Dune and Left Hand of Darkness - other recommendations?
October 23, 2005 11:40 AM   Subscribe

If I liked Dune and The Left Hand of Darkness what other books would I like reading?
posted by lunkfish to Media & Arts (35 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Hmm. Those two books aren't too similar (to me). What did you like about them?

Since these threads often produce lots of suggestions, I'll just make one:

A Fire Upon the Deep - Vernor Vinge.

It's sort of a full-course meal of various fun SF stuff.

(most of LeGuin's other stuff is fantastic as well.)
posted by selfnoise at 11:54 AM on October 23, 2005

To Your Scattered Bodies Go - Philip Jose Farmer
Stand on Zanzibar - John Brunner
The Forever War - Joe Haldeman
The "Known Space" books by Larry Niven
Hyperion - Dan Simmons

This article about Space Opera might also get you started.
posted by interrobang at 11:55 AM on October 23, 2005

Hyperion, though it isn't quite as good.

Neuromancer has a similar lyricism and rich psychological complexity to The Left Hand of Darkness, though Gibson doesn't nearly have De Guin's empathy for her characters.

The Lord of the Rings if you liked Dune's complex universe, and if, for some reason, you haven't read it already.
posted by maschnitz at 11:58 AM on October 23, 2005

LeGuin. Where's the coffee.
posted by maschnitz at 12:00 PM on October 23, 2005

I don't know The Left Hand of Darkness, but Silverberg's first few books on Majipoor might be a good match for Dune.
Lord Valentine's Castle.
Valentine Pontifex.
There's a nonessential middle volume of stories that goes between those two, and a lot of later, substandard novels and stories. But these two together are pretty magnificent.
posted by Wolfdog at 12:05 PM on October 23, 2005

Majipoor is also loosely based on Jack Vance's Big Planet.
posted by interrobang at 12:07 PM on October 23, 2005

(Key elements I was thinking of are a hugely detailed world with interesting geography and ecology; a long rise-to-power story; and some intricate political intrigue.)

Now that I put it that way, George R.R. Martin's big series might satisfy, too, for much the same reasons - I found it totally engrossing, but be warned it's not finished yet and the wait for new volumes is agonizing.
posted by Wolfdog at 12:08 PM on October 23, 2005

Dune is my favorite book of all time, so let me recommend:
Cyteen, Cyteen, Cyteen

If you haven't already read them, you might also like:
The Sparrow
Beggars in Spain
Les Miserables
posted by willnot at 12:11 PM on October 23, 2005

Those are two of my favorite novels, so I hope my comments may be of some use to you.

All of LeGuin's Earthsea novels are wonderful; they come in an early trilogy (A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore) and the later, somewhat revisionist but also extremely delightful tales (Tehanu, Tales from Earthsea, The Other Wind). Unlike some authors, LeGuin takes pains with each of her books; she's not a genre author. There are also a couple of books of loosely-connected stories that take place in Earthsea (Orsinian Tales). I've spent many a happy hour in these books. Her other writing is also fabulous; I particularly liked Always Coming Home, an ethnography of a far-future California; and A Fisherman of the Inland Sea, a collection of linked short stories that starts small and has a finish that still blows me away every time I read through it.

The Dune series is readable, but progressively less so, through book 5 (Heretics of Dune); none of it comes close to matching Dune, though, which is a book that always makes the short list of best SF novels ever written.

You might like Robert Heinlein, who is a past master of the SF epic. Among his myriad works, the Hugo winners The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Stranger in a Strange Land are vastly entertaining starting points, taking place in worlds so different and so richly imagined that you could practically step into the book. Some people don't like his politics or his female characters, though, and can't get past this to enjoy his stories.

You should also check out Samuel Delany's Dhalgren.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:19 PM on October 23, 2005

Anatomy of Wonder is also a very useful tool for finding good science fiction; you might want to pick up a copy.

