Where to Start with Sci-fi

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dios4vida
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Where to Start with Sci-fi

Post by dios4vida » August 9th, 2012, 12:07 pm

Hi all,

Anyone who knows me knows I'm a fantasy freak. I read it, write it, love love love it. A good 85% of the books on my bookshelf are either epic or urban fantasy (the rest are classics). I'm wanting to branch out into some more sci-fi but I'm not sure where to start. About the only true sci-fi I've read is Dune, which I very much enjoyed. The steampunk and dieselpunk I've read (Gail Carriger's Soulless novels and Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan trilogy) are some of my favorites. I have Hyperion by Dan Simmons on my TBR pile. Other than that, I'm at a loss. Where would a fantasy geek like me start into the sci-fi genre?
Brenda :)

Inspiration isn't about the muse. Inspiration is working until something clicks. ~Brandon Sanderson

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Re: Where to Start with Sci-fi

Post by MattLarkin » August 9th, 2012, 1:30 pm

Daniel Abraham (a major fantasy novelist and friend of George R.R. Martin) writes sci-fi under the pen name James A. Corey.

I also recommend the full six Dune series books by Frank Herbert. His son also wrote some Dune continuation and spinoff novels.

Orson Scott Card does the Ender books, which are also great.
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Re: Where to Start with Sci-fi

Post by Beethovenfan » August 9th, 2012, 1:43 pm

MattLarkin wrote:I also recommend the full six Dune series books by Frank Herbert.
I thought I was the only one who liked all six! They really are good.
I recommend Anne McCaffrey's PERN and CRYSTAL SINGER series. I cut my reader teeth on these.
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Re: Where to Start with Sci-fi

Post by Doug Pardee » August 9th, 2012, 4:29 pm

dios4vida wrote:Where would a fantasy geek like me start into the sci-fi genre?
Sci-fi is, arguably, not a genre. Most of what passes for sci-fi today is fantasy. There has been much argument over the years about what science fiction is and isn't, to the extent that I'm of the mind that what science fiction isn't is that it isn't a meaningful term. Asimov insisted that it had to be about science. Bradbury insisted that it had to at least be possible. Heinlein tried to split the difference between those two with the term speculative fiction. Aldiss said that sci-fi is "the search for the definition of mankind and his status in the universe" which sounds rather like fictionalized philosophy to me. In keeping with my cynicism about the value of the label, quite a number of influential authors (plus Humpty Dumpty) have declared that science fiction means whatever it's being used to mean.

BISG has elected to totally ignore my dubiousness about the term, and still recognizes Science Fiction as a category of adult fiction, with the following BISAC sub-categories:
  • FIC028000 FICTION / Science Fiction / General
  • FIC028010 FICTION / Science Fiction / Adventure
  • FIC028020 FICTION / Science Fiction / High Tech
  • FIC028050 FICTION / Science Fiction / Military
  • FIC028040 FICTION / Science Fiction / Short Stories
  • FIC028030 FICTION / Science Fiction / Space Opera
  • FIC028060 FICTION / Science Fiction / Steampunk
Some related BISAC categories:
  • FIC040000 FICTION / Alternative History
  • FIC042020 FICTION / Christian / Futuristic
  • FIC027130 FICTION / Romance / Science Fiction
  • FIC027090 FICTION / Romance / Time Travel
  • FIC055000 FICTION / Dystopian
I find it a bit amusing that there's no BISAC code for time-travel sci-fi, but there is for time-travel romance.

Considering the derision that science fiction receives from various literary quarters, I'm surprised anyone still wants their work to be associated with the term. :|

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Re: Where to Start with Sci-fi

Post by Hillsy » August 9th, 2012, 6:14 pm

Just looking at me bookshelves now.....I guess it depends what you want in from a sci-fi book.

If you can deal with the big doorstop fantasy's (and I mean BIIIIG - 400K worders) Then I highly recommend Peter F Hamilton's the Night's Dawn Trilogy. Starts with the reality disfunction. All 3 books are over 1100 pages long......but Oh Mumma they are obsolutely astonishing. Joshua Calvert is one of the greatest Protags ever, and even though it has some flaws you'll forgive them because they are so damn good. Word of warning though.....It's some pretty heavy sci-fi so you'll need to accept there'll be a crap-ton of terminology flung at you from the get go. This equates is wheel of time style SCi-Fi with an R-rating - massive, multicharacter, ambitious and absorbing.

