Timeline by Michael Crichton (Alfred A. Knopf, 1999)
I learned about this science fiction novel from the late 90s in a book review of another book, and decided to track it down. It was definitely worth it. Crichton became famous several decades ago for Jurassic Park, which was made into a successful (and terrifying) motion picture about dinosaurs come to life. This story about archeologists who travel through time to the 14th century French setting of their dig is equally (if not more) violent and gory, so if there is ever a movie I won’t be watching it. As a book where the images stay safely on the page, however, it was excellent. Every chapter is simply titled with the countdown timer telling how many hours they have left until the battery dies that powers the chip that will take them back. The two men and one woman spend basically the entire book from the moment they land in the 14th century running for their lives and trying not to get killed. Just read the book: it’s very exciting.
Paper Towns by John Green (Dutton Books, 2008)
Now that it’s in the movie theaters as well as the USA Today Bestseller list, I figured it was time to read Paper Towns. My daughters are fans of John Green’s other novels so I knew it would be good. He did not disappoint me, although it probably appeals most to high school seniors and their parents (my demographic). His portrayal of suburban American high school culture is spot-on. The book is hilarious in parts and sad in other parts, with a plot that keep you reading to find out what happens to them. But the characters are not shallow reality show types; they seem like kids who are going to grow up to be intelligent, decent adults.
The truth according to us by Annie Barrows (Random House, 2015)
This is a fairly long and meaty novel with an interesting plot and complicated characters. It’s the kind of book that will probably be studied by a book club, although it doesn’t have a non-chronological structure like many novels striving to be literature. It takes place over the summer of 1938 in West Virginia, during the Great Depression. The story is told alternately through the voices of a 12 year-old girl, her father, her aunt who is raising her, and a young woman from a privileged background who comes to live with them and write the history of the town for the Federal Writer’s Project. Well worth the time it takes to read.
How to live safely in a science fictional universe by Charles Yu (Random House, 2010)
If you’re looking for a really way-out science fiction book, this is it. In this world everyone has access to time travel, and uses it. They want to correct past mistakes but since they can’t change the past, they end up in endless loops. The protagonist is a time travel machine technician, who eventually gets stuck in a loop himself trying to understand his parents better. The commentary is pretty hilarious but there are some serious insights as well.