If someone is going to recommend just one book, it's kind of a bum deal recommending one that is just a build-up for the sequel.
Do you have a similar opinion about Fire Upon the Deep? Is there any soft sci-fi, particularly far-future, that you like?
I loved Fire Upon The Deep! Why did you choose to compare that to Hyperion? I don't see many similarities.
I finally broke down after many years and am working through the Ilium series by Simmons. Its not what I was expecting, in a good way. I'm halfway through the 2nd book and it's safe to say in book 1 you aren't told much, but rather get to piece the world together as various characters experience it.
Not too bad so far.
The whole Revelation Space series is fantastic. It's written by a former ESA astronomer, so it definitely falls more toward the "hard sci-fi" side of the spectrum than Hyperion. It takes a few scientific liberties, but all of them are significant to the setting. Interstellar human civilizations without FTL are a pretty cool place for a story.
I'll go ahead and second your recommendation. A thoroughly enjoyable read with several really great concepts.
* The Gone-Away World (Harkaway) 
* Ready Player One (Cline)  and
* The Martian (Weir) 
each of which is impossible to put down. Actually Harkaway's entire oevre is terrific. The steampunk Angelmaker  was a ton of fun.
Also, many of Iain M Banks' Culture novels (The Player of Games  is at the top of my personal list; they can be read in any order) and The Wind-up Girl (Bacigalupi)  are must-reads too.
This is not meant as criticism of the OP, rather as fodder for commenters referencing other longer and more contemporary lists.
Oh and a final, related tangent: if, like me, you really enjoy G.R.R. Martin but generally avoid straight-up fantasy [it seems to me the genre is awash in mediocre Tolkien rip-offs] please give The Name of the Wind (Rothfuss)  a chance. You'll be glad you did. :)
Actually, just reading through the list, I was a little disappointed. Yes, there are some great classics, but Timeline" by Michael Crichton as the "time travel" sci-fi novel of reference. No, just no.
For time travel based sci-fi, Timescape by Gregory Benford is my pick of the lot. Bedford is actually an astrophysicist, so his version of time travel actually make sense. Plus, the characters in the books are scientists. It's a very thought provoking book. He has a second book along those lines, Cosm, which I loved as well, for it's portrayal of the lives of scientists.
I had a similar reaction to "Assassin's Apprentice" by Robin Hobb; although not as perfect as Kvothe, her Fitz has all the possible talents in one place, from the Wit to the Skill etc. On the other hand, Hobb's Liveship Traders amazed me with the complexity of the story, as well as the beautifully designed characters (nearly none was a two-dimensional caricature but a real human being with feelings and motivations) -- it was like the reading a completely different author.
The point is made many times that he is an unreliable narrator, and that this is a self-mythologising, which is part of why I like it.
They are exceptional by design. If they weren't amazing swordsmen, or magic users, or highly intelligent, or highly determined, they'd be dying at the first hurdle in the story - which is equally ridiculous for a novel. The alternative for underpowered fantasy characters is either a non-perilous story or a lot of "deus ex machina" moments where the character survives by "random" chance. Neither of which are particularly interesting.
Narrative imperative does have some demands on story characters, but it's all down to the quality of the writing as to whether you can suspend your disbelief.
Take Frodo Baggins, Thomas Covenant, Malta Vestrit, Jon Snow, Miles Vorkosigan, Sherlock Holmes or any of the countless prominent characters from fiction of any genre -- they are all quite exceptional, but also significantly flawed in one or many ways. I didn't see any prominent flaws in Kvothe, which made him really boring and uninteresting; now, as someone else mentioned, he is an unreliable narrator of his own life story, and it is quite possible that in later books it will turn out that a lot if it was a lie and his flaws will be revealed, but by then I have long lost my interest and I don't think I'll ever get that far. I do enjoy a good twist in the story, but the story up to that point needs to be interesting on its own; Usual Suspects wouldn't work at all if Verbal Kint was a flawless character.
I just noticed though, as I'm writing this reply, that most of these flaws come out in the second book, not the first. Maybe you need to stick with the series a bit more before making up your mind.
That's why I found it quite frustrating reading the 2nd book, as the present/future feels like where the "real" story lies, but it made absolutely no advancement in that direction. So I definitely agree with you there, the focus on the super-powered young Kvothe does detract from the main story as I see it.
