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What Else Are You Reading? > What hard science fiction do you like?

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message 1: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 4146 comments I'm currently re-reading Poul Anderson's Tau Zero. It's a tale of people stuck on a Bussard Ramjet that can't stop accelerating. Great use of science here, and the science is integral to the story.

I'm also fan of Niven's work for the same reason - good use of known scientific principles. But there's not so much hard SF these days. So I'm curious. What hard SF books have people in this group read that you like?


message 2: by Louie (new)

Louie (rmutt1914) | 885 comments I'd recommend-
The Light of Other Days by Arthur C. Clarke The Songs of Distant Earth by Arthur C. Clarke


message 3: by Paolo (new)

Paolo (ppiazzesi) | 51 comments This one is really dark and weird and certainly not for everyone but I can't recommend it enough: Blindsight Blindsight by Peter Watts .


message 4: by Phil (new)

Phil | 1160 comments Some other authors you might like are David Brin, Robert Sawyer, Kim Stanley Robinson and Peter Hamilton.


message 5: by Lindsay (new)

Lindsay | 593 comments Paolo wrote: "This one is really dark and weird and certainly not for everyone but I can't recommend it enough: BlindsightBlindsight by Peter Watts."

That's the one I was going to recommend. I'm reading the sequel at the moment (Echopraxia)
Echopraxia by Peter Watts


message 6: by Tassie Dave, S&L Historian (new)

Tassie Dave | 3639 comments Mod
Paolo wrote: "This one is really dark and weird and certainly not for everyone but I can't recommend it enough: BlindsightBlindsight by Peter Watts."

We did that as a Sword and Laser Book Club pick back in 2011. Good book.


message 7: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 4146 comments Much obliged, I think I will get Blindsight next. Looks like a mix of Niven's Outsiders and Rendezvous with Rama with a side of the old NASA bit thrown in.

The old NASA bit goes a little like this: One day NASA received a code snippet from around the orbit of Jupiter. The couldn't crack it but it was clearly intelligent. So they put together a Morse-code message and included a dictionary in Morse as well. They then sent that in a message to the location where they believed the alien signal had come from.

Weeks went by. Finally another message arrived. It was in Morse code and read "We weren't talking to you."


message 8: by Trike (new)

Trike | 8768 comments Although I love Niven's work, I wouldn't put it in the "Hard SF" category personally. His Known Space series is more like Star Trek or Firefly when it comes to plausibility.

For my money, the best recent hard SF book is The Martian by Andy Weir The Martian.

Also, the classic Dragon's Egg by Robert L. Forward is another favorite of mine.


message 9: by Nathan (new)

Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments None apparently. In every discussion of Hard Scifi, when I bring up Scifi I like, I invariably get told "That is not Hard Scifi" therefore I do not read and specifically avoid hard Scifi, like the Martian (sorry) because apparently I do not like things like that. I also find some snootiness around that label too based on my previous discussions on the topic..


message 10: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 4146 comments Hm, interesting Nathan. If anything I've noticed it goes the other way. That is, that hard SF is dismissed by the larger community for being too technical. Well anyway, in the spirit of inclusion, what books do you think you would like that are hard SF? For instance, I haven't read The Martian, but my colleague Bob Lee read it before it got pulled, re-edited, and turned into a huge event. He read it when it was a self published e-book and loved it then.


message 11: by Gaines (new)

Gaines Post (gainespost) | 204 comments Darwin's Radio
Great hard sci-fi story.
:-)


message 12: by L. (last edited Sep 26, 2014 12:22PM) (new)

L. Shosty I thought The Hammer Of God was great.


message 13: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 4146 comments Awesome, keep 'em coming people! I think I have my next month or two worth of reading set up.

As I read Tau Zero I wonder what it would be like if we saw such a thing approaching us at near the speed of light. Even if it missed the solar system, the gravitational effects from the relativity-weighted object could be disastrous. I find the whole idea of space objects threatening us fascinating. (Yes, I loved Footfall.)


message 14: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey (finiousfingers) | 30 comments Well it may or may not be "plausible" I certainly put Niven in the Hard Sci-fi category. I definitely would not place Niven's work in the same basket as Star Trek as his work features biologically and culturally realistic aliens, relativistic effects, long space battles where acceleration and velocity are factors, etc. In short they are grounded in realism and then start to go into the realm of what if, and further into the realm of any sufficiently advanced tech appearing as magic.

