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Sci-Fi Fun



I burned out on a few genres in 2009, namely leather-pants-supernatural-kick-ass ladies, and wilting-regency-virgin heroines (more blog posts on those later).  Thanks to a few cheap and comprehensively packed Kindle “Ultimate Sci-Fi” collections I bought for a dollar  (can the authors be getting any money from this?!), I’ve been rinsing my brain out with some old-school sci-fi, as well as cleaning out my shelf of real books in the genre.  I’ve read pretty much every fantasy series there is, but sci-fi is a genre where I have BIG holes in my education. (Read all of Asimov as a kid but not Heinlein, for example.)

I’m almost glad that I’m able to experience all these classics as an adult.  I’m quickly getting addicted to the Space Opera, in fact a collection of new Space Opera short stories was my favorite book I read over my vacation.  I’m especially enjoying the old-school sci-fi books that I SHOULD have read before, like More Than Human, or The Forever War.  It seems amazing to me that these books can be packed with adventure, science, character, and still be ABOUT something.  In less than 200 pages.  Wow.

And I’ll go out on a limb and risk looking stupid for the sake of creating a dialogue:  Is it a crazy generalization, or are older books in the genre MUCH shorter than newer sci-fi?  I mean, look at that picture above.  When I was handed Peter Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn Trilogy, I was like, “3000+ &^$# pages?!”  But I guess when someone sees a fantasy series 13 books long, they probably think the same thing about THAT genre, whereas I see that and scream, “Goodie!!!”  🙂

If you have any suggestions of sci-fi you’d like to recommend, please leave it in the comments, I’d love to check out your favorites.  Currently reading through 12 books from Andre Norton, will let you know how it goes!

EDIT:  I’m overwhelmed with all the great suggestions, thanks for adding, I will be busy all year with this list (and hope other people pick up some suggestions as well).  I have a Goodreads account where I list what I’ve read and LIKED, so if you’re interested or a member of the service you can check it out.

FURTHER:  I do not list any books I don’t like on my Goodreads.  I’ve had a few authors find negative reviews and get their feelings hurt and I’m not a book critic, so why put that out there?  I just list the stuff I’d truly recommend reading and rate those from 3-5 stars depending on how much I loved them.  Some series I read so long ago I rate them similarly across the board even though the books within the series vary in quality.  In my fantasy and mystery categories the Goodreads account doesn’t list hundreds of books I’ve actually read and haven’t gotten around to listing, working on that 🙂

EDIT:  Well, this is crazy, so many great responses.  What I love is all the people thanking me for the list (that YOU guys made) for their own lists.  Crowdsharing FTW! So I’m gonna pick a book from the comments and post when I’m reading it so we can all discuss.  Hardest thing will be what to pick…

  • I cut my teeth on Asimov and Arthur C Clarke, which would probably be called ‘old-school sci-fi’. I think you would have to have read at least a couple of their (many) books to see how far we’ve come in terms of science and technology – and how much they predicted.

    I don’t think you are reading the books wrong, but your expectations are not being met if you are having to skim. As someone who is trying to get a book published atm I can assure you that massive tomes are not the norm these days, even for sci-fi, although established names can get them published.

    Have a great time reading – and don’t forget PJ Haarsma’s ‘Rings of Orbis’ series. They are well-written, fast-paced and won’t weigh your bookshelf down 🙂

    • Yum, I’ll add the series to my list, thx Higlet!

  • Dwayne
    • Tim Morrissey

      I was also going to suggest the Lensmen series.
      Doc Smith invented the space opera.
      What’s funny is when someone reads them for the first time and complains about all the trite old devices in the books.
      They are trite because everyone copied HIM.

  • ISGC

    Often when I read sci-fi books my mind will go wild and I’ll imagine that I’m the only one on earth that can save the planet. Always the hero, but in almost every instance I imagine, the only way I’m ever able to save the human race is by sacrificing myself.
    I could never shake the unnerving sense of uselessness. I was never able to amount to much and astrology and science just reinforce my insignificance.
    But then I watch Carl Sagan explain drake’s equation and I feel better.
    Our fascination with aliens is a peculiar one, though.
    the irony of it all is, if we do ever come in contact with other carbon based species, the chances are we’ll be the aliens.
    but I’m getting off topic… as far as old sci-fi I’m sure you’ve read Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game, Shadow of the Hegemon, Speaker for the Dead, ect.; you probably haven’t read all of them, he’s written a lot of books…), but one I liked was “the demolished man”. I’m not sure what your preferences are, but if you’re willing to explore try it out.

