Five Things Every Sci-Fi Fan Needs to Know

Brought to you by the Libraries’ New Reading Nook

Snackbot at the Sci-Fi Station

The Libraries’ new Sci-Fi Station features a treasure trove of far-away worlds and futuristic conundrums, assembled mainly from Hugo and Nebula award finalists published over the past seven years. Located on the second floor of Hunt Library, the reading nook includes two private reading benches adorned with more than six dozen science fiction and fantasy novels, purchased with the Tom and Eileen McConomy Endowed Fund to whisk readers on a journey far from campus.

From a selection of these books, we’ve compiled five lessons for sci-fi fans to keep in mind in reading — and in life.


Play to your strengths.

Middlegame
McGuire, Seanan (2020)

MiddlegameTwin prodigies Roger and Dodger, separated at birth, are two sides of the same coin — literally. An alchemist engineered them to harness the powers of the universe, and they’re supernaturally gifted in language and mathematics. When they find each other, they set in motion a plot of destruction and betrayal, complicated by their reality-warping powers.

In the end, Roger and Dodger don’t have to master a myriad of new talents to change the world. They just need to take advantage of the gifts they already have, and find the right teammates to complement the skills they bring to the table.

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Collaboration grows trust.

The Long Way To a Small, Angry Planet
Chambers, Becky (2016)

The Long Way To a Small, Angry PlanetA feel-good read through an inclusive, accessible sci-fi world, this book features an ensemble cast made up of everyone from a human algaeist to a reptilian pilot to the ship’s personable AI. Thousands of miles from civilization on a spaceship traveling from mission to mission, readers get an in-depth look at the characters’ histories, quirks, and motivations.

It’s over the course of the fairly mundane day-to-day, interspersed with the occasional life-threatening burst of action, that the crew comes to rely on each other and view their little band of travelers as a family. And once those bonds are forged, there’s no limit to the challenges the team can overcome.

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Some things are better off dead.

Gideon the Ninth
Muir, Tamsyn (2019)

Gideon the NinthGideon desperately wants to escape her lifelong antagonist, the heiress of the cold, rocky planet where she’s been an indentured servant for the first eighteen years of her life. Instead, Harrowhark whisks her away to a decaying mansion on the First House, forcing Gideon to become a bodyguard tasked with protecting her as she trains to become an immortal necromancer.

As we follow Gideon and Harrow’s quest for Lyctorhood, one thing becomes clear — resurrecting past drama and prioritizing things that no longer serve them often isn’t as useful as building new relationships and focusing on the future.

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There’s freedom in rejecting expectations.

Mexican Gothic
Muir, Tamsyn (2019)

Mexican GothicMexican City socialite Noemí Taboada is supposed to be dedicating herself to leisure and finding a husband. Instead, she travels to a small, isolated mountain town to investigate her cousin’s claim that her English husband is plotting to murder her. What she discovers is worse than she imagined — the Doyle family is involved in a generations-long plot to exploit the land, the environment, and even family members.

By fighting against the Doyles’ supernatural powers based in colonialism, working class exploitation, and misogynist patriarchy, Noemí improves not only her own life, but the prospects of other women as well. Her courage in challenging conventions helps Noemí free herself, her cousin, and others from a legacy of violence and madness.

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It’s the question, not the answer, that is important.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Adams, Douglas (1979)

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the GalaxyOrdinary Englishman Arthur Dent’s day starts with his house being bulldozed for a road bypass, which is followed by the demolition of the entire planet for a hyperspatial express route. Luckily, his friend Ford Prefect is an alien, and whisks him away just before the destruction. Ford takes him on a journey across the cosmos, informed by the electronic guidebook “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

Throughout the novel, it becomes clear that life is absurd, and by embracing the chaos rather than seeking definitive explanations, it’s possible to thrive, not just survive. The supercomputer Deep Thought offers freely that the meaning of life, the universe, and everything is 42 — but that doesn’t end up being particularly helpful for anyone. It’s the question we should be focusing on.

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For more life lessons from their worlds to ours, stop by Hunt Library and check out some of the award-winning novels in the Sci-Fi Station.

Grace Skelly reading "Gideon the Ninth"