Tag Archives: science fiction

Defy the Worlds by Claudia Gray

Defy the Worlds by Claudia Gray. April 3, 2018. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 480 p. ISBN: 9780316394109.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 850.

An outcast from her home — Shunned after a trip through the galaxy with Abel, the most advanced cybernetic man ever created, Noemi Vidal dreams of traveling through the stars one more time. And when a deadly plague arrives on Genesis, Noemi gets her chance. As the only soldier to have ever left the planet, it will be up to her to save its people…if only she wasn’t flying straight into a trap.

A fugitive from his fate — On the run to avoid his depraved creator’s clutches, Abel believes he’s said good-bye to Noemi for the last time. After all, the entire universe stands between them…or so he thinks. When word reaches him of Noemi’s capture by the very person he’s trying to escape, Abel knows he must go to her, no matter the cost.

But capturing Noemi was only part of Burton Mansfield’s master plan. In a race against time, Abel and Noemi will come together once more to discover a secret that could save the known worlds, or destroy them all.

In this thrilling and romantic sequel to Defy the Stars, bestselling author Claudia Gray asks us all to consider where–and with whom–we truly belong.

Sequel to: Defy the Stars

Part of Series: Constellation (Book 2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, War, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Alcohol

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2018 (Online))
Grades 7-11. Though Noemi and Abel have strong feelings for each other, they have gone their separate ways for protection. Yet their efforts are foiled when Abel’s wealthy, power-hungry family abducts Noemi, using her as bait to make Abel sacrifice himself for his father/creator. Abel, a first-generation mechanized being with a soul, tracks them and finds himself in the middle of a three-way battle with a family that sees him as inhuman; with rebels bent on destroying the present regime, which includes Abel’s family; and with his own desire to save his love. Gray’s sequel to Defy the Stars (2017) revisits a familiar cast of characters and disturbing questions about the line dividing human and machine, though what was fresh and intriguing in the first book veers toward a certain predictability here. Nevertheless, readers will care about the potential lovers and the tricky situations that ensnare them. Romantic and adventurous, this novel contains a plethora of STEM-related content and is a worthy discussion starter for conversations about the ethics of technology.

Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2018)
After Defy the Stars (2017), new threats reunite Noemi, a human, and Abel, a mech or anthropoid robot.Noemi (described as Latin American and Polynesian in the previous book) struggles with being back home on Genesis, facing ostracism—especially for not letting Abel sacrifice himself to destroy the gate that protects the planet. She gets into additional trouble for wanting to use common sense and her initiative instead of waiting for the order to destroy mysterious projectiles from Earth. By the time the order comes, it’s impossible to stop all of them. Genesis is struck by a pandemic so bad that Noemi’s sent to Earth to surrender. Before she can get there, she’s grabbed by enemy forces and used as leverage to get Abel to surrender himself. Their objectives—saving themselves and Genesis—lead the duo to form strange alliances and discover new revelations, including devious schemes, predictable-yet-heartbreaking technological applications, and the full truth behind the Cobweb virus. The action raises the stakes, for individuals and entire worlds, and the romance satisfies without overwhelming, right up to a huge cliffhanger ending. There is ample ethnic diversity throughout the book, mostly incidental to the plot, although having one of the two named leaders of the extremist terrorist wing coded as Arab may raise eyebrows. A fast, fun follow-up. (Science fiction. 12-adult)

About the Author

Claudia Gray is not my real name. I didn’t choose a pseudonym because my real name is unpleasant (it isn’t), because I’d always dreamed of calling myself this (I haven’t) or even because I’m hiding from the remnants of that international diamond-smuggling cartel I smashed in 2003 (Interpol has taken care of them). In short, I took a pseudonym for no real reason whatsoever. Sometimes this is actually the best reason to do things.

I live in New Orleans. So far, in life, I’ve been a disc jockey, a lawyer, a journalist and an extremely bad waitress, just to name a few. I especially like to spend time traveling, hiking, reading and listening to music. More than anything else, I enjoy writing.

Her website is www.claudiagray.com.

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Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston

Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston. February 27, 2018. Balzer + Bray, 480 p. ISBN: 9780062652850.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 740.

Seventeen-year-old Ana is a scoundrel by nurture and an outlaw by nature. Found as a child drifting through space with a sentient android called D09, Ana was saved by a fearsome space captain and the grizzled crew she now calls family. But D09—one of the last remaining illegal Metals—has been glitching, and Ana will stop at nothing to find a way to fix him.

