Other Science Fiction

Science Fiction Challenge


Mish from Stage and Canvas is hosting the Sci-fi challenge, which encourages participants to read “3.14 or 8 sci-fi books from August 28 2009 to August 8 2010″.

I’m not normally a fan of science fiction, but recently a few titles have grabbed my attention, so I’m going to take the plunge and give it a go.

I think 3.14 books is a very appropriate number for me and I think I may find the 0.14 part of a book quite easy to achieve!!

The books I plan to read are:

Perdido Street Station– China Mieville

Ender’s Game– Orson Scott Card

Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? – Philip K. Dick

Can anyone recommend any other good books for a non-science fiction lover like me?

Do you enjoy science fiction?

64 replies on “Science Fiction Challenge”

Sandy, I know nothing about them either, which is why I thought it was important to give them a try. Hopefully I’ll be to tempt you in to reading a science fiction book.

How uncanny. I have posted today about Science Fiction and how I think people shy away from it when there are so many great texts that fall under that label. I think that the Guardian’s 1000 Novels list is the best place to look, especially for surprises.

Claire, Great! I’ll go and have a look later. I do love the Guardian list – I’ll have to browse it for science fiction books later.

I don’t read heaps of scifi, but I do enjoy it on occasion. My recommendations would be The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, which is very much a book a that appeals to non scifi fans. Or perhaps a scifi classic like Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham or The Time Machine by HG Wells.

Teresa, I have heard about The Sparrow – I think that sounds like a good book for me, thank you for reminding me about it!

Nadia, I enjoyed The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and most of the series, but that was quite a long time ago. I haven’t read anything by Ursula K. Le Guin or Vonnegut – I’ll keep an eye out for their books – thanks for the recommendation!

I am not the hugest sci-fi reader in the world – I enjoyed Ender’s Game and its sequels (well, some of its sequels) a lot, but as a rule it’s not a genre I seek out. However, let me put in a plug right now for Walter Miller’s A Canticle for Liebowitz . The writing is just gorgeous, and I found it so enthralling and heartbreaking. One of my favorite ever lines from any book ever is from that – “We bury the dead and your reputations. We bury you. We are the centuries.” Lovely.

Jenny, I haven’t heard of that book. I had a quick look into it and it sounds really interesting – so interesting that I just bought a copy! Thank you for the recommendation!

Perdido Street Station is a stunning piece of imagination, although it’s not straight science fiction.

Ender’s Game is a classic regardless what people say. The sequel, Speaker for the Dead, is equally good. The rest ranges from so-so to don’t bother.

Do Androids Dream…is definitely worth a read however, I isn’t PKD’s best book and isn’t one I, personally, wouldn’t recommend to someone who hasn’t read his books before. Not that it’s terrible but I think Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said or Time Out of Joint are better starters. Although, saying that, you can’t do wrong with any of his books but stay away from VALIS until you’ve read some of his books.

I second The Sparrow. Hitchhiker’s Guide is another, a hilarious book that doesn’t dumb down or insult your intelligence. For Vonnegut, either Cat’s Cradle or Slaughterhouse-Five

Only Forward by Michael Marshal Smith is a great action science fiction story. Also, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke are well worth a read, they were grandmasters of science fiction for a reason.

Finally, I would wholeheartedly recommend Hyperion by Dan Simmons. It’s probably one of the best science fiction books ever. It’s like Canterbury Tales set in space.

Damned Conjuror, Thank you so much for the detailed suggestions. Hyperion sounds interesting. I’ve added it to my wish list.

I’m afraid that I tried Asimov and didn’t like it at all, so am wary of trying any more.

It is interesting that you suggest I avoid Androids until I’ve read a few more – someone else thought it would be the bext place to start – now I’m confused!

I think I’ll try a Vonnegut soon – thanks again for such a helpful comment!

Hyperion is epic in size; you can buy Hyperion & Fall of Hyperion in one massive omnibus although I would advise against that, you need saucers for hands to hold it. Also, Ilium is great, but read Hyperion first.

What Asimov did you read? He can be hit and miss although his Foundation series are science fiction classics.

The thing about Androids is that it’s one of the few times a film is better than the book. I love PKD’s novels, I have a whole shelf of them at home but Androids, for me, is one of his lesser works. His short story collections are good, most Hollywood adaptations are been based upon his short stories, well loosely based. Ubik is another good one, that was my first PKD book I read.

Some more recommendations:

The Affirmation by Christopher Priest, a novel that plays with your head, in fact Christopher Priest is a novelist worth checking out. He wrote The Prestige as well. Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner, which can be quite hard going at times but worth it. The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester and if you can find it the Muller-Fokker Effect by John Sladek.

