Building a SciFi/Fantasy Library discussion

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message 1: by Rindis (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:29PM) (new)

Rindis | 80 comments While I consider keeping SF and F separate from each other somewhat artificial, it is true that many people enjoy one more than the other. It's also handy in this case to keep discussions somewhat focused, as there are so many good books out there it is easy to generate information overload. So, I'm starting a separate thread for the better examples of the SF genre before the previous one branches out too far. ~_^

My absolute favorite author, and definitely one of the best current SF authors is Lois McMaster Bujold. All her books are meant to stand on their own, but The Warrior's Apprentice and Brothers in Arms are probably the best starting places.

David Brin is very good, with longer, more complex novels, I particularly recommend The Uplift War and Earth

Larry Niven is a well-known name for good reason, but I often don't care so much for his novels, and prefer his short stories. Offhand, I'd recommend A World out of Time (my favorite novel by him), and Neutron Star (short story collection). Also, I find him much better when he co-authors with someone, and heartily recommend The Mote in God's Eye with him and Jerry Pournelle.

Issac Asimov is a literary giant for the mass and breadth of his writing if nothing else. I recommend the original three books of the Foundation series.

Reeeealy reaching back, E. E. "Doc" Smith established many of the cliches of space opera. His style is extremely 'pulpish', and not really recommended, unless that's something you can deal with. However, I do think Spacehounds of the IPC is possibly his most readable book, and pretty good. Just remember, before 1950 the term 'computer' meant "a person who computes".

David Webber is a good author who can be quite repetitious over several books. Still, I recommend the first few Honor Harrington novels for some good military SF.

H. Beam Piper is often overlooked, but was one of the better SF writers of his time. I recommend Little Fuzzy and Uller Uprising.

...and I know I'll have more thoughts later.

message 2: by Chrystal714 (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:32PM) (new)

Chrystal714 | 24 comments My mom and sisters have always read SF. I have never much wanted to be like them so I have read mostly popular fiction. I did read Ender's Game at one of my sisters insistance. I loved it, have not yet read the rest of the series. I also just recently read Dune (ignoring the fact my mom read it and loved it years and years ago). I love this book too. So my list is very short, and obvious I think. Yet if you are just starting these are great books to start with.

message 3: by Rindis (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:33PM) (new)

Rindis | 80 comments Hmm. In Seth's 'instead of' list I've read one book from each side (but not both sides of the same instead-of).

Of the rest, Neuromancer is the one I'm most familiar with. Would you recommend The Silicon Man to someone who finds the concept of cyberpunk off-putting?

Personally, I would recommend Starship Troopers for Heinlein. I found Stranger to be the first half of one of the best books I'd read, and the second half of one of the worst.

Chrystal, given your preferences on the fantasy side, I would recommend you try Bujold, and probably Piper, and branch out from there.

Afraid I've only read through the second book of the Ender series, but Speaker for the Dead is good.

Another general recommendation is Vernor Vinge, specifically A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky, big and complicated, but well worth the effort, with some very interesting world-building.

message 4: by Rindis (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:33PM) (new)

Rindis | 80 comments Hmm. I'll give it a look, but my problems with cyberpunk are more philosophical. Parts of my problem are that I don't identify with the general character types and the gritty dystopian futures presented. I'm not a fan of grit (and can't stand wallowing in it), and don't really believe in dystopias any more than utopias. To much of the old-fashioned SF fan in me.

And for people who don't believe in dystopias, I recommend Niven, Pournelle, and Flynn's Fallen Angels, a great plot with some good philosophy and railing against where things are going hidden inside (okay, not all that deeply hidden if I picked up on it).

message 5: by Rob (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:01PM) (new)

Rob | 19 comments Great Post Rindis! - I'm going to throw Dan Simmons out there. We may fall into a similar debate as "George RR Martin" because their writing styles are very similar. What the heck I love Simmons stuff. The Hyperion, and the Illium series were pretty cool as far a scifi goes.

-Seth "Endur's Game" was awesome. I wish that I could contribute more but my SciFi experience is limited. I should note that I'm currently reading "20,000 League Under the Sea". Verne is a very boggy in his writing but he's way ahead of his time - just for that it's worth the read to me.

I'll have to take a look into Issac Asimov. His books are always staring at me in the store.

message 6: by Rindis (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:01PM) (new)

Rindis | 80 comments I know of Hal Clement and Robert L. Forward (and specifically of Mission of Gravity), but haven't read anything by them. Don't know John Stith (wait, RedShift Rendezvous sounds familiar).

I hang my head in shame. Again.

I've been meaning to look over my copy of I, Robot to see if I should re-evaluate it to four stars from three, I just don't remember enough off-hand to say... which is a good sign of a three.

The Lije Bailey novels are very good, particularly The Naked Sun and The Robots of Dawn. Caves of Steel is still good, just not as good as those two, to my mind.

Foundation gets big kudos from me for the entire high-concept, and his treatment of the grand sweep of history.

message 7: by Dan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:12PM) (new)

Dan | 3 comments No SF library is complete without the original Dune series by Frank Herbert. His world building is the best I've read. The series is dense and complex and the characters difficult to categorize, but Herbert draws you into his world and you don't want to leave.

message 8: by Chrystal714 (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:12PM) (new)

Chrystal714 | 24 comments I just started the second Dune book. I bought the paper back though. I am having trouble reading it, I need to find my glasses. The print is awful. So right now it is going painfully slow. I am hoping when I find the reading glasses it will get better. Maybe I could use a magnifing glass....

message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

Dan: very true. I think that was the first SciFi book I ever read, somewhere around 5th or 6th grade...

Chrystal: this is true. I've recently bought the Dune books to add to my collection, and am re-reading them... I'm almost done "Dune Messiah". They made the print larger to make the book seem the same page-wise compared to the others, I think, and that's part of the problem. But, if you can get past the printing issues... it is an amazing book, and a key to the future of the series (read it again after you've made it through the entire series... you'll see)


message 10: by Joseph (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:15PM) (new)

Joseph Patla | 3 comments I'm definitely more into fantasy than SciFi, however I think the first book I read that started me off was Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert Heinlein. Recently I've read Stranger in a Strange Land, also amazing.

Nightfall has to be one of my all time favorite SciFi books though (Asimov & Silverberg). The first three Dune books were good reads as well.

Dan: While Dune was good I think Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series creates a world to dwarf that of Herbert. :-)

message 11: by [deleted user] (new)


It's not the size of the world that the author creates, but rather the believability, attention to detail, and reader immersion...

I haven't read Wheel of Time, so I can't argue against it. All I'm saying is that, at least in the world of SciFi/Fantasy... "size isn't the most important".


message 12: by Rob (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:16PM) (new)

Rob | 19 comments My brother-in-law raves about the Wheel of Time series. (He was rereading it last time I talked to him). Now I'm definitely have to read it. So many people talk about this series. It seems pretty necessary to have as a fantasy fan!

message 13: by Joseph (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:17PM) (new)

Joseph Patla | 3 comments Kyle,

When I said that WOT dwarves Dune, I did not necessarily mean that with respect to size. Dune covers planets upon planets after all. ;-) What I refer to is the character growth, how finely intertwined the character relationships are. One character could appear in the second book and find her way back three books later having become a much different person than when you first met her. The world Jordan created is so complex that it makes others seem very simple. I hope you take the time to read them so you understand exactly what it is I mean. :-)

message 14: by Joseph (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:17PM) (new)

Joseph Patla | 3 comments That it is! You'll have to let me know what you think after you read it Robert.

message 15: by Rindis (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:18PM) (new)

Rindis | 80 comments Personally, I thought the first WoT book was very good. The second book felt weak (sequelitis strikes), but moved things along. The next... oh, three were again very good, and while they had good individual plots, the series as a whole ground to a halt. Endless complications and new situations were piled on without any real sign that anything was ever going to be resolved in the old ones, much less the new ones. I gave up, regretfully, around book 5.

Considering that Jordan was working on the last book when he died, that has been solved, and I'm vaugely considering reading the entire series, but I'm afraid that it will be a long time before I get to it.

Um... SF... Dune! I hang my head in shame again, I've never put aside the time to read it.

First SF book I read... don't know, it was too long ago. Perhaps Lucas' novelization of Star Wars, but that still probably was not the first. I just know I read it around third grade (a year or two after the movie came out).

message 16: by Carl (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:18PM) (new)

Carl | 38 comments The novelized Star Wars was also my first SF (though I guess we could think of it more as fantasy)-- and while I may cringe at the writing now, it's probably been just about the most influential book in my life (in terms of affecting what I later read, what I got interested in, and where I've gone since). Weird. Oh well. Didn't see the movies until after reading both SW and ROTJ-- can't remember if I read Empire before seeing it.
As for WoT-- I think I agree with the criticisms above. It just got to be too much and I had to put it aside. Hopefully it will be satisfactorily completed, though it's too bad that Jordan had to die first. I loved the first book, all the others were... well, I don't know-- the world is fascinating in many ways, but after the "young man finds out there is a larger world out there and he is way cooler than he ever thought" narrative wears off a bit and turns into "superman is super cool" I lost some interest. Maybe I'm just too taken with the Star Wars plot. Been maybe 5 years since I've tried to read anything in WoT, so maybe it's almost time to go back to it.

message 17: by Carl (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:18PM) (new)

Carl | 38 comments Well, I was in 2nd grade when I read star wars, and early high school when I read Eye of the World, and I have to admit that my taste might not have been fully developed at either time. ;) That said, both get majorly into world building in a way that resonates with me more than, say, Star Trek or even some better written books-- but that's not saying so much about the quality of the books, but of some specific need of my own which these books for some reason meet. That, and once I became a fan I've had trouble shaking a not always defensible loyalty to the series.

message 18: by Rindis (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:18PM) (new)

Rindis | 80 comments Once a series has proven it's worth to me, I will stick with it until the crow's nest has gone under (all the rest of the setting having long since sunk into to Sea of Bad Concepts), so when you see me jumping ship, you know it's bad.

