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Take 5: Science Fiction That Actually Takes Place in (Gasp) Space (a list with apparently 10 titles on it in honor of The Hitchhiker’s “Trilogy”)

When I was reading These Broken Stars, I was a little giddy because here was a science fiction title that actually took place in space.  There has been a lot of science fiction published lately, but a lot of it tends to be more Earthbound involving new tech (think the awesome BZRK series by Michael Grant) or speculating about grim post apocalyptic futures (every 3rd YA book title published in the last 5 years it seems).  So I loved that These Broken Stars had a genuine in space Science Fiction setting.  Here are a few other titles for you if you want to read more books that take place in space or on a planet other than Earth.

Here is the list, in no particular order what so ever.

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

It’s a mystery.  In space.  And a very good one.  Check out this series.

172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

A group of teens are selected to go to the moon for 172 and bad stuff happens.  This book reminds me a lot of the vibe you get while watching The Ring or the Grudge.  In other ways, it’s a little scary and tense.  Which is good.

Feed by M T Anderson

They went to the moon for spring break, it turned out to suck.  That is actually a paraphrase of the first line of this epic book about a future world where you connect to the Internet directly into your brain.

Helium-3 series by Homer Hickam

The author of the Rocket Boys writes this series about a mining colony on the moon, a deadly mission, and secrets that can destroy it all.

Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card

You have probably heard of this one recently.  Maybe you have seen the movie ads.  A boy.  Space aliens attacking.  Ender is our only hope. There is actually more to the story as it is the first book in a series if you want to keep reading.  Card also tells the same story from a different point of view in Ender’s Shadow.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

A part of the Time Quartet, which is one of the best things ever written.  Ever.  Meg and crew journey through time and space to find her missing dad.  There is also now a graphic novel version.

Space Trilogy by C. S. Lewis

Everyone knows he wrote the Chronicles of Narnia.  But did you know that C. S. Lewis wrote a space trilogy?  It begins with Out of the Silent planet in which Dr. Ransom is kidnapped to be a human sacrifice on another planet but when he escapes, he finds this planet is more alike than different than our own.  Not technically YA, but it is so good.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Addams

Don’t Panic! This is one of five books in this, um, trilogy?  Journey around the galaxy.  Meet dolphins and mice.  Learn the importance of the number 42.  Laugh a lot.  Don’t forget to grab your towel.

The Color of Rain by Cori McCarthy

Rain boards a spaceship thinking she is set for the Edge, only to discover that the spaceship is a host for an underground slave ship.

Ever Expanding Universe by Martin Leicht and Isla Neal

In the past, they used to ship pregnant teens off to an “aunts” house until they delivered.  What if we sent them to space instead?  Oh and hey, what if we stole their babies to repopulate?  Yeah, Elvie isn’t sure she wants to be a mother, but before she can decide she needs to find her way off this ship being attacked by aliens and her baby’s father?  Book 1 in the series is Mothership, funny.

Bonus: All Summer in a Day by Ray Bradbury
This is my favoritest short story ever.  And yes, favoritest is totally a word.  A group of kids live on a planet where the sun only comes out once every so many years.  One of the girls has seen the sun, she remembers what it looks like because she recently came from Earth.  The other students are jealous and bully her.  Then, the day the sun is supposed to come out, they doing something terrible.  You can read the story here.

Add your favorites in the comments.

Book Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (reviewed by Chris Dahl)

Sometime reviewer Chris Dahl sent me this review with the subject heading: 5th Wave review, here it is if you dare.  I dare.  It was so interesting to watch Chris read this book because 1) he is a huge Rick Yancey fan and 2) he was bothered because he was having such a different reaction to it then others are.  So here is what Chris has to say about The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey.
I was very excited to receive an advanced copy of the new Rick Yancey book, The 5th Wave.  I think The Monstrumologist series is excellent and I recommend them to anyone interested in books with horror, violence, supernatural beasts, and fantastic writing (and I have a few kids at my school reading them).  One of the many things I liked about the series is his use of language and harkening back to the late 19th century vocabulary and “gentlemanly” dialect and discourse.  I always had a dictionary beside me and learned a bevy of new words.  So I was interested to see how his writing style would change when dealing with a more modern setting and characters.
                To be honest, I had no idea that this book was about aliens and their invasion and eradication of human-kind.  Frankly, aliens scare the #(*& out of me.  Without going into too much detail and to avoid strange looks from co-workers, I will simply say it’s because I can’t completely rule out the possibility of their existence and/or discredit their potential nefarious alien plans for the people of this planet.  We as a species are used to being at the top of the evolutionary ladder and I believe the possibility of being at the mercy of a vastly superior creature is terrifying to just about everyone.  I imagine it’s what the antelope must feel when it knows there is no escaping the lion.  But I’ve seen mostly all of the alien movies and have read a fair number of novels on the subject (Whitley Strieber’s The Grays, being among the creepiest.)  Films like Independence Day and Battle: Los Angeles don’t frighten me… It’s the “Fire in the Sky”, “The Fourth Kind”, “Signs”, “Dark Skies” aliens that keep me up at night.  You know, the big-eyed, thin-armed, little evil geniuses that stand over your bed while you sleep.

