Posts Tagged ‘Genre-blending’

Kenobi by John Jackson Miller

October 4, 2013

This new novel isn’t just for Sci-Fi fans, but it should also appeal to lovers of Western movies and novels too. It is set on the desert planet of Tatooine and features the struggles of a loner outcast as he tries to live peacefully and quietly on the fringe of a ranch town. His plans go awry as he becomes involved with the lives of the townspeople and the man who wants to lead them. Obi Wan Kenobi was an inter-galactic hero during the Clone Wars, but now that The Republic is controlled by Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader, Kenobi must go into hiding and change himself into a recluse. The story is reminiscent of classics Westerns, such as Shane.

Kenobi occupies an abandoned home out in the Judland wastes of the desert so that he will be able to keep an eye on the infant Luke Skywalker living with his aunt and uncle. One day he ends up rescuing a mother and her daughter from a crazed runaway Dewback (a lizard about the size of a steer). Shortly after that he comes to “the Oasis” for supplies, where the mother Annileen Calwell (everyone calls her Annie) runs the store. Strangers are not a common sight in this small town where sand is everywhere and moisture farming is one of the main occupations, so naturally the townspeople are very curious about Ben. Try as he might to keep a low profile, Kenobi is slowly drawn into helping Annileen and her family.

This Western / Sci-Fi story also answers some questions that fans may have about the years in between the more recent prequel trilogy and the original films. What happened to Obi Wan Kenobi after Anakin became Darth Vader at the end of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith? How did the forty-ish Jedi Obi Wan (played by Ewan McGregor at 34) age to become the seventy-something “crazy old Ben” Kenobi (played by Sir Alec Guinness at 62) in just nineteen years? I, for one, enjoyed learning the answer to a question I hadn’t even realized I was wondering about.

In addition to a great story in the Western style, Miller also explores a bit more about the Tusken Raiders and gives readers insight into a bit of their history and religious beliefs about life on this desert planet with two suns. The author also shares Kenobi’s Jedi meditations directed toward his former master Qui Gon Jinn, an excellent technique for letting the reader in on Ben’s private thoughts and worries. Other Star Wars inhabitants of Tatooine also make appearances, such as Jawas, Banthas, and Hutts – and we even get a trip to the big city of Mos Eisley. Hey, if a Western / Sci-Fi crossover could work for Joss Whedon’s Firefly, why not for Star Wars too?

P.S. Did you know that Saturday, October 5 is Star Wars Reads Day?

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The Greyfriar: Vampire Empire Book One by Clay & Susan Griffith

September 30, 2013

We’re pleased to re-post this book review from last year in anticipation of the authors visiting our libraries again soon:

The Greayfriar: Vampire Empire Book OneEver since Bram Stoker popularized the vampire novel with Dracula, other authors have added to the myths & lore of the nosferatu. The husband and wife writing team of Clay & Susan Griffith have continued this tradition with the vampires in their novels. These vampires prefer cold, or at least cool, climates, they have clans with “noble” rulers, they do cast a reflection in a mirror, and while they don’t turn into bats, they can fly. They are also not undead humans nor do they turn humans into vampires by biting them, although they do feed on them.

The Greyfriar is also much more than just a vampire novel. As of the year 2020, the war between vampires and humans has been going on for 150 years, since 1870 when the bloodthirsty monsters rose up against mankind and laid waste to the great civilizations of the Northern hemisphere. Descendants of Britain’s leaders have relocated to Alexandria, Egypt, and The United State’s power is now consolidated in Central America. So, because history has taken quite a different path since just after the Civil War, this is also a novel of alternate history. And, because humanity had to spend time re-organizing and relocating the former powers of the north in the equatorial regions, technology has not yet surpassed that of the steam age. The great powers of Equatoria and America both possess flying airships and for weapons cannons, Gatling guns, pistols and swords are all used. Thus, this novel is also in the Steampunk genre.

