« Progress for Arab women and children | Main | Frank but fair evaluations of the late king »

August 01, 2005



Peter Hamilton's Night's Dawn trilogy. Definately must read.


Oh, and Ted Chiang (Stories of your life and others), also a wonderfull book.


Bruce Sterling writes very clever short stories and novels; that is, the ideas are fun even if the writing is not always compelling. Here's his Wikipedia entry:


Sterling's short story collection "Crystal Express" from 1989 is probably a good place to start.

Also, this is not quite sci-fi, but, this collection of essays by J.G. Ballard is really good -- and really well written:

A User's Guide to the Millennium : Essays and Reviews (Paperback)

Matthew K

Hmm, it depends a bit on how well read you were in the old days.
Three of the best sci fi novels I've read are:
Starship Troopers: Heinlein
Dune: Herbert
Ender's Game (and its immediate sequal): Card
You've probably read the first two, but the third is mid 80s as I recall.
If you were at all a star wars fan, read the related Timothy Zahn series. Otherwise, take a look his The Green and the Grey. He may be the only active writer whom I would always recommend.

Tim O'Neil

I don't watch any TV SF so I don't know if this has any relationship to Battlestar: Galactica, but for my money the best modern SF is probably Stephen Baxter - read "Manifold: Time" and see if you don't agree.

Other than that I'd reccomend Gene Wolfe, but if you want hard SF he's probably not what you're looking for.

Larry Maggitti

Greg Bear

Iain Banks

Kim Stanley Robinson

China Mieville

David Brin

Kage Baker

John Kessel

Jim Henley

Actually, Gene Wolfe's work may give Galactica viewers a shock of recognition, particularly the NEW SUN series. For me the shock was in the reverse order. Galactica doesn't reproduce New Sun plot points, but its thematic resemblances are striking.



A must read for your scifi self, if you don't know it already:

We See Things Differently


First Paragraph:

This was the jahiliyah -- the land of ignorance. This was America. The Great Satan, the Arsenal of Imperialism, the Bankroller of Zionism, the Bastion of Neo-Colonialism. The home of Hollywood and blonde sluts in black nylon. The land of rocket-equipped F-15s that slashed across God's sky, in godless pride. The land of nuclear-powered global navies, with cannon that fired shells as large as cars.

Iron Lungfish

I was going to plug Wolfe (and the New Sun, of course), but Jim beat me to it. Wolfe is generally brilliant, but the New Sun is really the best - probably still my favorite series.


I'm surprised more people don't know about George Alec Effinger's Budayeen trilogy, set in a sci-fi cyberpunk Middle Eastern city. They're a heck of a lot of fun and supposedly based on the author's home city of New Orleans. Thankfully the first novel, WHEN GRAVITY FAILS, is back in print:


Gary Farber

See here.

Most of the writers cited above would be fairly annoyed to have their work described as "sci-fi," rather than "sf," save for those who simply sigh and let it pass as inevitable these days, by the way. (But, no, I'm not going to discuss the topic of nomenclature further.)

Gary Farber

Oh, and about Ender's Game.

And if someone is talking about science fiction, it's Iain M. Banks, as opposed to Iain Banks. Really.

Ty Lookwell

This one may take some hunting, for it has been out of print at various times, and may still be. I get my used copies at powell's and loan them to friends, and inevitably don't get them back. I don't mind, I want lots of people to read this book, because it's fantastic - up there with Neuromancer and Snowcrash and Iain Bank's Culture stuff easily (not as amazing as Gene Wolfe's best stuff, but nothing is of course)

here's the book:

On My Way to Paradise, by Dave Wolverton.

amazon link:

If you like the new BSG, i think you'll love it.


For some MENA-flavoured SF, you may enjoy John Courtenay Grimwood's latest books (trilogy?).

Tim O'Neil

Having sworn off TV SF many years ago, after accidentally stumbling across an episode of, um, Farscape or something like that, I am amazed that anyone could say that BSG has anything in common with Wolfe... almost piques my interest.

But the last thing I need is a TV show to watch.


Ian McDonald.
Ken MacLeod.
Greg Egan.
Michael Swanwick.


Gary: I don't see it. Seriously, sometimes one reads waaay too much into the author. Sometimes, one should just take a book on its own. Particularly when it's been near 20 years since publication.

FWIW, I would recommend Ender's Game myself. I am an avid fan.

However, you can safely skip the novels from thus until Ender's Shadow. Speaker for the Dead and Xenocide shunt from the hard-SF action-adventure of EG into mystical sort of philosophical SF.