Ana’s desperate effort to save D09 leads her on a quest to steal the coordinates to a lost ship that could offer all the answers. But at the last moment, a spoiled Ironblood boy beats Ana to her prize. He has his own reasons for taking the coordinates, and he doesn’t care what he’ll sacrifice to keep them.

When everything goes wrong, she and the Ironblood end up as fugitives on the run. Now their entire kingdom is after them—and the coordinates—and not everyone wants them captured alive.

What they find in a lost corner of the universe will change all their lives—and unearth dangerous secrets. But when a darkness from Ana’s past returns, she must face an impossible choice: does she protect a kingdom that wants her dead or save the Metal boy she loves?

Part of series: Heart of Iron (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, War, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Alcohol, Criminal culture, Gore; Murder

 

Author Video

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 7))
Grades 9-12. Deep in the stars, Ana was found by the starship Dossier as a child, alone except for sentient android D09, and she was raised by the ship’s captain and her crew of space pirates. As a teenager, Ana searches for a way to save D09, who has begun to break down—a challenge, as Di is one of the only remaining Metals who isn’t part of the HIVE, the system that strips androids of their free will. Ana refuses to lose the android boy she can’t help but love, despite his own inability to feel emotions. On a quest to save Di, Ana encounters Robb, an elite Ironborn whose despotic brother is about to ascend the throne, which has stood empty since the princess who should have inherited it disappeared after a Metal rebellion. The legends surrounding Anastasia Romanov get an sf makeover in this occasionally overcrowded but always exciting Firefly-style space opera. A wide cast of supporting characters and several same-sex romances add depth, and a violent, volatile ending leaves room for more.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2017)
The story of Anastasia, lost princess of Imperial Russia, retold as space opera.In 1918, the 17-year-old daughter of Russia’s last czar was murdered with her family, but rumors persisted for decades that she might have survived in secret. In this version, the family of the Emperor of the Iron Kingdom, including his daughter Ananke Armorov, is known to have been murdered seven years ago in the android rebellion. Meanwhile, a ragtag crew of space pirates is community to brown-skinned and burn-scarred Ana. Ana’s best friend—about whom she has secret, more-than-friend feelings—is Di, a Metal: an android. Metals aren’t popular since the rebellion; most have been infected with the mind-controlling HIVE program that removes their free will. Complicating matters are Robb, a blue-eyed, olive-skinned noble on his own quest, and Jax, a violet-eyed, silver-haired Solani boy who pilots the pirate ship. Jax and Robb keep making eyes at each other, which is troublesome, since Robb’s mother wants Ana’s whole crew dead. Melodramatic back stories abound: there’s a prophesied savior, a prince in hiding with a secret power, and a noble young man with no memory. Malapropisms abound in the florid, awkward narrative (“Her voice warbled with the weight of those words”). There’s the kernel of a dramatic space yarn here, but it never comes to fruition. A surplus of angst-ridden back stories told in deeply regrettable prose. (Science fiction. 12-15)

About the Author

Ashley Poston’s is a part-time author and full-time fangirl. She was born in rural South Carolina, where you can see the stars impossibly well…

She loves dread pirates, moving castles, and starry night skies. When not lost in a book, she’s lost in real life, searching for her next great adventure. She is the author of Heart of Iron and Geekerella .

Her website is www.ashposton.com

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Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine & Ann Aguirre

Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine & Ann Aguirre. February 13, 2018. Katherine Tegen Books, 467 p. ISBN: 9780062570994.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 720.

Petty criminal Zara Cole has a painful past that’s made her stronger than most, which is why she chose life in New Detroit instead of moving with her family to Mars. In her eyes, living inside a dome isn’t much better than a prison cell.

Still, when Zara commits a crime that has her running scared, jail might be exactly where she’s headed. Instead Zara is recruited into the Honors, an elite team of humans selected by the Leviathan—a race of sentient alien ships—to explore the outer reaches of the universe as their passengers.

Zara seizes the chance to flee Earth’s dangers, but when she meets Nadim, the alien ship she’s assigned, Zara starts to feel at home for the first time. But nothing could have prepared her for the dark, ominous truths that lurk behind the alluring glitter of starlight.