As I recall, the novelizations of the second two Star Wars movies weren't worth noting (bad? no, just... there). Star Wars was a little better, and had some good historical info in the prologue. But in a day before VCRs were common, how else do you get your fix than the novel and the Marvel Comics series (which also had the advantage of having the scenes with Jabba and Biggs that Lucas cut)?

I have a... too large collection of Star Trek novels beyond the ones I've been reading lately. I know I'll be getting rid of some of them next time they get out of storage, but there's some really good writing in there too, and those I'm keeping. (And yeah, the James Blish Star Trek 2 & 3—the ones my dad had—would also be among the earlier SF I read.)

For stories, plot comes first. However, I do like world-building (and maps! @_@ ), which is why I have a large collection of RPG modules I doubt I'll ever part from.

message 19: by Bob (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:20PM) (new)

Bob | 2 comments I think my first SF was one of the many Asimov short-story collections - possibly Buy Jupiter! and Other Stories. I do know that upon finishing it, I cleaned the library out of other Asimov short stories, then of other SF anthologies, then branched out into Asimov novels and finally other authors. Goodness, must've been more than 30 years ago...and while I no longer include Asimov as one of my favorites, I'm very grateful for his introducing me to the genre.

As far as everyone's love for Dune - I consider the first book not only an SF classic, but a literature classic (though most literature teachers disagree, of course). The rest of the series...I managed to make it through three more by gritting my teeth, but couldn't go on from there.

message 20: by Megan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:20PM) (new)

Megan | 12 comments I've read both Dune and its sequels -- ugh! Never doing that again -- and the WOT series. For me, Dune will only ever be a stand-alone book. The sequels were terrible, the characters were flat and -- IMO -- two-dimensional, and the world of Dune was almost ruined for me. I also hated what he did to Alia.

Fortunately, Dune itself is such a wonderful story that it withstood the memory of the sequels. I read it once every two to three years or so ... I'm such a geek, lol! -- and it has a place of honor on my sci-fi shelf, along with my Asimov, Heinlein, Cherryh, and assorted others.

As for the WoT series ... it was decent. Not great, not wonderful, but an enjoyable read. But ... let's be honest, there's nothing ground-breaking about the Jordan books. He takes a great deal of inspiration (no, I'm not saying he copied ... but he was -- as is almost every other fantasy writer -- heavily inspired by Tolkien) from many other authors and many other fantasy series.

I liked how he put it together, I liked the way he portrayed his female characters -- you know, giving them personality, lol! -- and the way he tried to make his world huge and complex. But it wasn't, you know, *great.* It was a good fantasty series that suffered from a lack of focus -- again, only my opinion -- and carried on way too long. I think if he'd had a more definate ending in mind, and spent more time tying up loose threads rather than adding more, things would have felt a little less chaotic.

As for first-time with sci-fi ... my dad was a huge sci-fi geek, and the first book he gave me was "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel," followed by "Starship Troopers." My aunt gave me "Podkayne of Mars," and my mom -- out of sheer self-defense for fantasy, gave me the Pern books.

But once I hit sci-fi, that was it for two years. The Foundation Trilogy -- never liked Robots, and I only read the first two, I'm ashamed to say -- almost every Heinlein, all of Cherryh, Dune, Zelazny, a lot of Norton, Dick, Forrester, Bova, Brunner, the Honor Harrington books ... I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

There's a new book out there I read ... and the first story (it's a collection of short stories, many of which are very good, but nothing like the first one) just blew me away. It's called "Think Like a Dinosaur," and I heartily recommend it.

Has anyone else out there read any new sci-fi they think is a must-have? I'm in the middle of "Perdito Street Station," and so far I'm really liking it. Until I finish, though, I won't bother recommending it ...

Oh, and while I'm at it (and sorry for the long post), one book I have to warn you to stay away from: "The Last Legends of Earth." I'll spare you my rant ... but oh, how I hate Ned O'Tennis the space viking.

message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

Shoot! I joined this group just so I could list Bester's The Stars My Destination, but Sherri & Seth beat me to it! O hwell, I'll throw in a vote for Disch's "Camp Concentration" instead.

message 22: by Rindis (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:22PM) (new)

Rindis | 80 comments Megan, Jordan had a very definite ending in mind for WoT. In fact, he wrote the ending about the same time he started the first book. All the other stuff came later.

Lack of focus, good way of putting it.

And really, the thing that modern fantasy always struggles with is the looming shadow of Tolkien. Many stories are generally either heavily influenced by him, or are very definitely working not to be influenced by him.

