Townhouse Books

Thursday, June 09, 2005

SF - I'm ready to delve again

I almost hesitate to post this here, knowing the response could be enormous, but I know there also is no better place.

After going to a Science Fiction writers and readers reception at this library conference I'm currently attending in Toronto, I am ready to get back into SF. I spent much of my undergrad reading a lot of fantasy and SF, but then moved away from it for whatever reason. After listening to the writers, however, I can't wait to hit the library and check a few out.

So. Science fiction recommendations? Space, not swords please. Thanks. I do, however, intend to reread and finish Wheel of Time someday after he dies. Newer books and classics too. I've missed a lot.


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  • Read anything by Vernor Vinge. He's this math professor (who is also the ex-husband of Joan D. Vinge) who may be best known foor this thing called the Singularity.

    A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky are both sprawling space opera set in the same universe (make sure and read the first one first). There's a rumor that's he's coming out with a third book in this series.

    By bshort, at 11:41 AM  

  • So, I know space and swords are the big SF genres, but I'm think there should be another genre for the fifteen minutes in the future stuff. It more overlaps with space than swords, but I'm thinking of all the cyberpunk stuff -- maybe a "Tomorrow Sucks" or "Dark Future" sub-genre or something.

    Anyways, I've become a little wary of the whole space sub-genre. This is probably because of The Gap series (which I've complained about elsewhere).

    I'd recommend Alaistair Reynolds Revelation Space (if you stick with his earlier stuff, you won't get caught in a series). Of course, I'm assuming you've read all the Brin stuff (if not, start with Startide Rising, it's book 2, but Sundiver was weaker). Watch out for his early stuff that was republished (Holy crap! The Practice Effect sucked).

    What are you looking for in the series? Hard science? Slimy aliens? Universal questions? Lasers? Heros? Hot chicks? Heros that are hot chicks?

    By jch1530, at 4:22 PM  

  • I'm not sure I'm necessarily looking for a series. Don't any SF writers write just one book? Do they always have to suck a concept completely dry? What about the exquisite pain of falling in love with characters and never really knowing what happens after the last page?

    That said, I'm always eager to burn through as many works by one author in a row as I can stand, so maybe I am ready for a series.

    "It's the near future and everything sucks" genres are cool. Definitely no swords there.

    what am I looking for - Hard science? Yes. Slimy aliens? Sure. Universal questions? If handles well. Lasers? Lasers don't turn me on, but sure, whatever. Heros? With a sword? Hot chicks? Heros that are hot chicks? So long as they are written well and are in a sprawling space opera.

    By evt1618, at 9:54 AM  

  • I wouldn't call it hard science, but it is a future world (well at least 35% of the book is set in the future, and it is very interesting. Cloud Atlas:David Mitchell.
    I'm not quite done with it yet, so I'll be posting soon.

    *I got Vernor Vinge's Deepnesss in the Sky at my last ALA for FREE. It is even signed, but I haven't started reading it yet. Your plug Brian moves it up the list though.

    *I second Justin's revelation space recc. although their might have been a sword or 2 in there somewhere. (oh yeah, thanks again Justin for the book!)

    By Jason, at 1:15 PM  

  • Mars books. Sweet, sweet Mars books by Kim Stanley Robinson -- they start with Red Mars.

    They're occasionally reminiscent of Dune in that the author goes off on tangents about all sorts of subjects in a relatively academic sense. You'll find some hard science. But I feel like it's less self-serving and pedantic than Frank Herbet in the Dune books.

    That said, they're not space opera per se. More like colonial settler opera, on Mars. There's murder and sex and stuff too.

    By lillygog, at 3:15 PM  

  • Also, I cannot overstate how much The Practice Effect sucked. You gotta listen to Justin on that.

    I loved those Vernor Vinge books, too.

    By lillygog, at 3:18 PM  

  • I've also been intrigued by (but never read) Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age : Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer. Which makes this not a reliable suggestion.

    This is perhaps predictable, but I'm a huge Margaret Atwood fan: you can't beat Oryx and Crake or The Handmaid's Tale for dystopian near-futures.

    By lillygog, at 3:30 PM  

  • I'd recommend pretty much anything by Neal Stephenson, but be warned: he can't end a story to save his life. That said, his books are still awesome.

    If you don't find sheer size an intimidating factor, get Cryptonomicon. It's a really really fun read and is the first book in a series, but stands perfectly fine on it's own.

    And yeah, seriously, if you see The Practice Effect lying on the side of the road just keep walking. It's not worth it.

    Like lillygog said, the Mars series is the shit. Talk about sprawling.

    By bshort, at 12:59 PM  

  • Have you read anything by Larry Niven? The Known Space series is very good, pretty darn sprawling, and exists in bite-sized chunks. Be warned: don't read any of the Ringworld books after The Ringworld Engineers. I think he fired his editor and it shows.

    By bshort, at 1:02 PM  

  • You guys are the best. Thank you. I'm going to send a huge hold list to my library. (The stacks are a disaster and, although I will randomly browse them, I refuse to go looking for a specific book because I know the catalog is a liar.)

    By evt1618, at 3:37 PM  

  • i'm going to support larry niven, too. you used the term "sprawling space opera", and that's what he does when he teams up with jerry pournelle. they've done a few re-readable epic projects. you'll like Lucifer's Hammer for its catastrophic subject-matter (think Deep Impact), but their writing gets better after that one. Footfall is an aliens-invade-earth book with a million characters subtly connected. The Mote in God's Eye is a discovering-our-first-aliens book with lots of future space culture detail and interesting aliens. and the sequel isn't awful. those three, and their dante-homage Inferno (did you ever read that?), are the ones i would receommend. niven on his own isn't as epic, but isn't bad. try his short stories.

    By William, at 12:06 AM  

  • This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Jason, at 9:24 AM  

  • 1. Moon, Elizabeth: Remnant Population
    2. Russell, Mary Doria: The Children of God
    3. Russell, Mary Doria: The Sparrow
    4. Vonarburg, Elizabeth :Maerlande Chronicles

    *Books I read in an SF class at UF that I really liked

    By Jason, at 9:25 AM  

  • I just ordered the newest Vonarburg translation off Amazon. Bastards say it's backordered. I can't wait. I loved The Maerlande Chronicles too, as well as The Silent City.

    All creeeeeepy, well-written (prose-wise), and interesting thought experiments. Heavy-handed on the feminism sometimes (not that I mind heavy feminism, but if it's not well integrated, it throws you out of the story and damages the book as a work of art.)

    I like Vonarburg enough to compare her to Atwood and Joanna Russ in terms of artistic strength. Vonarburg has a pretty baroque style sometimes, almost opposite Atwood's spareness, but they're both damn good writers with interesting ideas.


    By lillygog, at 3:39 PM  

  • This might get you jumpstarted.

    By bshort, at 4:16 PM  

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