Part of Series: The Honors (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; War; Violence

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 5))
Grades 8-11. Eighteen-year-old, dark-skinned, petty thief Zara Cole inadvertently steals from a major crime boss not known for forgiveness, but, luckily, fate steps in, and she is chosen to be an Honor in the interspecies exchange program between humans and Leviathans. These sentient creature-ships host humans for a year-long space tour with the option of extending indefinitely. Mystery shrouds this program, and as inquisitive Zara, co-Honor Beatriz (a Rio-born musician), and the Leviathan Nadim travel together, its dark side is revealed. Caine and Aguirre create a fresh and fascinating story of interspecies bonding, the power of music, and the effects of trauma on good creatures. A few culturally specific references seem forced, but the bond between the humans and alien is delicately built and inspiring. Nadim (the ship) and Zara share first-person narrative duties, and this is primarily Zara’s story with a few intercut chapters from Nadim’s perspective. Pair this with Philip Reeve’s Railhead (2016), or for a real throwback, bring out Anne McCaffrey’s Brain and Brawn Ship series.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2017)
Zara Cole is on the run. A distant-future mobster named Torian Deluca is out to find her after she accidentally/on purpose robbed his daughter. A master thief who has lived for years in the Lower Eight of New Detroit, Zara realizes that if Deluca catches up to her, he might kill her. Faking a violent fit, Zara gets herself checked into a youth-detention facility to stay out of his reach. While she’s incarcerated, the story takes a very wide turn when Zara is mysteriously selected to join the Honors space program, a scientific and cultural exchange program between the extraterrestrial Leviathan and humans. Now aboard a Leviathan living ship named Nadim, Zara finds herself communicating with it. She also begins to suspect that there is something sinister about the entire Honors program. Zara’s snarky first-person account of her troubled childhood and overnight transition to astronaut keeps the story interesting at times. However, the story is undermined by the perpetuation of common racial and ethnic stereotypes in this futuristic world. Zara, the young, black female protagonist from New Detroit, is a criminal. Deluca is a stereotypical Italian bad guy, and a Chinese Honor participant is described as having “a degree in something complicated.” The sentient ships that display emotion fall short in execution and don’t give the plot the range it needs. An ambitious premise that is amiable but not believable. (Science fiction. 14-adult)

About the Author

Rachel Caine started writing at 14, and wrote steadily (but privately) until the age of 28, when she got her first novel deal for Stormriders (as Roxanne Longstreet). She published several horror novels under that name, and switched to romantic suspense as Roxanne Conrad. In 2003 she launched into the urban fantasy genre under the name Rachel Caine. In 2006, she created the Morganville Vampires series in young adult, and premiered the TLA-listed novel Prince of Shadows in 2015, and the new Great Library series with Ink and Bone in 2016.

In 2017, she began writing thrillers with the smash bestsellers Stillhouse Lake and Killman Creek.  Her website is www.rachelcaine.com/

Ann Aguirre is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author with a degree in English Literature; before she began writing full time, she was a clown, a clerk, a voice actress, and a savior of stray kittens, not necessarily in that order. She grew up in a yellow house across from a cornfield, but now she lives in sunny Mexico with her husband, children, and various pets. She likes all kinds of books, emo music, action movies and Doctor Who. She writes all kind of fiction in multiple genres, both YA and for adults.

Her website is www.annaguirre.com/

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The Inventors at No. 8 by A.M. Morgen

The Inventors at No. 8 by A.M. Morgen. May 8, 2018. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 352 p. ISBN: 9780316471497.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.3.

Brimming with mystery and treasure, this action-packed tale sends a boy in need of luck and girl in need of a friend on an adventure that will change their lives forever.

Meet George, the third Lord of Devonshire and the unluckiest boy in London. Why is George so unlucky? First, he’s an orphan. Second, unless he sells everything, he’s about to lose his house. So when his family’s last heirloom, a priceless map to the Star of Victory (a unique gem said to bring its owner success in any battle) is stolen by a nefarious group of criminals, George knows that there is no one less lucky–or more alone–than he is.

That is until Ada Byron, the future Countess of Lovelace, bursts into his life. She promises to help George recover his family legacy, and is determined to find her own father along the way–all in a flying machine she built herself. Joined by a mischievous orangutan and the long-lost son of an infamous pirate, Ada and George take off on a cross-continent journey through the skies that will change their lives, and perhaps the world, forever.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (April 15, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 16))
Grades 3-6. After a string of misfortunes, humorless young George is utterly convinced he’s cursed with bad luck, and to stave off his inevitable demise, he’s stayed inside his quickly crumbling home for several years, with only his manservant, Frobisher, for company. That all changes when Frobisher gets kidnapped, and George enlists the help of the brilliant, irascible young inventor across the street, young Ada Byron. Armed with George’s heirloom treasure map, Ada’s homemade bird-shaped plane, and the assistance of their friends Oscar (a painter) and Ruthie (an orangutan), the ragtag group of kids hunts down a valuable jewel. But Ada’s secretive behavior rankles worrywart George, and soon fractures grow among their team. Morgen pulls off some handy misdirection in her fast-paced debut, and the combination of comical antics, miraculous machines, and a historical setting adds to the appeal. While she certainly takes liberties with Ada’s character, Morgen’s emphasis on such a savvy, capable girl engineer will please many readers. A closing note about the real Ada Byron makes this even better for STEM tie-ins, too.