In the story Princess Adele travels under royal guard (by airship, of course) to the borderlands of the north. The trip is one of goodwill with the borderlands, as it has been arranged that Adele will marry (pompous) war hero Senator Clark of America, a marriage that will tie the two great powers together and make them both stronger than they could ever be alone. This is the first time Adele has been this far north and her airship is attacked by a great number of vampires. Most of the guards and crew are killed as the ship is grounded and Adele is saved by the swashbuckling hero of legend: the Greyfriar. She is now stuck behind enemy lines and only the Greyfriar’s great skill at fighting and his knowledge of the countryside allow them to escape.

Soon, Adele is captured by Cesare, younger son of the vampire king Dmitri. His older brother Gareth – an unusually intelligent, refined and curious vampire – lays claim to the prisoner and treats Adele with a kindness that she initially distrusts. When the clans start clamoring for renewed war, Adele is taken into Scotland, where the benevolent Gareth’s castle lies. Gareth and Adele gradually get to know each other and she reluctantly comes to think of him as more than a monster. In fact, much of the later part of the novel is reminiscent of the story of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. So, in addition to being a steampunk, alternate history, vampire tale, there’s a bit of romance thrown in too. I certainly enjoyed this first book in the Vampire Empire series, and hope you will too.

Clay & Susan Griffith will appear with other Speculative Fiction authors at Southeast Regional Library on October 2 and at Eva Perry Regional Library on October 13; visit our website for more details and to see which other authors will appear.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

The Woman Who Died a Lot by Jasper Fforde

November 28, 2012

I don’t usually write about sequels in a series, but the new Thursday Next novel is the best in the series since The Eyre Affair, so I just had to write to let you know how great this book is. Jasper Fforde‘s writing style is such that he fills in enough for a new reader to be able to enjoy the story and get some of Thursday’s background. Of course, you’ll likely get more out it if you’ve read the others, but I think readers could jump in and start with this newest one, and then go back and read the others.

Thursday Next lives in an alternate universe that resembles ours, but with a few significant differences. Time travel is routine, cheese is an illegal substance, and books & literature are taken very, very seriously. Thursday is a literary detective who was semi-retired when the government disbanded SpecOps, a group of highly specialized police forces. But now they are reversing their decision and reinstating the various SpecOps agencies. Thursday is invited to meet with her old boss and thinks she’s about to be offered the job of head of Literary Detection, but instead she’s offered the cushy job of Chief Librarian for the town.

The new job may sound cushy indeed, especially when one considers that libraries in this world have budgets large enough for an employee spa, an executive chef, and armed security to hunt down overdue books, but Thursday’s life is anything but. Aside from having to learn the ins and outs of librarianship, she also has to deal with the evil mega-corporation Goliath trying to replace her with automatons, her son’s discovery that he will murder someone this week in his letter of destiny, and that same day Swindon is scheduled for a smiting by the Almighty. The book covers Thursday’s life over the course of one incredibly busy week, and we get to know her family better than we have before. Will Thursday be able to defeat Goliath’s attempts to replace her with a creation of their own? Can she help Swindon avoid being smited?

Bibliophiles and library lovers will enjoy this book with Fforde’s British wit and obvious love of books. A couple of quotes from this book really made me smile, including this one from Thursday’s first day on her new job, “Do I have to talk to insane people?” “You’re a librarian now. I’m afraid it’s mandatory.” One that is less humorous, but more touching, is the author’s dedication: “To all the librarians who have ever been, ever will be, are now, this book is respectfully dedicated.”

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

The Greyfriar by Clay and Susan Griffith

October 15, 2012

Meet the author! As part of our Haunted Happenings series of ghostly events for adults, Clay Griffith will be at Cameron Village Regional Library on Thursday, October 18 at 7 p.m. Please call 919-856-6710 to RSVP or for more information.

Ever since Bram Stoker popularized the vampire novel with Dracula, other authors have added to the myths & lore of the nosferatu. The husband and wife writing team of Clay & Susan Griffith have continued this tradition with the vampires in their novels. These vampires prefer cold, or at least cool, climates, they have clans with “noble” rulers, they do cast a reflection in a mirror, and while they don’t turn into bats, they can fly. They are also not undead humans nor do they turn humans into vampires by biting them, although they do feed on them.

