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Sci Fi redux

So yeah, I just wrote like 19 replies to that sci-fi post of a few weeks ago. The list of sci fi to read as it currently stands:
  • Halting State, Charles Stross, if only because I was already reading it when this started
  • The Skylark in Space, E. E. "Doc" Smith.
  • Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. LeGuin
  • The Space Merchants, Frederick Pohl
  • Neuromancer, William Gibson
  • Ubik, Philip K. Dick
  • Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter Miller
  • The Cyberiad, Stanislaw Lem
  • The Exiles Trilogy, Ben Bova
  • The Shockwave Rider, John Brunner
  • Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur Clarke
  • Cyteen, C. J. Cherryh
  • Doomsday Book, Connie Willis
  • The Diamond Age, Neal Stephenson
  • Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
  • Dragon's Egg, Robert L. Forward
  • Tales of the Dying Earth, Jack Vance
Need to research Doris Lessing or Andre Norton.


( 32 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 8th, 2009 05:16 am (UTC)
I've posted something similar on the original thread, but: When I recommended Glory Road, I meant Starship Troopers
Feb. 8th, 2009 05:17 am (UTC)
...which I've already read. There goes Heinlein's last chance ;-)
Feb. 8th, 2009 04:15 pm (UTC)
Someone else had already mentioned The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, but that's my favorite of his.
Feb. 8th, 2009 05:49 am (UTC)
I have Doomsday Book. I have tried twice to get through it and failed. You are welcome to my copy.

I think Canticle for Leibowitz is very overrated; it hasn't aged well, and I don't consider it a must read. The Cyberiad is a little overrated (heresy I know), but it's pretty cool.

A lot of people really like Charles Stross, so he must have something, but I thought The Atrocity Archives was only pretty good, and I couldn't get through Accelerando at all.

I didn't care for The Diamond Age, but I think Neal Stephenson is very overrated. He can write some great scenes --- there are parts of Snow Crash that are terrific --- but I haven't read a novel by him that I love, and I've read a bunch. Also, I think he writes about science in a particularly annoying way where if you don't already know what he's talking about, you don't learn anything, and if you do, you're bored. In The Diamond Age this is particularly acute in a section where he spends what feels like 100 pages recapitulating theoretical computer science through analogies about knights and gates and locks. Bleh.

Neuromancer is totally incredible. I know of no better science fiction novels.
Feb. 8th, 2009 06:07 am (UTC)
The thing that got me started on Stross was Singularity Sky. The follow-up, Iron Sunrise, was also good. Halting State is kind of neat, but hard to follow.

Yeah, I kind of tossed Diamond Age onto the list at the last minute... I liked Snow Crash and, to a lesser extent, Cryptonomicon. Maybe it'll fall back off.

If you could bring Doomsday Book to work Monday, that'd be keen. :)
Feb. 8th, 2009 12:10 pm (UTC)
i'm not generally into sci-fi, but michele had me read doomsday, and i really enjoyed it. if 'enjoyed' is the right word for something both funny and depressing.
Feb. 8th, 2009 12:39 pm (UTC)
Connie Willis also wrote [i]To Say Nothing of the Dog[/i], set in the same universe as the Doomsday Book, but far less depressing and (at least to me) screamingly hilarious.

And while I'm recommending time travel books, let me recommend my favorite of the genre, Tim Powers' [i]The Anubis Gates[/i] - but that's fantasy rather than science fiction. Maybe in 2010?
Feb. 8th, 2009 12:41 pm (UTC)
[i]? Clearly I am spending too much time on boards running vBulletin…
Feb. 8th, 2009 02:20 pm (UTC)
I think The Anubis Gates is likely my favorite time travel novel, too.
Feb. 8th, 2009 04:20 pm (UTC)
To Say Nothing of the Dog was great, and wanting to read more in that universe kept me going through Doomsday Book, which was good, but terribly depressing. I don't think they suffered from being read in that order.
Feb. 8th, 2009 09:20 pm (UTC)
Doomsday Book, which was good, but terribly depressing.