It’s always good to see someone who doesn’t have an aversion to science fiction, which seems to be unfairly treated and subjected to cultural snobbery.

DamnedConjuror, I read Foundation – I loved the first chapter, but then it became focused on the politics and I lost interest.

I’m not a fan of books too heavy to pick up so I appreiciate your advise about the omnibus.

Thank you for all the other recommendations – I’ll remember to look back at this post when I’m in the mood for some more science fiction .

DamnedConjuror, The Life of Pi isn’t a science fiction book, but I can see how it could be classed as fantasy.

I didn’t think it was terrible – I enjoyed reading it.

I’ve only read Ender’s Game off of your list, and what can I say except that it was a completely absorbing read… like one of those books you stay up until 3 in the morning reading! Of course, yesterday Tony & I found out that OSC is a HUGE bigot who thinks gay marriage will destroy society and so we should overthrown any government who works to allow it, and has put Mormon messages into the Ender’s series, which I find upsetting and unsettling, but I suppose it’s up to you to decide whether an author’s personal beliefs and practices influence whether you will or will not read his or her books. Without that information, I enjoyed Ender’s Game a lot, but one book in that series was enough for me (and honestly, that was true even before I found out about OSC in real life).

For a book lover like yourself, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is really interesting, although I can’t say I loved the writing. But the ideas explored were of course really wonderful. And Kurt Vonnegut is wonderfully intelligent and quirky. But for 3 books, it looks like your selection is good, and I can’t imagine you being disappointed with any of them.

Steph, You’ve made me want to pick up Ender’s Game straight away! I love books that make you want to read until late in the night!

I don’t mind reading books by authors who have beliefs I don’t support, as long as the book doesn’t contain blatant preaching I should be OK with it.

Fahrenheit 451 is already in the TBR pile. I’m pleased to hear that it is worth reading. It doesn’t have high priority, but I’ll get to it one day!

Thank you for the thoughtful comment!

I’ve been thinking whether to join this challenge or not. Now that you did, I may take the plunge too! Sci-fi is not a genre that I’m comfortable/familiar with but that’s probably why I need the challenge. I intend to go for more of the classic ones.

mee, I have tried a few of the classics (Foundation and Dune for example) and not enjoyed them at all. I hope you manage to find a few to enjoy – let me know if you discover any good ones!

Sci-fi I ahve to say isnt really my thing. Therefore actually this may be the perfect challenge for me… though with the my Sensation challenge I think I have quite a lot on, but this is a year long one… hmmm will mull it over!

I figured a year would be less intimidating, in part because of the challenges so many bookworms are involved in. But 11 months is still plenty of time to bring you over to the dark side…

Simon, I’m not sure I could fit this into September, but I’m sure you could fit a few science fiction books into 2010. I’ll let you know if I find any good ones!

Here are some classics that came to mind right away– which I read many years ago so take them with a grain a salt so to speak. 1984 by George Orwell , A Clockwork Orange, The Adromeda Strain (might be fitting with all the flu virus scares:)). I do know these books all make me think. I read 1984 and The Adromeda Strain in highschool for classes. Would Frankenstein count with Halloween coming up could be fitting! (little slow in parts but still interesting and short!). I don’t usually read much science fiction myself so I am not up on any new books …….

Heidi, I loved The Andromeda Strain! Michael Crichton is one of my favourite authors – especially his earlier books. I’m pleased to see our taste in books is remaining similar!

I also enjoyed 1984, but have avoided A Clockwork Orange as I think I’d find it too scary.

Frankenstein is in the TBR pile – I might read it for the RIP challenge I am also doing. Some great suggestions – I loved them!

Lahni, Your favourite book of all time? Wow! I’m impressed. I am looking forward to reading it so much now!

Welcome to the challenge, I hope you enjoy your exploration.

Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead are fantastic reads. It doesn’t really show in them, but as Steph mentioned Card is a big bigot. I think as Card became more popular, he felt freer to heavily state his opinions. Treasure Box pissed me off so much I don’t know if I’ll pick up another of his books, even those in the Ender saga that I’d like to finish.

For Le Guin, I recommend the Lathe of Heaven or the Left Hand of Darkness. The latter was really ahead of its time in 1969, it’s one of her most acclaimed books, and one I’d like to re-read since it’s been several years, but Lathe is eerie, quick reading. Both are phenomenal and among my favourites.

I’ve been a SF fan for years, but have yet to read anything by Asimov, which for myself is shameful. That’ll change because I’m going to read either I Robot or Foundation for the challenge.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is in the TBR pile for some other time. (So Much to Read!!)

