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Give Me One Good Reason Why I Should Read Your Favorite Science Fiction Novel

Plenty of people have picked up on the fact that, when it comes to Science Fiction, I am more into the movies, television shows, comic books and video games than the books that (may have) inspired them. This isn’t for lack of trying.

I freely admit that I am primarily a Fantasy guy when it comes to books. My instinct is to grab the Jordan or Martin books, maybe a little Kate Elliot or J.V. Jones, too. I like the hero’s journey, the adventure – sometimes I can get lost in the science of science fiction, if that makes sense. It’s like a math test. I hate math and I hate tests.

Having said that, I am not comfortable being a one trick pony. I want to broaden my horizons, branch out into other things. To that end, I’ve recently picked up tomes by John Scalzi, Kevin J. Anderson, Elizabeth Moon, Mike Resnick & Michael Moorcock, to name a few.

But, everyone knows that the best way to get into a new author or book is by word of mouth, right? Recommendations from folks you know. So here’s your chance to convert me.

Tell me what your favorite science fiction novel is and give me ONE good reason why I should read it.

Too hard? Think of it like Twitter – keep it short, sweet and succinct. You don’t have to keep it under 140 characters but you do have to sum it up in such a way that it compels me to go shell out the $5-$25 for the book.

Ready… Set…Go!

About Patrick Hester (527 Articles)
Patrick Hester is a writer, blogger, podcasting dude, Denver transplant and all around Functional Nerd. Don't hate him cuz he has a cool hat.

47 Comments on Give Me One Good Reason Why I Should Read Your Favorite Science Fiction Novel

  1. You love the doorstop fantasy books try

    the doorstop science fiction of Peter F. Hamilton !

     

    The recent Void books even have a fantasy world inside of the hard SF.

     

    Great writer, great books, give it a try !

  2. If you haven’t read Snow Crash, it’s a mashup of cyberpunk, Sumerian mythology, linguistics, and lots lots more. 

  3. Nico Veenkamp // October 21, 2010 at 2:15 am //

    You mention Elizabeth Moon and you like fantasy. Check out Deed of Paksenarrion. When you like her style then start with Hunting Party and Sporting Chance.

     

    Peter F Hamilton is a great writer but starting with his Void series or Nightdawn Trilogy is a bit much. I would suggest to start with his Greg Mandel books: Mindstar Rising, A Quantum Murder and The Nano Flower.

     

     

  4. Iain M. Banks writes science-fiction for people who love fantasy. Not the intention but guaranteed hit.

  5. You want something a bit more character-driven, maybe. No lack of that around. Iain Banks, yeah. I’d say his ‘Consider Phlebas’. Also ‘Holy Machine’ by Chris Beckett, a UK writer. Paolo Bacigalupi’s ‘The Wind-Up Girl’, too. Or try ‘The Best of Lucius Shepard’ or Dan Simmons’ ‘Hyperion’.

    Thinking about it, go for the Hyperion if you haven’t read it. That’s my recommendation.

    You know, Greg Egan said once in an interview that 99% of science fiction was written for people with no interest in science. He’s not too far off the mark.

  6. The Saddling Saint // October 21, 2010 at 5:30 am //

    The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin. I used to read only fantasy. Not after LeGuin. 

  7. Richard Morgan – Altered Carbon, thrilling action packed (anti)hero on a mission to find out what his actual mission is in a gritty future reminiscent of Bladerunner. Morgan has an eye for action, characters and evolving plot that crams far more into his novels than should be possible with his word count.

    China Melville – The Scar, yeah its the second Bas Lag novel, but its the most acsessible and stand alone. This novel is the full on 3D experience in book format, with a fascinating plot and set of characters that gripped me from page one and raced me to the end of the novel. Not exactly scifi, but some weird mishmash of scifi, fantasy, steam punk and so pure adrenalin.

  8. Stay AWAY from Kevin J. Anderson.  I’m really not sure how he gets published.  The Dune novels he cowrote are laughable and his own books are shaky at best.

    “I like the hero’s journey, the adventure…” Then Herbert’s classic Dune is the way to go.  3/4 or more of the book is the hero’s journey, and it’s a doorstop like the fantasy books you describe.  It also doesn’t get into the science much.  The FTL travel is more magic than science, as is the spice.

