Posts tagged ‘Science fiction’

A Good Story lost in the crappy Future – “Future Home of the Living God” by Louise Erdrich

There is no question that Erdrich writes an amazing story with beautiful and sometimes stark imaginary woven into her writing.  So I begin there.  But, I also need to say that I am 34217599.jpgnot a huge dystopian genre fan.  The imagining of our future is often a remake of a previous novel in some form. Our dim, bleak future always seems to include some loss or gain of human cognitive functioning which results in some larger moral question and then there is always a burning need to control women’s reproductive systems.  All of this is always set within a journey of some kind – through torn up cities or burned fields or zombie filled ghost towns. But you must understand that in the case of “Future Home of the Living God” this is Erdrich’s book and so I thought “okay let’s give it a try, maybe the journey will be through a frozen tundra (have they done that already) or something just to mix it up.”

Here is the problem – there is a story here that has a lot of potential.  Cedar Songmaker is in her twenties and finds herself pregnant.  As a baby herself, Cedar was adopted from her Ojibwa mother by a white, solidly middle-class, bleeding liberal couple.  Her childhood was wonderful, her adoptive parents supportive, but Cedar feels like in order to understand her own child’s future she must get to know her birth mother.  And so Cedar hits the road (nope no zombies) and does meet her birth mother, her half-sister and her grandmother. It is such a wonderfully written storyline with a great deal of possibility and the characters are truly interesting.  In and of itself this is a novella or the beginnings of its own novel.  But instead, we have to add in some other elements that never really fold in well with Cedar’s story.

The world is changing. Animals are reverting back to earlier evolutionary forms, plants are changing, and food is unrecognizable.  Babies are being born with irregularities.  While Cedar is trying to take care of herself and her baby, pregnant women are being turned over to the state to be placed in institutions for observations and medical testing. There is a police state, streets are renamed after biblical verses. There is no internet and all communication must again return to letters through the postal service.

It is all the things you have read before but in less detail.  Erdrich leaves a lot of the details of this changing world up to the readers imagination.  She even writes that “the first thing that happens at the end of the world is that we don’t know what is happening.”  But alas, as a reader it would have been nice to be included in a bit more of the what is actual happening part so that everything wasn’t constantly a fog of guess-work.  This all made me wonder how these two stories (Cedar’s and our dystopian) were formed and came together.  It feels like two ideas were slapped together in a mismatched way and it left me confused. Erdrich plays with religion, culture, purpose, and the concept of motherhood throughout as well.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it feels forced.  Quite honestly, I think some of it went right over my head.

Overall, this book was exactly what I suspected. A journey into our dim, bleak future where pregnant women are rounded up and we all end up eating endless piles of twinkies and slim jims from convenience stores while wishing we had learned better survival skills in gym class.


January 12, 2018 at 11:14 pm Leave a comment

Dear Diary, I read a Sci-Fi book – “The Girl with All the Gifts” by M.R. Carey

SPOILERS ALL OVER THE TOWN IN THIS REVIEW  (Okay you have been warned).

This book is amazingly clever.  Truly.  How the beginning and the end tie together is one of those gr17235026.jpgeat “oh wow!” reading moments that are really fun (and rare) when they happen.

The novel opens with Melanie, a young girl, who lives in a cell.  Each morning, armed guards come into her cell and strap her down in a chair and take her to her classroom with other children also strapped in chairs.  No one touches her, no one hugs her, and the guns and harsh reprimands seem to indicate that she is different from the people who guard her.

But one teacher, Ms. Justineau, seems to like Melanie and Melanie looks forward to the days when Ms. Justineau is in the classroom.  She reads the children stories, answers their questions, and seem to genuinely care about Melanie.  And life would have continued this way,  but then Melanie is taken beyond the steel door at the end of the hall.

On the other side of the door, Melanie finds herself in the laboratory with clear plans on the part of the cold and calculating doctor that she be dissected and placed in jars. At the moment that a scalpel is at Melanie’s head, the army base (as we find out) is attacked and zombies or “hungries” swarm into the clinic and begin attacking.  It is in this attack and the stopping a man from attacking Ms. Justineau that Melanie begins to realize what she is.  A hungry.   But a different hungry.  A thinking, talking, feeling hungry.   And so the question for the humans that remain, after a fungus has turned so many into hungries, is why are these children and specifically Melanie different?   Will she lead to a cure that could save everyone?  And that is all I will give away here.

In truth, the middle of this book made me a little road-weary and in parts felt a bit like “The Walking Dead.” But, overall this book is a brilliant take on the  genre.  The depth of the characters, the struggle of defining what makes us human, the pain of our pasts all are interwoven into what otherwise could have been a stereotypical apocalyptic-zombie book.