Mish, Thank you for the welcome to the challenge! It is interesting to learn more about Card – I knew very little before today.

I look forward to comparing notes on Androids later in the year – thanks for hosting this challenge!

She, This thread is just highlighting how little I know too. My TBR pile has spiralled out of control now. I can’t decide which ones to read at all!

When I was a student I read nothing else. Nowadays I treat myself to an occasional SF treat.

Last year I read ‘Flowers for Algernon’ by Daniel Keyes, written in 1966. It was both a five star book and three hanky one. Charlie is a simpleton with an IQ of 68. He volunteers to be the first human subject of a brain operation to improve his IQ (after Algernon the mouse), and this is his story. It’s profound and very moving. An absolute classic.

Annabel, That sounds really good. I’ve just bid on a copy on ebay. Fingers crossed I win!

Well this thread has ruined by September book buying hold. I’ve just bought 3 books in one hour!

Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep is great – if for nothing else, the title itself! I loved Ender’s Game as well, but I haven’t heard of the other one.

If you haven’t already read them, there are a fair few dystopian books out there which are brilliant (and scary). Fahrenheit 451 and Brave New World are highly recommended.

Someone’s already pointed out A Clockwork Orange, and while that’s more polticial than sci-fi, it’s actually one of my favorite books for the year (and I’ve read a lot of amazing books this year). The protagonist loves Beethoven, but gets into street fights – if nothing else, Alex is reason enough to read the book. You know a book’s got you good if you sympathize with someone who burgled an old lady, and ended up killing her.

Looking forward to your thoughts on these – specially if you’re a self-acclaimed not-so-much-of-a-fan-of-sci-fi! 🙂

anothercookiecrumbles, I don’t normally like political books, so that puts me off Clockwork Orange. I’m sure I’ll read it at some point, but I’m in no rush.

I love dystopian books so think I may have to push Fahrenheit 451 up the reading list.

Thank you for the recommendations. I hope I can find some SF that I love.

I would definitely recommend reading Ender’s Game and Speaker of the Dead both for the challenge. They are an amazing combination.

I would also recommend the Old Man’s War series by John Scalzi. Among many other things they contain a growing romance, an examination of parenthood, and some very interesting ideas on humanity. Each successive book (4 altogether) become more about the characters and less about the sci fi elements. The 4th in the series, Zoe’s Tale, is actually a young adult book that was up for the Hugo Award this year. The book right before it, The Last Colony, won recognition from the Romance Writer’s of America, or some other such romance group. So…what I’m trying to intimate is that there is a lot here for even those not into sci fi to enjoy. I think you might be surprised by them.

Carl, I have heard the Old Man’s War series mentioned several times. The first book is already on my wishlist, but I haven’t got a copy yet. I might have to make an effort to get hold of a copy after your great recommendation. Thank you!

Carl V., thanks for recommending this series! It is one I recommend to people who don’t like SF. I also loved his other books–The Androids Dream and Agent to the Stars! Both exhibit the same sense of humor and character building of the OMW series.

I also recommend The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell–one of my all time favs! I can’t recommend it enough!

Diane, Thank you for commenting on my blog for the first time! I will make sure I read the Sparrow and Old Man’s War sometime soon.

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guinn is a most read. I read it in 1970 and re-read it a month ago. It is definitely my favorite science fiction.

Steven, Thank you! It sounds as though I should chose a different Philip K. Dick book, so that sounds like a good choice. I’ll look out for a copy!

For someone who isn’t a big sci-fi fan, maybe Anne McCaffrey’s The Ship Who Sang and possibly Philip José Farmer’s Riverworld series, a bit dark at times and sort of sci-fi/fantasy. My personal favourites being Frank Herbert’s The Jesus Incident trilogy (powerful stuff) and Frank Herbert’s Dune series.

Oh I almost forgot ! One of the weirdiest stories I’ve ever read, and definitely atypical of Robert Heinlein, is his The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag. Which reminds of Frank Herbert’s The Green Brain, which is an almost horror/sci-fi in an eery sort of way.

Anyhow, happy reading.

and then there’s a short story I came across in Douglas R. Hofstadter and Daniel C. Dennett’s The Mind’s I, called The Soul of Martha, A Beast, originally by Terrel Miedaner, this one’s incredibly sad, but incredibly powerful writing, which I would not hesitate in recommending to anyone.

mr4nders0n, Thank you for commenting on my blog for the first time and thank you for the excellent suggestions. I have heard Anne McCaffrey suggested a few times, so may try to get hold of a copy of that book. Thanks again!

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