All I have to say to that is, don't read Passage. It's way more depressing (seriously). Bellwether is much more lighthearted and fun...
Feb. 8th, 2009 04:27 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I have to third the vote for "To Say Nothing of the Dog". :-)

Oh, and I just bought a copy of cyberiad if you wanted it when i was done. :-) If this SF list doesn't mean you're joining MITSFS instead, of course. *grin* If you even read 2 books off the list this year it's totally economical to have a MITSFS membership! ;)

Edited at 2009-02-08 04:29 pm (UTC)
Feb. 8th, 2009 05:40 pm (UTC)
You are SUCH a pusher...
Feb. 8th, 2009 03:13 pm (UTC)
Conversely, Leibowitz remains one of my favorite books of any sort, though I'll admit to harboring a certain sentimental streak which its tone agrees with.
Feb. 8th, 2009 03:15 pm (UTC)
I'd strongly encourage you to add Spin by Robert Charles Wilson, if you haven't read it already. It's wonderfully written, clever, and good sci-fi.

As a counterpoint to Rif, I find Gibson to be overrated and Diamond Age to be a real classic. Cyberiad was great, but I haven't read it in a long time. Stanislaw Lem is worth exploring in general.

Rendezvous with Rama is clearly a classic, and it's aged ok, but it does show that age more than a little, and didn't find it that satisfying, in the end. Doomsday book, I found a little plodding, but was still worthwhile.

Cat's Cradle and Dragon's Egg are really good, and sort of at opposite ends of the sci-fi spectrum. Slaughterhouse Five is my other favorite Vonnegut, though most wouldn't call it sci-fi. Forward's other stuff is, comparatively, disappointing.

I'd also recommend goodreads.com or librarything.com as good sites for social-networky tracking of reading lists, reviews, recommendations, and read books. I'm currently using godreads for this (http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/544561)
Feb. 8th, 2009 03:35 pm (UTC)
I wasn't as fond of Spin - the Big Picture was interesting, but the characters mostly seemed to be sock puppets of exposition. Admittedly, that's a staple characteristic of classic SF, but I expect better from recent works. But it won the Hugo, so others clearly disagree with me. :)
Feb. 8th, 2009 04:12 pm (UTC)
I found the three main characters (Tyler, Jason and Diane) to actually be not only compelling characters, but more "real" and atypical than a lot of sci-fi character's who can be pretty cookie-cutter.

That said, I clearly just like RCW's character's in general, across his novels.
Feb. 8th, 2009 03:35 pm (UTC)
Yeah, someone still needs to explain to me the difference between Neuromancer and a conventional hard-boiled detective novel that happens to be science fiction. I found it very blah.
Feb. 8th, 2009 04:11 pm (UTC)
Well, I think it gets credit for being (one of?) the first cyberpunk books. Even Lord of the Rings looks like a standard quest adventure populated with D&D characters at this point. :)
Feb. 8th, 2009 08:37 pm (UTC)
It can't be that, because it was the book that convinced me I didn't need to read any cyberpunk in the first place. The books I'm comparing it to preceded it by fifty years, not the other way around.

(Not that I'm not open to recommendations of good cyberpunk books. But simply being "cyberpunk" merely makes me feel like I'm reading a pastiche on Raymond Chandler, when I could be reading Raymond Chandler).

Edited at 2009-02-08 08:39 pm (UTC)
Feb. 9th, 2009 08:38 pm (UTC)
Science Noir
I've become very fond of Richard K. Morgan's work in the past year or so, and it very much has the feel of mixing science fiction with other genres. In particular, the Takeshi Kovacs books seem like Science-Noir-Detective and Science-Pulp-Adventure to me. Neither are `classics', but I'd recommend all of his currently-out books (even Market Forces, which is basically a screenplay he novelized himself).
Feb. 8th, 2009 03:33 pm (UTC)
Apropos of not necessarily anything:

I don't know if you've read your Wells, Verne, et al. I imagine most people have probably read Frankenstein and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, too. If you only know them from derivative works, there are some surprises there.

To any list in that vein (I guess maybe at the time it was called "scientific romance") I'd add Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "Professor Challenger" stories The Lost World or The Poison Belt.

As to Edgar Rice Burroughs, I found A Princess of Mars only marginally readable and The Land that Time Forgot a touch dull (Tarzan was good, but not so much sci-fi).

Edited at 2009-02-08 03:36 pm (UTC)
Feb. 8th, 2009 04:23 pm (UTC)
If you do read The Diamond Age, be aware that it's entirely conventional and acceptable to stop 50-100 pages from the end.
Feb. 8th, 2009 05:00 pm (UTC)
If you haven't read Snow Crash, I would read that instead of Diamond Age. Everyone I know who's read both liked Snow Crash much better. If you have read Snow Crash, knowing that Diamond Age falls apart at the end, rather than resolving things, may let you avoid the shattering of high expectations that so disappointed me when I finished it.

