Scott Hanselman

Spring 2011 Fiction Reading List - Young Adult eBooks Will Save Science Fiction

April 5, '11 Comments [27] Posted in Musings
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image I haven't done a Reading List blog post in a few years now. I used to do them with some regularity but full off lately. Interestingly, I'm still reading about a book a week pretty consistently since I got the a Kindle . The Kindle is a direct one-way link between my wallet and Jeff Bezos' bank account. I've literally found myself reading the covers of books in airport bookstores then buying them on the Kindle. The battery life is insane (weeks) and since the last update, I can even use the 3G overseas.

Young Adult eBooks Will Save Science Fiction

I've been a big sci-fi reader my whole life, and recently I've felt I've been running out. I've read all the classics, re-read the classic classics, and enjoyed some of the recent releases. However, where I've really found innovation is in the "Young Adult Market." These books are mostly for the older teen set, and not just the ones that like vampires and werewolves. So much of Young Adult Fiction is Science Fiction, but while it's some of the most read fiction on the market today, it's not being formally recognized by the old guard, either critically or with awards.

Here's some of the books I've read in the last few months. Many are multi-part series. I recommend ALL these books. I've not included the ones that I've read that suck. That said, I pay attention to reviews and avoid the suck. I have had pretty good luck. I've read more great books and had more fun reading in the last year than I can remember in the last ten years.


Everlost (The Skinjacker Trilogy) Nick and Allie don’t survive the car accident, but their souls don’t exactly get where they’re supposed to go either. Instead, they’re caught halfway between life and death, in a sort of limbo known as Everlost: a shadow of the living world, filled with all the things and places that no longer exist. It’s a magical, yet dangerous place where bands of lost kids run wild and anyone who stands in the same place too long sinks to the center of the Earth. When they find Mary, the self-proclaimed queen of lost souls, Nick feels like he’s found a home, but Allie isn’t satisfied spending eternity between worlds. Against all warnings, Allie begins learning the “Criminal Art” of haunting, and ventures into dangerous territory, where a monster called the McGill threatens all the souls of Everlost. In this imaginative novel, Neal Shusterman explores questions of life, death, and what just might lie in between.
Everfound (The Skinjacker Trilogy) While Mary lies in a glass coffin aboard a ghost train heading west, her minions are awaiting her re-awakening by bringing lots of new souls into Everlost to serve her. Meanwhile Jackin’ Jill has met Jix, a fur-jacker—a skin jacker who can take over the bodies of animals, most notably jaguars. Jix serves a Mayan god who collects Everlost coins, and has his own agenda. In the concluding volume of The Skinjacker Trilogy, Neal Shusterman reveals new sides of the characters of Everlost, who are pitted against each other in a battle that may destroy all life on Earth.
The Maze Runner (Maze Runner Trilogy, Book 1) When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every 30 days a new boy has been delivered in the lift. Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers. Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.
The Scorch Trials (Maze Runner Trilogy, Book 2) Solving the Maze was supposed to be the end. No more puzzles. No more variables. And no more running. Thomas was sure that escape meant he and the Gladers would get their lives back. But no one really knew what sort of life they were going back to.In the Maze, life was easy. They had food, and shelter, and safety . . . until Teresa triggered the end. In the world outside the Maze, however, the end was triggered long ago.Burned by sun flares and baked by a new, brutal climate, the earth is a wasteland. Thomas can only wonder—does he hold the secret of freedom somewhere in his mind? Or will he forever be at the mercy of WICKED?
The Hunger Games In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlaying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one girl and one boy between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has also resolved to outwit the creators of the games. To do that she will have to be the last person standing at the end of the deadly ordeal, and that will take every ounce of strength and cunning she has.
Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, Book 2) Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won in defiance of the Capitol and its harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry -- and now it wants revenge. Full of plot twists, this riveting sequel to the New York Times bestseller is guaranteed to keep young readers on the edge of their seats!
Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games) Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she’s made it out of the bloody arena alive, she’s still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what’s worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss’s family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins’s groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year.
I Am Number Four Nine of us came here. We look like you. We talk like you. We live among you. But we are not you. We can do things you dream of doing. We have powers you dream of having. We are stronger and faster than anything you have ever seen. We are the superheroes you worship in movies and comic books—but we are real.Our plan was to grow, and train, and become strong, and become one, and fight them. But they found us and started hunting us first. Now all of us are running. Spending our lives in shadows, in places where no one would look, blending in. we have lived among you without you knowing. I am Number Four.