School Library Journal (February 1, 2018)
Gr 3-6-Due to a series of extraordinarily unfortunate events (his mother died giving birth to him and his father died roller skating out an upstairs window), 12-year-old George, the third Lord Devonshire, is alone in the world, save for his trusty manservant Frobisher. The pair is scraping by, selling everything left in the family home. Young George has resigned himself to selling his prized possession: his grandfather’s map to the Star of Victory, when it is stolen by a mechanical bird. Leaving his house for the first time in two years to pursue the bird, he meets young Ada Byron, intrepid scientist, inventor, and explorer. Ada informs George of a mysterious group, called the Organization, seeking to locate the Star of Victory. She convinces timid George that they need to decipher the map and locate the Star, and the pair, accompanied by Oscar, the son of a pirate, and Ruthie the orangutan, take off in Ada’s flying machine. The disparate team moves from London to France, Geneva, and Venice (where they drop in on Charles Darwin) on the trail of the nefarious Organization. But George begins to suspect that Ada may have her own agenda. This raucous adventure keeps a frenetic pace as young George, whose father called him spineless, attempts to justify Ada’s faith in him, while Ada secretively battles her own demons. Eventually, both Ada and George find strength through their friendship. -Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor School District, Lancaster, PA

About the Author

A.M. Morgen comes from a long line of engineers and researchers but chose to pursue literature over the laboratory. To her family’s surprise, she has managed to make a decent living as an editor with her English degree. In her spare time, A.M. enjoys taking long walks in the forest, trying out new hobbies (then abandoning them), and complaining about her mean cat. Despite what you may think, A.M. is not a morning person.

Her website is ammorgen.com

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Pitch Dark by Courtney Alameda

Pitch Dark by Courtney Alameda. February 20, 2018. Fiewel & Friends, 378 p. ISBN: 9781250085894.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 770.

Set against a future of marauding space scavengers and deadly aliens who kill with sound, here is a frightening, fast-paced YA adventure from the author of the acclaimed horror novel, Shutter.

Tuck has been in stasis on the USS John Muir, a ship that houses Earth’s most valued artifacts—its natural resources. Parks and mountains are preserved in space.

Laura belongs to a shipraiding family, who are funded by a group used to getting what they want. And they want what’s on the Muir.

Tuck and Laura didn’t bargain on working together, or battling mutant aliens who use sound to kill. But their plan is the only hope for their crews, their families, and themselves.

In space, nobody can hear you scream . . . but on the John Muir, the screams are the last thing you’ll hear.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Physical abuse

 

Reviews

School Library Journal
Before humans made Earth completely unlivable, the Exodus project was launched, sending out manned spacecrafts to begin the process of planetary colonization. Among them, the USS John Muir carried the soil and plant life needed for terraforming. That was 400 years ago. The ships were lost; now, finding them is the last hope for human survival. In this intense sci-fi thriller, Alameda paints a bleak picture of the future and poses the question: Is the human species worthy of being saved? Two teen protagonists provide the first-person play-by-play in alternating chapters. Tuck, a white self-deprecating loner, belatedly awakens from stasis aboard the John Muir to discover most of the crew are missing and the ship is overrun with deadly monsters. Shocked by the passage of time and keenly aware of how unlikely it is they’ll be found, Tuck shows little concern for death in keeping the ship operational. Laura, a talented hacker and budding archaeologist of Latinx heritage, searches with her family for the original Exodus ships in hopes of finding and salvaging valuable cargo. When Laura’s ship’s computer is hijacked by terrorists, Tuck and Laura are the only two people capable of saving their crews and, possibly, the entire human species. The nail-biting plot will keep teens engaged, even though the terrifying monsters are poorly explained. The budding romance between the two complex protagonists takes a backseat to the high-octane action. —Cary Frostick, formerly at Mary Riley Styles Public Library, Falls Church, VA

About the Author

A veteran bookseller and librarian, Courtney Alameda now spends her days writing thriller and horror novels for young people. Her debut novel, Shutter, was nominated for a Bram Stoker award and hailed as a “standout in the genre” by School Library Journal. Her forthcoming novel, Pitch Dark (Spring 2017), is a genre-blending science fiction/horror novel in the vein of Ridley Scott’s 1979 film Alien.

