Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Sci-Fi Novels You Should Read (howtosplitanatom.com)
187 points by smoyer on Oct 11, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 175 comments

Just my two cents, but if I were to make a sci-fi novel list of length 1, the only entry would be Hyperion by Dan Simmons. It's the Canterbury Tales in space, but the thing they're pilgrimaging towards is a nightmarish god of death.


another hyperion devotee here. my favorite since reading the hyperion and olympos books was Anathem by N. Stephenson, if you haven't read that one I bet you'll like it too!

Anathem is one of my favorite books. I've lost count of how many times I listened to the audio book. Check out the subreddit /r/anathem too.

Anathem was the entire reason I caved and bought a Kindle (many years ago). Great book, killer as a hard copy trade paperback.

Contrary opinion here: I thought the Hyperion Cantos was pretty mediocre. It was full of too much mysticism and hogwash, and even minus those things, wasn't a particularly interesting or thought-provoking story.

I never read the entire thing - I read Hyperion, slogged through the stories of the travelers, and then the book ended.

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.

Can you give 2 or 3 examples of story elements that bothered you the most?

Do you have a similar opinion about Fire Upon the Deep? Is there any soft sci-fi, particularly far-future, that you like?

I guess I was mostly put off by all the mysticism. You know, the stuff with crosses and crucifixion and ancient religious orders and super spooky all-powerful enemies. It wasn't mentally engaging. I didn't find myself asking "what if" like I usually do with sci-fi.

I loved Fire Upon The Deep! Why did you choose to compare that to Hyperion? I don't see many similarities.

Hyperion and the follow-up The Fall of Hyperion are great novels. I was however disappointed with the 3rd and 4th novels in the series - Endymion and Rise of Endymion. It seemed to me that the characters went through too many near-death experiences back-to-back. The reason I mention the Endymion series because of its version of space travel. The resurrection crush combined with incredible acceleration and deceleration (which kills the occupants every trip) was an interesting (fictional) concept.

Agreed. It was nice to wrap up the series but the last two were nowhere near as good as the first 2.

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.

resurrection creche for anybody Googling.

Hyperion and Chasm City (2nd book of Revelation Space) are two of my favorite books I've read in the last few years.

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 read Hyperion when I was a teen, it informed my choice of online nick the moment I finished it. It's a truly fantastic book, the entire cantos is worth reading.

Puts an entirely new spin on Catholics in space. :)

I'll go ahead and second your recommendation. A thoroughly enjoyable read with several really great concepts.

Agree entirely, an excellent read. Fiercely imaginative blend of sci-fi, religion, time travel, horror, Keats & Chaucer.

PSA: for contemporary, entertaining, thought-provoking novels relating to sci-fi, my short list of must-reads includes these gems:

* The Gone-Away World (Harkaway) [1]

* Ready Player One (Cline) [2] and

* The Martian (Weir) [3]

each of which is impossible to put down. Actually Harkaway's entire oevre is terrific. The steampunk Angelmaker [4] was a ton of fun.

Also, many of Iain M Banks' Culture novels (The Player of Games [5] is at the top of my personal list; they can be read in any order) and The Wind-up Girl (Bacigalupi) [6] 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) [7] a chance. You'll be glad you did. :)

[1] http://smile.amazon.com/Gone-Away-World-Nick-Harkaway-ebook/...

[2] http://smile.amazon.com/Ready-Player-One-Ernest-Cline-ebook/...

[3] http://smile.amazon.com/Martian-Novel-Andy-Weir-ebook/dp/B00...

[4] http://smile.amazon.com/Angelmaker-Nick-Harkaway-ebook/dp/B0...

[5] http://smile.amazon.com/Player-Games-Culture-Novel-Book-eboo...

[6] http://smile.amazon.com/Windup-Girl-Paolo-Bacigalupi-ebook/d...

[7] http://smile.amazon.com/Name-Wind-Kingkiller-Chronicle-Day-e...

