Looking for SF book recommendations featuring space empires.
April 6, 2007 12:34 PM   Subscribe

Looking for recommendations of Science Fiction book/series involving well-constructed, involving, and believable universes.

Thanks mainly to Star Wars I suppose, I've always loved books, movies, games, etc that involve sprawling space empires with detailed planets that are almost characters in themselves, each one having a discrete cultural or ecological definition to it (desert planet, ice planet, etc.). I love the idea of having the freedom to jaunt around in a wide, varied universe such as the aforementioned Star Wars, Niven's Known Space, and particularly Simmons' Hyperion. I'd like to find some more books that give me that "I want to go there" feeling and feed my escapist fantasies.
posted by Raven13 to Media & Arts (62 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Iain M. Banks has several novels set in the Culture universe. Highly recommended.
posted by jellicle at 12:39 PM on April 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Dune is incredible. Although I haven't read the other books in the series, I've heard that Children of Dune is pretty good too, but I know for sure that the first book is excellent.
posted by Aanidaani at 12:40 PM on April 6, 2007

Good Lord, have I got a series for you. Peter F. Hamilton's "Night's Dawn Trilogy" (which is actually six books.)

Utterly fascinating just for the sheer scope. Works in Galactic politics, economics, social customs, sub cultures with a tremendous level of detail. The plot ain't too bad either. :)

The first book is called "The Reality Dysfunction."

I have burned entire three-day weekends reading the whole series. It's that good.
posted by Thistledown at 12:41 PM on April 6, 2007

The Vorkosigan Series by Lois McMaster Bujold
I'm not crazy about her other stuff I liked her Vorkosigan stuff
posted by BoscosMom at 12:49 PM on April 6, 2007

I would suggest the Silence Leigh trilogy by Melissa Scott. It is great due to the detail of culture though, not due to the planetary detail. Plus, it is about a setting where space was conquered by alchemy rather than science. The books are:

* Five-Twelfths of Heaven, 1985
* Silence in Solitude, 1986
* The Empress of Earth, 1987
posted by slavlin at 12:52 PM on April 6, 2007

and there's always Terry Pratchett's Discworld
Not SciFi. but definitely an interesting universe and very funny.
posted by BoscosMom at 12:55 PM on April 6, 2007

Brin's Uplift Series fits the bill.
posted by sourwookie at 12:57 PM on April 6, 2007

Ooops. Sorry. Siscworld, not so believable.
posted by BoscosMom at 12:57 PM on April 6, 2007

D not S. Going back to bed now.
posted by BoscosMom at 12:58 PM on April 6, 2007

Not a single novel, but most of the early short stories by George R R Martin take place is a consistent universe. Many of these books are out of print, but well worth the effort of tracking them down. I'd start with A Song for Lya. If you like that, Tuf Voyaging is also a lot of fun, but not so serious. As a bonus, Tuf Voyaging features a cloned T-Rex rampaging through an abondoned space ship.
posted by Eddie Mars at 12:59 PM on April 6, 2007

Asimov's Foundation series is a classic when it comes to sprawling space empires. I don't know if it is exactly what you're looking for -- it tends to be more about the dynamics of empire and less about the details of planets -- but if you've never read it, you should.
posted by PercussivePaul at 12:59 PM on April 6, 2007

I spent ages thinking before it finally came to me: Alan Dean Foster's Flinx and other Commonwealth books.
(Commentary: Dune is good and the planet is very interesting. But you don't get the multi-planet-empire feel from it. Discworld is also very good, but not planetary (or scifi)--however the various regions do have a similar feel to having lots of different planets. Vorkosigan is very similar to what you're asking for.)
posted by anaelith at 1:01 PM on April 6, 2007

Alastair Reynolds' books starting with Revelation Space. All of his novels except Century Rain are part of this universe, IIRC. A bit too dark to be escapist.

Ken MacLeod, Newton's Wake. Maybe Cosmonaut Keep and followons.

Charlie Stross, Singularity Sky and Iron Sunrise. Maaaybe Accelerando and Glasshouse.

Niven/Pournelle, Mote in God's Eye and The Gripping Hand.

Neal Asher's various Polity books. If the Culture books are semi-intellectual espionage novels about the price that operatives pay, the Polity books are James Bond movies about stuff blowing up real good.

