Looking for new hard SF book recommendations
December 3, 2021 5:22 PM   Subscribe

My favourite books are: Blindsight by Peter Watts The Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch, The Last Policeman by Ben H Winters, Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky. Anything new out there like these? Amazon and Good Reads have failed me.
posted by Dag Maggot to Media & Arts (28 answers total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I've read and enjoyed all of the books you listed (YOU HAVE READ MURDERBOT RIGHT?). A few books I've read recently that are newish....

- The Last Astronaut - maybe a bit too folksy but there is some great creepy Watts-seeming first contact stuff.
- Far From The Light of Heaven - a spacer mystery thriller that is complex and a little more socially aware than I am used to hard SF being
- Activation Degradation - if you liked Murderbot, ignore if you didn't

I really liked The Outside by Ada Hoffman but really disliked its sequel. Has a lot of the same creep-factor as Watts (in a good way) but the sequel was a little too fantasy-like for me. Also, like Far From the Light of Heaven, I appreciated its social awareness. A few others in case you've missed them: Infinite Detail, Emma Newman's Planetfall series, Medusa Uploaded. I also had really mixed feelings about the quantum thief series but I did real them all.
posted by jessamyn at 5:42 PM on December 3, 2021 [4 favorites]

I asked a lover of hard sci-fi for recommendations:

The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin
Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds
posted by crunchy potato at 5:59 PM on December 3, 2021 [4 favorites]

Reamde / Fall (Doge in Hell) by Stephenson
The Peripheral / Agency by Gibson
This Is How You Lose the Time War by El-Mohtar and Gladstone
posted by nickggully at 6:03 PM on December 3, 2021

Have you read Ancillary Justice (and then Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy)? Because you should.

Also, seconding Jessamyn: HAVE YOU READ MURDERBOT?
posted by cooker girl at 6:26 PM on December 3, 2021 [9 favorites]

A Memory Called Empire and its sequel, A Desolation Called Peace, by Arkady Martine, are both excellent, and are a duology, so are a complete series.

I highly recommend Reamde (though it's really a techno-thriller, not SF), but could barely finish Fall.

I second all recommendations for the Murderbot books.
posted by lhauser at 6:53 PM on December 3, 2021 [8 favorites]

I assume you've read Adrian Tchaikovsky's other books? If not then you should do that, he writes fast, there are lots of them :D (Some are fantasy or much softer sci-fi, but it's pretty apparent from the descriptions which are which.)
posted by Cheerwell Maker at 7:19 PM on December 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Another book i enjoyed recently that is similar to but also very different is Andy Weir's the Hail Mary Project.
posted by lemur at 8:10 PM on December 3, 2021 [4 favorites]

Just a seconding of the Quantum Thief series. It's not really quite the same sort of hard sf as Blindsight etc but it's adjacent and I thought they were great.
posted by BungaDunga at 9:08 PM on December 3, 2021

The Luna trilogy by Ian McDonald.

I generally like Neal Stephenson but hated Fall. And I’m pretty negative on Three Body Problem. Metafilter’s own Charlie Stross has never let me down.
posted by adamrice at 9:27 PM on December 3, 2021 [4 favorites]

I have read and loved all of your favorites. I also love The Expanse. The ninth and final book just came out this week.
posted by something something at 9:44 PM on December 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

All of The Expanse
J.S. Dewes The Exiled Fleet and The Last Watch
Definitely Muderbot
Seconding Project Hail Mary and How You Lose The Time War
Paolini’s To Sleep In A Sea of Stars
Peter Hamilton’s The Saints of Salvation, Salvation Lost, and Salvation
Emma Newman’s planetfall series
SK Dunstalls Stars Uncharted and Stars Beyond
Elizabeth Bear’s Ancestral Night and Machine
John Kessel’s The Moon and the Other
posted by susiswimmer at 11:32 PM on December 3, 2021

Response by poster: Thanks for the recommendations all.

Jessamyn, I also like The Outside very much - kept expecting a reveal that the outside was where the universe simulation was being run, but it never really happened.

Crunchy Potato: I love Alastair Reynolds books and especially Revelation Space - wish he would write more!

The Quantum Thief series was excellent, but did seem to unravel a bit at the end - still great.

I should have mentioned Charlie Stross as well, Accelerando was amazing.
posted by Dag Maggot at 4:23 AM on December 4, 2021

Response by poster: Also, I haven't read Murderbot yet, though everybody keeps telling me to. I think I got a little turned off by the description I heard on the Incomparable podcast - but I trust Metafilter's judgement - so it's next on my list. ;-).

Also just got Adrian Tchaikovsky's new one "Elder Race" - which looks like a cool faux fantasy concept.
posted by Dag Maggot at 4:33 AM on December 4, 2021

Note that there is a new Revelation Space series book. It's very good. (Since nobody has mentioned it yet, I also recommend anything by Vernor Vinge. There's nothing new in the last few years though, I think.)
posted by eotvos at 6:16 AM on December 4, 2021

I don’t think this is what you mean by ‘hard SF’ but I loved The Last Policeman trilogy and I found The Dog Stars by Peter Heller to have a similar quiet mood
posted by TWinbrook8 at 7:22 AM on December 4, 2021 [4 favorites]

If you like audiobooks at all, the narrator for the Murderbot series, Kevin Free, is really great. In that particular series, I think there’s a really wonderful synergy between the “voice” of Murderbot from the writing and the “voice” or Murderbot from the narration.
posted by LoraT at 8:11 AM on December 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

another recco for 3 body problem

I'm reading Nral Stephenson's latest "Termination Shock" - it's fantastic
posted by askmehow at 11:25 AM on December 4, 2021

Revelation Space is great, I hear its sequel (Chasm City) is too. 3 Body Problem is great. The Expanse series has been excellent so far (I'm only 2 books in and there's... 6 out?). Ancillary Justice was great. Project Hail Mary felt kind of juvenile but it was a page turner.

