The future is here, almost! Machine Wars by Michael Pryor

Stories about future societies, especially dystopian ones, are high on our “most popular books” lists. Most are about surviving in this new somewhat alien worlds, Hunger Games and Maze Runner, and many are read across most year levels. Other favourites include: Bzrk (#1 of series) by Michael Grant, 0.4 (#1 series) by Mike Lancaster, The Hunt (#1 of trilogy) by Andrew Fukuda and Skinned (#1 Cold Awakening trilogy) by Robin Wasserman. 

Michael Pryor‘s book is set at the beginning, when the hero might just have a chance to stop things before society is forced to change and is enjoyed mostly by our younger students, the 12-13 year olds. The setting is now, today and easily believable.

Machine Wars

14-year-old Bram comes home late and as he arrives at the gate senses something is wrong. It is part of the survival strategy that his parents have drilled into him all his life. Bram’s mother is a brilliant scientist who is a world leader in the artificial intelligence world. She has always been aware that things could go wrong in her field and has planned for it. Bram has an elaborately planned survival plan, called “Scatter and Hide”, that has been designed to give his mother time to find a solution to the disaster. She asks Bram to stay out of the clutches of Ahriman (as the AI calls himself) for 3 weeks. He must not be taken hostage if she is to figure out how to overcome the rogue AI. This turns out to be easier said than done. With the help of his friend Stella and Bob, another AI unit, built by his mother and put into his childhood toy duck, Bram works hard to stay free. It is not easy to stay out of the clutches of a being that controls the internet. In today’s world staying off-line and off the grid is difficult especially when so many everyday activities are dependent on technology without you being really being aware of it. Bram teaches Stella to use a slingshot against some of Ahriman’s creations and Bob has some very useful moves as they try to stay ahead of their pursuer.

Bram is intelligent and a bit of a loner due to moving around a lot due to his parents working arrangements. He has developed various coping mechanisms such as using different character voices to hide his feelings. Stella, his new friend, is independent, thinks for herself and belongs to no single group but is friendly with all. Together, along with Bob, they decide that it is sometimes better to attack than just hide. Their days are spent alternatively hiding and planning then carrying out ways to fight back.

There are some humorous moments such as the description of Bram trying to find a way of keeping up with the news without technology and Stella walking across to a newspaper seller to buy the “old-fashioned” option.

View all my reviews

From the authors site, a page that discusses the novel, the story behind, its writing and links to other information.

Teacher Notes from Random House here.

The Slaves of Socorro: a great story needs a great trailer

Many of our boys love John Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice series and its spin-off the Brotherband series

This year we have had many students enjoying #4 in the series “The Slaves of Socorro“. It is a great story with lots of the sort of action that our boys love. The official book trailer, whilst advertising that the book is out, does nothing to really recommend it. So much could be put into the short trailer to really whet the appetite but this is a really bland attempt. We show trailers of our new books on a screen in our library. I am always looking for something to attract the eye of not only the good readers but especially the less interested students.

My challenge to our students is to come up with a better trailer, one that offers more to the imagination and may bring new readers to the series. We created a guide to the process and a rubric for class assessment several years ago. It has been used (and adapted) by students and teachers,and is available on one of our wikis

 

John Flanagan on his Ranger’s Apprentice series

These books are well-loved and the final book was a fitting end to the series and Will’s story.

John Flanagan has often answered questions about his books via YouTube. Below are two recent videos offer some insight into what he is thinking and answer a few of the questions fans are asking. I will use them in our library next year to remind our readers about the books/series.

The first short video was done in answer to why he finished the series

And will there be a movie?

Shaun Tan’s newest book: Rules of Summer

I have been waiting impatiently for Shaun Tan‘s newest work Rules of Summer (published by Hachette Books.)

An email (from The Little Bookroom) came today reminding me that it is available tomorrow in the bookshops. Of course I did not need to be reminded about availability but it did remind me to forward the email to others on staff and to send out a tweet as well.

