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Genre Spotlight: Science Fiction

November 15, 2016 Leave a comment

Science Fiction, also known as Sci-Fi, was first born in the early 19th century with Mary Shelley’s publication on Frankenstein in 1818. It is a genre of speculative fiction and it is exactly what the genre calls itself, fiction about science. Science in this case embodies all scientific disciplines whether natural (biological), formal (mathematical) or social (sociology). Science fiction typically deals with imaginative concepts such as futuristic technology, space and time travel, extraterrestrial life, and parallel universes. Isaac Asimov, a science fiction author, once asked to explain the difference between science fiction and fantasy, replied that science fiction, given its grounding in science, is possible; fantasy, which has no grounding in reality, is not. Listed here are just a few science fiction titles ASIJ offers in it’s collection.

 

evil_genius_coverEvil Genius by Catherine Jinks

Cadel Piggott has a genius IQ and a fascination with systems of all kinds. At seven, he was illegally hacking into computers. Now he’s fourteen and studying for his World Domination degree, taking classes like embezzlement, forgery, and infiltration at the institute founded by criminal mastermind Dr. Phineas Darkkon. Although Cadel may be advanced beyond his years, at heart he’s a lonely kid. When he falls for the mysterious and brilliant Kay-Lee, he begins to question the moral implications of his studies. But is it too late to stop Dr. Darkkon from carrying out his evil plot?

 

 

 

 

michaelgrantHunger: A Gone Novel by Michael Grant

It’s been three months since all the adults disappeared. Gone. Food ran out weeks ago and starvation is imminent. Meanwhile, the normal teens have grown resentful of the kids with powers. And when an unthinkable tragedy occurs, chaos descends upon the town. There is no longer right and wrong. Each kid is out for himself and even the good ones turn murderous. But a larger problem looms. The Darkness, a sinister creature that has lived buried deep in the hills, begins calling to some of the teens in the FAYZ. Calling to them, guiding them, manipulating them. The Darkness has awakened. And it is hungry.

 

 

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The lives of Tao by Wesley Cho

When out-of-shape IT technician Roen woke up and started hearing voices in his head, he naturally assumed he was losing it.

He wasn’t.

He now has a passenger in his brain – an ancient alien life-form called Tao, whose race crash-landed on Earth before the first fish crawled out of the oceans. Now split into two opposing factions – the peace-loving, but under-represented Prophus, and the savage, powerful Genjix – the aliens have been in a state of civil war for centuries. Both sides are searching for a way off-planet, and the Genjix will sacrifice the entire human race, if that’s what it takes. Meanwhile, Roen is having to train to be the ultimate secret agent.  Like that’s going to end up well…

 

robopocalypseRobopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

They are in your house. They are in your car. They are in the skies…Now they’re coming for you.

In the near future, at a moment no one will notice, all the dazzling technology that runs our world will unite and turn against us. Taking on the persona of a shy human boy, a childlike but massively powerful artificial intelligence known as Archos comes online and assumes control over the global network of machines that regulate everything from transportation to utilities, defense and communication. In the months leading up to this, sporadic glitches are noticed by a handful of unconnected humans – a single mother disconcerted by her daughter’s menacing “smart” toys, a lonely Japanese bachelor who is victimized by his domestic robot companion, an isolated U.S. soldier who witnesses a ‘pacification unit’ go haywire – but most are unaware of the growing rebellion until it is too late.

When the Robot War ignites — at a moment known later as Zero Hour — humankind will be both decimated and, possibly, for the first time in history, united. Robopocalypse is a brilliantly conceived action-filled epic, a terrifying story with heart-stopping implications for the real technology all around us…and an entertaining and engaging thriller unlike anything else written in years.

 

enders_shadow_coverEnder’s Game by Orson Scott Card

In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race’s next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn’t make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training. Ender’s skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister. Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender’s two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives. Ender’s Game is the winner of the 1985 Nebula Award for Best Novel and the 1986 Hugo Award for Best Novel. At the Publisher’s request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied

 

pendragon-the-lost-city-of-faarPendragon: The Lost City of Faar by D.J. MacHale
The second installment in an epic series of adventures.

Fourteen-year-old Bobby Pendragon is not like other boys his age. His uncle Press is a Traveler, and, as Bobby has learned, that means Uncle Press is responsible, through his journeys, for solving interdimensional conflict wherever he encounters it. His mission is nothing less than to save the universe from ultimate evil. And he’s taking Bobby along for the ride.
Fresh from his first adventure on Denduron, Bobby finds himself in the territory of Cloral, a vast world that is entirely covered by water. Cloral is nearing a disaster of huge proportions. Reading the journals Bobby sends home, his friends learn that the desperate citizens of the endangered floating cities are on the brink of war. Can Bobby — suburban basketball star and all-around nice guy — help rid the area of marauders, and locate the legendary lost land of Faar, which may hold the key to Cloral’s survival?

 

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A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

“Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I’ll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.”

