The Sword and Laser discussion

Non-military/war based Sci-fi?

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message 1: by Steve (last edited Jun 26, 2012 09:15AM) (new)

Steve Bedford (realityinabox) | 13 comments Hi all, I'm new to S&L, and rather new to Sci-Fi in general. I started reading Leviathan Wakes (13% done, my kindle tells me) and am enjoying it, but I am wondering if anybody could point me in the direction of some solid Sci-Fi that doesn't revolve around military strategy and/or space wars. I'm not against reading sci-fi about space battles, but I am more interested in advanced societies technologies, as well as exploration and space travel rather than killing various iterations of space bugs. It seems like most of the descriptions of the novels I have looked at near the top of the various sci-fi listopia's are about some sort of military conflict.

I want to label what I'm looking as philosophical or utopian sci-fi. I am currently studying engineering, so I want to be inspired, as well as challenged to think differently about the implications of technology, so I figure where better to look than sci-fi. Recommendations?

message 2: by Keith (new)

Keith (KeithATC) | 386 comments The Sparrow grapples heavily with all sorts of philosophical questions -- scientific, social, moral, and religious.

And although it has a very slight military aspect to it (but no space battles or anything), The Mote in God's Eye is a fantastic exploration of humanity's first contact and how complicated it is on every level. One of my all-time favorite scifi books.

message 3: by Random (new)

Random (rand0m1s) You might consider looking into the Hainish Cycle of books by Ursula K. Le Guin

This Alien Shore by CS Friedman

One of my personal favorites Anathem by Neal Stephenson

The Engines of God by Jack McDevitt

message 4: by Cassandra (new)

Cassandra Davis | 3 comments Alone on the Edge is a wonderful look into the psyche of a human being isolated on the edge of space.

My own book, Dremiks does feature military officers but the drama arises less from space battles or bug hunts and more from human societal interaction.

As for engineering challenges, or societal impacts, expressed in sci-fi literature, you cannot go wrong with Asimov!

message 5: by Richard (last edited Jun 26, 2012 10:14AM) (new)

Richard | 221 comments There are some that have been straight up exploration, but there is usually some form of conflict around which the action & plot is based. This can be purely personal, corporate wrongdoing, human/alien misunderstandings...

You may want to start looking through the classics by Arthur C. Clarke to see if any of the descriptions catch your fancy, try Rendezvous With Rama or The Fountains of Paradise.

Many of C J Cherryh's books revolve around figuring out how to avoid interspecies war after a misunderstanding, there I'd start with The Pride of Chanur (Compact Space, #1) or Cuckoo's Egg.

Ursula K. Le Guin tends to be more thoughtful & less action oriented.

If you don't mind adolescent coming of age stories, Have Space Suit-Will Travel was my gateway into the genre (in books) as a young teen.

Joe Informatico (joeinformatico) | 839 comments You can try Alastair Reynolds' Pushing Ice. It's basically a pastiche of a couple of other classic SF stories, but a good stand-alone introduction to his work. Reynolds (a former ESA astrophysicist) is definitely on the harder side of the SF scale.

message 7: by Sky (new)

Sky Corbelli | 309 comments Check out Infoquake, it's a sci-fi business thriller about software development, what's not to love?

message 8: by L.S. (new)

L.S. Burton (lsburton337) | 56 comments I found Hyperion introduced me to some new ideas.

message 9: by Travis (new)

Travis (The_Hero_of_Canton) | 55 comments I'm fairly new to this genre myself, but I really, really enjoyed the WWW trilogy by Robert J. Sawyer. It basically takes the theory of evolution and applies it to technology with the spontanious appearance of AI. Not that it fits your description of space or utopias but its not military either.

message 10: by Sky (new)

Sky Corbelli | 309 comments Oh, don't forget the Scott Westerfeld stuff, both The Risen Empire for space exploration with some minor military smatterings and Uglies for the impact of technology on social structures are great places to start.

message 11: by P. Aaron (new)

P. Aaron Potter (PAaronPotter) | 585 comments If you're enjoying the hard sf, almost anything by John Barnes might work. Start with Orbital Resonance, which shares about 70% of its DNA with Leviathan Wakes.

message 12: by Tamahome (last edited Jun 26, 2012 12:50PM) (new)

Tamahome | 5059 comments Seeker by Jack McDevitt won a Nebula

message 13: by Leesa (last edited Jun 26, 2012 01:25PM) (new)

Leesa (leesalogic) | 457 comments Stephen Baxter's Manifold: Time is hard science (and lost me at times when it got so theoretical). It is focused more on theory and exploration, though there are elements of war/military in the story.

message 14: by Alterjess (new)

Alterjess | 318 comments Ringworld is a classic if you don't mind somewhat outdated gender roles.

message 15: by Kris (last edited Jun 26, 2012 06:53PM) (new)

Kris (KVolk) | 796 comments Iain M Banks Culture novels are excellent even when war comes into the story. The nice piece is that you can read them in any order pretty all the other books already mentioned.

message 16: by Tom (new)

Tom | 23 comments Some authors worth looking at..
Rudy Rucker
Stephen Baxter
Greg Bear

message 17: by Ken (new)

Ken | 141 comments Hominids

All of the Neanderthal Parallax by Robert J. Sawyer. Relatively quick and easy reads, but still very enjoyable.

message 18: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (Sandikal) | 1209 comments Just about anything by Ian McDonald would fit the bill, especially if you can get some of his stuff from the Nineties.

message 19: by Sean (new)

Sean Burke (spb273) | 71 comments While I don't have books to contribute I do have a possible explanation to the glut of violence in sci fi. War makes for an instant plot and some inherent characters. Also it is said that war is the mother or invention so the author is allowed to think of almost any tech and plug it in if it has any wartime strategical purpose. It also just gives Conflict to the story instantly. There is an instant need. And a solution as well. Idk. I'm rambling now.

message 20: by Curt (new)

Curt Eskridge | 89 comments From a class I had in college we decided that Utopia's must be darned hard to write and include an interesting story. The only thing close to a Utopia we read was Ecotopia: A Novel by Ernest Callenbach.

