Friday, July 31, 2009

Jim Butcher: Epic Fantasy and Urban Fantasy

I’ve written previously about Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series which combines elements of both mystery and fantasy. Dresden, a crime fighting wizard, battles all kinds of monsters in present day Chicago.

Now I’m reading Butcher’s other series: Codex Alera. An epic fantasy, Codex Alera combines compelling characters in a world of political struggles and military battles with dangerous creatures. The tale centers around a young man named Tavi, who is the only Aleran unable to perform magic.

The characters and setting create very different tones -- Harry’s scrappy style and deadpan humor proliferate Dresden files, while the dialogue of Codex Alera’s reflects the formal kingdom guided by crisp military protocol. Husband and wife refer to each other by title, and the worst curse word is “Bloody crows.”

Fantasy books like the Dresden files and Codex Alera are often shelved in one section with science fiction, and until recently, I had only a vague idea of the difference between fantasy and science fiction. Even experts find it difficult to precisely define these genres (see: Genreflecting: a guide to popular reading interests by Diana Tixer Herald). As my college professor liked to say when a question was too complex to be answered during the course of one class, “That’s a question for a doctoral thesis.” So much could be said for the definitions of science fiction and fantasy. In the most simplistic sense, fantasy includes some sort of magic and science fiction does not.

Both genres contain fantastical elements and in many cases tell the story of a hero. Science fiction and fantasy differ greatly in terms of setting and characters, but ultimately, genres are more similar than dissimilar. Science fiction, epic fantasy, urban fantasy; they’re all genre fiction, which ultimately is:

“a tale of heroism in which the characters surmount obstacles to triumph. The scale of heroism can be as large as a galaxy or as small and intimate as a pair of struggling lovers, but in genre fiction a character or characters are faced with an obstacle that is overcome through some strength of character, intelligence of physical attribute.” (Herald, Genreflecting, 6th ed. p. 32.)

Whether a crime fighting wizard, or a farm boy with no magical abilities at all, each of the heroes of fantasy tales give readers something to cheer about.

Got a favorite fantasy title to recommend? Let us know!

Friday, July 17, 2009

When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

David Sedaris is a genuine win for anyone who likes semi-autobiographical comedies. David writes darkly humorous yet touching stories about his family, friends, and people he has met throughout his life. Anytime I finish a story I can always laugh and think about someone I have met that does the exact same thing. "When You Are Engulfed in Flames" is his newest short story collection, but I would recommend any of his titles.

Feed by M.T. Anderson

I just re-read "Feed" by M.T. Anderson for our upcoming Teen book club meeting. This is one book where I still get shivers everytime I read it. It is a sci-fi adventure set in future times where everyone is hooked up to a "feed" in their heads that not only controls all their body functions but also allow you to chat to people and search the internet. Things you do on the internet are recorded and you become innondated with advertisements and internet videos. Sound familiar? Facebook anyone? Since anyone can look up answers immediately, in School(tm) you learn how to be a better shopper and how to decorate your room. VERY SCARY! One boy learns a vital lesson when he meets a girl named Violet who thinks very differently about the world for her age.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Graphic Novels

Graphic Novels are VERY popular with young teens.And many adults. I decided to try them too since we just purchased a collection for adults. I have finished reading the second title in the Fables series by Bill Willingham (and many others!) Jess recommended them. What would it be like if storybook characters lived in our world? Snow White, the Big Bad Wolf, the Three Pigs? All living with normal humans. They have their own laws so they may live among humans undetected. They have issues and enemies who have taken over their world.The illustrations are beautiful. The story line is not for kids, that's for sure. If you ever liked comic books, you might want to try them again. I have revisited Wonder Woman and the X-Men. I plan on reading Buffy the Vampire Slayer because the novels continue the TV series I loved. Never enough time....I also just finished the C.C. Finlay fantasy series. That was fun!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Gone by Michael Grant

I was delighted to add Gone to the YA collection at the Pembroke Public Library. Gone is a science fiction story about what happens to a town when all the people over the age of 15 disappear. Think you had a bad day? If I could recommend a book that's like Stephen King for teens, this one would be it. What would you do if you were 15 and suddenly had no adults to tell you what to do? Let your imagination run wild on this one! To top it all off, the kids are experiencing strange and unexplained powers that they are having a hard time controlling (think Smallville). This book is very current to teens with mentions of Harry Potter, Wii, and Weezer. I enjoyed most of the characters, with the exception of Quinn who kept saying "brah" instead of brother, perhaps that is a west coast thing? If you like this book, it's sequel "Hunger" just came out recently. Check out this book today and be glad there are no nuclear power plants in Pembroke!