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Gateway Books for Future Scifi/Fantasy Lovers

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message 1: by Jennie (new)

Jennie | 4 comments A few months ago, my friends and I (five mid-twenties to mid-thirties women) started a book club. Every month we rotate who picks the books and from which genre we pull. I, of course, was assigned SciFi/Fantasy. My month is coming up and I'm trying to find a book that would make them understand my love for these genres. Any suggestions for good gateway books for those future scifi/fantasy lovers?


message 2: by Tamahome (last edited Jul 04, 2011 09:53AM) (new)

Tamahome | 6186 comments I thought you would say Margaret Atwood. Maybe something by Dan Simmons? You might find some of his books in the fiction or horror section, like The Terror or Drood (I haven't read them). Flashback probably has some harsh imagery though (I started it).


message 3: by Kris (last edited Jul 04, 2011 11:02AM) (new)

Kris (kvolk) I think Dresden files work well for fantasy as for scifi you might try Daemon or maybe Fallen Dragon.


message 4: by terpkristin (new)

terpkristin | 4132 comments I agree on the Dresden books (Storm Front is the first), or the Connor Grey books (Unshapely Things is the first). They're light and they have mystical element but other elements that are in popular fiction.

I also think that American Gods is a good gateway book, though it's a little more out there. If it's women who are somewhat tech savvy, they may like The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer, which has elements of both science fiction and fantasy. The Curse of Chalion is also one I'd recommend as a bit of a "gateway drug." How "deep" do you want the book to be? There are some that I consider to be more like candy, and some that really require the brain to be engaged...


message 5: by Jennie (new)

Jennie | 4 comments terpkristin wrote: "How "deep" do you want the book to be? There are some that I consider to be more like candy, and some that really require the brain to be engaged... "

They're bright girls. I don't think they would mind some more substance.

Thanks for the great suggestions! I've heard that American Gods would be a good starter. Also, I really enjoyed Snow Crash so The Diamond Age sounds appealing.


message 6: by Anne (new)

Anne Schüßler (anneschuessler) | 830 comments Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman is funny, easy accessible and full of great stuff. But I would also think that Margaret Atwood is a good bridge between sci-fi and more "classic" novels.


message 7: by Kris (new)

Kris (kvolk) Since terpkristin mentioned Neal Stephenson I will add Snow Crash to the list...


message 8: by Anne (new)

Anne Schüßler (anneschuessler) | 830 comments Not so sure about Neal Stephenson frankly. I like him enough, but I'm a fan of the genre, but I don't know if his books are gateway material. Snow Crash was a bit confusing at times for me. I haven't read The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer yet, so I can't say anything about that.


message 9: by Blindman (new)

Blindman | 9 comments Simon R green's Nightside series is a good alternative to the Dresden files. But if you're looking toward fantasy Butchers Codex books are a good jumping on point and I'll second the nod for Neverwhere.


message 10: by Skip (new)

Skip | 517 comments I'd do something like Spook Country if you want to draw them into the genre with something more accessible. Any of Issac Asimov's Robot books are easy beach reads; they are short and don't require a lot of genre knowledge.

I'd stay away from any series, unless your group always reads the books. Some people dread starting a series and won't read a book they may like just because it is part of a series.


message 11: by Brad Theado (new)

Brad Theado | 217 comments You could go old school and have them read Swords and Deviltry for fantasy. or even LOTR. on the fantasy side.

The Foundation series is my go to for sci fi. or Dune.


message 12: by Dan (new)

Dan (daniel-san) | 101 comments I'm usually a laser, but I just finished a sword, The Name of the Wind, and it's the best fantasy I've read in several years. I'm recommending it to my mom who doesn't read much fantasy. I think it would be a good book for anyone.

One the laser side, I agree with Foundation and Dune, but would add Fahrenheit 451 and maybe Ender's Game for an intro to science fiction. All of these can be read as standalone books, but 3 of them continue into a series, although I think if your readers stopped with Foundation they'd really be missing out on the genius of the story. They are all quite short, thankfully.

I agree with Anne about Stephenson. I loved both Snow Crash and The Diamond Age (Little Nell was such an awesome character.), but they both get crazy and confusing toward the close of their stories, which may be a little distasteful to some.


message 13: by Pupsi (new)

Pupsi (pupsiphull) | 23 comments I have always found Terry Pratchett a good starter as he does not take himself too serious. The other option maybe to start if they have not read them with the Harry Potter books. Again as they are easier for non sword or laser people to relate to.


message 14: by Tracey (new)

Tracey (stewartry) Keeping in mind the review-that-will-never-die, I'd have to suggest The Hobbit. :)

From the description of The #GeekGirls Book Club:

The #GGBC grew out of NYT TV reviewer Ginina Bellafonte's comments on her review of "A Game of Thrones", saying that:

"While I do not doubt that there are women in the world who read books like Mr. Martin’s, I can honestly say that I have never met a single woman who has stood up in indignation at her book club and refused to read the latest from Lorrie Moore unless everyone agreed to “The Hobbit” first. “Game of Thrones” is boy fiction patronizingly turned out to reach the population’s other half."

