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Sci-fi/Fantasy for newbies

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message 1: by Alex (new)

Alex (joysprick) | 4 comments Hey Toasties,

A couple of times in comment threads I've seen people ask for recommendations to help introduce them to sci-fi and/or fantasy. So I thought I'd start a thread for people to consolidate their recommendations. Here are a couple to start:

Le Guin - Left Hand of Darkness. Annals of a of a human anthropologist/diplomat on a planet of androgynes. A beautifully written deep psychological exploration of gender fluidity and the difficulty of understanding other minds, however familiar or foreign. The opposite of lasers and space battles sci-fi.

Herbert - Dune. The spice must flow. Includes both lasers and space battles. Political intrigue in a galactic feudal empire featuring assassination plots, sleeper agents, religious zealots, and sand worms that eat helicopters.


message 2: by Julia (last edited May 04, 2014 05:53AM) (new)

Julia | 1 comments Excellent, here are some more:

Patricia Wrede - Dealing with Dragons (young adult). Wrede takes a whole host of fairy-tale tropes and happily inverts them. It starts with the protagonist, Princess Cimorene, running away from home to go live with a dragon, and then politely declining to be rescued by the prince who shows up willing to slay the dragon in exchange for her hand in marriage. Light, fun, and feminist.

Lois McMaster Bujold - the Miles Vorkosigan series. An under-five-foot, brittle-boned, brainy, fast-talking, manic-depressive hero struggles to make a name for himself that will fit his outsized ambition in a culture that despises "mutants" and any signs of physical deformity. Lasers and space battles aplenty, as the main character gets himself into and out of trouble, but also an almost anthropological focus on how changes brought about by technology influence social structures in the many cultures portrayed over the course of the series.

Octavia Butler - Dawn. An alien race comes across a ruined and wasted Earth, scoops up the survivors, and tries to integrate them into their own race, much to the humans' displeasure. Butler is always very smart on power dynamics, and in this book she explores bodily and sexual autonomy, paternalism, and xenophobia through the alien/human dynamic, and sexism and humanity's capacity for brutality through the human/human dynamic. It's the first in a trilogy, so if you like it you have an easy next-read.


message 3: by Laurel (new)

Laurel | 2 comments I am by no means an expert but here are a few things I've enjoyed recently:

James S.A. Corey - Leviathan Wakes. Classic hardboiled-noir tropes...in space. In a future where humanity has settled Mars and the asteroid belt, a troubled underachieving cop is assigned to a bullshit case of finding the runaway heiress of a manufacturing concern. Things are not what they seem, and it gets real weird real fast. Meanwhile, the scrappy crew of a water-hauler accidentally starts a war, and the unintended consequences lead them to uncover a deep conspiracy. Some lasers and space battles, but also a lot of snappy patter and well-drawn characters. If you liked Joss Whedon's Firefly series, you'll probably like this. Also the first of a series (haven't read the others yet).

China Mieville - I've enjoyed everything he's written, really, but particularly:

Kraken - In a very-slightly-different-from-ours London, a giant squid is stolen from the Natural History Museum. A hapless scientist and a police detective get mixed up in it as mysterious forces converge. In addition to being fabulously well written, this book happens to be hilarious a lot of the time.

Perdido Street Station - this is the first book in his "New Crobuzon" series, which is dystopian fantasy steampunk, I guess? It's a lot darker, if you like that. Totalitarian state, "re-made" cyborg beings, and another scientist battling forces of evil.


message 4: by Andrea (new)

Andrea (amcorbin) Julia, just last night two people were talking up the Wrede series to me! I'm excited to read them.

Douglas Adams -- Wait wait come back. I'm talking about Dirk Gently. Go read Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. He's a holistic detective, meaning everything that happens around his cases is weird and interconnected, and it's by Douglas Adams, so it's also funny. There is, as I recall, time travel, a ghost, and the possible extinction of all human life.

