A Reading Resolution: Read More Older SFF

I adore Tuesdays, the day that many new books are released. I have an (over) abundant collection of new releases, with more on the way. However, in the hustle and bustle of “shiny new pretty” some older gems fall by the side. This year, I resolve to read more older books that either were crushed by the weight of my to read pile or I haven’t discovered yet. My general rule is that the book has to be at least 5 years old and the goal is to read 12 this year.

My pick for January was recommended to me by a reader friend with some familiarity with my usual reads, and John DeNardo favorably reviewed it here in 2006, so I feel like I’m starting on the right page.

Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress is full-length novel expanded from a Hugo and Nebula award-winning novella (of the same name) from the early 1990s.

The synopsis:

In a world where the slightest edge can mean the difference between success and failure, Leisha Camden is beautiful, extraordinarily intelligent … and one of an ever-growing number of human beings who have been genetically modified to never require sleep.

Once considered interesting anomalies, now Leisha and the other “Sleepless” are outcasts — victims of blind hatred, political repression, and shocking mob violence meant to drive them from human society … and, ultimately, from Earth itself.

But Leisha Camden has chosen to remain behind in a world that envies and fears her “gift” — a world marked for destruction in a devastating conspiracy of freedom … and revenge.

If you prefer to read the original novella, you can buy it here. Just be aware that there are two more parts to the story.

Have any book suggestions to help me reach my goal?

33 thoughts on “A Reading Resolution: Read More Older SFF”

  1. This is one I’m wanting to read as well. I’ve read several of Nancy Kress’ short stories and her most recent novella and enjoy them very much. Far past time that I read one of her novels.

    Last year was the year I made more effort to keep up with current releases and I would like to continue and expand on that this year, but I too would like to go back and read some older works, not “classics” by definition of when they were written, that I’ve heard much about but not read.

  2. Without knowing what you’ve already read, here are some recommendations based on my bookshelves.

    Roger Zelazny: Best known for the Amber series, but author of many fine books including Roadmarks, My Name is Legion, To Die in Italbar, Today We Choose Faces, and Lord of Light.

    Connie Willis: still writing, but with a fine back catalog including To Say Nothing of the Dog (funny) and Passage (heartwrenching).

    Sherri Tepper’s True Game books. Also Grass, Raising the Stones and Sideshow (which are a loose trilogy).

    Julian May’s Intervention and its sequels.

    Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea series and The Left Hand of Darkness.

    Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls.

    1. I’ve read a bit of everything, and am very open to trying something new, and I don’t mind re-reading, so all recs are welcome!

      I have The Curse of Chalion waiting for me on my Kindle, as well as some Zelazny. Grass went right on the TBR list. I will look into the other recs too. Thanks!

  3. Beggars in Spain is in the top tier if not a classic. Nancy Kress is one my favorite authors; I read everything she writes.

    Holy Fire by Bruce Sterling has a medical/aging theme. Very inventive book.

    Short stories by James Tiptree Jr. (Alice Sheldon). Sometimes flashy and overwrought, always pathbreaking and quintessentially alien.

    Iron Dragon’s Daughter by Michael Swanwick. Kaleidoscopic deconstruction of high fantasy. Alternately, Stations of the Tide.

    1. Holy Fire and Iron Dragon’s Daughter seem right up my alley. I will check out the short stories too. I like having a collection of those around as palate cleansers when I am between books. Thanks!

  4. Can I just add a big huge YES to reading older works? I love the shiny as much as anyone else, but once upon a time every book mentioned in the post and the comments were new and shiny.

    I also second Tepper’s loose trilogy Grass/Raising the Stones/Sideshow. I have read Sideshow about a million times, and it gets better every time.

    a few more recommendations:

    The Skinner by Neal Asher
    The Scar by China Mieville
    In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker
    City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff Vandermeer
    The Lions of Al Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay
    War for the Oaks by Emma Bull
    The Cyberiad by Stanislaw Lem
    Just about anything by Andre Norton – The Zero Stone is my favorite
    The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

    1. Tepper’s books look like something I would enjoy very much.

      In 6-7 grade I spent a good stretch immersing myself in Norton’s Witch World and McCaffrey’s Pern. I might need to revisit those.

      I have had War for the Oaks on my tbr list for so long, I am embarrassed to admit it. That one will be read for sure.

      I look forward to checking out your other recs, thanks!

  5. As Mike said above, there’s plenty to read, the question is what kinds of SF do you want to read? And how early do you want to go? I second many of the suggestions from Mike and Andrea. Also:

    The Space Merchants, by Kornbluth and Pohl
    Early Greg Bear–Eon, Blood Music, Songs of Earth and Power
    The California Trilogy of Kim Stanley Robinson
    The Stars my Destination by Bester
    Ringworld, by Niven

    And a ton more.