Hamilton, Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:01 PM on April 6, 2007

Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts series. The first three books have just come out in an omnibus edition called The Founding.

Gaunt's Ghosts is a strange series not because it's based on a tabletop wargame (Warhammer 40,000), but because it's actually good. The game itself has a sprawling history that has been years in development and the books take all that and make it pop. Abnett's additions to the setting are such that there are companion books complete with maps and charts detailing the campaigns of the title character and delving even deeper into its background.

Seriously, I just picked up one of these at random to fill out the last seven bucks on a Borders gift card and expected it to be awful tripe good for only reading at the gym. I was wrong and now own, and recommend, the entire series.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:02 PM on April 6, 2007

Oh! Also check our Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky. The are both (loosely) set in the same Universe.
posted by Eddie Mars at 1:03 PM on April 6, 2007

Peter F. Hamilton's latest series ("Pandora's Star" and "Judas Unchained") is another good example of world-building. I hear he's going to write more books set in the same universe.
posted by koreth at 1:03 PM on April 6, 2007

Warning for anyone reading the Night's Dawn series by Peter F. Hamilton: the ending is a pretty awful deus ex machina job...so don't keep reading if you're not enjoying the process because the ending will probably sour the series for you, assuming some of the other plot threads don't first of course.
posted by pharm at 1:06 PM on April 6, 2007

Dune is great, I've only read the ones Frank Herbert wrote. In between God Emperor and Chapterhouse, they get quite weird. But good weird. Very dense, rich culture and ecology stuff throughout.
posted by everichon at 1:09 PM on April 6, 2007

Continuing my negative slant, note that the Dune books are fairly universally regarded as going steeply downhill in terms of quality as the series progresses. They may pick up again eventually I suppose.

Banks' Culture novels probably fit the bill, to second the first post. Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space likewise, except for the part about actually wanting to go there...
posted by pharm at 1:10 PM on April 6, 2007

Strongly seconding the Iain M. Banks recommendation. Use Of Weapons would be a great place to start with that.

For some reason Banks is harder to get in N. America, so depending on where you are based you might have to go to a little effort to get hold of them, but it would be an effort well worth making.
posted by Artw at 1:12 PM on April 6, 2007

nb. Aren't there a wodge of books by Ursula Le Guin set in the same universe?
posted by pharm at 1:12 PM on April 6, 2007

Totally second Dune and the Motie series. Discworld was never written with a sprawling geography in mind, but a very detailed one started growing from the stories.

David Weber's Honor Harrington ("Honorverse") series has a well developed world/galaxy with believable (if a little heavy-handed) "history." It's a little juvenile and masturbatory (at times), but it's an entertaining read and it's top-notch military sci-fi.
posted by porpoise at 1:14 PM on April 6, 2007

Response by poster: Wow, thanks for the great responses so far! I just wanted to note that by 'believable', I mean that I'm looking for immersiveness (is that a word?), not realism as in a hard sf work. I love hard sf, but I'm also fine with relaxed realism for the sake of story.
posted by Raven13 at 1:17 PM on April 6, 2007

pharm - I believe she uses the Hainish universe of The Dispossesed and The Left Hand Of Darkness elsewhere, though she's not conspicuous about it being a shared universe at all. Both of those are top notch books, BTW.
posted by Artw at 1:19 PM on April 6, 2007

I'm a little suproised at seeing so many Dune recomendations, as my understanding was pretty much the same as pharms regarding the quality drop off.
posted by Artw at 1:21 PM on April 6, 2007

I'd recommend Arkadiy and Boris Strugatsky, they're two Russian brothers who wrote a long series of novels set in an extremely believable universe. My favorite is called Midday, XXII Century, but there're a ton of others.
posted by nasreddin at 1:21 PM on April 6, 2007

I also recommend Bank's Culture novels--they're typically described as "space operas" and certainly fit the bill of being immersive.

Le Guin is also fantastic--highly recommend both Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed as mentioned by Artw.
posted by donovan at 1:25 PM on April 6, 2007

C.S. Friedman's This Alien Shore takes place in a universe that definitely gives me the "I want to go there" feeling. The plot is a little subpar, but the context is simply fascinating and the details are very rich and internally consistent, which is always a big thing with me. Here is a decent, enticing review, because the Amazon page reviews are really kind of confusing and crappy.