I will have to try Liveship traders
The world it presents is very deep. It mixes a near future of more advanced technologies in some aspects with what a post-cheap energy future could be like.
I enjoyed it because I'm a nerd who grew up in the 80's, but it's bubblegum entertainment with the depth of puddle.
I love SF, but the lack of distinction (by both fans and critics) between entertaining stories and good literature kinda turns me off and stops me from reading more. I constantly get disappointed when some highly praised SF book turns out to be nothing more than nerd equivalent of chick-lit.
Fuck, I even love SyFy channel's B-movie crap every once in a while, but at least I don't get duped into watching it thinking it is great cinema.
I would probably have enjoyed the book more if I had more realistic expectations.
While I did quite enjoy the author's vision of futuristic VR, all the 80s camp and nostalgia ruined it for me.
LHOD is an exploration of what it means to be human, and what it means to love and the imagery of the trek across the ice sheet will live with me forever. TD is deeply political, for me layered and lacquered with nuance and questions.
Written by a woman, a good balance for Rand.
- Neal Stephenson's "Anathem" - this is absolutely an amazing book for anyone familiar with geek culture and the interplay of academia and industry
- anything by Iain Banks (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iain_Banks). "Excession" (http://www.amazon.com/Excession-Bantam-Spectra-Book-Banks/dp...) is good, but the culture series in general is very nice literate approach to imagining a post-singularity scifi future that manages to combine deep psychological characters with wacky dark humour, lots of space opera action that is fresh every time and, most of all the ship names... of the ship names are just amazingly ... just go and read it already
- in fantasy (or, dark fantasy, perhaps) genre Joe Abercrombie's "First law" trilogy is an gut wrenchingly entertaining trope-twisting joyride, starting from "The Blade Itself" http://www.amazon.com/The-Blade-Itself-First-Law/dp/15910259... that is worth reading for the hilarious character development (or degeneration?) alone.
- Vernor Vinges "A deepness in the sky"(http://www.amazon.com/A-Deepness-Sky-Zones-Thought/dp/081253...) is presented as a hard-scifi space opera but actually manages to be a witty commentary on the state of software engineering now and thousands of years into the future, usage of human intellect in the "mechanical turk" fashion in systems engineering and the potential of 'smart dust'. Almost made me want to start learning Erlang :)
Daniel Suarez is top of my list to replace Stephenson. His books aren't great literature, and not as great as Stephenson when he was at his best but they are good page turners for near future tech.
Daemon, Freedom, Kill Decision, Influx.
At least Doctorow takes on the world wide media machine that is the Rat of Orlando.
Here are two better lists if you are after lesser known / more modern sci-fi gems:
I'm slowly chewing through them, there are some awesome books / new authors there.
It's a great books sure, but sci-fi? Surely just contemporary fiction? Hell, half of it is historical fiction.
Well stated! But I found 6 books that I haven't read yet, so that will keep me busy for a few weeks.
It is one of the best depictions of science as a human enterprise you will find, and makes the point that the universe makes sense to us only because we have actively gone out and made sense of it. What we take for granted (falling kills you, say) was discovered, and when we encounter something completely new we have to discover all the new ways it can kill us (or do other things), thereby recapitulating the process the first humans must have engaged in as they came to not just inhabit but be aware of the world and the rules that govern it.
One character's description of the mysterious structure on the Moon at the centre of the story could just as well apply to our own world: "It's like Alice in Wonderland, with teeth. There are rules..."
Bester's The Demolished Man is also well worth mentioning. Won the very first Hugo award, still stands up well today.
Something that amazes me about Bester's writing is that neither book feels dated. Then, you think about how visionary he was in the time they were written, and it blows you away.
Of course, the other thing about Bester that amazes me is that he's so obscure, despite as you point out winning the first Hugo and for writing notable early sci-fi. Someone's knowledge of Bester has become an informal litmus test for me to get a feel for how well read someone is in sci-fi.
Neat tidbit about Bester: he's also credited with writing the Green Lantern Oath.
edit: to be specific, Silver Age Green Lantern.
'It is, as Bruce Sterling remarked to me on our first meeting, “a seamless pop artifact.” Few and far between, such artifacts; each one a complete anomaly.'