    I can’t wait to see some comments on the space opera
    science fiction reader’s humor is always my favorite. so much verbosity, lol.

  • Todd

    I would personally avoid the Night Dawn series by Hamilton. I read them, and while they were fairly decent, the last 50 pages of “The Naked God” was enough to make me despise the entire series, in retrospect. Deus Ex Machinas to the nth degree.

    I am very impressed with the Takeshi Kovacs books by Richard K. Morgan – interesting stories about how we have figured out how to “back up” and transfer personalities into other bodies, for various tasks.

    In terms of single books, I really enjoyed “Saturn’s Children,” by Charles Stross. About how humanity is all but wiped out, but the droids we created to serve us are still trying to figure out how to survive without their masters…

    • Matt F.

      Agreed on the Night’s Dawn comment. I’m a fan of Peter F. Hamilton, and I would suggest Fallen Dragon as a better (and shorter) read. If you like that one, then look at both the Mindstar series and the Commonwealth Saga; both are better than Night’s Dawn.

      • I’d second the recommendation for _Fallen Dragon_ – much superior to the Night’s Dawn series, in my opinion, and I say that having enjoyed the latter very much.

        • Tyronomo

          I’ve also read a lot of Hamilton. I found the Commonwealth Saga much more enjoyable than Nights Dawn. I would swap ‘alternate dimensions’ for wormholes any day!

    • “Deus Ex Machinas to the nth degree.”

      That word doesn’t mean what you think it means.

      The end to THE NIGHT’S DAWN TRILOGY is a blatant plot device, yes, but not a deus ex machina. Deus ex machina by definition cannot be foreshadowed or set up in advance. They have to come out of nowhere. On the other hand, as in NIGHT’S DAWN, the plot device is first mentioned over 2,000 pages before the ending and our heroes spend all of Book 3 looking for it so it can sort the crisis out. Complaining that they find the plot device and it actually sorts the crisis out is like moaning that LORD OF THE RINGS is solved by the One Ring getting dropped in a volcano after a thousand pages of Frodo and Gandalf and others talking about resolving the war by dropping the ring in the volcano. That’s the whole basis of the story.

      THE REALITY DYSFUNCTION is Hamilton’s best individual novel as well, although PANDORA’S STAR is a close second.

  • Wilty regency heroines can be a pain. Have you tried reading Georgette Heyer, tho? She’s the woman who created the modern genre, and her women tend to be pretty fun (esp. given the fact that she was writing in the 1930s and 40s).
    Also in the sort-of romance genre, I think you might like Gail Carringer’s Soulless. It’s a gaslamp/steampunk adventure/fantasy/romance/manners comedy which has a lot of Wodehouse and Austen feel to it.

    My SciFi is weak – I’m an urban fantasy and mystery novel girl. But if you ever need mysteries, just tweet my way.

    (have fun with the books! so nice to have time to actually read!)

    • Wow — just read the first few pages of Soulless on — it sounds like great fun! I’m putting it on my list to buy ASAP. Great recommendation!

  • len

    Sci fi owes much to cheap short story presses which because of being short stories had to compress the themes almost iconically. In that respect as an emerging genre it has the same constraints as webisodes and the same concentrating effect. So the theory goes.

    I see Sturgeon. Good choice. My favorite is A Saucer of Loneliness.

  • Anything by Ursula K. Le Guin is great…most recently I read “The Lathe of Heaven” but there is also “The Left Hand of Darkness” and “The Dispossessed”…did you love “The Forever War?” I read it for a class a few years ago and finally gave in to loving sci-fi!

    • elliot

      Thank you! I don’t understand why more people don’t rave about her. Okay, I’m a guy and it bothers me that she is so often labeled as writing “chick spec fic.” I’m sorry, but is thoughtful S-F with well developed characters only for women now? That is the stupidest thing and it makes me so mad. On top of everything else the cultures she creates are just so incredibly intriguing.

