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Ask HN: What are the best Sci-Fi books you've ever read?
92 points by rayalez on July 15, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 137 comments
I've been reading non-fiction almost exclusively, and now I'm looking to get into reading more fiction. Can you recommend something awesome?

I'd love to read something fun, lighthearted, and enjoyable (as opposed to gritty dystopias or super hardcore hard scifi). To relax, explore cool worlds and likable characters, and encounter some cool ideas. I'll be extra happy if it's available on audible.

Things I liked: Harry Potter and The Methods of Rationality, The Martian, Ready Player One, Mistborn.

I am just finishing reading the Hyperion Cantos which is an absolutely inspired masterwork by Dan Simmons.

I can’t stand rereading / rewatching anything, this series is so rich that it feels like reading fresh material all over again.


Fully agreed with that. Along with LOTR are the series that I did read most times. The first book can also be seen as an antology of short stories, each one superb, but the total is far more than the sum of the parts.

Came here to say that Hyperion to me is a SF masterpiece.

Another recommendation from me too. This series takes you to some magical places and ideas.

I always considered the HC to be Hyperion and The Dawn of Hyperion. They as entity, leaving things open but felt cohesive. Would you recommend the later Endymions?

Absolutely. The latter two books have a different feel but are as impressive as the first in different ways.

Dune. Definitely Dune. The most epic sci-fi world that is so far in the future it feels like it could be middle earth. Politics, mysticism, prescience, intergalactic travel build an amazing world that feels utterly alien but still relatable.

It’s like reading about modern battles between oil, culture and money, but in countless years and star system into the future.

Honorable mentions for Hyperion and Neuromancer for my favorites :)

Dune undoubtedly is a masterpiece. But, it's neither fun nor light-hearted like OP requested.

Dune - enough said.




Here are a couple I like :

- Seveneves: A really great hard sci-fi. Very thought provoking ideas and excellent plot! Warning this is a heavy themed book. Also keep in mind that at about 3/4 in the novel there's a conclusion to the main story; the rest of the novel feels rushed and doesnt keep up; you won't miss anything if you just skip it.

- The Expanse series (starting with Leviathan wakes). A very good series. It has a light tone and mainly focuses on characters. Some books are better than the others. If you liked the 1st one then you wont regret reading the others. Not much philosofy of hard sci-fi ideas so probably near to your liking.

- Rendezvous with Rama: Probably my favorite Arthur Clarke novel. The plot may not be so interesting but the ideas presented make up for it.

- Red rising series: This is a great read, the plot feels something like a GoT of scifi; although the setting could also be considered a fantasy one. This is a plot intensive series but not many scifi philosophical ideas. Probably good for your linking.

- The three body problem trilogy: This is not so light-hearted; it is serious sci-fi presenting some excellent ideas that would blow your mind. Especially after I read the 2nd one (The Dark Forest) I kept it in my mind for a long time; thinking over the things presented there. This is sci-fi at its best.

I'm fond of "A Fire Upon the Deep" by Vernor Vinge, and its kind of prequel "A Deepness in the Sky", they both contain some great ideas and I love the fact they have some very alien aliens!

Oh and if you haven't read any Douglas Adams "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" is fantastic

Seconding "A Fire Upon the Deep": a fast-paced, high-stakes action adventure in a zany, 5th Element-esque space opera universe. Explores the idea of strong AI in a unique and interesting way.

Love both of these. Perhaps more so "A Deepness in the Sky", with its darker tone, very thoughtful programming-related remarks, and the reversed "alien invasion" concept.

I really like how Vinge addressed the Fermi paradox by permitting that the constants of physics may not be different in different parts of the galaxy.

The first chapter (via Audiobook) was one of the best first chapters I've ever read / listened to. I was totally hooked after that.

Just about to chime in about Vernor Vinge myself - awesome conceptuals and well written

His books are great, I loved both "fire upon deep" and a "deepness in the sky". It is unfortunate he inspired the Singularity movement which I find full of bullshit and religious overtones.

Hitchhiker's matches nicely what you look for

The Star's My Destination by Alfred Bester (also known as Tiger Tiger). Really great Count of Monte Cristo type plot with teleportation and a great antihero. I'm surprised it hasn't been adapted to film or long form series yet.

Anathem by Neal Stephenson is superb and I recommend you carve out some time to really let it soak in. Anything by Neal is phenomenal, but Anathem stands out for me.

