Books in the Park

suggestions from the Barbara S. Ponce Public Library at Pinellas Park

Leave a comment

Library Playlist: The Expanse (2015 – )

expanse-season-oneI adore science fiction television, but lately it doesn’t seem as if it loves me back. Far too much of what’s appearing on TV right now is either dreadfully boring or so cheap and unconvincing that it looks like a craft project rather than a major television series. I get that this stuff is tricky, but aren’t we past the era when set design consisted of papier-mâché and Christmas lights? Yeah, there are a bounty of decent superhero shows right now, but fans of hard sci-fi like myself know that they don’t really count. Mix all that mediocrity with a new Star Trek series whose release date is about as fixed as a mirage and it’s easy to become discouraged. Imagine my surprise then that the SyFy Channel had paused from making Sharknado sequels to give us something pretty good. It’s time to rejoice: The Expanse is the space drama that we’ve been owed for some time now.

It’s two hundred years in the future, and humanity has spread throughout the Solar System. Detective Josephus Miller (Thomas Jane) has taken on the task of locating the now missing Julie Mao (Florence Faivre). Meanwhile, the destruction of the ice hauler Canterbury forces Executive Officer James Holden (Steven Strait) to make decisions that will embroil him and his crew in the midst of a potential interplanetary conflict. Back on Earth, the United Nations executive Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) hopes to stop a war before it begins. Soon, all three will discover that their paths converge upon a massive conspiracy, one that could have dire consequences for humanity.

Like complex political intrigue set against the backdrop of space? The Expanse might just be for you, with beautiful ships, celestial bodies, and space vistas augmenting a clever story of interplanetary intrigue. Still not convinced? How about rousing performances from a talented cast? Thomas Jane is awesome fun to watch as the cocky, hard-luck Miller, and Shohreh Aghdashloo is delightfully cunning as U.N. high official Avasarala. No doubt, The Expanse is a quality series, but it’s also an effort that is long overdue for the SyFy channel. In this golden era of TV, SyFy and its frequently lackluster attempts at dramatic television were always a disappointing oddity. Hopefully, The Expanse is not a fluke and we can expect more like it. Highly Recommended.

Check the PPLC Catalog for The Expanse.

Leave a comment

Ash Vs. Evil Dead (2016)

ash-evil-deadAsh Williams, general deadbeat and failure, has a secret. As a youth, Ash witnessed his friends murdered and then possessed by an unspeakable evil. Summoning every ounce of his strength, he was able to push that evil back where it came from and keep the world safe. In the present day, after a drunken party trick gone wrong, Ash has unleashed the evil into the world again, and those evil forces are gunning for revenge.

If you haven’t already seen first three Evil Dead films, let me warn you: this series is incredibly gory. However, despite the literal blood and guts flying all over the place, the show remains light, campy, and a little irreverent. Ash vs. the Evil Dead remains true to the spirit of the films—that is to say tastelessly gruesome.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Ash Vs. Evil Dead.

Leave a comment

Stargate SG-1 (1997-2007)

SG-1Finally, one of the best science fiction series in world history is available at Barbara S. Ponce Public Library thanks to a generous donation from one of our patrons.

Deep beneath the Cheyenne Mountain Complex, a secret Air Force project is using alien technology to visit distant planets all over the galaxy. This technology is called the Stargate: a huge ring that acts as a waypoint between other Stargates throughout the Milky Way.

Stargates were introduced in the 1994 Stargate movie starring ‎Kurt Russell‎ and ‎James Spader, but the Stargate SG-1 TV series is only loosely based on the movie.

Jack O’Neill (Richard Dean Anderson), along with his the rest of his team—archaeology nerd Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks), brilliant astrophysicist Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping), and rescued alien Teal’c (Christopher Judge)—explore extraterrestrial worlds and interact with the aliens who live on those worlds, eventually drawing the attention of an evil race determined to control the galaxy.

The show is similar to Star Trek with its mission to explore strange new worlds and seek out new civilizations, but Stargate SG-1 has a lot more action and humor than Star Trek.

I also love this series for the characters. Each of the major characters is well-rounded and many episodes focus on their personal dilemmas. Often the characters will fight and disagree with each other, which is essential for character development, but was a Roddenberry no-no in Star Trek.

If you like adventure, action, aliens, comedy, or space travel, I highly recommend Stargate SG-1. The show lasted ten seasons, so there’s lots of it to love.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Stargate SG-1.


Steven Universe (2013)

steven universeWe continue to celebrate Women’s History Month by highlighting Steven Universe, Cartoon Network’s first show that was independently created by a woman: Rebecca Sugar.

(We really can’t believe it took 20 years for a woman to create a kid’s show on Cartoon Network.)

Steven Universe is no average kid. Sure, he does normal kid stuff. He hangs out at the arcade and plays music with his dad, but he also fights monsters and defends humanity as a member of the Crystal Gems! Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl are sworn protectors of the Earth as well as Steven’s legal guardians. They are showing Steven the ropes, a Magic Warrior 101, if you will. Unfortunately for the Gems, the baddies are at their worst, and they show no sign of going away anytime soon.

The Steven Universe TV show is only three years old, but it since its first air date in 2013 it has picked up some speed. The show has been praised as comical, witty, and most of all, kind. At its heart, Steven Universe is about the power of being nice. This is exemplified by Steven himself, the relentlessly cheerful, empathetic, and understanding title character, who would rather make friends with monsters instead of fight them (and he does, on occasion). But Steven is not the only draw; the show is filled with many amazing and diverse characters, each well-crafted and infinitely lovable.

I am very pleased to say that we have two excellent Steven Universe titles in Pinellas County libraries: the DVD, Steven Universe Gem Glow, is a collection of twelve related episodes that would serve as an excellent introduction to Steven’s world. The graphic novel, Steven Universe (Volume 1) is a series of slice of life stories of the Crystal Gems and the other residents of Beach City. Both are charming and well worth your time.

One final word: this show is a Japanese magical girl anime re-imagined by Westerners, so be prepared for lots of flowers, glitter, and a vague anime feel. If you are anime-averse, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Steven Universe.