Steve, want to say more about Camp Concentration? I haven't heard of it.

message 23: by Rindis (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:22PM) (new)

Rindis | 80 comments Mmm... I don't care much for abridging anything. (The the concept of a Reader's Digest Wheel of Time is nothing short of hilarious.)

And... it would be difficult. There lots of cross ties everywhere, and it would probably be hard to tease much out.

Clancy on the other hand, some of his books you could easily render down into slimmer volumes. Of course, his editors told him to make his books bigger.

Sadly, while authors are generally not paid by the pound these days, it does seem like some editors believe that they're bought that way. I don't know, sales by intimidation value? (Actually, I know from a friend that Wheel of Time was popular with servicemen going to Desert Shield because they wanted something that was going to take a while to finish since there wasn't going to be any more until they got home.)

I, personally, still enjoy the 200-page novel.

message 24: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:23PM) (new)

Robert (rgbatduke) Hi, thought I'd jump in here -- we were iterating some of the same questions (and interestingly, some of the same books) on a different thread. One that I'd throw out there that nobody seems to have mentioned is The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner, which is SF (from thirty plus years ago) as near perfect precognition. Also, no list of post-apocalyptic stories would be complete without A Boy and His Dog, by Harlan Ellison. I don't mean the bad movie they made out of it, but the original short story in whichever collection it was in (I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream?). Zelazny's Damnation Alley is more of a novella but is also well worth reading where the bad movie is worth skipping. Daybreak: 2250 A.D. (Andre Norton) is a period piece but I kinda like it. Nearly everything John Wyndham wrote was post- or current- apocalyptic, with The Day of the Triffids being an entertaining example (and a not completely terrible movie) but where Re-Birth (The Chrysalids) is better. Zelazny's This Immortal is also post-apocalyptic, although it is really a broader novel. My Name is Legion was a good book, a bad movie, and a great Simpson's episode in the genre. There are more -- sorry, but I used to be obsessed with this back in the 60's and 70's when it looked like a nuclear holocaust was inevitable, between the mountains of bombs, the incessant wars and saber rattling, and Murphy's Law...

Anyway, very entertaining thread.


message 25: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:23PM) (new)

Robert (rgbatduke) Oops, missed the second page of posts, sorry about that. I think that I agree very nearly perfectly with Seth's choices and comments where we overlap (which is a lot, actually). I started WOT and struggled along through several books but just plain fizzled out. With VERY few exceptions, all of which are written a certain way, I have no use for anything longer than a trilogy. ERB's Mars, sure -- they can all stand alone. Tarzan ditto, as long as you read the first three, but the rest of them are semi-forgettable rehashes of the first three anyway. Oh, and of course Pratchett. But Piers Anthony (for example) would just go on, and on, and on, and even though I have large numbers of his series I can't even make myself reread them -- it would take me twenty minutes just to sort them into some kind of order. Macroscope is awesome, though.

I actually started with Ray Bradbury, then did Heinlein, then did Asimov (in each case reading pretty much all that was out, this being late 60s early 70s) and then kind of exploded into reading anything and everything -- Lieber, Sturgeon, Blish ( Cities in Flight is a pretty amazing work in a lot of ways, although I read the books individually before they collected them.) I actually still love the Skylark series and the Lensman series even though the physics sucks (and I'm a physicist:-) to where it is almost painful. They're like ERB -- romances, space opera, star wars. Even good old Battlefield Earth is readable just for fun. Makes me want to go become a Scientologist...;-)

There is just so much good, entertaining, Science Fiction out there, and the best of it can stand up to any of the literature on the planet IMO. Just talking about it makes me want to go dig through my shelves and pull out this gem or that nugget, dust them off, and offer them up.


message 26: by Megan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:23PM) (new)

Megan | 12 comments Only two minor comments to this thread ...

I first read "The Good Earth" in a Reader's Digest condense version ... and they 'condensed' out only one sentence. I don't remember it, exactly, but it was something along the lines of the main character marvelling/wonder at how it felt to have someone else sleeping right next to him.

That was it, one line taken out.

And with Farenheit, the only copy I have (and have read) is one that was so heavily censored to remove all the swearing, lol. I tought it was interesting, and I certainly liked it better than the Martian Chronicles, which I thought were a little dreary ... but then, I never did care for Bradbury.

But now I think I have to go buy this 100 Best book, thingie, just because I love old sci-fi, especially the short stories, and you guys keep talking about books/stories I haven't read (or, I'm ashamed to say, heard of).

Hm. Now I've got to start saving up ... my fall/winter reading list is getting longer and longer and longer ...

message 27: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:26PM) (new)

Robert (rgbatduke) Hey Seth,

I don't have any problem with your dissing The Space Merchants -- I don't like it because it is deep, I like it because it is fun. 3d advertisements projected into pedicabs by law? Chicken Little? It's a hoot. P&K have other very readable books, not "great SF" but very entertaining and readable. Gladiator At Law was another heavily bizarre one, for example.