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson is my favorite sci-fi book I've read in a while. Generation ships, AI, and a fascinating narrative perspective. I'm a sucker for realistic/hard scifi with well-researched technical explanations, and KSR is among the best.

The Stars My Destination was great. It might just be me but I'd like to see what folks who liked it thought of Robert Heinlein's Citizen of the Galaxy.

however, if anyone's never read Bester before, don't audio-book it. The typography is important to the story telling.

Cryptonomicon and Snow Crash were great. Others you might:

- The Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang (superb short story that Arrival was based on) - The Three Body-Problem (Cixin Liu) - Dune (Frank Herbert) - The Parable of the Sower (Octavia Butler) - Lucifer's Hammer (Larry Niven) - The Kundalini Equation (Steven Barnes)

The Ted Chiang anthology is sooo good. Every story's premise was so unique - it blows my mind that one person can come up with so many out there ideas.

I know OP wasn't looking for dystopias, but if you like Parable of the Sower, I recently read two excellent new scifi/dystopia books: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, and American War by Omar El Akkad. American War was really cool - it's by a journalist who covered military trials at Guantanamo Bay and the Arab Spring, who transposes the stories/atrocities he witnessed as a reporter onto the future US.

Cryptonomicon is one of my favorite books of all time (I'm probably due for a re-read at this point).

I would also recommend "Seveneves", one of Neal Stephenson's most recent books. "Anathem" was also very enjoyable.

The Story of Your Life was really remarkable. A collection of short stories, only one of which Arrival was based on. The others are equally intriguing and unique.

I literally finished The Story of Your Life this afternoon. Highly, highly recommended.

Asimov's original "Foundation" - it's effectively a collection of 4,5 short stories. I recommend to remain at a discreet distance from the rest of the series. While good within the universe, they are ... different.

"Ender's Game" and "Speaker for the Dead" by O.S.Card. (Do not touch Xenocide without a hazmat suit. And if you do, burn it before reading.)

"Snow Crash" by Neil Stephenson.

"Rendez-vouz with Rama" by Arthur C. Clarke.

If you're up for some thought-provoking stuff, "Stranger in a Strange Land" by Heinlein. Not the easiest read but your carve-out basically rules out "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress".

"Embassytown" by China Mieville.

EDIT: I forgot "Hyperion" by Dan Simmons.

Rendez-vouz with Rama is in my top 10 favorite books but I wouldn't say it's fun and lighthearted.

One of my favorites is based on a similar premise, Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds. I like most of his work but for short stand-alone stories this one stands out. Reynolds works are hard sci-fi, mostly sticking within the known laws of physics which present some interesting problems for the characters.

The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.

First read it as a teen in the 80s and still rate it as one of the best SF books ever written. Well paced and enormous fun.

The Player of Games by Iain M Banks.

Probably the most self-contained of the Culture series and the least heavy SF of them. Which makes it a great starting point.

1. The Liaden books, by Steve Miller and Sharon Lee. Space Opera covering the death of a universe and migration into a new one; dastardly villains, reluctant heros, gripping plots, sentient tree.

2. The tales of Vlad Taltos, by Steven Brust. Gods, swords, elves, humans, cooking, and one of the best snarky first-person narrators ever. Has a side series of five books pastiching Alexander Dumas.

3. The Vorkosigan universe, by Lois McMaster Bujold. Best characters; you'll care about their fates.

4. Seanan McGuire's Incryptid series. There are monsters hiding among us; the Covenant of St. George was founded to find them and kill them. The Covenant are the bad guys.

Lois McMaster Bujold is just the best - almost everything she's written.

"Use of Weapons" by Iain M. Banks.

Edit: Overlooked the "fun" and "lighthearted" part. Let me change my answer to "Excession", same author.

I'd recommend "The Player of Games".

Not light-hearted, but definitely pretty fun in places. And a cracking story - I go back to it and dip in randomly every few months.

Just a short story, but Asimov's The Last Question keeps popping up. FermiLab Cosmologist Dan Hooper recently posted to Arxiv a few conjectures on what it would take to survive expansion. And I can't help but think that looking for signs of Dyson Spheres and other star harvesting mega-structures may be key in detecting signs of intelligent extra-terrestrial life ;)

Another thing that really holds up over time is the Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes screenplay to the hit 1980s movie War Games. Not only does it talk about meta-learning and game theory. Its just a really great script!

