Monday, January 9, 2012

Top 5 sci-fi books from childhood

List by Danielle

As for courage and will - we cannot measure how much of each lies within us, we can only trust there will be sufficient to carry through trials which may lie ahead.
~ Andre Norton

New books are wonderful, but old books, stains, funny smells and all, are another pleasure altogether. Our Research Centre stacks have a trove of YA books from the distant past with the gloriously 70s-style covers I remember from my own childhood reading, with all of the terrible psychedelic 'space' pants-suits you could wish for. I've just finished H.M. Hoover's Another heaven, another earth, something I'd not come across before, but something that stands out in stark contrast to the newer YA I'd been reading lately. Don't get me wrong, I love recent YA to pieces, and it's cool seeing sci-fi dystopias making a comeback, but it was a nice change to read something that didn't wrap itself up in teen angsty knots, didn't obsess over forbidden love, and dealt both thoughtfully and emotionally with the ethics of colonisation from the points of view of both colonisers and colonised.

I'm not a big sci-fi reader, and I haven't read most of the classic authors, but I do remember a handful of great sci-fi stories that I read and re-read as a kid, including another H.M. Hoover that I was lucky enough to be able to buy, second-hand, ex-library, with all of it's stamps and everything. These stories had everything I was looking for, and more - excitement and adventure, great characters in tough situations, moments of despair and triumph - all the stuffs of good storytelling. So feel free to add your own recs in the comments, I'd love to take a tour through other folks' favourite space adventures!

Honourable mentions:
Read as an adult & loved: Ender's game / Orson Scott Card; Archer's goon / Diana Wynne Jones; Sweets from a stranger / Nicholas Fisk; A fall of moondust / Arthur C. Clarke
SHAME we don't have a copy: The green futures of Tycho / William Sleator (although we do hold his House of stairs)
Not really for kids but I loved it anyway: Julian May's Saga of the Exiles series

To ride Pegasus / Anne McCaffrey
The telepathic Talents which they shared set them apart. They met with suspicion, then outright hostility from the un-Talented. Disaster loomed large when freaks, "wild" Talents, brought dissension to the group and threatened to destroy it.

Psychics in peril! With high emotion, humour & drama, McCaffrey brings her wonderful human touch to these short pieces about the psionic men and women of the North American Center for Parapsychic Talents.

Exiles of ColSec / Douglas Hill
When a space craft carrying twelve youthful offenders, who have in someway rebelled against the Earth's harshly authoritarian society, crash lands on an alien planet, the six survivors must contend with the planet's hostile life forms.

As well as the ColSec trilogy, I recommend the author's Last Legionary series as well - real boy's own stuff, with pulp-cartoon action covers, space battles, tough kids stuck in the wilderness, battle tests, EXCITING! Not sure how well it would have aged, to be honest. But at the time, I devoured 'em.

Dread companion / Andre Norton (appears in collected form as 'Dark companion')
Kilda's home planet has no place for her, so she takes employment as a teacher and governess to two young children on the planet named Dylan. But she soon finds that one of her charges has an invisible "dread companion"- and soon Kilda knows that the companion is not imaginary at all, as it leads her charges into an other-dimensional world resembling the legends of Faerie.

I loved this spooky tale of resourceful governess Kilda, and her unexpectedly tough job tracking her sinister charge Bartare through an alien world. It has an understated romance plotline that I really enjoyed, too.

A rag, a bone and a hank of hair / Nicholas Fisk
The birthrate is falling, and the government have begun manufacturing "Reborns", new people from old. Brin is sent to live with a Reborn family. Initially he fears and dislikes them, but gradually becomes friends and tries to save them when the government decides to terminate the experiment.

Brilliant and heartbreaking and dark and wonderful. Seriously! Go read it. This book taught me about - of all things - what it might be like living during the Blitz in London.

This time of darkness / H. M. Hoover
Eleven-year-old Amy lives in a decaying underground city. Ignored by her mother and under surveillance by authorities because she can read , Amy reluctantly finds herself befriending Axel - a strange boy who claims to have come from a mythical place called ... Outside . Is Axel crazy? Amy knows there is no such place as Outside. But what if there were? What would it be like? Curious, Amy convinces Axel to escape. What she hopes to find is something Axel remembers called freedom . But what she discovers is beyond her wildest dreams.

A classic post-nuclear type dystopia with some heart-wrenching moments. Like Arthur C. Clarke's 'A fall of moondust', I think part of the appeal was the shiver of the claustrophobia it evoked. Amy's a great, resourceful, 'too smart for her own good' heroine, too.

1 comment:

Danielle said...

For those with a yen for the 'space pants-suit' as seen in "Another heaven, another Earth', here it is: