix of practical, mystical, and political alliances as Nyrielle Tam, aka Thorn, navigates her assignments within the world of Eberron. 

With only a fleeting frame of reference for the world of Dungeons and Dragons, I was afraid I’d be lost as I read this series.  My assumption was that books set within this world are elusive and elite; carefully guarded by those versed in the genre of science fiction.

This proved completely false.

The books in this series are structured like any other: they lead you to a world where, once immersed, things start to make sense. Imagination takes hold, and it doesn’t matter if the characters are dragons or elves; what matters is the motivations behind the choices they make, and where those actions will lead them. The creativity in these worlds compliments the complexity of the ideas presented within them, keeping readers engaged on multiple levels simultaneously.

Full confession?  I’m hooked.

Supporting my addiction is Baker’s focused writing, which maintains a taut pace throughout the series. Descriptions appear only when they precede action; character analysis appears only as unlikely alliances are defined.  If it’s not necessary, it’s not in here, making these books a delight to read. Even the romance is perfectly punctuated with elusive efficiency.

As I finished the third novel, I was disappointed that the story was ending. How soon can Keith Baker supply me with another installment?

What do I do in the meantime?

Apparently, the answer to that question is to join a game of Dungeons and Dragons…

-Tina Panik

Stop by the library and check them out.

The Queen of Stone,        Son of Khyber,               The Fading Dream

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

New books!!

Here are some new SciFi books that were added to our collection:

The Dervish House  by Ian McDonald

 Gardens of the Sun by Paul J. McAuley

Not Less Than Gods by Kage Baker

The Osiris Ritual  by George Mann 


Pinion by Jay Lake 


Out of the Dark  by David Weber



Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Stealing Fire by Jo Graham

Visit our website and put them on hold today. Don't forget to tell us what you think of them after you've read them!


Thursday, October 14, 2010

City Under the Sand

City Under the Sand takes place in the post-apocalyptic fantasy world of Athas. It’s a world were arcane magic has reduced the once lush and vibrant landscape to lifeless sand dunes and windswept rocks. The main character, Aric, is a half-elf blacksmith with an unusual mental ability to “hear” metal. Aric’s heritage makes him a social outcast in his home city, Nibenay. Despite being shunned by both humans and elves, Aric has become a master weaponsmith. Additionally, Aric suspects that some hidden force has been looking after him throughout his life.

Aric’s relative safety and comfort, as a craftsman, is disturbed when he is conscripted by the Sorcerer-King of Nibenay to accompany an expedition to explore ancient ruined city. Rumors hint at the existence of a large stockpile of iron or steel hidden within the ruins; metal that Aric is expected to locate using his special ability. Aric fears he will be disposed of after his job is done.
           The members of the Sorcerer-King’s court begin maneuvering to take credit for recovering the stockpile of metal, hoping to garner his favor. It is quickly revealed that things are not as they seem. Something is buried beneath the ruined city that is better left undisturbed. 
Throughout the novel, Aric and his companions struggle with questions of identity and morality as they try to make sense of the harsh, uncaring world in which they live. In addition, Aric’s unseen guardian reveals itself to be something far from what he ever imagined it to be.

City Under the Sand will definitely appeal to fans and players of the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game as this novel’s release coincides with the release of D&D game materials that allow game play in the world of Athas. Regardless of City Under the Sand’s RPG connection, it is an exciting read. This is a great pick if you’re looking for a well-paced fantasy novel that breaks many of the fantasy genre’s norms.

Stop by the library today to check this one out or visit our website and place it on hold.

If you like this book you should check out The Prism Pentad series of books by Troy Denning.  These were the first books to be set in the world of Athas. In order the titleas are: The Verdant Passage, The Crimson Legion, The Amber Enchantress, The Obsidian Oracle, and The Cerulean Storm.

If you have read any of these novels and are interested in writing a short review send us an email or tweet us!