The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers #1), by Becky Chambers.

Really touching story, great character development, and some interesting questions about AI and sentience.


Fun, light-hearted and enjoyable === Terry Pratchett. Strata and the Dark Side of the Sun if you’re looking specifically for Sci-fi. But if you haven’t read the Diskworld series, I envy you! I’d give anything to re-live the sheer ecstasy of reading Pratchett for the first time.

Already mentioned: H2G2 (ditto, would love to be able to read it again for the first time); Ender’s game and sequels; Rama (maybe more thought-provoking than light reading though); basically any Clarke book; basically any Stephenson book.

Another not-quite Sci-fi I’ll put out there is Stross’ Laundry files series: the love child of BOFH and Lovecraft, a really fun read with quite a few hat tips to IT.

Lots of good stuff in this thread, but for fun and light-hearted (which lots of people are ignoring), Terry Pratchett takes the cake. I probably read over 50 books a year, and TP is one of the best authors I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

I keep trying to get into terry pratchett, but maybe I started with the wrong book.

Can you recommend the first book for someone coming from a mid-to-hard scifi? Something that stands on it's own, is funny, and does not need prior knowledge of his work.

Well, if you want stand-alone + sci-fi, try "the Dark Side of the Sun".

Otherwise, you can pick up any first book from one of the Discworld story arks. Personally, I'd go with "Wyrd Sisters" (witches story ark) and the City Watch story ark. Although the first book in that series is "Guards! Guards!", I'd recommend starting with the Second book, "Men at Arms", which is more representative of the rest of the series, and just more fun AFAIC.

Agree, with the city watch arc as the discworld introduction. I'd even go so far as to say start with nightwatch and then go back to the beginning.

Personally I found the witches arc the slowest to get in to. It's too long ago to remember why I found that, but they sat unfinished. I've read them all several times now, and enjoy them, but only after I'd thoroughly got into the rest of Discworld.

The City Watch sub-series is my favourite with the Death arc a close second. laurentl already made recommendation on City Watch, if you want to try the Death arc Mort is the first.

Wool aka Silo series https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silo_(series)

A dystopian future where people live in a Silo (a skyscraper but underground). What I found especially nice is how the author tried to make it realistic and portray people and work fields (machinist, IT, etc) as they really are without to much buffing.

The IT department in this story plays a really big role and it is portrayed as I've seen real IT departments, with the old, stubborn, autistic 'this is my kingdom' sysadmin boss down to the 'stupid' intern. It's just to real.

The first chapters are a little off compared to the rest of the books as it was released as novella's at first via Kindle and later written into 3 books. But every bit is as awesome as the other.

Edit: I think this mismatches on your fun/non-dystopian critaria that I just now read. But a good read anyways. Otherwise definitely Hyperion cantos as already mentioned. Although also not without drama it sure is a hell lot of mindboggling world's to plunge into!

I highly recommend Off to be the Wizard, https://audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/Off-to-Be-the-Wizard-A.... It’s fun and lighthearted.

Also the Bobiverse series. https://mobile.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/We-Are-Legion-W...

Read "Neuromancer" by William Gibson, also "Snow Crash" by Neal Stephenson.

Both offer something beyond just being Sci-Fi.


Anything Gibson, especially Sprawl Trilogy Anything Stephenson, though I particularly liked Diamond Age, Cryptonomicon, and Snow Crash, In the beginning was the command line.. oh, I like everything by him.

Seriously though, In the beginning was the command line and Cryptonomicon are basically an ode to 90s hacker culture, the true neckbeard type of CS. Love that aesthetic, culture and ethics.

OP said "fun, lighthearted and enjoyable".

Noted reviewer James Nicoll on Peter Watts: "When­ever I find my will to live be­com­ing too strong, I read Peter Watts."

Which Dr. Watts put at the top of his About the Author page.

Watts is really, really good. And really, really bleak.

You're right. Didn't read the request fully.

Blindsight and Story of your life are two of my favourites. They are both first contact stories with seemly similar aliens and could not be more different. The way they learn to speak the languages of the aliens for instance - both methods seem plausible and horribly different.

Try Stanislaw Lem's "His Master's Voice".


"Golem XIV" is pretty great, if you're a fan of HAL 9000.

I would recommend Ubik by Phillip K Dick.

