Sci Fi Gems
November 11, 2004 11:41 AM   Subscribe

What should I read next? The past few years, I've been reading some contemporary fiction and a lot of science fiction (mostly hard Sci-Fi). I tend to like strong character driven stuff with politics and religion (particularly as a method of social control) as major themes. So for instance, I LOVED books like Dune and Cyteen. I also like near future stuff with cool tech, so books like Diamond Age were also well received. Loved American Gods -- not a big fan of Neverwhere. Also, for some reason I didn't like Perdido Street Station very much -- I'm not sure why -- I just found it slow to read. I've read most of the well known science fiction writers, so I don't need recommendations for the luminaries in the genre. I'm looking for lesser known gems/works I might have missed, or for similar themes that cross out of the genres with which I am familiar.
posted by willnot to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
too lazy to keep italicizing.

politics:
Ken MacLeod: anything. Start with The Star Fraction, or Cosmonaut Keep, or Newton's Wake.
KS Robinson, Red/Green/Blue Mars or the 3 Californias books.
Iain Banks. Anything, but I'd say start with The Player of Games.

Near future --or-- cool tech:
Ken Macleod again
Charlie Stross, Singularity Sky
Neal Asher, Gridlinked

I'd do more but gotta go abolish ignorance
Greg Egan, Quarantine or Distress
Greg Bear, Queen of Angels, /, Moving Mars
Vernor Vinge, The Peace War or A Fire Upon the Deep
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:55 AM on November 11, 2004


i don't know if these are lesser known, because i don't read that much scifi, but i enjoyed "a door into ocean" (pacifist/feminist) and am currently racing through "singularity sky" (some cool tech, but mainly just good fun).
posted by andrew cooke at 11:59 AM on November 11, 2004


Let me recommend a lesser known book. I'd like to say series, but I haven't got my hands on the rest of them yet.

"When Gravity Fails" by George Alec Effinger. Really amazing.
posted by lumpenprole at 12:14 PM on November 11, 2004


I was just introduced to Gene Wolfe. I don't know if he's well-known as a luminary; he should be.

I just finished The Book of the New Sun and its coda The Urth of the New Sun. They're excellent, and demand a re-read. I'm now reading The Book of the Long Sun.
posted by funkbrain at 12:16 PM on November 11, 2004


Peter F. Hamilton's The Night's Dawn Trilogy. Religion, politics, genetically engineered humans AND FTL. All in a tidy 3400 pages of excellent writing.
posted by billsaysthis at 12:25 PM on November 11, 2004


Forgive me if this doesn't meet your Lesser Known qualifications, but: I found American Gods to be a watered down The Talisman, which is fantastic if you like Stephen King (or Peter Straub).

I also dig Neil Stephenson, and I just read Altered Carbon, by Richard Morgan, which was very good.
posted by o2b at 12:31 PM on November 11, 2004


Also, Kim Stanley Robinson, mentioned above, has a great alternate history called The Years Of Rice And Salt which explores religion to a great extent, although it is set (roughly) from 1000-2000AD. He's pretty well known, though, so you may be done with that.

You may wish to read digests of rec.arts.sf.written for a few weeks, I've gotten good suggestions from there.

Finally, I've been searching for books by R.A. Lafferty recently, after reading a few short stories. You may wish to look him up.
posted by sohcahtoa at 12:33 PM on November 11, 2004


James Morrow - Towing Jehovah and The Godhead Trilogy.

M. John Harrison's Light. A second vote for MacLeod.
posted by F Mackenzie at 12:35 PM on November 11, 2004


Morrow's City Of Truth is darkly hilarious and moving as well.
posted by jonmc at 12:44 PM on November 11, 2004


I consider American Gods to be a watered down Changer by Jane Lindskold.
posted by ursus_comiter at 12:57 PM on November 11, 2004


I've read a bunch of Morrow's books but sadly can't really connect.
posted by billsaysthis at 1:09 PM on November 11, 2004


i like some books by Michael Marshall Smith. Only Forward is still my favorite, i think. "One Of Us", and "Spares" are also pretty good.

Cordwainer Smith's compilation The Rediscovery of Man was wonderful.

Lastly, White Light by Rudy Rucker was a fun "hard" scifi journey into the concept of infinity.