But I mostly am adding onto the tread to mention a couple more mostly forgotten classics of the post-apocalyptic SF genre:

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller

This is a mind blowing book in a lot of ways -- a future history in which mankind is at once inherently evil and sadly, desperately, occasionally trying to be good. Also in the totally bizarre and strange category is:

The Iron Dream, a science fiction novel by Adolph Hitler, speaking through his amanuensis, Norman Spinrad. Holy truncheon-wielding blond haired clones! Look out for the slavering hordes... Perhaps the perfect example of black humor in an extended metaphor ever written.

message 28: by Rindis (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:26PM) (new)

Rindis | 80 comments Thank you! I'd heard The Iron Dream described, and wanted to read it, but I didn't know the title or author.

I can see why people like A Canticle for Leibowitz, but I didn't care much for it. I do not believe that mankind is in any way inherently evil (or even inherently good), so that part was grating, and while the idea of the church holding together the remains of civilization after a nuclear war, much as it did after the end of the Roman Empire, was nice, there was nothing mind-blowing about the book.

Seth, I'm with you on Left Hand of Darkness. It always seemed to me that it never even touched the subject that it gets all the fuss over. Haven't read The Disposessed, so I can't comment there.

message 29: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:28PM) (new)

Robert (rgbatduke) Ya, but I read it back in maybe the late 60's or very early 70's, when I lived just outside the belt-line of Washington DC on the Virginia side, well within the total kill radius of a 10 megaton air blast over the pentagon, OR one on Dulles, OR one on the Washington monument, and I was maybe 16 at the time. I was also reading Alas, Babylon, Fail Safe, Seven Days in May, and a lot of other stories. There was a nuclear test on my birthday (3/29/55, you can find pictures on the web) and I grew up with the "kiss your ass goodbye" poster derived from real air raid drills with no earthly purpose besides to position yourself for vaporization.

So perhaps it conveyed a glimpse of hope to me that would be trite to you if you grew up in the 80's or later, when it was already growing clear that the Soviet Union was coming apart and detente and START had created a degree of cautious optimism (by which time I had moved to Durham, and was no longer particularly close to or downwind of any significant nuclear targets anyway).

As far as the Catholic thing, well, it was no different from a similar book-protective theme in Farenheit 451, from some aspects of My Name is Legion by Matheson, and so on. At the time I was still at least weakly Christian, too -- my view of God was still memetic inheritance and not the result of my own choices, so even the second coming at the end of it was a pretty neat twist. (FWIW I read all of Morris West's stuff as well in there somewhere, even though we were Methodist and not Catholic -- it just gave the book a baroque character).

The two things I really liked about the book other than the reach of the story itself (it is a pretty far ranging undertaking) are the little bits on the rediscovery of physics, the building of a two monkpower generator and arc light, for example, and the bit on preternatural knowledge at the end. The whole idea of preternatural knowledge is something I've never forgotten, so much so that I folded it (in a VERY different context:-) into my own first novel, where Lilith is created with a limited set of preternatural knowledge; everything but knowledge of self, as that would remove her free will and all experience of time. Great word, preternatural...;-)


message 30: by Rindis (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:28PM) (new)

Rindis | 80 comments 70s and 80s. I had a friend in high-school who had occasional nightmares about a nuclear war starting, but it never bugged me all that much.

I'll admit I never understood the second coming bit at the very end. It didn't make any sense to me and felt extremely tagged on.

message 31: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:30PM) (new)

Robert (rgbatduke) It was one of several parts of the story that still makes me view it as actual literature, not "just fiction". One thing that was lovely about it is that it wasn't just some sort of attempt to recapitulate the rapture or John's ergot-induced ravings in Revelations. It was difficult to understand and a bit of a surprise, given that Miller had scrupulously avoided any hint of the overtly supernatural throughout the entire book. This was its power -- you're reading a future history apocalyptic science fiction novel, where the importance of the church is almost dry and mechanical, where they opposed the book-burning crowds out of a strange mix of passion and a dogma that refused to see evil in knowledge (in an interesting contrast, if you will, to the actual history of the church right up to just about the time the book was written). Seriously, aside from the various moral vignettes presented along the way, with this or that person being martyred or eaten for their faith or out of just plain cynical bad luck, the defenders of books and knowledge could have been replaced by Bradbury's similar characters with no great loss to the story line. It wasn't even clear that "Leibowitz" was a catholic at all, whether it was more a question of an alliance with the church out of a passion for preserving knowledge than being particularly christian (or christian at all).

Then all of a sudden bang, the world is ending (for a second time!) and up pops Christ returned in the most unlikely of places, as the previously dormant head of a bicephalic mutant who exists at all because of the tolerance of the church! The lovely irony of the fact that that same church has refused to baptize the (literal, and very punny if you think about it:-) god-head, the delicacy of a presentation where said Christ isn't a "resurrection" of the original form with all of Jesus's memories, arriving with a whip to chastise mankind as they wipe themselves out, but instead is a perfectly innocent soul in perfect communion with God, who dispenses God's mercy in a strangely joyful way amidst the burning ruins of the self-immolation of humanity.