      I’m glad to see there’s someone else who loves her stuff. 🙂

  • Harmless Eccentric

    James Tiptree, Jr- a woman writing under a man’s name- had some truly awesome short fiction in the 60’s and 70’s. The best collection of her work currently in print is “Her Smoke Rose Up Forever;” not, unfortunately, available for Kindle yet.

    • I second this emotion. Tiptree’s work is really amazing. “Her Smoke Rose Up Forever” is well worth purchasing in paper form, if you can’t get it in Kindle form. The short stories “The Girl Who Was Plugged In” and “Love is the Plan, the Plan is Death” are two that I still think about to this day.

  • posty

    Check out David Webers Honor Harrington novels. Best Space Opera I’ve ever read.
    Baen books actually has the first two novels online for free

    • Netgyrl

      I would back this up 100%. The Honor Harrington novels are probability my favorite sci-fi series of all time. She is an amazing heroine and the books are well written with exciting space battles, great characters and interesting fleshed out universe. AND as Posty says you can get the first one “On Basilisk Station” for free and upload it to your Kindle!

      For a one off I would highly recommend Robert Heinlein’s “Friday”. Amazing book.

  • I thought I was the only one who read all of Asimov but no Heinlein. Glad I have company. 🙂

    Have you read the original Dune series? How about Clarke’s Rama books?

    There is a newer series by Alan Dean Foster that I really like. It’s the Taken trilogy. Very fun read in my opinion.

  • I’m a big fan of John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series. His blog is also awfully entertaining (and the archives go back 10+ years – very distracting at work).

    I’ll second Dwayne’s nod to the Lensman books, as well as Todd’s criticism of The Naked God. It doesn’t ruin the preceding story, but is awfully unsatisfying as an ending. That said, I do like Hamilton’s standalone book Fallen Dragon, and he also has a short story collection set in the Night’s Dawn universe (A Second Chance at Eden).

    Not sure if they actually qualify as space opera, but Niven’s Known Space books (and Ringworld in particular) bear mention. Ringworld seems to polarize people to a certain extent, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Have fun!

    • I can only second the Known Space series, it’s great.

      Somone further down mentioned Dan Simon’s Hyperion and Endymiion series, and they are defitnetly worth a read as well.

      Douglas Adams’ Hithhiker’s Guide series and Dirk Gently books are also worth a read, though they’re not as much Sci-Fi as conceptually interesting comedies, set against a futuristic backdrop 🙂

  • Robert Jordan series “The Wheel of Time” with the exception that you may not like a BIG series of books! OQ of Zangermarsh

  • I love old-school sci-fi. Just last week I decided to try to read all the Hugo Award-winning novels that I haven’t read yet this year. I’ve read almost half of the 57 novels that have won the award so far, but i still have 29 to go. “The Forever War” by Haldeman is on my list. So is “Forever Peace” by him. So I’m looking forward to them.

    As for suggestions, someone already mentioned Orson Scott Card. Hate his personal beliefs, but he is a fine writer of the genre. I just finished re-reading the “Ender” and “Shadow” books. Going old-school, you can’t go wrong with Asimov or Fritz Lieber or Roger Zelazny. I’m pretty fond of C.J. Cherryh as well. “A Canticle for Leibowitz” by William M. Miller, Jr. is a unique and very interesting sci-fi offering. Too bad it’s the only novel Miller ever published

    A bit newer are Dan Simmons “Hyperion” and “Endymion” books. I’d highly recommend them.

    Good luck finding some great new reads!

  • Well, so get started on the Heinlein already. Double Star is good — actor as the main character (you’ll know him) and Heinlein had a short and undistinguished career trying to break in acting as well as screenwriting; lived up in Laurel Canyon, and had a fairly amazing bohemian life that you wouldn’t think of for the late 30’s.

    And yes, SF books were pretty tightly restricted to around 60,000 words in the 50’s and 60’s, as that was what fit nicely in a PocketBook or Dell paperback. Te taste for longer novels and better binding technology came in together.

    (Remember, the name “perfect binding” comes from the image of someone holding a paperback with pages falling out, saying “Oh, that’s just *perfect*.”)

  • I’d like to recommend 3 of Heinlein’s books:

    The Cat Who Walks Through Walls is a delightful story about time travel, life on the moon and the power of myth.