The Name of the Wind really is good. The second book of the series (The Wise Man's Fear) is also excellent.

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 really loved Name of the Wind, but actually felt a little let down by Wise Man's Fear. Dunno whether I was just expecting too much after an excellent first book, but I thought it should have been sub-titled "Kvothe gets laid and the plot goes nowhere".

I can agree with the sentiment that the plot didn't go very far, but I think that's okay, since the world opened up so much in the second book.

Yeah that's true. I definitely enjoyed the book, I guess it's the old "I want more now" feeling coming into play. Which is usually a very good sign for any sort of entertainment, always leave them wanting more!

I've read the first book, and then decided to avoid the rest of the series. It was a boring life story of a flawless character who becomes a master in anything he partakes in, from acting to thievery to magic, and all before his teenage years... Totally ridiculous, in my opinion.

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.

> It was a boring life story of a flawless character who becomes a master in anything he partakes in, from acting to thievery to magic, and all before his teenage years... Totally ridiculous, in my opinion.

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.

Whilst I agree in some parts, the main character being exceptional is kinda the entire point of a heroic fantasy novel.

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.

Well, being "exceptional" is one thing, but being flawless is something completely different. I agree that the best characters are exceptional, but flawless characters are difficult to take seriously, and tend to be quite boring.

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 would think that Kvothe is every bit as flawed as Miles Vorkosigan. They both end up in sticky situations because they're more than just a little arrogant, which results in them biting off more than they can chew. Kvothe is not the best swordsman, he get's beaten up by a little girl. He is not the best Sympathist, again he get's beaten up when he thinks he is.

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.

Yeah, I think for me Kvothe's flawlessness was balanced by the unreliable narrator, who demonstrated that Kvothe in the present/future is not all-powerful anymore (if he ever was). The premise of the book thus appearing to be an inversion of the standard "weak hero becomes strong hero" plot, instead intriguing you from the start with wondering how a strong hero becomes so decrepit.

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.

With Assassin's Apprentice Fitz has all the possible talents in one place but seriously lacks in intelligence and in making rational choices. I spent all her books wishing I could slap Fitz until I just couldn't take it anymore.

I will have to try Liveship traders

I'd say that the series as a whole is just ok. I did enjoy both books, but they didn't stick out in my mind as amazing.

Another great time travel novel is Replay by Ken Grimwood. One of the few books I've read twice.


Definitely good stuff. In terms of Orc-free pseudo-fantasy stuff, for those that liked Rothfuss and somewhat weird stuff (i.e. Ready Player One - though writing wasn't as good in that IMHO), Lev Grossman's Magicians series is possibly worth checking out. Anyway, I really liked it.


I absolutely hated the Windup Girl fwiw. The science made no sense whatsoever & and the successive "lets rape the sex-bot again!" scenes made me question why I was reading the book at all. About the only thing is had going for it was atmosphere & once you peel back that surface there's nothing there that would ever make me want to read that book again.

I love that book. I have the audio version, and the narrator is excellent, so that lends to relistening easily.

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.

Ready Player One was awesome. Highly recommend the Wil Wheaton audio book!

I finally got around to reading it. It was mildly enjoyable in the way decent fast food can be enjoyable, but I don't understand how people can claim this immature one dimensional story and okay writing constitutes a great book.

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.

I share your sentiments, in re expectations. Agreed RPO is a beach read, nostalgic fun for this child of the 80s, vs serious literature. Harkaway OTOH is a terrific writer and thinker per se, IMHO.

It's interesting how opinions about Ready Player One can be so polarized. As someone who spent their formative years living through the 80s, this book was a non-stop cringe-fest of embarrassment for me, made even worse by Wil Wheaton's over-the-top voice acting.

While I did quite enjoy the author's vision of futuristic VR, all the 80s camp and nostalgia ruined it for me.

I wanted to like it but couldn't get past the first couple of chapters. The reason? It's just so poorly written; the author never shows when he can just tell. It reads more like a description of a novel than an actual novel.

