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suggestions > Required Reading - Science Fiction

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message 1: by Randy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:59PM) (new)

Randy (cptnrandy) | 7 comments Over the years friends of mine who share my interest in Science Fiction (yes, I call it SciFi, too!) have discussed what would we consider to be "required reading" to be literate in the genre. We can debate what is good and what is influential, but what are the key books and authors that one should really be familiar with?

I'm curious what members here might think. Here are a few of mine to kick things off:

The Stars My Destination
Stranger In A Strange Land
More Than Human
Cities In Flight
Dangerous Visions
Brave New World
Riddley Walker
A Canticle for Leibowitz
The Forever War
Gateway Heechee Saga 1
The Shadow of The Torturer

That's just a start - what would you add?

message 2: by Rindis (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:59PM) (new)

Rindis | 80 comments I've read... five of those. I know something of another three. Admittedly, I'm never sure of what 'literate' means in this kind of context. I simply like good stories.

I'd have a hard time recommending Stranger in a Strange Land, it begins well, but the second half of the book goes further and further afield and, to me, shows that Heinlein didn't understand the human animal very well.

Dangerous Visions was a big, ambitious project that probably needed doing, but the results were decidedly mixed for me.

A Canticle for Leibowitz didn't do much for me, but I'm not big on the 'cyclic destruction of civilization' idea (which, admittedly, isn't the real point). The Forever War and The Stars my Destination I unhesitatingly recommend.

Let's see if I can remember how to link books properly for my recommendations:
The Foundation Trilogy
Little Fuzzy or perhaps Uller Uprising
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Neutron Star
The Mote in God's Eye
The Pride of Chanur
A Fire Upon the Deep

There's more, but that gets most of the better authors/ideas taken care of.

message 3: by Rindis (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:00PM) (new)

Rindis | 80 comments Hmm. Another poor showing for me, I've only read three of the twenty.

C. J. Cherryh is often a rough read. Many of her later books are intense, dense affairs where the protagonist is trying to work his way through a dangerous web of everyone else's intentions. Downbelow is from before those, but neither is it one that I consider all that good. Frankly, the Chanur and Gate of Ivrel series are the only ones I've truly enjoyed, even though I keep coming back to read more of her books.

West of Eden was good, good enough that I read the next two books, but... I can't say what I felt was lacking, but I felt something was.

Retief, any Retief is always grand good fun.

message 4: by Rindis (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:00PM) (new)

Rindis | 80 comments You're just trying to shame me into admitting that I'm just part of the unwashed masses, aren't you? ~_^

As I recall (and I don't clearly recall), that particular Retief book is a short story collection, with some fine adventures in it. My favorite book of the series is Retief and the Warlords.

Some more worthy SF (tending towards less time-tested):
Ender's Game
Inherit the Stars
The Uplift War
Brothers in Arms (I consider Bujold to easily be the greatest current SF author we have.)

Personally, I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on my suggestions other than which ones you happen to love. ^_^ I'm free enough with criticism of other people's loves, it's only fair!

message 5: by J-Lynn Van Pelt (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:01PM) (new)

J-Lynn Van Pelt | 19 comments I was waiting for someone to say Ender's Game!

Let me throw in another lesser known (less time-tested)
Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Engdahl (and it's companion novel The Far Side of Evil)

One of the rare books with all the elements that make scifi great and has a multi-dimensional female protagonist

message 6: by Servius Heiner (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:35PM) (new)

Servius  Heiner  | 38 comments Well I have read 3 of those, the best being brave new world and stranger in a strange land, to be honest I am really new to sci fi, I really like the possibilities they propose, in a world where mediocrity is the new golden law, I find thinking of what could be much more hopeful then what is, I suggest taking a glance at "spin" and a two book series by Hamilton "Pandora’s star & Judas unchained" "accelerando" ( I think I butchered the spelling) was another good read.

message 7: by Jim (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:42PM) (new)

Jim just joined because of how much I have enjoyed American Gods/Neil Gaiman - never read much scifi - don't consider 1984 and Brave New World and their ilk to be scifi but I've been wrong before a few times -any suggestions on what next to read or who to read?