It reads like a thriller and a mind bender. It sort of has the feel of the movie Inception if you liked that. It's not too long or hard to read, and it's completely self contained. The more I read by Phillip K Dick the more I appreciate his ideas.

I also second a recommendation for A Player of Games someone noted above.

Yes, even my better half liked it who is not into SF at all. I'm not a huge fan of SF either, but I love Philip K Dick, and Ubik is probably the best book to get started with his work as it is quite funny.

Yea very true, it's Phillip K at his best.

For fun and/or lighthearted, I enjoyed: Stanislaw Lem: Cyberiad, The Futurological Congress, Tales of Pirx the Pilot; Steven Paul Leiva: Traveling in Space; Ted Chiang: Stories of your Life; John Scalzi: Old Man's War (and sequels)

Old Man's War is my perennial favorite. Truly an awesome story.

Wait, HPMOR was lighthearted? That's not quite how I'd describe it. But in the same vein, try Worm [0]: A take on superpowers that tries to include changes to the world it's set in. Highly recommended by the author of HPMOR - "The characters in Worm use their powers so intelligently I didn’t even notice until something like the 10th volume that the alleged geniuses were behaving like actual geniuses". Also now has a sequel, Ward [1]. But be warned - "people who get powers continuing to act like people" does not a happy world make. (Also, it's really remarkably long. Like, current length of the ASOIAF series long.) Goodreads: [2]

Following a slightly more conventional definition of lighthearted, I think I'd recommend Larry Niven's Ringworld. When it comes to "moderately plausible megastructures", the ringworld concept is by far my favorite. Much less complicated than a Dyson Swarm, after all! Story is ok, and the sequels expanded things well enough. Not exactly the biggest fan of his female characters. Still worth it. Triple Crown (Hugo/Nebula/Locus) winner. Goodreads: [3]

0: https://parahumans.wordpress.com/ 1: https://www.parahumans.net/about/ 2: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18713259-worm 3: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/61179.Ringworld

"Contact", by Carl Sagan. It's not "light" and "easy", but it ties our current world to future promise. And it has some wonderful storytelling and writing putting this into context.

The main character, Ellie, is a superb and rich portrayal. Friends to whom I've recommended the book agree on this.

If you've seen the movie, it's an ok Hollywood production. The book is much, much more.

Seveneves. The first sentence is, "The moon blew up suddenly and without warning." Everything is near-future sci-fi and as grounded and accurate as possible. If you liked The Martian, this will scratch the same itch.

Snow Crash is great too. Probably a bit problematic now, but fantastic world building. A bit more gritty and dystopia though.

Both are by Neal Stephenson.

This is a pretty old list I put together--so nothing in the past 15 years or so. It does tend toward hard SF but it's a fairly broad mix.


Olaf Stapledon's "Star Maker" Is one of my favorite books of all time. Its pretty much a grand exploration of this universe and every other universe to ever exist, through the eyes of the main character. I'm rereading it right now again.

Agreed. I read it in one sitting and sits very up on my sci-fi hall of fame

Read Philip K Dick, specifically his Valis "trilogy": combine drugs, God's 2nd coming, it's marketing campaign competing against junk food, time travel, and God changing it's multiple minds mind way through. There's Sci Fi and then there's Mind fuck Sci Fi, which PKD is the master, after perhaps William S. Bourroughs and Stanisław Lem, both startling writers requiring one to suspend conventional thinking of expectations of reality to comprehend where they are taking you.

Iain M. Banks: https://www.iain-banks.net/books/

Peter F. Hamilton: https://www.panmacmillan.com/authors/peter-f-hamilton

And while not strictly sci-fi, Peter Higgins: http://www.wolfhoundcentury.com/

Lot of great recommendations in here. The Martian by Andy Weir is my pick. Absolutely exhilarating.

John Scalzi's Old Man's War series is really enjoyable.

I absolutely loved "Children of time" [1] - you can tell the writer is a scientist, or at least very seasoned in natural sciences, mainly biology. The story is not the best but how Tchaikovsky reasons shows how much he is able to think outside the box.

[1]: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25499718-children-of-tim...

I thought the Dune series was most excellent.

Also any Asimov books.

I also quite enjoyed Hal Clement's Mission of Gravity.

As for lighthearted...you can't go wrong with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

I particularly enjoyed Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson (won the Hugo Award) and Liu Cixin's collection of short stories, The Wandering Earth.