A tesseract (in case the reader doesn’t know) is a wrinkle in time. To tell more would rob the reader of the enjoyment of Miss L’Engle’s unusual book. A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe (athlete, student, and one of the most popular boys in high school). They are in search of Meg’s father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem.

 

prey

Prey by Micheal Crichton

Michael Crichton’s Prey is a terrifying page-turner that masterfully combines a heart–pounding thriller with cutting-edge technology. Deep in the Nevada desert, the Xymos Corporation has built a state-of-the-art fabrication plant, surrounded by miles and miles of nothing but cactus and coyotes. Eight people are trapped. A self-replicating swarm of predatory molecules is rapidly evolving outside the plant. Massed together, the molecules form an intelligent organism that is anything but benign. More powerful by the hour, it has targeted the eight scientists as prey. They must stop the swarm before it is too late…

Book Review by Mr. Johnson: The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy by Kliff Nesteroff

February 4, 2016 Leave a comment

the comedians The Comedians is a very entertaining book that traces the evolution of comedy from early 20th-century vaudeville to the present. There are many humorous anecdotes about comedy legends Bob Hope, Jack Benny, George Carlin etc. as well as darker tales of racism, sexism, and alcohol/drug abuse from many other comedians. This book also explains how the different eras of US History such as the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War affected the style and content of comedy.  Throughout the book, Nesteroff shows how comedy was changed as it went from vaudeville shows, through radio and TV, to the boom of the stand-up comedy clubs of the 1980s. The final chapter deals with the fear that many comedians had, that the events of 9-11 would alter comedy forever.  This is a highly informative yet very easy to read book and I would also recommend someone to access youtube while reading it, so they can view the performances of many of the Comedians.

Categories: Book Reviews

Book Review by Ms. Onions: Jane and Prudence & Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym

January 28, 2016 Leave a comment

I do love Barbara Pym, though I’d be the first to admit that she is not everyone’s cup of tea, so I was delighted to find new copies of her books in the library recently. Pym writes about village life in England in the 1950s. The action (not that there is much) usually centres around the parish church and the ladies who spend their lives volunteering and vying with each other for the attentions of the men who run it.

Post-war food rationing is still in place and there is much discussion of what to have to eat, particularly if the curate is coming to tea. Will he eat sardines? Or would he prefer a nice lightly boiled egg? Can the local butcher be cajoled into finding some liver or kidneys to make a nice pie? I know it sounds horribly trivial, but that is rather the point. Pym writes about the small lives of her characters with such sympathy and wit, that you can’t help but get caught up in the minutiae of their day-to-day dramas. She is often likened to Jane Austen, which, perhaps, is a bit of a stretch, but her gentle irony and light mockery of these well-meaning characters does make for delightful reading.

 

Categories: Book Reviews

Book Review by Ms. Iagaru: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go

December 17, 2015 Leave a comment

neverletmego1

Never Let Me Go is a dystopian, science-fiction novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. The story is set in a future, which at first, seems very similar to our own time, and is told from the perspective of Kathy, a carer. Kathy prattles freely and reflects on how she became a carer, her time at a school called Hailsham, her turbulent friendships with Tommy and Ruth, and ultimately the discovery of love, loss, and illusion. Critical to the narrative is Kathy’s conversational tone.

Speaking to the reader, as if we were friends, she starts, stops, repeats, wanders, and stumbles forward in the narrative. While her tone waffles between whimsical and naïve, each chapter more clearly signals to the reader that there is something different about Kathy and the world she is describing; moreover, that there is so much that Kathy, herself, does not understand about her role in society.

During her time at Hailsham, Kathy befriends Tommy, a misfit with a tendency toward temper-tantrums. She describes her growth into adolescence and the development of her relationship with Tommy, which is complicated by his romance with her friend, Ruth. The three slowly discover all the ways in which they, and all of the students at Hailsham, are not like everyone else. They will never have jobs, start families, or even grow old before society finds different uses for them.

Ishiguro’s style mirrors other contemporary British writers as he toys with the reader’s notions of how a plot might rise in the middle and fall at the end. This one doesn’t. This plot line looks more like a hospital EKG: subtle peaks bump along, occasionally flat lining—uh- oh—then return to a rhythm, coaxing the reader to continue following along until there is one great revelatory peak before the end. The story ends in a heartbeat and we are faced with the sudden truth in the final moments of the text.

This novel presents an interesting outlook on the future of medicine and ethics in our world and calls us to question the meaning of living in a world that doesn’t value every life equally. This is perhaps more relevant than ever considering the recent direction of our politics, the norm of police brutality, and the normality of terror in general and on a daily basis. Perhaps we too, like the society we discover in Kathy’s story, find it easier to take what we want from people when we no longer think of them as people.