Will second the reccomendation for David Brin's six part Uplift saga. Sometimes I found the vastly complicated subplot structure a little frustrating (and would skip around to follow a particular storyline) but overall, another really engrossing and believable universe.

Ursula K. Le Guin is by far my favorite author - and I would agree that Hainish universe is the backdrop for a number of her short stories as well as her books. She's never done a "Hainish cycle" designation or even formal description, but here is a decent listing of the works that take place in that universe, plus a bit of intro to the parameters and history of the Hainish universe.

Thanks for this question! I love these types of rich storied worlds as well, and will be checking out others' answers.
posted by nelleish at 1:38 PM on April 6, 2007

I'd meant to include this: here is Le Guin's own take on the idea of a Hainish "canon" plus a loose reccomendation for and order for reading the books/stories.
posted by nelleish at 1:43 PM on April 6, 2007

C. S. Friedman's Coldfire Trilogy.
posted by who squared at 2:10 PM on April 6, 2007

i only read the first dune book, as i heard a lot of complaints about the sequels. quintiple the rec.

"The price you pay for living in paradise is you go soft"
posted by phaedon at 2:20 PM on April 6, 2007

Karin Lowachee: Warchild, Burndive, and Cagebird.

Kristine Smith's Jani Kilian novels.

Octavia's Butler's trilogy, Lilith's Brood.
posted by who squared at 2:27 PM on April 6, 2007

Warning for anyone reading the Night's Dawn series by Peter F. Hamilton: the ending is a pretty awful deus ex machina job...

Also, the plot involves the dead coming back and possessing the living, and then trying to take over the universe with their dead-guy juju powers. If silliness at that level bothers you, you ought not read the books.

I will disagree with Dune dropping off. I was not very fond of Dune Messiah and Children of Dune, but I enjoyed God-Emperor and Heretics.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:50 PM on April 6, 2007

Thirding (fourthing?) Banks's Culture novels. They are definitely what you're describing. Also Alastair Reynolds.

Perhaps Richard Morgan's Takeshi Kovacs novels as well.
posted by biscotti at 2:52 PM on April 6, 2007

You can't go wrong with Jeff VanderMeer's Ambergris stories - an off-kilter approach to world-building, for sure. Very inventive.

I also remember thinking very highly of David Zindell's Neverness, although I'm unsure if he ever returned to that world (which was a great one).
posted by jbickers at 3:09 PM on April 6, 2007

I'll nth Banks' Culture novels, and second Bujold.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 3:10 PM on April 6, 2007

The author that came to mind is Poul Anderson. Be forewarned! The cover art on his books is just about universally terrible. But he is one of the all time great Sci Fi authors. He writes somewhat darker (but much better than) Sci-Fi than Asimov.

Two main series (which occur in the same universe) are the traders: "Trader to the Stars", "The Trouble Twisters", "Earth Book of Stormgate", "Satan's World", "Mirkheim" (there are others).
Also the empire / Flandary series which starts with "Ensign Flandary".

Most of the books are collections of connected short stories.
posted by Riemann at 3:11 PM on April 6, 2007

I always had exactly that impression of the "Ender's Game" series. The first one is published as both a child's novel as well as an adult novel, so it is an easy read. The following three are a lot more complex but I find them all incredibly believable and to this day my favorite story. From what you describe I think you would especially like the second book in the series, "Speaker for the Dead", which can actually be read as a stand alone if you so desire, it is also where you learn about different worlds and get that feeling you are describing. The series also has a shadow series of the same story from a different perspective that is a lot more political than sci-fi that is also fabulous.

I also recommend Dune, but I dont know how believable it is for someone that is only lightly dabbling in sci-fi. I never would have appreciated it until these most recent years when I finally fell in love with over the top sci-fi. Also as an aside, I only enjoyed the second Dune book out of my love for the first, the third one almost made me hate them all.
posted by trishthedish at 3:39 PM on April 6, 2007

Seconding Alan Dean Foster. My favorite thing about those books is the cool, detailed universe he's set up. If you're interested in reading the books in order, he has a timeline on his site; it's easy to skim for the titles and ignore the spoilery stuff. He didn't write them entirely in order (also, I think some of the ones listed aren't out yet). (To get to that page through the main site, click "Data" on the sidebar, then "Chrono Data".)

detailed planets that are almost characters in themselves, each one having a discrete cultural or ecological definition to it (desert planet, ice planet, etc.)