message 8: by Jamie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:42PM) (new)

Jamie Collins (jamie_goodreads) | 12 comments Some from my list that haven't already been mentioned:

Beggars in Spain, Nancy Kress
Ringworld, Larry Niven
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert Heinlein
Hyperion, Dan Simmons
Shards of Honor and Barrayar, Lois McMaster Bujold

message 9: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:42PM) (new)

Robert (rgbatduke) Many good books above, but I'd match Brin, especially the uplift saga (which is listed above, kinda), against anyone including the old masters. Not saying better, only very, very good. And Dragon's Egg/Starquake by Forward is one of the most original stories I've ever read, totally enjoyable.
Norstralia is a classic of sorts.

The problem with this question (which seems to be echo'd pretty regularly on this group -- too bad we can't somehow organize a really big list into a hyperview with votable projections or the like:-) is that it is so broad. What would I leave out, after all, is as good a question as what I'd leave in. Pern? Should definitely be in, it's SF (even if you hate it, it is a classic). One well-known Philip K. Dick in, but what about all the rest? Ubik? The Zap Gun? The guy was prolific, and I'm not certain Androids is THE best Dick out there.

Ringworld is in, but what about the integral trees? What about his entire short-story series about bodylegging, using humans for spare parts etc that was so very prophetic, so very much a theme in Dangerous Visions? Then there is Ellison -- mostly short stories, but can we really leave out I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream? A Boy and His Dog?

Where's the Zelazny? One of my personal favorite authors, at the very least Lord of Light should be there, but what about This Immortal? What about Amber, which is as arguably SF as it is fantasy (he writes on the thin line in between)? As classics go, Mysterious Island is one, and is arguably SF what with Nemo and electrical guns and all. The Lost World (Doyle's version). The Lost World and the rest of Jurassic Park? While we're on Crichton, what about the Andromeda Strain? When Harlie was One (one of the prophetic computer intelligence books) or The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (another one)? And there isn't any Burroughs -- surely we need the first three Mars stories. And like it or hate it, something by Gibson or Vinge or somebody to at least represent the modern genre of computerhuman societies -- I've just started hanging out a bit in 2nd life, and it is really spooky after reading all of the Gibsons...

Even some space opera -- again, like it or hate it E. E. Smith's Skylark and Lensman series are damn ripping reads (with truly awful science:-) and Star Wars would never have happened without them.

And the list goes on. If we had a list of a couple hundred books (with series encapsulated down to a single title) we could vote on it, give stars, etc. and MAYBE end up with a consensus of 100-150 objects, but at least in part the result would end up what it is because of what we've had time, and opportunity to read.


message 10: by Rindis (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:42PM) (new)

Rindis | 80 comments I consider Ringworld some of Niven's greatest ideas and poorest writing. I also feel that he just wasn't ready to write a novel in 1970.

I do feel he was ready in 1980 when he wrote The Ringworld Engineers, and my main recommendation on Ringworld is to read it so the sequel makes sense.

But as I said earlier, I mostly recommend Niven's short stories and co-authored novels.

Hyperion has been recommended... somewhere other than this thread, and is on my 'to get' list.

Almost any Bujold is highly recommended in my book. Shards of Honor is not generally highly regarded in comparison to her other works. I don't understand why, it's one of my favorites.

Another favorite of mine: Pandora's Planet or Pandora's Legions. Christopher Anvil wrote a series of connected stories, some of which were put into novel form as Pandora's Planet, and all of which were novel-ized as Pandora's Legions a couple decades later. The latter is closer to the original intent, and explains some of what's going on better, but I think I prefer the much more tightly focused original.

message 11: by Rindis (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:42PM) (new)

Rindis | 80 comments Robert, I had to re-read the original post to make sense of some of what you said! ^_^; I'd forgotten the original poster's intent.

My method has been to point out single good works by an author with the idea that once you've been introduced to him, and (hopefully) like it, you'll start seeking out the rest.

message 12: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:42PM) (new)

Robert (rgbatduke) And I agree, of course. But perhaps what we REALLY need is a list sorted out by AUTHORS. Something like:

Heinlein: Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Stranger in a Strange Land, Glory Road, Methuselah's Children...

