I am one that normally does not gravitate towards science fiction books. I don’t discriminate against these books. I just prefer contemporary fiction. So it always surprises me every year when a science fiction book tops my favorite books. It might be the possibility of futuristic worlds or the ability to speculate human actions and behaviors, but I am normally captivated with what is going to happen to the characters in these books. Like fantasy, science fiction takes its readers to new or different worlds. While I could discuss specifically the awesomeness of science fiction, I want to jump into a very large debate–science fiction versus dystopia.
According to the world wide web, authors, and readers, there is a difference between science fiction and dystopia. Some place dystopia as a sub genre of science fiction, while others argue that dystopia can be completely separate from science fiction. I used to be in the class that dystopia was a sub genre of science. As a fellow facebooker wrote, “Anything that takes place in the future or a parallel universe = Science Fiction.” However, after taking a Facebook poll and talking with an author, I have migrated to the class that dystopia does not have to be classified as science fiction. Let’s take a look at the definitions:
- Science fiction can merely be a world that is different from our world. The world is not necessarily dystopia or utopia.
- Dystopia is a world traditionally controlled by totalitarian forces and the masses are oppressed.
There are some authors who argue that dystopia is an off-shot of science fiction and people are afraid to call it science fiction. I can agree with that discussion point. However, I also talked with Ilsa Bick, the author of Ashes trilogy, and she said that technically not all dystopias are science fiction. She gave two great examples. This was her argument:
For example, if you set a novel in a country where the prevailing government has been overthrown, you can turn it into a dystopic novel, but it doesn’t have to take place in the future nor must it be science-fiction. You could make the argument that books that take place in private academies, where the students have no recourse to anything outside the school, are also just dystopia novels.
Her statement completely turned my reasoning upside down. It made me stop and think about how genre classification cannot be classified neatly. My reasoning for this discussion is to make other readers aware of the differences. I’m also open to any debate about how people perceive these two genres.
Young Adult Book
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
In a futuristic society the world no longer relies on adult soldiers, but gifted children to fight their wars. Andrew “Ender” Wiggin is the third child in his family. Conceived in hopes of being the perfect mixture of his volatile brother and empathetic sister, Ender is accepted into Battle School, where he will learn to perfect his skills to be a general for Earth.
In today’s libraries, Ender’s Game is normally found either in the juvenile or young adult section. However, when it was first published in 1985 it was written for an adult audience. This is quite noticeable in the themes that Mr. Card explores. The largest and most contested theme is the violence. Almost every aspect of the book revolves around violence. Ender must defend himself physically against violent bullies, his brother is violent, the alien invasion is violent, and the Battle School teaches acceptance of violence. Ender struggles with balancing his empathy and achieving the goals of what is expected of him.
What I thought was so great about this book was how the themes were so thought provoking. This was would be a terrific book for a book club. Even though Ender is six when we first meet him, the events that he experiences create fantastic discussion points. Readers can discuss violence, compassion, innocence, relationships, humanity, and the characters themselves.
I would strongly recommend listening to this book. The narrators did a fantastic job!
Under the Dome by Stephen King
This was my first Stephen King novel, EVER! I’m kind of ashamed to say that it took me 27 years to finally read a book of his. Thankfully, a good friend mentioned that I should give this one a go for my independent study.
In Chester’s Mill, Maine everyone is enjoying a beautiful fall day. A woman is taking flying lessons, a man is mowing his lawn, and a man is hitchhiking out of town. All of a sudden a dome drops around the town. Some people are killed instantly, while others are fatally injured. The town soon must grapple with a potential dictatorship, multiple deaths, and the strange meaning behind the dome.
I might have just become a Stephen King fan. I quickly learned two things about Stephen King:
1. He goes all the way with his storylines. I’m pretty sure his story contained way more gruesome deaths and details than all The Hunger Games books combined. I kept thinking, “Is he going there?! Yes, he did!!!”
2. He has no problem killing off main characters. I would be intently listening to the story and then scream aloud when a character I loved was killed off.
The fact that Mr. Stephen King is willing to take these steps in his writing scared the living daylights out of me. Why? Because I could see how any town could become a Chester’s Mill. Mr. King develops his characters realistically, allowing the reader to see all the dimensions of how people respond in a crisis. Mr. King gives us villains, mentally-ill, heroes, and everyone in between. I absolutely hated some of his characters. I wanted the dome to lift back up and fall down on specific people. A true sign that the book is well-written, in my opinion, if I could develop such a strong dislike of a fictitious characters. Favorite characters are also not immune to the chopping block, which I appreciated. In real-life situations good people do not always outlive evil. I’m sure that if George R.R. Martin and Stephen King got to together and wrote a book it would be DEATH TO ALL!!
There is also a strong possibility that the book would only be one page long because Martin and King would have killed everyone in the first paragraph.
Besides the characters, King does a superb job of setting the plot. He masterfully crafts world-building in an enclosed town. King slowly reveals each layer of the town without overwhelming the reader, hence why the book was over a 1,000 pages. It is extremely frustrating when authors throws 20 characters at the reader in the first ten pages. It does not give the reader the time to process who is who. I enjoyed learning about the characters and their history with each turn of the page. I would suggest that if someone has a hard time keeping characters straight to give the audiobook a chance. Normally, the narrator will do different voices, allowing the listener to discern who is who.
My only pet peeve with the book was who was controlling the dome. Under the Dome is what I would call social science fiction. It is set in present day with an element of science fiction. The book revolves more around speculative human behavior than futuristic technology. I’m not going to give anything away, but I kind of scratched my head when the citizens discovered who controlled the dome. I was slightly disappointed. My reaction was, “That’s it?!” I would be completely open to discussing with other readers on their thoughts about the ending.
I would probably only give this book to a teen who is avid reader and willing to take the challenge of reading this door stopper. Reluctant readers would most likely be turned off by the thickness, but I might be able to bribe them with all the gruesome details.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Wade Watts lives in the year 2044. Trying to survive his life’s grim conditions, Wade passes time by playing in the virtual world of OASIS; and like everyone else, he seeks the hidden clues to the fortune of OASIS creator James Halliday. Until one day Wade finds the first clue and the virtual world is thrown into upheaval.
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
In Tally’s world everyone becomes beautiful upon their 16th birthday and joins the city of the young and beautiful. Ecstatic, Tally is counting down the weeks until she receives her own procedure. However, Tally’s opportunity is completely stopped when her friend Shay decides to run away instead of becoming a “pretty.” To proceed with the procedure, Tally must find Shay and turn her in.
Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
This might not be a futuristic book, but it discovers how science intersects with death. Mary Roach explores how cadavers are used in the name of science. From crash dummies to facelift dummies, the dead become science experiments.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
When She Woke by Hillary Jordan
Delirium by Lauren Oliver