Yeah, I've heard that audiobook was great. I had a period of lengthy commuting when I listed to a ton of audiobooks, and found that Banks' Culture novels -- narrated by Peter Kenny in paricular -- were excellent. Kenny's performances really brought the works to life. A bad narrator can kill a good audiobook, and even a terrific one can't salvage a bad read. But pair an outstanding author with first-rate narration, and it's transformative. Highly recommended! :)

I found the second book of Name of the Wind really badly written and juvenile sex fantasy. Let me recommend the Stormlight Archive instead, fantastically written and imaginative world: http://brandonsanderson.com/books/the-stormlight-archive/

Our taste in novels seems to be really similar. For that reason, I'm reading the ones on your list I have not read.

No one has said "The Left Hand of Darkness" or "The Dispossessed"

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.

Nice list but I would definitely include among contemporaries: - Dan Simmon's "Hyperion" as suggested already

- 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 :)

Anathem was really good, probably the last good book Stephenson's written. Reamde was awful.

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.


I understand the elements Stephenson wanted to explore in Reamde but I agree, the book was the first Stephenson book I had to struggle through.

I got absolutely nowhere with Simmons and have no idea what the appeal is, but I cannot encourage Banks enough. Worth reading all, and again.

Hmm, it might be nostalgia as I was in my late teens when I read "Hyperion" the first time. The rest of the books in the series are weaker, though. Hyperion seems to be an amalgamation of lots of nuggets of story building and elements that the author has lovingly crafted in span of several years and if one does not enjoy pondering, poetic world-building or heart pounding scifi action with time shifting supersuits for their own sake, then there is very little meat in the book.

Its a good list of classics, but dropping Doctorow in there seems a bit incongruous. I've never cared for his novels. They always strike me as little more than pandering spackling together of snappy glib dialogue with pop culture tropes and memes. They leave me feeling about as satisfied and intellectually stimulated as eating ice cream for lunch does for my nutritional needs. I say the same about Scalzi.

Early Doctrow fiction is pretty good, he doesn't attempt to push his political beliefs as much. I actually don't disagree with a lot of the ideas he espouses, but his last two books were as subtle as a stomach pump.

Rapture of the Nerds and Makers are both competent utopian/distopian novels respectively. Little Brother etc. are sound as teen fiction. If spackled memes aren't appropriate, then Orwell probably should not be on the list unless pandering to anti-communists in an English accent counts as gravitas.

At least Doctorow takes on the world wide media machine that is the Rat of Orlando.

Hmm I entirely agree with your description of Doctorow, but disagree about Scalzi. I've been enjoying most of his books quite a lot. I wasn't a big fan of Old Man's War and won't read any more of that series, but I still quite like his other books.

Good books (mostly). Though if you like sci-fi, you have likely already read most of them (this list is mostly "classics" category).

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.

Curious to see the Cryptonomicon on the second list.

It's a great books sure, but sci-fi? Surely just contemporary fiction? Hell, half of it is historical fiction.

"this list is mostly "classics" category"

Well stated! But I found 6 books that I haven't read yet, so that will keep me busy for a few weeks.

There are some great books on the list, however it should be a criminal offense to not include Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination (first published as Tiger! Tiger!). It's best summed up as The Count of Monte Cristo, in space. Bester's novel is in many ways the forerunner of the cyberpunk genre.

I can't see the list, but agree Bester should be there. Another perennially under-rated author of the same era is Algis Budrys, whose "Rogue Moon" is one of the most perfectly integrated works of fiction I've ever read. James Blish descried it as something like "a fully complete work of art".

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..."

Sounds awesome, thanks for the tip. The comments on the HN thread have been far more fruitful than the original article, in my opinion.

I was just about to make the very same suggestion. Ignore the list and just read this book! The threading of the 'jaunting' concept was way ahead of its time in 1956 and the inspiration can be seen in many modern films.

But (for those of you who haven't read it) that summary really doesn't even hint at the novel's greatness. It just spills out cool ideas, hardly ever pausing to take a breath.

