middle grade fiction
2007, 336 pages
2007, 272 pages
I have to say that I don’t normally gravitate towards science fiction. It was doubly unusual that I would be reading two sci-fi books at once. Both Rash by Pete Hautman and First Light by Rebecca Stead kept me turning those pages. I didn’t know enough about either book ahead of time to know it was going to be science fiction, which, in my case was good because it might have steered me clear of two good reads.
First Light by Rebecca Stead is the author’s first book, published before her Newbery win this year for When You Reach Me. I picked it up at NCTE when I was getting her autograph. I thought the cover was appealing and I liked that the chapters went back and forth between a boy main character and a girl main character. Set in the Arctic Circle, First Light is a compelling science fiction/mystery that started off in a way that I was fooled into thinking it was realistic fiction.
Here’s good old Wikipedia’s definition of Science Fiction:
Science fiction is a genre of fiction. It differs from fantasy in that, within the context of the story, its imaginary elements are largely possible withinscientifically established or scientifically postulated laws of nature (though some elements in a story might still be pure imaginative speculation). Exploring the consequences of such differences is the traditional purpose of science fiction, making it a “literature of ideas”. Science fiction is largely based on writing rationally about alternative possibilities. The settings for science fiction are often contrary to known reality.
These may include:
- A setting in the future, in alternative timelines, or in a historical past that contradicts known facts of history or the archaeological record
- A setting in outer space, on other worlds, or involving aliens
- Stories that involve technology or scientific principles that contradict known laws of nature
- Stories that involve discovery or application of new scientific principles, such as time travel or psionics, or new technology, such as nanotechnology, faster-than-light travel or robots, or of new and different political or social systems (e.g., a dystopia, or a situation where organized society has collapsed)
First Light has alternative timeline to history, a different political system and new discoveries.
Rash is a YA has a future setting (2074), new technology (safety equipment out the wazoo), artificial
intelligence and a whole new political system (the USSA-The United Safer States of America). About twenty percent of the country is in prision, as anything unsafe is illegal. McDonalds still exists, but it doesn’t sell fast food-french fries are illeagal. You need to have your PSE (Personal Safety Equipment) for gym class, and more. If you take a look at Pete Hautman’s web site, you can see where he drew inspiration for this book.
I had picked it up at SSCO’s book review. I’m a huge Pete Hautman fan and think his books should not be overlooked.
If you’d asked me last week if I liked the genre of science fiction, I would have told you no-I don’t really care for it. Now after reading these two sci-fi gems, I’m willing to give the genre a whole new look. What a happy surprise for me as a reader.