Recently read Leviathan Wakes and that seemed solidly in the hard sci-fi with other genres thrown in for flavor.


message 15: by Trike (last edited Sep 28, 2014 08:10PM) (new)

Trike | 8768 comments Known Space is definitely a non-scientific universe. Humans didn't evolve on Earth, which is patently wrong, even when Niven was first writing these stories in the late 60s and early 70s. There are also psychic powers, something else that's impossible. Plus, the Puppeteers have secretly selectively bred humans to be lucky, which... I mean, come on.

I'm not saying all of his stuff fails the Hard test, but Known Space? No way.

Edit: I consider Protector to be one of my all-time favorite novels. I just think things should be placed in their proper genre.


message 16: by Tamahome (last edited Sep 29, 2014 05:25AM) (new)

Tamahome | 6376 comments Larry Niven's animated Star Trek episode, based on a Known Space short story. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WqJVv... (Spock takes the place of a Puppeteer.)


message 17: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 4146 comments Love that episode, Tamahome. I'd seen it as a kid before getting into Niven, so it was odd to read the underlying story. They even got the mangy cat telepath in.

Trike: It's funny, because you're right in general. It's just that there are so many specifics that work by the laws of physics. I'm with you on Protector btw: The use of Bussard Ramjets, a space battle where you make a feint and don't know if the enemy went for it for 18 months, even the spectra of light emitted by the Ramjets was calculated and is correct.

Along the way Niven asks us to swallow a big implausibility, that humans are developed from an alien race and didn't evolve on earth. He waves his hands at it, but the fossil record is clearer than he implies. Still, once you're past that one, the rest is pretty well by the laws of physics. Same for the "plateau eyes" of A Ship From Earth. Mount Lookitthat is plausible, as are the Ramships. Even the colony structure makes sense in a macabre way. World of Ptavvs, first accept that an alien survived on Earth in stasis for a billion or two years, and the rest follows the known laws of physics. Ringworld, couldn't possibly exist, but if it did, it would be assembled substantially as described.

About Niven I tend to say, he asks you to swallow one big whopper per story, but from there on the physics are good.


message 18: by Whitney (new)

Whitney (whitneychakara) | 179 comments All science that we now have proved was once thought impossible. As long as they can explain it and its not just 'magic' it can be science fiction.


message 19: by Alan (new)

Alan | 534 comments Trike wrote: "Known Space is definitely a non-scientific universe. Humans didn't evolve on Earth, which is patently wrong, even when Niven was first writing these stories in the late 60s and early 70s. There are..."

Panspermia Theory was much more popular back then. As was scientific research into psychic powers and the physics behind possibly moving faster than light.

If something was considered scientifically possible when the story was written, the story can be hard SF. So, stories that include psychics should not be retroactively moved from the hard SF category to the Space Opera category.

As for the luck gene, Niven wrote in one of his collections that that idea pretty much ruined the Known Space universe so I can't really defend it as a good idea for a hard SF series but I don't think that one or two problems disqualifies an entire collection of stories.


message 20: by Trike (last edited Sep 29, 2014 06:02PM) (new)

Trike | 8768 comments Well, panspermia was never about entire species being dropped into an ecosystem, it was just about microscopic life (and possibly DNA) seeding various planets after being created elsewhere. Niven basically said that Australopithecus evolved 50,000 light years away.

I'm completely fine with the explanation that all the biologically-compatible critters scattered throughout the galaxy arose at generally the same time because they all evolved from Thrintun food planets. Basically panspermia as a side-effect.

Which would actually be a terrific thematic thing to explore vis a vis how we change the environment unknowingly, but Niven has never been interested in that aspect of his universe. (I did read a short story one time where humans proved we belonged to the Galactic Union because we could trace our genetic lineage to some aliens dumping their toilets on the primordial Earth. Which was gross, but funny.)