Bester's The Demolished Man is also well worth mentioning. Won the very first Hugo award, still stands up well today.

> 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.

William Gibson wrote a little appreciation of The Stars My Destination:


'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.'

I don't think of him as particularly early; he doesn't really show up on the scene until a decade after Asimov and Heinlein, if I recall correctly.

Really worth mentioning Bester's short stories, too. "The Men Who Murdered Mohammed", "Fondly Fahrenheit", "5,271,009"...

Greg Egan will explode your brain.

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

Great suggestions! However, any discussion of Greg Egan is not complete without "Diaspora"! A novel about a world where most humans' minds have been scanned into a benevolent, human-operated machine world like The Matrix. Best book about those concepts I've ever read.

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.

Ya Diaspora is excellent. Extremely boldly going. I've read it like 3 times (it's hard to find good sci if).

How about that online stuff that I listed. Have you read any of that? It is of comparable quality. I'm serious.

Dune was an amazing read. I'd recommend reading it if you haven't. The setting is unique and mindblowing in scale.

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.

While it gets weirder towards the end of the six books, I found the philosophy and generally strange quotes and philosophy to be more interesting and worthwhile, even if the plot got exceptionally less so. To me, I think the gap in readability was in books two and three - maybe.

Yeah, I find Heretics of Dune to be much better than Children of Dune, for instance, both in characterizations and the ideas it explores.

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.

That actually sounds like a pretty good rationale behind the completely different approach for the later books. (I'm still not sure I'd still agree with that approach, of course.)

> but it helped to read a piece discussing the books

Any chance you could link to that piece?

Dune was on the Army MCoE book list for a while too:


It's not on their most recent list, but Starship Troopers is.

I loved the first book, and hated the rest. I got as far as half-way through Heretics of Dune when I suddenly asked myself, "Why are you still reading this?" and stopped.

I've since re-read Dune three or four times (most recently by way of an excellent audio-book version).

"Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" was a minor work of Philip K Dick. The movie inspired by it, "Blade Runner" (the original version, not the director's cuts) was far, far better.

"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.

Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle is definitely worth a read. Valis [or is it VALIS?] is also an interesting read...in the psychotropic sense of "interesting".

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].

Yeah, "VALIS" was alright. I'd definitely put it ahead of "Minority Report" and "A Scanner Darkly", but far behind "Ubik", "The Three Stigmata", and "Martian Time Slip"; and even behind some other lesser works like "Maze of Death" and "Eye in the Sky".

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 makes Man In the High Castle a classic is that the idea of an alternate history was a novel concept as the basis of a science fiction story...one that Roddenberry recycled unrepentantly a few years later.

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.

Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court"[0] could also be taken as an alternate history novel. It was written in 1889.

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?""[1]

Another classic take on the past not being dead is Lovecraft's, such as in "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward"[2] and "The Rats in the Walls"[3].

[0] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Connecticut_Yankee_in_King_A...

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternate_history_%28fiction%2...

[2] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Case_of_Charles_Dexter_War...

[3] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rats_in_the_Walls

Books can be worth reading without being good books, especially sci-fi. Brave New World is absurdly heavy-handed, but it's worth reading because it describes an important type of social dystopia. Honestly, I think 1984 is just as over-done, but the ideas are more significant (and relevant) than the stories or characters.

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.

Seems to be down. Here's the Google cache: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:x8_BOh5...

I was thinking, "Atlas Shrugged, what the fuck?" but then I re-read the title of the article. As is [ironically with a sense that is lost upon them] common to admirers of Ayn Rand, the author feels compelled to "should" on their readers. I was warned.

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.

Yeah, re Atlas Shrugged, that was exactly my first thought as I scrolled down. If you want a [nuts] libertarian fantasy, then Weapon Shops of Isher is slightly better written and at least entertainingly camp. And Animal Farm definitely doesn't belong on a scifi list, and I think hammers home the political sympathies of the post's author (yeah, why not Watership Down? Or Shardik even?).