Insulting to fantasy-reading women and insulting to the genre in general, this comment rallied the women of the internet together.



message 15: by Tom (new)

Tom | 24 comments I think my gateway books were by Kurt Vonnegut, 'Cats Cradle', 'The Sirens of Titan' to name a few.

I think To Say Nothing of the Dog would be good. The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer and American Gods are great books too.


message 16: by Halbot42 (new)

Halbot42 | 185 comments If the club is of a very literary bent they might enjoy Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Original mix of Victorian era and fae lore. Much like Cryptonomicon, which i also recomend with some reservations, JSnMN is a huge book most people who have read it wish was even longer.


message 17: by Nevan (new)

Nevan | 143 comments I came here to mention Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. It's charming, accessible, and impossible to put-down.

As much as I love Dan Simmons, there's very little of his his material that's readily-accessible, save for 'The Song of Kali,' and even then that's a pretty straight horror, as opposed to fantasy.


message 18: by terpkristin (new)

terpkristin | 4132 comments Nevan wrote: "I came here to mention Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. It's charming, accessible, and impossible to put-down. "

Wow. Different strokes for different folks. I found it eternally boring. I think a couple others around here did, too. But not as bad as Anathem...


message 19: by Jennie (new)

Jennie | 4 comments Thank you everyone for the great input! I think you've all giving me enough material for the next 20 times I pick our book. I appreciate it and look forward to getting to these, whether on my own or through the book club.


message 20: by Anne (new)

Anne Schüßler (anneschuessler) | 830 comments Halbot42 wrote: "If the club is of a very literary bent they might enjoy Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Original mix of Victorian era and fae lore. Much like Cryptonomicon, which i also re..."

With both books I would be afraid to actually turn off folks or at least get a very mixed reaction. I really liked Cryptonomicon, but it's really, really long and I can imagine people not really getting into it. The same goes for JSaMN, which was a bit disappointing even for me as a genre lover, so I would be very very careful to suggest either of these two books. Not saying that they are bad books, but for me these are in no way gateway books to the genre.

I also probably wouldn't choose The Name of the Wind if only for the fact that it ends in the middle of the story as the first book of a series. I wouldn't have any objections to series books as long as they can stand for themselves, but TNotW really just ends with nothing resolved, which I'm not sure if it would be fitting for a book club book.

I'm wondering whether The Eyre Affair would be a good gateway book. It should speak to every avid reader because of all of its literary references. The only problem I would have is that it I don't think it's in any way typically fantasy or sci-fi and not really representative of any of the genres. However, great book, easily accessible and not too long.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 2844 comments terpkristin wrote: "Nevan wrote: "I came here to mention Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. It's charming, accessible, and impossible to put-down. "

Wow. Different strokes for different folks. I found it eternally boring. I think a couple others around here did, too. But not as bad as Anathem... ."


I'm about to blow your mind, I think. I have tried to read Strange and Norrell twice but just couldn't make myself. Anathem, on the other hand, I enjoyed. Not as much as Snow Crash, but far more than Quicksilver.

As far as gateway books, for book clubs I always suggest Oryx and Crake. It comes from an author many are familiar with, the ending leaves a lot to discuss, and I've read it three times and still love it.


message 22: by Neil (new)

Neil (rucknrun) You could always go with Old Mans War Book 1. The book is great and an easy read. I think it would be perfect for a book club. Sorry to come late to the thread but it just popped in my head.


message 23: by Michael (new)

Michael (the_smoking_gnu) | 178 comments Anne wrote: "Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman is funny, easy accessible and full of great stuff."
I second Neverwhere.
Great science fictions books which transcend the genre and to stand out because of interesting premises: Flowers for Algernon and The Left Hand of Darkness


message 24: by Will (new)

Will (longklaw) | 261 comments When I first wanted to give fantasy a try, I asked a friend for suggestions. He took me to a bookstore and pulled The Eye of the World, Wizard's First Rule, and Magician: Apprentice off the shelves. I read them and I was hooked. Warning: each of them are the first book in a series.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 2844 comments If it were my book club, I'd have one month for fantasy and one month for sci-fi. *grin*

I want to know more about your group. Do they tend to like quick-paced fiction? Love stories? Heavy tomes? Is it more to gossip or to discuss? Is it heavily literary?


message 26: by Kris (new)

Kris (kvolk) Jenny wrote: "terpkristin wrote: "Nevan wrote: "I came here to mention Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. It's charming, accessible, and impossible to put-down. "

Wow. Different strokes for different folks. I fou..."