These are dystopian but Charles Stross wrote Halting State and Rule 34 which are a pair of police procedural detective stories set in future Scotland. The cast overlaps slightly but they center on different characters. Some really interesting near future ideas in those two. They all wore Google Goggle like glasses.

message 21: by kvon (new)

kvon | 554 comments Lois Bujold's Falling Free was about the moral ramifications of genetically engineering a zero g race; and Ethan of Athos looked at implications of an artificial uterus. There are some guns, but the ideas are what stuck with me.

Pennterra was a story of colonization and adaptation. And The Dazzle of Day was a generation ship full of Quakers en route to a new planet.

There are lots of less military sf. I think you need to look at different lists.

message 22: by Jen (new)

Jen (jblei) | 6 comments Heart of the Comet by Gregory Benford and David Brin is a classic exploration story.

message 23: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan | 185 comments The Light of Other Days

This might be up your alley too. Great story with a lot of different philosophical questions regarding personal choice and privacy.

message 24: by Jared (new)

Jared (jdhenze) | 11 comments I have to agree with both Travis and Ken with their recomendations of Robert Sawyer books. The two trilogies they recomended the WWW and the Human/Neanderthal trilogies are solid reads but if you want to test him out I personally would go with one of his stand alone books. My recomendations being Flashforward or Mindscan. In my opinion Sawyer seems to specialize in dealing with the various societal impacts that advanced technology can have on the world so it seems like a perfect fit for what you're looking for.

message 25: by Liam (new)

Liam Johnstone (hadaad) | 27 comments Spin by Robert Charles Wilson, I seem to remember was not about war.

message 26: by Keith (new)

Keith (KeithATC) | 386 comments Sky wrote: "Check out Infoquake, it's a sci-fi business thriller about software development, what's not to love?"

That series is the closest modern writing has come to the cyberpunk books of the 1980s, without being just an imitation. I really liked it.

message 27: by Cass (new)

Cass Morrison | 8 comments I like the Laiden Universe (Lee/Miller) a lot. Stories take place in 3 generations with some overlap. The first one I really got into was I Dare which was good stand alone.

message 28: by AndrewP (new)

AndrewP (AndrewCa) | 1910 comments Someone in another thread mentioned they were reading Venus by Ben Bova. All of the Grand Tour books are about exploration in the solar system. Today, technology has overtaken some of the earlier ones, but they are still fun reads. (Just ignore the bits about cassette tapes and fax modem lines.) (Kevin Bayer) (SporadicReviews) | 410 comments Yeah, most of McDevitt's stuff with Alex and Chase are non-militaristic, non-bug-hunt stories. I love `em.

Asimov's Robot novels (and the follow up novels set in the same universe by different authors)

Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars series.

Asimov's Nemesis

I like me some non-bug-hunt stories sometimes too!

message 30: by Ryan (new)

Ryan | 6 comments I highly suggest Dan Simmons' Ilium and Olympos. The duology definitely made me think quite a bit about ethical implementation of technologies by advanced species on others. In that vein I'd also recommend any of Iain M. Banks' Culture novels, and in particular The Player of Games.

message 31: by Richard (new)

Richard | 221 comments Kirinyaga: A Fable of Utopia looks at trying to "recreate" an idealized pastoral society on a colony world.

message 32: by Stan (new)

Stan Slaughter | 359 comments I fondly remember James P. Hogan book Inherit the Stars

The man on the moon was dead. They called him Charlie. He had big eyes, abundant body hair and fairly long nostrils. His skeletal body was found clad in a bright red spacesuit, hidden in a rocky grave. They didn't know who he was, how he got there, or what had killed him. All they knew was that his corpse was 50,000 years old; and that meant that this man had somehow lived...

message 33: by Stan (new)

Stan Slaughter | 359 comments Aenea wrote: "Heart of the Comet by Gregory Benford and David Brin is a classic exploration story."

Yep really enjoyed this one. Pretty pure science based adventure with no military conflicts at all. More of a man against nature type of story involving science as the solution.

message 34: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (Sandikal) | 1209 comments In giving this topic some thought, I can think of far more non-military science fiction than military/war science fiction.

message 35: by A.J. (new)

A.J. (ajbobo) | 71 comments Let me throw in another vote for Spin. It's a pretty heavy sci-fi premise, but is not a war-based story. It was very different from what I am used to reading, but I enjoyed it a lot.

message 36: by Austin (new)

Austin | 2 comments I highly highly recommend This Alien Shore

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Books mentioned in this topic

The Sparrow (other topics)
The Mote in God's Eye (other topics)
This Alien Shore (other topics)
Anathem (other topics)
The Engines of God (other topics)

Authors mentioned in this topic

Arthur C. Clarke (other topics)
C.J. Cherryh (other topics)
Ursula K. Le Guin (other topics)
Scott Westerfeld (other topics)
John Barnes (other topics)