The Greyfriar is also much more than just a vampire novel. As of the year 2020, the war between vampires and humans has been going on for 150 years, since 1870 when the bloodthirsty monsters rose up against mankind and laid waste to the great civilizations of the Northern hemisphere. Descendants of Britain’s leaders have relocated to Alexandria, Egypt, and The United State’s power is now consolidated in Central America. So, because history has taken quite a different path since just after the Civil War, this is also a novel of alternate history. And, because humanity had to spend time re-organizing and relocating the former powers of the north in the equatorial regions, technology has not yet surpassed that of the steam age. The great powers of Equatoria and America both possess flying airships and for weapons cannons, Gatling guns, pistols and swords are all used. Thus, this novel is also in the Steampunk genre.

In the story Princess Adele travels under royal guard (by airship, of course) to the borderlands of the north. The trip is one of goodwill with the borderlands, as it has been arranged that Adele will marry (pompous) war hero Senator Clark of America, a marriage that will tie the two great powers together and make them both stronger than they could ever be alone. This is the first time Adele has been this far north and her airship is attacked by a great number of vampires. Most of the guards and crew are killed as the ship is grounded and Adele is saved by the swashbuckling hero of legend: the Greyfriar. She is now stuck behind enemy lines and only the Greyfriar’s great skill at fighting and his knowledge of the countryside allow them to escape.

Soon, Adele is captured by Cesare, younger son of the vampire king Dmitri. His older brother Gareth – an unusually intelligent, refined and curious vampire – lays claim to the prisoner and treats Adele with a kindness that she initially distrusts. When the clans start clamoring for renewed war, Adele is taken into Scotland, where the benevolent Gareth’s castle lies. Gareth and Adele gradually get to know each other and she reluctantly comes to think of him as more than a monster. In fact, much of the later part of the novel is reminiscent of the story of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. So, in addition to being a steampunk, alternate history, vampire tale, there’s a bit of romance thrown in too. I certainly enjoyed this first book in the Vampire Empire series, and hope you will too.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog

The City & the City by China Mieville

August 20, 2012

The City & the City begins like a typical hard-boiled detective novel: the body of a young woman dumped on a back street, a police detective protagonist tasked with finding out who she was and what happened to her.  The setting is the fictional, vaguely eastern-European city-state of Besźel, but the trappings seem strictly realist.  It soon becomes apparent, though, that Besźel has an unusual relationship with its sister city, Ul Qoma—one that requires citizens of each to vigilantly maintain a practiced obliviousness of the other’s influence.  To say more would give the game away, but what appears to be a routine murder case grows to implicate the centers of political power and dissent in both cities, and draws the characters closer to the secret that may lie at the heart of their unique history.

Like the best science fiction and fantasy, The City & the City by China Mieville presents an outlandish idea and takes it seriously, in the process teasing out the human implications of its scenario and its echoes of our own world.  As I read I was not only caught up in the plot, but found myself pondering the ways I willfully blind myself to aspects of my environment I don’t like.

This author is known in his other books for an overt H.P. Lovecraft influence, and a tendency toward meta-fictional messing about…but if you’re like me and neither of those things are your cup of tea, you’ll still enjoy The City & the City.  Fantasy, mystery, political thriller—this book isn’t fully any of those, but it’s a great read for fans of them all.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke

June 8, 2012

This week we’re featuring some of our favorite Audio Books, just in time for planning your summer road trips. You can also click the Audio Books tag at the bottom of this post or at the top of the tag cloud on the right hand side of our blog’s home page for more great audio book suggestions!

Are you intrigued by the magical city of Venice? Did you love Peter Pan as a child? If so, then the juvenile novel, The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke, is a book you’re sure to enjoy this summer, either reading the book to yourself on the beach, or listening to the audio in the car with the entire family. The winner of several European Children’s Book Awards, it is a captivating read both for its story and its immersion into the mysterious and beautiful city of Venice which is, in its own way, another character in this story.

