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In Defense Of Science Fiction

I don’t talk about sci-fi on this blog a lot. But, when I do, it’s usually negative.

You know, I just haven’t read a ton of science fiction in my day–or at least what might be considered “true science fiction.” And the sci-fi I have read…well, Neuromancer. And, well, I bashed Snow Crash in my review last week.

When I look back on Neuromancer, I honestly think I didn’t rate it low enough in my meaningless rankings–probably should be somewhere closer to the Mrs. Dalloway range. But there you go.

And Snow Crash had such potential. But it was like a marathon runner who’s leading the race after 5 miles, then tears his ACL.

All that said, I realize I have skewed views on science fiction. And the two books from the Time list (Neuromancer and Snow Crash) aren’t helping my biased viewpoint.

What I’m trying to say here is I know there’s some good science fiction out there. And I know I’m probably hopelessly ignorant on this subject, as hard as I try to get it. I just can’t.

So today is your opportunity to tell me where I’m wrong. Or, if you so choose, to pat me on the back for my brilliance.

What do you consider to be good science fiction? And what exactly IS science fiction in the first place?

What about Ender’s Game? Dune? I haven’t read either of those, but I’ve heard great things about them.

I know there HAS to be good sci-fi out there, right? But, if I’ve disliked two novels considered to be the best of sci-fi, then am I a hopeless case?

Someone please tell me there is hope yet!

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55 Comments Post a comment
  1. Oh yes, there is hope. Maria Doria Russell’s The Sparrow is wonderful. Ray Bradbury is outstanding, pick anything by him and enjoy.

    Like

    March 6, 2013
    • I’m just going to back up both of these recommendations here. Read The Sparrow immediately.

      Like

      March 6, 2013
    • The Sparrow and its equally magnificent sequel The Children of God by Mary Doria Russell are two of the finest science fiction/philosophical novels ever written (well who can truly say this not having read, well…everything…but you get what I’m saying).

      What happens when thoughtful, spiritual, complex human beings make contact with an equally complex, spiritual, cultured alien civilisation but whose ground rules are mutually incomprehensible, maybe. And what’s sauce for the goose may not be sauce for the gander and what trouble might that unwittingly cause in paradise or elsewhere?

      Great, memorable and fallible characters plunged into an unfolding story that looks at humanity (and alienity) in all its ugliness and beauty, journeying en route through the fields of belief, unbelief, despair, love, despite, hope, fear, loathing, joy, longing and redemption but not necessarily in that order and while telling a rich, multi-layered, compelling story.

      What more could you want from ANY novel?

      Like

      December 2, 2014
  2. Dominick Sabalos #

    Maybe ploughing into sci fi could be your next project, when the well of 101 Books is finally tapped \o/

    If you find yourself looking for an advisor, my fees would be very reasonable.

    Like

    March 6, 2013
  3. Andy G #

    This might be helpful to people who struggle with Sci Fi: http://kosmosaicbooks.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/SFSignalNPR100Flowchart.jpg

    Also, I read a lot of the genre, and I admit that I have read a lot of stinkers myself, but you yourself have reviewed A Clockwork Orange, Animal Farm, and 1984. Those are usually considered Sci Fi.

    Like

    March 6, 2013
    • I have put together a rather new kind of Sci-Fi, I believe its one of the best series out there today. It’s called “Secrets of the Egole’s Nest” and has been getting stellar reviews since its publication back in May. The next in the series “An Egole’s Roar” is out in 2014.

      Like

      March 12, 2013
  4. Have you ever considered Science Fiction from the perspective of a “TED Talk”? It’s the forward thinking that I can appreciate.

    To answer your question: I don’t believe Ender’s Game will change your view of Sci-Fi. I felt the story and writing were at a pre-teen level.

    Like

    March 6, 2013
    • That’s my general impression of sci-fi…as a few people mention below. It feels geared toward teenagers. Too many hokey, cheesy characters who can do anything. There are exceptions of course, like 1984.