    Also, if you want a short “hero’s journey” try out Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game.  Again, an older book, but an easy read that is 99.9% about the hero becoming the hero.  The science is a little more prevalent in this one, but it is still small compared to most SF novels.  Oh, and Card is rather crazy, so don’t judge his novels on his internet writing.

    I would also second the nomination of Peter F. Hamilton, but I would go with Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained before the Void series.  Easier reads.

    Alastair Reynolds Revelation Space novels are another decent set of books.

  9. The Golden Age, by John C. Wright.  It will make your brain grow.

  10. I’ll third the Peter F. Hamilton recommendation, starting with his duology of Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained. I’m not a huge SF reader either–I prefer fantasy–but I LOVED those books. Particularly the audio editions; the reader is just amazing.

    Beyond that, Gene Wolfe has written some amazing SF and fantasy. I read an early copy of his January 2011 SF Home Fires, and it’s truly awesome.

  11. I already said this in a Mind Meld, but “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” is a textbook on how to extrapolate a future world and society from the one that exists.

  12. I second The Golden Age trilogy. If you don’t like the Nothing Computer then you’ll probably want to stick with Fantasy! Just don’t read his blog.

    Altered Carbon is pure awesome sauce. Once you read that you’ll want to pick up the rest of his books, all of which are pretty fantastic!

  13.  

    “Just don’t read his blog.”

     

    I’m amazed at people who say stuff like this. You may not agree with John C. Wright’s thoughts on religion, gays, etc., but are you so afraid of reading something you disagree with?

  14. Joerg Grau // October 21, 2010 at 9:20 am //

    Dan Simmons’s Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion are spectacular.  That man can write.  Of course I couldn’t make it through the Illum series, but Hyperion was brilliant.

     

    I also second Richard Morgan.  Like someone said on the podcast, it is kind of the SF equivalent of sword and sorcery.  I think you’d get a kick out of it.

  15. I loved Richard Morgan’s Altered Carbon (and Spin State by Chris Moriarty that came out at about the same time and has some parallels), but since you’re more into Fantasy, I’m not sure that’s a good recommendation. Others suggested Dune and that seems like a more apt recommendation. It’s hard for me to pin down one novel that I’d take on a desert island with me, but one of my introductions to Science Fiction was Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke. It had a huge impact on me as a teenager and I keep thinking I should re-read it to see if I like as much now as I did then.

    Having said all that though, since you primarily enjoy Fantasy, I’d suggest Patricia Kennealy-Morrison’s <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Keltiad”>Keltiad series,</a> the first of which is called The Tales of Aeron: The Copper Crown. The series premise is that the faeries of Celtic myth were real and not from Earth. When Christianity came into being many of them left and colonized other planets. It’s Science Fantasy based heavily on mythology and the second trilogy is an Arthurian saga. There’s a quest, swords, and multiple factions vying for power and is pretty much a Fantasy story set in space. The beautiful original cover art of the first few books were drawn by Thomas Canty in the same style as the ones he created for some of Michael Moorcock’s novels such as The Eternal Champion.

    I’d also recommend anything by Liz Williams, but my favorite so far of hers is The Ghost Sister.

  16. tbob – I understand what you are saying, and agree with the point you are making. However I also agree with the comment about ignoring Card’s blog… the idea here is to expand Patricks reading, and the writing on Card’s blog is not only HIGHLY objectionable but a very poor example of his skills as an author, if I had read his blog before reading any of his novels I doubt very much that I would have bothered reading them.

  17. pezalinski // October 21, 2010 at 10:00 am //

    “The Anubis Gates” by Tim Powers… one of the few sci fi books to be issued in paperback FIRST, and then published in hardcover due to demand. Time Travel, Beggars, Mummies, Spring-heeled Jack, Poets, and a truely evil version of trading places…. What’s not to love?

  18. Just one? That’s almost as impossible as providing an entire list, but if I had only one recommendation, it would be Philip K. Dick’s Ubik, which is one of the finest metaphysical sf novels ever written. It reads initially like a pulp novel in the tradition of A.E. Van Vogt, but then veers into very strange, very heavy territory. I described it to the Goddess as a science fictional retelling of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and nearly thirty years after my initial exposure to both I haven’t changed my mind.