The book follows the story of two brothers, Bo and Prosper, who run away to Venice after their mother dies and they are put in the care of their cruel aunt and uncle who only want to keep Bo, the younger boy. In Venice they are befriended by a group of orphans who are supported by an enigmatic young man who calls himself the Thief Lord. The Thief Lord keeps them sheltered in an old movie theatre and fed by stealing goods from the wealthy homes in Venice and selling them to an unscrupulous shopkeeper. The Thief Lord is soon commissioned to steal an unusual article that leads the story into many twists and turns. Finally, it comes to a magical/fantastical climax on the Isola Segreta where a relic is enshrined that will change their lives forever. I first listened to the book driving back and forth to work and then reread it for a children’s book club selection, totally enjoying it both times. All the children and adults I know who have read it have also felt the same way about this exceptional book – an enjoyable escape.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

June 1, 2012

This debut novel opens with a woman standing in a park in the rain at night surrounded by dead bodies wearing latex gloves — and she has no memory of who she is. She finds a letter in her pocket which begins “The body you are wearing used to be mine.” How can you resist an opening scene like that one? I certainly couldn’t when I discovered this book just after it came out earlier this year. I’ve since recommended it to several co-workers and friends and now I’m passing this great book on to you.

The woman with amnesia in the park is Myfanwy Thomas (pronounced like Tiffany), and it turns out that she is an agent for Her Majesty’s Supernatural Secret Service. The operative words there are ‘supernatural’ and ‘secret’ because the stuff this agency deals with is way out there beyond just vampires and werewolves — and it is very, very secret. Her position is called a Rook, and it turns out the agency, called the Checquy, is based on the pieces in the game of chess (yeah, it’s as complicated as it sounds).

The letter Myfanwy found directs her to an apartment where there is a warm shower, clean clothes and a comfy bed. Further letters explain who she is, more about her super secret job, and the fact that someone within the Checquy is a traitor and trying to kill her. One of the letters also lets her know that she has a choice, she can try to resume her dangerous life in a secret government organization, or she can simply walk away and flee the country with a vast sum of money in a secret bank account.

Myfanwy decides to stay and try to determine who the traitor is. But, she must do this while re-learning everything about herself and the Checquy. She doesn’t even remember how she takes her tea, let alone all of the inner workings of this very strange agency. She also soon discovers that many of the agents working for the Checquy, including herself, have special abilities (think of the mutants from the X-Men). Her work-mates include one person with four bodies, an aristocratic woman who can enter anyone’s dreams, a man whose skin oozes toxins depending on his mood, and the most attractive vampire one can imagine.  So, yeah, dealing with a house full of sentient purple slime is all in a day’s work for Rook Thomas.

Daniel O’Malley has written one heck of a debut novel that is full of wit as well as suspense and fantastic supernatural action. There’s so much more to this novel than I was able to describe in this blog post! Even if you’re not normally a “Fantasy reader” but you enjoy a good suspense and espionage story, give this one a try. And, if you are a Fantasy reader, what are you waiting for? Click that link below and get reading! It’s also available as an audio book, read by Susan Duerden.

Find and reserve this new book in our catalog.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

February 22, 2012

Imagine a future version of our world where the majority of people live on a welfare type system in crowded and dirty trailers stacked many stories high. Now imagine that the only escape for everyone is an immense virtual world where you can be almost anything or anyone you want. The OASIS is way bigger than Facebook and Twitter combined, and more real than any second life or virtual reality game that has yet been invented. The creator of OASIS was a man named James Halliday (think Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, only more so). This multi-billionaire had a huge obsession with the popular culture of the 1980’s, including cartoons, video games, sci-fi & fantasy, role playing games and more. When Halliday died, he left a virtual will in which he devised a quest within OASIS where anyone could compete to find three hidden keys within the vast virtual world. The one who succeeds in finding this “Easter egg” and completing the quest will inherit his fortune and gain control of OASIS.

Eighteen year old Wade Watts escapes his miserable life living in a cramped trailer (stacked high atop many others) with his resentful aunt by going to high school and spending most of his other time in the virtual world of OASIS. Wade embarks on the epic quest which starts with a riddle, the answer to which everyone knows has something to do with ’80s pop-culture, but it could refer to anything and the OASIS is nearly infinite, so the search becomes the proverbial needle in haystack. To complicate matters, the evil mega-corporation I.O.I. is also after Halliday’s egg, and will stop at nothing to get it, using every dirty trick and cheat code in the book.