Other great books I've read or re-read lately that I highly recommend.

Fledgling The story of an apparently young, amnesiac girl whose alarmingly unhuman needs and abilities lead her to a startling conclusion: She is in fact a genetically modified, 53-year-old vampire. Forced to discover what she can about her stolen former life, she must at the same time learn who wanted-and still wants-to destroy her and those she cares for and how she can save herself. Recipient of a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant, the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, and numerous other literary awards, Octavia Butler has been acclaimed for her lean prose, strong protagonists, and social observations that range from the distant past to the far future.
Kindred Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana's life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.
Blind Lake Robert Charles Wilson, says The New York Times, "writes superior science fiction thrillers." His Darwinia won Canada's Aurora Award; his most recent novel, The Chronoliths, won the prestigious John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Now he tells a gripping tale of alien contact and human love in a mysterious but hopeful universe.At Blind Lake, a large federal research installation in northern Minnesota, scientists are using a technology they barely understand to watch everyday life in a city of lobster like aliens upon a distant planet. They can't contact the aliens in any way or understand their language. All they can do is watch.Then, without warning, a military cordon is imposed on the Blind Lake site.
Spin One night in October when he was ten years old, Tyler Dupree stood in his back yard and watched the stars go out. They all flared into brilliance at once, then disappeared, replaced by a flat, empty black barrier. He and his best friends, Jason and Diane Lawton, had seen what became known as the Big Blackout. It would shape their lives. The effect is worldwide. The sun is now a featureless disk--a heat source, rather than an astronomical object. The moon is gone, but tides remain. Not only have the world's artificial satellites fallen out of orbit, their recovered remains are pitted and aged, as though they'd been in space far longer than their known lifespans. As Tyler, Jason, and Diane grow up, a space probe reveals a bizarre truth: The barrier is artificial, generated by huge alien artifacts. Time is passing faster outside the barrier than inside--more than a hundred million years per year on Earth. At this rate, the death throes of the sun are only about forty years in our future. Jason, now a promising young scientist, devotes his life to working against this slow-moving apocalypse.
Agent to the Stars The space-faring Yherajk have come to Earth to meet us and to begin humanity’s first interstellar friendship. There’s just one problem: They’re hideously ugly and they smell like rotting fish.So getting humanity’s trust is a challenge. The Yherajk need someone who can help them close the deal.Enter Thomas Stein, who knows something about closing deals. He’s one of Hollywood’s hottest young agents. But although Stein may have just concluded the biggest deal of his career, it’s quite another thing to negotiate for an entire alien race. To earn his percentage this time, he’s going to need all the smarts, skills, and wits he can muster.
Camouflage Two aliens have wandered Earth for centuries. The Changeling has survived by adapting the forms of many different organisms. The Chameleon destroys anything or anyone that threatens it. Now, a sunken relic that holds the key to their origins calls to them to take them home--but the Chameleon has decided there's only room for one.
Marsbound A novel of the red planet from the Hugo and Nebula Award–winning author of The Accidental Time Machine and Old Twentieth.Young Carmen Dula and her family are about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime—they’re going to Mars. Once on the Red Planet, however, Carmen realizes things are not so different from Earth. There are chores to do, lessons to learn, and oppressive authority figures to rebel against. And when she ventures out into the bleak Mars landscape alone one night, a simple accident leads her to the edge of death until she is saved by an angel—an angel with too many arms and legs, a head that looks like a potato gone bad, and a message for the newly arrived human inhabitants of Mars: We were here first.
Starbound (A Marsbound Novel) A New from the Hugo, Nebula, and John W. Campbell Award-winning author of Marsbound. Carmen Dula and her husband have spent six years travelling to a distant solar system that is home to the enigmatic, powerful race known as "The Others," in the hopes of finding enough common purpose between their species to forge a delicate truce. By the time Carmen and her party return, fifty years have been consumed by relativity-and the Earthlings have not been idle, building a massive flotilla of warships to defend Earth against The Others. But The Others have more power than any could imagine-and they will brook no insolence from the upstart human race.
Replay Jeff Winston, forty-three, didn't know he was a replayer until he died and woke up twenty-five years younger in his college dorm room; he lived another life. And died again. And lived again and died again -- in a continuous twenty-five-year cycle -- each time starting from scratch at the age of eighteen to reclaim lost loves, remedy past mistakes, or make a fortune in the stock market. A novel of gripping adventure, romance, and fascinating speculation on the nature of time, Replay asks the question: "What if you could live your life over again?"
Room: A Novel  In many ways, Jack is a typical 5-year-old. He likes to read books, watch TV, and play games with his Ma. But Jack is different in a big way--he has lived his entire life in a single room, sharing the tiny space with only his mother and an unnerving nighttime visitor known as Old Nick. For Jack, Room is the only world he knows, but for Ma, it is a prison in which she has tried to craft a normal life for her son. When their insular world suddenly expands beyond the confines of their four walls, the consequences are piercing and extraordinary. A stunning and original novel of survival in captivity, readers who enter Room will leave staggered, as though, like Jack, they are seeing the world for the very first time.