Really worth mentioning Bester's short stories, too. "The Men Who Murdered Mohammed", "Fondly Fahrenheit", "5,271,009"...
PERMUTATION CITY http://amzn.com/1597805394
And here's some ultrasharp online science fiction
RA, FINE STRUCTURE, CAUSAL NOOSE ETC http://qntm.org/fiction
FRIENDSHIP IS OPTIMAL http://www.fimfiction.net/story/62074/friendship-is-optimal
It explores (with an intriguing plot) questions like, "What do you do with yourself when you control the matrix and, furthermore, can rewrite the code that is your own mind?"
"How do senses and perception work in a digital world lacking all physical constraints? In what kind of environment will people interact? Will they have physics-simulated bodies or just be abstract shapes?"
"How does the nature of space exploration change if you can slow down your mind until the orbit of planets is your day/night cycle?" It goes after these questions in a believable hard science fiction way. The remaining normal humans meanwhile see those living in the machine world as a deception or trick of evil robots, causing the digital humans great anguish since they wish to relieve the others of their pain and suffering. Beautiful and mind-bending.
How about that online stuff that I listed. Have you read any of that? It is of comparable quality. I'm serious.
However, if you're planning on going through the entire series I'd suggest stopping at God Emperor. The books afterwards seem to lose their direction, the plot starts to feel a bit contrived. The focus shifts from action to endless discussions between characters that could've been used to develop character and story, but seem to tread the same ground. At the same time details that were mentioned in a sentence suddenly balloon into massive plot points, and bizarre deus ex machinae pop up all over the place.
YMMV, of course. I stopped after finishing the original series, and read the Wikipedia synopses of the rest of the books in order to get some sort of closure.
I'll break ranks, though, and say I actually enjoy the plot after God Emperor of Dune quite a lot. I didn't really the first time I read the books, so that may have some bearing, but it helped to read a piece discussing the books, where they claimed that the Dune books are two separate trilogies, with God Emperor as the transitional book.
Unfortunately, Frank Herbert didn't get to complete the second trilogy, but the first two books of it -- when thought of as a mostly separate set of stories from the first Dune books -- becomes much more interesting, rather than just "why is he introducing all this new stuff into this universe?"
As for those other "Dune" books written by Frank Herbert's son and Kevin Anderson, they are total trash, and not worth any more of your time than, say, your average bottom-of-the-barrel Star Wars EU novel (it's telling that it took Frank Herbert nearly 30 years to write his six Dune novels, and it took them less than 5 years to write their first six). If you're curious about them, do yourself a favor by reading their synopses on wikipedia, feeling sad that they even exist, then forgetting that they do.
> but it helped to read a piece discussing the books
Any chance you could link to that piece?
It's not on their most recent list, but Starship Troopers is.
I've since re-read Dune three or four times (most recently by way of an excellent audio-book version).
"Minority Report" was also a pretty forgettable short story, and this time the movie made of it was mediocre.
"A Scanner Darkly" was yet another minor PKD work that was made in to yet another movie. It seems this list of scifi books if partial towards books made in to movies. But just because they've been made in to movies doesn't make the original book good, much less great.
As far as PKD books go (which is quite far, as he is one of my favorite authors), I would recommend "Ubik", "The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch", and "Martian Time Slip".
And of his short stories, I'd recommend "Beyond Lies the Wub" and "Woof".
Gibson's "Neuromancer" is alright, but "Count Zero" is better. Avoid the rest of his work.
"Brave New World" is an incredibly overrated, heavy-handed propaganda novel, written without a shred of talent. Avoid.
"Dune" is great, though I prefer the last few books of the original (Frank Herbert) series: "God Emperor", "Heretics", and "Chapterhouse". Definitely skip "Children" and "Messiah".
"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" is utterly brilliant, and is deserving of a place on a top-10 scifi novels list.
I enjoyed "Foundation" and "I Robot" as a kid. Not sure if I'd still like them now, decades later. Likewise for "Farenheit 451" and "Ender's Game".
I haven't read "Atlas Shrugged", but I did read "The Fountainhead", which amounted to a very long-winded statement of Ayn Rand's philosophy with two-dimentional characters serving as mouthpieces for it. It could have easily been stated in 30 pages, but instead was stretched out over 600.
