Archive for the ‘Science Fiction / SF’ Category

A Wrinkle in TimeMany would consider this a classic story, and understandably so. This was read to me as a kid, but it wasn’t until recently that I picked it up to read for myself. Actually, I listened to the unabridged audio book version, which was read by the author herself.

I can’t help but wonder if Cornelia Funke didn’t borrow a lot of ideas from this story for Inkheart. If you read them both close together you may see what I mean:

A Wrinkle in Time: main character is Meg
Inkheart: main character is Meggie

A Wrinkle in Time: father is mysteriously missing
Inkheart: mother is mysteriously missing

A Wrinkle in Time: a stranger shows up on a stormy night (Mrs. Whatsit)
Inkheart: a stranger shows up on a stormy night (Dustfinger)

And that’s just the beginning…

Story overview:

A bad-tempered teenage girl lives with her mother (who is a scientist), her five-year-old brother (a nascent genius) and two ten-year-old twin brothers (who have very little to do with the story). Where is her father? Well, that’s a mystery as he has been missing for more than a year.

Meg discovers that a tesseract is a fifth-dimensional phenomenon and finds that her father was working on it when he disappeared. She encounters a schoolmate, Calvin O’Keefe, and finds him, herself, and her genius brother, Charles Wallace, traveling through space by means of tesseract with Mrs. Whatsit and her strange, angelic-like friends.

They find that Meg’s father is trapped on the planet Camazotz, which is dominated by a dark and evil force: The Black Thing. They go to rescue him and encounter many strange and peculiar obstacles along the way, one of which is a man with red eyes who casts a hypnotic spell over their minds, and Charles Wallace becomes taken over under its influence, which puts Meg’s love to the test to free both him and her father.

My thoughts:

Madeleine uses some interesting arguments on how her “tesseract” theory works, and there are some interesting worlds that the characters travel to, but personally I had a hard time getting into it. I believe, as a kid, that I enjoyed it. After all the story is very creative in a lot of ways, but it just didn’t do if for me this last time. I didn’t like the cheesy opening, “It was a dark and stormy night” and I just couldn’t get past my dislike for the main character, Meg. She did have a kind heart, but if she was only a little less, well, irritating/obnoxious, I’d probably have liked her a little better. Also, some areas just seemed to lack important details and didn’t pull me into the pages. Still, many people loved this story, so I encourage you to find out for yourself.

Things to consider:

I think the content of this story is appropriate for most ages, however the subject of it may be a little more advanced in understanding. Also there are some frightening situations which may be too much for some kids. I’ll say that 13 is a good age for a child to read on their own, and good for both boys and girls. This book does hold some strong Christian themes in it, so much so that I’ve read complaints about it being “too religious” and “pushy”, but they are most likely coming from “non-Christian” readers.

Opportunities for discussion:

People cannot live as machines, they must be free to be individuals; both friendships and family are very important; and love can prevail over seemingly impossible circumstances.

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ChionThis was a book I ordered online directly from the author (and if I’m not mistaken, other than eBay, that’s the only place you can order it). It was shipped from Northern Ireland all the way to the good old US of A. I was surprised how quick the process really was.

Like my own story, this one was Self Published by the author. For some people this becomes an instant “poor quality” flag. To be fair, yes, anyone can Self Publish a story, and there are some really bad ones out there too. Just as, for those of you who have ever watched American Idol, you know that not everyone who thinks they can sing, really can. It is the same with writers, especially if they do not use a professional editor. However, this does not mean that there are no talented people who just wish to bypass the limitations of traditional publishing–just as it does not mean that some of those who audition for American Idol are not better singers than others who have contracts with RCA.

With Chion, let me say that this story makes many ‘traditionally published’ books I’ve read pale in comparison. I was so engrossed in the story that I read it in only two days, and for those of you who know me personally, that is quite a speedy accomplishment.

Story overview:

The name “chion” (pronounced kai-on) comes from an ancient Greek word, which means “like snow.” This is an appropriate name for the story, as one seemingly harmless day, something “like snow” covers the earth.

