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Sci-Fi Books

Discussion in 'Arts & Entertainment' started by Patrick Pelikan, Apr 15, 2015.

  1. Patrick Pelikan

    Patrick Pelikan Chieftain

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    Hello fellow Fanatics!

    I'm not sure if this is the right place for this question, so if it's not, please move it to the right one, Thanks!

    I decided that my apartment lacks a library. So I decided to (slowly) build one up. Also I need a decent storage system for all my books I have so far. With Sci-Fi being my favourite genre, I guess it will take most of the space in my library...

    So much for the reasoning, now my question:
    What are good Sci-Fi books one should read or even one HAS to read?

    I already got a lot of Sci-Fi classics, but there are so many good books, that are hardly known or I just never came across. So please, tell me your favourite Sci-Fi books and why you like them so much...

    Thanks in advance for you input!
     
  2. Valka D'Ur

    Valka D'Ur Hosting Iron Pen in A&E Retired Moderator

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    There might already be a thread on this theme (or similar), but I daresay nobody here who is into science fiction would be shy about naming the ones we consider most essential to any good library.

    This is actually something I've been giving a lot of thought to lately, since I've been organizing my book collection. Some of it has to go, since it's either literally falling apart, or I'm just not into it anymore.

    Of course I'm going to say Dune, by Frank Herbert. How many good science fiction books have managed to tie in so many different themes, while creating such memorable characters, and inspiring spinoff media such as movies, TV miniseries, comics, computer games, parodies, board games, nonfiction reference books, poetry, artwork, fanfiction, language, music, a special font, whole internet forums dedicated to the FH series, and resulted in someone asking the author (Frank Herbert) if he was trying to start a new religion... (pause for breath, since I could go on and on and on...).

    Yeah, definitely Dune. As in anything by Frank Herbert, as well as The Dune Encyclopedia by Dr. Willis E. McNelly (McNelly was FH's friend and this is the only FH-authorized reference work to do with the novels; it covers the first 4 books), and National Lampoon's Doon (parody of the novel, written in the same style).

    Now... do you have any authors in mind? Any subgenres you like, such as space opera, dystopian/post-apocalypse stories, military SF, hard science fiction (heavy emphasis on the science), or future history? Are you interested in time travel? World-building? Do you prefer novels or short stories? Do you tend to include fantasy in which science fiction?

    I can give suggestions in all those categories, and I'm sure other folks have recommendations that would differ from mine.
     
  3. EgonSpengler

    EgonSpengler Warlord

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    Some sci-fi I've enjoyed recently:

    Leviathan Wakes, by James S.A. Corey, 2011. Part hard-boiled detective story, part space opera. It features a ship crew in a future where humanity is divided among Earthers, Martians, and Belters. Much of it is set on Ceres, the moon of Jupiter.

    Old Man's War, by John Scalzi, 2005. In the future, mankind recruits the elderly to join the armed forces, cloning them new, enhanced bodies to fight an interstellar war that most people don't even know is happening.

    Redshirts, by John Scalzi, 2012. A young ensign aboard the star cruiser Intrepid starts to notice strange patterns. For instance, whenever the senior officers leave the ship on an 'away mission', they bring a low-ranking crewman who inevitably ends up dead.

    The Windup Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi, 2009. In post-ecological-disaster Thailand, an energy entrepreneur, a government official, and a Japanese sex android get caught up in political unrest.

    Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, 2011. In the not-too-distant future, a teenaged gamer geek finds a virtual-reality game with unexpected stakes. An ode to '80s nerd culture.
     
  4. Ajidica

    Ajidica High Quality Person

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    Let's see....
    Dune by Frank Herbert as Valka mentioned.
    A Canticle for Leibowitz by Frank Miller Jr. Excellent post-apocalyptic novel with a unique setting.
    Titan by John Varley. It is the first of a trilogy (Titan, Wizard, Demon). Very imaginative sci-fi with Demon being quite possibly one of the most enjoyable books I've read in the last few years. I've been meaning to pick up a hardcopy of the trilogy because my dad's paperback copies from the 80's are starting to fall apart.
    Neuromancer by William Gibson. Far and away the best cyberpunk novel.
    Ringworld by Larry Niven. A hard sci-fi novel that is good and approachable!? Definitely worth a look. As a bonus, Niven hadn't really entered his 'dirty old man phase' yet.
    Dominic Flandry series by Poul Anderson. You can sort of think of them as James Bond in space crossed with the fall of the [space] Roman Empire (and some are quite old, the first short story was published in 1951) but they have held up relatively well. It can be a bit cheesy at times but Poul Anderson does a pretty good job of giving the characters realistic motivations and worries without descending into wangsty wierdos.
     
