Keener Book Club: July 2015

Keener Book Club

The field of Speculative Fiction (which encompasses both Sci-Fi and Fantasy) is like a long-running conversation between writers and readers all around the world. But in this busy, fast-moving world, it’s easy for some of the best pieces of this vast conversation to be missed, including contemporary stories that may not have achieved the recognition they deserve or older stories that may have fallen out of the public consciousness.

Thus, the Keener Book Club, where each month I’ll highlight one contemporary novel, one classic novel (generally more than twenty years old) and one piece of short fiction from any time period.

2015: July  August  September

Book: Ready Player One — by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One by Ernest ClinePublished: 2012
To Purchase: Amazon

It’s the year 2044 and Wade Watts, an overweight teenager who lives in a run-down trailer park, spends almost all of his time immersed in OASIS, a vast online virtual environment used by almost everybody in the world. For Wade, it certainly beats facing up to the poverty and squalor that that he faces whenever he’s unplugged.

Wade, like millions of other people around the world, is obsessed with deciphering the clues left behind by James Halliday, the richest man in the world and the inventor of OASIS. His will stipulated that whoever solves his puzzles and gains three vital keys will inherit his vast fortune. The catch: Halliday was obsessed with 1980’s pop culture.

When Wade stumbles upon the first clue found since Halliday’s death, a dangerous and thrilling chase begins, where suvival depends on courage…and an intimate knowledge of the 1980’s.

Classic: The Pride of Chanur — by C. J. Cherryh

The Pride of Chanur by C. J. CherryhPublished: 1982
To Purchase: Amazon (single volume), Amazon (omnibus with two other books)

In the Compact, six different species (none of them human) with six vastly different mindsets interact within a very loose confederation. The Hani are a felinoid species who are new to the Compact, and not entirely comfortable with being a spacefaring species. Beset by challenges in space and threatened by politics and societal disapproval at home, Pynafar Chanur, the Hani captain of the trading ship, the Pride of Chanur, is simply trying to accomplish a successful trading run.

But things get complicated when Pyanfar’s crew rescues a naked alien on the rough docks of Meetpoint Station…a seventh alien species that’s never been seen before. A representative of a species that calls itself…human. Power is shifting within the Compact and the Pride of Chanur has just entered the maelstrom.

This was a 1983 Hugo Award nominee; it lost out to the entirely overrated Foundation’s Edge by Isaac Asimov. It’s a stand-alone novel, but also the start of an excellent five book series.

Short Fiction: “The Star” — by Arthur C. Clarke

Published: 1956

This is one of the most famous science fiction stories of all time. It’s about an exploratory mission to a distant star…and the revelation that shocked the crew to the core.

It won the Hugo Award for Short Story in 1956 and is available in various collections of Arthur C. Clarke’s stories. Despite its age, it’s as relevant now as when it was first written.

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