Foundation (Isaac Asimov), Hyperion (Dan Simmons) and Three Body Problem (Liu Cixin) stand out from all the SF I've read, and I've read a ton.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Three Body Problem!

I heartily recommend Destiny Rising[1] by M. D. Cooper -- free on Kindle Unlimited. It's the first 2 books of the "Intrepid Saga", which in turn is part of a growing collection of series in the "Aeon 14" universe[2]. It's really fun and also engrossing.

Some of the related series, like "Perseus Gate"[3] are hilarious. All of these stories have a lighthearted tone and have great character development. They are based on "hard" sci-fi (i.e. plausible inventions) and touch on deeper topics like the meaning of sentience, and of freedom, but they never get heavy.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Destiny-Rising-Military-Space-Intrepi... [2] http://www.aeon14.com [3] http://www.aeon14.com/series/perseus-gate-season-1-orion-spa...

For something humorous and a bit off the beaten path, I'd recommend the Retief series by Keith Laumer. [1]

For the best SciFi in general, I'd actually suggest you check out assorted collections of short story. I don't have a specific anthology to recommend but I have yet to find a published collection at my library that was less than thought-provoking.

For the classics, you can't go wrong with Hugo Award winners. [2] Your local library probably has most of them; try starting with the old ones and working your way through.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jame_Retief 2. http://www.thehugoawards.org/hugo-history/

DAEMON by Daniel Suarez.

Suarez's books are so underrated. The buddhism / sci-fi thing is great

Is not exactly science fiction (fits more into the fantasy category), but Perdido Street Station, from China Mieville, is very intense, and if you like it, there are a few more books in the same universe to keep exploring.

Robert Heinlein “the moon is a harsh mistress”. A 1966 masterpiece about sentient computer, politics and the making of a revolution to create a new free country. I’ve reread this one 3 times in a row, better every time.

Rick Cook's "Wiz" series (SV programmer transported to a fantasy realm, invents programming language for magic, hijinks ensue) meets your criteria (fun, lighthearted, new ideas), I think:


Spider Robinson's "Callahan's" series is also great, especially if you like puns:


Asimov. Pretty much anything he has written.

It sounds like The Expanse is what you want. The TV show is also very good.

Wow, I can’t believe I just found this thread and not one mention of Jack Vance. His "Planet of Adventure" series, Alastor series or Demon Princes novels are classics. His command of language and dialogue is unparalleled. Every modern sci-fi author cites him as an influence.

Gateway by Frederik Pohl is another underrated one from the 70s although the sequels are disappointing.

The Forever War Joe Haldeman and Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers are also indispensable.

I'd recommend the Vatta's War series by Elizabeth Moon. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/284658.Trading_in_Danger...

It's a space adventure with a likable heroine and plenty humour, but also some interesting character exploration.

Also has a good audio version by GraphicAudio.

This is an excellent series that has suspense and yet easy to digest. If you like the military SF sub genre you should also look at the Honor Harrington series by David Weber followed by the Safehold series and the March To The Sea series. Actually most stuff by David Weber is pretty good.

Oh, and the Serrano series also by Elizabeth Moon!

I'm halfway through Lilith's Brood / the Xenogenesis series from Octavia E. Butler, and I'm loving it. Despite the sci-fi angle, it feels like this is how things could play out if we were introduced to a mostly well-intended alien species.

The first book is mostly conversation in interview form, but I was drawn in tight and didn't want to put it down.

The audiobook performance for this series is fantastic.

The Shockwave Rider, by John Brunner. Read it, compare it to the Internet we have today, and marvel at all he was able to foresee back in 1975.

This is one of my favorite books and I could not recommend it enough, not only for the story but the style it was written.

I'm ashamed to admit I haven't yet found the time to read Stand on Zanzibar and The Sheep Look Up from the same author.

Ender's Game

But if you just want light fun, the Expanse Series

"Chocky" by John Wyndham was quick/fun. A little uneven but enjoyed "All Our Wrongs Today" by Elan Mastai. Tough to get thru for me but many seem high on "The Three Body Problem" books by Cixin Liu.

Some others that are not scifi but enjoyed this year:

"Trick" by Domenico Starnone

"Such Small Hands" by Andres Barba

"Convenience Store Woman" by Sayaka Murata

You might also try Dream Park by David Niven and Steve Barnes. I've only read the first book, but apparently there are two sequels as well. A detective joins a LARP group when he suspects one of the guests of being a thief and murderer. The bulk of the story takes place in an amusement park that's a cross between Westworld and a holodeck.