    Stranger in a Strange Land shows us the way we might be seen by an alien life form.

    And Starship Troopers is a great satire on the abuse of power, both military and political.

    If you read them, I hope you enjoy them!

    • Leila

      Agreed, especially on the _Stranger_. Next time I need a cat, I’m naming it Jubal Harshaw.

  • When you say you’ve read all the fantasy series does that include Michael Moorcock’s work? Elric, Hawkmoon, Corum and the rest? Just wondering because Mike has a ton of great stuff.

    SF-wise I’d recommend Poul Anderson’s Time Patrol series and his Dominic Flandry books. Also Phillip Jose Farmer’s Riverworld series.

    Oh and my pal Laura Kinsale’s new Regency Romace ‘Lessons in French’ will be out this month with a heroine who is guaranteed not to be wimpy or wilty.

  • I’d recommend Philip K. Dick’s “Ubik”. It has three attributes that I really like. It’s philosophical, sci-fi’ish and funny to read. And I have to admit, i was feeling a bit strange when i finished the book because reality seemed to have changed. You have the odd feeling that everything around you might not be real because you can’t prove otherwise. Really really recommendable.
    (Btw his book “Do Electric Sheep Dream of Androids” has been the basis of one of THE SciFi movies ever: “Blade Runner” So, yes, he’s got a lot book worth to read.)

    If you want it really funny, you should definitely try Douglas Adams and his “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” Series.

    I also liked Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451”. It’s about a future time in which possessing books is a crime and people stop to think on their own.

  • If you want an incredible blend of sci-fi and fantasy, with wonderfully rich characters and an epic storyline then read the Many Colored Land by Julian May. It’s the first in a series that she writes about a peaceful not-so-distant future where those who don’t fit into the tamed world go through a one way time portal six million years in earth’s past – only to find out that an alien race is already there.

    I can’t say enough great things about this series. I’ve never read another like it.

  • I’ve been getting into feminist sci-fi lately, and I think you might also enjoy that I’ve just read “Woman on the Edge of Time” by Marge Piercy, it was really good, and “Singer from the Sea” by Sheri S. Tepper is what I’m working on right now and it’s excellent. Another big name in feminist sci-fi is Octavia Butler, I hear a lot of good things but I haven’t managed to read her yet. Also, Ursula K. Le Guin, and C. J. Cherryh. And someone already mentioned James Tiptree, who I have on my shelf ready to read soon. There’s lots more of course but there’s a start.

    Can also second Ender’s Game and The Speaker for the Dead, by Orson Scott Card.

  • Ron

    +1 for Dune…. +10 if you read all six of them

  • I saw on your front page you are currently reading Neal Stephenson’s “The Diamond Age”. If you haven’t read it, read his latest, “Anathem”. also a dense read, but a wonderful world worth exploring with many ideas that left me ruminating. I have reread the book two more times.

    I also enjoyed “Cryptonomicon” and “Snow Crash”. I’ve currently paused my trek through the whole Baroque Cycle. I guess I’ll eventually get to “The Diamond Age” and his other earlier books. But that will come after I finish reading my current distraction, the Harry Potter series in German.

  • Ben

    Look up Alastair Reynolds’ Revelation Space universe novels. There’s six or seven of them (I’m in the process of reading these, having only read two of the novels and a few of the short stories myself). But, they’re all stand-alone stories that take place in a larger future history.

    Neal Stephenson’s Anathem is a fantastic read as well. Although, Stephenson’s writing certainly isn’t for everyone.

    And then there’s Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos. Four books there.

    And lastly, for space opera that’s a bit more action-adventure-y, there’s Jack McDevitt’s books. He’s got two series. One, a near future space opera involving a main character, Priscilla Hutchins and her adventures as a spaceship pilot. The other is a far future detective/mystery thing. Both are good fun to read.

    • This. Alastair Reynolds is one of the very best space opera writers currently working. I recently read a review copy of TERMINAL WORLD, his new 2010 novel, and it is stupendous, mixing old-school planetary romance, hard SF, the New Weird and steampunk. It may be his best book to date, which is saying something as PUSHING ICE and CHASM CITY are also fantastic, and all of his books are worth reading.