You might especially like his Icerigger trilogy (set in the Commonwealth)--Icerigger, Mission to Moulokin, and The Deluge Drivers--as well as Midworld (and Mid-Flinx, set on the same planet). The Icerigger ones and Midworld are pretty much standalones, so you don't have to worry about jumping into the middle of a plot.

A significant portion of the Flinx books are basically just him jaunting off to different planets for various reasons (there's an overarching plot, but that's not where most of the focus is) and surviving/exploring. This is just my opinion, but I can think of at least two books that seemed entirely like excuses to explore different bits of universe just a little more before the main plotline comes to an end. Not that I'm complaining, mind.

The Commonwealth could definitely be considered a sprawling space empire.

(Warning: there's a certain amount of deus ex machina when it comes to getting Our Hero out of tight spots (maybe three or four books out of... ten or so? I dunno.) but if you're reading more for the exploratory aspect, hopefully it won't matter too much.)
posted by Many bubbles at 4:21 PM on April 6, 2007

Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy. Wil McCarthy's Queendom of Sol tetrology.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 4:25 PM on April 6, 2007

Uh, the Mars books are set on Mars, which is hardly a galaxy-hopping empire.

OTOH, Varley's Eight-Worlds setting probably fits the bill even though it's set entirely within the solar system.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:48 PM on April 6, 2007

Seconding the Kim Stanley Robinson Mars books (including the short story collection). They don't necessarily fit into the mold of "big universe" (the stories revolve around colonies on Mars, with influence from Earth; no other worlds are colonized), and they feature some rather hokey science, but the characterization is first-rate.

You could try Jack McDevitt's books. They mostly take place in one universe ("Moonfall" aside) and have some interesting bits, but I have to say they're mostly boilerplate adventure novels and don't lead to too terribly much thought-provocation.

I'm going to anti-second the "Pip and Flynx" books. I just read one last week, and it seemed very simplistic and full of deus-ex-machina. Maybe it was just the book I read (Trouble Magnet, I think -- I didn't like it enough to remember the title, honestly) but the writing and characterization left a lot to be desired. I also found Asimov's Foundation novels to be far too flat for me to enjoy -- the thoughts on empire-building were mostly facile to me, and the storytelling was so focused on that aspect that the characters seemed very one-dimensional.

I tend to <3 Frederik Pohl and Poul Anderson's novels and short stories. You might too.
posted by Alterscape at 5:07 PM on April 6, 2007

If you're not wedded to the nuts and bolts aspect of science fiction, try some Jack Vance. His Nightlamp and Alastor books are great, and his Dying Earth books smacked my gob.
posted by fleacircus at 6:11 PM on April 6, 2007

The Golden Age trilogy by John C. Wright! It melds intellectual questions of immortality and the self, with excellent science fiction storytelling. It is my favorite trilogy, (partially because the author attended my college, St. John's in Annapolis.) But here is a customer review from Amazon of a Stars Wars fan (which I can't say that I am!)

"Amazing debut novel, a book that rewards rereading,
October 7, 2006
Reviewer: ShriDurga

You know those novels where you find yourself flipping back pages or chapters to remind yourself about the characters or who said what? The Golden Age is a book like that. But I didn't mind at all because the world it depicts is so wonderfully imagined that I wanted to get all the details right.

I first discovered John C Wright in "Star Wars on Trial," a collection of critical essays to which he contributed a withering attack on the proposition of religious content in the world's most famous film franchise. It wasn't so much his conclusions that impressed me as his facility with logic in cutting to the heart of an argument. The secret of Wright's laser-guided reasoning? He is, besides a former journalist, also a former attorney.

He puts these skills to good use in his debut novel, The Golden Age, the first in a trilogy that begins with an amnesia whodunit, one of those stories where the character wakes up and goes out in search of his identity. Except instead of not knowing whom he is, the main character here has a gap in his memory about 250 years long.

For those living in the Golden Oecumene, 250 years is like a day or two for you or me. The citizens of this mostly earth-bound civilization have conquered illness and aging and now live lives measured in millennia, their bodies safely stored from physical harm while their minds manipulate mannequins in real space. Living amongst them are mass minds made up of millions of human participants, photonic beings, and super computer intelligences that help maintain the reality within which these neuroforms interact. The currency of the era is data processing time.

