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Top 2021 Reads from the Librarians - Part 5: Speculative Fiction

Spec Fic

Give your imagination a boost with these librarian recommendations. Click on the titles to find out more from the library catalogue.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir: Thrilling space adventure story with a hero on a mission to prevent the extinction of our species. With the help of an unexpected ally, he might just pull it off. Space opera excitement at its best. (Kristen)

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers: In a world where people have what they want, does having more matter? Robots meet mythology in this thoughtful sci-fi novel. (JMM)

The Mither Mages Trilogy (The Lost Gate, The Gate Thief and Gatefather) by Orson Scott Card: I’m actually making my way through most of Card’s bibliography. Earlier in the year I read Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead and Xenocide, which are considered a trilogy but are three books from among an expansive universe of books, poems and short stories encompassing a great many more than three books. I really enjoyed those as well. Where possible, I listen to the audiobooks as Card has a regular cast of multiple readers that really bring his books alive! (From RS)

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo: Secret societies with sinister agendas create suspense in this first of a series. Galaxy (Alex) Stern is the most unlikely freshman at Yale. A dropout from the wrong side of the tracks, offered a second chance for reasons she is about to discover. (Kristen)

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro: Ishiguro always has a strange and interesting take on things and this was no exception. His style is certainly not for everyone but I love the mysterious dystopian worlds he creates. In a similar vein to Never Let Me Go, Klara and the Sun raises a lot of questions about the ethics of AI, genetic engineering, and human nature, and it leaves a lot of ambiguity too. (Lara)

The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister: Emmeline lives on a remote island with her father who explores with her the natural world through her senses, particularly though scent. When she finds herself suddenly in the city, can the power of scent help her to unlock the secrets of her past and of her destiny? (Chosen by Emma)

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini: This is Paolini's first foray into science fiction after finding success as the fantasy writer of Eragon/Inheritance Cycle, and I really enjoyed it! It’s hard to articulate what precisely I loved but it hit most of my sci-fi reading pleasure points. Paolini is good at writing situations of sci-fi/fantasy that then interact with human nature, exploring how we might react when presented with such situations.
Characters have to decide what to do and different characters have different values so they make different calls. Tough situations breaking people down then they grow back tougher or they don’t grow back at all, crazy deep space shenanigans where the things you encounter can’t be understood the way you’re used to understanding things. Questions of the self. Sacrifice. What constitutes personhood. How to decide what’s right when any decision you make could ruin everything.
This book seems to have received split reviews where some love it, and others think it’s a big waste of time. It’s like we’re reading different books. But then, having different opinions about things, that’s human nature again isn’t it? (From RS)

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke: Mystery and fantasy are strong here. It’s really weird – in a good way. The world building of the House is excellent. The main character is strange but likeable, and the questions raised around human nature will leave you thinking. (Lara)

Circe by Madeline Miller: Every so often a retelling of a classical story is just the ticket and no one does it better than Miller. Circe is a demi-goddess and witch banished to a rocky island where she is caught between the worlds of men and of gods. Fabulous world building and characterisation with a scintillating plot.  (Judith)

8 February 2022

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