Courtney holds a B.A. in English literature with an emphasis in creative writing. She is represented by the talented John M. Cusick of Folio Literary. A Northern California native, she now resides in Utah with her husband, a legion of books, and a tiny five pound cat with a giant personality. Her website is www.courtneyalameda.com.

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Blood of a Thousand Stars by Rhoda Belleza

Blood of a Thousand Stars by Rhoda Belleza. February 20, 2018. Razorbill, 359 p. ISBN: 9781101999134.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 810.

Empress
With a revolution brewing, Rhee is faced with a choice: make a deal with her enemy, Nero, or denounce him and risk losing her crown.

Fugitive
Framed assassin Alyosha has one goal in mind: kill Nero. But to get his revenge, Aly may have to travel back to the very place he thought he’d left forever—home.

Princess
Kara knows that a single piece of technology located on the uninhabitable planet Wraeta may be the key to remembering—and erasing—the princess she once was.

Madman
Villainous media star Nero is out for blood, and he’ll go to any means necessary to control the galaxy.

Vicious politics and high-stakes action culminate in an epic showdown that will determine the fate of the universe.

Sequel to: Empress of a Thousand Skies

Part of Series: Empress of a Thousand Skies (Book 2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Discrimination, War, Violence, Criminal culture

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 15, 2018 (Online))
Grades 9-12. Belleza’s thrilling sequel to Empress of a Thousand Skies (2017) begins as explosively as its predecessor ends. As war ravages the galaxy and revolution gathers in the shadows, Rhee, the Crown Princess, fights for her throne, and Alyosha, a fugitive, charts a course of revenge. Rhee must make a deal with Nero (a media star) to achieve her aims, and Alyosha must kill Nero to achieve his. All the while, Nero himself plays a duplicitous game to wrest control of the galaxy. As in the first book, Belleza weaves politics, ethics, and drama into a sweeping, savvy space opera. The romance is sweetly subtle, allowing the story’s intrigue and action to take center stage. This ultimate revenge saga features an all-star cast of protagonists and villains with clear goals, motivations, and voices. Though the sequence of unfolding events can feel glossed over or not as thoroughly explored as one would like at times, it is nevertheless a fantastically written story that tackles real-world current events and issues within the setting of speculative fiction.

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2018)
Separated, unaware of the others, three teens try to wrest control of the galaxy from an evil celebrity in this sequel to Empress of a Thousand Skies (2017). Nero, a “holovision star with a pretty face” who’s seized rule of the galaxy, seeks the overwriter—technology that mines memories, erases history, and controls populations by mind control. Does it really exist? Working against him are: Rhee, reluctantly acting as empress because her older sister, rightful inheritor of the Ta’an dynasty, is missing; Kara, who is Rhee’s sister, alive but undercover, hoping to save humanity yet erase herself with the overwriter; and Aly, a boy who loves Kara, thinks she’s dead, and joins a plot to assassinate Nero—as revenge for Kara and for obliterating Aly’s home planet. Rhee and Kara have tan skin; Aly is black. As Nero orchestrates explosions and airs deceptive holovision broadcasts, the teens’ fierce little “orbit of soldiers and refugees and loyalists” comes together and apart on various planets. Violence is everywhere, and the protagonists labor under misunderstandings, trauma, and loneliness. Belleza’s plot is terrific, though the writing is not as smooth as in its predecessor. Reveals are profound in substance, though the moments of revelation pack less punch than they could. Given its relative choppiness and rushed feeling, this sequel should be read immediately after Empress, to import its heart. Not a stand-alone but an essential conclusion with indelible moments. (map, character list, planet list) (Science fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Rhoda Belleza was raised in Los Angeles, where she grew up writing XFiles fanfiction and stuffing her face with avocados. When she’s not writing, Rhoda obsesses over nail art tutorials, watches kung-fu movies, and sews together crooked things that pass for clothes. She’s a children’s editor at a publishing house and writes from a sunny Brooklyn apartment stuffed far too many bikes and far too many shoes.

Her website is www.rhodabelleza.com

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Hellwalkers by Alexander Gordon Smith

Hellwalkers by Alexander Gordon Smith. November 7, 2017. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 320 p. ISBN: 9780374301743.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 810.

