I’m a far-ranging reader, happily reading a picture book one minute and a book for adults the next. Professionally, being a 4th grade teacher and reviewer, not a librarian, I tend to read only YA that really intrigues me for one reason or another and I have to shamefully admit that until now what I’d heard about Marcus Sedgwick’s books — that they were dark and creepy — did not make me want to read them. But recently, I saw something interesting about his latest, Midwinterblood, just as a copy showed up in the mail and so I took it home to read.
The book has an unconventional structure that someone told me is like Cloud Atlas, but while it does have a sort of similar time sense, I’d say it is otherwise completely different. Beginning in 2073 on the island of Blessed, it moves back in time, with an epilogue connecting back to the book’s start. There are seven stories in total, all set on the island, heading back and back and back through time. And by way of these distinctive narratives we are startled to encounter characters we have already met in the earlier stories, characters who care, hate, most of all, two who love throughout eternity. Separately these are ghost stories, love stories, and even something that might be termed dystopic. Playing on tropes of folklore, horror, myth, historical fiction, fantasy, and science fiction, Sedgwick imaginatively weaves something highly original and completely compelling. While Midwinterblood is its own distinct thing, mulling it over now, I think of Laini Taylor’s Lips Touch Three Times and the stories of Margo Lanagan.
Most of all, it is gorgeous. Highly recommended.
Just came across this photo from the Ender’s Game movie with Hailee Steinfeld as Petra (loved her in True Grit) and Asa Butterfield (loved him in Hugo) as Ender. So far so good, but you never know with movie adaptations, do you?
Someone on facebook asked for middle grade sci-fi titles and so I went through my goodreads list and came up with the following. These are only those I’ve read and enjoyed. (ETA And that I’ve seen kids read and enjoy in the last couple of years.) There are certainly many other titles out there and I do hope you will add your favorites in the comments. I stayed with titles that seem to me to be clearly science fiction as opposed to books that mix sci-fi with fantasy (e.g. Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series) or have just a smidgin of it. I also decided not to include YA books that my 4th graders read such as Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games and Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game.
Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.
Adam Rex’s The True Meaning of Smekday.
Diana Wynne Jones’ Hexwood.
Trenton Lee Stewart’s The Mysterious Benedict Society.
Richard Reeve’s Larklight series.
Rebecca Stead’s First Light.
Lissa Evan’s Horton’s Miraculous Mechanisms (and its sequel).
Eleanor Davis’ The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook.
John Hulme and Michael Wexler’s The Seems series.
Terry Pratchett’s Bromeliad Trilogy.
Jill Paton Walsh’s The Green Book.
A dystopian novel from the author of the delightful Thursday Next and Nursery Crimes books, Shades of Grey will be out here in the US in a few weeks. I enjoyed it tremendously, partly because Fforde’s brave new world is as witty and fully realized as his other alternative worlds, partly because I found his new hero very endearing, and partly because the plot became more and more intriguing as I read on.
Jasper Fforde loves words, loves silly bits, loves envisioning other worlds filled with literary bric-a-brac*, and clearly loves to tell his readers, in ample detail, about these other worlds. I suspect you have to be the sort of reader that adores this to truly enjoy this book. That is, the plot for this one is a bit slow to kick in and for a while you just need to go with the flow, soaking up the many details of this strange future.
It consists of a world hobbled by a Colortocracy ruling a class structure built on the color spectrum. And as is always the case with Fforde the results are incredibly clever. Something That Happened way back, it seems, we don’t know what, has caused a progressive intentional dumbing-down of society. Why they keep Leaping Back, getting rid of technology of one sort or another, we aren’t yet sure. We do know it is a society of irrational rules (they reminded me of the ones developed by Terry Pratchet for his Bromeliad Trilogy) which some do question, but more do not.
I eagerly await the next two in the series (Painting by Numbers and The Gordini Protocols) in which I hope we learn more about Something That Happened, whether a Red and a Yellow can meld despite societal taboos, and if sporks are the answer.
*At one point (and I can’t find the page anymore, sorry) there is a reference to one of the many, many rules those in this society live under — that there can be no “fainting in coils.” Someone (our, hero, I believe) asks what that means, but no one (of course) knows. But I do! Straight from the Mock Turtle’s Story in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.