Zero Repeat Forever, by G.S. Prendergast (2017)

Science Fiction
Zero Repeat Forever, by G.S. PrendergastCalgary teens Raven, her boyfriend Tucker, and Tucker’s twin Topher are all sent to do community service as camp counsellors in the Alberta foothills of the Canadian Rockies. While they are in training, aliens called Nahx invade Earth, and the teen campers are left to fend for themselves. Their only hope is to hunker down, “sheltering in place” and wait for a rescue, but weeks pass and no one comes. When a Nahx kills Tucker while he is on a hunt for food, Raven and Topher swear revenge. But are all the Nahx killers? Eighth is a Nahx who struggles against the directives to “Dart the humans. Leave them where they fall.” When Eighth uncovers Raven’s hiding place, he chooses to not dart her, but instead protects her from the other Nahx. Read more of this post


The Massacre of Mankind, by Stephen Baxter (2017)

Science Fiction
Massacre of Mankind by Stephen BaxterWhat if the Martians came back? That is the premise of this sci-fi novel by Stephen Baxter, billed as an ‘authorised’ sequel to H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. The story opens 13 years after the end of Wells’ classic tale. I do recommend reading the original story prior to starting this one, if you haven’t done so recently. It really helps with understanding the relationships between people in this book, as Baxter’s story revives the same characters. While the narrator in War of the Worlds was never named, he appears here as Walter Jenkins, and it is his former sister-in-law, Julie Elphinstone, a journalist who was one of the two women Walter’s brother “rescued” in his 1907 escape from the Martians, who serves as the narrator in this one. Read more of this post

War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells (1898, 1979)

Science Fiction
War of the Worlds, by H.G. WellsThis is the first of two reviews being published today; the second is a sequel to this classic H.G. Wells story. In preparation for reading the newly published Massacre of Mankind, authorised by the H.G. Wells estate, I decided to read this sci-fi classic. I read lots of sci-fi as a teen but I don’t think this one made my list; at least, I don’t remember it, despite having seen a couple of movie versions and of course listened to the equally classic radio play. So I checked my own bookshelves and found a copy of the novel within an anthology of Wells’ work. It included an undated preface by the author himself, who died in 1946. In the preface, Wells describes his classic story as an “assault on human self-satisfaction,” a criticism of the Western world view. Read more of this post

All Our Wrong Todays, by Elan Mastai (2017)

Science Fiction
All Our Wrong Todays, by Elan MastaiWhat a lot of fun this first novel turned out to be! Tom Barren lives in Toronto in a version of 2016 that is the future as it was envisioned in the 1950s – flying cars that rely on clean and unlimited energy, food replicators, disposable clothes that fit perfectly and are recycled into new ones, robots and peace. Oh, this world isn’t without its troubles, of course. His dad is a jerk, and his beloved mother was killed by a runaway hover car. (The robot that entered the programming error was dismantled.) Tom struggles with relationships and despite being 32 and the son of one of the smartest physicists around, who happens to invent a time travel device, he has not yet found his vocation. Read more of this post

Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch (2016)

Science Fiction
Dark Matter, by Blake CrouchThis will be a short review because too much information will spoil the story, and it’s a terrific one. First of all, let’s start with Schrodinger’s Cat – the philosophical puzzle that attempts to explain the idea of quantum superpositions – the cat in the box is BOTH dead and alive until the observer opens the box. One reality results and the other collapses. (That’s the best I can do. I’m a BA in History.) Or, think of a tree. From a single trunk grow branches, spawning more branches and on every branch are twigs and on each twig are leaves. Each leaf is the result of branching off the original trunk. Still with me? So in this story, Jason Dessen is a physics professor at a Chicago-area college who set aside his dreams of a Nobel Prize in Physics to marry Daniela and become a father to Charlie. Read more of this post

Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel (2014)

Dystopian Fiction
Station ElevenAn aging actor has a heart attack on a Toronto stage, performing King Lear. A child actor watches a paramedic leap onto the stage to try to save his life. Within days, nearly every person in the theatre is dead of a virulent flu that spreads rapidly and with deadly consequences. Cellphone and landlines are jammed as loved ones desperately try to reach each other; when a call goes through, no one answers. Traffic clogs the freeways as the healthy seek to escape the cities, but there is nowhere to go. Television station signals fade to nothing, but not until after the camera points at an empty newsdesk. The electricity fails, water stops flowing from taps. The few survivors begin a new count: Year One. Read more of this post

Alive (The Generations Trilogy #1), by Scott Sigler (2015)

Science Fiction
Ages 14-18
AliveA teen girl is awakened by a stabbing pain in her shoulder. It’s too dark to see anything, but she quickly realizes her hands and legs are restrained, and she’s in a small box. A rectangular one. Like a coffin. With great effort she breaks free of the weakened bands and forces her way out, only to discover there are several more coffins in the dusty room. Each has a nameplate – hers says M. Savage. Within minutes five others are standing beside her. They soon discover they’ve a great deal in common – they can’t remember their names or who put them in the coffins. They are all dressed in private school gear, but it’s too small – they are now fully formed adults though each is convinced today is his or her 12th birthday. Read more of this post

Truth Insurrected: The Saint Mary Project, by Daniel Douglas (2014)

Science Fiction
Truth InsurrectedHere’s a complicated, well-plotted (though occasionally overwrought) science fiction tale that will satisfy government conspiracy theorists and UFO fanatics alike. William Harrison is a former FBI agent now working as a private eye after being shot on duty, leaving him with a limp that makes it tough to chase baddies. The smoking doesn’t help much either. A series of mysterious postcards, signed only from Echo Tango, draws him into a multi-layered mystery a la X Files, involving the 1947 Roswell incident and a subsequent government coverup that led to the “accidental” deaths of five people who knew just a bit too much. A series of more recent deaths reveal the covert operation is ongoing, nearly 50 years later, Read more of this post

Stranger, by Rachel Manija Brown & Sherwood Smith (2014)

Ages 13-18
The StrangerPicture the wild west, in which a teenage boy is on the run from a bounty hunter after the valuable package he carries on his back. He escapes capture, but is mortally wounded. Luck intervenes in the form of a patrolling sheriff who lifts him effortlessly onto her back and races back to the walled town. On foot, dodging the carnivorous roses and deadly crystal shards along the way. In town, a doctor saves the teen’s life by warping time. Oh yeah, and it gets even better. This first in a series (The Change) can only be described as a genre-bending futuristic fantasy dystopia with a utopian twist. It offers the mindblowing and cool factor of Cowboys Vs Aliens but with much richer results. Read more of this post

Mr. Wuffles! by David Wiesner (2013)

Genre: Fantasy
Interest Level: 3-8
Mr. WufflesMr. Wuffles is hard to please – he disdains cat toy after cat toy offered by his ever-hopeful owners, until a little metal object that looks like a tea strainer catches his attention. He bats it about until he finally loses interest, settling in to nap next to his newfound toy. Except it’s not a toy – it’s a tiny spaceship filled with miniature aliens. As Mr. Wuffles snoozes, the aliens brush themselves off, bruised but relatively unhurt. Not so for the spaceship – an important device is damaged, and the aliens must brave forth in search of repair materials. Read more of this post

Grasshopper Jungle, by Andrew Smith (2014)

Genre: Science Fiction
Appeal: 14-21
Grasshopper JungleRemember how impressed I was by the reliable science behind The Martian? Yeah, that doesn’t happen here. This can only be described as a darkly – nay, blackly – comic end-of-the-world coming-of-age twisted tale about sexual identity. Sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba is in love with both his best friend Robby and his girlfriend Shann. Still a virgin, he is “so confused” about his sexuality and what makes him horny, because pretty much everything does – a touch from Shann, a kiss from Robby, the thought of a threesome, Robby’s mother, the floor of a laundromat … at the same time, the end of the world as we know it has arrived in Eeling, Iowa, in the form of giant bugs. Read more of this post

The Here and Now, by Ann Brashares (2014)

Genre: Science Fiction
Interest Level: 13-21
The Here and NowPrenna and her mother Molly are among a small community of time travellers who take cover in New York City in 2014, escaping a plague-ridden dystopian existence at the end of the 21st century. The community’s leaders control them carefully, limiting their contact with outsiders, banning talk of their past or where they came from, and using surveillance to make sure no one defies the rules. A senior in high school, Prenna chafes against the restrictions, even as she mourns the loss of two younger brothers to the plague, and misses the father who did not come with her and Molly. Despite the warnings not to befriend “time natives,” Prenna finds herself attracted to her classmate Ethan, who knows more about her story than she realizes. Read more of this post

The Martian, by Andy Weir (2011, 2014)

Genre: Science Fiction
Interest Level: Adult
The MartianIf you pick up only one sci-fi this year, let it be this one. Absolutely gripping and laugh-out-loud funny at the same time, it’s Cast Away meets MacGyver, but in space. Mark Watney is part of a team of astronauts on Mars. On Sol 6, a fierce windstorm sends the crew scrambling back to the ascent vehicle, but not before a communications rod breaks away and pierces Mark’s spacesuit. The suit is breached and bloodied; the biomonitor indicates no sign of life. The dust and wind make it impossible for his mates to find him. The crew captain makes the right call and orders the launch to safety. When Watney regains consciousness he is alone on the Red Planet, and promptly drops the f-bomb. Read more of this post

Don’t Even Think About It, by Sarah Mlynowski (2014)

Genre: Science Fiction
Interest Level: 14-17
Don't Even Think About ItHomeroom 10B in Trebeca, NY, is sent to the nurse’s office for a run-of-the-mill flu vaccine. Soon afterward, 22 teens find they have suddenly developed telepathic powers. We get to know a half dozen of them well as we experience with them the highs and lows of hearing the thoughts of everyone around them. Teachers are mulling odd dinner choices, nurses are thinking about their stripping career, Dad is hungering for his lover, and Mum thinks you are fat. Among your friends, one thinks you are bitchy and another wishes you hadn’t worn that. On the upside, sitting next to the smartest kid in class gives you an edge on tests, and suddenly the Grade 10 volleyball team is awesome, able to stop every opponent’s move. Read more of this post

The Mark of the Dragonfly, by Jaleigh Johnson (2014)

Genre: Speculative Fiction
Interest Level: 10-15
The Mark of the DragonflyA delightful foray into a strange, steampunk-y world! Piper lives in the Merrow Kingdom. She is 13 years old and on her own after her father died while working in the brutal factories of Dragonfly Kingdom. She earns a living as a machinist, repairing items that people bring to her as her reputation for a healing hand with machinery grows. Home is a scrapper town, where people scavenge the objects that mysteriously appear after the deadly meteor storms that happen regularly. It’s after one of these storms that Piper discovers Anna, alone and unconscious after a meteor hit her caravan. Anna wakes up with no memory of who she is or where she came from, but soon an ominous stranger arrives, threatening the girls’ safety. Read more of this post