Rules of Summer, is a deceptively simple story about two boys, one older and one younger, and the kind of ‘rules’ that might govern any relationship between close friends or siblings. Rules that are often so strange or arbitrary, they seem impossible to understand from the outside. Yet through each exquisite illustration of this nearly wordless narrative, we can enjoy wandering around an emotional landscape that is oddly familiar to us all. (YouTube)

Combining humour and surreal fantasy, Shaun Tan pictures a summer in the lives of two boys. Each spread tells of an event and the lesson learned. By turns, these events become darker and more sinister as the boys push their games further and further. (Hachette)

There are some great supporting videos for the Rules of Summer available on YouTube.

Video 1 was published on 10 June 2013 and Shaun speaks about what Rules of Summer is about and where the ideas came from.

Video 2 was published on 10 Jun 2013. In this video Shaun speaks about how he came up with the theme behind his new book Rules of Summer, available from 8th October 2013.

Video 3  was published on 2 September 2013. Here Shaun explains his drawing process and explores the potential meaning of a particular image from Rules of Summer,

There is more about Rules of Summer on here for extra detail and images.

There is an added bonus this time: There will be a Rules of Summer Exhibition that is open for a brief space of time (3 days)

  • The Venue: Bright Space Gallery, 1st Floor, 8 Martin St, St Kilda. Vic 3182
  • Dates: Friday 25th October – Sunday 27th October 2013
  • Gallery Opening times: 12 – 5pm
  • Price: FREE   If you want to book for group/school bookings please email them

The Royal Ranger: the last Ranger’s Apprentice story

The Ranger’s Apprentice series has been a favourite in our library since we bought our first copy of book 1 in 2004. Finally John Flanagan has written the final book about Will and his friends.

Entitled “The Royal Ranger”, the story will take place 16 years after the last story and Will has known tragedy since we last joined him on his adventures. John Flanagan stated in an interview that the final book of the series will tell the story of Will’s first apprentice.

The publisher’s description: After a senseless tragedy destroys phis life, Will is obsessed with punishing those responsible – even if it means leaving the Ranger Corps. His worried friends must find a way to stop him taking such a dark path.

It is Halt who suggests the solution: Will must take an apprentice. The candidate Halt has in mind surprises everyone – and it’s a request Will cannot refuse.Training a rebellious, unwilling apprentice is hard enough. But when a routine mission uncovers a shocking web of crime, Will must decide where his priorities lie – finishing his quest for revenge, or saving innocent lives?

You can read an excerpt from the Random House site. I am looking forward to reading this adventure when it is published Oct 1st although it is always bittersweet when a series you have enjoyed comes to an end.
Below is the 2013 book trailer for the series.

“For the Term of his Natural Life” now has an app

Last week (Thursday, 1st Aug) on ABC’s Radio National Books and Arts Daily (presented by Michael Cathcart) there was a program with some news about the classic Australian novelFor the Term of his Natural Life.It was written in the 1880s and it has never been out of print. Now there is an e-book app which the creators hope will extend its life into the future. The app is a condensed version of the novel interspersed with segments of the mini-series, interactive footnotes, historical documents, video notes, bios, maps, and photos and there’s even a bonus song from the 1927 silent film. “

If you are interested – you can listen to the discussion podcast and/or go to the website. 

The website offers some good information with a books synopsis, information about the mini-series and also links to where you can purchase the app and the mini-series as a DVD or from iTunes, The app looks to be a great resource and may bring a new audience to this Australian story. I am only disappointed that (at for the moment at least)  the app is available for iPads only.

For the Term of his Natural Life

Looking forward to John Flanagan’s latest book

Our boys at school love the Ranger’s Apprentice series. It has been a great adventure series. We recently purchased The lost stories (#11 in the Ranger’s Apprentice) which fills in a lot of background to the characters in the series. The stories were in part inspired by the questions the author received from his readers. This book flew off the shelf but the students are also very keen to get their hands on the longer story that is advertised on the back cover.

They are all seem to be eagerly awaiting the publication of The outcasts, book 1 in a new series Brotherband. This is a story that picks up on the lives of the Skandians, people from one of the nations mentioned in The Ranger’s Apprentice books. Set on the high seas it looks to be another winner. To avoid answering the same question over and over I hope it comes out soon!

Watch the brief interview with John Flanagan:

And then the official trailer:

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