Fourteen-year-old Jamie Metcalfe hears distant screams coming from his follow Clounagh Junior High School’ers. When investigating the source of the alarm, Jamie pushes past a crowd and peers through doors leading to the outside of the school. To his amazement he sees seven kids lying in the snow. One might suppose that kids laying in snow is a common occurrence–as kids often love to play in it–but there was something definitely not right about it this time. Unable to pick themselves up, it was as if the snow was made from some kind of super-powerful apoxie; the second anything touched the white surface, it was instantly bonded. Unfortunately for one kid, who fell face first, the substance became the seal for his very last breath.

The school (and the county for that matter) is thrown into utter confusion. When food begins to run out and no rescue comes, tensions flare and people begin to turn against each other. However, Jamie Metcalfe comes up with a brilliant idea to get both him, and the girl he strongly cares for, out of the school and into a place of refuge.

My thoughts:

The writing is clear, easy to read, and flows smoothly. It captures the progress in a way that kept me constantly turning the page. I also had sympathy for the characters, and wanted to find out what happened to them. It’s an original story idea–which seems to be hard to find now-a-days–and has a good underlining message.

Things to consider:

This story is probably best targeted to the age of twelve and older, but is very clean, and could easily be read to children of a younger age, however some of the things that happen may be considered a little horrifying for some kids. I don’t remember any sexual references, cursing (if there was, it was minor) or “uncalled for” scenes of violence.

Opportunities for discussion:

This story is filled with a constant moral dilemma: how far do you go to save those you care about? The main character is faced with this problem as he passes by people who ask for his help, but he knows that if he does they will only destroy all of their chances for escape. In addition, there is a strong underline message of faith.

Vampire Hunder DThis is one of my favorite stories. As a youth, I greatly enjoyed watching the anime version, and as many anime fans know the majority of “anime” out there finds its beginnings in the form of manga. However, “Vampire Hunter D” is one of the few that actually came from a series of novels.

Once I found out this fact, I searched high and low for any possible way to read the original, but alas no options were available at the time.

On May 10, 2005, Dark Horse Books released an English translation to the US. By this time I was an “adult” (if you can call me that), though it didn’t hinder me in the slightest to re-visit one of my favorite teen stories.

Story overview:

In the distant future, very distant (12090 in fact), the world has regressed into a ruined “Frontier” state. However, many forms of technology still exist. Vampires, called the Nobility, have taken over the world and contaminated it with bizarre and aggressive creatures of their own creation. Mankind is forced to struggle to survive in this land by becoming farmers, hunters, or citizens of small communities.

A farm girl named Doris waits on the roadside and greets a dark rider (on a cyborg horse) by attacking him. Once he evades her attacks, with little effort, she determines that he is worthy of helping her. She was bitten by a vampire named, Magnus Lee, who becomes obsessed with the young girl and intends to force her to become his wife. Doris on the other hand, who lives only with her younger brother, Dan, wants no part of this.

She finds that D–although he presents an elusive and dark demeanor–has a heart of gold and will do anything to save her and her brother.

My thoughts:

I quite enjoyed reading the full story, as the Anime only covered a small part of it, and it was well worth the many years of waiting. The translation may not be perfect, but it’s clear enough to understand the flow of the story.  It’s hard to fit this into a specific genre since it can easily go under: vampires,  fantasy,  science fiction and horror, but no matter which genre you like, it does a good job at fulfilling expectations.

Things to consider:

I would say the proper reading age for this book would be around fifteen, and is definitely targeted more towards boys. There are some sexual situations and descriptions of nudity, along with cursing and quite a bit of violence – I know, sounds bad, but keep in mind that these things are done with a fair amount of tact.

Opportunities for discussion:

D, the main character, shows us that caring for a person can help you to overcome all odds. D also shows us that one should struggle against their inner nature rather than giving into its evil temptations. Furthermore, one other great lesson is that it shows how we should not judge a person based on external appearance. One final discussion point would be that looking down on others based on arrogance will only lead to downfall. Pride becomes humbled, and the humbled show greater strength in the end.