In the open thread Johno asked:
Any cats can steer me in the direction of some good SF novels. Not very interested in the horror fantasy genre.
Many Cats responded with some very good recommendations. I’ll repeat some of those and and may miss some (sorry).
Science fiction is a genre where there is a lot of bad stuff and growing up in a rural area where beggars couldn’t be choosers I read a lot of bad science fiction as a kid. There is also a lot of good stuff out there. The best advice I can give is to follow authors. The problem being two-fold: which authors to follow (this is a question of personal taste) and which book to read first (it often happens that the entry point for an author varies from person to person).
My entry point for Asimov was Foundation. There are many, many sequels and prequels and what-not. I suggest reading them in the order they were published. I hated his Robot series and stopped reading the Foundation series when the two series converged.
Red Planet was my entry point to Heinlein. Some of his later stuff gets a bit weird so I’d stick to Starship Troopers and The moon is a harsh mistress. Job is funny but will annoy some religious people. If you only ever read one Heinlein let it be The moon is a harsh mistress.
Poul Anderson is underrated. His Technic Civilisation Saga has been republished by Baen Books across seven omnibus volumes in internal story order. Highly recommended. Speaking of Baen they have published two books – Give me liberty and Visions of liberty – that are collections of libertarian themed short stories. Generally check out the Baen site.
Larry Niven. Read it all. Loved it all. I started with the Ringworld series and then then read around it. The Man-Kzin wars are still being written.
Then then is Frank Herbert’s Dune series. Loved it. I re-read the series every year for about ten years. Unfortunately the selfish bastard passed away before finishing the story and his son picked up the franchise and completely and utterly destroyed it. In my last house move I gave away all mu Dune books. Read the original series – do not read anything written by Brian Herbert.
I have never really manged to get into Neal Stephenson. A lot of people tell me that he is awesome. I did manage to finish Seven Eves and really enjoyed it. I also read about 75% of Snow Crash. But after starting but not finishing several of his books he isn’t for me.
Iain M Banks sadly passed away a couple of years ago. I have enjoyed all his science fiction. The Culture series is very good BUT read Use of weapons first (it is the third book of the series IIRC). Do not read his whisky travel book.
I love Peter Hamilton. I read all his books more or less as they come out. I started with his Night’s Dawn Trilogy. His Commonwealth series is also very good and on-going. If you start there then read Pandora’s Star.
My other go-to author at the moment is Alistair Reynolds. Start with Revelation Space. I have read that series in the order it was published and also in internal chronological order. Best to start reading in the order it was published. I did not enjoy his Poseidon’s Children trilogy at all. Everything else he has written is magnificent – including a stand alone Doctor Who story. For those Cats who have watched Love, Death + Robots on Netflix he wrote the Beyond the Aqulia Rift and Zima Blue stories. Zima Blue is one of the best short stories I have ever read (and I’m not a fan of the format).
I have stopped reading David Weber. He abuses his readers with long gaps between books and by moving the story along very slowly. His Safehold series, for example, has a great premise – humanity has been hunted to extinction across the stars and clings to existence on a hidden planet by suppressing technology. An android is attempting to advance civilisation to the point where humanity can again travel to the stars and avenge itself. Okay. So we’re multiple books into the series and humanity has progressed to 18th century technology. Now if your audience wants to read science fiction why write historical war stories. What he has done to Honor Harrington is intolerable. At one stage there was a new book every year, then every other year, then every five years. Not as bad as George R.R. Martin I guess. The early Honor Harrington is very good and the books must be read in order and the side stories, spin-offs, and short story collections must also be read in order to make sense of the story.
Richard Morgan is a strange one. He starts with fantastic stories but then seems to lose interest. He wrote the Takeshi Kovacs series (first book Altered Carbon – also on Netflix and very good). It starts off very well but by the third book he was clearly bored. He also wrote the fantasy A Land Fit For Heroes series. Again, great premise but starts well and then peters off. I liked his Market Forces – but I suspect not his best work.
The Chinese author Cixin Liu has written a trilogy called Remembrance of Earth’s Past. The first in the series being The three bodied problem. Very clever. The entire galaxy is in a Malthusian trap – now he never uses that terminology but that this is premise of the series.
Probably out of print but the Phoenix Legacy trilogy by MK Wren is well worth reading. Wren was an American but this series about the rise of a post-apocalyptic world has Melbourne as being the capital of a unified Earth and the centre of an advanced civilisation with a feudal social structure.
Gordon Kendall’s White Wing is also probably out of print but also one of the finest stand alone books I’ve ever read.
I’m sure there are others but these are the stand out authors I can think of at the moment.
Honorable mentions: China Mieville’s Bas-Lag novels are not strictly science fiction but steam-punk. I really enjoyed them.
Mark Lawrence – Stimpy introduced me to his work. While his books appear to be fantasy at face value they are actually science fiction. The magic in a post-apocalyptic world is really the science of the pre-apocalyptic world.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke is an alternative history with magic. Not science fiction at all but highly recommended.