I enjoyed the Expeditionary Force audio books (there are 5 of them so far), read by R. C. Bray. Very funny, one of the few books to make laugh out loud while listening to it.

My other favourites are Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained by Peter F Hamilton (and the rest of the books in the Commonwealth series).

Remembrance of earth's past trilogy. There are three books in the series: 1) The Three Body Problem, 2) The Dark Forest, and 3) Death's end. It talks about the ongoing tension between humanity and the alien race. It explores many facets of human nature and humanity. Must read.

Hey unfortunately I have nothing to add but I'd like to make a request for sci fi books

w/ these themes:

finance currency economics math money power

Some common reccomendations I've seen are

anything by Neal Stephenson

The other recommendations Ive seen are fantasy like

The Traitor Baru Cormorant The Dagger and Coin series Making Money Going Postal

Does anyone have any similar recommendations?

The "Remembrance of Earth's Past" trilogy (Three Body Problem) pretty much ruined all other sci-fi for me. The original text is in Chinese, and I think that's occasionally apparent in the translation, but that hardly detracts from the incredible story.

Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Series is one of my all time favorites.

Larry Niven’d Ringworld is a close second.

Philip K Dick has some great stuff.

I really enjoyed William Gibson’s Neuromancer and all of his other books.

I just picked up a 1961 copy of Stanger in a Strange Land but I cannot comment on it yet.

I am not your traditional sci-fi fan, so while the books below may not be considered masterpieces or even "true" sci-fi, they may be a good "gateway drug" for others like me:

- The Postman by David Brin

- The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

- I am Legend by Richard Matheson

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis is a fun time-travel novel. It’s the middle volume of a trilogy but works as a standalone novel.

The Ancillary series by Anne Leckie is also pretty great. It’s a bit of dystopia but isn’t narrated as one.

Lots of good stuff in this thread. Two books I haven't seen are Bone Clocks and Cloud Atlas. The only thing is, you can't Google them, for risk of spoilers.

Also, the movie based on Cloud Atlas is not great.

"Blindsight" by Peter Watts "Solaris" and "Summa Technologiae" by Stanislav Lem "Dune" by Frank Herbert "The Diamond Age" by Neal Stephenson

The barsoom series by edgar rice burrows


Although very loosely Sci-Fi, there is the Russian classic of Roadside Picnic. One of my favorite books, and spawned some amazing derivative works down the line.

Saturn's Children. It's a neat idea for a story(humans have died off and robots have colonized the solar system) and it's pretty well written.

I'm going to stick to recent stuff that was like no sci-fi I'd ever read before:

Ninefox Gambit - Yoon Ha Lee

A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet - Becky Chambers

The Broken Earth series - N.K. Jemisin

Give a shot to Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber (fantasy, not sci-fi). From his sci-fi, the one I’ve read most times (so far) is Lord of Light.

My Favorite Sci-Fi book is Neuromancer by William Gibson. Also Philip K. Dick books like Ubik or his short stories are awesome.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick - plus, after you can re-watch Blade Runner with a new perspective.

Greg Egan's Diaspora was very good.

Haven’t read anything more hard-sci-fi than Egan myself (Clockwork Rocket, quite good). From comments from the OP Egan may not suit (but very recommendable nevertheless)

You're right, it's the wrong book for the OP. Let them be warned:

Greg Egan's Diaspora is diamond-hard scifi. If you aren't well-read in a variety of scientific concepts, aren't comfortable doing on-the-fly physics thought experiments while reading a novel, or won't be comfortable reading an extremely high vocabulary, then Greg Egan is not a good fit.

But if you can read it, the reward is great. Magnificent, alien, profound. It made me realize I don't like soft-scifi.

More or less anything by Howard Waldrop. Night of The Cooters and A Dozen Tough Jobs are great.

Excession by Iain M Banks. The other culture novels are also good but not as fun as Excession.

lighthearted and fun : "The Crown Jewels" by Walter John Williams. Definitely.

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drake_Maijstral

Aristoi is my favorite of Walter Jon Williams's work. I reread it every few years, just like Diamond Age, Stranger in a Strange Land, and Fire Upon the Deep.