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      March 6, 2013
      • I completely disagree. It’s those teen years where all people develop their identity, which we all relate too. It makes no sense to have an older protagonist, which is just interested in mayhem, it sounds like a niche market, at best. Or to put it in monetary terms, it doesn’t create a lot of green-backs. Look at the teen suicide rate, our society is geared too much on violence. The one problem I’m having, is why you’re here? You obviously don’t like this modern day version of the sci-fi genre. Now if you find yourself constantly receiving awards for your ground breaking writing, please, feel free to enlighten us with your visions on proper, sci-fi literature.

        Like

        June 22, 2013
        • I’m here because this is my blog. It’s not a sci-fi blog, but over the course of reading this list I’ve read a few sci-fi books. And since it’s my blog, well, I feel free to share my opinions about said sci-fi books.

          Like

          June 22, 2013
  5. Brandon #

    I loved Ender’s Game. I don’t think you’ll like it. It’s not a particularly sophisticated book; it’s nerd-balm to reassure the skinny 14-year-old who’s good at math that even though he gets beaten up, he’s still important and valuable and secretly better than everyone. (At least that’s why I loved it … TMI?) Orson Scott Card is kind of a brute-force author, in my opinion. There’s nothing particularly lovely about his writing, but he still manages to hit you in the gut often enough that you push on toward the ending when it’s midnight and you have to work the next day. His weakness is characterization (his characters tend to be vehicles for his philosophies and theologies) but his strength is catching–and keeping–a reader’s attention. Particularly if the reader is predisposed to identify with powerless characters being made powerful.

    I think you’d do better with Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series. Asimov was an exceptional writer, and much like the authors you seem to prefer, he marries a good story with lyrical storytelling.

    Like

    March 6, 2013
    • I’ll keep Asimov in mind. Thanks for the rec.

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      March 6, 2013
    • Love Asimov (and not only because he taught at my alma-matur). But one of the best sci-fi books I’ve ever read was “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” Very witty, very entertaining, very sci-fi. As a few others have mentioned it, I think it might be worth checking out for you.

      Like

      March 6, 2013
  6. This is not intended as a “gotcha,” but you ranked 1984 pretty high which, given when it was written and it’s content, is pretty solidly in the Science Fiction camp. I think you’ll find when Sci-Fi authors like Bradbury, Orwell, and Ted Chiang are using Sci-Fi to dig into deeper social or personal issues, you’ll rate it much higher.

    Like

    March 6, 2013
    • Very true. I love 1984, and it is science fiction, but I feel like it’s the exception.

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      March 6, 2013
    • Do you really think 1984 is Science Fiction? My impression is that the book is Political Science. There are no incredible devices or alien beings or superpowers. Nothing seemed out of the realm of possibility.

      Like

      March 6, 2013
      • This goes back to my question, “What is science fiction?” The commenter below (42question) calls 1984 “light” science fiction. It’s dystopian, political novel with a lot of sci-fi elements, I think.

        Like

        March 6, 2013
  7. Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel the inclusion of Neuromancer and Snow Crash on the Times 100 list was more in recognition of their impact on culture than a statement about their literary quality.

    If you consider that Orwell’s 1984 (published in ’49) (#7 on your list) can arguably be classified as science fiction, I think you can get an idea of what really good sci-fi can be.

    I finished “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell” by Susanna Clarke recently and was very impressed. Despite somewhat slow pacing (and 800+ pages), the story of the two magicians who take it upon themselves to return magic to Victorian England was beautifully told. Do a search for quotes from that book and you’ll get a good idea. Maybe it’s closer to “fantasy” than sci-fi, but the two genres are often lumped together anyway, so why not here?

    I haven’t read anything by her in a long while, but I often see Ursula LeGuin’s name on “best of” lists.

    Like

    March 6, 2013
    • I think your first sentence is exactly right. That’s why a book like Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is on the list as well.