I'd recommend The Ungoverned, by Vernor Vinge, if you want a fun glimpse of a libertarian society.

One sci-fi author that I really found refreshing was Karl Schroeder. His first book has been made available for anyone to read, and if you like nano bots, micro payments, discussions on what it means to be human, I'd highly recommend checking his works out.


I second Karl Schroeder as a worthwhile SF author! His novels can be challenging but his ideas are unique and worth the price of admission:

* 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.


Good novels. As a meta note I'd suggest splitting hard and soft sci fi... someone who likes KSR's mars trilogy (which needs to be on the list) is possibly not going to like ultra super soft stuff like stranger in a strange land and vice versa. Then there's the in between stuff like moon is a harsh mistress.

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.

I read just about every Heinlein story I could get my hands on as a teenager. The funny thing is that the one's I thought were sort of stupid - e.g. Have Space Suit Will Travel and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress - because they were only about the solar system, I've found to be among my favorites as an adult.

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].

I still have almost every story and book he has written. I especially enjoyed "Grumbles from the Grave" where talks about pushing the envelope to see what he could get away with. It made some of his more extreme viewpoints in the later books make more sense. He was trolling people.

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)

/fanboyoff now.

Good list, though it is missing The Culture series of Iain M Banks.

Fourthing the Culture series.

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.

I find it amazing that there still hasn't been a film or TV adaptation of Iain M Banks. Not that such a thing would be necessary or a validation of his writing; but I'd love to see it imagined and realized visually. It's a vision of perhaps the best possible case for the human future - if we don't fuck up.

I'll second the recommendation for The Culture series, and add "A Fire Upon The Deep" by Vernor Vinge.

The Culture series is one of the most uplifting series I've read. When I'm reading it, I'm just smiling thinking "yeah, that's exactly how humans should develop". Also, ships named Well, it works for me.

Thirding The Culture series (I've only read Matter, but I loved the setting) and adding Embassytown by China Miéville.

fifthing. Excession!

For those looking for some additional recommendations that are "literary" (by which I mean, densely allusive and layered with meaning, yet not painfully self-conscious or lacking in any sense of awe and wonder, let alone enjoyment), look into Gene Wolfe. He is not exclusively a science fiction author, but The Book of the Sun (a tetralogy) and the rest of the Solar Cycle books definitely are, and they remain among my favorites. The entire series will keep you busy for a while. For a shorter introduction, consider The Fifth Head of Cerberus, consisting of three related novellas, is exquisite; also worth checking out.

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.

Not of the same league as Borges or Wolfe, but there's also this, which is literary and layered and allusive but which also tells a story with real characters and big ideas: http://www.amazon.com/Darwins-Theorem-TJ-Radcliffe-ebook/dp/...

I've been reading the Book of the New Sun for the last couple of weeks, and I can second this recommendation. It straddles a very interesting line between science fiction and fantasy, and it definitely feels like a piece of literature more than most works of either genre. As I recently explained it to a friend of mine, it's "Dune caliber" (though not at all similar in terms of setting). A great read.

I would probably drop I Robot (yes, really!) from the list, and replace that with Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama.

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. [0]

[0]: http://xkcd.com/566/

The Rama sequels should be required reading in college composition classes. They're such a wonderful fount of lessons in how not to write fiction.

I agree - Rendezvous with Rama is a great book. I'd recommend listening to it as an audio book - really lets your mind fully construct Rama.

PKD's short stories are excellent. Beyond Lies the Wub, We can remember it for you wholesale, Adjustment Team, Perky Pat, etc...

I would also like to add Greg Egan - Diaspora. I love it for how it takes post/transhumanism (among other things) to the extreme.

PKD's short stories are amazing, get the collection of 5 editions. He often started with short stories, then expanded them into full novels.

Greg Egan is amazing as well, and has fantastic short stories too.

Cool, I didn't know about Egan's short stories.

