by Jeff VanderMeer, 2014
One of the things I bemoan about science-fiction movies and television shows is that it seems that none of the characters have ever read or seen science-fiction. In Annihilation, the same appears to be true. The novel follows a team of four women who have been sent a territory referred to only as “Area X.” Their mission is to find out as much about the area as possible, while also trying to figure what happened to the previous teams that were sent to there. The four-woman team consists of a surveyor, an anthropologist, a psychologist, and our narrator, a biologist. The idea seems interesting enough and, as a child of The X-Files generation, I was immediately drawn to the premise. I wish I could say the story panned out as well as I had hoped.
by Madeleine L’Engle, 1989
narrated by Anne Marie Lee
This was a lackluster ending to a book series that, somehow, I loved as a child. I never read this fifth installment to the Time Quintet that began with A Wrinkle in Time, but after rereading the first four earlier this year, my expectations for the fifth were severely adjusted. This finale does not feature Meg, Calvin, Charles Wallace, or the twins Sandy and Dennys, but focuses on Meg and Calvin’s daughter Polly and the time she spends with her grandparents, Drs. Kate and Alex Murry. She’s been sent to the elder Murrys in the hopes that she’ll gain an even greater education in science than she could have received at home or in school. All of that changes when Zachary, a college student whom she previously dated, shows up at the Murrys and pleads his case for Polly’s company.
by Noelle Stevenson, 2015
This is, perhaps, one of the loveliest little comics I’ve read. The story focuses on the shapeshifter Nimona who comes to the supervillain Lord Ballister Blackheart and endeavors to be his sidekick. The two are pursued by Blackheart’s nemesis, Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin, who is employed by the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics. This premise alone is enough to set it aside from all other stories whose protagonists are always on the side of good. What makes the story even more special is that Stevenson really makes us question whether “bad” is always bad, “good” is always good, and what it means to be a girl who knows her own strength.
by Octavia E. Butler, 1979
It’s 1976 when Dana Franklin, a woman living in LA, first meets Rufus Weylin, the young son of a Maryland plantation owner living in the early 1800s. In their first encounter, Dana saves Rufus from drowning in a river and narrowly escapes the shotgun his father points in her face. From that point, Dana is drawn back through time to the 1800s to save Rufus again and again, and it’s only when she fears for her life that she is pulled back to her present. Unfortunately, as Dana is black, that fear is never too far away.
by Tayari Jones, 2018
A year and a half after Celestial and Roy get married, the unthinkable happens: Roy is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. The two struggle to remain committed to each other through Roy’s twelve-year sentence, but the strain proves to be too much for this young marriage and Roy is devastated when he receives a letter from Celestial announcing her intention to divorce him. Little do either of them know, Roy’s conviction will be overturned after five years and he will be set free. This story examines the ability of marriage to withstand the pressure of outside forces and whether love really is all two people need to survive. Despite its focus on love, I went into this book with an open mind and I wanted to like it. I promise you, I really did.
by Madeleine L’Engle, 1986
narrated by Ann Marie Lee
Oh, Maddy. Why you gotta be so problematic? This fourth installment of the Time Quintet focuses on twins Sandy and Dennys and occurs before the events of A Swiftly Tilting Planet. Good-looking, athletic, and popular, the twins are the odd ones in the exceptionally intelligent Murry family. They’re the least likely to think about tessering or visiting other dimensions, so when they enter their parents’ lab while an experiment is in progress, they’re especially shocked to find themselves thrown onto a sandy desert circa who-knows-when.
by Madeleine L’Engle, 1978
narrated by Jennifer Ehle
Alas, the third book in the Time Quintet suffers a little bit from boredom. We’ve moved ahead in the Murry’s lives and find Meg married to Calvin and pregnant with their child. Twins Sandy and Dennys are in law and medical school and Charles Wallace is a teenager. The family has gathered together to celebrate Thanksgiving. Calvin is off in England giving a conference, so they are joined by his mother, Mrs. Branwen Maddox O’Keefe. The dinner is interrupted when Mr. Murry receives a call from the president warning him of impending nuclear war set in motion by the South American dictator known as Mad Dog Branzillo. After Mrs. O’Keefe utters a mysterious rune, we’re off on another adventure in time and space.