Now if you want to go down the more Sci-fi thriller-y approach - I'd recommend Altered Carbon or Black Man (called 13 in america I believe) by RIchard Morgan - Or Chasm City by Alistair Reynolds. They are more gritty, noir style stuff - BUT they are pasked with good ideas, great characters (especially Takeshi Kovacs), clever plots and awesome mood. Black Man even brought me to the verge of tears. But they are pretty dark & Violent and, at times, a bit nihilistic - This equates to the Sci-fi equivalent of Joe Abercrombie.

The other option I'd recommend are 2 novels by an author who's not well known as his talent deserves: Michael Marshall Smith. One of Us is frankly hilarious, as well as being a nice short thriller with a very clever plot idea. Characterisation, prose, humour, pacing - it's got the lot. Spares is the other one. It's also got a really clever idea, a brilliantly damaged MC and the kind of simple yet detailed world building you envy immediately. These are probably like Terry Pratchett havign a REALLY bad day.

Other than that - you can try Iain M Banks if you prefer a more literary bent. I loved Look To Winward, then found Consider Phleobas and Use of Weapons to be a bit, naff...and we wont talk about Matter...Ugh!! The Quantum Gravity Books (No.1 Keeping it real) by Justine Robson are a strange Sci-fi fantasy mix and kind of enjoyable, but they got a bit...what's the word....frantic....for me by book 3. It's like they were written on waaaaay too much caffiene and sugar - But I think, considering how good the main character is, maybe you'll get a different appeal from a female perspective.

I could even give you my first trunk novel.....=0)

Anyways - some ideas for you

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dios4vida
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Re: Where to Start with Sci-fi

Post by dios4vida » August 9th, 2012, 6:35 pm

MattLarkin wrote:I also recommend the full six Dune series books by Frank Herbert. His son also wrote some Dune continuation and spinoff novels.

Orson Scott Card does the Ender books, which are also great.
I read the second Dune book and didn't enjoy it very much - the third...well, let's just say my husband (big Dune fan) gave me the synopsis and I opted not to continue. I love the movies and Sci-Fi channel miniseries and the first book was awesome, I just didn't really get into following the Emperor of Dune type thing.

And duh, I so should have remembered Ender's Game. I actually prefer Ender's Shadow, but those are (I think) the only other sci-fi I have read. Sheesh, I really should have finished my coffee before writing this post, apparently... ;)
Hillsy wrote:Anyways - some ideas for you
Hillsy, awesome. Thanks. I tend to enjoy doorstoppers so I'll definitely go for the great big trilogy. The others also sounds good, so I'll put them on my list. :D
Brenda :)

Inspiration isn't about the muse. Inspiration is working until something clicks. ~Brandon Sanderson

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Hillsy
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Re: Where to Start with Sci-fi

Post by Hillsy » August 9th, 2012, 6:57 pm

I felt the same way about Dune - thoguht the first one was excellent....didn't like the 2nd and hated the first 90% of the last. I was like this with The Dark Knight.....once I get something in my head I don't accept, it taints everything. In The Dark Knight it was Batman refusing to kill the Joker, in Dune it was Prescience (Well how invasive it all got, and yet not so stuff could still happen).

I'll say this for The Reality Dysfunction - if you can read the first 40-50 pages in a library or something before you buy you'll have a good idea if you'll be able to hack how heavy the sci-fi is....Get through that and I reckon you'll love it, because nothing is as jarring as that opening bit.

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Re: Where to Start with Sci-fi

Post by CharleeVale » August 10th, 2012, 11:18 am

I've always loved Stephen Lawhead's EMPYRION series. (which I need to read again, it's been awhile)

You can never go wrong with C.S. Lewis' PERELANDRA series either.

I haven't read it, but isn't Ender's Game Sci-Fi?


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Re: Where to Start with Sci-fi

Post by Sommer Leigh » August 10th, 2012, 2:22 pm

I really, really liked Ender's Game, but hated the sequels. That's just me.

Adult Sci-fi:

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (PHENOM. *big crush*)
The Boneshaker by Cheri Priest (sci-fi horror steampunk)
Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman (superhero sci-fi)
The Utlimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (the quintessential sci-fi book, IMHO)
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (one of the greatest books I've ever read. Ever.)