For years now, I purchase used paperback copies of Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon The Deep. I give them out to whomever asks me what he or she should read in science fiction. I think it's a perfect blend of old and new tropes and a rousing tale of adventure. But my favorite SF author is Howard Waldrop, though Ted Chiang is climbing up my list.

"Atlas Shrugged stretches the boundaries further than any book you have ever read."

Yes, just like a certain goat-URLed website that used to feature a man "stretching his boundary" farther than seemed possible...

The first book I wasn't able to finish.

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.

Atlas Shrugged is many things, but it doesn't look or act like sci-fi by any measure. This choice stands out like sore thumb and compromises the integrity of the list for the obvious reasons.

I cringed most of the way through Atlas Shrugged when I first read it. Having encountered more than my share of bureaucrats , inept big corporations and NGO's since, I can say she did have some valid points. The world is full of people who survive by sucking the blood out of the doers.

It is nuts putting it on a sci-fi list, its more a political screed.

I don't remember seeing anyone recommend Mark Twain's The Mysterious Stranger[1] in these kinds of list. Not sure if it counts as sci-fi, and it's at least 25 years since I read it, but I recall it being worth reading.

[1] http://www.gutenberg.org/files/3186/3186-h/3186-h.htm

Was going to ask "Which Mysterious Stranger?" but then I noticed you'd linked straight to text. :)

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".)

There's a great little animation inspired by "The Mysterious Stranger",[0] which is apparently part of a film called "The Adventures of Mark Twain".[1]

[0] - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpaRouocBes

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Adventures_of_Mark_Twain_%...

Stanislaw Lem: Fiasco

Stanislaw Lem: His Master's Voice

Strugarsky Brothers: Roadside Picnic

Olaf Stapledon: Star Maker

If you liked "Roadside Picnic" you should really watch Tarkovsky's "Stalker" (though the film is much more mystical and less science-fictional than the book).

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.

The authors are overwhelmingly male (90%), and the titles are overwhelmingly old.

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).

More notably to me they are all western.

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.

I was half expecting you'd suggest some Far East sci-fi, which I'd love to get acquainted with.

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.

I would love some far east too - I have no experience with that though, so if someone has some advice I'd love to hear it too.

It looks like that a lot of russian sci-fi is hard to get english translations of. For example a search for "Kir Bulychov" on amazon.co.uk doesnt return anything of the childrens sci-fi he wrote, which you would expect to still sell well.

The Anglophone trade fiction industry has serious structural issues when it comes to publishing translated works from other languages. Firstly, a lot of readers (and store book buyers) have a "not invented here" problem with foreign authors. Secondly, names that are unfamiliar: difficult. Names that are hard to pronounce: also difficult. (I know one Serbian author who uses a pseudonym specifically because her surname is hard for Americans and Brits to pronounce.) Thirdly: before an editor can decide to acquire and push a title out to marketing they have to read it; this entails at a minimum a bilingual editor in the language in question, or a budget to pay a translator for a three chapter extract and synopsis. Then, if they go with the book, they have the added overhead of commissioning a full translation and, hopefully, getting someone else who's fluent in the source language to sanity-check it. All in all, this costs thousands of dollars -- and there's so much adequate material already available in the vernacular that most editors don't bother. It takes someone with a real sense of mission to put the effort in -- or an author who's willing to pay a translator up-front on spec in hope of selling.

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).

The Quantum Thief is a really interesting book. I really enjoyed it.


That is really unfortunate. Especially considering english is second language of choice of so much of the world. It would be helpful for more great works to be translated.

Agreed. I have a collection of five SF novels - translated to Portuguese - by authors from the Soviet Union (including by the Strugasky brothers, but also by Genrich Altshuller and his wife, and a few others) and as a whole they're easily better than many of the list.

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.

I don't really pay attention to the gender of the author of a book, and I'm not sure why someone putting together a list of what they consider to be good science fiction should have to either.

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.

It appears that the vast majority of popular science fiction authors are men.