Charles Stross' Accelerando

Martian Chronicles, Crystal Express+Cysmatrix, Neuromancer,Hyperion, Portico...

+1 for the Martian Chronicles.

+ another 1 for Martian Chronicles. It's Hienlin at his best (poingint short stories linking into a lather narrative), without the baggage of Laz Long that ties together his more famous works (which I love, but aren't exactly light hearted).

I’m a big fan of the foundation series.

Another book which I recently enjoyed was Dragon’s Egg.

The Humans by Matt Haig was a very fun read, I think you'll enjoy it.

Central Station by Lavie Tidhar is an amazing charming story of a world deeply steeped old sitting baking world where new things are coming about. It is charm & delight in the purest & simplest.

Spin by Robert Charles Wilson. "Robert Charles Wilson is a hell of a storyteller," said Stephen King and this wonderful tour through time and space, humanity & people's lives is incredible.

The Quantum Thief series by Hannu Rajaniemi is open, scenic, wild, & so so vivid, one of the most beautiful worlds I've ever visited, & it reminds me so much of a joyous wild swashbuckling run. The mystery of the main character is enchanting.

Infoquake series by David Louis Edelson is a gripping suspenseful rise of a star entrepreneur that redefines and radically expands the world, amid an already boisterous & full & busy beautiful world already overflowing in seamless technology everywhere. Although the plot line whips along with some suspense & tension, the scenery and the voyage is incredible.

Lathe of Heaven by Ursala Le Guin could quite easily, quite simply be the best first contact story story ever. Touching, and sincere, & simple. This world is not bright and shiny but her writing and the bonding of characters is incredible. See also the rest of the Hainish cycle.

Left Hand of Darkness also by Ursala Le Guin is a shifting chaotic shizmatic tale, about picking our fates. "Well, I did it through dreams. Phil would have done it another way. But yeah, homage to Phil [K.] Dick is right." - https://www.wired.com/2012/07/geeks-guide-ursula-k-le-guin/a...

Fallen Dragon is an early & involved Peter Hamilton adventure book. There's leaving home, & space ships, more space ships, bad guys, fighting back the bad guys, bigger ships, and action. There is A LOT going on, all the time, & violence, but damn this book comes together into something incredible, & telling, & powerful & strong, something that easily makes it my top pick for most-underappreciated Peter Hamilton.

Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson, which I'm providing largely as a counterweight to the Snowcrash & Sevenses recommendations here. Diamond Age is much less dark, and way more a fun tail about an incredible & mysterious primer for a young lady.

Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut.

All Systems Red series by Martha Wells is a underprivileged barely coping robot dealing with the humans she hates having to talk to & a shitty planet trying to kill them. Simple, fun, some action & violence, but the main character is a total hoot the whole time with more loner/zero/drop-out attitude & spunk than anything I've read & it's unbelievably charming.

Lords of Light by Roger Zelazny has more style, pizzaz, & spirit than I feel like any of us deserve. An interesting, storied tale from the post-singularity, with a remarkable & robust cast.

Illium/Olympos by Dan Simmons, are, in my mind still the clear winner, far above Hyperion. The cast is charming beyond belief, stumbling through a world they both know all too much about & far far too little. Some really incredible worldbuilding here.

Rainbow's End by Vernor Vinge. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE A Fire Upon the Deep. But Rainbow's End really is our planet, sometime not far out, and Vinge has the most tour of this next place we're headed, with threads, and annotations, and group chat being the defining new technologies of humanity. And the tale of the misfit happenstance adventurers who wind up ensnared in the plot line is a fun, roving hoot of a journey, a wonderful second chance at a coming of age story.

Medusa Chronicles by two of my favorites, Alastair Reynolds & Stephen Baxter is probably my favorite exploring the solar system book, about a guy/robot a bit apart from humanity that really wants to see what the local area has to offer. A lot of high tension conflicting societal impulses that our somewhat aloof lead stumbles through, on his personal mission of exploration. Lots of interesting robot philosophy & very varied elements of space come together with the characters to make an incredibly fun space epic, set in a delightful & intriguing alternative history

Other's recommendations I'd +1: Dune (but super heady material), The Stars My Destination (brimming with class & substance), Mote in God's Eye (some of the best Space Colonial Marines style stuff out there), Accelerando (and Iron Sky and ... overflowing playful scifi), Blue Ant series (dripping with style), Foundation series (and much more Asimov!), Zahn's Thrawn Trilogy (simple direct exciting hunt for treasure in Star Wars), Fuzzy Nation (fun tale)

Isaac Asimov is one of the classics, of course. I'm particularly fond of the robot novels (all four of the Elijah Baley ones especially) and the entire Foundation series. Of course, you also can't miss the robot short stories. Oh, and The End of Eternity!