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      March 6, 2013
  8. What was wrong with Neuromancer? I haven’t read it but heard it’s one of “the” sci-fi books to read. I’ve been thinking about reading it for years, but don’t want to if it’s a snooze. (BTW, I’m the only person in the world who didn’t like Ender’s Game.)

    Cheers!

    Like

    March 6, 2013
  9. I think it depends on what you’re looking for in fiction. You won’t find the same character development and human social issues in sci-fi as you do in other, more “classic” forms of fiction. What generally makes for a good science fiction book is a bit different from what makes for a good novel along the lines of Dickens or Austen. Sci-fi is more plot-heavy, relying more in the imagination of what could be rather than social commentary on what is. Sci-fi often attempts to answer questions like, given the advance of technology, how will our social relations change in the future? What will our society become if we are unable to contain viruses and bacteria? What will it mean if our consciousness inheres in machines instead of flesh and blood bodies? How will the impact of computers affect our way of putting a society together? What kinds of life may exist on other worlds and how will that affect our conception of who we are? If you are not interested in the answers to questions like these, you may never find you have much interest in science fiction.

    Another problem with science fiction is that it is often written to satisfy the needs of an audience which is younger than average, and therefore more concerned with a superficial stimulation than with profound thought. While this is a gross generalization, and will have plenty of exceptions, too many authors (no doubt urged by publishers) have catered to a less critical acceptance of flashy but shallow characters, and simple plots. That said, however, I find that there is plenty of sci-fi written which brings up some rather interesting social problems against a background of rapidly changing technology. Many science fiction writers are very good at imagining possible futures, which we may want to consider as warnings, or as opportunities for hope, neither of which should be ignored.

    I think some of the others commenting on your blog have provided a number of possibilities for exploring science fiction that may be worth your time. Though Neuromancer and Snow Crash are popular novels, they are, in my opinion, some of the worst examples of the genre. Judging science fiction as a whole on these two novels is like judging all of 20th century literature on the basis of the vapid bodice-ripping romance novel, the western, or the stories of the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew. (Not to say there’s anything wrong with these–they’re often good stories–but they do not provide much insight into human nature.)

    And, of course, it may simply be that scientific advancement or technological developments are not your cup o’ tea. Human interactions are, after all, in the long run, more interesting than the latest application of nano-technology.

    Like

    March 6, 2013
    • Great insight. And I think your last paragraph hits the nail on the head. That’s why I like 1984. It was more about human interaction and social issues than science and technology. Personally, I just don’t enjoy the technology stuff as much.

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      March 6, 2013
    • I have to disagree with some of what bruce wrote above, but I’ll get to that in a minute. First, I’ve noticed no one has actually answered your question, Robert! SF Grand Master editor and writer Ben Bova defined how to identify a science fiction story this way: Take a story that has an element of science or technology in it. Now remove that element. If the story collapses–that is, if it NEEDED that scientific/technical element–it’s SF.

      Now, as for bruce’s comments: first off, SF isn’t one thing, but a collection of a lot of things. There’s “space opera,” also known as cowboys-and-indians-in-space, which IS heavy on plot and light on characterization. The subgenre is one of adventure stories, pure and simple. And there’s cyberpunk and steampunk and military SF and biological SF and many more. Some of SF favors plot more than character but other work is more character driven. Ursula K. LeGuin’s writing fits at this end of the spectrum–see The Left Hand of Darkness as the prime example.

      Second, it’s not accurate to say that all or the majority of SF readers are young. Go to an SF convention and you’ll see people of all ages, many of whom left “young” (at least physically) behind long ago. These readers aren’t poorly educated, either (which bruce did NOT suggest).

      Some SF has a hopeful element (humanity triumphs or at least survives) that other genres–“literary” in particular–either don’t contain or don’t accept as valid.

      Bruce is right to note that some SF involves social commentary. The literati loved Kurt Vonnegut but books like Cat’s Cradle were SF too.