With that being said, I found this book very difficult to review, possibly because I found it difficult to get through.  Perhaps the alien invasion theme of the story filled my brain with so many pre-conceptions that when the story didn’t follow those, I felt disappointed and lost interest.  It took me over two weeks to read this novel, which, for me, is an absurd amount of time.  I would read about 10 or 15 pages and then start to wander off into my own thoughts. 
Cassie, our protagonist, is trying to survive in a world that has been utterly decimated by the arrival of “The Others.”  Her mother and father are dead and only she and her little brother are left to fend for themselves.  They have survived the first 4 waves of the alien “invasion” and now must find a way to survive “The 5th Wave,” each “wave” representing another masterfully-planned campaign to rid the Earth of human-kind.
                Starting with the aliens themselves…I will say I appreciate the way Mr. Yancey handled the “invasion” of our planet.  I’ve always found it incredibly unbelievable that a vastly more intelligent race of aliens, with the technology to travel light-years across space, would then simply pit its military against our military, resulting in massive loss of life on both sides.  I mean come on!!!  Is this your first rodeo!?!  Not these aliens.  They know what they’re doing, they wait patiently in their mother ship, releasing viruses and slowly and methodically destroying billions of lives, trying to break our will to resist.  Pretty smart, if you ask me.  But one complaint.  Why are they here?  They sit in their ship and the reader has no idea what their motive is.  Are they here for our delicious resources?  Do they think that human kind is a scourge in the universe?  Do they not like our treatment of the planet?  More than halfway through the book and the reader is still completely in the dark as to any details about the alien invaders.  (Pre-conception #1?)
                Secondly, Cassie is barely surviving in this post-alien invaded world.  Billions of people have been killed, including her own parents.  But the second she meets a handsome, young man she turns into a stereotypical, jealous, teenage high school girl?  The dialogue between the two was agonizing for me to read and she just comes across as a complete snot.  I guess I feel as though her words, actions, and thoughts (snotty, high school girl) don’t match up to her circumstance (POST-APOCOLYPTIC ALIEN DEATH).  Flat out, I don’t like her as the protagonist of this story. 
                Next, and I’ll put a spoiler alert in this one.  Cassie’s little brother is transported to a military base, Camp Haven, where the military is protecting the children in the hopes that they will survive to rebuild the human race.  At this point we are introduced to Ben Parish (Cassie’s high-school crush, pre-arrival) and a drill instructor named Reznik.  I can’t tell you how much Reznik’s character infuriated me.  Not because he is a “cruel, unfeeling, sadistic bastard.”  But, because he is a carbon-copy of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman.  Where do you know that name, you may be asking, well… he is the classic marine drill instructor played by the great R. Lee Ermey in the movie “Full Metal Jacket.”  Reznik’s character is such a cliché and so unoriginal that some of the insults he hurls at the recruits of Camp Haven, are word for word verbatim quotes from Ermey’s character (minus the profanity.)
I’ll give you just one example, when Ben Parish stands up to Reznik for picking on Cassie’s little brother, Reznik (not knowing who challenged him) asks, “which one of you scum-sucking maggots just signed his own death warrant?”  When Ben admits it was him, Reznik then promotes Ben to squad leader, for standing up to him and “not being soft.”   Sgt. Hartman has the EXACT same encounter with Private Joker in “Full Metal Jacket.”   At first I thought I was mistaken, that surely I was combining military movies or getting one confused with the other, but sadly no.  I even watched “Full Metal Jacket” again to make sure I wasn’t crazy.  At the very least it’s a terrible cliché, at the worst it’s a blatant rip-off of a classic character.
In addition, I really struggled to keep track of everything that was going on, with the shifts in perspective and the flash-backs; I found myself a page or so into a new chapter before I realized I had no idea from which character’s perspective I was reading.   I also felt there were a number of plot-lines and characters that did not affect or play any significant role in story.  I kept wondering why a seven-year old would have a gun in her hand and be sent off to war, only to never fire a shot or really have anything to do with or add anything to the story.  All in all, I felt confused by a fair number of things in the book.
Doing research on the internet and trolling the blog-o-sphere, this book is poised to be a blockbuster when it’s released.  I can honestly say that by page 250 I was done and wanted it to be over.  I hope it does great and that loads of people enjoy reading it, it just didn’t do anything for me.  The alien invasion was done extremely well, with the efficiency one would expect from a vastly superior race.  But I couldn’t reconcile the good with the fact that I flat out hated Cassie.  I do think this is an interesting case of a male writer using a female protagonist and trying to write from a female perspective.  I felt the male characters (Reznik being the exception) were simply done better.  I know there are tons of people that have loved and will love this book.  It just wasn’t for me.