  5. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Another drone in the hive mind

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    The core classics:

    Verne, Wells, Asimov, Heinlein, Bradbury, Clarke, Niven
     
  6. EgonSpengler

    EgonSpengler Warlord

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    I liked Count Zero more, but no reason not to read all three (with Mona Lisa Overdrive) if you find that cyberpunk is your thing.
     
  7. Ajidica

    Ajidica High Quality Person

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    Really?
    I wasn't as big on Count Zero as Neuromancer. The plot felt less coherent and I didn't like some of the semi-mystical ways Gibson handled the loa.
    As far as Mona Lisa Overdrive goes, I'm ashamed to say I just couldn't get into it.:blush:
     
  8. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Some of my favourites:

    Dune - Frank Herbert
    Solaris - Stanislaw Lem
    Oryx & Crake - Margaret Atwood
    Nightfall - Isaac Asimov
    Excession - Iain M. Banks
    Ender's Game - by some guy
    Pastwatch: Redemption of Christopher Columbus - by some guy
    2001: A Space Odyssey - Arthur C. Clarke
    Stranger in a Strange Land - Heinlein
    Neuromancer - Gibson
    Farenheit 451 - Bradbury
    The Timeships - Stephen Baxter
    Contact - Carl Sagan
    A Canticle For Leibowitz - Miller
    Calculating God - Robert J. Sawyer
     
  9. Serutan

    Serutan Eatibus Anythingibus

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    The Revelation Space triology - Revelation Space, Redemption Ark, Absolution Gap - Alistair Reynolds

    Doorways in the Sand, Last Defender of Camelot (short stories) - Roger Zelazny

    Double Star - Robert Heinlein. Well before his dirty old man phase.

    Renezvous With Rama - Arthur C. Clarke (NOTE : Avoid the sequels! Gentry Lee is a black hole of suckitude IMO)

    Tau Zero - Poul Anderson.

    Interesting. Which book do you think that started with? Maybe it's because Heinlein's DOM
    phase was so bad, but I didn't think Niven went too far down that road. Second the Ringworld recommendation.
     
  10. Ajidica

    Ajidica High Quality Person

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    I would put it somewhere between The Ringworld Engineers (rishathra) and The Integral Trees where he spent a bit too much time describing how well the love interest's breasts fit the main character's hands when cupped.
    Although Niven never got anywhere near as bad as Heinlein, it felt a bit at odds with most of his earlier works; where sex was barely spoken of as he spent more time dealing with science. I was probably a bit to harsh on Niven, but his later work (Ringworld Throne, Destroyer of Worlds, Legacy of Heorot) was consistently average and this is as good an explanation as any.

    EDIT: I would also add The Stainless Steel Rat books by Harry Harrison along with the James Retief series by Kieth Laumer to the list if you are looking for sci-fi comedy.
     
  11. Valka D'Ur

    Valka D'Ur Hosting Iron Pen in A&E Retired Moderator

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    I'll have to check that one out. Is it marketed as a Star Trek parody?

    Gah. I met John Varley 30 years ago. Interesting ideas for stories, but as a convention guest, he was rather underwhelming. And rude.

    I also met Poul Anderson and his wife, Karen, at a convention in Calgary. That was a few years before the convention where I met Varley.

    Poul Anderson was a very interesting person to listen to at the panels, and he told a cute story about his daughter, Astrid, that I've never forgotten. When Astrid was a child, Anderson was participating in a literacy program at a local prison (teaching the inmates). So one day, little Astrid had her turn during a "show and tell" thing in school, when the kids were asked what their parents did for a living. Astrid told her classmates, "My daddy is a writer. He often goes to jail."

    Eventually Astrid grew up, of course... and married SF author Greg Bear (another author I met at yet another convention).

    Karen Anderson was really nice - it was fun when she joined in the Saturday night filking, and sang some songs we'd never heard before.


    But as to Poul Anderson's books - I have most of the Flandry books, but have yet to read them. They've been on my "to read" list for a very long time, but I've just never gotten around to it. On the other hand, I've read his Time Patrol books so many times that a couple of them fell apart and had to be replaced.

    So for recommendations for an essential science fiction library, I definitely suggest Time Patrol. It's not a novel, but rather a collection of short stories that can be read as a novel. There are other stories in the series as well, but Time Patrol contains one that has been reprinted in many different anthologies: "Delenda Est." That one explores the question of what should a Time Patrol agent do when he finds himself in a history that never should have happened, and he realizes that to the people inhabiting that history, their world is normal and makes sense to them. Manse Everard wrestles with the moral question of whether he should destroy that world (because his own needs to be restored) - because of course once he does, everyone in that history after the point of alteration will be dead.

    Of course it depends on which novels and stories you're talking about. They're not all equally good, and some are just... really not great.

    Personally, I've always preferred Asimov's essays to his fiction. And his autobiography (all 3 huge volumes of it) is fascinating.