Categories: Book Reviews

Book Review by Ms. Sentgeorge: Everyday Matters by Danny Gregory

November 12, 2015 Leave a comment

everyday matters

This book would be an interesting pick for people who like looking in other people’s sketchbooks (or diaries). It would also be a good read for people who like to read non-fiction about someone overcoming great obstacles. I like both, and sometimes when reading Everyday Matters, I got so caught up in the narrative that I almost forgot to look at the drawings. However, with each page being 60%-90% covered in drawing and it is definitely a sketchbook and hard to ignore the drawings. It is also possible to enjoy Everyday Matters by skipping over the hand written narrative and just enjoying the book from the visual perspective.

Danny Gregory began keeping a journal after his young wife slipped and fell off the subway platform while going out to buy a cake. She was run over by 3 wheels of the train, paralyzing her. You get to know Danny and read his inner thoughts as he takes up drawing and journaling to cope with this major change in his life, and the life of his wife and infant son. It is full of small Zen-like epiphanies as he learns that by slowing down and drawing everything around him from his coffee cup to his medicine cabinet, he is put into the moment and can appreciate the beauty of everything around him and that everyday matters.

Check out this book to read, or to just look at the drawings.

As an aside: This book started a movement among sketchers called EDM (Everyday Matters), with a numbered list of items to draw everyday of the year. If you see drawings online with EDM #17 or some other number written in the page, you will know they are part of the Every Day Matters movement.

EDM (Everyday Matters), with a numbered list of items to draw everyday of the year. If you see drawings online with EDM #17 or some other number written in the page, you will know they are part of the Every Day Matters movement.

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Book Review by Mr. Kish: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

November 6, 2015 Leave a comment

steve jobsAt ASIJ we certainly all know about the great products that Apple makes, and probably most of us know a little about Steve Jobs, most likely from seeing his polished product launches. Standing on stage in his signature black turtleneck and talking about his next revolutionary product, Jobs showed one side of his personality. But there were many sides to this complex man.

Walter Isaacson’s biography follows Jobs’s life from childhood to the end of his life, tragically cut short by cancer. It reveals details that we don’t always see from his public persona. Sure he was revolutionary, he was intelligent, he was perhaps a genius. But the book shares some of the more complicated and troubling times of Jobs’s life too. His adoption as a child added complications to his feelings of acceptance through his life. In his younger years, experimentations with drugs, far-out diets, and meditation would shape him for years to come. Over and over, Isaacson portrays Steve’s complex personality, which often displayed fits of rage, screaming, and tears.
The book is long, over 500 pages, but the writing is light and the stories are fascinating. This is a great picture into one of this century’s great minds. A must read for any Apple fan!
Isaacson’s book was recently adapted to a film, which was just released in the US. While it’s not out in Japan, if you want to learn a little more before or after reading this book, I highly recommend NPR’s Terri Gross’s interviews with both Jobs and Isaacson, which she released this month as a lead up to the film: http://www.npr.org/2015/10/09/447165973/steve-jobs-the-story-of-the-man-behind-the-personal-computer
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Book Review by Ms. Noll: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

October 29, 2015 Leave a comment

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A package came in the mail for my son recently. He was over the moon. A new pair of wireless Bluetooth earbuds. As he showed me how they work, I marvelled at the idea that music and voices can travel invisibly, inaudibly from the phone on his study desk, past the genkan, down the hall, through my kitchen and into his smiling little mind. It’s a wonder, really. Mostly I use devices now without wonder. It felt good to wonder with my son—as Anthony Doerr must have felt the wonder of Werner Pfennig’s joy in radio waves. Wonder is what Doerr makes you feel about this 1930s and 40s technology that drove military strategies in World War II and that drives plot lines in his novel All the Light We Cannot See.

Werner’s fierce and delicate intelligence at age seven untangles radio wires and waves—at first for the magic of it, later for the science of it, then for the cakes he gets as a reward for solving German war problems. Eventually his talent becomes a ticket out of the orphanage and into a sparkling, innocent hope for his future. As we watch, we know the war and its Hitler Youth will crush this delicate boy’s innocence, but we trust in the survival of his talent. And we wait to see how he will use it for some good.

This novel has two story lines: Werner’s and the story of a blind French girl, Marie- Laure, roughly Werner’s age whose father is a lock master at the Natural History Museum in Paris. A dastardly diamond from the museum, carried through the war’s chaos in coat pockets and miniature lock-boxes, creates the magnetic force which eventually allows Werner’s story to intersect with Marie-Laure’s. But not without a Nazi in pursuit of the gem’s healing power. The climax takes place in a seaside French town where waves of the personal, the political and the historical crash against literal ramparts. I don’t remember the last time I read a book which uses the word “ramparts” in so many chapters and to such defensible ends.

Doerr’s prose can be as fierce and delicate as Werner himself, rich in sensory detail. But his shifting time frames were confusing to me. I often flipped back to section or chapter headings just to get myself oriented. Perhaps such puzzling is Doerr’s way of leading us through the awful wonder and mystery that happens in war, all the way holding firm to the hands of a blind girl and an orphan boy.

All the Light We Cannot See is a 2016 Sakura Medal contender and one of the novels being read in the High School Book Club.

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