      The question is, then, what do you want from a story? What balance between plot and character pleases you? What issues do you want stories to address, and how? The SF stories you’ve read do not “represent SF” because SF is such a wide-ranging genre. Any attempt to say “science fiction is X” is doomed to fail because it’s not inclusive enough.

      Like

      March 6, 2013
      • Yeah, it’s kind of hard to hit all the bases in such a short response. You’re right, Ross, SF is a lot of different things. Space opera is probably one of the weakest sub-genres of sci-fi, but it also seems to be one of the most popular.

        And no, all or the majority of SF readers are not young. I’m afraid I wasn’t very clear. But SF does appeal inordinately to young readers. At least it seems that it is young readers that many publishers target, and I think this skews the genre toward that segment of the audience.

        But it’s a hard issue to grasp. However, I was trying to get at the reasons behind one’s acceptance or rejection of what is to me a fascinating genre of fiction. I think your comments helped to clarify this.

        Like

        March 7, 2013
        • Thanks! And thanks for including me among “young” readers too. I’ll take it. *grin*

          Like

          March 13, 2013
      • How did I know you’d chime in on this one, Ross? Haha. Thanks to you and Bruce for keeping the discussion balanced. Honestly, I’m surprised by how many comments this post has received. Again, I’ve underestimated the popularity of SF.

        Like

        March 7, 2013
        • You must be psych… uh… psychic. Yeah, that’s it, psychic! *grin* Perhaps one of the reasons SF is so popular is that it lets writers and readers explore ideas and concerns in ways that earth-bound, present- or past-times fiction can’t. Plus, I think it appeals to the natural optimism of these self-selected readers, who believe that humanity can overcome even the most dreadful (and sometimes self-inflicted) problems.

          Like

          March 13, 2013
  10. Ender’s Game is well worth a read, it’s fairly short and I thought I would hate it (not a fan of hard science!) but I adored it. I feel indifferent towards Dune, though – I found it very slow going, much more court politics than character-led. Have you considered John Wyndham? Dark sci-fi imaginings of English-communities, very powerful and most of all very short! Try Chocky or The Day of the Triffids first.
    I doubt you’re a hopeless case, since there’s no true definition of SF: from space opera to speculative futures of Earth to anything that is a slightly skewed version of reality. So A Clockwork Orange and Dune, even though they have almost nothing in common, can both be put under the SF umbrella.
    Still, if you don’t like sci-fi, it’s not the end of the world. You shouldn’t force yourself to keep trying if you’re sure nothing can convince you!

    Like

    March 6, 2013
  11. sylviemarieheroux #

    I grew up on a lot of French SF, no help there. But I also like Asimov, Ira Levin, Jack Vance. Huxley’s Brave New World (also a dystopian novel, another one of my favorite genres). Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is hilarious.
    My advice is worth what it’s worth. I loved Neuromancer…

    Like

    March 6, 2013
  12. forestofthedead #

    You should try Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold. I haven’t yet read the whole series, but the parts that I read, I loved.

    Like

    March 6, 2013
  13. I second Brandon’s recommendation. At one time I could make the blanket statement “I don’t like science fiction.” Someone talked me into trying Foundation by Asimov, now on my all time favorites list. Never say never.

    Defining science fiction is tricky. I’d love to hear how writers define it. It is different from fantasy. It is different from novels set in the future. To me it has to take some component of our current lives and culture and blend them with technologies that are not yet realized. And there has to be some intent to make it sci-fi. Is 1984 true science fiction, or is it really just a cautionary tale of big government?

    I think Bruce’s comments are excellent, btw. I haven’t read either the Neuromancer or Snow Crash (and am not likely to), are there any other sci-fi books left on the list for you?

    Like

    March 6, 2013
    • I don’t think so. Not quite as hard core sci-fi as these, at least.