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Tuesday, April 05, 2011 8:51:30 AM UTC
I usually like Sci Fi as in movies, but I think I will try Sci Fi with books.

Indeed Kindle is pretty amazing, but I was wondering man, how can you have time to read that much each week beside doing all that other catching up on development scene? Is your wife ok with all that much reading :) ? Not to mention the kids too...
Tuesday, April 05, 2011 9:09:47 AM UTC
Thanks for the tips, I really like science-fiction as well, and I've recently found the Commonwealth Saga (a new space opera) and the sequel Void Trilogy (which mixed new space opera and fantasy) quite refreshing for the Sci Fi genre.

So if you haven't read them (by Peter F. Hammilton) give them a go :)
Tuesday, April 05, 2011 10:59:20 AM UTC
I've read Spin and it's one of the best novels I've read in the past few years. Innovative concept and it's a novel that makes you think.

Highly recommended.
Tuesday, April 05, 2011 12:41:25 PM UTC
Thanks for the tips! Quite unexpected to find them here (I am not that longtime a reader to have seen such before), but highly appreciated.
Tim
Tuesday, April 05, 2011 2:16:38 PM UTC
Scott, if you think there isn't much innovative in modern sci-fi books, you aren't really looking. There's a lot of amazing stuff that has come out in the last few years and even more upcoming. Check out the reviews on a site like http://www.dragonpage.com/ and you'll find tons of great stuff out there.

Also, don't discount the short story for science fiction, either. Some pretty great stuff in that realm as well.
Tuesday, April 05, 2011 2:57:52 PM UTC
A great "Young Adult" novel that I really enjoyed (and I'm no young adult) was Cory Doctorow's "Little Brother".

From the description on Amazon:

Marcus, a.k.a “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works–and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems.

But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days.

When the DHS finally releases them, Marcus discovers that his city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: to take down the DHS himself.
Tuesday, April 05, 2011 4:36:27 PM UTC
I second Hasan's question ... where do you find the time? :-)

I appreciate the list. I've been reading using my iPhone and found I can read a lot more because I always have it with me. I've thought about a Kindle, but haven't made the plunge. Which Kindle do you have? Is it worth it even with a smart phone?
Tuesday, April 05, 2011 5:05:20 PM UTC
Charles - Thanks for the information!

Ryon and Hasan - I read most nights from 11pm to 2am. I love my Kindle and use it literally all the time. I have the one I pictured up there, the 3G Graphite Kindle.
Tuesday, April 05, 2011 5:31:31 PM UTC
I have issues with The Scorch Trials. The book was way to predictable and the ending was less than satisfactory. I felt like I'd finished the book and absolutely nothing had progressed from the end of the first one.
Tuesday, April 05, 2011 7:31:37 PM UTC
Most of Zoe’s friends are dead, but she doesn’t mind because they died long before she met them. Then one Tuesday night an angel takes her salsa dancing and turns her world upside down. Grim reality closes in when she discovers a body in her company’s boiler room and Higher Angels accuse her best ghost friend of murder. Knowing she’s the only one who can stand against them, Zoe resorts to lying, stealing and summoning. In the end, getting blood on her hands forces Zoe to question herself.

An excerpt from my better half’s newly published debut novel (4-Apr-2011), Ordinary Angels, is available for the Kindle. Yes it is a little bit of a promo, but I am sure you will agree that our better halves deserve recognition. So support your better halves and please buy the book.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011 10:49:57 PM UTC
Scott, you said :

since the last update, I can even use the 3G overseas.

can we use kindle from outside the USA now? as far as I know, it should be registered within the USA but not sure.
Wednesday, April 06, 2011 6:09:14 AM UTC
Scott - have you ever read any of the 'Disc World' novels by Terry Pratchett?
If not go get one - you'll love the humour if nothing else!
Wednesday, April 06, 2011 3:10:19 PM UTC
I pulled all the non Young-adult books down as samples to give them a spin.
Time to buy a few:
> Fledgling is top of that list.