Even as the world is burned bare, to the point where (IIRC) "The shark was very hungry that season" or whatever that last line was, the church loads up its starship with children and knowledge, to preserve humanity elsewhere, leaving God and the risen Christ to do something mysterious with the wreck left behind -- start over, maybe.

An interesting contrast to James Blish's A Case of Conscience, which I also really liked (for the record, I'm not only not a catholic, I'm an apostatic ex-Christian Zen Deist, so this isn't about me liking the church or anything, only liking the mythopoeic aspects of the stories). In that one there is another interesting mixture of overt physical world text and a bizarre hidden-world text, where an entire world is at once an apparent walking talking refutation of the Genesis myth, with ethical dinosaurs that evolved in a second Eden with an intrinsic moral sense in the absence of any sort of "bible" and is also an entire Manichean heretical facade "created" as it were by Lucifer himself to fool mankind into thinking that such a thing is possible and thereby weaken their faith, with again a pretty fabulous ending that can be viewed with perfect ease in either interpretation.


message 32: by Rindis (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:33PM) (new)

Rindis | 80 comments [Rindis feels a breeze that is large portions of that post going over his head.... ^_^]

For me, I suppose the problem with Canticle is that it was an episodic story connected by theme, whereas I prefer a tighter plot.

And I'll admit the only Blish I've read is his Star Trek stuff... and the only book past those that I'm aware of is Cities in Flight.

I had to read "apostatic ex-Christian Zen Deist" three times before even beginning to parse it, and I don't know what a "Manichean heretical facade" would be. @_@; (That comes down to having no idea of what the reference is to.)

message 33: by Tamara (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:34PM) (new)

Tamara Pesik | 3 comments I love this instead-of idea, excellent list, thanks!

message 34: by Rindis (new)

Rindis | 80 comments Yeesh. Just realized I never mentioned James P. Hogan in this thread. He's been a favorite author of mine, so that's a glaring omission by me.

I think he's gotten too cynical lately, but he put out several really good books from the late '70s through the '80s.

Inherit the Stars was his first novel and is effectively a scientific mystery/investigation, a theme that carries through in a lot of of his books. Code of the Lifemaker is one of his best and most inventive works, where the prologue is a short story describing the rise of a robotic ecology on Titan.

message 35: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey | 25 comments There are many essential sf books out there that people should read so that they get a grounding in the field. IMO, any list should include:

Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke
Gateway by Frederick Pohl
Ensign Flandry by Poul Anderson
Ringworld by Larry Niven
Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein
THe Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein
Farnham's Freehold by Robert Heinlein

Heinlein's "juveniles" -- Space Cadet, Time for the Stars, Citizen of the Galaxy, Red Planet, Star Beast, Have Space Suit - Will Travel, Between Planets, The Rolling Stones, Rocket Ship Gallileo

Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin
the Dispossessed by Ursula LeGuin
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The Stand by Stephen King
Rendevous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
20,000 Leagues under the Sea by Jules Verne
A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernon Vinge
Hyperion by Dan Simmons
1984 by George Orwell
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Dune by Frank Herbert
Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson (the best of cyberpunk)
Neuromancer by William Gibson
The Time Machine by H G Wells (the original time travel novel)
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep by Philip K Dick
War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells (kind of dull but incredibly imaginative for its day and age)
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
The Tar-Aiym Krang by Alan Dean Foster (a great read)
Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov
I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs
John Carter of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller (hated it but noteworthy)
Solaris by Stansilaw Lem
Uplift War by David Brin
The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
On Basilisk Station by David Weber (brought back miliatary sf)
Startide Rising by David Brin
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle
Star Guard by Andre Norton
Galactic Derelict by Andre Norton
Sargasso of Space by Andre Norton
Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan
Catseye by Andre Norton
The Long Run by Daniel Keys Moran (a great pageturner)
The Warrior's Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold (a classic)
Downbelow Station by CJ Cherryh
A Thousand Words for Stranger by Julie Czerneda (an excellent first novel)

To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmer
More than Human by Theodore Sturgeon (what makes a man)
The Invisible Man by HG Wells
Way Station by Clifford Simak
The Postman by David Brin (post apocalystic earth)
Barrayer by Lois McMaster Bujold
The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold
Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold
Titan by John Varley
Strange Case of Dr Jekll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Armor by John Steakley (should be read in tandem with the Forever War)

message 36: by Brisha (new)

Brisha | 4 comments sometimes you can read both and not even care for distinctions. why should you. I suggest you try Dew Platt's Darkness Abiding now on Kindle. I may be wrong and you may be right....

message 37: by Drew (last edited Nov 23, 2009 04:25PM) (new)

Drew Engman (Drewster58) | 4 comments Top 100 SF Novels Lists

I have found a couple "Top 100" lists, which might be good as a starting point to begin collecting SF.