And all of that said, I am also proud of myself that I made it through an entire sci-fi book without even an eye-roll.  So there’s that.


October 17, 2016 at 8:44 pm 2 comments

The list – Books for the Christmas List

I am a notorious last minute shopper.  In my childless days, I prided myself on getting all my Christmas shopping done in one day. And that day was Christmas Eve.  Now that I have children I am a bit more proactive but I still enjoy waiting until at least the latter half of December to get started.

imagesBooks are always my favorite gift to get (and maybe new Hunter boots *hint, hint to the husband*).  So, for my fellow procrastinators here is a bit of help for your holiday shopping lists.

  1. General Fiction:
    • “Fates and Furies” by Lauren Groff: The story is told from two sides of a marriage. It is about the versions of ourselves we show each other and the pieces we keep hidden.  It is extremely well written and one of my favorites of the year.
    • “The Lake House” by Kate Morton: Morton keeps doing what she does well,  a bit of a story of the past with the present trying to make sense of what has happened.  This book is fun and a lighter read than “Fates and Furies.”
    • “Everything I never Told You” by Celeste Ng: I reviewed this one before but it is worth restating that this is an amazing book.
    • “We are not Ourselves” by Matthew Thomas: A heartbreaking story about Alzheimers but well worth the read…and the tears.
  2. Love story:
    • “A Desparate Fortune” by Susannah Kearsley – I love this author. I heard her speak earlier this year and she is funny, smart and very down to earth.  This book is not completely a love story – there is some mystery to it – but it has all of the elements of romance that Kearsley does so well and it is set in Wales. So what is not to love?
  3. Mystery
    • Start someone on the Louise Penny Detective Gamache series.  I can’t say enough about how great this series is.
    • “The Winter People” by Jennifer McMahon: This book scared me to death. The end was a little predictable but it is still was very fun.
    • “The Weight of Blood” by Laura McHugh: This was a page turner for me and the narrator, sixteen year old Lucy, was one of my favorite characters in my reading this year.
  4. Science Fiction
    • “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel: Another post-apoclyptic book but well done. The author does a great job of tying all the characters in the book together. Though as some have noted the end is a bit abrupt.
  5. Memoirs/Non-fiction
    • “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” by Bryan Stevenson:  This is tough read because it is so shocking. Stevenson is an attorney working on appeals for death row inmates. The stories of how easily African -American males can end up on death row is harrowing. But this book is an important read for everyone.
    • “Furiously Happy” by Jenny Lawson: This book is not for the easily offended but it is amazingly hilarious. Lawson talks about her struggles with mental illness and physical hurtles as well as the inevitable zombie apocalypse and the use of taxodomery in daily life.  I listened to this on and the author’s reading of this book made me cry I laughed so hard.

Alright my friends, good luck with your last minute shopping. I will likely see you out and about.

And have a Happy, Happy Christmas!


December 20, 2015 at 11:22 am 2 comments

The Schools out It’s Time to Read List

I have been reading a lot, and a lot of the books have been fun.  So here is what I think you should be reading while malingering by the pool.

1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: This was one of those big hype books that never sounded particularly like my kind of genre.  But it is just so good. Admittedly, it is another of those futuristic, lots of people die from a disease, stories. But the way the story is linked with the life of a celebrity actor is just fascinating.  The novel also takes  an interesting look at theater and how it changes as the world changes. Celebrity acting is such a disconnecting/lonely thing but a traveling troupe of actors connects people and towns.  I can’t guarantee your money back or anything, but this book is worth the leap of faith.

2. The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon: This book is creepy and scary and all of those good things that a creepy-scary book should be.  Below the floor boards in an old house, surrounded by encroaching woods,  someone finds the diary of a woman who was murdered in 1908.  This is really all I need to say, right?

3. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng: You know from the first sentence of the book that Lydia is dead but her family does not.  Lydia is the teen daughter of a mixed-race marriage in the 1970s.  Her father is Chinese and her mother is Caucasian.  While it is a mystery through-out how Lydia died, it is not the driving force of the book. It is instead driven by the dreams that parents have and how the unspoken force of these dreams can do great harm, even when they are meant with the best intentions.  This novel was amazingly insightful, particularly in how Ng examines how broken people carry their brokenness into parenthood.

4. At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen:  I didn’t think this was a stunning novel.  And it was extremely predictable, almost painfully so, but it took place in Scotland and that made me inexplicably happy.  It is set during WWII, when three American socialites Maddie and her husband Ellis, along with his friend Hank, decide to head to Loch Ness to find the infamous monster.  They are spoiled, rich kids with a ridiculous plan.  While Ellis and Hank spend their days drinking on the shores of Loch Ness, with binoculars, Maddie sits at the pub and waits.  There is a sully maid and a burly pub keeper – so one gets in a fight, another woman gets pregnant, etc.  I think you get the idea but it is a fun, mindless read for the summer.