      Whilst the REVELATION SPACE universe books are stand-alones, they do also contain a loose trilogy and a linked short story collection it is better to read in order. The trilogy is REVELATION SPACE, REDEMPTION ARK and ABSOLUTION GAP, with the short story collection called GALACTIC NORTH. The first two stories in GALACTIC NORTH should be read before the novels, the other stories afterwards for it all to make sense. THE PREFECT, CHASM CITY and the David Bowie-referencing novella collection DIAMOND DOGS, TURQUOISE DAYS are set in the same universe (both before the trilogy) but are completely self-contained.

      The HYPERION CANTOS by Dan Simmons – THE CANTERBURY TALES in space! – is also superb, although the first two books are much stronger than the latter two.

    • DanC

      I have to second the Hyperion series. I just finished and one of the better reads in a long time. Could not put down the last book even thought I wanted to slow down as it was the last 🙂

  • I would second those above who said Ender’s Game series and Dune series. My favorite is Ender’s Game and then to follow with the Shadow series. Ender in Exile was recently released and I really enjoyed it also. The last book I read this week was a fun cross genre Sci-fi and urban fantasy by Sarah Hoyt called Darkship Thieves. It isn’t directly available for Kindle but Baen’s website has it available in Mobi format. Speaking of Baen’s website, there are a ton of free sci-fi stories available there.

  • This is less sci-fi and more leather-pants-supernatural-kick-ass lady if you decide you haven’t had enough: the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series by Laurell K. Hamilton. There are 17 books so far in the series. Don’t be afraid. It’s just a number.

    Happy reading!

  • The type of scifi I read is the serious idea oriented stuff with the scifi element stuck in to hold my short attention span – that’s me! Here’s my best loved list from a trip through my bookcases.

    I just grabbed “The Mote in God’s Eye” by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle from my bookshelf to read for maybe the fourth time. Some romp around the galaxy favs are “The Avatar” by Poul Anderson, “Macroscope” by Piers Anthony and “The Number of the Beast” by Heinlein (read many times cause it’s so easy to do.) Card’s excellent Ender series has already been mentioned but one of his jewels that few seem to know about is “Pastwatch: the Redemption of Christopher Columbus” – there’s a twist in the middle of it that’ll make your day. Then there’s “Neuromancer” by William Gibson, the classic that really got the 80s cyberspace period going and then his less known “The Difference Engine” which asks what if Babbage had finished his mechanical computer and the computer age subsequently started in the 1800s. For a good UFO mystery with one of the darkest and most facinating characters I’ve ever read there’s “Genesis” by W.A. Harbinson – the original book that spawned a series, but the key points were all in that one. Frank Herbert’s Dune series has already been mentioned but less known and just as loved by me is his series “Desination: Void”, “The Jesus Incident”, “The Lazarus Effect” and “The Ascension Factor”. And then for a break from idea stuff, L. Ron Hubbard’s “Battlefield Earth” is a surprisingly fun and easy to read 1066 page book (that has a muscle bound hero who can do no wrong.) Still on the lighter side there’s anything by Michael P. Kube McDowell, Michael McCollum and Frederik Pohl. Back on the idea stuff is Charles Sheffield’s “Between the Strokes of Night” with some of the best twists I’ve ever seen. And lastly, anything by English author John Wyndham. Of course don’t forget Jules Verne.

    Regarding are the oldies better than the newbies… I tend to think so but you’d expect a larger selection of quality from an 80 year period than a recent 10 year period. I do get the feeling that scifi authors are given 500 page quotas from publishers and end up padding them with boilerplate – that’s why I hang around the 2nd hand shops more. It’s rare that I’m tempted to buy a recent book having been burned so often.

  • I saw a Scalzi rec above and I totally agree. Also anything by Alastair Reynolds, Iain M. Banks, Jeff Somers. I am on your Goodreads account if you need anymore 🙂

  • Aevear

    My dad is reading some of those and i have seen them on his desk. The Hyperion seres is very good (Hyperion, The Fall Of Hyperion, Endymion, The Rise Of Endymion). Dan Simmons us my favorite space opera author.