I found Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep worth a read for the way in which it differs from the movie...the importance as status symbols of synthetic animals in the novella and its implications in regard to synthetic human lives a more compelling theme than the straightforward human rights theme of Blade Runner [or Alien from the same period in film].
What's funny is that I consider God Emperor and beyond to be the Dune series books worth skipping, but that's probably because they came out after I had read the first three...at the time, trilogies were the thing due to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and Assimov's Foundation series [later to also be extended like Herbert's epic opus].
Of the "VALIS" trilogy, I enjoyed "Divine Invasion" much more.
I did enjoy "DADoES", but just found it to pale in comparison to the movie and to Dick's best works. Dick's evocation of compassion for animals in that novel was quite compelling. Compassion for the underdog (literally and figuratively) is a strong, ongoing theme in his work.
I've been meaning to read "The Man in the High Castle", but have kind of shied away from it because I've found that Dick is best when he writes straight scifi rather than books set in the "real world", as it were. Though TMitHC being set in an alternate history does make it somewhat more attractive for me.
What is interesting is that VALIS [I've only read the first one] extends that notion in a Faulknerian ["The past is never dead. It's not even past."] way: "The Empire never ended." Though the triumph of the Axis is still more disconcerting than the persistence of the Romans.
According to Wikipedia, the genre goes back to about 27 BC, when "the earliest example of an alternate (or counterfactual) history is found in Livy's Ab Urbe condita (book IX, sections 17–19). Livy contemplated an alternative 4th century BC in which Alexander the Great expanded his empire westward instead of eastward; he asked, "What would have been the results for Rome if she had been engaged in war with Alexander?""
Another classic take on the past not being dead is Lovecraft's, such as in "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" and "The Rats in the Walls".
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Connecticut_Yankee_in_King_A...
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternate_history_%28fiction%2...
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Case_of_Charles_Dexter_War...
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rats_in_the_Walls
There's nothing wrong with Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. You're probably right that it receives outsized attention because of the movie, but it's a fine book in its own right. It's probably one of the easier PKD books to get into if you're not used to him in particular or sci-fi in general, which is reason enough to recommend it to someone.
I've read most everything on the list, though the dead horse of Animal Farm was first beaten for me in sixth grade...and that was long enough ago that Cold War MADness was a reality in the days when "PG" on a movie meant "tits" and Murray and Ramos could parody the US Army...if the list has talking animals, where is Watership Down?
But I digress...
A few years ago, I came back to science fiction and started reading the Hugo Award novels. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugo_Award_for_Best_Novel#Winne...
What I found is that the list gives context to the novels...the line of telephones ringing are forgivable in 1985's Neuromancer in a way that they wouldn't be in a movie made today. The competence of the grunts in 1960's Starship Troopers is a reaction to the USMC in the Second World War and the experience of the US military during the shooting phase of the Korean War. 1998's Forever Peace shows how much computers changed the meanings of "combatant" and "battlefield" in the subsequent 40 years.
One of the other interesting themes of science fiction is the evolution of the post-apocalyptic world. The alien invasion of 1950's Day of the Triffids and the pandemic of 1949's Earth Abides [not a Hugo Novels] giving way to the nuclear wastelands of 1961's Canticle for Leibowitz's and 1966's This Immortal [when Zelzany's novel tied Herbert's Dune for the Hugo and rightly so].
By 1996's Diamond Age or 2010's Windup Girl the apocalypse is a slow moving tragedy of the commons brought on not by rash misunderstanding but by long term economic rationalizations...bringing us full circle, and you were warned.
* Ventus, his first novel, is about a world that turns accidentally alive (think Gaia) via nanotechnology.
* Lady of Mazes turns around how we could use (very advanced) technology to preserve cultures instead of undermining them.
* Permanence is about a star-faring civilization so advanced it doesn't need technology, it is technology, having perfectly evolved itself to its niche.
* The Virga series is set in a wonderfully imaginative zero-gee bubble-of-gas world, heated by an artificial sun --think of it as space with air!
Besides being an SF author, Schroeder is also a professional futurist. I recommend his OSCON 2009 talk,The Rewilding: A Metaphor, as a good introduction to his thinking.
Its sort of like a religious books list. Its quite possible that a lot of devout followers aren't going to be amused by reading the competition, and if you want a survey textbook, just buy a textbook.
