I've said it before and I'll say it again--I'm a realistic fiction girl. I like my characters relatable and my settings within the realm of earthly possibilities. But how do you learn anything new in reading if you don't take risks? Science fiction is way outside my reading comfort zone. So, naturally, I'm giving it a try. And I don't hate it! Here are a few of my sci-fi favorites.
1. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. In the future, as earth battles an alien race, the government is breeding child genuises to fight the Buggers. Ender Wiggins is earth's best bet; a quiet, incredibly gifted child who, although a terrific fighter and leader, struggles with many deep rooted psychological issues. I'd be hard-pressed to think of a book I've read that is more fantastical than Ender's Game, yet somehow it seemed as real and interesting as any realistic fiction book. The characters were incredibly down to earth, although the setting and premise was "out there", like literally in outer space. A good gateway book for people like me who are just venturing into the realm of sci-fi.
2. A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle. This book and I have a bit of a history. In fourth or fifth grade, when all of my friends were loving this book, I decided to give it a try--and hated it. I couldn't make any sense of it and it felt like a waste of my time. I came to the conclusion that it was just one of those books that you either like or hate. But, in the spirit of this blog, I tried it again a few months ago. And, wow. It's pretty good! Meg and her little brother Charles have to, with the help of their friend Calvin, rescue their father from the fifth dimension, where he has been imprisoned. They travel from planet to planet, encountering various aliens and finally reaching the sinister Camazotz, where they must battle The Black Thing to free their father. Yeah, it's about as complicated as it sounds. But the characters are lovable, and I liked the staging--the way that each new planet felt like an adventure. L'Engle is not a writer to be trifled with simply because this is a kids book--her writing style is sharp and almost poetic. How did I almost pass this novel up?
3. How To Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu. I just finished this a few days ago, and it could not have been a more welcome challenge. Charles Yu, the apparently self-titled protagonist is part counselor, part repairman as a time travel technician on Minor Universe 31. Together with his side-kicks--TAMMY, his flirtatious operating machine, Ed, his non-existent but still pretty darn cute dog, and various incarnations of himself--he has to resolve his issues with his past and find his father, the tortured genius who lost himself in time. This book was really confusing--although, by the same token, groundbreaking. In a setting in which time travel is the basis for life, and parallel universes the norm, Yu makes time travel sound like a real, scientifically valid concept (and maybe it is!) through detailed, well thought out explanation. I loved the way he took common concepts and reappropriated them to sound like scientific terms (such as nostalgia: "weak but detectable interaction between two neighboring universes that are otherwise not causally connected. Manifests itself in humans as a feeling of missing a place one has never been"). And this sci-fi storyline was not without plot--I loved Charles, who was somewhat nerdy and sometimes uncertain, but I was always rooting for him. What a ride! This book made me struggle and gave my brain a stretch--I don't normally have to comprehend advanced physics in my daily reading, but I kind of liked it. Lesson of the day: look outside your comfort zone, and you might find some refreshing reads.