IMG_0498Swim, read. Work, read. Have a cocktail, read. Have two cocktails, read.  Whatever happens just make sure it ends with a book. Cheers.

May 26, 2015 at 7:05 pm Leave a comment

Sometimes cheese is good, even without crackers – a few books with few thoughts

I believe April has been my frivolous reading month.  I have enjoyed every book but I must admit there has been a lot of silliness that may or may not be corrected in May.  This Spring need not be the time for the mandolin read I guess.  So, if you are looking for the shallow but fun I really would suggest checking out any of these books:

1. “Mariana” by Susanna Kearsley, Published in 2012: This book is about a woman torn between two different periods of her soul (she is reincarnated) and trying to find love in both the 1700s and the present.  That is seriously what this book is about and I absolutely loved it.  It had just the right amount of romantic ridiculous and time travel and suspense to make this girl very happy.  Of course all readers who enjoy a good love story probably remember Kearsley from “Winter Sea.”  Set in the English Countryside, Julia keeps running into the same farmhouse in her country travels.  Each time she drives by it her car stalls.  One day she decides to ask about the house, only to find out it is for sale. Of course she buys it and of course there is a reason she is drawn to the house.  Her soul has been there in a previous life – obviously.  Did that just give you the chills? No? Oh well, you still should read it.

2. Sharp Objectsby Gillian Flynn, Published in 2007: From the marginally good author who brought you “Gone Girl.” Flynn is good at suspense but her earlier books before “Gone Girl” are weighted down with a lot of story.  It is almost like she wants to fit every episode of “Law and Order” into one book. She is still fun to read.  The main character Camille is a reporter for a suburban Chicago newspaper.  When two girls from her hometown in Missouri are killed and found missing all of their teeth, Camille’s editor sends her home to cover the story. Of course, for Camille, returning home has all kinds of implications. Suffering from severe mental health issues, Camille’s recovery is tested by her wacky mother and her sadistic half-sister.  Flynn likely read a lot of V.C. Andrews during puberty so she has a great handle on creepy.  But I promise no one gets locked in the attic.

3. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agencyby Alexander McCall Smith, Published in 2005:  Out of the three this book is wonderfully well-written (honestly, it should not be included in this review of fluff pieces).   When Precious receives her inheritance after the death of her father she decides to open Botswana’s first detective agency owned by a woman. Making her agency the top agency owned by a woman in the country – not unlike being valedictorian when home-schooled.  While there is one case that runs through-out the book, each chapter is a vignette of a mystery that Precious solves for her neighbors.  The characters are endearing, the end of the book is sweet, and it is not a surprise that readers wanted more so this became a series.

And there you have it.  My final reads for the month.  All fun, no real substance but one very happy reader.  On to the next book…

Old schoolbooks

Photo by Kerstin Frank

April 29, 2013 at 12:43 pm 4 comments

My dark descent into young adult literature – “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games

Image via Wikipedia

The Hunger Gamesby Suzanne Collins, Published in 2008

I am pretty sure everyone has already read this book and that I am one of the last hold-outs. But if by chance you have not read this book you really should, it is amazingly fun.

This is science fiction and is set sometime in the future. The U.S.  has become a 12 district nation, Panem, controlled by the Capitol.  Because of an uprising years before, the Capitol holds the hunger games every year.  Each year, each of the district must draw the name of a boy and a girl to compete in the games.  Your name is entered starting at age 12.  You can have your name entered multiple times in exchange for grain to feed your family throughout the year, so the impoverished have a higher likelihood of being sent to the games. The hunger game is like a game of capture the flag gone terribly wrong.  The game is to survive in the arena, which can be miles and miles of land, and kill all of the other competitors.  Everything is televised so the nation can watch their children slaughter each other. Whoever is left alive wins. All of this is the Capitol’s reminder to the people that they control everything and everyone, even their childrens’ lives.

When 16 year old Katniss’ little sister’s name is drawn for the games Katniss takes her place.  She is paired with Peeta, the baker’s son, who had given her bread years before when she was starving.  Both are sent to represent their district but both are also sent to kill each other.  That is all I will say about the story itself because really it is not a complicated story and to say more would give too much away.

I was reluctant to read this book. I like sci-fi movies but I have not read a lot of science fiction. In fact, I tried to struggle through “Foundations” by Asimov recently and finally just gave up.  While this is a simple read, it really was fun. Maybe I should try another Asimov book but only after I finish the other two books in “The Hunger Games” series.

October 5, 2011 at 12:20 am 4 comments


There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.


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