Science Fiction - recommended reading

Rosemont, ON(Zone 4a)

I just finished reading the 6th and final volume of 'The Lost Fleet' series by Jack Campbell. I haven't enjoyed a series so much for a long time. It's a space battle epic featuring Captain Geary, rescued and revived after spending 100 years cryogenically frozen in a survival capsule, who finds he has become the legendary hero "Black Jack" Geary in his absence, and who never expected to be put in charge of a fleet of battleships stranded in enemy territory. The cast of characters includes two ferociously intelligent women one a wily politician and the other an honorable navy officer - vying for Geary's affections while questioning his motives, and a bunch of disobedient and mutinous captains trying to either undermine Geary's authority or turn him into a dictator while he rises to the challenge of carrying out his duty to bring the fleet home. Character development and hard science are balanced beautifully throughout the books, the female characters are given much more than just support or romantic roles, and there's an interesting philosophical element. At the end of every volume, I found myself running to the bookstore to buy the next installment, and the ending left me with a satisfied smile on my face. Read and enjoy!

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

Thanks for posting. Sounds interesting!

Rosemont, ON(Zone 4a)

Thanks, sallyg! If you read the series, let me know what you think! The reason I started this thread is that, over the years, I've either lost or lost touch with family and friends who shared my taste in fiction, and now when I feel the need to share a book I've enjoyed, I can only tell the readers on Dave's and hope there are some kindred spirits among you. That said, I have another recommended read to tell you about.

The thing I have always liked about science fiction is the way it can illuminate the dark, forking roads of our future to show us where we humans might end up. I recently read a collection of short stories that do this brilliantly. In 'Pump Six and Other Stories' Paolo Bacigalupi shines the light of his imagination in thought-provoking directions. What if our life-style makes us dumber? What if companies that own GM plant patents gained control of the planet? What if instead of cleaning up pollution, we bio-engineered ourselves to live with it? What if California sucked all the water out of the Colorado? The book is packed with alternative societies and new inventions and unpleasant surprises, and the author takes you right into the heads of his characters and makes it all feel very personal. The stories in this book stayed with me long after I had finished reading.

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

Hi!
Well I did read sci fi but have gotten away from it. I read Dune and a good amount of Asimov. I had a book of short stories some of which were just great but it got chewed into by termites and I had to toss it.
I appreciate recommendations. We have a ton of SF books at the library but they aren't as actively checked out as romance (blecchh!) and mystery (semi- blechh!) so I wouldn't know where to go now.
Someone recommended Philip Dick but the one that I tried was too 'male' for me.

That last one you described sounds very interesting and sadly, some, not too hard to imagine as coming true.

Columbus, OH(Zone 6a)

I used to love science fiction as well. I drifted away from it due to the lack of talent in the genre, (or so it seems to me, anyway.)

Off the top of my head, I do remember enjoying Sherri Tepper's works. Particularly Grass and The Gate to Women's Country. Hers are more focused on the cultures of different planets, rather than space travel, but she does come up with some great characters and civilizations.

Rosemont, ON(Zone 4a)

I agree, ceceoh, there's an overwhelming amount of SF that's painfully badly written and/or written for adolescent boys, and a lot of what I buy ends up either in the recycling bin or (if it's borderline readable) traded at the local book exchange. When I do find a gem, I keep an eye out for the author's previous and subsequent works. In this way, I came to buy a bunch of Charles Stross's novels - 'Singularity Sky', 'Iron Sunrise', 'Accelerando', 'The Atrocity Archives', 'Glasshouse', 'The Jennifer Morgue', 'Halting State' - and all except the last one were "keepers". Another author I consistently like is Peter F. Hamilton, whose books take up an entire shelf of my home library. I'm partial to William Gibson's cyber stories, Connie Willis's time-travel tales, and anything by Gene Wolfe (you can almost hear him laughing gently as he toys with the reader). Some authors write well, but I can't handle the way they twist their plots, and I'm particularly thinking of Iain M. Banks, who always kills the character I'm rooting for.

Rosemont, ON(Zone 4a)

I have been thinking about sallyg's comment that Philip Dick's book seemed "male", and ceceoh liking cultural stories better than hard science. The Science Fiction field does seem to attract male readers and writers with a penchant for physics and chemistry (my two worst subjects at school, incidentally!). However, a scan of my bookshelves reveals a good number of female authors and storylines. My all-time favorite SF novel is 'Floating Worlds' by Cecelia Holland, and its solar-system-spanning political-social epic is told entirely from a woman's perspective. I also love Ursula LeGuin's SF books, and you can't get any more mind-bending than her world of 'The Left Hand of Darkness' where couples have no gender at all until it's mating time, and then they become either male or female in the heat of the moment, but they never know ahead of time which sex they will (temporarily) be. C.J. Cherryh's 'Chanur' books also raise interesting social and gender questions, as her all-female, same-species captain and crew struggle to accept the presence of males and aliens on board their starship. I'm trying to remember another book - it was about the world suddenly being split into two realities, with men in one and women in the other, with disastrous results for both - was it 'The Disappearance' by Philip Wylie?