At they had this list, as voted on by users:

"Top 100 Novels as voted by users
Rank Rating Title Author(s)
1 9.4 A Fire Upon the Deep (1992) Vernor Vinge
2 9.4 Perdido Street Station (2000) China Miéville
3 9.4 Spin (2005) Robert Charles Wilson
4 9.3 The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966) Robert A. Heinlein
5 9.2 A Deepness in the Sky (1999) Vernor Vinge
6 9.2 Fahrenheit 451 (1953) Ray Bradbury
7 9.1 Rendezvous With Rama (1973) Arthur C. Clarke
8 9.0 The Stars My Destination (1956) Alfred Bester
9 9.0 It (1986) Stephen King
10 9.0 Ender's Game (1985) Orson Scott Card
11 9.0 The Door into Summer (1957) Robert A. Heinlein
12 9.0 Second Foundation (1953) Isaac Asimov
13 8.9 The Martian Chronicles (1950) Ray Bradbury
14 8.9 Nine Princes in Amber (1970) Roger Zelazny
15 8.9 Speaker for the Dead (1986) Orson Scott Card
16 8.9 Old Man's War (2005) John Scalzi
17 8.8 The Gods Themselves (1972) Isaac Asimov
18 8.8 Red Mars (1992) Kim Stanley Robinson
19 8.8 The Demolished Man (1952) Alfred Bester
20 8.8 Excession (1996) Iain M. Banks
21 8.8 The Return of the King (1955) J. R. R. Tolkien
22 8.7 Foundation and Empire (1952) Isaac Asimov
23 8.7 Starship Troopers (1959) Robert A. Heinlein
24 8.6 The Two Towers (1954) J. R. R. Tolkien
25 8.6 The Forever War (1975) Joe Haldeman
26 8.6 The Hobbit (1937) J. R. R. Tolkien
27 8.6 The Fellowship of the Ring (1954) J. R. R. Tolkien
28 8.5 Childhood's End (1953) Arthur C. Clarke
29 8.5 The War of the Worlds (1897) H. G. Wells
30 8.5 Pet Sematary (1983) Stephen King
31 8.5 The City and the Stars (1956) Arthur C. Clarke
32 8.5 Darwinia (1998) Robert Charles Wilson
33 8.5 Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962) Ray Bradbury
34 8.5 I Am Legend (1954) Richard Matheson
35 8.5 The Lord of the Rings (1968) J. R. R. Tolkien
36 8.4 Time Enough for Love (1973) Robert A. Heinlein
37 8.3 The Running Man (1982) Stephen King
38 8.3 Xenocide (1991) Orson Scott Card
39 8.3 Citizen of the Galaxy (1957) Robert A. Heinlein
40 8.3 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Arthur C. Clarke
41 8.3 1984 (1949) George Orwell
42 8.3 Tunnel in the Sky (1955) Robert A. Heinlein
43 8.3 Mission of Gravity (1954) Hal Clement
44 8.3 Misery (1987) Stephen King
45 8.3 Dune (1965) Frank Herbert
46 8.2 The Hobbit, or There and Back Again (1937) J. R. R. Tolkien
47 8.2 Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (1997) J. K. Rowling
48 8.2 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007) J. K. Rowling
49 8.2 Foundation (1951) Isaac Asimov
50 8.2 Ringworld (1970) Larry Niven
51 8.2 Green Mars (1994) Kim Stanley Robinson
52 8.2 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999) J. K. Rowling
53 8.2 I, Robot (1950) Isaac Asimov
54 8.2 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1998) J. K. Rowling
55 8.2 American Gods (2000) Neil Gaiman
56 8.1 Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) Robert A. Heinlein
57 8.1 Have Space Suit - Will Travel (1958) Robert A. Heinlein
58 8.0 The Stand (1978) Stephen King
59 8.0 The Man in the High Castle (1962) Philip K. Dick
60 8.0 Gateway (1977) Frederik Pohl
61 8.0 Foundation's Edge (1982) Isaac Asimov
62 8.0 Double Star (1956) Robert A. Heinlein
63 8.0 Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) Philip K. Dick
64 8.0 Podkayne of Mars (1963) Robert A. Heinlein
65 8.0 The Time Machine (1895) H. G. Wells
66 7.9 Friday (1982) Robert A. Heinlein
67 7.8 The Colour of Magic (1983) Terry Pratchett
68 7.8 Children of the Mind (1996) Orson Scott Card
69 7.8 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2005) J. K. Rowling
70 7.8 Paraworld Zero (2008) Matthew Peterson
71 7.7 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2000) J. K. Rowling
72 7.6 Blue Mars (1996) Kim Stanley Robinson
73 7.6 Farnham's Freehold (1964) Robert A. Heinlein
74 7.6 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2003) J. K. Rowling
75 7.4 Farmer in the Sky (1950) Robert A. Heinlein
76 7.0 Neuromancer (1984) William Gibson
77 7.0 Dune Messiah (1969) Frank Herbert
78 7.0 Darwin's Radio (1999) Greg Bear
79 6.4 Glory Road (1963) Robert A. Heinlein
80 6.2 For Us, The Living: A Comedy of Customs (2004) Robert A. Heinlein"

