What are you reading? Science Fiction

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What are you reading? is crossposted to dailyKos

If you have ideas for future weeks, let me know (one idea is Fiction vs. nonfiction, I may do that next week)

Science fiction is my favorite fiction genre.  The book that turned me from someone who knows how to read into someone who reads a LOT was Maeline L’Engle’s  A Wrinkle in Time, which is really from the sister-genre of fantasy.  I devoured Heinlein, Asimov and Clarke in my teens.  The ‘big three’ are still classic, but I’ve got some other favorites, too.

John Varley.  Varley writes amazingly well, he has interesting ideas.  He likes to surprise the reader, not by smacking you in the head when you least expect it, but in more subtle ways.  Persistence of Vision, for example, is a short story about a post-apocalyptic world, and it’s a lovely, gentle, moving piece.   Press Enter, is a short story about the near future, and it is as scary as anything.  Many of his novels are set in a world where mankind has been wiped out on Earth, and survives only in the rest of the solar system, but in none of those novels is that the main theme.  He also likes to mess about with sexual roles.  

Neal Stephenson.  Some of what Stephenson writes is SF and no question about it.  Snow Crash, or the Diamond Age, are SF novels.  Other of his work is more ambiguously SF.  I am re-reading Cryptonomicon, and it’s hard to say that this is really SF, but it feels like SF.  The Baroque Cycle is more clearly not SF, but still involves a lot of things that SF often does.  

Terry Pratchett.  Discworld!  His early books are good, some are very good indeed.  Small Gods is a hysterical send-up of religion and fanaticism.  But they get better.  He takes on big social issues, and stays funny.  Monstrous Regiment takes on sexism and the military.  Thud! takes on racism and bigotry (as does Jingo).  (By the way, the Discworld, shaped like  disk, floats through the universe on the back of four big elephants, who stand on a giant turtle).

Robert Heinlein.  OK, his politics (a sort of libertarianism) gets in the way of his writing, especially in his later work, but man, can the guy tell a story.

Theodore Sturgeon.

Samuel Delaney.  Some of his books are, IMHO, unreadable (e.g. Dhalgren).  Others are great (e.g. Babel 17).

There are others whom I like: Nancy Kress, Charles Stross, Connie Willis….) but let’s get to the comments


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    • plf515 on March 14, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    tips, comments, recs….

    • Robyn on March 14, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    Perhaps.  But not if you happened to be living in my head and having the apocalyptic dreams I was having…in which case, it spoke to your heart.

  1. Of any serious, socially conscious SF recently, which is probably due to my not searching it out. It seems all I see is fantasy epics suitable for 12 year olds. Which is not a bad thing for the youngsters, there is undoubtedly good stuff, thought provoking and all that, out there for them. I sure miss the hard science type of SF, with the social, philosophical and psychological sub-themes.

    One fantasy series which I feel doesn’t get proper recognition is Steven R Donaldson’s “Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever” series. The protagonist’s is a leper full of bitterness and doubt. Not your normal hero, but who is, IMO, confronting issues not often written or spoken about. Donaldson definitely writes with a dark edge to his work, but redeems it with the growth of his heroes/heroines.

    • RiaD on March 14, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    my very favorite genre…

    dad gave me the hobbit to read at the end of the summer i turned ten…

    i didn’t read ‘kids’ books after that….adult books had so much more to them…pictures that formed full-blown in my mind~ i no longer needed illustrations!

    Pratchett is one of my favorites also…a turtle swimming through space with a world atop its back?~ fascinating!

    about 20 years ago i bacame enthralled with multi-authored series… the best of these IMO is the Merovingen Nights series started by c.j.cherryh in Angel with a Sword… very cool adventures with a Venice-type feel to them. What i like best is the main character’s cheekiness & how she shows a tough exterior but we (the reader)see her inner doubt and conflict. i also love how she ‘talks’ to her Mamma’s ghost that appears from time to time on the bow of her boat. in the later books each chapter is by a different author & put together by cherryh~ much like the roy reed/dhaynes/etc/etc story being told here.

    another series done along these lines is Heroes in Hell. I think each book is named something different with ‘in Hell’ tying them all together. this series has much darker feel to it. sorry, i can’t remember the editor…

    Robert Asprin also did a series like this…Thieves World which i found highly entertaining, especially the first 5 or so books.

    All my books are in boxes 🙁

    otherwise i could recommend more great books….

    right now i’m reading John D MacDonald’s Travis McGee….

    he had great insight on human nature& i’m finding this rereading fascinating

  2. was Heinlein’s Glory Road.

    Been a scifi addict ever since!

  3. Long before the Lord of the Rings got all mainstream, my mother loved it (ie in the actual 1970’s ) and she was always a sci-fi/fantasy fan. I have no explanation for exactly why I did not pick up the habit.

    My guess is that as a teenager, I got exposed to some sci-fi that was a bit clunky, and got turned off. That and who wants to emulate parents at that age? And it has only been since I have been hanging out here and got exposed to that genre again through the boss and RiaD, that I found it interesting.

  4. … have been an avid fan of SF since I was a kid.

    One of the first books I read was Slan by A.E. Van Vogt.  Also Ray Bradbury, Heinlein, Clifford Simak, Isaac Asimov (the Foundation Trilogy and all the robot stories), oh so many.

    Faves now are Ursula K. LeGuin, Octavia Butler (r.i.p.), Ian McDonald, Vonda McIntyre, Ann McCaffrey (Pern!), William Gibson,  Bruce Sterling, Joan D. Vinge, Pat Cadigan, Nancy Kress, Brian Aldiss, Harlan Ellison, etc., etc., etc.

  5. Charles Stross. Damn, he’s good.

    I noticed that no one here has mentioned George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones series. Without a doubt the best fantasy I have read in 20+ years. But damn is he a slow writer-I’ve been waiting for his latest installment for three years now.

    • RUKind on March 15, 2008 at 6:15 am

    The genre has changed a lot over that time.

    I see the Isaac Asimov Foundation Trilogy recommended above. Excellent choice.

    The original Dune by Frank Herbert and some of the sequels. For me, he stretched that narrative thread a bit too far in the later books.

    Stand on Zanzibar
    by John Brunner is an excellent read and foreshadows the works of Gibson and Stephenson.

    There’s a Polish writer named Stanislaw Lem who wrote some really off-the-wall books. The Futurological Congress is one of the best. All his stuff is worth a read. His most “important” work was probably Solaris which also had two different movies made from it.

    Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land is a good one to grok. Vonnegut’s Sirens of Titan, of which the screen rights were bought by Jerry Garcia. Jerry and Tom Davis, of Franken (D-MN, we hope) and Davis fame, never did finish the screenplay. Another Vonnegut work, Cat’s Cradle, featured a substance called Ice Nine – namesake for the music publishing company of Jerry and the band.

    Everything Philip Dick ever wrote. He may be the best ever. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep was made into the movie Blade Runner.

    Roger Zelazny has some good ones based on god myths.

    William Gibson’s Neuromancer trilogy and pretty much everything that followed it. Neal Stephenson – I love his work.

    Probably the best way to see the genre unfold over time would be to read the Hugo Award winners from each year. Come to think of it, I haven’t read all of them yet.


  6. by Max Brooks. The harsh political economic assessments are impressive. Good Sci-fi always has a certain socila critique within it.

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