Rendezvous with Rama always felt overrated to me. The City and the Stars and Childhood's End are Clarke novels I like much more. I got more out of playing the Infocom game modelled after RwR (Starcross?) than reading the novel.

Feb. 8th, 2009 07:11 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I've read Snow Crash, and I greatly enjoyed it. Diamond Age is controversial enough now that I think I need to read it myself just to figure out what everyone's talking about... maybe I'll learn something about my friends by reading this book they disagree on so vehemently ;)
Mar. 1st, 2010 11:38 pm (UTC)
I liked both Snow Crash and Diamond Age, but I liked Diamond Age slightly more. I guess the ending didn't bother me.
Feb. 8th, 2009 05:47 pm (UTC)
Apparently this is a contrarian viewpoint: The Diamond age is better than Snow Crash in pretty much every way, including the ending. I think it's probably Stephenson's best ending ever (or maybe I should say "Stephenson's only good ending").

BUT, it is probably wise to read Snow Crash first. The thing about The Diamond age is, it's seriously dense, and it demands multiple readings, probably more than any other book I've read. Snow Crash is less of an undertaking.
Feb. 9th, 2009 08:34 pm (UTC)
Endings? Neil Stephenson?
I enjoy almost all of his books, but Stephenson might be the only person I've read with worse endings than Zelazny -- whose books I also enjoy. In both cases, it seems way more like the writers just stopped, rather than the story ending.

I myself plodded through Diamond Age, especially at the end -- maybe I should go back and reread it to see this mythical Stephenson Good ending. :-)
Feb. 8th, 2009 09:38 pm (UTC)
I read 2 or 3 of Doris Lessing's science fiction novels, and they didn't really feel like science fiction, and I didn't like them. It's as if she felt that she didn't have to know anything about the genre to write in it.

Andre Norton's books may be best read when you're in your teens. The one that I have the most fond memories of was Star Man's Son; it's about people trying to rebuild a civilization a long time after everything's been destroyed.
Feb. 10th, 2009 09:20 am (UTC)
I am amused that rifmeister and I seem to have nearly exact opposite taste in novels.

I found Neuromancer kind of boring and cold and not particularly memorable, though worth reading for cultural value. But far better on that front than as an actual novel.

The Diamond Age suffers from the same problem as Snow Crash in that it's essentially two (or more) very different novels smashed together rather ungracefully, but I tend to like most of the component parts enough that I can generally overlook his tendency to fail at constructing coherent narrative. It has some fascinating world-building and concepts, several interesting characters, and a really nifty atmosphere. And it's more of a messy epic steampunk/nanopunk hybrid than cyberpunk, and I like that about it, too.

Doomsday Book is admittedly rather depressing, but in this very intense, human, and profound way. Plus, time-travelling historians. (I'll note that I agree with some of the above commenters (including rifmeister, so I guess not exact opposite taste, anyway) that The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers is indeed a very good time-travel novel (maybe not super-memorable for me, but quite enjoyable), though my favorite book of his that I've read is Declare (a spy novel with supernatural elements) . I wouldn't think of either of them as "SF Classics," though.)

I admit I haven't read A Canticle for Leibowitz since high school, so perhaps I'd feel differently about it if I read it now. But it definitely didn't feel dated to me then, and we're still in such a post-Cold-War world that I suspect I'd still find it extremely relevant. Of course, I'm more of a historian than most people, too, so "dated" is also perhaps not such a bad thing to me, as it can indicate that something is especially evocative of its time period.
Mar. 1st, 2010 11:47 pm (UTC)
I am a William Gibson fan, but I actually think Neuromancer is overrated. Pattern Recognition is my favorite of his, though it's not even really SF.

I love Iain M. Banks (and Iain Banks too, but again, not SF). My favorites are Consider Phlebas and Look to Windward.

Heinlein's Number of the Beast was pretty formative for me when I was a teen. You might need to have read much of his earlier stuff, particularly the Future History stories, but that's all good too.

Are you on Goodreads.com?
Mar. 11th, 2010 09:03 pm (UTC)
I am now...

...not that I've made much headway on this list in the past year or so.
( 32 comments — Leave a comment )