  19. Dune is an easy step from fantasy. It’s an epic war between two houses in a feudal future with knife-combat, mysticism, guilds and prophecies. It’s an incredible book as well.

  20. Armor – John Steakley

     

    Read it or Larry the Lobster gets it….

  21. Dragonsdawn by Anne McCaffrey, the most science oriented of the Pern books and a good place start as it is about the colonization and the scientific creation of the dragons. 

  22.  

    For Peter F. Hamilton, Fallen Angel is a standalone novel; so that’s a good place to start.

     

  23. Jonathan Eli // October 21, 2010 at 11:19 am //

    The Last Cabbandeum; It has everything, aliens, Military action, romance, terror, torture, and it’s 99 cents on Amazon. It has received good reviews but just hasn’t gotten traction yet outside the few people who know about it.

  24. Hero’s Journey + FANTASY elements + FILMABLE + Broaden Reading Horizons beyond Fantasy .

    OK, try a galactic-war-intersteller-Intrigue novel where the “Hero” on a “Journey” happens to be a human female. 

    It won the Romantic Times Award for Best SF Novel (talk about broadening).  And there’s a screenplay version. 

    You can read free chapters and find Amazon links here:

    http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com&nbsp; (yes, embarrassingly enough I wrote it).

    The TITLE is DUSHAU, and it’s the first of a trilogy that gets more and more “fantasy” as it goes on.  Lots of combat action.  Even psychic battles.

    It was written on a direct verbal challenge by Andre Norton as I was standing in her front yard finishing a long conversation with her about sequels to her works. 

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg

    http://www.simegen.com/jl/

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  25. Hyperion/The Fall of Hyperion.

    Because when Sturgeon’s Law is actually too Kind!  This Book(One published in two parts) is one of the VERY few that is not plagued or ruined by the ever present BULLCRAPOLA.  

     

    Simmons has had his ego praised so much that he really doesnt edit his work anymore(Illium etc) but this puppy was Lean and Mean(Peter Hamiliton would have made this 1000 pager a 10,000 Fatboy) and (Reynolds  Revalation space is a 2nd rate homage, including references)

    I only had a few lines here and there I really did not care for. The rest I thought was the best SF I’ve ever read.  

    Most people apparently do not mind Stupid ass decision making/reactions (Ignorance is Bliss)

    Which is why Asimov’s Foundation/Heinlein’s Starship Troopers are often considered at the top.

     

    So if your not overly thrilled and a bit taken back by Action thats low on the “well thought of” scale.

    But Like the idea of a Talented writer audacious enough to tackle  Universe Building on a Grand Scale

    with writing matching the Grandiosity of the Plot. And even comes in Lean and Mean at 1000 pages(little slow at the start, though)

    Then do yourself a favour and read this book!!!

     

    Sorry for the Cruel Remarks.  But Its my responce to my Great Dissapointment’s of halfway believing the hype of the foundation, Starship troopers etc books.

     

    I guess my BS meter is more critical then most(its not a good thing) But for instance in

    “FOUNDATION”   when the Assistant bum to the Future Thinker(info Collector) is on trial and he is pee’ing  his pants thinking that they will definitly get the Death Sentence and goes on crying because he is TOTALLY SURE OF IT!!!   Yet they not only get off, but are given a Planet and 6 months to pack their Bags. The Bum ASSistant’s reaction is to goe OFF  about how Cruel and injust the Emperor is for only giving them 6 months to pack. (HOW DARE YOU) And ofcourse the Future Thinker just smirkly lets him know that this is exactly what he wanted.   

    And so DipSkull says’ 

    “Oh BoSeeFuss, You actually wanted this”   

    “YEP”

    “So its a good thing that we are not Killed”

    “YEP”

    “And We shouldn’t be crying about not being killed and getting a planet to boot”

    “Thats what I’m Sayin”

    “But what about only having 6 months to get our stuff together”

    “I’m a little ticked off about that myself, but I guess its better then Death”

    “I see your point!  Thats why your a Genious”

    “Yep”

    “Well we better haul balls, that clocks a tickin”

    “Yep”

     

    ((Hey, this is a actually a pretty accurate interpertation, and also more to the point))

     

    Worst of all, I actually read past this Crap  Thinking that “NO WAY” are so many people wrong about this being the BEST BOOK OF ALL-TIME, when its actually a Wank Rag where a Scientest and SF WRITER cannot imagin Large amounts of Data fitting on small computers. (Come on Isaac, I think you should have atleast imagined in a universe with 30,000 earth like planets and Better then Light Travel available, that computers would be able to hold more then 100 pages of information and that data collection was, is and would be 100,000 years in the future, a fundamental part of the COMPUTER!    

    URGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    But it  was indicitive of the next phase of the book, and thats when I pulled the Plug.

     

    Hey Maybe it did become the G.O.A.T, But I do not see how. All I know is when a Scientest/Writer Slaps me in the Face with Ignoramous Bull Crap  over and Over.  Thats when I should estrapolate that things will continue in the same vain and make a Life Saving decision for my self!

    ((sorry, but if you don’t give examples people will think your the Dummy))

     

     

     

     

  26. Ubik – Philip K Dick – Good Pulp Sci-fi.  This was the first book I ever read that really made me THINK about the story and what the author was really trying to say.  It exposed me to what good Science Fiction really is.  Before that, my definition of SF was Star Wars.   15 years since reading it, it’s still the best book I ever read and really encouraged me to read more to this day.

  27. Andrew S. Balfour // October 21, 2010 at 12:12 pm //

    Seconding the Kevin J. Anderson warning.  There’s much better material available than anything he’s written.

     

    I haven’t seen anyone mention Charles Stross yet.  I’m only familiar with the Laundry Files books (The Atrocity Archive, The Jennifer Morgue, The Fuller Memorandum), but they are solid gold.  Present-day sci-fi meets spy thriller meets Lovecraftian horror meets IT humour with just a touch of fantasy thrown in.  Good for those of us who spend most of our time reading fantasy.

  28. Like you I tend to go for Fantasy over SF, but I would recommend the following:

    • Grass by Sheri S Tepper
    • Childhood’s End by Arthur C Clarke
    • Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
    • Dust by Elizabeth Bear
    • Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
    • Principles of Angels by Jaine Fenn
    • The Quiet War by Paul McAuley

    None of these are the hard, military-type SF that I dislike but all are excellent reads.

  29. I’m going back to a multiple award-winning early work by a contemporary grand master…

    Downbelow Station by CJ Cherryh.  A thinking person’s space opera – realistically portrayed people in a distant but still understandable future that serves as a starting point for many other novels set in the same universe.

    OK, there’s more than 1 reason there but at least I held it to 1 sentence.

  30.  

    Andy W.

    It’s not O.S.Card that the previous commenter mentioned. It was John C. Wright, whose blog is in fact very well written (if a bit wordy). I don’t agree with half of what he writes but he defends his views vigorously and with thought.

  31. There is nothing thougtful about Wright’s blog, it’s just a hateful pile of poisonous drivel using words like homosex and abomination and accusing anyone who doesn’t agree with him of being either a “abomination”, a coward surrendering to pressure from “homosex activists” or an idiot deceived by those same people. Or at least his posts about about sexuality and gender is, I’d read the rest of the blog but I’ve been taught that poison is best avoided for your own health.

  32. All the recommendations are for new stuff.  I’ll give you an old one.  CITY by Clifford Simak.  Or, if I’m allowed two, THE STARS MY DESTINATION by Alfred Bester.

  33. “Pushing Ice” by Alastair Reynolds has been my fav of his so far. Not as space opera-y as his others, more hard-sf.

    Working thru the “Dark Tower” series by Stephen King right now. very good! 

  34. My first thought would be to recommend one of several of the third sereis of Ace Science Fiction Specials; great ideas, great writing, and character-driven stories that have served as the basis for amazing careers and entire subgenres.  Top of the list would be KSR’s The Wild Shore, Lucius Shepard’s Green Eyes, or Harold Waldrop’s Them Bones.  Overall the series is a fantastic crop of novels (although I have not read the O’Keefe or Feeley books).

  35. cryptonomico // October 21, 2010 at 7:09 pm //

    Stanislaw Lem.

    Truly alien aliens. Unanswerable questions. Master wordplay on the part of the translator (Kandel, usually, but not yet for Solaris) which does indeed stem from the author. Try Eden for world-building.