These may or may not be mainstream, i haven't read enough scifi to know.
posted by escher at 1:10 PM on November 11, 2004


Tim Powers. He writes a lot about mystical roots to societies (the idea of "kingship" in Last Call or the role of beer in Western Society in The Drawing of the Dark) in his books. Check'm out. Similar (better, IMHO) to Gaiman's American Gods.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:33 PM on November 11, 2004


I'm going to second Peter F. Hamilton's nightsdawn trilogy. Its a mamoth task when faced with so many pages, but very rewarding.

Currently, I'm an Alastair Reynolds nut. The Inhibitors series is breathtaking, but I think Chasm City is my favourite. They are all about politics and religion and how the vastness of space affects them. Plus a hefty dose of astrophysics.

I'll also second Michael Marshall Smith. Not politics and religion so much, but very witty knock about stories.
posted by davehat at 1:41 PM on November 11, 2004


Only Forward is excellent. It turns out to be a bit more of a fantasy novel than sf, though.

On a similar sf-private-eye note, Altered Carbon is indeed also most excellent if you haven't read that one yet.

To complete the trifecta, Jonathan Lethem's Gun, With Occasional Music is another superb sf potboiler.
posted by neckro23 at 3:09 PM on November 11, 2004


just echoing some things already mentioned:

second the vote for altered carbon. another book of his with the same protagonist, broken angels, is more straight scifi and not quite as good, but still readable.

tim powers' last call is pretty good and strikingly similar to american gods really, but i found drawing of the dark to be not nearly as compelling. his book "declare" is also pretty good, kind of a ww2 spy story with some lovecraft thrown in so it might not be up your alley.

iain banks' "culture" series is excellent.
posted by juv3nal at 7:40 PM on November 11, 2004


I must also endorse George Effinger's When Gravity Fails (and its sequels, A Fire in the Sky and The Exile Kiss. I believe they're all being re-released in support of his last book, Budayeen Nights.

Continuing the SF private-eye theme, Nocturne for a Dangerous Man by Marc Matz was a decent read.

Oh, and since you mentioned religion, you might enjoy Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow.
posted by Janta at 8:56 PM on November 11, 2004


It's a supposed to be YA fantasy series, but Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials triology is a very sophisticated exploration of religion as social control. I just love those books.

Like everyone else (if the bestseller lists are any indication), I just got through reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. It's another fantasy, but if you like Neil Gaiman, you might well enjoy it -- and he praises it highly, to boot.
posted by melissa may at 8:58 PM on November 11, 2004


Yeah, The Sparrow was great. I really liked Robinson's Mars series too.

I've just ordered When Gravity Fails, The Star Fraction, Altered Carbon, Towing Jehovah and The Rediscovery of Man.

Feel free to keep the suggestions coming though as I'll certainly be coming back to this thread when I'm done with those.

Thanks
posted by willnot at 11:05 PM on November 11, 2004


Michael Flynn does some great near-future stuff. I loved "In the Country of the Blind" and the first two books in the "Firestar" series were excellent ... however, the later books in that series were exceedingly poor and painful to read.
posted by SpecialK at 12:23 AM on November 12, 2004


Altered Carbon was a derivative piece of shit not worth looking at if you're expecting anything as good as Neuromancer.

My tastes run very similar to yours, so much so that I'm surprised at some of the recommendations in this thread. That's the risk you run when you open the "I have read SF" door and before you know it all kinds of goofy crap starts seeping into the conversation.

I couldn't stand Perdido Street, really. Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle is uneven but has its moments.

Caveat: I liked Neverwhere but can't stand most fantasy.
posted by mecran01 at 2:25 PM on November 12, 2004


Connie Willis. Connie Willis. Connie Willis.

Also, Kage Baker's series of books about the Zeus Corporation (time-travel monopolists) and its immortal android employees is fantastic.

Let me point out that Tim Powers did the "gods wandering the roads of the US" thing way before Neil Gaiman. (And I think, much better, though my favorite Tim Powers book is The Anubis Gate.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:57 PM on November 12, 2004


If you're interested in non-hobbits/elves 'fantasy', you might take a look at Jeff VanderMeer, Michael Swanwick and Graham Joyce.
posted by Zeedog at 12:14 PM on November 15, 2004


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