Diversity in S/F – Second Titles

bintiTitle: Binti

Author: Nnedi Okorafor
Main Appeal Factors: Optimistic tone, Strong teen female character, African culture
Graphic Novels
This is a novella (won 2016 Hugo and Nebula awards.) It is primarily a young adult book, coming of age, of a young super-intelligent African girl who leaves her tribal community to go to university on another planet. She turns out to be the one who can communicate with a violent species and find a way to bridge the gulf between them and the “white” people of post-apocalyptic Earth. The pace is neither fast nor slow, but then it isn’t a long story. Binti is a very sympathetic character which helps, since she is the narrator and we only see the worlds from her point of view. A 2nd book is coming out soon.

devils_wakeTitle: Devil’s Wake
Author: Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due
Main Appeal Factors: Suspenseful tone, steady pacing, post-apocalyptic frame
Science Fiction
Kendra Brookings is an African American teenager who is celebrating her sixteenth birthday by going with her parents to get a flu shot. She is not thrilled about getting the shot because she has heard that because there have been reports that some people have gone “crazy” after getting the flu shot. Kendra’s misgivings prove to be spot on. Her family is killed by freaks. Freaks are the people that go crazy after the shot. So Kendra tries to escape the freaks. She meets some other teens who are trying to avoid the freaks. They decide to try to get to an island called Devil’s Wake. Kendra has dreams and seems to have some power to know what will happen. The pacing is steady as incidents arise as Kendra and her companions travel in a blue bus in the North Pacific of the country to get to safety. The characters are likable. Tone is suspenseful.

Title: How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universehow-to-live-safely
Author: Charles Yu
Main Appeal Factors:
frame (near future, book within a book), wordplay, time travel, irony
Genre: Science Fiction
Annotation/Thoughts: The metafictional frame of this science fictional book by Charles Yu about the science-fictional universe lived in by a directionless slacker named Charles Yu would appeal to readers of humorous/literary science fiction such as Ringworldby Larry Niven, although the pacing is slower and the action is very localized on the main character, whose job repairing recreational time travel machines in the homes of customers of corporations such as Time Warner Time gives him too much time to think, especially about his fractured relationship with his tinkerer father who disappeared in a time machine when Charles was just a teenager. Many references to the paradoxes of time travel and other tropes from science fiction and sci-fi movies give this book some of the same geeky appeal as Ready Player One by Ernest Kline, but the protagonist is older here and more cerebral.


Title: The Life and Death of Sophie Stark
Author: Anna North
Main Appeal Factors: character centered, thought-provoking, psychological
Literary Fiction
I missed the SF part of this assignment as this book is not SF but it does includes diverse characters in terms of a LGBTQ relationship. This book is a winner of the 2016 Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Fiction. We learn about Sophie Stark, the main character, through the viewpoints of her lover, her brother, a boy she had a crush on in high school, her producer, and her husband. Sophie becomes a creator of films when she is in high school. She meets her lover Allison when she makes her second movie and has Allison star in the movie. Their relationship seems to be one of the main themes of the book or more exactly, both Sophie and Allison have an extreme attraction to each other which is rekindled years later when Sophie makes another movie with Allison as the main character. We learn that Sophie is a bit eccentric, aloof and manipulative and she tends to draw certain people into her orbit. I found the book to be a difficult read and did not come away with a positive feeling as it seemed very dark. The pacing was fairly steady, the multiple points of view of the different characters who describe their relationships with Sophie gives us a fairly good idea of Sophie’s character and the arc of her life.

Title: Woman on the Edge of Timewoman-on-the-edge-of-time
Author: Marge Piercy
Main Appeal Factors:
character driven, issue oriented, leisurely paced, dramatic atmosphere
Genre: Science Fiction
Annotation/Thoughts: Woman on the Edge of Time is a time travel story set in New York City and Mattapoisett, Massachusetts about 100 years in the future. The main character Hispanic Connie Ramos has been committed to a mental hospital in New York City for assault and child abuse which may or may not be her fault. She spends her time plotting escape and reunion with her family with help from fellow patients. While there she is subjected to neurological tests and brain surgery. Connie may or may not be hallucinating a bi-sexual, multi-racial transgender person named Luciente who is from the future. He/she takes her to visit for short periods of time to visit an holistic, artistic, agrarian and low tech community in Mattapoisett, Mass. She is welcomed and embraced by a society consisting of three parent families raising test tube children with no strict gender or racial roles. All of these issues are integrated in a believable manner if you like utopian fiction. This story has plenty of diversity and something for everyone, especially Massachusetts residents. I read the copy from the Mattapoisett Library.