I had the same reaction to those books...


message 27: by Ricky (new)


message 28: by Halbot42 (last edited Jul 06, 2011 09:20AM) (new)

Halbot42 | 185 comments See, while i loved the Blade Itself, i'd be scared of the reaction of a general audience to the dark nature of Joe Abercrombie's work. Neverwhere is a damn good choice, as is American Gods which you could tease with the fact that HBO is developing that as well. Neuromancer needs to be on this list as well. The Mote in God's Eye is a great classic scifi book.


message 29: by Dan (new)

Dan (daniel-san) | 101 comments Anne wrote: "I also probably wouldn't choose The Name of the Wind if only for the fact that it ends in the middle of the story as the first book of a series. "

I couldn't agree more, but I always struggle recommending fantasy that isn't serial in some way. At least it's just a trilogy!

I haven't read enough Gaiman, so I'm going to add Neverwhere to my list as well since I assume it's one of the few great ones that wraps up in a single book.


message 30: by Anne (new)

Anne Schüßler (anneschuessler) | 830 comments I'm glad to see Neverwhere pop up so often. I've thought about it and I think it would be a great gateway book because it is funny and serious at the same time and the main character actually is someone from this world somehow ending up in this strange story.

I guess one of my first sci-fi books was The Hitchhiker's Guide, but I'm not sure if I would recommend it as a gateway book. It's insanely funny, but that might actually be a disadvantage in this case, since the book has its very own humour and relies a lot on absurdity.

Neverwhere manages to span the bridge between being comical and serious at the same time and it goes wild with the fantasy stuff nevertheless.


message 31: by Mary (new)

Mary (valentinew) | 118 comments So much depends on the kind of writing your group enjoys.

For scifi, I'd agree with those who suggested Dune, Foundation, and Ender's Game.

I would avoid the Dresden books, as they are very formulaic & more in the mystery noir genre with occult stuff tossed in than actual fantasy, imo. (I like Jim, but I've tried to read Storm Front three times & never been able to get past the third chapter.) If you want to introduce them to Butcher, try the Alera Codex.

For fantasy I'd suggest Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey, Magician by Raymond Feist, The Belgariad or The Diamond Throne by David Eddings.

If they want something closer to a mainstream feel, try The White Plague by Frank Herbert, or Wicked by Gregory Maguire.

Let us know how it goes!


message 32: by Jennie (last edited Jul 06, 2011 06:09PM) (new)

Jennie | 4 comments Jenny wrote: "If it were my book club, I'd have one month for fantasy and one month for sci-fi. *grin*

I want to know more about your group. Do they tend to like quick-paced fiction? Love stories? Heavy tom..."


If I had it my way I would do the same!!! :) I was assigned young adult, sci-fi, and fantasy. We've also done biographies, non-fiction, classics, best sellers, and we even tried trashy romance last month...


message 33: by Elie (new)

Elie Harriett | 56 comments I would agree with everything Mary said.

I would also add consideration for Douglas Adams' Hitchhikers Guide to e Galaxy. Book one only, of course. It is very much scifi, and very humorous. Both the intellectual and the non-intellectual get and appreciate the humor (or in this case, "humour") in that book.


message 34: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 2 comments I completely agree that Hitch hikers is a good intro. Not too heavy for people who are not into sci-fi. Bill, the Galactic Hero and other stuff by Harry Harrison is pretty low brow but mocks the conventions brilliantly.


message 35: by Tamahome (new)

Tamahome | 6186 comments Would Gateway be a good gateway book?


message 36: by Anne (new)

Anne Schüßler (anneschuessler) | 830 comments Tamahome wrote: "Would Gateway be a good gateway book?"

This is too meta for me.


message 37: by Joe (new)

Joe | 1 comments Ricky wrote: "For sci-fi I would start with Ender's Game, Dune, or Starship Troopers.

Fantasy: A Game of Thrones, The Name of the Wind or [boo..."


I would have to agree with you these were the books that really got me started. Ender's Game is the perfect Laser Starter.


message 38: by Lindsay (new)

Lindsay | 593 comments I think you have to be very careful when introducing older readers to speculative fiction. Many have a lot of preconceived ideas about the field and turn off quickly when they hit lots of jargon or strange concepts. They also don't have exposure to many of the common tropes that a regular speculative fiction reader internalized in their teens.

When I introduce these sort of readers to the field I'd typically start slow with books that have only sparse SF or fantasy elements.

So Tom suggested To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. I wouldn't have picked that one because the thinking around time loops and causation in that one is pretty complicated. However, the previous book in that series, Doomsday Book, packs a massive story with only small SF elements ie., time travel as a travel mechanism, near future Oxford.