    1. I agree with your first 4. Ringworld I find badly written. I would add
      More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon.
      Childhoods End by Arthur C. Clarke
      Nova by Samuel Delaney
      Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
      The Inverted World by Christopher Priest
      Hothouse by Brian Aldiss
      Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm
      The Cronoliths by Robert Charles Wilson

    2. I’m pretty open to anything right now. Of course, if all of the books are bricks (like anything by GRRM), or I have to read 20 books to come to any satisfying conclusion, well, those books might not get picked first. ;)

      I am fine with weird, romance or not, dark characters, anti-heroes, so long as the characters are interesting and the story goes somewhere, I will try it.

        1. Paul, I’m reading The Space Merchants right now! it’s horribly dated, but wow, I”m laughing even more at all the “supplement” commercials I hear on the radio.

  6. I have a similar goal! I’ve realized that I haven’t been stretching past my sf&f comfort zone much. So I’m making a goal to read all the nominees and winners for each year of the Hugo Awards. It’s a huge list and will probably take a few years (especially since some are series). I figure it’s a good way to read a wide range of books. So it’s been really hard this year not to buy any new titles being published.

  7. Beggars In Spain is going to absolutely blow your mind! And then we’ll get to talk about it! Awesomecakes!

    After that, try Catherine Asaro’s Primary Inversion — it’s the start of her Saga of the Skolian Empire that I currently just can’t get enough of. But each book can stand on its own — which is kind of impressive, given that I’m now on #6 and there are about 14 currently in the series.

  8. I find that a lot of my TBR pile contains older stuff. Quite often the book seems new, but then I’ll realize it was published a few years ago.
    In any case, here’s a list:
    Scar by China Mieville (someone suggested that already, and I second it)
    If you feel like door-stopper sci-fi with a huge cast of characters, Peter Hamilton’s Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained (they are basically the same book split into two).
    Guy Gavriel Kay — lots of choice here
    Sarah Monette has a fantastic series that starts with Melusine
    Kathleen Ann Goonan, Queen City Jazz

  9. Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox, by Barry Hughart.

    They are like fables of Old China, with so much wit and sarcasm… published in 1984 till 1990.

  10. Many of the books mentioned above are part of the Library of America Classic SF Novels of the Fifties, edited by Gary K. Wolfe. I have the two-book set on my shelf and the stories in it are all fantastic.

    But if I were to recommend older authors, I would pick up the SF Hall of Fame and see what you like. There’s so much good stuff and to me, some popular authors like Asimov just don’t hold up as well today as not-quite-as-popular folks like Alfred Bester.

  11. My god, you youngsters make me feel old.* I suspect that nearly every reader of SF who started in the 1950s read mostly material reaching back to the 1940s or earlier. By 1955 (when I began) there was not enough new material being published to feed a strong fannish appetite, so we turned to library collections of anthologies to supplement current magazines and paperbacks from the corner store. Just about any serious SF reader wound up being familiar with “Golden Age” material, and many of us worked our ways back to Wells and still devoured everything new as it came out. David Hartwell and others have pointed out that by the 1970s it became impossible to keep up with the entire field, and now there is not only volume but fragmentation to contend with–I’ve been reviewing for thirty-some years, and I’m never going to catch up. So I suppose it’s just as well I misspent my youth absorbing all that pulp.

    I would say that historical or backward-looking reading is essential for anyone interested in really understanding the field, and even plain old pleasure reading is going to benefit from a dig through the work of the last, say, fifty years. (I’m guessing that the farther back one reaches, the more archaic and clunky the material is going to appear to anyone under, say, 40.) Peter’s suggestions above–the LoA novel set and the SFWA Hall of Fame anthologies are excellent starting places. And my own suggested-writers list (drawn from my own reading in the 1990s) would include Fred Pohl, Phil Farmer, Jack Vance, Pat Cadigan, Michael Swanwick, Eleanor Arnason, Bruce Sterling, C.J. Cherryh, Sherri Tepper, Melissa Scott, Linda Nagata, Linda Nagata, Damon Knight, Alexander Jablokov, Wil McCarthy. . . .

    * Nancy Kress as part of a retrospective-reading program! I reviewed the Beggars books as they appeared. Hell, I was writing about Heinlein, Asimov, and Clarke when they were still alive, as well as slightly-less-ancient Poul Anderson and Damon Knight. I have the clay tablets right here to prove it.

    1. The fun part is when you think about the whole new generation of SFF readers who weren’t even born when Beggars in Spain was released. ;)

      Verne, Wells, Burroughs, Heinlein, Clarke, those were familiar names on my family’s bookshelves. I grew up reading them. I will introduce my own kids to them. However, I’ve found it easier to hook them with stories written later.

      Thank you for the recs, and the different perspective.

  12. Delaney, yes! Another of his is Babel-17.
    War for the Oaks, yes! I’d be willing to relive some bad days if I could read it for the first time again.
    I remember Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama fondly.
    CJ Cherryh’s Cyteen trilogy–or another from the Union-Alliance ‘verse if a trilogy’s too much.
    Joan Vinge’s Snow Queen or Psion.
    Fun to see both new and familiar titles!

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