It contains reviews of important science fiction novels that are a couple of paragraphs long, and also has "compare and contrast" reccomendations for many books.
posted by interrobang at 12:21 PM on October 23, 2005

Anatomy of Wonder.
posted by interrobang at 12:22 PM on October 23, 2005

Try Robert Heinlein, as said above, but realize, his writing varies a large amount, so you may not like the first thing you pick up. Without knowing more, I cannot suggest a specific title.

However, I can suggest the Amber series by Zelazny. They're fantasy, but IIRC, they're full of family politics and scheming.

This review (Caution: Minor spoilers) of a single bound copy of all ten novels says this:

"As I stated above, the plots are complex. Corwin and the reader think they've discovered the truth time after time, only to find another layer of truth (or lies) below that."
posted by adamwolf at 12:33 PM on October 23, 2005

Gene Wolfe.

The Book of the New Sun, The Book of the Long Sun and The Book of the Short Sun.

The first two are collections (split into 2 books) of tetralogies. The third is a trilogy.

They're all considered some of the best sci-fi ever written, and for good reason.
posted by shmegegge at 12:33 PM on October 23, 2005

You might also read anything by China Mieville -- Perdido Street Station is good to start.

From an Amazon review: Its clearest influences are Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast trilogy and M. John Harrison's Viriconium books, but it isn't much like them. It's Dickensian in scope, but fast-paced and modern. It's a love song for cities, and it packs a world into its strange, sprawling, steam-punky city of New Crobuzon. It can be read with equal validity as fantasy, science fiction, horror, or slipstream. It's got love, loss, crime, sex, riots, mad scientists, drugs, art, corruption, demons, dreams, obsession, magic, aliens, subversion, torture, dirigibles, romantic outlaws, artificial intelligence, and dangerous cults.
posted by mdiskin at 12:36 PM on October 23, 2005

I found that the Motie set by Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven had a similar "space opera" feel to it that Dune did. They're damn fine novels/stories.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 1:16 PM on October 23, 2005

Those two books don't have all that much in common really, but two things they do have in common are that they've both won a hugo award, and both won a nebula award. I've basically never gone wrong by reading books that have won either award (though sooner or later you'll run out, and sometimes the earliest stuff isn't to my taste), and I think you will find many of them to your taste. (In fact, many books recommended by other posters have won one or the other, or both.)
posted by advil at 1:32 PM on October 23, 2005

I second the Gene Wolfe recommendation. The books shmeggage mentioned are set in a fabulously rich universe; the extent of detail is in my opinion second only to Tolkien's. Wolfe's use of language and the depth of his characters are what really makes these my favourite novels. shmeggage missed out the single novel "The Urth of the New Sun," which explains what "The Book of the New Sun" was all about.
posted by nowonmai at 1:54 PM on October 23, 2005

You're basically asking for good sf recommendations. There are some great ones here, and here's an excellent list of 100.

For what it's worth, I love early Delany but can't stand Dhalgren.
posted by languagehat at 2:45 PM on October 23, 2005

For what it's worth, I love Delany, but Dhalgren is about as not-Dune as any book I could think of. I haven't read any Le Guin, but Wolfe's Book of the New Sun is flat-out good literature, sci fi or not. Wolfe's world-building there is the only thing I've read that compares to the sweep of Herbert's, though it's been a while since I've read much sci fi.
posted by hototogisu at 2:48 PM on October 23, 2005

Does liking Dune and LHoD mean that you want to read more sociologically-oriented SF with a good fun plot on top of it?

If so, then, yeah, John Brunner. Stand on Zanzibar or The Sheep Look Up.

Also: Kim Stanley Robinson's 3-Californias books, especially The Gold Coast and Pacific Shore.

Iain Banks.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:05 PM on October 23, 2005

Or Iain M Banks if you want his science fiction.
I like how puts the M there for books he writes that he considers scifi.
Must make the librarians job easier.
posted by Iax at 4:34 PM on October 23, 2005

Also: Kim Stanley Robinson's 3-Californias books, especially The Gold Coast and Pacific Shore.