Our hero, Phaethon, a favored son of the Oecumene, discovers by chance that his name is no longer looked on with favor and for the next two days we follow him as he attempts to uncover the source of this opprobrium. It might seem as simple as asking, but Phaethon soon finds that everyone he meets also missing bits of memory, gaps related to Phaethon's misdeed.

Despite the title, this is not a swashbuckler or a space opera. It reminds me most of Asimov's Foundation and Robot series, a detective story set in a universe where affluence and genetic engineering have produced a society in stasis, one where travel is irrelevant and exploration dangerous. The action, such as it is, is based on Phaethon talking to people who can't remember what he wants to know and making deductions based as much on what is revealed as is not. And to my great delight Wright exercises his legal background to craft a witty courtroom battle, one in which the defense offers a plea bargain if the prosecution will accept within 15 seconds of its offer.

Getting started on The Golden Age is a bit of a chore. There are quite a number of characters, all of them different neuroforms requiring explanation on introduction. But the effort is worth it. Once you get through the first quarter of the book you've met most of the major players (including a computer servant that represents himself as a flying penguin) and start to get a better feel for the world being created here. Then you can begin to appreciate the breadth of Wright's vision. Besides a crafting a clever mystery and creating a nuanced world, Wright also adds a symbolic layer to the story in the naming of his characters (whose mythological origins point to what has happened in the Golden Oecumene), and if that isn't enough the author also manages to work in thoughtful discussions on issues such as identity, freedom, personal satisfaction, and social responsibility."

posted by amileighs at 6:11 PM on April 6, 2007

Anne McCaffrey's Sassinak and loose sequels have a broad universe. They're more in the "guilty pleasure" than "fantastic" camp, but well, we all gotta be somewhere.

In the truly good camp, are the mentioned Vorkosigan series. I'd recommend either starting with "Cordelia's honor" (a compilation volume) or if that doesn't grab you, "The warrior's apprentice". They follow different characters and don't have the same writing style. Both good, though.

"Speaker for the dead" by Orson Scott Card and sequels have some flaws, but definitely have distinctive and interesting planets. The later books get into guiltier than good, but still have that "I want to go there" feeling.
posted by Margalo Epps at 7:15 PM on April 6, 2007

Almost everything done by Cordwainer Smith fits into his millenia-long development of the Instrumentality of Mankind culture. IMHO it kicks the ass of anything else ever done in the "construction of universes" business.
posted by Iosephus at 7:27 PM on April 6, 2007

I'll second Bujold's Vorkosigan series - highly developed "realistic" (in the sense you said you were looking for in your comment) cultures spanning multiple planets. (I like Bujold's other stuff too, but it doesn't meet your specs.)
posted by joannemerriam at 8:06 PM on April 6, 2007

the Mars books are set on Mars, which is hardly a galaxy-hopping empire

Yeah, I know. But they score high on being immersive and detailing a planet's culture and ecology...
posted by Zed_Lopez at 8:08 PM on April 6, 2007

Another vote for the Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold.
posted by who squared at 8:28 PM on April 6, 2007

I'm a big fan of James Alan Gardener. He's got a great sense of humour and a really good take on the classic flavour of sci-fi through a contemporary sensibility.

The bulk of his books (other than the Laura Croft one which I only just found out about this minute and the short stories) all take place in a well-conceived 400-year future universe. There are overlapping characters, but different main characters and points of view for each book. There are different species and each book takes place on a different planet (except the ones set on Old Earth). The aliens are really well done and quite variable. The books stand alone, but there is a universe-level mystery that really starts to unfold around the 5th book.
posted by carmen at 8:34 PM on April 6, 2007

C.J. Cherryh's Alliance/Union novels.

Dan Simmons' Hyperion/Endymion series.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 12:17 AM on April 7, 2007

Seconding Jack Vance.

Of course.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:46 AM on April 7, 2007

I'm going to anti-second the "Pip and Flynx" books. I just read one last week, and it seemed very simplistic and full of deus-ex-machina. Maybe it was just the book I read (Trouble Magnet, I think -- I didn't like it enough to remember the title, honestly) but the writing and characterization left a lot to be desired.
Trouble Magnet is, imho, the worst of his books. It's really not something to base the rest of the series off of. Some background: He started out writing the Flinx books a long time ago (1972), and after having written the first few (up to 1973) and set up a huge story arc, he stopped writing them for whatever reason (bored?). Then he started up again (1995) and a couple of the new books seem like, well, filler so that he can get to the killer book he's had in his mind all of these years for the ending. He's only one books away from the finale at the moment. I'm pretty sure it's not actually his writing style that's going down hill, since his other new books have rocked (especially the Founding of the Commonwealth trilogy, same universe, different characters)...it's just that he wants to Get There Now, with Flinx the correct age and with the correct experiences to finish up the series.