For these reasons I've used Doomsday Book as a gateway into SF several times including with my wife.


message 39: by Rick (last edited Oct 31, 2013 10:51PM) (new)

Rick | 2781 comments Tons of good things above so I won't bother adding too much, but I will say this - avoid things that rely on the person already being a fan. For example, much as I love Diamond Age, it relies on the reader being familiar with nanotechnology. The recent rise of 3D printing might make this more familiar than it would have been even 5 years ago, but 3D printing is still pretty niche. Likewise, the Primer felt very advanced when Neal wrote the book but now, the iPad makes it less alien.

Things like Anathem and Cryptonomicon rely too much on the person being a bit of a geek/SF fan to make them good starters I think. It's hard to do, but when thinking about books like this we really have to pull ourselves out of what we'd enjoy and think of people who have no history with the genre.

Fantasy is a little easier to get into I think since many of the tropes are part of the cultural background (elves, wizards, etc). For another urban fantasy choice Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid series is a lot of fun, Hounded being the first of them.

If you're looking for large scope SF I'd look at House of Suns by Reynolds perhaps or Player of Games by Banks. Both of those rely a bit on SF tropes though (Player on the idea of orbital ringworlds, House on cloning and long term stasis).


message 40: by David (new)

David (dbigwood) I'd second (or 3rd) Atwood, Margaret. Well written, not very geeky.

I'd also include some books by Ursula K. Le Guin. Lavinia has some fantastic elements but they are part of classical mythology, and so may be easier to accept. Lots of good discussion topics comparing Vergil's story to Le Guin's. Views on gender.

The Telling has some space travel as back story but the focus is on opression and the forms it can take. Good on for discussion. Importance of story to society. Forms of opression.


message 41: by Dharmakirti (last edited Nov 01, 2013 11:04AM) (new)

Dharmakirti | 942 comments Tamahome wrote: "I thought you would say Margaret Atwood. Maybe something by Dan Simmons? You might find some of his books in the fiction or horror section, like The Terror or Drood (I haven't read them). Flashb..."

Dan Simmons' The Terror is excellent (good lord, please don't ever let me get scurvy), but I would say falls more into the horror genre than scifi/fantasy. The one Dan Simmons scifi novel I've managed to read so far is Ilium which I greatly enjoyed and would recommend, espciallly if the readers have an interest in Homer's Iliad or if the idea of two sentient space crafts discussing the literature of Shakespeare and Proust sounds appealing (some of my favorite passages in the novel).

I don't think you can go wrong with Neil Gaiman. I think Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods and Anansi Boys would all make for great book club selections.

Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell may be of interest but it is quite long. The NY Times review of this novel called it "Hogwarts for Grownups." If your bookclub has members who are fans of Dickens and Austen, they might enjoy this novel.

Catherynne Valente's The Habitation of the Blessed is quite wonderful. It's Ms. Valente's own unique take on the Prester John legend. One of my favorite passages from the book is where Ms. Valente describes a tree that produces books, which like fruit, begin to rot after they are picked.


message 42: by Dharmakirti (last edited Nov 01, 2013 09:44AM) (new)

Dharmakirti | 942 comments When it comes to Ms. Atwood, I think she's a very talented writer, but I've stopped thinking of her as a genre writer. I think she cares too much about the literary establishment and awards and can be very dismissive of the scifi genre in an attempt to set her work above others.

I like what R. Scott Bakker had to say about this tendency of hers:
I don’t know Margaret Atwood the person, but Margaret Atwood the public literary figure I well and truly despise, as do many others in the Canadian genre community. Why? Well, check this PBS piece out for one. Every time she comes out with something she fears might be written off as genre, she follows this pattern: Upon release, she says ‘This is Literature, not genre,’ then proceeds to do what she does in this interview—give the accepted definition of the genre (extrapolation of real technologies), and then claim that the genre (with the all-important proviso, ‘means to people’) is something obviously silly like ‘talking cabbages’ and ‘lizard men.’ If that wasn’t bad enough, once the book has been safely accepted as genuine literary fiction, she then turns the strategy upside down, claiming that the book is in fact genre and has been all along, in an effort to increase sales. Rather than fight for genre, she literally—explicitly—steps on it to feather her own nest.[1]

[1]Bakker, R. Scott. Condemned to the Not-So-New Three Pound Brain Oct. 3. 2011


message 43: by kvon (new)

kvon | 562 comments You could also make a lateral strike through the biographies, and suggest James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon. Which talked about the ideas behind her stories, as well as a pretty exciting life.


message 44: by Thane (new)

Thane | 476 comments Jennie wrote: "A few months ago, my friends and I (five mid-twenties to mid-thirties women) started a book club. Every month we rotate who picks the books and from which genre we pull. I, of course, was assigne..."

2011! Who revived this thread! Actually, I'm interested in what the book club read.


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