Really anything by KSR is sociologically-oriented, though you may want to stay away from 40 Signs of Rain because it's an utter piece of shit. The Mars trilogy, Antarctica ,and The Years of Rice and Salt are quite good though.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 6:13 PM on October 23, 2005

I third the Wolfe and specifically Dhalgren - the other early Delany is flashy but somewhot never resonated with me the same way that that nearly-impenetrable book did.

FWIW, Wolfe appears to be working to tie all of his post-New Sun work together, including the Soldier of the Mist stuff, and the effort may eventually reach back to his older material, if I follow the spoor correctly.

I suspect you might also appreciate Octavia Butler, who is reasonably comparable to LeGuin in certain ways.

I personally also very much appreciate John Brunner and Brian Aldiss as writers that share a certain quality of voice with LeGuin in Left Hand of Darkness.
posted by mwhybark at 6:14 PM on October 23, 2005

I predict you'll like Zelazny's Amber series (which I see has already been mentioned) and Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz. You might also like Charles Stross' Singularity Sky.
posted by Hildago at 7:40 PM on October 23, 2005

Thanks for the suggestions. I'll bookmark this and look them up.

I like the anthropological side of these books and that they create a completely plausible world.

I think the thing that makes them favorites for me though is a kind of meditative objective quality to the writing (or maybe 'voice'). I also like William Gibson a lot.

I find a lot of books hard to get into and maybe this aspect is what I like. The Sci fi suggestions are great, but I didn't want to limit the question if people who read those two books have ideas from other genres.
posted by lunkfish at 10:29 PM on October 23, 2005

I like the anthropological side of these books and that they create a completely plausible world.

If this is what you like, then you might like any book by Jack Vance (who is my favorite writer of all time.)

I think the thing that makes them favorites for me though is a kind of meditative objective quality to the writing (or maybe 'voice').

Jack Vance "speaks" in a totally--and hilariously, at times--objective, detached voice all the time, and that is one of the things that makes his books unique. I haven't read Gene Wolfe, who was reccommended so many times above, but I do know that Wolfe is a devotee of Vance, and basically set his "New Sun" series in the "Dying Earth" universe of Jack Vance.

Jack Vance and Frank Herbert were also best friends, if that means anything to you.
posted by interrobang at 10:54 PM on October 23, 2005

Nice one. That might be an interesting family tree to follow.
posted by lunkfish at 11:03 PM on October 23, 2005

There is definitely a cold and calculating atmosphere to a lot of Wolfe's narrative...

interrobang: any specific Vance works we should look for (you've got me hooked)?
posted by hototogisu at 11:30 PM on October 23, 2005

lunkfish and hototogisu:

If you can find them, there's:

The Eyes of the Overworld
Cugel's Saga (its sequel)

The Languages of Pao
Big Planet
Showboat World
any book whose title starts with "Wyst:"

and the "Demon Princes" novels.
posted by interrobang at 12:10 AM on October 24, 2005

Peter F. Hamilton's "Night's Dawn" trilogy and Iain M. Banks' "Culture" novels are fantastic stories with extremely well-visualised universes.

I note that no-one has mentioned Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" series - again, a well-imagined future society, and a series of novels which span many generations (a la the Dune series).
posted by Chunder at 1:43 AM on October 24, 2005

Had read the first two Hyperion novels and thought they were just okay, but I'm now reading -- and loving -- Dan Simmons' "Ilium." With its sequel "Olympos," it's a sort of sci-fi retelling of two obscure works by Homer.
posted by rob511 at 2:58 AM on October 24, 2005

I like the anthropological side of these books and that they create a completely plausible world.

C.J. Cherryh does this in many of her books - exploring especially the dynamics between different races/species and different structures that make society possible (or not). The Foreigner was one of the ones I really liked.
posted by whatzit at 7:34 AM on October 24, 2005

I like the anthropological side of these books
Check Orson Scott Card's Speaker for the Dead.
posted by Wolfdog at 9:05 AM on October 24, 2005

Try the Rating Zone. I use a similar site to figure out which movies to watch, and have had good results so far with this site. Basically, you rate books that you've read and the service learns what you like. It then compares your likes with other readers and recommends books.
posted by richmondparker at 9:44 AM on October 24, 2005

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