Posts Tagged ‘Kate H.’s Picks’

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

February 13, 2014

Winner of multiple awards, including both the Hugo and Nebula awards, The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi tells the story of a future in Thailand where global warming, pollution and depletion of fuel sources have impacted life to such an extent that energy is now acquired through manually wound springs, driven by massive genetically engineered animals.   Food production is controlled by giant global corporations such as AgriGen and PurCal who “”own”” seeds and the rights to distribute them; using bioterrorism and private armies to maintain their dominance in the food market. The world is frequently beset by problems such as plagues and pests caused by genetically modified foods and seed sterilization. Finding sources of energy is a constant strife and political problems in Thailand cause frequent civil unrest.
This is the world the “”windup girl”” inhabits. A product of it, Emiko is an artificially produced creature resembling a human girl, designed for physical attractiveness and subservience. Considered a vile non-human creature to human beings, she has no rights and can never legally be truly free. Her story is just one of a set of interweaving plots in this fascinating depiction of a grim future on earth.
Bacigalupi renders a rich, immensely detailed world, replete with complex, multi-faceted characters. More than just a fantastical science fiction novel, The Windup Girl is a powerful imagining of many social issues such as  bio-technology, politics, and capitalism.

Well deserving of its many awards, The Windup Girl is also a great read for those who might never usually consider a science fiction novel on their reading list.  I would recommend it to any open minded fiction reader.

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Best New Books of 2013: Kate H’s Picks

December 6, 2013

Recently, I have enjoyed reading a lot of modern classics and historical fiction. I love to find new reads by browsing award winner lists, especially when I’m trying to find a good non-fiction or science fiction book.
My picks for 2013 are all novels which share themes of change, growth, and renewal, which is fitting during this wonderful transformative time of year!

Harvest by Jim Crace
Set in an ambiguous time period of British history, Harvest documents the decline of a rural town in the countryside struggling against the encroaching presence of industrialism. The close knit, close-to-being-inbred members of this community are forced to accept and eventually become displaced by the changes coming to pass around them. Their reaction to newcomers demonstrates a deep distrust of intrusion into their insular existence. Through his narrator, Walter Thirsk, Crace remains tender toward the members of this community, whilst also hinting at the dangers of a closed (literally and figuratively), society. A novel of many layers, Harvest is Jim Crace at his best.

The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell
Probably my favorite book of 2013, The Death of Bees is O’Donnell’s stunning debut in fiction. Set in Glasgow, Scotland, the story follows the lives of sisters Marnie and Nelly who, after discovering their parent’s dead bodies, decide not to report the deaths and instead, bury the bodies in the back yard. The characters of Marnie, Nelly, and their elderly neighbor Lennie who becomes their friend and guardian, are portrayed vividly; and their relationships feel real and touching. Wildly entertaining but also emotional and affecting, I highly recommend this novel which I raced through in a day.

Snapper by Brian Kimberling
Snapper is set in rural Indiana and follows the twists and turns of Nathan Lochmueller’s life. Reading as a series of short stories, or vignettes almost, each chapter portrays an event in Lochmueller’s life which has a lasting impact on future events. They eventually tie together as a bildungsroman of sorts, as Lochmueller comes to accept the past and embrace the present. A very relatable story, Snapper also taught me a lot about bird watching and Indiana, while remaining breezy and funny throughout.

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
A novel about growing up, death, and faith, Ordinary Grace documents one summer in a Minnesota town in 1961. Hit with the death of his older teenage sister, thirteen year old Frank is thrust into an adult world of secrets, lies, and betrayal. Ordinary Grace is mysterious and ominous; never fully revealing itself to the reader and refusing to answer so many questions. The characters each portray the various meanings of what it is to have faith, and leaves us questioning its presence and power in our own lives.

The Shelter Cycle by Peter Rock
Combining mysticism with pure realism, Peter Rock explores an unusual part of America’s religious history. The Shelter Cycle tells the story of two children, Francine and Colville, who grew up in the Church Universal and Triumphant, a religion that predicted the world could end in the late 1980s. This book is haunting in its rendering of individuals raised in a cult and how they grow up in their own ways thereafter. A blend of fact and fiction, The Shelter Cycle provokes us into thinking about the nature of religion and family, spirituality and upbringing: how does one inform the other? How can we know what is credible and what isn’t? An unpredictable and beautifully written book.

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