      Like

      March 6, 2013
  14. turnerbethany #

    I have never been a fan of science fiction books, but being married to an astrophysicist has broadened my reading. I still don’t love it, but I like a few. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy isn’t too bad.

    Like

    March 6, 2013
    • The Hitchhiker’s Guide is fantastic–one of my all-time favorites.

      Like

      March 7, 2013
  15. I have to say that there still is hope. A problem with science fiction is that it is one of the all consuming genres of literature that there is. Science fiction is when a book is set in a world which is more or less possible (because its set in the future, or there was a great scientific advances, etc.) – the majority of dystopian literature does fall under science fiction. The number of books that fall into it is scary. The are many different types of science fiction and, to be honest, Neuromancer falls into hard science fiction. Given your rather high ranking of 1984 I would assume that you would prefer light science fiction ( such as 1984, Brave New World, The Handmaiden’s tale). Looking back at the books that you preferred on your rankings I would recommend Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury for your science fiction read. It is a book set in a world, where books are deemed illegal due to the dangerous mindset they produce (a curious mindset). It shares a few of 1984 themes and it has the advantage of being very short. Another possible author might be Isaac Asimov, he was started as a short story writer but switched to novels later on. Try out his Foundation novels.

    Woah, that was more than I intended to write… I should stop now….

    Like

    March 6, 2013
    • “Sci-fi” light. I like that. I’ve never read Fahrenheit 451 but I’ve heard so much about it. Just wish it was on this list instead of one of these other books.

      Like

      March 6, 2013
  16. Here are my two cents: The Passage by Justin Cronin. The second part is also available now (The Twelve). And here is a review of The Passage – http://www.bookslut.com/fiction/2010_06_016175.php. I am a notorious book zapper but I finished the Passage without any of the longer breaks (days, sometimes months) I usually take.

    Greetings from Sweden

    Like

    March 6, 2013
  17. I guess I don’t have much else to add after everyone else, but I also recommend Fahrenheit 451, 1984, Ender’s Game (the whole series, actually), and one of my dad’s favorite books is Dune. Like I said, not too much new information here, but Ender’s Game is one of my all time favorite books, in every aspect possible.

    Like

    March 6, 2013
  18. Hi, Robert, I recommend Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? written by Philip K. Dick.

    Like

    March 7, 2013
  19. For Science Fiction it’s sometimes easier to think of it as Speculative Fiction – that is to say fiction which asks “What if?” or “If this continues…” This then easily allows for inclusion of “Brave New World”, “1984”, “Slaughterhouse Five”, “The Handmain’s Tale”, etc, which some people say are too good to be counted as Science Fiction. It isn’t all space adventures and robots. (It’s been argued by some that “Star Wars” isn’t science fiction, but rather “Skiffy” (from Sci-Fi) as it appears to have the trappings of Science Fiction without the speculative thrust.) Much science fiction is considered to be “soft” rather than “hard”. “Soft” being that it comments on society and the nature of humanity rather than “hard” technological and scientific advancement. I particularly like J.G. Ballard (probably best known for “Crash” and “Empire of the Sun”, though the latter is actually autobiographical rather than science fiction) as he tended to look inwards into the horror of the human condition when many other writers of the genre were looking outwards to the stars. (There’s possibly something to be said there about Jungian definitions of introversion and extroversion, and how the two compare in fiction in terms of narrative structure, style and theme.)

    Like

    March 7, 2013
  20. There is LOTS of great science fiction out there. TONS. I’m just going to leave it at that so I don’t write an entire blog post in your comment section. If you decide to start reading some science fiction after this project is over, I’d be happy to recommend specific titles.

    Like

    March 7, 2013
  21. Well-for one thing you need to spread your literary point of view by reading more science fiction. Science fiction and fantasy have the same issues as other genres-good writers and bad writers. I suggest you actually delve into the genre with a variety and find out which writers speak to you-some are great, some not. The books you mentioned are limited perspectives on the genre. That’s like saying you hate literature because you don’t like Dickens. what is true science fiction? Well, it cannot be locked into a hard definition. Literary folk have been arguing that point for decades. You have read very little and an example of cyberpunk is not the whole-which means you need to actually read more to form a valid opinion. I just gave an interview yesterdayabout science fiction and why should people be reading it. First off, open your mind. Then open a book.