At some point I found Charles Stross' Accelerando, which is freely available online (along with a bunch of other short stories), and found everything I've read (which is most of it at this point, I think) enjoyably fast-paced. In particular the Laundry series (of which I've bought every iteration as soon as they came out over the past few years) -- though arguably these maybe cross-over from SF into fantasy a bit -- and the Halting State trilogy.

In terms of online available work, Cory Doctorow's work is also great. Like Stross, most of his work is more near-term SF, which I have liked, and a bunch of it is available online under a Creative Commons license. It often moves fast and is also politically interesting; sometimes the activism shines through a little blatantly, but the themes are always make me thing in various ways I appreciate (but maybe will fail your lighthearted criterion even if it is fun). His latest is Walkaway, which I would recommend.

I got into Neal Stephenson through Cryptonomicon, which is one of the greats. Stephenson has a pretty rambly, wordy style, but at least that also makes his stories last a bit longer. After that, I mostly moved on to Anathem, Reamde and Seveneves all of which are big and interesting and great reads (it took me longer than usual to get up to speed on Anathem, but it was very much worth it in the end). I tried one of the more historic ones (I think it was Quicksilver) at some point but haven't finished it. The 2017 Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. was a bit lighter, but lots of fun, too.

William Gibson has already been mentioned, which I would also recommend. I read the Sprawl trilogy a very long time ago, and it's made a lasting expression. I've started rereading it recently. I also liked the Blue Ant trilogy and The Peripheral, but have so far missed the more recent work.

More in the one-off category: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell is one of my all-time favorites, and mixes deep SF with psychology and religion in interesting ways. There's a sequel, but it's not as good. I also liked The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, which is also on the softer side. I read Scalzi's Redshirts and liked it (especially if you're familiar with the Star Trek universe), it feels similar to Ready Player One in some ways. Daniel Suarez's (or Leinad Zeraus as he originally published them) Daemon is fun and easy to digest, along with its sequel Freedom. I liked Robert J. Sawyer's The Terminal Experiment, but one person I recommended it too wasn't impressed -- I still think it's fun, if not very deep. I also bought his Factoring Humanity and liked it okay.

Hope that helps. Always interested in more recommendations based on this list!

Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun series is great

Memories of the Space Age by J G Ballard.

Solaris by Stanislaw Lem

Permutation City by Greg Egan

Ubik by Philip K. Dick

I love Solaris. I think it's deep and thought-provoking, and more than a bit unsettling. I wouldn't say it's lighthearted and fun, though.

Half Past Human, T. J. Bass, 1971

20000 lieux sous les mers !

Vingt mille lieues sous les mers. I was a huge Jules Verne fan when I was a kid.

In English, that's one of about three sci-fi books I was unable to finish.

vive la france ;)

Farmer in the Sky by Robert Heinlein [1]

The Complete Robot by Isaac Asimov [2]

The Wrong Unit [3] wasn't a bad little humorous tale.

Pretty much anything by Timothy Zahn (sans Star Wars novelisations) [4] or Robert Sawyer [5] floats my boat.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North [6]

Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard by Lawrence M. Schoen [7] made me care about sentient elephants.

Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi [8] is very funny. Audiobook version narrated by Wil Wheaton.

Of ones already mentioned:

The Bobiverse was surprisingly good (including the audiobook version).

The Expanse is good.

With regards to Dune, there are some like myself who only ever liked the first book in the series. (Also there is a good audiobook version out there.)

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and sequels are great world building and characters, although the plots seem to meander about with not too much purpose.

The Martian is great.

[1] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50851.Farmer_in_the_Sky

[2] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50091.The_Complete_Robot

[3] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30959279-the-wrong-unit

[4] https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/12479.Timothy_Zahn

[5] https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/25883.Robert_J_Sawyer

[6] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18295861-the-first-fifte...

[7] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25667916-barsk

[8] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11167622-fuzzy-nation

2nd for The Bobiverse, it has some humour and had some fresh ideas in it.


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