If you were born between the mid ’60s and late ’70s, chances are excellent that you’ll really enjoy this book. That’s not to say that those born before or after the “Gen X’ers” won’t also like it, but Ernest Cline has written a debut novel that is filled with nostalgic references to the nineteen-eighties – John Hughes films, Atari video games, Schoolhouse Rock, Dungeons & Dragons, all types of 80s music and so much more. It’s also a dystopian, adventure, quest, cyberpunk story that blends all of these elements in the best way possible.

I was recently able to borrow the e-book and it’s one of the best novels of 2011. In fact, I’d rank just below Stephen King’s 11/22/63. But, since Mr. King has been a successful author for decades and this is Cline’s first novel, that’s really saying something! I found myself immediately caught up in the story, cheering Wade on in his quest, and rejoicing each time Cline threw in a reference to the era in which I, too, grew up – either by grinning like an idiot or muttering “Yes!” under my breath. It’s the kind of book that you wish wouldn’t end, and that when you finish you want to erase it from your memory just so that you can enjoy reading it for the first time again. Ready Player One has received great reviews from the critics and, in addition to being in the top spots on many lists of the year’s best Sci-Fi & Fantasy, is a recipient of the American Library Association’s Alex Award. Just remember, Frankie Say Relax, and Dan Say Read This Book!

Find and reserve this totally rad book in our catalog.

Woodcutter by Reginald Hill

July 29, 2011

“When love is in opposition to grim reality, there is usually only one winner.” So goes the underlying motif of this story by veteran mystery writer Reginald Hill.  This is not another installment in Hill’s excellent Dalziel and Pascoe mystery series (which I also heartily recommend—if you haven’t yet had the pleasure start with A Clubbable Woman), but a thriller that is part fairy tale, part romance, part crime novel and all wonderful.

It is the story of Wolf Hadda, who was raised on a great estate in Cumbria by a father who was its forester (hence the title).  Wolf has worked hard to rise from his humble beginnings and has built up a successful business and a big bank account.  But suddenly Wolf finds himself in a nightmare of false accusations. He has no idea why this is happening and who is responsible.  Even worse, he’s not sure who his true friends are anymore.

So what will happen? Will the winner be love or grim reality? I’m not saying. What I will say is I heartily recommend this book to anyone in the mood for a great read. It has a large cast of compelling characters, terrific plotting, beautifully rendered descriptions of the Cumbrian countryside, and a faithful dog. As a crime novel I think it stands with the best of P.D. James and Elizabeth George.

If I haven’t convinced you yet to read this book, let me finish with this thought. When I began the novel I was a little overwhelmed to realize it was a healthy 400 pages.   After all, there are so many books and not enough time to read them all. But when I finished it, I lamented: Oh I wish this book had been longer! Not many books draw that reaction from me.

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The Restorer by Amanda Stevens

July 19, 2011

As I sat down to start reading the brand new book, The Restorer, I checked a few reviews that had come before me and noticed a strong theme of “This book is VERY CREEPY.” Personally, I have never been a huge fan of being creeped out as it brings me very intense dreams that scare the ninny out of me. However, I pressed on, as the subject and setting of the book (ghosts in Charleston) are of a particular interest to me. The idea of a heroine who restores graveyards also intrigued me.

Amelia Gray happens to really enjoy her work restoring cemeteries. It’s solitary and comforting to bring order back to someone’s final resting place. So when she happens upon a rather fresh body in a very old cemetery, her world turns upside down. A mysterious detective arrives in her life and suddenly she is pulled into a rather unconventional murder investigation.

I was really pleased to find that yes, the book was super creepy in parts, but the tension was never dragged out so long that I just couldn’t take it. The heroine is not a typical modern tough female either. She is strong, but not supernaturally so and her weaknesses are clear and real.

The characters are really engaging as well. It blends a lot of what people enjoyed in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil with any good secret society story like The DaVinci Code. It shares plot elements of both, but is as well written as “Garden” and as interesting as “Code.” You are never really sure who you can trust.

But a word of caution… if you are like me and detest a cliffhanger ending that makes you impatient for the next book to be published… maybe put this one off until the second book comes out.

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