    My favorite Heinlein novel is The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

    Margaret Atwood writes excellent science fiction, but you won't find them in the science fiction section. They're either in the regular fiction section or the Canadiana section of the bookstores. That's because Atwood has this rather myopic, snooty attitude that she does not write science fiction. She thinks SF has to be about space monsters and ray guns, and can't imagine why The Handmaid's Tale is SF, or some of her other books.

    Contact - excellent choice. Just a note, however... there are some things that are very different between the book and the movie. The novel came out well before the movie did, and it's a shame that Sagan died before the movie premiered.
     
  12. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Of course she knows what she's writing, I think that she just doesn't want to be marketed under the "sci-fi" label, because in her mind that would mean that her works would be less respected and would end up raking in less $$$.

    It's a very silly point by her, she might as well admit what she's really trying to do. It makes her and her fanboys (and girls) look like idiots, to be honest.
     
  13. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Another drone in the hive mind

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    All of the old sci fi writers have to be considered in light of the market they dealt with. For every Stranger in a Strange Land or Nightfall there were a couple that I figure were dashed off while on the toilet just to make ends meet. The very best classics of science fiction still made pretty much no money at the time.
     
  14. thecrazyscot

    thecrazyscot Spiffy

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    I would love to create a CFC sci-fi "must read" list as I'm always looking for new ones to read (my favorite genre). :D

    Some of my favorites:

    Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card
    Simply one of the best. The movie adaptation was terrible. The sequels get more and more philosophical, and recently several prequels have come out as well.

    A Canticle for Leibowitz - Walter Miller
    A sweeping and highly unique post-apocalyptic novel - very powerful.

    The Martian - Andy Weir
    Survival story...a man is stranded on Mars in the near-future and has to...well, survive.

    Old Man's War - John Scalzi
    Rather than fight wars with young men, old folks are given new bodies to fight in to utilize their accumulated experience. Excellent, one of the best to come out in the last few years. The sequels are quite good too.

    Foundation (series) - Isaac Asimov
    Another classic.

    Red Rising (series) - Pierce Brown
    Yes, part of the recent craze with dystopian novels (like Hunger Games, Divergent, etc etc), but does it way better and is more mature. Description:
    On Basilisk Station - David Weber
    I don't much care for the sequels, but this is a great military sci-fi about fighting overwhelming odds.

    The Excalibur Alternative - David Weber
    An interesting one. Aliens, part of a galactic confederation, are unable to directly fight each other, so they use proxy races to fight for them. A medieval English army is abducted and is forced to fight for their alien masters all over the galaxy. Sounds silly, but is great fun.

    You'd also be well served to have a collection of Philip K. Dick's short stories, quite excellent.

    I haven't read it, but yes :)
     
  15. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    I liked the Foundation series, but as a whole I don't think it really compares to all the other sci-fi classics. The story is just kinda.. well, I don't know. I didn't find it very gripping, in terms of the original 4-5 novels anyway. It didn't seem like a novel concept or anything like that.

    I mean, I read all of the original Foundation novels and I liked them, but I always disagree when they show up on "top 100 sci-fi novels" lists or whatever. I think there are a lot of sci-fi novels out there that are a lot better. IMO Foundation only ends up on the list because it was one of the first big series Asimov came up with.

    Mind you I quite enjoyed Prelude to Foundation. That was the prequel written by Asimov shortly before he passed away, IIRC.
     
  16. thecrazyscot

    thecrazyscot Spiffy

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    TBH I thought the first one was the best - I didn't think the sequels really stood up to the original. I haven't read the prequels, though.

    Anyone read Vernor Vinge's Zones of Thought series? Any good?
     
  17. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    I read David Brinn's take on the series.. Foundation and {something}.. maybe. I didn't like it at all. But I found Prelude to Foundation to be a great take on the whole .. scenario. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who has read the original novels.
     
  18. thecrazyscot

    thecrazyscot Spiffy

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    I'll add it to my list :D

    A few other recommendations...not all hard sci-fi but still fall within the genre:

    The Road - Cormac McCarthy
    Post-apocalyptic story of a father and child trying to make it to the coast while trying to stay alive. Really, really powerful.

    World War Z - Max Brooks
    The best zombie book out there, and magnitudes better than the movie adaptation.

    The Space Trilogy - CS Lewis
    Perelandra is weird, but the third book, That Hideous Strength, is amazing.
     
  19. Serutan

    Serutan Eatibus Anythingibus

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    Is that the one where
    Spoiler :
    It turned out that other people from the future
    assassinated Scipo Africanus at Cannae, allowing Carthage to defeat Rome
    ?
     
  20. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Another drone in the hive mind

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    Well, it doesn't seem like a novel concept in retrospect...but the lack of novelty has more to do with what came after than what had come before.
     

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