Looking to explore time and space in my downtime.
October 1, 2012 5:52 PM   Subscribe

Looking for recommendations of a particular kind of "exploring the unknown" SciFi book.

I'm getting back into reading novels, mostly SciFi. What I enjoy most is the feeling of exploration, that I am going into uncharted territory and unraveling its mysteries along with the book's characters.

Could be exploration of a planet, outer space, traveling into a mysterious future, etc.

Examples that come to mind include Ringworld and Rendezvous with Rama.

Lesser-known gems are be great, since it is less likely that I've read them or encountered spoilers.
posted by justkevin to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I'd recommend Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde/
posted by rainbowbrite at 5:58 PM on October 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

The Hyperion series, if you haven't read it already.
posted by bessel functions seem unnecessarily complicated at 6:01 PM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would recommend the whole Uplift series by David Brin, especially Startide Rising and the Uplift War.
posted by escabeche at 6:05 PM on October 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Book of the New Sun.
posted by grobstein at 6:07 PM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Nebula Award nominee MANHATTAN TRANSFER Manhattan is sliced loose from the surface of the earth, placed under a huge clear dome, and whisked aboard a gigantic starship. Through the dome, the captive residents can see dozens of similarly trapped alien cities.
posted by anon4now at 6:07 PM on October 1, 2012 [5 favorites]

It takes a while to get there, but the third book of Peter F. Hamilton's Night's Dawn trilogy, "Naked God," definitely fits this description. The series as a whole is fantastic if you're the type of reader who can skim over less interesting chapters while still picking up what you need to know.
posted by slide at 6:14 PM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's been a long while since I read them, but John Varley's Gaea trilogy (Titan, Wizard, Demon) might qualify.
posted by Janta at 6:22 PM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Eon by Greg Bear is good stuff. It begins with astronomers sighting an object entering the solar system on a trajectory that will put it in Earth orbit. When it gets closer, they realize it's an asteroid that is identical to Juno, but Juno is still in the asteroid belt...
posted by XMLicious at 6:49 PM on October 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

Seconding the Gaea trilogy, an oldie-but-goodie. Saturn's Children by Mefi's own cstross might also qualify, although the characters are somewhat familiar with the other inhabited worlds so it's more like space tourism than space exploration.
posted by Quietgal at 7:43 PM on October 1, 2012

The examples you provided are both quintessential BDO stories, so some favorite BDO stories and trope listings might be on point.

The last three books I read that launched a crew of explorers toward a mysterious big object or phenomenon were Grand Central Arena, Pandora's Star, and The Long Earth. They were all decent books that I can imagine being favorites if you like old-school SF adventures, lots of political froofrah mixed into the story, or many worlds / alternate Earth stories, respectively.

But my favorite among all hits I'm getting on the trope has to be Excession, which might work for you, even if it's less common as an entry point into the Culture novels and not so much a BDO exploration story as it is a BDO reaction story.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 7:53 PM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

"The snail on the slope" by strugatsky.
Although at heart it is (probably?) a social satire, it is basically all about exploration of an extremely strange environment, and the feeling of strangeness permeates the entire book and stays with you or a while after you finish it.
posted by Mai2k3 at 8:39 PM on October 1, 2012

For a recent, sinister twist on the BDO first-contact story there's Peter Watts' Blindsight (free online from the author).
posted by neckro23 at 8:41 PM on October 1, 2012

The Sparrow and Children of God by Maria Doria Russell...it helped that the characters in this book were so interesting, but the excitement of exploring a new planet was what made me drop everything and finish these books in a couple of days.

It takes a while for the first book to get into the "exploration" part of the story, but the build up is worth it.
posted by kwes at 10:55 PM on October 1, 2012

I've recommended these before on the green, but Linda Nagata's Vast and Greg Egan's Diaspora or Schild's Ladder all fit the bill and they are some of my very favourite books.
posted by daisyk at 2:01 AM on October 2, 2012

Have you read Frederik Pohl's Gateway? (Link is to a spoiler-free Guardian review.) The scenario is that a long-gone alien civilisation, the Heechee, left a bunch of very small spaceships with preprogrammed destinations - some of them very distant - lying around close enough to Earth for humanity to find them. You want to read about journeys into the unknown? You want to read Gateway.

(It has sequels, and I enjoyed them too, but the original is the Hugo-winner for a reason.)
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 2:01 AM on October 2, 2012 [5 favorites]

Olaf Stapledon's Star Maker jumps to mind. You might also Like Robert Charles Wilson's Spin, with the caveat that the fascinating mystery and exploration aspects are counterbalanced by a ludicrous family melodrama.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 3:28 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Excession isnt the best place to jump into Banks' culture series. 'Consider Phlebas' is probably better. (Brilliant books, Excession is awesome so is worth being prepared.)

Alastair Reynolds' Century Rain is very film noir exploration of alternate reality. His 'Pushing Ice' is a journey far, far into the unknown. All his stuff is good, much of it has 'exploratory' themes.
posted by BadMiker at 6:03 AM on October 2, 2012

C.S. Lewis's Space Trilogy seems to fit the bill. At least the first two books involve space travel to unknown, very foreign planets.
posted by jillithd at 6:26 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

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