  • Dying Inside – Robert Silverberg. My favorite novel. Pretty much any Silverberg from the 60 or later. I know you’ve already read Niven. Also, you can’t go wrong with Ray Bradbury. 🙂

  • If you’ve never had the pleasure of reading “The Sparrow” by Mary Doria Russell, you should! Three words: Jesuits In Space.

  • Oh! And I agree — something is going on with the size of books these days. WTF? Why aren’t environmentalists up in arms? Talk about carbon footprint.

  • Joey

    If you’re looking for old school sci-fi and want to toss some humor into the mix, here are two slightly more obscure ones I enjoyed as a kid.

    Both are quick witty reads, and though your millage may vary, I always find it fascinating to see what people in the early fifties thought space travel would be. It gives one perspective on just how far we’ve come in so short a time technologically. Heck, the entire plot of Have Space Suit Will Travel revolves around the seemingly impossible dream of walking on the moon! Good stuff.

  • Uh, I’m pretty sure Heinlein wrote Starship Troopers seriously — that was during the Vietnam War, and he was making an extended argument for the virtue of military service.

    Ray Bradbury is wonderful, but he’s not SF in the same sense that most of the rest of this stuff is. None the less, the Martian Chronicles are great. Look at his later novels too, especially the ones that are based on when he was breaking into screenwriting, like Green Shadows, White Whale.

    • Quick clarification. Starship Troopers was published in 1959 and it contains some direct references to the Korean War, not the Vietnam War.

  • Beth, big novels sell better. No idea why, but 100,000 words is a short novel nowadays.

  • Oh, and read the Heinlein juveniles; remember that they were written for a very specific audience in the late 40’s and 50’s, which was “boys books”, so they have essentially no female characters with the exception of Star Beast. (No, the star beast isn’t the girl.)

    Heinlein was a big fan of redheads, though — hmmm.

  • BobW

    Don’t miss Startide Rising by David Brin. It’s the single best SF novel I read in the ’80s.

    I have to disagree with the description of Starship Troopers. I took it as more of a meditation on the proper balance between authority, responsibility, and power. They are different, and you can have one without the others.

    I think RAH’s point was that they were seriously out of whack, with what he depicted as dire consequences. It was also a tribute to the “Poor Bloody Infantry”. RAH was a navy man, but he understood what they go through.

    It would be really hard to film RAH’s novels well. Most of the action occurs between the viewpoint character’s ears.

    The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Have Spacesuit, will Travel, Citizen of the Galaxy. I’d love to see Danny Glover play Colonel Baslim.

    I too recommend C. J. Cherryh, especially her Alliance-Union series: Downbelow Station, Merchanter’s Luck, Finity’s End, Cyteen, and the other related novels. Cyteen will have you talking to yourself. Watch out for her fantasys set in Russian myth. I spent hours cold, wet, and afraid.

    I particularly recommend Clarke’s Fountains of Paradise. It’s the main inspiration for the space elevator games.

    Don’t miss The Mote in God’s Eye, by Niven and Pournelle. They are better together than either separate. Niven is like the elephant in the circus parade; he’s the best part, but you really want that guy to follow him around with a shovel and wheelbarrow.

    If you can find it, Earth Ship and Star Song by Ethan I. Shedley.

  • DustPuppy

    I’d recommend the Saga of the Seven Suns series by Kevin J. Anderson.

    Aliens, Elementals and Humans all in the 1 series.

  • Matt F.

    Larry Niven writes faster paced, smaller size space opera. Ringworld is a classic of the genre… a must read.

    I’ll add yet another vote for Ender’s Game. Even recognizing the plot holes and other problems… I love that book. I have never empathized with another protagonist like I did with Ender while reading it the first time.

    On your Goodreads comments you said you liked one of Elizabeth Moon’s short stories. I’ve read two separate space opera series of hers that in my experience are appealing to women: Vatta’s War and the Serrano Legacy.

    For a fairly accessible and unpretentious mix of sci-fi and fantasy, Anne McCaffrey’s series the Dragonriders of Pern is worth looking at. I confess I haven’t read the last few books, though.

    I just read the Virga series by Karl Schroeder and enjoyed it very much. It’s a fast paced and character driven steampunk/sci-fi mix set in the most unusual and just barely plausible world I’ve ever encountered.