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

More interesting concepts and choices. I do know LeGuin and Cherryh being popular. THose are some wild ideas- especially the not knowing what sex you'd be until the moment of passion????? Would you believe I saw 'zero' books by J Campbell or P Hamilton at the library? I will say, do not go by the 'literary' tastes at our library. They about equal the viewing taste of the average American TV viewer.

Hard science doesn't faze me. Lately I prefer the nonfiction section- like the book about the 'Spanish flu" epidemic of 1916 + by John M Barry, which gives a lot of virus info along with the accounting of events. I can't wait to read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. My brother said the author is a good storyteller, and he's gong to send it along.

The maleness I referred to was what seemed to me too much reference to the 'hot babes' kind of thing...

Ditto here on Sherri Tepper. Really like "The Family Tree". Full of little surprises.

Rosemont, ON(Zone 4a)

Ack! Sorry, I completely misunderstood the meaning of "male" book! I tend to overlook "hot babes" if the story is otherwise good, as I suspect publishers & editors of asking authors to add sex to their books to boost sales, but I will not stand for female characters being portrayed as nothing more than sex objects or pretty scenery. Give me meaningful and insightful relationships in SF, please!

I echo your sentiments, June. Not that I necessarily like touchy-feely stuff but I want "real" characters.

Columbus, OH(Zone 6a)

June Otario - Yes, it was called the 'The Disappearance', by Philip Wylie. I really enjoyed that book. It's a classic. 'Earth Abides' by George R, Stewart is another great Post-Apocalyptic book, though some of it seems dated with its 1940s mind set.

I guess these two books are less science fiction and more speculative fiction.

Rosemont, ON(Zone 4a)

Yes, indeed, I now find it difficult to stomach some of the "classics" written in the days before Women's Lib, despite enjoying the books when I first read them back in the early to mid 60's. How attitudes have changed!

I tend to apply the term science fiction somewhat loosely, and I think of alternative history, future culture, telepathy, and such stories as SF even if the concepts are not backed-up by science. However, stories with magic, vampires, werewolves, demons, faeries, witches, curses, ghosts, and gods with a small "g" I firmly put into the Fantasy genre. I do enjoy Fantasy, though, and there are some excellent books out there at the moment, if you can find them under the mountains of semi-erotic stuff for teens. I have to confess to a weakness for vampires.

Columbus, OH(Zone 6a)

Have you read Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book? It's about a young child who runs away from a murder scene and ends up in a cemetery, where he is raised by ghosts.

Guess that would be "fantasy"? LOL. Great book. Very British.

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

A lot of 'magic' and fantasy is ending up on our sci fi shelves.

Rosemont, ON(Zone 4a)

I will look for 'The Graveyard Book'. I haven't seen it in the bookstore's regular SF & Fantasy section, so it may have ended up on the "young adult" shelves. I have read a number of books by Gaiman, but felt the writing was a bit strained in some of them (I think 'American Gods' was one that made me feel he was trying too hard). But I love the book he co-authored with Terry Pratchett, an hilarious end-of-the-world spoof - 'Good Omens'. The humor is very "British" though. Having spent about 30 years in England, 10 years in the US of A, and 20 in Canada, I can enjoy the humor of all three cultures. Oops, now I've given my age away!

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

Hard science maybe doesn't faze me, but math does. I believe you're 29, right? say yes!

Rosemont, ON(Zone 4a)

Oh yeah, I'm 29, since I started counting birthdays backwards a few years ago. Is anyone else peeved that there are so many SF stories about rejuvination treatments, but nobody's invented them yet? I'd even be willing to try being cloned and having my memory transferred to a new, healthy body. Come on science, catch up with the writers!

Columbus, OH(Zone 6a)

Ooooh, I have a book that is right up your alley! Nancy Farmer's The House of the Scorpion. Mexico has become a Narco State, with the dictator drug lord El Patron as its ruler. The protagonist of the story though is a young clone, who is being raised as a source of replacement parts for El Patron.

Though the book is listed as being for younger readers, its prose is anything but simplistic, and the story is very thought provoking. It might turn you off of the thought of having your own clone, though. :)

Rosemont, ON(Zone 4a)

If I have to shave another 10 years off my age and go shopping as a young adult, then I will! I have added 'The House of the Scorpion' to my "look for" list. If you're into more reading about clones, I recommend 'Spares' by Michael Marshall Smith. In 'Spares', the clones are farmed for spare parts by rich people who send away for replacement arms, eyes, etc, as needed. One of the clone-farm guards helps some of the inmates escape. The story has lots of twist and turns, grittiness, and quirky characters.

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

I bought "The Graveyard Book" for my granddaughter; she never read it but I did. I like a lot of his books, too, and I really like Terry Pratchett, although I have to take him in smaller doses. Ursula Le Guin and Connie Willis are favorites, although Willis's last two books were really irritating; I never even finished the second volume. I also loved Theodore Sturgeon's "More Than Human" and Alfred Bester's "The Stars My Destination" when I was a kid; still have some old dog-eared copies sitting on my bookshelves. Sherri Tepper's books were a bit too dark for me; I like my sci-fi/fantasy more thoughtful and speculative.

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