Then again, I couldn't get through Friday back then, but found the description of the role that big data would play in the future prescient a few years ago. Likewise, understanding Stranger in a Strange Land in the context of Heinlien's relationship with Hubbard was beyond me in high-school [Hubbard's BattleField Earth is worth a read or at least a try, even if the movie isn't. He was a talented writer among other things].
Moon is a Harsh Mistress is my favorite of his, because it is a fun multi layered story. And we are almost at the day that Adam Selene could exist. I saw a Simon Jester reference the other day, made me laugh. I have read BattleField Earth a couple times, it is a massive book. L. Ron writes in the introduction that he wrote the book for himself, that he let his imagination run wild. L. Ron has quite an imagination (see Xenu), and the book is a long fast roller-coaster.
Has anyone else noticed the similarity between DD Harriman (The man who sold the moon) and Elon Musk?
Also he had a version of the internet thought out in 1938 "For us the living" which relied on an intercontinental series of tubes. Maybe Ted Stevens got his information from that. That book has many of his major plot lines jammed into one book. Not the best, but interesting to see the V1.0 of what became the Future History ideas. I read it right after the banking problems in 2008, so it was timely to read Heinlein rant about banking in the book (he disliked fractional reserve banking)
I've read most of them now and the highlights for me are Look To Windward, Player of Games and Fearsum Endjinn (stick with that one). I also rate Excession and Matter though I know a lot of other people think they're weaker.
Atlas Shrugged has been called the 'second most influential book in America' so I can understand why it gets mentioned a lot. I found it an unimaginative, tacky bore. It's at least three times the length it should be, the characters speak in diatribes and are impossible to empathise with. At best it's interesting as a thought experiment and it did affect my outlook on life but, really, I read it because I thought I should, not because I wanted to.
I also found Red Mars a bit of a struggle in this way too. It seemed similarly ideological to Atlas Shrugged but from the other direction. It was worth reading for the sheer attention to detail and imagination though.
See also, Borges; not usually considered a science fiction author, I suppose for reasons having to do with the connotations of being a genre author.
And if you do read Rama, don't bother with the sequels/spinoffs. The closes depiction to the feeling I had after reading Rama II has been captured by xkcd in the Matrix strip. 
I would also like to add Greg Egan - Diaspora. I love it for how it takes post/transhumanism (among other things) to the extreme.
Greg Egan is amazing as well, and has fantastic short stories too.
Yes, just like a certain goat-URLed website that used to feature a man "stretching his boundary" farther than seemed possible...
The mix of stupidity, contradictions, overstretched scenery, cringe worthy glorifications, weird ideology, stupid characters and the unbelievably slow progress were just too much. I plan to finish it some day...when I'm already depressed maybe. I would like to understand what people see in this...thing.
It is nuts putting it on a sci-fi list, its more a political screed.
Ooo, checking http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mysterious_Stranger there was apparently one version I didn't know about. (I've read the one you posted ("1916 publication"), "No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger", and "Schoolhouse Hill".)
 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpaRouocBes
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Adventures_of_Mark_Twain_%...
Stanislaw Lem: His Master's Voice
Strugarsky Brothers: Roadside Picnic
Olaf Stapledon: Star Maker
If you like Lem, I would heartily recommend "Cyberiad".
Unfortunately, Tarkovsky's adaptation of Lem's "Solaris" was pretty awful, especially compared to the likes of "Stalker" and other great Tarkovsky films like "Mirror" and "The Sacrifice".
Curiously, despite Stapledon's enormous influence, to my knowledge none of his books have ever been made in to major motion pictures.
That's not to say that they're bad (though at least one is objectively bad). Just old and male.
Here's three for diversity:
- Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga. Character-driven space opera, with side-trips into mystery, thriller, and (gasp) romance. Start with the short story collection _Borders of Infinity_ to get a taste for it.
- Elizabeth Bear -- lots of variety, but _Carnival_ and _Dust_ are excellent. Respectively, they are an espionage/police procedural and a political thriller on a doomed starship.
- Linda Nagata -- she's best known for the epic nanotech series (The Bohr-Maker, Limit of Vision, Tech Heaven...) but recently started a near-future series about the impact of cybernetics, prosthetics and early AI (First Light).