Thanks for the reviews Scott.
Wednesday, April 06, 2011 6:49:07 PM UTC
If you're big into sci-fi and feel you're running out maybe you should look into the fantasy genre. Most sci-fi lovers like fantasy as well. The Wheel of Time series is quite possibly the quintessential fantasy series.
Davin Studer
Thursday, April 07, 2011 4:05:29 AM UTC
Thanks for sharing Scott. The Kindle is awesome! I'm reading a book about every two weeks.
Thursday, April 07, 2011 4:53:41 AM UTC
I too am an avid reader and big sci-fi fan. I've been working my way through these lists of the Top 100 and the Next 100 Sci-Fi Books. When I found it, I had read about half of them. Through the lists, I've found some absolute gems, such as Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, Philip K. Dick's UBIK, John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids, John Scalzi's Old Man's War series, Greg Bear's Darwin's Radio, Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, and Poul Anderson's Tau Zero. Not all the books are on Kindle, but those that I mentioned are. Happy reading.
Thursday, April 07, 2011 8:32:33 AM UTC
Yea, Kindle 3G is outside US, I have one and I love it.
Pity a lost of these titles listed are not on Kindle, but are audio books.

I bought The Hunger Games last night though, cheers for the recommendation, very good !
Thursday, April 07, 2011 6:42:24 PM UTC
Young Adult Sci Fi is quite good. Although I am honestly partial to some of the vampire/werewolf stories (no, not Twilight). They make for a good read and are quite captivating. The Hunger Games Series alone is amazing! Although I would like to recommend the Cassandra Clare 'Mortal Instruments" series as well. Truly good reading!
Thursday, April 07, 2011 11:12:26 PM UTC
Since you posted this list I've bought read Room (Kindle App on my Android), and Agent to the Stars (Audible) - both excellent recommendations. Thanks for posting this list Scott.

FWIW I've recently read and really enjoyed:

* The Name of The Wind, and its sequel, A Wise Man's Fear

* The Chronoliths (by the same author as Spin)

* Flowers for Algenon (oldie but goodie)

* Daemon and its sequel Freedom tm

* The Windup Girl
Friday, April 08, 2011 6:46:23 PM UTC
Wow. I consider myself a sci-fi and fantasy "freak" and I've not read a single one of these titles--which means it's a great list! Thanks!!
Saturday, April 09, 2011 6:10:23 AM UTC
hello Scott,
Tell us about your reading experience on digital readers. Does Kindle provides better reading experience over Apple iPad?
Wael
Saturday, April 09, 2011 8:02:22 AM UTC
Wael - I have both an iPad and a Kindle, but I can totally say that the Kindle for me, is better for reading. The iPad is backlit, for one, which can cause eyestrain. Books aren't backlight so I think it's uncomfortable to stare at another "lit screen" for relaxation. I look at backlit screens for work, not for pleasure. ;) The resolution on the Kindle is near 300dpi (near laser printer) but the iPad is only 160dpi or so. It's just not as comfortable to stare at.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011 2:29:48 PM UTC
Scott,

You're out of science fiction to read?

Have you read any books by Dan Simmons? Hyperion cantos or the Ilium/Olympos duology?

How about Ian McDonald? River of Gods is excellent.

Alastair Reynolds? Revelation Space is great.

Jack McDevitt? The Engines of God is a good start for him.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011 5:23:42 PM UTC
Harvey - Thanks for the list! I've read Reynolds and Simmons all, but I'll check out McDevitt and McDonald. Thanks!
Wednesday, April 13, 2011 2:58:28 AM UTC
Scott, you have good taste if you've read all of Simmons.

McDevitt is good, but I wouldn't put him at Simmons level. His stuff reminds me of early Heinlein.

The other author I was going to recommend, but that I couldn't recall earlier this morning, is John C. Wright, his series starting with The Golden Age is very good. Some very interesting ideas with good execution.
Friday, April 15, 2011 9:28:10 AM UTC
Scott,

I still find William Gibson to be one of the greatest SciFi Writers with books like neuromancer or count zero!

With kind regards,
Steve
Sunday, August 21, 2011 1:26:26 PM UTC
thank you for the recommendations. so far the best book i've read this year is, the actuator by jeff spinazzola, attheseries.com. its utterly brilliant and a fun read. i haven't heard too much about it from other reviewers, i think it might be because its a new author but its definitely unique and will be talked about when more people read it. once again thank you for the recommendations. and best regards!
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.