Please note: Chris is not the only one to make the Full Metal Jacket connection.  Check out these posts on Goodreads (http://www.goodreads.com/user_status/show/24639272) where Jaime from Two Chicks on Books says, “Hello “Full Metal Jacket”! Actually pg 214 through 216 were quoted pretty much word from word from that movie!”

So, have you read The 5th Wave? What did you think? What are your favorite alien invasion books?

TRW: It Came From Outer Space

Ever wonder where all the aliens are?  Back in the 1940’s and 50’s, during the Golden Age of science fiction, aliens were everywhere.  There were spaceman suits, and alien bazaars, and television shows.  People where rushing to see when we would meet our neighbors, and whether they would be peaceful or not.  Everyone was claiming to see UFOs or be abducted by them.  And that frenzy was reflected in our literature:  HG Wells and the War of the Worlds, Robert A. Heinlein’s pulp fiction classics, Arthur C. Clark, and Isaac Asimov.  They were told by their publisher at Astounding Science Fiction to “write me a creature that thinks as well as a man, or better than a man, but not like a man.”  

Now, in 2012, our space program is the victim of the economy, and young adult fiction is flooded with vampires and dystopias- another reflection of the culture around us.  Yet, if you look hard enough, there are aliens among us for those wanting to explore the darkness of space.  I’ve put together a list of what’s popular with my teens, including movie based books and book based movies, as well as some classics and a couple you may not have heard before.

What are your favorite alien books?  Share in the comments below!

Across the Universe by Beth Revis.  Amy was supposed to spend the next 300 years asleep; instead, she’s awakened 50 years too early and must race to find the cause of the plague, and figure out the mystery before it’s too late.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy (in 5 books, or is it 6?) by Douglas Adams.  Earth is being (or will be) destroyed to make way for a super-space highway- do you know where your towel is?  And if you want to see the movie, catch Alan Rickman (Professor Snape, the Sheriff of Nottingham) as the voice of Marvin in the 2005 release.



Star Trek.  First on TV, then on the silver screen, then five spin-offs, then a SPIN OFF got it’s own movie or three…  Graphic novels and science fiction books abound and continue to be written.  Including cross overs with current series like Doctor Who.  And with the reboot of the franchise, and Star Trek:  Into Darkness slated for May 2013 release, the number of books will only grow.


The Tower and the Hive series by Anne McCaffrey.  The Rowan was found buried in a mudslide, projecting a distress call heard planets away.  And so we start a series of books in which we go through her life and the life of her children, all of which have extraordinary abilities as telepaths and telekinetics  vital to the survival of not only the human race, but others as well.  If really interested in the beginnings, check out The Talent series by McCaffrey, which details the beginnings of space travel and telekinetic abilities in the human race.
Men In Black.  Yes we all wish that the second movie didn’t exist, but did you know that all of the movies are based off the graphic novels?  And they are quirky and fun and as irreverent as the first movie?

Human.4 by Mike A. Lancaster
Human.4 is an eerie look at a small town that slowly, chillingly reveals secrets about the human race with some Matrix-like twists.  This is a fantastic book that reminded me of some of the best episodes of The Twilight Zone.  Safe for all ages and highly recommended.  The sequel, The Future We Left Behind, comes out in November.

Star Wars.  From science fiction to juvenile books of Han and Leia’s children, to beginning readers and non-fiction about the ships and costuming, there is no shortage of books in the Star Wars legacy.

Shade’s Children by Garth Nix.  Running to escape their chilling future of certain destruction, four teens willingly join the Shade in his plans to dethrone the Overlords.  But when one of them is captured, they begin to realize that Shade isn’t the hero they think he is.

The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells.  Yes, THE war of the worlds.  The book that, when read over the radio to the audience caused massive panic that there was an alien invasion, the book that was the basis of the 1953 classic, and the not so memorable 2005 remake with Tom Cruise.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer.  See More Here

Alien.  In space, no one can hear you scream.  With four movies and a prequel (although they don’t call Prometheus a prequel, even though it is) the Alien franchise embraces what really creeps everyone out about aliens.  That they will crawl inside and eat us whole.  And graphic novels and books abound, along with cross overs in books and movies.  And rumors of an Alien reboot are circulating….
It’s been years since anyone has set foot on the moon, and there are good reasons for that.  When several teens are chosen as the winners of a contest and get to spend 172 hours on the moon, they will be lucky if they make it back alive.  There is some good old fashioned Science Fiction in this sci fi book, with a twist of Japanese horror movie (think The Ring or The Grudge).  This is a great read for this time of the year.
If you knew the aliens were coming, what would you do?  Ender Wiggin has been sent to a special school where they are training to fight “The Buggers”.  This is a classic and always popular title.  Make a note, it is currently being filmed and is slated for release sometime next year.
I am actually surprised that we haven’t seen a bigger influx of aliens – a bigger alien invasion if you will – given the popularity of this series.  My teens come in asking for it ALL. THE. TIME. And they rave about it. And the movie wasn’t horrible either.