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Recommendations For Returning Sci-Fi Reader?

Old 05-24-09, 12:21 AM
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Recommendations For Returning Sci-Fi Reader?

After an absence of 30+ years, I'm starting to get back into reading sci-fi but I'm having trouble picking a starting point. Back in the day I loved Niven & Pournelle's The Mote In God's Eye and many of the novels of Samuel R. Delany (especially Nova, Triton, and some of his shorter works) and Arthur C. Clarke. Can anyone recommend some more recent books along those lines? The SF section at Borders seems choked with sword & sorcery/fantasy-type books, which I've never cared for. Hyperion by Dan Simmons looked kind of interesting, but I gave it a pass for the time being.
Old 05-24-09, 02:30 AM
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Re: Recommendations For Returning Sci-Fi Reader?

Ahh yes, I'm with you on Mote. Great book. And Hyperion was gonna be one of my recommendations as well. Do keep it on your list. Another one you should read is The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. For my money, the best science fiction novel written in the last 20 years. Really powerful stuff.

Hmm ... what else? I'm really digging Peter F. Hamilton right now. His Night's Dawn trilogy is pretty entertaining. There's more but it's late and I can't think of any more. Do The Sparrow and Hyperion (be prepared to read The Fall of Hyperion as well, as the two books are really one story). That will nicely whet your appetite for science fiction (sci-fi is Star Trek and fanfic stuff, not the good stuff!) again.
Old 05-25-09, 04:28 PM
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Re: Recommendations For Returning Sci-Fi Reader?

Simmons is highly recommended from me as well - Hyperion/Fall of Hyperion (mgbfan is right - it's really one big book) is one of my all-time favorites.

Browsing through my library, here are some serious sf authors from the last 30 years that I've enjoyed.

Greg Bear - he's gotten a lot more mainstream recently, but his earlier books are some of my favorites. If you can find it, I'd start with "Blood Music". It's relatively short, about nanotechnology run amok. And it's a million times more intelligent than Michael Crichton's recent book on the same theme (Prey). If you like that, there are plenty more fine hard sf books from Bear to move onto (like Eon, Forge of God, Queen of Angels, Moving Mars).

Gregory Benford - I enjoyed his "Galactic Center" series. It's an immense epic that covers mankind's war with an artificial life form civilization bent on it's eradication (from 1st contact in "modern" times to far future showdown in the center of the galaxy). "Heart of the Comet" is another solid hard sf book from him, and "The Postman" is much better than the Kevin Costner movie suggests.

Iain M. Banks - like Simmons, he writes in many genres. But he's considerate enough to only use his middle initial on the books that are sf. Many of his books take place in a shared universe, though I don't think they really need to be read in any order to understand. I'd still start with "Consider Phlebas" to see if you like him.

Orson Scott Card - "Ender's Game" is one of the absolutely essential works of sf in the last 30 years. It's immediate sequel (Speaker for the Dead) is nearly as good. I love Card's short fiction as well - much of the best is collected in "Maps in a Mirror" (split into 4 books for paperback).

William Gibson - "Neuromancer" is one of the landmark sf novels in the last 30 years. The "cyberpunk" style isn't for everyone, and can appear inpenetrable at times. Though I'd recommend any fan of the genre to at least give the first book a shot.

China Mieville - this is lighter on sf than other things on this list, so I'm not if its what you're looking for. Maybe more fantasy/horror, set in an alternate "steampunk" universe. But I thought "Perdido Street Station" and "The Scar" were fantastic - 2 of my favorite works of imagination in the last 10 years.

Neal Stephenson - I always see his books in the sf section, though few of them really fit that genre. "Snow Crash" certainly does however. It's one of my favorite "cyberpunk" novels.

Alexander Jablokov - seems to have disappeared since the 90s, and all of his books are out of print. Which is a shame, since I though he was a rising star in hard sci-fi. I enjoyed "Carve the Sky", "A Deeper Sea", and "Nimbus" (haven't read "Deepdrive" though - which was his last book in 1999 and got horrible reviews on Amazon). The books I mentioned were published by a major company on paperback, so I bet there are a lot of copies floating around. They would make a nice used bookstore find.

Robert C. Wilson - he's been writing quality sf since the mid 80s, and is still going strong. Like Simmons, he's a sf writer that also writes well enough to connect with the reader on an emotional level. "Spin" is probably his easiest book to find, but it's worth tracking down his older stuff as well.

John Varley - if you liked Clarke's "Rendevous with Rama", I think you'll like Varley's Gaea trilogy (Titan/Wizard/Demon) which has a similar premise but goes off in wild directions. Varley has more of a sense of humor than other hard sf writers, and has produced a lot of quality material in the last 30 years.

Vernor Vinge - someone else who I can't recommend high enough. If you like space stories, I'd start with "A Fire Upon the Deep" or "A Deepness in the Sky". Though everything he's done is sf of the highest order.

Tad Williams - his "Otherland" series is an accessible (relatively speaking, for the genre) cyberpunk epic that I enjoyed. I liked his fantasy stories ("Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn" and "Tailchaser's Song") even more, though that's not what you're looking for. His ideas aren't the most original (I think the story for every one of his books can be traced to a famous older novel), but I think he writes well.
Old 05-25-09, 05:43 PM
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Re: Recommendations For Returning Sci-Fi Reader?

I don't have much to add, but will say that Ender's Game was truly great.
Old 05-25-09, 10:00 PM
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Re: Recommendations For Returning Sci-Fi Reader?

I picked up Hyperion today and we'll see how that goes. I really appreciate the time that each of you took to reply. Those suggestions should definitely keep me busy for awhile.

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