Gary Farber

"Sometimes, one should just take a book on its own. Particularly when it's been near 20 years since publication."

I'm not following the connection from the first sentence there to the next one, I'm afraid. But I certainly wouldn't insist that Kessel's view is the only acceptable one, nor even that it is correct, and certainly would never argue that anyone who has enjoyed EG shouldn't (keep that lynch mob away, prithee!); I'd merely note that John Kessel is hardly the only person in the field to have found aspects of both EG and some of Card's other work problematic.

But, then, most readers aren't reading analytically, anyway -- this is not a pejorative! -- but for pleasure, of course. (Again, not to imply that reading EG analytically suddenly should make anyone automatically agree with Kessel's view.)


I would second most of the suggestions above (including Gary Farber's terminological caveat).

Perhaps the most influential author missing from previous suggestions is Vernor Vinge (A Fire Upon The Deep and A Deepness In The Sky).

Favorites of mine who have not been mentioned:

Alastair Reynolds - Chasm City

Paul Park - The Starbridge Chronicles (starts with Soldiers of Paradise)

Geoff Ryman - Air

Mary Gentle - ASH: A Secret History

the aardvark

Thanks, everyone - this has been fabulously helpful. Hopefully I'll actually get the chance to read some of these on my upcoming travels, daughter permitting!


I think you may like Kim Stanley Robinson. His Mars triology (Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars) is great, although you might not make it through all 3 books. I thought the characters were compelling and his focus on social movements and other political currents was very interesting.

Robinson's "Years of Rice and Salt" is also very good. It charts an alternate world history based on the premise that the plague killed off nearly all of the native European population. It is somewhat uneven, especially in the beginning, but it is full of interesting ideas. Much of his history concerns the evolution of Islamic and Buddhist societies. For my money, the most fascinating part of the book is the recounting of a Muslim artisan/man of letters in Central Asia who, with a colleague from Western China, undertakes a series of scientific investigations into the nature of explosives, the speed of light, and other topics. Brilliant ! Here's a sentence from the Amazon review: "The credible alternate history that Robinson constructs becomes the framework for a tapestry of ideas about philosophy, science, theology, and politics."

Also, no one has mentioned Ursula Le Guin. The Left Hand of Darkness is a must read. Where Robinson's viewpoint is often political, hers is very much that of an anthropologist. I also liked The Dispossessed and The Telling.


In addition to many of the people listed above (and let me heartily second Kim Stanley Robinson. Probably the best current writer in the field.), let me add Sheri Tepper and David Brin. Both are generally good story tellers with at least a little -- and sometimes a lot -- thoughtfulness to their pieces. Though Ms. Tepper does not, as a rule, write happy stories, so avoid her if that bothers you.

Ken Macleod is also both fun and interesting.


I highly recommend anything by John Barnes.


Dan Simmons:
'Hyperion'; 'Fall of Hyperion'. (The next two books
in this series, 'Endymion' and 'Rise of Endymion' are
good for closing the circle but don't stand up as well
as the first two in the series. Simmons in his SciFi
work is absolutely, hands-down great.)

Connie Willis:
Anything this woman writes is worth reading -- she's
Margaret Atwood with more of a sense of humor, and a
near-Edwardian ability with language. Sort of like
Virginia Woolf meets Monty Python with the Hitchhiker's Guide.

I recommend 'To Say Nothing Of The Dog'; 'The Domesday Book'; 'Passages'; 'Lincoln's Dreams'.

Kage Baker
The entire 'company' series: 'In The Garden Of den'; 'Sky Coyote'; 'Mendoza In Hollywood'; 'The Graveyard Game'; and 'The Life of the World To Come'.
Her work crates a world where one corporation has
the keys to time travel and the ability to create
near-immortal cyborgs to both loot the past for
items sold in the future. Baker is at least as good as Willis, and her humor can be a delightful, wicked
thin little blade. A great series.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden

Specifically, Ken MacLeod's "Fall Revolution" sequence:

The Star Fraction
The Stone Canal
The Cassini Division
The Sky Road

Note that The Cassini Division and The Sky Road take place in mutually exclusive futures from the world of The Stone Canal. Don't worry about it. The "Fall Revolution", overall, is one of the finest works of political SF in this generation.

Oh, yeah, and Sterling, Vinge, Stross, Doctorow, Robinson, you bet. While you're at it, anything by the great Joanna Russ, probably the best stylist ever to grace this field.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Blog powered by Typepad