BTW, for anyone who hasn't seen this dramatization about trophic cascade in Yellowstone, it's terrific: How Wolves Change Rivers


message 21: by Chad (new)

Chad (doctorwinters) | 180 comments Redshift Rendezvous

I remember this one as pretty "hard" but its been awhile.
There was a classic short story that I liked The Cold Equations and Other Stories

Charles Sheffield usually stuck to hard science

Earth Strike this is one is tougher...its not Newtonian but uses quantum mechanics in pretty interesting ways that at least sound like hard science fiction and limits intrasystem combat to sublight with resulting latencies...I thought it was fun


message 22: by Karl (new)

Karl Smithe | 77 comments The Mote in God's Eye by Niven and Pournelle

The curious thing is that the book is from 1974. The world population hit 4 billion that year. Now it is 7 billion and we are talking about Peak Oil and Global Warming.

Now it is obvious that we are the Moties while it would have been silly speculation back then.

So much science fiction has nothing to say and nothing to think about. This ain't just entertainment.


message 23: by D. E. (new)

D. E. (fudderduds) Phil wrote: "Some other authors you might like are David Brin, Robert Sawyer, Kim Stanley Robinson and Peter Hamilton."

I second Kim Stanley Robinson. His Mars Trilogy is wonderful. I particularly like the way he addresses the difference gravity makes on human physiology.


message 24: by Pat (new)

Pat (patthebadger) | 100 comments I've just read Hal Clement's Mission Of Gravity - about attempts to recover a probe from a planet with some serious gravity issues. Really good read despite its age.


message 25: by William (new)

William Lucifer's Hammer and the Mote in God's Eye were terrific when I read them many years ago.

Right now I am enthralled by Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword

I really like her writing style, pacing, complexity and humanity. Blue Ribbon stuff!


message 26: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 4146 comments I enjoyed the heck out of Mission of Gravity when I read it.

Finished up Tau Zero a while back, and all I can say is "wow." It's as amazing as I remembered. I wondered why it was only nominated for the Hugo and didn't win - then I saw it had the bad luck to be up against another juggernaut of the field, Ringworld.

I'm currently reading some Alastair Reynolds, but don't find it near as good. The science is good, I like that part. The characters are ridiculous and the constant cyberpunk downer aspect gets to me after a while.


message 27: by Lindsay (new)

Lindsay | 593 comments John wrote: "I'm currently reading some Alastair Reynolds, but don't find it near as good. The science is good, I like that part. The characters are ridiculous and the constant cyberpunk downer aspect gets to me after a while."

This. I love Reynolds for his science fiction, but most of his stuff I find to be nihilistic and bleak. That being said, his latest series starting with Blue Remembered Earth is about the most optimistic stuff I've seen of his. (It's also safe to say that Tom is still reading the second book :) ).


message 28: by Tamahome (new)

Tamahome | 6376 comments I read a chapter or so of Jack McDevitt's latest Coming Home. It's like putting on a comfortable old sweater.


message 29: by Joanna Chaplin (new)

Joanna Chaplin | 1175 comments One older one that I stumbled across by accident was David Gerrold's book Ganny Knits A Spaceship. If you can get past the annoying teenage narrator, you get a fun science-based story about a family who lives in a space station at a tipping point in the economy of the solar system.


message 30: by David (new)

David | 2 comments I like plenty of hardware in my sci-fi. Not too much software. We'll drawn characters and a good story throughout. I enjoy mind blowing ideas but don't expect an omg climax at novels end!
writers that satisfy this are Al Reynolds, Peter Hamilton, Sean Williams, Jane Fenn, Lois Bujold, Stephen Baxter, Linda Nagata, Sherri Tepper and Neal Asher. For the most part. I read plenty more, but these are my faves!


message 31: by Joel (new)

Joel | 236 comments I enjoy Alastair Reynolds' work.


message 32: by Craig (new)

Craig | 53 comments The Culture series by the late, great Iain M. Banks also deserves a mention. I'm reading the last of them now and I'm sad that there won't be anymore.


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