In the third and final book of Alexander Gordon Smith’s Devil’s Engine series, Marlow and Pan are in hell. Literally in hell. Faced with the awful truth of being trapped in the underworld for an eternity―of Pan being trapped―Marlow makes a final deal with the Devil, a deal to go home. But when Marlow and Pan return to Earth, they cannot close the door behind them. And all hell breaks loose. It is a war to end all wars―demonic creatures spill into the streets of New York, monsters haunt the shadows. Only the Hellraisers stand in their way, and they’re not sure this is a battle they can win. They have no powers, they have no weapons. But they have each other, and they have hope, and they know how to kick ass.

Only one thing’s for sure: One way or another, it all ends here.

Sequel to: Hellfighters

Part of series: The Devil’s Engine (Book 3)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Grotesque violence

 

 

About the Author

Alexander Gordon Smith is the author of the Escape from Furnace series of young adult novels, including Lockdown and Solitary. Born in 1979 in Norwich, England, he always wanted to be a writer. After experimenting in the service and retail trades for a few years, Smith decided to go to University. He studied English and American Literature at the University of East Anglia, and it was here that he first explored his love of publishing. Along with poet Luke Wright, he founded Egg Box Publishing, a groundbreaking magazine and press that promotes talented new authors. He also started writing literally hundreds of articles, short stories and books ranging from Scooby Doo comic strips to world atlases, Midsomer Murders to X-Files. The endless research for these projects led to countless book ideas germinating in his head. His first book, The Inventors, written with his nine-year-old brother Jamie, was published in the U.K. in 2007. He lives in England.  His website is www.alexandergordonsmith.com.

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Gnomon by Nick Harkaway

Gnomon by Nick Harkaway. January 9, 2018. Knopf Publishing Group, 688 p. ISBN: 9781524732080.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

From the widely acclaimed author of The Gone-Away World andTigerman, a virtuosic new novel and his most ambitious book yet–equal parts dark comedy, gripping detective story, and mind-bending philosophical puzzle–set in a not-too-distant-future, high-tech surveillance state.

In the world of Gnomon, citizens are ceaselessly observed and democracy has reached a pinnacle of ‘transparency.’ When suspected dissident Diana Hunter dies in government custody during a routine interrogation, Mielikki Neith, a trusted state inspector, is assigned to the case. Immersing herself in neural recordings of the interrogation, she finds a panorama of characters and events that Hunter gave life to in order to forestall the investigation: a lovelorn financier in Athens who has a mystical experience with a shark; a brilliant alchemist in ancient Carthage confronting the unexpected outcome of her invention; an expat Ethiopian painter in London designing a controversial new video game. In the static between these mysterious visions, Neith begins to catch glimpses of the real Diana Hunter–and, alarmingly, of herself, the staggering consequences of which will reverberate throughout the world. Gnomon is a dazzling, panoramic achievement from one of the most original voices in contemporary fiction.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Strong language, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Drugs, Alcohol, Kidnapping, Murder, Gore

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 15, 2017)
Beguiling, multilayered, sprawling novel that blends elements of Philip K. Dick–tinged sci-fi, mystery, politics, and literary fiction in a most satisfying brew.In surveying, a gnomon is a set square used to mark right angles on a chart. “By extension,” writes the genre-hopping British novelist Harkaway (Tigerman, 2014, etc.), “it means something perpendicular to everything else, such as the upright part of a sundial.” It is different from its surroundings, and so is everything that police investigator Mielikki Neith (as in ’neath, where hidden things are to be found) learns about the case just assigned to her: it involves a dissident, now deceased, in a near-future society where citizens patrol each other by means of social media, totalitarianism with a thin veneer of friendly hyperdemocracy, all committee work and political correctness. In this world, Diana Hunter, “a writer of obscurantist magical realist novels” read in fragmentary samizdat editions, harbored antinomian thoughts—and, given the recent news that the brain remains conscious for at least a short time after death, it makes sense that Neith should try to get inside her brain to ferret out subversion. That’s not easy, for Hunter has laid land mines throughout in the form of odd diversionary characters: ancient mathematicians, Roman legionaries, and other formidable obstacles who share Hunter’s “bad attitude.” The possibilities in the story are endless, and Harkaway looks into most of them, it seems, firing off brilliant lines (“The universe has cancer,” “Thousands and thousands of years, thousands of bodies, thousands of minds combined into one, and your best answer to pain is still revenge?”). Although he doesn’t go out of his way to advertise the fact, Harkaway is the son of John le Carré, and from his father he has inherited a feel for the world-weary tediousness of police work. Yet there’s no Smiley in the smiley-face future world where being a fascist busybody is a badge of honor—though enigmas abound, to be sure. Fans of Pynchon and William Gibson alike will devour this smart, expertly written bit of literary subversion.