Niven: Neutron Star, All The Myriad Ways (who can forget Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex:-), Ringworld, The Mote in God's Eye (with Pournelle)...

Zelazny: Lord of Light, Creatures of Light and Darkness, Nine Princes in Amber...

Brin: Sundiver, Startide Rising, The Practice Effect...

Spinrad: Bug Jack Barron, The Last Hurrah of the Golden Horde, Songs from the Stars, The Iron Dream...

MacCaffery: Dragonsinger, Dragonquest...


That is, the issue is a mix of who are the best AUTHORS and at least a few of their best BOOKS. Some authors you almost can't make a mistake with as they have lots of great books, many good books, and a few bad ones (Heinlein, Zelazny, Asimov); others have a few great books, a few good ones, lots of bad ones (Dunno, MacCaffery maybe); still others have one great book and maybe a few others worth reading (Frank Herbert, anyone?:-).

So I really LIKE your suggestion, and think that if this group were to achieve total perfection it would do it along these lines. And then there would be nothing left to discuss as far as LISTS are concerned, and maybe we could have fun just discussing the CONTENTS of some of the really great, or really awful stories. For example, Bug Jack Barron (which we both really like, it appears) is a truly fabulous book, well worth kicking around.


message 13: by Rindis (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:42PM) (new)

Rindis | 80 comments Perfection would make things less fun. ^_^

The discussion of what is great, and what isn't, and the reasons behind out personal reasons for both is the fun part. The only reason I haven't participated in the Best/Worst thread is I can't make up my mind as to what my favorite books are.

Heck, I'd have trouble picking my favorite this year.

Sorry, I haven't read Bug Jack Barron. Seth recommended it. ^_^;

You can also see more of my thoughts here:

Edit: And you can tell how much my memory retains by the fact that I just realized you've already posted in that thread....

message 14: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:42PM) (new)

Robert (rgbatduke) Ah, oops. Sorry about that. Well then, you SHOULD read it. It is pretty awesome, although possibly dated.

Yeah, my problem is that I just don't have a favorite. Dunno even what that would mean. Somebody who's read only five books, they can have a favorite. Somebody who's read 500? 5000? More? Gets hard in there, somewhere. I probably do have a book that I like more than all the rest. I'll just never be able to remember which one...;-)

Some people can. My oldest son has always had the blessing (or curse) of every life experience being a peak life experience. For him the best book is the one he's talking about now. The best concert is the one he just went to. The coolest class is the one he is taking.

I hear that this trick also works for Alzheimer's patients.

For me, alas, life is somewhere in between. I can remember better (usually a lot of them). I can remember worse (usually a lot of them). Then I can kind-of-remember that I've forgotten a bunch that might have been unbelievably good, or bad, and there is a huge blur on all sides. I can kind-of remember when Call it Courage was the best book in the Universe, back in 2nd grade or thereabouts, when I'd only read those five non-kiddy books. I also remember looking at our first-edition hardback copy of A Warlord of Mars or Tarzan of the Apes (upstairs somewhere at this very moment, I had a grandparent who really liked Burroughs, I guess:-) at about the same time and concluding that they had to be really boring.

Silly me...


message 15: by Dan (new)

Dan (dannytheinfidel) | 32 comments All of course depends on your taste in other books outside this genre. The SciFi genre does contain almost all other genres so I question if there are any required reading.
However I have some authors I found to be a bit more import to me.
Not naming books I recommend you to read books by;

Robert A. Heinlein
Isaac Asimov
Ray Bradbury
Stanislaw Lem (avoid Solaris)
Katharine Kerr (her SciFi books)
Ursula LeGuin
Jack McDevit
Harry Harrison
Elizabeth Moon (Remnant population was really good)
Arthur C. Clark
Philip Farmer
Douglas Adams (of course)
Charles Stross
Keith Laumer

I sort of like Jasper Ffordes books about Thursday Next to, if they can be counted to the SciFi genre.

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