Summer is always a great time to check out a new book! One of my favorite genres to read during the summer is science fiction, in which, more often than not, the plot takes place in space and usually a few centuries into the future.
The genre itself is so dynamic that you can go from reading some fantastical simple heros journeys to thoughtful meditations on technology and humanity, and their relationship with nature.
The original heros journey-style plots from the Amazing Stories pulp fiction magazine inspired the 1950s and 1960s aesthetic of classic drive-in films. These stories are always fun and usually straightforward. Books by Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein also utilize this structure.
At the same time, science fiction has the ability to produce very thoughtful works that present moral ambiguity and question the nature of humanity. Hence there is a science fiction novel for everyone at the Tyrrell County Public Library! The genre is indeed so diverse that you can check out books by both Jules Verne and Cornwainer Smith out of the same section. Since the range of options can be a bit confusing, here are some of my personal favorites that make great summer reads!
One of my favorite authors from the tail end of the Golden Age of Science Fiction is Philip K. Dick. His stories usually have complicated and strange names such as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? or We Can Remember It For You Wholesale. Despite these elaborate and often strange names, his short stories and novels play with the concept of the artificial, and at what point is the artificial as real as the original or even better?
In his short story The Golden Man, Philip K. Dick constructs a world where mutants (imperfect humans) have become a problem and the government is attempting to sterilize or outright eliminate them. By the end of the story, the protagonists and the reader are left wondering whether this imperfect being is the next stage of human existence.
Dicks most famous work is Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which is probably better known by the film adaptations Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049. In the novel, the world is a post-nuclear wasteland where actual living animals are nearly non-existent and, as a result, human beings begin to adopt realistic artificial pets (i.e. the electric sheep in the title) as a cultural and status symbol. From this concept, Dick produces a world where it is near impossible to distinguish the latest versions of androids from human beings, and one is left to question whether the androids are persons.
While many authors like Dick play with the concept of humanity and its relationship with technology, science fiction also serves as a place for environmentalism and exploring humanitys impact on nature.
The first to really tackle this was Frank Herbert with his book Dune and its subsequent sequels. Herbert imagines a distant future where interstellar travel is possible not with machines but with the mind-altering spice mlange only found on the planet of Arrakis. The conflict that unfolds across his story deals with resource dependency, dynastic rivalry, and a planetary environment changed by the greed of man as well as war.
On a more detailed scale, the hard science fiction of Kim Stanley Robinson embraces science and environmental advocacy completely. In his Red Mars trilogy, Robinson imagines the terraformation of Mars and asks the question of whether or not it is ethical to change a planet for the needs of humanity before even confirming if there is native life.
A more recent book series, The Expanse, by James S.A. Corey (the pen name for Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) imagines a future where humans have colonized Mars, the Moon, asteroids, and the moons surrounding Saturn and Jupiter. As war and politics ravage space, this society is contrasted with the impact humanity has placed on its solar system and each other.
I love this genre because the medium of science fiction offers the space for science, technology, comedy, tragedy and philosophy to intersect. On the one hand you can read casual stories with heroes, aliens, and rocket ships; yet on the other hand, you can find tales and authors that explore deep questions and push the reader to think about larger concepts.
If you want to try science fiction, go ahead! It is worth it. If it is not your style, that is OK, there are tons of other stories out there to explore! Have a great week, and we hope to see you at the Library!
Jared Jacavone is the librarian at the Tyrrell County Public Library.
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Science fiction: From hero's tales to deep thoughts - The Daily Advance
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