  • M Underwood Jr

    Hi Felicia! When asked, the first book I always recommend is “The Stars My Destination” by Alfred Bester (a master at the art of brevity). Uninterrupted, you could read it in a day, but rarely will you find such a fast-paced book. “The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vols 1 and 2” (real old school short stories), the short stories of Arthur C Clarke (much better than his novels), John Varley’s “Gaea Trilogy” and Clifford D Simak’s “City”. Finally, if you want a bit of chilling terror-Rod Serling Twilight Zone terror-with your science fiction, I recommend Jack Williamson’s “Humanoid” series and “Shock” by Richard Matheson (who also wrote “I Am Legend”).

    I agree with one of the earlier comments, that being that a lot of early science fiction was written for the paperback market. Old Signet paperbacks (or old issues of Analog) fit nicely in the back pocket one’s jeans and could go with you anywhere.

    Happy Reading!

  • WestsideKef

    I’ll add a suggestion to the list. I commute to work on the bus and subway and sometimes I need something that’s easy to read in the morning, (not a morning person…) so I spend some time in Indigo looking through the Young Adult or Teen Fiction sections. One series of books that is really fun is the Pendragon Series by D.J. MacHale. The funny thing is, people will say to me, “aren’t those books for kids?” and most of them have read Rowling, so I don’t care. I think there are like ten of them now, but you can blow through one in a day if you just sat and read… Not that I’ve ever done that…every day…for a whole week of holiday…just sayin’

  • I have that Giant Gap in My Sci-Fi Education problem too. On the old school end of things, I’ve been meaning to read John Steakley’s Armor, which I’m given to understand is superficially similar to Starship Troopers but has different thematic concerns.

    For something more recent, I’d highly recommend Karen Traviss’s Wess’Har Wars series; the first book is City of Pearl. Most people are probably familiar with her Star Wars work, and maybe her more recent Gears of War stuff. She’s met mixed reception from Star Wars fans (mostly dependent on how much one is interested in the Mandalorians), but whatever one may think of her contributions to that canon and her (sour) opinions regarding the Jedi, Traviss is very, very good with a tight third-person POV. Plus, her journalistic experience (including time as a defense correspondent) seems to have provided her a lot of knowledge about a lot of subjects, and/or the research skills to pretty quickly get up to speed on just about anything.

    She juggles a lot of characters and a lot of ideas, and the books are long and dense, but the prose is always clear (if not exactly what I’d call elegant), and sometimes hits hard in a neatly understated way.

    Short version: gritty military sci-fi that doesn’t involve powered armor (I like powered armor as much as the next Halo fan, but it’s also nice to get a break), but does have lots of ecological musing, aliens that are actually alien (by which I mean that their psychologies and cultures are a far cry from those of a more Star Warsian, we-have-no-problems-at-all-integrating-several-disparate-species variety), cool nanotechnology, and a certain super-adaptable parasite that makes its host effectively invincible and immortal. A lot of the conflict in the series revolves around various attempts to attain, control, and/or destroy said parasite, and around its effect on close interpersonal relationships.

  • matt loker

    im not super experienced in sci-fi as these others seem to be but i just finished the ender quartet , and orson scott card writes some awesome first contact scenario’s it kept an a.d.d reader like me glued to each page ( except for the begining of the 4th super slow , but ya worth it ) hope you enjoy

  • What timing, I actually spent the past year or so reading classic scifi books that I felt that I should have gone through at some point previously!

    Kate Wilhelm’s “Where Late the Sweet Bird Sings” was really good, as were Arther Clarke’s Rama books. Larry Niven’s latest series of books, the “… Of Worlds” books are pretty fun space opera-y things set in his Known Space series. Have you read the Foundation books yet? The first three, at least, were good reads.

    As far as short stories go, there’s a collection of Arthur Clarke’s that is quite good if you have some time to kill and want to do some reading. Hope those help 🙂

  • David Beach

    what ? did I miss someone mentioning Douglas Adams ? Or any of the stainless steel rat series ?? Then again.. I have a twisted view of Sci Fi.. it has to be clever and funny.

    • Dan

      I Second the Stainless Steel Rat, Awesome stuff.

      Also by Harry Harrison – Deathworld Trilogy
      and Bill the Galactic Hero. Should not be missed.