    Like

    March 7, 2013
  22. Mayra #

    I don’t read a lot of sci-fi, but I watch a lot of it. In the book category: Ray Bradbury’s short stories are fantastic and very thought-provoking, as is “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” By Philip K. Dick. Richard Matheson is great, though he does tend to skew towards horror. I also really enjoyed Kurt .vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle”, which I do consider to be in line with sci-fi tropes. People have already mentioned “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. It’s a heavy social satire in the guise of silly comedy. Nothing else comes to mind at the moment, but I would recommend you look for a list of the best episodes of “The .twilight Zone” and give them a watch, maybe that will whet your appetite.

    Like

    March 7, 2013
  23. Another to add to the list is Dan Simmon’s “Hyperion”. Interestingly structured and changed the way modern Hard Science Fiction is written. Also owes a huge debt to John Keats who features in it.

    Like

    March 8, 2013
  24. Ignore every other comment on here, pick up Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun, and enjoy. One of the densest, most complex books out there that still manages to keep you turning the pages. It’s part fantasy, part sci-fi, and completely genius. Also, anything Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut.

    Like

    March 9, 2013
  25. James #

    I think part of the issue is that Sci-FI doesn’t care to distinguish itself as literary fiction or not. Note how you have read 1984 (and ranked it highly), but didn’t include it as one of the 2 Sci-Fi novels you’ve read. (Slaughterhouse Five is another that could be considered Sci-Fi, but probably falls better into Satire).

    I’m a huge Sci-Fi fan. (Like you, I’ve tried to get into Neuromancer. I’ve failed. I couldn’t finish. Snow Crash was fun for a chapter or two. Then the read became a slog and I couldn’t finish either). But there are few Sci-Fi novels that really grab me.

    That’s probably because the authors of SciFi are more interested in the places, devices, setting, message they want to convey, etc–rather than the characters. And for me that’s a deal breaker with any novel.

    Another problem is that when an author takes a more “literary” approach with Sci-Fi, fans of the genre seem to jump onboard simply because it gives artistic credence to the genre.

    I can understand this.

    It seems Sci-FI falls somewhere between indecipherable stiff techno babble (which is so conveniently labeled HARD SCI-FI) and flowery visual language that is equally indecipherable (a lot of Philip K. Dick’s work imo).

    Good writing is simple. An effective story is clear and heads in a general direction from the beginning. It is a self-contained story. I feel like sometimes writers of Science Fiction forget these tenants of good literature.

    Maybe this is part of Sci-Fi? A novel can exist simply based on a decent concept. Execution is secondary.

    Anyway, I’m rambling. Suggestions:

    Old Man’s War – John Scalzi
    I Am Legend – Richard Matheson
    Starship Troopers – Robert Heinlein
    Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

    Also Stephen King has some stuff that falls into the more stricter Sci-FI category.
    The Running Man (You might have the best luck with this one. It’s very underrated imo).
    Firestarter (This is weaker and wanders a bit, but I still found it more enjoyable than Neuromancer or Snow Crash).

    Like

    March 10, 2013
  26. Dune is more than sci fi. It’s steeped in philosophy and conservation.

    Also Stranger in a Strange Land b Robert Heinlein is a very worthy read!

    Happy reading

    Like

    March 10, 2013
  27. Of course there’s good Sci-Fi.
    Funny Sci-Fi? Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
    Isaac Asimov is GREAT. Ray Bradbury too.
    Newer stuff… I loved How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, Old Man’s War (Scalzi has a really funny blog on WordPress called Whatever), and 11/22/63. Passage was good too but I wanted to throw the book at something when it ended.
    You never read Michael Crichton? Jurassic Park? Andromeda? I think some of Atwood’s falls into Science Fiction.
    Some stuff is borderline Fantasy/Science Fiction. Have you read anything by Neil Gaiman? Fantastic stuff there.
    Also do I recall you mentioning you’re a CS Lewis fan? He has The Space Trilogy.