Online at a BitTorrent site (I don't recommend downloading things from torrents) they had this list available (for download):

"Anderson, Poul - Operation Chaos
Anderson, Poul - Operation Luna
Anderson, Poul - Queen of Air & Darkness
Anderson, Poul - Starfarers
Anderson, Poul - The Avatar
Anderson, Poul - The High Crusade
Asimov, Isaac - Foundation 00 - Prelude to Foundation
Asimov, Isaac - Foundation 01 - Foundation
Asimov, Isaac - Foundation 02 - Foundation and Empire
Asimov, Isaac - Foundation 03 - Second Foundation
Asimov, Isaac - Foundation 04 - Foundation`s Edge
Asimov, Isaac - Foundation 05 - Foundation and Earth
Asimov, Isaac - Foundation 06 - Prelude to Foundation
Asimov, Isaac - Foundation 07 - Forward the Foundation
Asimov, Isaac - Foundation and Earth
Asimov, Isaac - Foundation and Empire
Ballard, J.G - The Drowned World
Battlestar Galactica 01 - From the Amada Journals
Battlestar Galactica 02 - The Cylon Death Machine
Battlestar Galactica 03 - Resurrection
Battlestar Galactica 04 - Rebellion
Battlestar Galactica 05 - Paradis
Benford, Gregory - Timescape
Bester, Alfred - Demolished Man
Bester, Alfred - The Stars My Destination
Bester, Alfred - Tiger! Tiger!
Bethke, Bruce - Cyberpunk
Card, Orson Scott - Ender's Saga 1 - Ender's Game
Card, Orson Scott - Ender's Saga 2 - Speaker for the Dead
Card, Orson Scott - Ender's Saga 3 - Xenocide
Card, Orson Scott - Ender's Saga 4 - Children of the Mind
Card, Orson Scott - Ender's Saga 5 - Ender's Shadow
Card, Orson Scott - Ender's Saga 6 - Shadow of the Hegemon
Card, Orson Scott - Ender's Saga 7 - Shadow Puppets
Clarke, Arthur C. - Childhood's End
Clarke, Arthur C. - Rama 01 - Rendezvous With Rama
Clarke, Arthur C. - Rama 02 - Rama Revisited
Clarke, Arthur C. - Rama 03 - The Garden of Rama
Clarke, Arthur C. - Rama 04 - Rama Revealed
Clarke, Arthur C. - Space Odyssey 01 - 2001 A Space Odyssey
Clarke, Arthur C. - Space Odyssey 02 - 2010 Odyssey Two
Clarke, Arthur C. - Space Odyssey 03 - 2061 Odyssey Three
Clarke, Arthur C. - Space Odyssey 04 - 3001 The Final Odyssey
Dick, Philip K. - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep
Dick, Philip K. - The Minority Report
Dick, Philip K. - The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch"

I think both lists favor a few authors over many excellent newer of less well known SF writers, but I have to say that starting with "The Greatest" (totally open to debate) would not be the worst way to begin a Science Fiction library.

Drew E.

message 38: by Greyweather (new)

Greyweather I like the ISFDB list. The main issue is that it includes fantasy and horror along with the science fiction.

The second list is obviously an incomplete as it only features authors at the beginning of the alphabet. It also features media tie-ins, which are almost always dreadful.

message 39: by Stuart (new)

Stuart (asfus) | 9 comments deleted user wrote: "Shoot! I joined this group just so I could list Bester's The Stars My Destination, but Sherri & Seth beat me to it! O hwell, I'll throw in a vote for Disch's "Camp Concentration" instead."

The Stars my Destination is a powerful book.

message 40: by Kriss (new)

Kriss Perras (kriss-perras) | 1 comments Seth wrote: "Well, cyberpunk did seem to skip the part where people are learning about what it's like to become a citizen of cyberspace, and jumped right to teams of proficient cyberpunk rebels with cool names ..."

Hi my name is Kriss Perras Running Waters. I am an Author in the GoodReads Author's Program here. I thought your comment was very intelligent. My opinion about cyberpunk is more like a timeline. Steampunk being an area where humanity dons garments and outerwear, like a human machine interface. Cyberpunk seems to me to be the line where humanity actually inserts the cyberware into the human body. There are so many varied interpretations of cyberpunk, that just the discussion alone is interesting. I also agree that the cyberpunk world is one of hackers. I would add that in cyberpunk the idea of hacking being something of a religion is present too.

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