A New Face for Science Fiction

March 30th, 2010

Have you heard of this little movie called Avatar? Grossing more than 2 billion dollars (the highest total in film history), and gaining worldwide attention, Avatar seems to have set the bar for Science Fiction. More than just its box office receipts, Avatar was also nominated for 9 Oscars, including the category of best picture, which sci-fi rarely sees. Sharing the best picture nod was the lower key, and quite excellent in my opinion, District 9. It seems as though Science Fiction is something that people are beginning to take more seriously. Lost, a sort of survivor-sci-fi hybrid, is one of the highest rated shows on TV. Books like Margaret Atwood’s Year of the Flood, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife combine the standards of Sci-Fi with that elusive title of “literary fiction”. I think that part of the draw of science fiction is that the books are more than just day dreams about what technology might come to pass (although they are partly that), but also the ability to think about what’s happening today and extend it into the future. The Cecil County Public Library system has a great selection of science fiction, both in print and on film. A few of my favorite titles are:

Children of Men, directed by Alfonso Cuaron – One of my favorite movies of the past few years, and definitely in the top five for my favorite sci-fi flicks. This is a smart, dark, vision of the future where a mysterious illness has stopped mankind from being able to have children. The world has collapsed into a hostile and hopeless place as humanity sees its extinction nearing. Journalist Theo Faron is resigned to this life, until he gets drawn into a complicated plot to protect mankind’s future. Based on a novel by P.D. James.

Neuromancer, by William Gibson – A book about a once elite hacker, Case, who is currently circling the drain in Tokyo’s seedy underbelly. In the future people don’t go online through screens and keyboards, but connect through neurological implants in their brain. After a hack goes bad, Case’s ability to go online is chemically burned from his nervous system. A mysterious man named Armitage offers it back to him, if he can complete one more job. A Neuromancer movie is slated for 2011.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, directed by Michel Gondry – Not all science fiction is set in the future. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind takes the very ordinary (perhaps a bit too ordinary) life of Joel Barish and turns it on its head. A company called Lacuna has developed a technique that lets people get over painful memories by simply erasing them. Joel meets a woman, Clementine, and despite a promising start, their relationship soon disintegrates. Joel turns to Lacuna to forget her, but Joel and Clementine may know a bit more about each other than they realize.

What are your favorite sci-fi novels and movies? If there’s a particular title that you’re looking for, then feel free to use our online catalog, or come into your local branch today.

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I Feel Fine, but the World’s a Mess…

March 22nd, 2010

I’m having an apocalyptic phase.  Generally, I’m a cheery person who took her Cure albums off continuous play a long time ago, but the need to read doomsday literature hits me every five to ten years.  Today’s mass media is not helping me break this cycle. Last time it was Y2K, which had me rereading King’s The Stand.  Today I blame the Mayans. So what will do us in come 2012? Looking  on the library shelves, a partial list of possibilities include:

Zombies—see World War Z by Brooks, Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, and State of Decay by Knapp

Vampires—see The Strain by del Toro and I am Legend

Climate—see Far North by Theroux, The Day after Tomorrow and Category 7

Disease—see Sleepless by Huston, Genesis by Beckett and The Children of Men by James

Nuclear—see One Second After by Forstchen and Alas, Babylon by Frank

Space—see Impact by Preston, 2012 by Streiber and Life as We Knew It by Pfeffer

War—see Without Warning by Birmingham and On the Beach by Shute

All of the Above—see Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse

Most anxiety inducing of all are the books that show a slow build up to an inevitable end.  While your typical zombie lacks the mental capacity to really scare me, Margaret Atwood’s linked novels The Year of the Flood and Oryx and Crake gave me genuine pause.  Combined, they vividly show how genetic engineering combined with sheer greed could easily bring about a “waterless flood” sweeping most of us away. Unless I’m suddenly able to read Nicholas Sparks without falling asleep, I’ll just have to weather this phase by humming REM and staying away from the Sci-Fi channel.

Am I the only one with this depressing habit?

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