  36. No doubt the greatest SF book of the past few years was “House of Suns” by Alastair Reynolds. If you don’t read this and fall in love with it then I doubt your humanity.

    Also, for a lighter touch of great SF I would recommend “The Rookie” by Scott Sigler.

    I would also say to stay away from Kevin J Anderson. I won’t dog him here, but I don’t think I would want anyone to start off with him representing the entire genre.

  37. The books that still stick with me, years after I’ve read them, and that I’ve read more than once:

     

    Vernor Vinge’s Fire Upon the Deep, and his Deepness in the Sky.  Big fat juicy reads full of interesting ideas.

    Another series I’ve read more than once is Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun series.

    And The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russel- a very different kind of first contact novel.

    I think I’ll go read them AGAIN!

  38. I would recommend Earth Clan(Uplift Series).

  39. @tbob – *DOH* thats what i get for speed reading posts, sorry.

  40. Light – M. John Harrison

    How often does Time Out NY recommend a hard SF book?

     

  41. Read Hyperion by Dan Simmons because it’s the best attempt to replicate the Cantebury Tales that’s ever been written.

  42. I have always though In Conquest Born by CS Friedman has always been underappreciated.

    Combining space opera, ubermensch breeding, telepathy, and the strategy and tactics of interstellar warfare, this book also makes its characters relatable and accessible.

  43. First off – holy crap, I’m gonna go broke…

    Second – I have read Dune and Ender’s Game and enjoyed both.

    I hear Hamilton & Banks a lot in the replies, so I will check them out.  I have an Alastair Reynolds book waiting to be read, just haven’t cracked it yet. 

    Martin: I read Black Sun Rising by CS Friedman and thought it was okay enough to give Crown of Shadows a try but bailed on that fairly early in so I don’t know if I’ll try again.

    Bill Cider – offer up any old stuff that you want 🙂

    Will – CJ Cherryh comes up a lot in my social circles & I read some of her fantasy stuff so I need to give her a shot on scifi.  Good pick.

    Jessica – I sometimes feel overwhelmed by Anne McCaffrey’s sheer volume of work.  I never know  where to start, so it’s nice to have someone recommend a starting point -thanks!

    pezalinski- Mummies? I’m in!

    Lisa Paitz Spindler – I am a sucker for Celtic stuff so I will have to check that out. 

    Zach: “The Golden Age, by John C. Wright.  It will make your brain grow.” What are you saying?  I’ve always been told that my brain is just the right size…

    Thanks everyone and keep em coming!  This could turn into a great scifi nerd Christmas list!!

    ~P
    @atfmb

  44. Cherryh’s a very very good pick for a fantasy fan – the things that appeal to you in her fantasy work just as well in her SF (and actually much of her fantasy really is disguised SF).  The Mri books (Faded Sun trilogy) might be a particularly good starting point for a fantasy guy; you might actually consider the Morgaine cycle fantasy already; and for me her real masterpiece is Cyteen, one of the two great novels about growing up and how nurture affects you that I know.

     

    The other one is Neal Stephenson’s “the diamond age”, which again should be intensely accessible for fantasy fans (and is to my mind one of the great SF novels of the 90s).

     

    Agree 100% with the Banks recommendations too, and the Vinge – both could be read as fantasy with a little squint ;).

     

    Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan books are probably too obvious to recommend, right?

     

    The other one that occurs to me, and is one of my all-time favourites, is David Zindell’s “neverness” – it’s almost a quest fantasy in a SF context, and is rich and beautiful and deep and thoughtful.  It’s also probably pretty hard to get hold of, I’m afraid.

  45. I guess you guys aren’t familiar with twitter.

     

  46. Tam made me smile. 🙂

  47. Mike Resnick’s “Inferno” is an awesome read with real meaning as it i set in an alien world modeled after Zimbabwe.  Very unique story, 1 of 3. 

    Walter Miller’s “Canticle For Leibowitz” is a widely hailed classic for good reason.  Powerful book.  Reading it, you’ll understand its influence.

     

    For heroes and pure fun, I recommend Timothy Zahn’s Quadrail books.  Dealing with a security agent fighting a difficult alien nemesis, they are the fast paced, fun escapism that Zahn excels at.  His Star Wars books remain the most movie-like of any I’ve read.

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