There's a lot more diversity missed out on due to not having say Lem and the Strugasky brothers than on old and male imo.
Eastern European sci-fi is well worth spending some time on.
On the GP's call for female authors, I'd add Joan Slonczewski, who's also a microbiology book author and professor, and draws on that knowledge for her classic A Door Into Ocean which is also feminist sci-fi.
Little-known fact: Finnish SF author Hannu Rajaniemi writes in English. Indeed, his novel "The Quantum Thief" was translated into Finnish by someone else (and made it to #2 in the "foreign translated fiction" bestseller charts in Helsinki).
A great advantage of being able to read in a few different languages is that it greatly increases the probability that you can read any specific work.
That said, people are obviously going to have a lot of their own opinions about what books would go on a list of must-reads. Personally, I'd never include Ayn Rand on any list, except maybe one that gives a list of authors that aren't worth reading.
In the science fiction I've read and enjoyed, most of it is written by men, but I'd rank books by both Connie Willis and Ursula K. Le Guin highly.
And, of course, in terms of enjoyment, I've loved much of what both Margaret Weis and Anne McCaffrey have written, even if their writing isn't exactly award winning.
(not saying good, mind you. For example "military sci fi")
So what? I'm going now through the Vorkosigan Saga in internal chronological order (a couple more hours and I'll finish reading "Memory") and after Banks' Culture series and Simmons' Hyperion Cantos this is little more than properly edited average fan-fiction. Entertaining and enjoyable, but fundamentally flawed by Bujold's lack of depth and her much too transparent projections.
I conclusion, diversity can go out an air lock. Give me quality instead.
Recently I discovered yet another, his dystopian novel: Paris in the Twentieth Century (written in 1863, first published 1994) and it totally blew my mind how interestingly prophetic some of his predictions for 100 ahead years were (and some of the predictions still might become true).
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Machine_Stops
 - http://archive.ncsa.illinois.edu/prajlich/forster.html
Especially liked 'Division by Zero', 'Story Of Your Life', and 'Seventy-Two Letters'. Definitely worth a read.
I feel like we're living in the world that the cyberpunk genre foresaw. At least in my home, Houston: the urban sprawl, powerful companies, etc.
Been following it for a few years now.
I kind of wish list makers would include use-cases for their lists. "This is a list for people who don't often read SF"; "This is a list of Japanese, Korean, etc SF"; "This is a list of colonising SF".
I really enjoy Greg Egan and Adam Roberts (although the endings can be infuriating). Jon Cortenay Grimwood's "Pashazade" trilogy was good.
This is a reasonable intro list of Japanese SF. http://worldsf.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/editorial-on-japanes...
Robert Charles Wilson's Spin - http://www.amazon.com/Spin-Robert-Charles-Wilson/dp/07653482...
It reminded me of classic Asimov, but updated, and the writing and characterization are superb. I find that I can't read some sci-fi because I can't deal with cardboard characterization.
I think Diamond age is a lot more relevant for 2014. Snow Crash almost feels like an alternative history piece now -- virtual reality isn't new and exciting.
Diamond Age is about a world with advanced 3d printers and iPads designed to be personal tutors. I already live in Snow Crash, I want to live in Diamond Age.
my personal favourites are the 'robots of dawn' by Asimov and Lem's 'Washing mashine tragedy'. And of course it's Bradburies 'illustrated man'; not to forget all of Vonnegut - that's a must, especially 'Cat's cradle' and 'Slaughterhouse-Five'.
(i guess this got to the top because it's Saturday and almost everybody is drunk; so it goes)
Both are really big picture sci-fi; about what humans will do with toys that are beyond them, and are doing. Amazing.
(I'd recommend it to anyone looking for fiction, and not just sci-fi.)
I agree that the structure and pacing is odd if taken as a single corpus (which is hard not to do in its book form!) I wasn't surprised to learn after reading it that it was published serially over the course of three years. I suspect that the sequence was not mapped out fully.
Edit: Heh. When I refreshed I didn't see the response from the author confirming this.
Rendezvous with Rama, Sir Arthur Charles Clarke
Ravage, René Barjavel
Le Gambit des étoiles, Gérard Klein
Niourk, Stefan Wul
1. The Postman