For a long time (a very, very long time), I have been a keen reader of science fiction. I will also dip into fantasy, but I am very particular about what I read.
I have a problem in this regard - I have out-lived many of my favourite authors. I have enjoyed the works of Jack Vance, Robert Jordan, Ian M Banks, David Gemmell, Douglas Adams, Arthur C Clarke, and Terry Pratchett - but they all proved unreliable, and had the bad manners to die while I was still interested in them. In fact, so many of my favourites have died, that I’m starting to worry it’s my interest that’s killing them.
Still surviving my interest (so far), are: Robert Silverberg, Alastair Reynolds, Peter F Hamilton, Philip Pullman, Charles Stross, Richard K Morgan, and Adrian Tchaikovsky. You see, the remaining list is quite small.
And that’s where I would like to ask for your help. There are thousands of sci-fi and fantasy writers still alive and publishing - but when I dip in at random, I find most of them to be worthless hacks. I need recommendations from other sci-fi / fantasy fans for books that are actually worth reading.
I look forward to any suggestions, and thanks in advance.
Just read the The Broken Earth Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin. Thought it was well written, and different. Read that after reading moebius’ Edena, causing much of my imagining of broken Earth to be in moebius’ art style.
I thoroughly enjoyed a certain series of ‘fantasy’ novels by Robin Hobb. Not very sciency but at least they are all written so theres no waiting.
There are 2 trilogies: The Farseer Trilogy, starting with Assassins Apprentice (where you meet the protagonist as a young child) & follow his life through to middle age.
The second trilogy is The Tawny Man which follows the second half of the the protagonists life.
The story has elements of pseudo-science mixed with various magics, swordplay, sailing ships, alchemy, with a decent spattering of cloak & dagger manipulations in a royal court.
These two trilogies are bisected by a third trilogy called the Liveship Traders which is set in the same world but in a quite different setting but over time all these books all become intertwined & lead you to yet another trilogy titled The Rain Wild Chronicles which is a follow on from the Liveship Traders trilogy.
I read them as they were released & found the author continually improved as the world & its characters became more complex. This is why I mentioned the way the trilogies intercect each other because it lays a few easter eggs a casual reader could miss if only following certain characters.
Also there is a single book called The Wilful Princess & The Pie Bald Prince which adds some background depth with a back story.
I did not however enjoy another trilogy by the same author called The Soldier Son which is set in a totally different world & just wasn’t my cup of tea.
I’ll be interested to see what others add to this topic because I too have found myself hunting for new ‘meaty’ literature.
I started reading SciFi in elementary school. From very early Tom Swift adventures to later relishing Heinlein, Asimov, Sturgeon, Philip Dick, and more.
I also enjoyed LOTR. Then Dragon Riders of Pern. In the past few years, I have bought a virtual ton of books that now has about 50-50 SciFi and Fantasy.
In general, I’m not a fan of period novels, even if they are award winners.
I usually read about half of the novels that are nominated for Hugo or Nebula Awards.
The SciFi books I have enjoyed the past few years include:
- “The Speed of Dark” by Elizabeth
- The City The City by China Mieville
- the Expanse series by James S. A. Corey,
- the Ender series by Orson Scott Card,
- the Ancillary series by Ann Leckie,
- the Kutherian Gambit series co-authored by Michael Anderle
- the Orion War series by M. D. Cooper
- the Union Station series by E. M. Foner (short, fun, fast reads)
- the Uplift series by David Brin
- the Breakthrough series by Michael C. Grumley
- Sisterhood of Dune
- Saga of the Seven Suns series by Kevin J. Anderson
- the Brilliance trilogy by Marcus Sakey
Earlier great novels:
the Mote ( in God’s Eye) series by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle.
Since Poul Anderson isn’t on your list, I’m going to recommend the technic civilisation saga. It essentially consists of many, many books that are set in the same universe and timeline, but they’ve been helpfully compiled chronologically into 7 volumes and re-released (they weren’t written chronologically, most are, for todays standards, rather loosely connected. You could call them episodical…).
It’s a fun space opera setting that has everything classic scifi is known for. Sometimes the books are showing their age a bit (especially noteable in its portrayal of women… There are quite a few strong female characters, but some of them very much conform to rather oldfashioned stereotypes of femininity), but if you can overlook that it’s a great space adventure series.
Also, as is the hallmark of all classical science fiction except for Heinlein and Clarke, everybody is smoking all the time…
Thank you for the contributions so far. Let me re-state my request
In two years, God (??) willing, I will be seventy. I have been reading SF since I was around 8 years old. If a book is old, “golden age”, or in any way well known, you can pretty much guarantee that I’ve read it, or at least, that I’m aware of it. I’ve also read an awful lot of dross.
I confess to guilty pleasures. There are (were) authors who were dreadful writers - but they had great imaginations, and told a really good story. I can forgive these people their wooden characters, stilted dialogue, and outdated attitudes, for the joy of their sheer inventiveness. I would class people like Colin Kapp and Andre Norton* in this category.
What I’m lacking (and therefore looking for) is information regarding living writers. Preferably young ones. Who are the new crop, that are worth watching? As I said earlier, there are thousands of them out there (electronic self-publishing has made the situation ten times worse), but the vast majority of their output is unreadable drivel. Who are the good ones?
- Andre Norton (actually a woman ) was a truly terrible writer - but she conjoured fabulous worlds. Her “Galactic Derelict” has possibly the best sci-fi plot I have ever read. Colin Kapp, again, stylistically awful, had a wonderfully off-beat grasp of technical innovations, and their implications. I don’t like their writing, but I love their stories.
My current challenge is resisting buying “just one more” book.
I normally read on Fire 10 tablet, which lets me choose fonts, set a sepia background for less eye strain, and choose font size. A landscape orientation lets me read two columns of text.
I now have over 200 unread books in just my SciFi category! I need to retire so I have more time for reading and No Man’s Sky!
Believe me, retirement doesn’t solve anything. There’s still not enough time.
“somebody’s law”: any task will fill whatever time is allotted to it.
I think it was called Parkinson’s Law.
The more time you think you have, the more you will fill it up.
Mal left his job about seven years ago in order to focus more on his creative work. He used to work full time/overtime, have time for the kids, for hiking, writing, his procedural digital animations, “us” time, These days his main complaint is that he doesn’t have as much time to do his creative work as he needs, because there is always something else to take care of first. (Mostly because I can’t contribute as much as I used to.)
My advice to anyone wishing for more time to do the thing they most want to do, is to do it NOW. Make the time, even a minimum of half an hour a day. There are always tasks that can be delegated, or can be hired out. So go do that thing you always wanted to do.
And that relates to time and playing No Man’s Sky. I have to set aside at least two hours for play and that invariably stretches to 3. I have no qualms about getting by sidetracked in this game!
The Japanese already implement this
We have an epidemic of desperation on this planet.
I’m not exactly going to answer the question, but I do have a couple of recommendations for books I thoroughly enjoyed in my younger days. You probably know them…
- The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R Donaldson
- Emergence by David R Palmer
I have a collection of sci-fi and fantasy books and a large collection of sci-fi and fantasy art books. Unfortunately they’re all in storage but if I ever drag them out I’ll have a look through them to see what I’ve got.
Sorry I can’t add more - some books are just treasures.
I have collected favorites and award nominees for years. Since most of my reading now is digital, I finally took photos of my available hardback and paperback SciFi books. I’m sending the photos to my sons and asking if they want any.
I may donate the rest to Better World Books since they try to sell them at a discount. They also donate books to other countries if they are not sold.
I considered public libraries, but they never put the books on their shelves. They sell or trash if they don’t sell.
I hate to part with them, but have rarely reread any.
Give a man a pipe he can smoke,
Give a man a book he can read:
And his home is bright with a calm delight,
Though the room be poor indeed.
Yeah. Any room full of smoke will be poor, indeed.
@Polyphemus One of my favourite Sci-fi books was called “A Mirror for Observers” by Edgar Pangborn. You are almost as old as I am, so I expect you have probably read it. I’m only sorry that I can’t find it on Audible now that my ability to read text is so diminished.
Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day.
Teach a man to fish, and he will disappear for weeks, drinking beer with his friends.
I confess I’ve never read it. I came to Pangborn through his “Davy”, and wasn’t impressed. I never bothered with him after that - and we didn’t have internet advice to correct me.
Whilst I can’t find it as an audio book, the Internet Archive have free copies you can borrow (it’s still in copyright, so they come as time-limited .PDF files - they stop working after 2 weeks).
Depending on how the PDF was made, it may be possible to set it to read itself out loud (depends whether they scanned and OCR’d the text, or just took pictures of the pages).
Thank you for the link.
If you do read it, I’d be interested in your opinion of it. It has been decades since I read it myself and so may have skewed memories of it. (like all those "love"songs I adored when I was under the age of twenty-five that make me want to gag now.)
Edit to add that like you I remember I didn’t care much for “Davy” either. However, I read it after reading “Mirror for Observers”.
"note: all characters in this novel are fictitious except possibly the Martians. "
I am warming to Pangborn already…