I've heard good things about Six Wakes. Also Rosewater.

I feel I should warn you against Reamde as a counterweight to the others... So bad I finished it kind of disgusted. Anathem is a much more interesting book and also much more sci-fi if you want to read some Stephenson.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:25 PM on December 4, 2021

Six Wakes was good. Kind of a mystery novel feel to it. The wordsmithing is a little clunky but the plot is propulsive.

Definitely Arkady Martine and Ann Leckie.
posted by matildaben at 1:53 PM on December 4, 2021

To add to the N Stevenson Pileon
Reamde +,
Seveneves ++++, (the scifi is pretty sci!)
Fall(Dodge in Hell) - NOPE NOPE NOPE
posted by lalochezia at 3:16 PM on December 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

I liked the The Three Body Problem. (The "solution" to Fermi's Paradox is horrifying. His "dark forest" solution is Lovecrafrtian horror.) But the writer's treatment of women (women are OK unless rough, tough heavily-bearded men can MAKE DECISIONS) is terrible, for all his effort to include the sacrifices of women into his narrative.

I am currently reading EXIT STRATEGY about the sad travails of Murderbot. I would hope, some day, to enjoy Sanctuary Moon with Murderbot and ART in my feed.
posted by SPrintF at 4:32 PM on December 4, 2021 [2 favorites]

Just so there's 1 dissenting voice: I liked _Fall (Dodge in Hell)_.
posted by inexorably_forward at 4:42 PM on December 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

Dragon’s Egg by Robert L. Forward
Timescape by Gregory Benford
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
Dust by Charles Pellegrino
posted by metatuesday at 6:06 PM on December 4, 2021

Strong recommendation for C J Cherryh's Cyteen. Won the hugo best novel award in '89. It might be hard to get hold of a copy, I found one in my local library.

The novel is set in Cherryh's Alliance-Union universe, in the Union society which makes use of a psychologically-conditioned "azi" clone slave cast. So in terms of ideas there's some loose similarity to Brave New World. But the novel isn't really about that, it's kind of a slow-burn political thriller / mystery narrative where the main characters are scientists and administrators in the Union research facility that designs, grows and trains the azi population. Cherryh has very readable earlier novels in the same universe that start to develop some of these ideas, but in Cyteen the ideas and characters feel much richer and multi-dimensional.

If you haven't read anything by Octavia E. Butler, read her short story Bloodchild. If you can stomach more, there's the Xenogenesis trilogy aka Lilith's Brood.

I've read a lot of Stross' novels. Glasshouse was another great early stand-alone novel.

I neglected looking at Stross' Merchant Princes series for a long time --- for some reason (probably just the cover) I thought it was a pure fantasy series: main character in modern world discovers she can world-walk into a parallel medieval-ish world. But the ideas are evolved from that starting point through a science-fictional lense -- okay, so then what would the consequences of that be? So it's less swords and scorcery and more interplanar economic arbitrage, narco trafficking & technology transfer. The longer arc of the series explores what might happen if such a society unwittingly attracted the attention of the US intelligence establishment...
posted by are-coral-made at 1:29 AM on December 5, 2021

It's not new but The Margarets by Sherri S Tepper might be worth a look.
Velocity Weapon by Megan E. O’Keefe is good space opera.
As is mefi's own jscalzi's Interdependency series. If you liked Arkady Martine then you'll like these.
The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley is excellent and not the book it at first seems.
Not really hard sci-fi but Axiom's End by Lindsay Ellis is at the slightly creepy first contact end of things.
Second's for Ancestral Night and Infinite Detail. And also This is how you lose the time war even though it's not remotely hard sci-fi, but it is a thing of joy.
posted by mr_stru at 4:07 AM on December 5, 2021

Another vote for Ancillary Justice et al. I really like the way the first book unfolds, showing you the world and the character backgrounds. The second and third have a few places where they lag a bit mid-book, but overall the series is solid far-future hard sf. There's at least one standalone short story set in the same universe as well.

If you've ever thought "I don't want to deal with all this bullshit, I just want to watch my damned streaming media/read my damned book," then you will probably enjoy Murderbot.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:04 AM on December 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

If you've read Blindsight, Peter Watts has written a lot more, which you might want to see if it wets your whistle. Echopraxia is in the same 'Firefall' universe. There's also the Rifters trilogy and The Freeze-Frame Revolution. He also wrote "The Things", a bit of fanfic of "The Thing" but from the point of view of the Thing. (Yup, it's just as awesome as that sounds.)
posted by MollyRealized at 7:04 PM on December 5, 2021

Circling back here to make sure that you've read A Deepness In The Sky, which is Vinge's most hard-sf work and rhymes strongly with Children of Time. It has 1) interstellar space traders, 2) horrifying space villains and 3) charming aliens.

The Rifters books are very good but unrelentingly grim. The most terrifyingly plausible crapsack world I can remember reading. So... know that going in, I guess. It begins as a dystopia and gets worse.

A sideways recommendation: Hugh Howey's Silo series. It's maybe more dystopian than you want, but I found it compelling.
posted by BungaDunga at 9:32 AM on December 28, 2021

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