For my class, one f the things I asked is what I should tell them about which I did not do.
Somewhat to my surprise, one question, endorsed by a number of other students, was whether I could recommend some good science fiction to read over the holidays.
Why, yes, yes I can…
Ok, we’ll jst let rip in random free association…
I’ll also mention some more fantasy oriented stuff at the end, just for fun.
I’ll presume everyone knows of Wells and Verne, and Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein?
Heinlein: I’d go for the early shorts and mid-career juveniles. The later novels are mostly for hardcore fanboys only. Need editing.
Clarke: Childhood’s End and the shorts
Asimov: End of Eternity and the first three Foundation novels, only. (Skip the sequels!)
- Alastair Reynolds – HARD science fiction
- Cordwainer Smith – Instrumentality of Mankind
- Tiptree, especially Screwfly Solution – read this if it is the only science fiction you ever read
- Brin – especially the Uplift series and Earth
- Charlie Stross – what would happen if we proved P=NP?
Or if Cthulhu rose?
- Vernor Vinge – True Names: this is a short story, it is mandatory reading.
Also the Fire Upon the Deep, Deepness in the Sky and Children of the Sky.
- Greg Egan – anything really; but I’d start with Axiomatic. Bleeding edge physics.
- Iain M Banks – try Use of Weapons, Algebraist, or any of the “Culture” novels. Also does very good “mainstream” fiction, including the definitive “great Scottish novel”.
- Neal Stephenson – early novels, but in particular Cryptonomicon and the Baroque Trilogy
- Ted Chiang – only written a small number of short stories, but has the densest idea flow ever, very tight writing and very very good.
- MacLeod – Star Fraction
- Lois McMaster Bujold – the “Miles Vorkosigan” novels and stories. Read them in the order written, early ones are best.
Also does good fantasy.
- Lets also throw in Peter Hamilton, another of the great resurgence of UK science fiction.
“Space Opera” level work, aimed firmly at the teenage boy market, and the hero is always an under appreciated genius from Peterborough.
- Moorcock – eg War Hound and the Worlds Pain.
- Fred Hoyle – Black Cloud is classic
- Bear – mixed bag scientifically, but I’d go for Slant
- Benford – Timescape – how science is really done!
Galaxy Center series is also good.
- Varley – espec. Persistence of Vision
- van Vogt – Slan – for perspective only: “Fan is Slan”!
- H Beam Piper – Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen – PA State Trooper conquers the world, starting from here… then read Space Viking.
- Turtledove – hugely prolific, mostly cut’n’paste alt history – the American Empire series is intriguing. The shorts “Road not Taken” and “Herbig-Haro” are awesome!
- de Camp – Lest Darkness Fall
- Sterling – Schismatrix
- Stirling – Island in the Sea of Time + sequels (bit gratuitious)
- Spinrad – Russian Spring. Spinrad’s writing is very “70’s”, but this is a thoughtprovoking novel.
- Olaf Stapledon – Odd John, Sirius and Last and First Men
- Niven – early Tales of Known Space
Also early Jerry Pournelle and early Ben Bova
- Haldeman – Forever War (but avoid the “sequels” at all cost!).
Then read Scalzi’s “Old Man’s War
- Forward – Dragon’s Egg
- Abbott – Flatland – ok, I’ll give on this one. On my shelf, liked it in my youth
- Vonnegut – Cat’s Cradle
- Clement – Mission of Gravity
- Anderson – Tau Zero – physics oriented; I think the polesotechnic league and Flandry novels are much better fun
- EE “Doc” Smith – classic space opera, very dated, but I like the lensmen dammitt.
For beautiful writing and fantasy: Guy Gavriel Kay’s later books and recent George RR Martin (duh).
I am also very fond of Steve Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen – the only 12 book series actually completed, with more stories from his partner and following other threads.
Anything by Pratchett.
Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.
Elizabeth Moon’s Deed of Paksennarrion.
McCaffrey’s Dragonrider series – first 7 books only!
Howard’s original Conan series.
Enough for now; comment or e-mail for those I miss.
Extra bonus points for anyone who spots the thinly disguised Count Belisarius in any of the above. Then go read Graves and Procopius’s Secret History for context, if you haven’t already.