Library Journal – web only (January 19, 2018)
This latest from Harkaway (Tigerman) is set in a near-future Britain managed by the Witness, a pervasive surveillance system connected to instant plebiscites that has taken the place of government. This system is perceived as the ultimate rule of the people by the people, but, disturbingly, the Witness can see into your mind. When suspected dissident Diana Hunter dies under interrogation, investigator Meilikki Neith mentally ingests neural recordings made by the interrogators and thus relives the experience. The book then launches into multiple narrative streams, revealed in the recordings, involving macho Greek banker Kyriakos; fifth-century alchemist Athenais, mistress of Saint Augustine; and Ethiopian expatriate artist Bekele. These narratives are woven together to create a tapestry of meaning and of mystery. The theme of katabasis, the descent and emergence from the underworld, is central. Verdict The book functions as a riposte to the dangers of the surveillance state, demonstrating the interconnectedness of consciousness and the triumph of the all, the gnomon, over totalitarian control of the few. This work goes so far as to invoke the reader’s role in creating the narrative, which is simply astonishing; to be read at all costs! -Henry Bankhead, San Rafael P.L., CA

About the Author

Nick Harkaway was born in Cornwall, UK in 1972. He is possessed of two explosively exciting eyebrows, which exert an almost hypnotic attraction over small children, dogs, and – thankfully – one ludicrously attractive human rights lawyer, to whom he is married.

He likes: oceans, mountains, lakes, valleys, and those little pigs made of marzipan they have in Switzerland at new year.

He does not like: bivalves. You just can’t trust them.

His website is www.nickharkaway.com

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Gnomon Publisher Page

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson. February 6, 2018. Simon Pulse, 448 p. ISBN: 9781481498548.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Sixteen-year-old Elena Mendoza is the product of a virgin birth.

This can be scientifically explained (it’s called parthenogenesis), but what can’t be explained is how Elena is able to heal Freddie, the girl she’s had a crush on for years, from a gunshot wound in a Starbucks parking lot. Or why the boy who shot Freddie, David Combs, disappeared from the same parking lot minutes later after getting sucked up into the clouds. What also can’t be explained are the talking girl on the front of a tampon box, or the reasons that David Combs shot Freddie in the first place.

As more unbelievable things occur, and Elena continues to perform miracles, the only remaining explanation is the least logical of all—that the world is actually coming to an end, and Elena is possibly the only one who can do something about it.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes.

 

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist starred (November 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 5))
Grades 9-12. Elena was the product of a virgin birth, but it wasn’t a miracle; just garden-variety, statistically improbable, yet no less possible, parthenogenesis. What is a miracle, however, is her ability to heal people, which she discovers when her crush gets shot right in front of her. Healing powers are pretty cool, but whenever Elena heals someone, several other people disappear in a beam of golden light. Compounding the problem, a chorus of bossy voices, which appear in a variety of objects, tell Elena that she should heal as many people as possible, because the ones who disappear are being saved from a terrible future. With crackling banter and vivid characters, Hutchinson offers readers an enjoyably weird, poignantly philosophical exploration of friendship, duty, and free will. There’s lots to like here: Elena’s relationship with her best friend, Fadil (a devout Muslim boy), is refreshingly, unquestioningly platonic, and Hutchinson touches on such important topics as sexuality, mental illness, and grief in a lighthearted yet sincere and sensitive way. And, especially for a book addressing such tough topics, it’s often just plain funny. While the overarching premise sounds a bit like an ethics-class thought experiment (in a good way!), Hutchinson always keeps the story firmly grounded in Elena’s relationships and, more important, her believable growth, particularly when it comes to her own faults. Surreal, brainy, and totally captivating.

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2018)
A coffee chain is the unlikely setting of a miracle healing that sets in motion events that herald a coming apocalypse. Sixteen-year-old Elena Mendoza was the product of a virgin birth. While unkind classmates taunt her with the nickname “Mary,” there is a scientific explanation for her existence: parthenogenesis. Essentially a clone of her half-Cuban, half-white mother, she also hears voices emanating from inanimate objects. When Elena saves the life of her longtime crush, Freddie, after she is shot at a Starbucks, she discovers the trade-off: with each healing, random people disappear from Earth, beginning with the shooter himself. Freddie, whose race is not described, struggles with depression and has mixed feelings about her role as the involuntary recipient of a miracle cure even as the two embark on a rocky flirtation. Elena must decide whether to listen to her best friend, Fadil, a devout Muslim boy who believes her powers are God-given; the clamoring voices speaking through a My Little Pony, Lego Gandalf, and other objects that tell her she is destined for greatness; or her own doubt-ridden conscience. Fantasy fans who desire intricate technical explanations may be disappointed at what is left unexplained, but the story is about faith, after all, and readers who appreciate relationship-driven novels will have much to savor. Elena’s bisexuality is refreshingly unproblematic—simply another aspect of her nature that is accepted by those around her—an echo of the deft treatment of differences among the diverse cast of characters. A creative and original tale shot through with quirky humor that entertains while encouraging readers to ponder questions of free will and social responsibility. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