(not saying good, mind you. For example "military sci fi")

The Vorkosigan Saga is pretty run-of-the-mill space opera stuff, as far as I've seen. It's got a sort of an interesting premise, but it definitely smells of your early 1900s central European cultural setup (at least initially). In space. I don't regret reading it.

How about The Sparrow from Mary Doria Russell. An amazingly deep and personal tale about humanity's first encounter with alien life. Sci-fi in the way that "Never Let Me Go" is sci-fi - the backdrop to a literary exploration of what it is to be human.

The Sparrow is so good.

I can't believe I forgot Elizabeth Bear's _Dust_. (I had been thinking I prefered her fantasy to her SF, but _Dust_ was top-notch.)

> The authors are overwhelmingly male (90%), and the titles are overwhelmingly old.

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.

I think I will still prefer good books no mater age or gender of the author. I guess the idea of the diversity being good just because of diversity comes from some old male too.

I'm going to put my vote in for an old one Nightfall by Asimov and Silverberg. http://smile.amazon.com/Nightfall-Isaac-Asimov/dp/0553290991...

That was pretty good. For those who have read the "Nightfall" short story, the novelization is still worthwhile. It mostly, if I recall correctly, deals with the aftermath of the events in the short story. It does cover the same ground as the short story in the early parts of the novel, so you don't have to have read the short story first.

It's up for me.

Came here to share this. I'm late

I've been reading more science fiction from "classic" authors lately - everyone knows that Jules Verne wrote science fiction but what about Edgar Allan Poe? I'm currently reading "The Science Fiction of Edgar Allan Poe (Penguin English Library)" (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0140431063/ref=as_li_tl?ie=...)

I read all Jules Verne novels I could get my hands on when I was 14-16 years old (for those who have not read Verne, they are very dry and detailed books).

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).

If you enjoy prophetic scifi, you might be interested in a 1909 story called "The Machine Stops"[0][1], a short story by E. M. Forster, which predicted the internet, internet addiction, video conferencing, and other later technologies and scifi tropes.

[0] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Machine_Stops

[1] - http://archive.ncsa.illinois.edu/prajlich/forster.html

Another contemporary author I haven't seen mentioned is Ted Chiang. I've read 'Stories Of Your Life and Others' by him, a collection of short stories. While I've found them to have unsatisfying endings, the ideas they explore are great.

Especially liked 'Division by Zero', 'Story Of Your Life', and 'Seventy-Two Letters'. Definitely worth a read.

Oh, and 'Exhalation' is a perfect little gem of a story. It's about entropy, the thrill of discovery and understanding and, er, philosophical endings.

Ah yes, definitely. Quite interesting, and this had a great ending too! Characters were great.

One of the most compelling arguments for reading _Atlas Shrugged_ in my opinion, is that whenever it's mentioned people seem to fall over themselves to tell you not to read it (or to bash Rand, call it bad writing, or whatever.) They never seem to make attempts to refute the arguments made by the book (almost always when they do it's knocking down straw men, alas.)

I'm in two minds about reading Rand: on the one hand, I've heard nothing but contempt for the quality of her writing from commentators I respect - i.e. prose, structure, etc. On the other, as I'm assuming I would disagree with her theses I would like to do so from an informed perspective. Should I bother?

I'm surprised to see the lack of love of cyberpunk in this thread. Snow Crash (Neal Stephenson) is my favorite book. Ender's Game (and the rest of the series, which quickly gets very cerebral) is awesome.

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.

I would add "The End of Eternity". The ending of that book was by far the best I've ever read. Everything in the book is brought together and everything that matters to the main character is put on the line in one decision which is resolved in a fun and unexpected way.

Here's another list sorted by decade. http://blog.fogus.me/2012/09/21/the-amazing-colossal-science...

Been following it for a few years now.

(Currently showing "database error" for me.)

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...

Forgot one that was pretty good:

Robert Charles Wilson's Spin - http://www.amazon.com/Spin-Robert-Charles-Wilson/dp/07653482...

