SCIENCE FICTION RECOMMENDATIONS: My bleg the other day in response to a reader question produced a number of responses. Here are some.
Reader Merrijane Rice emails: “My all-time favorite sci-fi author is Orson Scott Card, beginning with his Hugo and Nebula award winning Ender’s Game. It’s a really good read for teens and adults alike. Card not only creates engrossing characters and storylines, but has the knack of presenting complex scientific ideas in easy (or easier) to understand ways.” Yes, it’s a good book. We had a podcast interview with Card last year.
Reader Eric Roush emails: “I would add Lois McMaster Bujold to your list. Although perhaps not as ‘hard SF’ as many of the authors you have already mentioned, she is an excellent storyteller and does a good job at exploring the ramifications of the potential technologies that she does focus on, such as uterine replicators.” Yes, her Barrayar books — Shards of Honor and Barrayar start the series, then Miles Vorkosigan appears to carry the ball — are good fun, and her Sharing Knife fantasy sequence, starting with Beguilement, is top-notch.
Reader Tom Grant emails: “Everyone will say that you have missed out on a number of ‘BEST’ science fiction, but I will also add my two cents: Armor by John Steakley. (one of the best ever — ‘You are what you do, when it counts.’) The Dosadi Experiment another one of the same caliber.” Yes, I’ve been meaning to reread The Dosadi Experiment, whose legal innovations I think I’d appreciate in a different way now than when I read it for the first time, serialized in Galaxy.
David Masceri writes:
I whole-heartedly recommend the “Book of the New Sun” series by Gene Wolfe. It’s a science fiction/fantasy series divided into four volumes spread over two books: “Shadow and Claw” and “Sword and Citadel.” I would go so far as to say that it ranks as one of my favorite novels of all time; I would definitely consider it my favorite science fiction book. My recommendation to sci-fi newbies would come with this disclaimer: This is not an easy read. The narrative is first-person and lacks explanation of the dominant technology, politics, or the society as a whole, and Wolfe will use an alien word and never explain it. If a reader likes his/her science fiction prose encyclopedic is in specificity, they won’t the “Book of the New Sun.” If he/she really enjoys the ability of good science fiction to confront its readers with a completely unheard of reality, I would say “you need to go get this book…now.”
I had an idea for a piece on legal education based on a Gene Wolfe story that’s a subset of the above — The Shadow of the Torturer, in which the education of apprentice-torturer Severian struck me as surprisingly similar to the education of budding lawyers, right down to how the professional ethics involved seem to have little to do with client welfare . . . . I had a lengthy conversation with Janet Halley about that some years ago and then never got around to actually writing it. I was busy with Is Democracy Like Sex? then, I think.
Hank Shelton offers a reminder: “Don’t forget the Internet Top 100 Science Fiction Books list, (Link). It’s been dead for five years or so, but I found a lot of great books there I’d never read. ”
Meanwhile, Mark Whittington has his own list of recommended science fiction — recommended for the Presidential candidates. I certainly agree with his inclusion of Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and Starship Troopers. And Poul Anderson’s Van Rijn stories are good, though I suspect few politicians would appreciate them.
Reader Solomon Foster emails:
he most interesting new project I’ve been following is Shadow Unit: http://www.shadowunit.org
It’s a completely on-line shared world writing project, with old pros Emma Bull and Will Shetterly joined by relative newcomers Elizabeth Bear, Sarah Monette, and Amanda Downum. It’s done TV series style, with a series bible and all — in Emma’s words, “A mystery/suspense show, a cop show, a profiler show–but with a science-fictional problem at its heart.” They’ve released four novellas to the web so far this year, all great reads, with three more and a novel scheduled in the next two months.
Also highly recommended is Elizabeth Bear’s recent novel Dust, technology that’s hard to distinguish from the usual fantasy tropes. And Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, whichi s basically Patrick O’Brien with dragons added.
Yeah, but that moves us more into the fantasy realm. Good books, though — I’ve read ’em all, and that nutshell description is about right.
Also, unless you’re a robophobic type like Matt Yglesias, Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot is still good — the InstaWife, who doesn’t care that much for science fiction, liked these stories a lot. And, of course, the Foundation trilogy, despite having allegedly inspired both Osama bin Laden and the Aum Shinriyko cult, is still a classic. And while we’re talking classics, there’s always Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End.
That’s probably enough for now. I’ll try to put up some more later. And if you missed it, there are more links to recommendations here.
UPDATE: Up for like two minutes and I’m already getting criticism. M. Simon emails:
Any list that does not have at least one of the Dorsai novels is not serious.
The Tactics of Mistake is a good one.
Yeah, it is. I met Dickson once — I think it was when he was guest of honor at Satyricon in Knoxville — and he was a nice guy, though obviously not too healthy even then.