June 15, 2005
MORE SCIENCE FICTION: Lots of readers have been writing in with suggestions as to authors. Iain M. Banks -- whom I've never read -- seems a favorite, particularly his Use of Weapons. And Dodd Harris writes:
One of the best hard SF authors I've discovered in the last decade is Peter F. Hamilton. He started with SF detective novels (Mindstar Rising, et al), but it's his "Night's Dawn" trilogy (The Reality Dysfunction, The Neutronium Alchemist, The Naked God) that's his highest accomplishment. It blends what can only be called a 'fantasy' element into hard SF so plausibly that one only notices the fact that it's a distinct departure from the usual SF fare after the fact. After reading it, one will inevitably end up reading the short story collection "A Second Chance At Eden" (which includes an SF detective story that introduces the Universe in which "Night's Dawn" takes place) just to inhabit that Universe a little while longer.
Two others that bear mention are Joe Haldeman ("Forever War" and "Forever Peace") and Vernor Vinge ("A Fire Upon the Deep" and "A Deepness in the Sky"), the latter quite possibly being the best hard SF author now working.
I'm a big Vinge fan, and the Haldeman books are very good, too. Reader Robert Katz emails:
I also liked Old Man's War, though I found the ending to be just a bit too pat, but allow me to recommend Edward Maret (Willowgate Press, ISBN 1-930008-00-7) by (who else?) myself! It came out in 2001, was picked by Booksense as one of the notable science fiction novels of 2001 and was recommended for the Nebula Award by Paul Levinson, at that time President of the Science Fiction Writers of America. One reviewer referred to it as, "The Count of Monte Cristo meets Robocop," which was pretty much my intention.
Going back a few years, you might try the Culture novels by Iain M. Banks, particularly The Player of Games and Use of Weapons, also Psychohistorical Crisis by Donald Kingsbury (one of my favorite writers), a poorly disguised followup to Asimov's Foundation series. Also the recent The Myriad, by R. M. Meluch, a writer who deserves to be much better known than she is.
Lots of stuff I haven't read there. And reader Brett McGill emails:
Please let me call your attention to Dan Simmons' book Ilium and its sequal, due out a the end of this month, Olympos.
Ilium grabbed me like no other book had in a long time. It wraps together the Trojan War, Greek gods living on Mars's Olympus Mons, the Tempest, the Iliad, an Eloi-like race of humans living in the future, robotic-human moravecs occupying the moons of Jupiter and the last Jew on earth in book I literally had trouble putting down. (Cliche but true.)
I tried to read Simmons' Hyperion a few years ago and just couldn't get into it. But lots of people like his stuff, and I should probably give it another chance.