YA sci-fi:

Skyship Academy: The Pearl Wars by Nick James (also, Nick is a REALLY NICE guy)
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson
The Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld
Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Partials by Dan Wells
How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend by Gary Ghislain (Remains one of the most fun I've ever had reading a book.)
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Re: Where to Start with Sci-fi

Post by LurkingVirologist » August 11th, 2012, 10:43 pm

I read more fantasy than SF, but here are a few suggestions...

1. Neuromancer - William Gibson (cyberpunk but stylistically brilliant)
2. Forever War - Joe Halderman
3. Hyperion/Endymion - both sets of novels were good, though I don't know if you'd be best served reading all four as opposed to the first one and then three other authors
4. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep - Phillip K. Dick (this was the source story for Bladerunner)
5. Any non-fiction book by Carl Sagan - his sense of wonder and deep grasp of both science and philosophy are absolutely contagious and far more compelling than most of the robot/lasers/alien material out there. My mind is still routinely blown when I contemplate these images and his reflections on them:
"Books break the shackles of time, proof that humans can work magic." -Carl Sagan

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Re: Where to Start with Sci-fi

Post by Nicole R » August 11th, 2012, 11:29 pm

It's more space opera than hard sci-fi, but In Conquest Born by C.S. Friedman is definitely worth a read!

Also, if you're expanding a bit more and want a lighter sci-fi/romance try Gabriel's Ghost by Linnea Sinclair.

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Re: Where to Start with Sci-fi

Post by Shipple » August 12th, 2012, 2:56 pm

I'm a fan of both sci-fi & fantasy & I'm not going to bog you down with classics. You're a beginner after all!

So my first thought was Ender's Game (and I am very glad it's well represented here). So I guess this is actually a classic, but it's easy for kids to read, and you don't get bogged down in the language or story. It's fun and fast.

I think Anne McCaffrey's Pern books are more fantasy, but maybe they're just one of those series that bends the definition between sci-fi & fantasy.

Another great read are the books by Lois McMaster Bujold. She's written both fantasy and sci-fi. I personally loved the book Cordelia's Honor, which is actually two books put together (Shards of Honor / Barrayar).

Oh, and I completely agree: definitely add Hitchhiker's Guide to this list, although you may have already read this.
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Re: Where to Start with Sci-fi

Post by Mira » August 15th, 2012, 1:51 am

Hitchhikers Guide! The whole series. :)

Otherwise, I tend toward the classics:


The Foundation Trilogy by Asimov. It's alittle dated, but it still holds up, and it's pretty wonderful.

Anything by Ursula LeGuin is brilliant. The Left Hand of Darkness, the Dispossessed. She's one of the greats.

The Illustrated Man by Bradbury

LIke CharleeVale said, you can also check out some of the sci fi that C.S. Lewis wrote. It's Christian allegory, I don't know if that would matter to you, but it's worth mentioning.

A personal favorite of mine, which is probably hard to find is: Rite of Passage by Panshin.

Also, I remember liking Anne McCaffery's Singing Ship (sorry, forget the exact titles) and Crystal Singer series.

Enjoy =- there are so many great books out there!

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Re: Where to Start with Sci-fi

Post by Margo » August 15th, 2012, 11:26 am

McCaffrey's The Ship Who Sang (the first of the ship books that Mira couldn't recall) and her Powers That Be (Petabee) series. Both series start to degrade as they progress (just my opinion), but the first couple of books are longstanding faves for me. As someone mentioned, her books are soft soft soft sci-fi, so they are nice segway from fantasy to sci-fi.
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Re: Where to Start with Sci-fi

Post by Mira » August 15th, 2012, 12:57 pm

Margo wrote:McCaffrey's The Ship Who Sang (the first of the ship books that Mira couldn't recall) and her Powers That Be (Petabee) series. Both series start to degrade as they progress (just my opinion), but the first couple of books are longstanding faves for me. As someone mentioned, her books are soft soft soft sci-fi, so they are nice segway from fantasy to sci-fi.

Yes, the Ship Who Sang! That's it! Thanks, Margo!

And I agree about the series degrading for her - most of hers did, even the Dragonriders, imho. The Dragonriders actually didn't hold up for me (I recently re-read the first one), except the DragonSinger series, which is wonderful.

I did think of one other science fiction series that I might reccommend. It's fairly recent and it's MG, but adults will enjoy it too. The Jacob Wonderbar series written by this guy called Bransford. Very funny and fun. Recommended. :)

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