-Adam Delaura

Thursday, October 7, 2010

How to Live Safely in a Science Fiction Universe

While I appreciate the logical, but theoretically contradictory ending to
 How to Live Safely in a Science Fiction Universe (How to…), I much more enjoyed the beginning of this entertaining and intriguing first novel from the immensely talented Charles Yu.

Yu kicks off How to… with a loose description of a time machine: the TM-31 Recreational Time Travel Device which is maintained by our protagonist Charles Yu (no relation to the author!).   Charles is a certified network technician for T-Class personal-use chronogrammatical vehicles.  At first, Charles comes off as an emotionally immature nerd. His deepest relationship is with the software system behind the TM-31 that he’s assigned to.  TAMMY is the personality skin that runs the TM-31.  

However, over the course of this highly entertaining book we’re educated to the ‘real’ history of time machines and their effect on our hero’s development as an adult.  Martin Heidegger would’ve been proud because author Yu places the TM-31 technician into a personal historical perspective that rings of self authentication. 

Not that How to… is Luddite oriented, to say the least!  Along the way,
Yu introduces ‘scientific’ background of the potentials of time travel.
Or, as our Charles’ father explains time travel is more a matter of temporarily tinkering with human perception, as opposed to altering the physical laws of reality.     

For analysis of another sci-fi tale with Heideggerian leanings check out this interpretation of the movie Twelve Monkeys

-Tom C Smith

Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

Want to read it? Visit the library!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Short Stories

Tom’s earlier review of “Wireless” prompted me to think short stories in general. Personally, I find them to be a great way to explore other authors and genres. Here are some of the short story collections I've read recently:

"Metatropolis" edited by John Scalzi

The collectively created urban future of these stories offers a fresh take on what tomorrow’s cities could be. Contributors include: Jay Lake, Tobias S Buckell, Elizabeth Bear, John Scalzi, and Karl Schroeder. If you could read only one of the volumes in this post this is the one.

"Gateways" edited by Elizabeth Anne Hull

This volume is a tribute SciFi writer Frederik Pohl, winner of the 2010 Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer.  Pohl has won many Nebula and Hugo awards along with the SFWA Grand Master Award.
While Pohl fans and SciFi diehards will enjoy this collection; if you’re a new or an occasional SciFi reader I would recommend starting with one of the other collections in this post.

The New Space Opera" & “The New Space Opera 2" edited by Gardner Dozios & Jonathan Strahan
Both of these volumes have many contributors and a varying level of quality. Most of the stories in Vol 1 are mediocre at best. A common criticism of this volume is that the writers assume that readers have already read some of their other works.  Diehard SciFi fans will most likely be familiar with the author’s works while newcomers might be left confused. Noteworthy stories include: Verthandi's Ring by Ian McDonald; an interesting depiction of two galactic civilizations engaged in an epic war. Another is Maelstrom by Kage Baker which tells the tale of an amateur theater company on Mars

Volume 2 is by far a better collection of stories.  It also seems to be more accessible to new and occasional SciFi readers. Gems from this volume include Punctuality by Garth Nix which is a short and sweet. John Scalzi’s The Tale of the Wicked is an enjoyable new take on artificial intelligence becoming self-aware.

All of these volumes include something worth reading so come to the library and check them out. 

Want to read something that's not in our catalog? Ask! It's as easy as calling us or dropping by the library.

Questions, comments, and suggestions are encouraged.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

For readers, there is no mercy.

Philip K. Dick doesn’t tolerate ineptitude in his readers. As I started his book (per Adam’s recommendation) I felt like Neo from The Matrix, except instead of taking the blue OR the red pill, I had somehow consumed both, with no antidote.

Dick’s writing proved to be the elixir. Mood machines, kipple, the enviable possession of live animals, radio religion, and the post apocalyptic world of human and android existence propels readers—or rather immerses them—in a deep analysis of the philosophical quandaries of envy, love, materialism, and solitude. The values are recognizable, but the setting demands attention. Planet Mars, anyone?

The novel is technically one day in the life of Rick Deckard, android slayer. He’s meeting his capture quota until, halfway through the book; Dick hurls the reader down a different rabbit hole, rearranging the motives between the antagonists and redirecting the storyline.

Even before this point, I couldn’t stop reading.

The efficiency of Dick’s writing evokes an interpretive response from who love to dissect the significant details of the insignificant moments in life. What really separates an android from a human? Are we only as special as the possessions that we covet? Who do we trust when our world rearranges itself? 

The answers are not here. And if they are, I haven’t decoded them yet. The ending of the book is as brilliantly, manipulatively crafted as the middle, beckoning readers to re-read, re-analyze, and re-discover this imaginative world of electric sheep.  

Review by Tina Panik, guest blogger

Chech out some other books by Philip K. Dick:

Or watch some movies inspired by his writting:

The Adjustment Bureau (in theaters March 2011) 

Search the library's catalog and place them on hold today

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Charles Stross' "Wireless"

With a string of recent Hugo novel nominations:
Saturn's Children (2009)
Halting State (2008)
Glasshouse (2007)  
And, novella wins 2005 for "The Concrete Jungle" and 2010 for "Palimpsest"
British born sci-fi author Charles Stross would seem to be on a roll.  

Therefore, it was with great anticipation that I picked up a copy of
his latest, "Wireless."  Wireless is a collection of short stories, including
two novellas:  Missle Gap and Palimpsest.  In his introduction Stross
says that he prefers short stories because, "I get to play with new ideas
in a way I can't imagine at novel length."    

"Ideas" is the key word here.  Stross does not let us down because
"Wireless" is full of ideas, like: 
What if the Internet didn't develop as a free resource?  ("Unwirer")
Wouldn't the human race be better off if we were part of ensemble intelligences.  ("Missle Gap".)
What if, as a result of global warming, the West Antarctic ice shelf collapsed
plunging the British Isles into a sub-artic deep freeze and the only way
to save England was to make a deal with the Devil?  ("Snowball's Chance")     

My personal favorite of the selection is "Missle Gap."  The way Stross crosses
plot paths back and forth between two sets of humans, and some non-human beings,
kept me entertained from beginning to end.  Enjoy.

FYI>  Not all of the stories in "Wireless" are sci-fi.   For example, "Down on the Farm"
         is a spy story.  But, who cares?  It's entertaining and provides Stross
         with another idea vehicle.

Tom Smith, MLS
Sci Fi Collections and Reference Librarian
New Haven Free Public Library     

Also check out Tom's interpretation of the classic film 'Solaris

Comments and feedback are encouraged!!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Star Wars Fatal Alliance

Star Wars The Old Republic: Fatal Alliance” by Sean Williams is a must read for fans of the Star Wars franchise. It contains all the necessary ingredients of a great Star Wars novel: a Hutt crime lord, an evil Sith Lord and his apprentice, an insecure Jedi Padawan, and a mysterious Mandalorian.

In this novel, a Hutt crime syndicate comes into possession of a wrecked starship that contains a mysterious cargo. The Hutts attempt to auction the secret contents of the ship to the highest bidder. The Sith Empire and the Republic send representatives to negotiate for the Ship.

Tensions rise as the true value of the wrecked starship is revealed; its contents could influence the ongoing war between the Sith and the Republic. Both sides resort to clandestine attempts to steal the starship from a high-security vault. Nothing is as it seems in this tale from the Old Republic Era.

If you’re a fan of the Star Wars saga or if you’re looking for a quick read, click here to place it on hold now.

Check out Sean William’s other novels below:

Star Wars The Force Unleashed

Force Heretic 1: Remnant
Force Heretic 2: Refugee
Force Heretic 3: Reunion

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The God Engines

Initially I hesitated to read “The God Engines” by John Scalzi because I had read and enjoyed “The Ghost Brigades”, but I didn’t enjoy “Zoe’s Tale”. However, once I cracked open this book I realized I was going to be late for work. “The God Engines” is a short novella that is impossible to put down.