About the Author

Shaun is a major geek and all about nerdy shenanigans. He is the author of We Are the Ants, The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley, The Deathday Letter, fml, and the editor of the anthology Violent Ends.

He currently lives in South Florida with his dog and watches way too much Doctor Who.

His website is www.shaundavidhutchinson.com.

Teacher Resources

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza Reading Group Guide

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Watchdog by Will McIntosh

Watchdog by Will McIntosh. October 10, 2017. Delacorte Press, 185 p. ISBN: 9781524713843.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Lexile: 740.

Thirteen-year-old twins Vick and Tara have built an incredible machine–a loyal robotic watchdog named Daisy. But, when local crime boss Ms. Alba schemes to add Daisy to her robot army, Vick and Tara must go to great lengths to protect their prized pet. Because Daisy is more than just any robot–she’s their constant protector, and together the three make a great team.

Vick and Tara are determined to stop the mob from tearing their little family apart. And they might just succeed! Sure, the evil Ms. Alba has more robot watchdogs, but none are as smart–or as faithful–as their Daisy. Plus, if things get too dangerous, Tara could always upgrade their pet. With her mechanical skills, she could make Daisy bigger, stronger, and a lot more intimidating!

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Child labor, Theft, Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (October 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 4-7. Twins Vick and Tara have been left to fend for themselves in this near-future tale, surviving by salvaging parts from a local dump. Their way of life, however, is threatened when the mysterious Ms. Alba, who clearly has ulterior motives, seizes control of the dump. When the twins get in a kerfuffle with her goons, and their tiny robotic dog, Daisy, nearly destroys one of Alba’s high-tech Watchdogs in the process, Alba takes notice, since Daisy is clearly something special: Tara upgraded Daisy with a salvaged piece of technology, so she is more sentient than the other run-of-the-mill, hunt-and-destroy Watchdogs. With the help of some other street urchins, Vick and Tara show the members of their community that they can—and should—stand up and fight back. Tara is an engrossing character who has a knack for technology, but she also suffers from stress-induced panic attacks as a side effect of her autism. This fast-paced sci-fi adventure with an unsettling dystopian atmosphere should find easy appeal among a wide range of readers.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2017)
In a nasty, hyperstratified future, white twins Vick and Tara are on their own in the scary streets of Chicago, where economic disaster has laid waste to the poorer sections of the city.Although Tara is autistic—communicative but faced with worsening symptoms—she has a remarkable talent for designing the robot watchdogs that everyone uses for a variety of purposes. The pair scrounge for saleable electronics all day long in the blocks-long dump that’s developed in their part of the city, and at night Tara tinkers. But after she finds an amazing chip among the debris, she crafts a seemingly sentient little critter, Daisy. Daisy’s astonishing capabilities immediately attract the attention of the cruel overlord of the Chicago robotics world, Ms. Alba, an Asian woman who uses a group of imprisoned, mostly child workers to turn out watchdog robots. Her minions kidnap the siblings, but with Daisy’s help they break out. It’s only after they begin to accept help from other street kids that the believably portrayed Vick and Tara start to make a bit of progress. The grim setting is vividly depicted, and the clever-kid–against–mean-adult trope is both plausible and very satisfying. The fast-paced narrative readily conveys the looming sense of ever present danger. Engaging, suspenseful, and with nearly all the vivid fighting confined to robots, this gritty tale is perfect for a younger audience than most post-apocalyptic stories. (Post-apocalyptic adventure. 10-14)

About the Author

Will McIntosh is the author of several adult novels; many short stories; one young adult novel, Burning Midnight; and one middle-grade novel. He won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story and was a finalist for the Locus Award, and his novel Love Minus Eighty was an ALA-RUSA Reading List Selection for Science Fiction. Watchdog is his first novel for middle-grade readers.

Will lives with his wife and twin children in Williamsburg, Virginia.  His website is www.willmcintosh.net.

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Watchdog Publisher Page