Arthur C. Clarke -- 2001: A Space Odyssey. Everyone thinks they know this one -- "Open the pod bay doors, HAL." -- but I like the book more. And it's a classic. Hard sci-fi, with space travel and sentient computers and, of course, that dang monolith.

Chris Beckett -- Dark Eden. Dark Eden is very recent sci-fi, about a group of humans who are living on a dark planet, where life exists thanks to geothermal energy instead of a star. The humans are all descendants of the few survivors of a space ship crash-landing on the planet. They've been scraping by for several generations, with the story of their origin transformed into myth.


message 5: by Andrea (new)

Andrea (amcorbin) Oh man, I hate that I only recommended dude authors. My go-to recommendations (Le Guin and Butler) were already mentioned.

I'll add: Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising series! I love these books. They're YA and you could knock out the whole series over a good winter break from school. Not that I did that or anything. The first is Greenwitch, but I actually started with The Dark is Rising and that worked out well.


message 6: by Laurel (new)

Laurel | 2 comments Loved the Dark is Rising series as a kid. I should revisit it!


message 7: by Alex (new)

Alex (joysprick) | 4 comments Thanks for the recommendations!


message 8: by Beth (new)

Beth (beth95) If you think "Georgette Heyer, but with spaceships" might be your thing, try the Liaden Universe series by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. These books are tremendous fun. Certain of them contain eight-foot-tall turtles.


message 9: by Terry (last edited Jan 06, 2015 02:29PM) (new)

Terry Drinkwater | 1 comments Hm. It depends who I'm introducing, doesn't it?

For children:
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
The Dark Is Rising series by Susan Cooper
Chronicles of Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander
A Wrinkle In Time series by Madeleine L'engle
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (not strictly fantasy, but definitely an introduction to fantasy)
Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia Wrede

For teens:
Tortall serieseses by Tamora Pierce (there are several)
Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
Young Wizards series by Diane Duane
Damar series by Robin McKinley
Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix
Foundation series by Isaac Asimov
Neutron Star by Larry Niven (from personal experience, I think the short stories are the best introduction to Known Space for a teen)

For adults:
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
The Peace War by Vernor Vinge
Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. le Guin
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
Neuromancer by William Gibson
The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

Categories aren't firm by any means, feel free to mix 'n match.


message 10: by Meghan (new)

Meghan | 1 comments A few I haven't seen listed yet (all by women):
Ancillary Justice -- Absolutely amazing, but maybe not for the first introduction to Sci-Fi.
Fortune's Pawn -- A space opera I really enjoyed and the beginning of a series. Very accessible Sci-Fi.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms -- More Fantasy than Sci-Fi, and really good, although I'm not quite finished with it.


message 11: by Kate (new)

Kate | 6 comments I recently read Elizabeth Bear's Karen Memory and REALLY liked it. It's a steampunk story that's mostly about women.


message 12: by Savannah (new)

Savannah (scieze) | 1 comments I think that starting with young adult and children's novels is a great way to get into the genre, personally. The Dark is Rising Series is great and I would second that, as is the Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett -- a great jumping-off point for getting into discworld, I think. Good Omens is a classic as well, of course, and a book that everyone should honestly read.


message 13: by Elliot (new)

Elliot Norwood | 1 comments If you like or are interested in space opera, I'd highly recommend the Culture series by Iain M Banks. All are pretty good, maybe start with Use of Weapons or Look to Windward, (Consider Phlebas is the first in the series but there is no over-arching story, each book is self contained).


message 14: by xenu01 (new)

xenu01 | 15 comments Has anyone read Kate Elliot's Jaran series? (The first one is called Jaran)

They were quite formative for me. They're also terrific good fun, and manage to contain anthro sci-fi, sword-fighting and space opera in one series.


message 15: by xenu01 (new)

xenu01 | 15 comments So I want to add a book to the mix that I just read and liked quite a bit: Memoirs of a Spacewoman

Anyone read it?


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