Astonished to find no David Brin on that site, or in this discussion. The man has seven Hugo Awards for a reason! Otherness (short story collection) and Earth were downright formative for me.

I recently read a contemporary one I'd add to the list: Blind Lake by Robert Charles Wilson.


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.

Snow Crash has always been more popular than Diamond Age -- I think that's because when it came out the idea of cyberspace was quite new.

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.

(database error for me)

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)

After reading Ringworld as a kid, Halo was a bit of a let down. For all those who grew up with Halo, I wonder if Ringworld stands up. I'd add the new Young Miles omnibus by Lois McMaster Bujold. Remnant Population by Elizabeth Moon. Hexwood by Diana Wynne Jones (read it again recently and the quantum computer is interesting). Moon of Three Rings and Sargasso of Space by Andre Norton.

Absolutely. I played and read Halo related material before Ringworld, and it's the reason I even bothered reading Ringworld in the first place. Definitely enjoyed both, though I felt the first Halo book trilogy was weak the first time I read it too, and I fear it won't hold up well at all.

Thats good news that you still enjoyed Ringworld. I was wondering if the orginality of the work was the main strength of it at the time. I still hear mixed things about the Halo books. Goodreads is still giving the first one a good rating, but the reviews are all over the place.

If you're at all curious, by all means pick the Halo books up, just don't expect too much from them.

The really interesting concept in RingWorld is the genetic predisposition of luck.

I agree. I loved that. Its great material to run with too. An idea that gives more ideas.

Also, Greg Bear has hacked out some dreadful stuff but "Moving Mars" and "The Anvil of Stars" (the Forge of God is a bit of a pot boiler tbh, but it is the prequel, so...).

Both are really big picture sci-fi; about what humans will do with toys that are beyond them, and are doing. Amazing.

Check out "Riddley Walker." It takes place in a devolved post-apocalyptic England where the folk mythology is an echo of everything lost from the information and nuclear ages, and it's utterly haunting.

(I'd recommend it to anyone looking for fiction, and not just sci-fi.)

Panshin - The World Beyond the Hill (meta) http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1715812.The_World_Beyond_...

Alastair Reynolds. He's a recent writer and many of his books are great.

hmm I would rate Accelerando as the least good book Stross have written. I would say that all his other books are much much better written and have better structure but that is of cause my own opinion.

You might (or might not) be surprised to learn that I agree. Reason: Accelerando is really a fix-up of nine novelettes, previously published separately in Asimov's SF Magazine. So it is, to say the least, episodic ...

It is definitely thought-provoking on the subject of computation and human culture; it's also really enjoyable. It's available for free under a Creative Commons license:


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.

Funny thing, I agree that Accelerando is his least good book, but still it is the book that should be on such a list. It is just a lot more influential than Halting State or the Laundry series.

While I mostly agree, I first encountered the 'Lobsters' section on its own and loved it for the way it ran with its ideas.

Not a single Stanislaw Lem novel? Why is this so typical of USA sci-fi section? His 'Fiasco' is one of the most thought provoking books I have ever read.

OT, but it seems that in Canada all of the Foundation series is available as ebooks (on Amazon, Google, etc) except for the very first one... very annoying.

Lem: "Dialogs" - essays about consciousness uploading and its nature, construction of AI and self-replicating organisms.

I liked J.G. Ballard's novels - seemed to be sci-fi but not so on-the-nose that it beat you over the head with it.

The World of Ā, Alfred Elton van Vogt

Rendezvous with Rama, Sir Arthur Charles Clarke

Ravage, René Barjavel

Le Gambit des étoiles, Gérard Klein

Niourk, Stefan Wul

Sad not to see 'The Black Cloud - Fred Hoyle' in that list..

My favorites: Hyperion series, Robotech series

Looks like a list of familiar titles. I already read 19 of the 32, do I have to worry? They were very good books, though.

I can't recommend David Brin enough:

1. The Postman

2. Earth

3. Existence

It's already down!

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact