Category Archives: Science fiction

A Sci-Fi Experience

I was happily reminded this month of the very enjoyable January/February reading challenge hosted by Carl V. Anderson (@Stainless Steel Droppings) years ago. His “Sci-Fi Experience” was always a highlight of my winter, and expanded my reading horizons exponentially. It was something that recently happened to my husband, Byron, that reminded me of that fun, immersive experience.

A couple of months ago, when Byron was sleepless due to some side effects of his cancer treatments, he would read articles and listen to podcasts about his cancer. It was fine that he was learning as much as he could about it, but I worried that such reading in the middle of the night would add to his insomnia and would raise his anxiety levels.

As an early Christmas present, our daughter sent him an audiobook, the first in a science fiction series she liked called The Expanse. Byron was not much of a science fiction reader, but we had watched the TV series and liked it. Our daughter told him the books were even better, so he started listening to that instead of those podcasts. The first book was called Leviathan Wakes, by James S. A. Corey (actually two men who collaborate on writing this series), and he became completely hooked on the series! He’s just about to finish the sixth book, the seventh book is ready to download, and he is loving his winter “Sci Fi Experience!”

“Quality of Life” is a phrase we are using often in our home right now. Reading and special book-related experiences like this one greatly enhance our quality of life and are so deeply appreciated during a difficult time.


I actually read Kindred, by Octavia Butler, last year, but did not review it when I finished it because there was so much from the story to process and absorb. What I’ve discovered in the months that have passed since I finished it, is that it was a powerfully haunting experience to read it. I’ve thought a lot about it and don’t know when a book has stuck with me, haunted me, quite like this one. It was a powerful reading experience because Octavia Butler, being such a gifted writer/storyteller, makes you feel as if you are right there with her main character, Dana, throughout all her experiences, in the past and in the present. Those experiences were profoundly life-changing. Experiencing firsthand the life of her enslaved ancestors, being catapulted back and forth to the time of her ancestors and then back to her life in present times brought an incredible depth to Dana’s understanding of her own life experience. And it had a powerful impact on those of us who traveled with her. It is definitely a book I would highly recommend, although it is not an easy story. And for anyone wanting to gain more understanding of the black experience in this country, this is a creative and fascinating book to read.

from the publisher:

Butler’s most celebrated, critically acclaimed work tells the story of Dana, a young black woman who is suddenly and inexplicably transported from her home in 1970s California to the pre–Civil War South. As she time-travels between worlds, one in which she is a free woman and one where she is part of her own complicated familial history on a southern plantation, she becomes frighteningly entangled in the lives of Rufus, a conflicted white slaveholder and one of Dana’s own ancestors, and the many people who are enslaved by him.

During numerous such time-defying episodes with the same young man, she realizes the challenge she’s been given: to protect this young slaveholder until he can father her own great-grandmother.

Author Octavia E. Butler skillfully juxtaposes the serious issues of slavery, human rights, and racial prejudice with an exciting science-fiction, romance, and historical adventure.

I chose to read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.



I chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “WANDERLUST: Reading the States,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each of the 50 United States. This book took place in Maryland.

This Star Shall Abide

Long before many of the dystopian books that are so popular these days were written, Sylvia Engdahl wrote a very compelling young adult science fiction trilogy. The first volume was called This Star Shall Abide, and I read it last week. It’s a book that has been on my TBR shelf for a long time and I’m so glad I finally got to it! It was a read I couldn’t put down, and I was very impressed with the ideas that were the basis of the story. The idea of “truth”, for example, and how important it is to be true to oneself. Such a timely concept!  It’s what I used to call a “thinker book” when I was teaching. Books that were full of very human dilemmas and problems to be solved, and books that make for very thoughtful discussions. Those are the kind of science fiction books I really like.

Synopsis of the story from the author’s web site:

Noren knew that his world was not as it should be–it was wrong that only the Scholars, and their representatives the Technicians, could use metal tools and Machines. It was wrong that only they had access to the mysterious City, which he had always longed to enter. Above all, it was wrong for the Scholars to have sole power over the distribution of knowledge. The High Law imposed these restrictions and many others, though the Prophecy promised that someday knowledge and Machines would be available to everyone. Noren was a heretic. He defied the High Law and had no faith in the Prophecy’s fulfillment. But the more he learned of the grim truth about his people’s deprivations, the less possible it seemed that their world could ever be changed. It would take more drastic steps than anyone imagined to restore their rightful heritage.

From The School Library Journal in 1972:

“Superior future fiction concerning the fate of an idealistic misfit, Noren, who rebels against his highly repressive society….  Although there is little overt action, the attention of mature sci-fi readers will be held by the skillful writing and excellent plot and character development.”  It received the Christopher Award in 1973,  for its “affirmation of the highest values of the human spirit.”

Some interesting quotes from the book:

…“Wherever he went he would be a stranger, for there was no home in the world for such as he.”

…“But as long as he kept on caring, nothing could touch the freedom of his inner thoughts.”

…”Knowledge was what he’d longed for, and he could not believe that the process of absorbing it would be anything but a joy.”

About the Author:

Sylvia Engdahl is an Oregon author, which is another reason I like reading her books. A few years ago, I read her book, Enchantress from the Stars, and loved it. That book received a Newbery Honor Award in 1971. You can read more about her and her books at her web site.


I read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.


“We prefer to explore the universe by traveling inward, as opposed to outward.”

Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor, is the first of a science fiction trilogy. A very well-written and award-winning novella, it is a story that is compelling to read. I am looking forward to reading the next two books in the series. (The third book is due to be released in September 2017, so I won’t have to wait too long!)

From the publisher,

Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.

If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself – but first she has to make it there, alive.

I enjoyed reading this book because the ideas were thought-provoking, an “other” view of life and culture gave me new perspectives, and I simply admire the creativity and talent of the author. I highly recommend it!

The Martian Chronicles


Mars from the Hubble…

A local news item last week caught my fancy. It was a story about a young woman from Eugene, Oregon, who has applied to be one of the first people to colonize Mars. A company called Mars One is planning to establish human settlements on Mars, starting in 2024. Crews of four will leave Earth for Mars every two years, and this young lady is one of 1000 people to make the first cut for the first flight. I admire her dream and her courage! What a fascinating idea! Here comes the Future!

The news item couldn’t have been more timely for me because I just finished reading Ray Bradbury’s, The Martian Chronicles, which is a classic science fiction book about that very thing — humans colonizing Mars. I wonder if this young woman has read the book? I wonder if the people in charge of the Mars One organization have read it? I hope so because I think it would be an important book for them all to read before they leave Earth to establish those human settlements on the Red Planet.

RayBradbury-tributeBradbury, himself, narrated the audiobook version I listened to, and I enjoyed listening to his voice. The best parts of all, however, were his comments at the end of each story explaining his writing process and/or the inspiration for that story.

The book is a series of stories told chronologically, each separate yet with references to happenings or people in the other stories. The first story is about the arrival on Mars of the first humans and of their immediate demise. Each subsequent story is about another group of settlers, a larger group each time, and the problems they face with the planet, and the native Martian population, and with each other.

I was expecting a more fanciful, plot-driven, movie-like story about Mars and Martians, but the book is really a very insightful exploration of what it means to be Human. Ray Bradbury has the eye of a sociologist but the heart of a poet, so his stories and creativity are wonderful to experience and leave you with a deeper understanding of the human condition. This book was somewhat awkward at times, and one story, in particular, was very disturbing to read (a story that is definitely politically and culturally incorrect in today’s world.) So I gave the book only 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads, but I’ve discovered it’s one of those books that lingers. I’ve thought a lot about it since I finished it, and like it more now than I did when I finished the final page.

I chose this book for Carl V’s 2014 Sci-Fi Experience, and I really enjoyed the reading experience. It’s certainly a book that gets you thinking, and that’s why I hope it would be required reading for anyone seriously contemplating relocating to Mars!


2014 Sci Fi Experience Challenge


“For my part I know nothing with any certainty,
but the sight of the stars makes me dream.”

~Vincent Van Gogh

I love Carl V’s, (of Stainless Steel Droppings) reading challenges!  My very first reading challenge as a book blogger was in 2007 — his first Once Upon a Time challenge! (I’m looking forward to this year’s OUaT starting in March.) It’s been a few years since I participated in his Sci Fi Experience Challenge, but I’ve been reading many classics recently and decided it would be fun to read a classic of science fiction. Since I am late starting this challenge, which is already underway from December 1st through January 31st, I will focus on just one book:  The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury. I have the audiobook version from the library, narrated by the author, which should be especially interesting. As always, this will be an enjoyable reading (and listening) experience!


Sci Fi Experience 2010 Wrap-Up

Carl V’s January/February Sci Fi Experience challenge is always fun and a ray of sunshine in the middle of cold, dark winter.  This year I did some reading, and my husband and I watched a variety of really interesting movies and some great TV series for it this challenge, and so we both enjoyed it!  Thank you, Carl, for hosting it again this year.  Here’s a summary of my Sci Fi Experience 2010:


  1. Journey Between Worlds, by Sylvia Louise Engdahl
  2. Moon-Flash, by Patricia A. McKillip
  3. The Moon and the Face, by Patricia A. McKillip

Movies & TV Series:

  1. Doctor Who: Blink (from the British TV series)
  2. 9
  3. District 9
  4. Star Trek, (J.J. Abrahms)
  5. Life on Mars (the British TV series)
  6. Flash Forward (TV series)

Frogging a Book

photo by Tina Hilton

There have been many times as a knitter that I finally decided to “frog” a project that just wasn’t working out for me.  For whatever reason, the time wasn’t right for the project, so I unraveled it and wound up the yarn for later.  I did that this week with a book…frogged it. Nothing new to us as readers, but I’d never used the word to describe what I do when I simply stop reading a book because it’s not the right one for now.  I was disappointed, because I wanted to like Connie Willis‘s novella, Remake. But I frogged it, and maybe will pick it up again later on and give it another chance.


A lucky find at the library last week was Moon-Flash, by Patricia A. McKillip, one of my favorite authors. This book was an early experiment with the science fiction genre by this award-winning fantasy author, and it was written in the same beautiful language I have come to love in all her novels. Written for young adults, this story does what I enjoy so much about science fiction–it makes you look at life and our world from a different angle, so it was a perfect choice for Carl V’s January/February Sci Fi Experience 2010.

From a very nice review by Camille Alexa, at the Green Man Review web site:

The storyline of Moon-Flash is deceptively simple: a young girl named Kyreol, on the eve of her marriage, sets out with her childhood boyfriend (also betrothed — to somebody else) to traverse the great river of their world beyond the boundaries of what for them is the known universe. Ostensibly, she is in search of her mother, who disappeared years earlier. But as the journey progresses, it becomes clear that what really drives Kyreol ever further — just over the next waterfall, just beyond the next forest, just to the realm of the great beasts who live in the river — is the eternal quest to discover for discovery’s sake, to experience the not-yet-experienced purely for the joy and exhilaration of doing so. It is this which makes Moon-Flash a satisfying read for the eternally curious of any age.

Moon-Flash is actually the first of two books telling the story of Kyreol and Terje.  The second volume is called The Moon and the Face, and luckily that volume is also available through my library, so I have another enjoyable read ahead for this week.

Journey Between Worlds

Journey Between Worlds, by Sylvia Louise Engdahl, is a science fiction book for young adults. It’s a coming of age story, a romance, but more than that it is a book that really gets you thinking about space travel and colonization.

From a review by Marianne Dyson on the National Space Society website:

Space enthusiasts will find all their arguments for settling space and colonizing Mars articulated in the pages of this book. Yet no technical knowledge or expertise is required to appreciate the straightforward and realistic story of a young woman reconsidering the options for her future.

I really enjoy Sylvia Engdahl’s science fiction novels. Her ideas about the future are insightful and thought-provoking, and the stories she tells are equally well thought-out and written. Last year, I read her wonderful award-winning book, Enchantress From the Stars. So this year, for Carl V’s Sci Fi Experience, I decided to read another one of her books, and I was not disappointed. I appreciated her sensitive and honest descriptions of a young woman growing up, and this story really makes you believe that the colonization of Mars is just around the corner.

Doctor Who: Blink

I admit to being a long-time fan of the science fiction series, Doctor Who, having gotten hooked on it because our son loved it way back when.  (I even knit the boy a Doctor Who scarf, á la Tom Baker –although I didn’t quite finish it, it was soooo long and took forever to knit. Sorry, Dan!)  Well, B and I have recently gotten hooked on the newer Doctor Who series that started in 2005, and have been watching them all on DVDs.  We loved Christopher Eccleston as the ninth Doctor, and David Tennant as the tenth Doctor. Last night we watched what is now my favorite Doctor Who episode thus far: Blink.  It was so creative, and such a great time-traveler story. I’m not surprised to discover that it won a number of awards, including the Hugo Award in 2008.

It’s a perfect fit for my Sci Fi Experience — Carl V’s fun January-February challenge — because it was creative and fun, and a great Sci Fi experience!

Seattle: EMP/SFM

Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum

Experience Music Project designed by Frank O. Gehry

One of the things I look forward to the most during my summer break is having the opportunity to meet my husband in downtown Seattle for lunch or dinner. We always add some special event to the lunch or dinner date, and yesterday afternoon we added a visit to the Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum.

Seattle's Science Fiction Museum

Seattle's Science Fiction Museum

I enjoyed exploring this amazing building that houses both museums (designed by architect Frank O. Gehry). And I was surprised and delighted by the Science Fiction Museum — it really was a homage to books and the big ideas in them that spark our imaginations and help shape our culture. Each exhibit included books and information about the authors and their ideas. If you are a science fiction fan who loves books and movies, then I recommend a visit to this museum.



The SF museum is divided into three sections: 1) Homeworld which “explores the foundations of science fiction–its big ideas, its relationship to culture and science and the qualities that make it unique.” I loved looking at the costumes and scripts and memorabilia for some of my favorite Sci Fi movies and TVseries. And I was so impressed with the books that were displayed — many of them signed first editions!

Flying saucer from The Day the Earth Stood Still

Flying saucer from The Day the Earth Stood Still

2) Fantastic Voyages “with exhibitions and activities devoted to technologies that have been imagined, such as spaceships that travel faster than the speed of light;”

Costume for Sebastian in Blade Runner

Costume for Sebastian in Blade Runner

and 3) Brave New Worlds where you can learn more about the “strangely disquieting societies” for which science fiction is known.


Michael Jackson's glove - Experience Music Project

When we arrived at the museum yesterday afternoon, we found numerous news reporters outside the building interviewing people. We didn’t know what was going on until we got inside and were told the breaking news– that Michael Jackson had just died. It was an interesting day to visit the museum, but today would be even more interesting! Today the place is crowded with people who need a place to listen to his music and remember his talent, and the curators even put his black sequined jacket and one of his sequined gloves on display for all those who have come to remember him.