This imaginative SciFi-fantasy mixture tells the tale of Captain Ean Tephe and the crew of the Righteous, a ship powered by an enslaved god. Tephe and the crew are tasked to travel to a distant planet with the intent to convert the local population into worshipers of Captain Tephe’s god. Something about the mission is amiss from the very beginning. Tephe’s superiors in the Bishopry Militant give far too few details, something that Tephe accepts out of faith and duty. Throughout the story Captain Tephe attempts to piece together the true nature of his mission. Unfortunately the mission turns extraordinarily horrible and Tephe’s faith is shaken to its core.

The God Engines” is powerfully dark and definitely worth reading.

Here are links to Scalzi’s other books in our catalogue:

Old Man’s War
The Android’s Dream

If you've read any of Scalzi's work leave a comment below. If not, stop into the Avon Library and check them out.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Domino Pattern

Today's review of Timothy Zahn's "The Domino Pattern" comes from special guest, Jeff Rouviere.

"The Domino Pattern" begins with action and mystery; a killer is aboard a galactic transportation system. The passengers, the crew members, and everyone on board are locked in. Frank and his cohort Bayta’s mission, to explore an alien species attempting to seize control of the galaxy, is obstructed by the presence of the killer. They are forced to avert attention from their original assignment in order to find out how the murderer was able to sneak poison onto a transportation system the prides itself on providing the utmost safety to its passengers.

This book is impossible to put down through the first half of its pages; then it begins to lose momentum. The characters and concepts are well thought out and appealing to the reader. Overall this book is worth checking out. For the most part it is an interesting and fun read. However, it could have been a little shorter and quicker to the point.

Have you read "The Domino Pattern"? If so what are your thoughts?

Here are links to some of Zahn's other books in our catalog.
Night Train to Rigel
Star Wars: Allegiance
Star Wars: Outbound Flight

Put them on reserve today!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Lost Fleet

At the beginning of the summer a friend of mine recommended that I read the Lost Fleet series by Jack Campbell. He claimed it was like “Buck Rogers meets Battlestar Galactica, minus the campy soundtrack.” Being a mild fan of both the original and the more recent incarnation of Battlestar Galactica, I decided to give it a shot.

I just finished reading The Lost Fleet: Victorious, the sixth and latest installment in the series. The previous five novels begin with the Alliance fleet’s defeat at the hands of their enemies, the Syndicate Worlds. They tell the story of the legendary Captain Black Jack Geary, recently awoken from a 100 year cryogenic sleep, who is reluctantly thrust into command of the disorganized and demoralized survivors, trapped behind enemy lines. Captain Geary leads the fleet through five novels worth of close calls, tough sacrifices, and treachery on the journey home, back to Alliance Space.

Along the way Geary and his advisors discover the existence of a non-human race known as the Enigma race. The intentions and capabilities of the Enigma race remain unknown; however, Geary and his advisors postulate that the century long war between the Alliance and the Syndicate may have been started by the Enigma race. As the novels progress it becomes clear that the war between the Alliance and the Syndicate Worlds is a distraction designed to prevent humanity from defending themselves from or threatening the Enigma race.

The plot of Victorious revolves around Captain Geary leading the Alliance fleet back to the Syndicate home world in order to force an end to the war. As if dealing with the Syndics wasn’t enough, Geary must also contend with mysterious Enigma race who appear to possess a much higher level of technology than the Alliance. Geary and his trusted advisors are put to the test once more as they confront the Syndicate’s last stand and the Enigma race’s overwhelming numbers.

Readers of the previous novels will recognize some familiar elements that appear throughout the series including tension between military leaders and politicians, Geary’s personal struggles regarding his crew’s deification of him, and Geary’s relationships with his advisors. If you like military science fiction, the Lost Fleet series won’t let you down.

If you've read any of the Lost Fleet series, what did you think of it? If you haven't, what have you read recently?

Links to the Lost Fleet books in our catalogue: