We Recommend

Science Fiction

Altered Carbon - Richard K. Morgan

Cover of Altered Carbon, by Richard K. Morgan

Set centuries in the future, Altered Carbon features Takeshi Kovacs, formerly an Envoy, a highly specialized special forces soldier. Mankind has been significantly changed by new technology, called a stack, that is implanted at birth, and keeps an up-to-date copy of the bearer's personality and memories. The ability to switch your stack to a new body, or transfer the information to a new stack, renders people functionally immortal...until their stack is destroyed, resulting in Real Death (RD).

Takeshi has 'died' before, but his most recent demise was especially violent. He is woken up on Earth, far from the world he last inhabited, to do the bidding of an incredibly wealthy and ancient man, Laurens Bancroft. Laurens recently experienced Real Death, and only escaped by uploading a previously stored copy of his stack; as a result, he has no memory of the two days leading up to his RD. The police have ruled his RD a suicide, but Bancroft does not accept that, convinced he was murdered. Kovacs is tasked with uncovering the truth of the matter, and is plunged into a dark and twisted conspiracy. In a world where death has been virtually abolished, life has almost no value, and mankind has engineered even worse fates. Takeshi will need every bit of his training, his will, and whatever allies he can find, to solve the mystery and escape with his life and sanity intact.

Altered Carbon has also been adapted for the screen, and aired on Netflix as a a series of 10 episodes earlier this year.

Recommended by - Don Priest, Library Director

Horror

Meddling Kids - Edgar Cantero

Cover of 'Meddling Kids' by Edgar Cantero

Zoinks! It's 1977 and the Blyton Summer Detective Club just cracked their greatest case. Another man in a mask taken down by the teen detectives and their excitable canine. Their final case together all wrapped up in a neat little bow and posted on the front page of the small mining town's newspaper. At least, that's what they tell themselves...

Thirteen years later and Andy, the rough tomboy of the group, is determined to get the gang back together and face the source of the nightmares no one seems to want to address. Starting off with Kerri, the pretty genius and budding biologist now an alcoholic college-dropout making ends meet as a waitress at a dive bar in New York. Together, along with the equally eager descendant of their original dog companion, they seek out Nate, their resident horror junkie, across the country in Massachusetts. Nate still keeps in close contact with Peter, their handsome jock and fearless leader turned movie star, seeing him fairly regularly despite Nate’s on-again/off-again residency at the mental institution and Peter being dead for years now.

Edgar Cantero brings us the Scooby Gang with Eldritchian PTSD and less-than-subtle homoromantic undertones story we never knew we needed but absolutely did. Meddling Kids is a slow read with some minor pacing issues and confusing POV moments but it’s worth the time if you’re willing to set it aside for a book that’ll make you laugh, cry, and turn on the lights next time before you walk down the hallway at night.

Recommended by - Ren, Staff member

Graphic Novel

Princess Jellyfish, vol. 1 - by Akiko Higashimura

Cover for 'Princess Jellyfish, vol. 1' by Akiko Higashimura

Amamizukan , an apartment building dubbed “The Nunnery” due to its strict women-only policy, is home to six females that could best be described as socially awkward NEETs. Each has their pet obsession, ranging from trains to traditional kimono, and are perfectly content with being social outcasts.

Tsukimi’s fixation happens to be jellyfish, and she never misses an opportunity to visit the aquarium in the big city. However, it’s a challenge to make it there with her crippling social anxiety, especially when it comes to boys, attractive people, and the dangerous combination of attractive boys. Instead, she religiously visits a pet shop to see one of their spotted jellyfish she’s affectionately named Clara.

When Clara’s health is threatened by an incompatible addition to her tank, Tsukimi is helped by a gorgeous, fashionable lady to save the jellyfish and get it into Tsukimi’s possession, all the while sending her into fits of panic. The lady is adamant about seeing Clara get settled in, so she follows a frazzled Tsukimi back to Amamizukan and is promptly revealed to actually be a man by the name of Kuranoske. Tsukimi tries to end all ties with him, but he never seems to get the hint. Worse, Amamizukan is soon to be demolished for redevelopment, casting the tenants into a mad scramble to raise enough money to buy it themselves. All the while Kuranosuke insists on helping and Tsukimi is hard pressed to keep his gender a secret.

What’s a girl to do? Why, start a fashion brand of course!

Recommended by - Barbara Keresztury, Adult Librarian

YA Fiction

Little Brother - Cory Doctorow

Cover for 'Little Brother' by Cory Doctorow

In this archetypal dystopian-near-future novel, Corey Doctorow weaves a variety of familiar, real world elements into an engaging and entertaining thriller. Marcus Yallow and his friends are wrongfully detained by the DHS after a terrorist bombing in their home town of San-Francisco. They, along with several other bystanders, are considered suspects by DHS agents with little regard for civil rights. While he is shaken by three days of confinement and interrogation, Marcus emerges determined to resist the forces that seek to dissolve our fundamental rights, which he collectively names Big Brother after Orwell’s icon of a tyrannical state.

Marcus and his friends engage in a variety of civil disobedience and civil rights activism projects mostly focused on thwarting the DHS’s measures to track all of their movements and communications culminating in a press release, the publication of which results in Marcus being detained a second time, this time subjected to so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” such as waterboarding. His fear and humiliation are vividly detailed in scenes (presumably intentionally) that mirror those suffered by the protagonist of Orwell’s 1984. While Marcus is ultimately rescued from a similar fate by a plausible Deus ex Machina, the scars and trauma remain very real, and unfortunately relevant during an administration that advocates torture.

An entertaining thriller and a thoughtful polemic on Internet-era civil rights, “Little Brother” is also a practical handbook of digital self-defense. Marcus’s guided tour through RFID cloners, cryptography and Bayesian math is one of the book’s principal delights. He spreads his message through a secure network engineered out of Xbox gaming consoles, to a tech-savvy youth underground. The author, Cory Doctorow, is intimately familiar with the technology involved and it shows.

Doctorow’s characters tend to speak on behalf of the ideas they represent, as when the teenage protagonist stagily debates his Homeland Security interrogator: “I thought I lived in a country where I had rights. You’re talking about defending my freedom by tearing up the Bill of Rights.” This can often come across as speechifying, and leads to some awkward shifts in tone, but overall the characters are true to life and the writing is mostly enjoyable. Best of all, each page delivers an authentic sense of the personal and ethical needs for better and more informed relationships with our technology. Technology can work for you and protect you if you know how to use it, otherwise it can and will wind up helping someone else spy on you. As the real world “Big Brother” pushes more and more for the latter, it’s up to us, “We, the People” or, as Marcus names us, “Little Brother” to resist it.

Recommended by - Mike DiMuzio, Youth Librarian

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