    Here is a list from NPR of the Top 100 Sci-fi and Fantasy novels as voted by listeners: http://www.npr.org/2011/08/11/139085843/your-picks-top-100-science-fiction-fantasy-books

    Like

    March 11, 2013
  28. Reblogged this on danroyer and commented:
    You should check out a new Sci-Fi blockbuster called “SECRETS OF THE EGOLE’S NEST” By Daniel B. Royer, I think the Author has a very unique creativity that engages the reader like never before.

    Like

    March 12, 2013
  29. Ender’s Game is easily one of my favorite books of all time. There aren’t too many books that I am willing to read more than once, but I have read this one multiple times and enjoyed it each read-through. True, it is a young adult novel, but it has its own complexities as well, and I would highly recommend reading it at least once.

    Like

    March 15, 2013
  30. Jillian #

    I realize it has been a while since you’ve written this, but there are some I’d recommend that are character-driven.

    CONTACT by Carl Sagan.
    SPHERE by Michael Crichton.
    THE SURVIVORS by Tom Godwin.

    The first two are fairly straightforward, but the third is not. The writing is also not as good, but it is solid. I try not to get hung up on its treatment of gender; It was the 50s. Obviously, I’m still recommending it in spite of these flaws.

    Be warned. From what I’ve read, there seems to be a completely different takeaway from The Survivors based on whether one is a science-fiction fan or not. The former seem to experience the book as uplifting, the latter as depressing. So, with a little spoiler, let me give my opinion on what to keep in mind should you read it:

    1) Yes, the struggles the survivors face are great, but keep your focus on the triumph of the human spirit over adversity, and not the adversity itself. As the saying goes, light shines brightest in deepest dark.
    2) The protagonist is not any one individual character, but the community as a whole. If you let yourself get overly attached to a POV character, you will find yourself very disappointed, very quickly, and very often.

    THE DISPOSSESSED by Ursula LeGuin is also character-driven. I have not yet read her more famous work, The Left Hand of Darkness, so I can’t comment on it.

    WILD SEED by Octavia Butler.
    ARMOUR by John Steakley.

    These all have very different ‘flavors’ by the way. Read a few pages of each before committing. Armour is frantic. Wild Seed is mysterious. The Dispossessed is alien. Contact is numinous. Sphere – it’s been a couple of decades since I’ve read it. Exciting? Thrilling? Scary? Something along those lines. The Survivors, as I said, is optimistic. Oh, speaking of Michael Crichton, I found Jurassic Park surprisingly upbeat. Not what I expected after seeing the movie years before reading the book. Granted, I was seven when it came out and spent half of that trip to the cinema hiding in my dad’s arms, so I was definitely (and unfairly) leery of the book.

    I hope you will still give s.f. another chance, and find yourself enjoying it. What did you think of your adventure so far, from when you first wrote this post?

    Regards,
    Jillian

    P.S. If you read and enjoy these, please let me know. I’ll try to find some more titles for you. I’m sure I’ve read other character-driven s.f., but my library is a mess right now. I’m in the middle of spring cleaning (even though it’s winter).

    Like

    February 13, 2015
  31. psikeyhackr #

    The trouble is there are different “flavors” of science fiction and various readers have different preferences. William Gibbson has admitted that he did not know squat about computers when he wrote Neuromancer. So what kind of science fiction do you expect from a writer that doesn’t know the technological focus of his fiction? Check out The Two Faces of Tommorrow by James P. Hogan. But notice that book is not as famous as Neuromancer.

    Like

    March 1, 2017

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  2. Reading Science Fiction | Several, Four, Many

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