Nor Crystal Tears, the Founding series (Phylogenesis, Dirge, Diurnity's Dawn), Midworld, Sentenced to Prism, and Cachalot would be my picks for anyone who wants to start off, they're all non-Flinx books in that universe. (Note for this question: NCT & Founding are both early history for that universe, pre-empire, as it were.)
Other books by ADF that you might enjoy...the novilization for StarWars episode IV, A New Hope....
posted by anaelith at 9:22 AM on April 7, 2007

Karl Shroeder's Permanence and Sun of Suns.
posted by euphorb at 9:26 AM on April 7, 2007

Cecelia Holland's Floating Worlds - a relatively obscure book I read multiple times as a SF obsessed teenager. It's her only SF book (so far), and it's notable for the complexity and completeness of the world she creates. (All her other work is historical fiction.) It appears to be out of print, but it is definitely worth the effort if you can find a copy.
posted by ljshapiro at 10:57 AM on April 7, 2007

Riddle of Stars, by Patricia M. McKillip.

It used to be out of print and I'd snap up every decent copy I encountered. I have multiple copies of this book so I can always have it to read, and also to loan to friends (who end up keeping it).

This story really fired up my imagination and I spend a lot of time during re-reads trying perfecting mental images of the characters, place and time in great detail. The ideal "escape" world where there is beauty and wonder. I love the imagination of the author in this story.
posted by loquat at 10:41 PM on April 7, 2007

ljshapiro's comment reminded of a very old trilogy--late 70s. The Gaia Trilogy by John Varley. Titan, Wizard, Demon. A planet as a living being. I haven't read it in ages so I don't know if it carries over well into the 21st century.
posted by who squared at 6:50 PM on April 8, 2007

Nthing Cordwainer Smith, Iain Banks, and Dune, the last with the usual caveats: I adore the original book but found even the earliest sequels immensely disappointing.

As for the Strugatskys -- I have loved everything I've read by them and would second the recommendation, but their stuff seems awfully hard to find in English: do you have any recommended sources, nasreddin? (I got hooked when I stumbled across library copies of Roadside Picnic and a few other works, from a late-70s series of Russian SF translations. But as far as I can tell, these are pretty much all out of print now, so non-Russian-speakers have to scavenge for rare used copies...

...or resort to etexts from Russian websites with, ah, somewhat flexible attitudes towards copyright. Not that I'd have any idea what sites those might be, of course.
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 1:24 AM on April 9, 2007

If sprawling scope is on the bill, Stephen Baxter's billions-of-years-long Xeelee sequence might be worth a look. So far I've only read Vaccuum Diagrams, a collection of loosely linked stories in the Xeelee timeline, but loved the ideas and epic scale. The first story, about the life-cycle of ice organisms who use the temperature differential from tiny shadows on their planet to drive their chemistry, hooked me completely, and the series has gotten a lot of praise.
posted by mediareport at 7:58 AM on April 9, 2007

Hmm, according to this page they're all out of print. I will say that you can find every one of their books (in Russian) online full-text (for some reason this is true of a very large number of books published in Russia): http://www.rusf.ru/abs/books.htm. This is the authors' official site (well, Boris's), so no copyright problems.
posted by nasreddin at 8:47 AM on April 9, 2007

Hmm, according to this page they're all out of print.

I paid twenty bucks for a beat-up copy of "Roadside Picnic" on ebay a few years ago - worth every penny. Also, if you like it, it's worth checking out the film (loosely based on the book).
posted by jbickers at 3:21 PM on April 9, 2007

Oooh, thanks, nasreddin -- I didn't realize rusf.ru was official, and they do have a handful of texts translated into English and French along with all the Russian downloads. http://www.rusf.ru/abs/english/

(It's not like they'd have made a dime if I'd bought the used copies that are all that's available in print in English, either...but knowing they're OK making those free etexts available makes me feel better about having them on my PDA.)
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 3:49 PM on April 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

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