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Ask HN: Books that altered your view of reality
45 points by chrisconley on Sept 12, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 39 comments
Any recommendations on books that changed how you think about VR/AR/reality?

I've been enjoying Ready Player One and Snow Crash lately and am wondering what I should pick up next. Thanks!

Neuromancer - William Gibson

REAMDE- Neal Stephenson

Pattern Recognition / Zero History / Spook Country - William Gibson

The Peripheral - William Gibson

Not exactly the same thing, but I'll also throw in Glasshouse by Charles Stross. And since we're talking Charles Stross, also add Halting State to the list.

Oh, and VALIS by Philip K. Dick. Definitely worth a read.

What I really liked about Neuromancer looking back, is how many black characters it had. Once of the first sci-fi books I read that had characters I could easily identify with.

Maelcum was pivotal in the entire story and was a cool bad boy type. And you can't forget the whole crew in the "Marcus Garvey" spaceship.

Quality stuff. That right there was enough to make me a lifelong Gibson fan.

+1 Neuromancer was a wild ride for me, Gibson practically invented cyberpunk fiction when he wrote this novel.

Ahh, Case will always be in my heart! :)

I agree, but it's not just VALIS. Probably most of his prose dealt with this theme. Personally I liked "Ubik" better.

You're probably right, but as of now, VALIS is the only thing I've read by PKD, so it's the only one I can recommend.

I have a big pile of his other works here, waiting to be read, but just haven't gotten to the rest yet. :-(

I know the pain. Well, it would be worth your while once you get to it - as I said, "Ubik" is pretty awesome. "The Man in the High Castle" too, although it's different, not that much of "pure" s-f element, it's political fiction, but still very Dickesque (it depicts a world where nazis won the war - where certain writer gains fame for his alternative history novel in which they actually lost :) ).

Sounds good. I'm on book 12 of the "Wheel of Time" series by Jordan now, plus all the non-fiction I'm reading. But maybe after I finish WoT I'll binge on PKD for a while. I did enjoy VALIS quite a lot, even though it was pretty f'in weird. :-)

Given what you've just read and a VR/AR requirement I'd suggest either -

Rainbows End - Vernor Vinge

Daemon - Daniel Suarez

They are both more AR, which I suspect will be the next step rather than VR, AR novels have if anything proven to me it's more relevant than VR, for now.

Daemon relies a bit more on AI to make the story.

The Ancestor's Tale by Richard Dawkins... this book starts at human-bonobo-chimpanzee split and goes backward into a LOT of evolutionary history, including scientific discoveries and different branches of the evolutionary tree.

Believe it or not: Slaughterhouse V by Kurt Vonnegut and No. 44 The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain. The first for the idea of being "unstuck" in time, and the second for introducing the concept of nihilism.

The Diamond Age - Neal Stephenson. AR plays a heavy role in it (and it is my favorite Stephenson novel).

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World - Haruki Murakami. I can't say much about it without ruining it.

The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker

A man goes out to buy shoelaces and a cookie during his lunch break, but the story is packed with insane levels of detail about the objects around us and the narrator's imagination about how those details came to be.

One such detail: the way a plastic straw will float in a can of soda until it's horizontal, but sometimes the microscopic burrs in the pull-tab opening will dig into the straw and keep it from doing that.

(Baker is a much more entertaining writer than I am.)

Diaspora by Greg Egan will twist the way you think of perception

Boom! Another Greg Egan fan, here. Reading through Axiomatic right now and loving it.

One thing I've noticed (& which I'm sure a lot of people have stated) is that his fictional works are mostly just a platform for him to explore ideas. Whether or not they entertain is a side effect. A few stories on Axiomatic for instance end rather abruptly. It is as if Egan just couldn't be bothered with tying everything in a neat little package once he'd already finished exploring the implications of a particular philosophical idea.

For more mind altering fiction from Egan, tackle his "Orthogonal" books, which posits a universe where the speed of light is not a constant and builds on that (and Riemannian Geometry).

If you just want the physics behind the books, see his website [ http://www.gregegan.net/ORTHOGONAL/ORTHOGONAL.html ]

I had to put this one down but I plan to pick it up later. His ideas can be super dense at times and it makes fun reading feel like work. It definitely doesn't "cool down" my brain at the end of the day.

/r/printsf always has good suggestions

Have to agree to this. Some of his stories are stellar, but others were very textbook-like, which isn't a bad thing in particular, but usually whenever I'm reading fiction i'm aiming for something lighter.

Most recently Accelerando by Charles Stross has been occupying an outsized portion of my contemplations.

Everyone on HN should read this book - 11/10

Same for 1930's Last and First Men, by Olaf Stapledon, which spans 2 billion years and eighteen species of variously augmented humans, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_and_First_Men

The Egg, a short story: http://www.galactanet.com/oneoff/theegg_mod.html

Too short for a TLDR, but it changed the way I look at other people, for the better.

Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman

Obviously not s-f as such, but - quite a few novels by Nabokov. "The Luzhin Defence" (aka "The Defense"), "The Eye", "Bend Sinister", "Transparent Things" - all very immersing, and posing the question of what's the true reality, its underpinnings and seams. Challenging reads for sure, every detail matters.

Some might recommend Pynchon as well, personally I'm not convinced but to each his own.

Walden, not because I want to go and live in the woods, but because it helped me question many of the "truths" I had come to believe.

Peter Senge's Fifth Discipline. The chapters on mental models and learning disabilities definitely change the way you look at the world.

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind - Julian Jaynes

Wholeness and the Implicate Order - David Bohm

Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind by Dr. Vilayanur S. Ramachandran

Read it around three years ago and I was never the same since. It is non-fiction, and I think VR is only mentioned in passing, but if you see it anywhere, be sure to pick it up. It was a fun and informative read.

Daemon & Freedom by Daniel Suarez.

Stanislaw Lem: Futurological congress

Greg Egan's Permutation City plays some novel games with reality.

The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology - Robert Wright.

After reading this, you will understand (and be able to predict) a lot of patterns of human behavior.

Taleb - Black Swan

Carlos Castenada's The Teachings of Don Jaun: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge.

Julian Jaynes The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the BiCameral Mind

Kant, Critique of Pure Reason.

Any books from Thich Nhat Hanh.

The miracle of mindfulness, No mud/No Lotus, How to Love ...

House of leaves

The books of Noam Chomsky altered my political and historical perception very drastically.

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