      Less Known: Alexei Panshin –
      rite of passage and his Villiers books are great.

      C.J. Cherryh Foreigner series is awesome and Faded Sun series as well.

      Good Space Opera is the Miles books by Lois McMasters-Bujiold

      for more pure SF try Greg Bear – Darwin’s Radio, Darwin’s Children, Blood Music


  • Heinlein, of course, has some amazing work to his name. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress was a favorite as a kid.

    Someone mentioned The Mote in God’s Eye, and I picked that up at an airport once and was pleasantly surprised. A lot of good book, with a classic author’s name on it (niven).

    A couple of his books are most definitely Sci-Fi, but I’d recommend everything by Neal Stephenson. Just a really good time with some really big geekyness behind it. Good to read his books in order, though I’ve never read The Big U and may have missed another along the line. The Diamond Age and The Baroque Saga are amazing, but like I said, read em in the order of publication.

  • Shannon

    Definitely Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, also Time Enough for Love is great (Methuselah’s Children is a prequel to it). I have never found an author who had better insights into human nature. He also did a couple of good books with strong female lead characters: “Podkayne of Mars” (an earlier children’s book) and “Friday”.

    If you want something that is just fun and successfully blends science fiction and medieval fantasy, try “The Warlock in Spite of Himself”.

  • Just read The Diamond Age, a friend sent it to me ages ago. I have to admit I glazed over a bit at some of the nanotech stuff, but the story and the world with the “Vickies” kept me engrossed, and I was seriously moved at the end of the book. It surprised me. The Baroque Saga looks MIGHT hefty, but I might give it a go. thx!

    • Hi Felicia,

      Snow Crash is the book that got Neal Stephenson famous, and it came directly before Diamond Age — but I sent you Diamond Age cause I had a feeling you’d enjoy it more because of Nell and the “Vickies”.

      And here’s my Snow Crash hook for ya: Neal Stephenson coined the term “avatar” in it.
      Confirmation here:

      That, and he calls the main character Hiro Protaganist. Seriously. Heehee.

      If you make it through the Baroque Cycle I’ll be impressed. I tried really hard to get into it, and Anathem, but just couldn’t. 🙁 They are sitting on my self accusingly, well aware of my short attention span. There’s lots of mathematics in both though I hear, which may or may not flic your bic.

      I’d also recommend Neuromancer, another classic, by William Gibson.

      And since we are mentioning favorites, another movie, Gattaca, makes me think of you.


  • Oh I just read Stainless Steel Rat, the first 3! So good! Did you read his other series as well?

  • I read the Takeshi Kovacs books a few years back, LOVED them. Still have “Thirteen” on the shelf to read, but I didn’t enjoy his foray into fantasy, “The Steel Remains” as much as I thought I would. I will try out Stross again, although I just read the one he wrote about the gaming and didn’t LOVE it, but I’m such a gamer-insider that I was perhaps being snotty, haha.

  • Oh man, I forgot about Mote in God’s Eye! I definitely second that suggestion. It had some of the most creative xenobiology ideas in science fiction I’ve read, along with an almost-retro concept of future human civilization. The follow-up book, The Gripping Hand, is pretty good too, but nothing compared to the first.

  • I forgot I read the Left Hand of Darkness AGES ago because I loved her fantasy series so much! She is so inspiring, to me she and Sherri Tepper are grande dames of the genre.

  • Trin

    Stranger in a Strangeland. Old school scifi by Heinlein. Makes you look at the world differently.

  • Thank you for those suggestions, I’ve been meaning to check out Octavia Butler and (more of) CJ Cherryh. Sheri Tepper wrote my favorite sci-fi book to date, “Grass”. I think I’ve read it 4-5 times, and I don’t re-read a lot. I will pick up Marge Piercy as well.

  • Yes, I’ve read all the Elric books (re-read them lately actually). Haven’t read ALL his other work, definitely room to grow there. I really like Laura Kinsale actually, a few of her books made it onto my Goodreads list, and I only listed a VERY few of the romances I’ve read there, haha.

  • I read those, they are at the top of my faves list. What that reminds me of is a great fantasy D&D campaign set in space, is that a crazy analogy? I really love the world he created, almost got him to sign a book at Comicon but he was on bathroom break. Next year I guess!

  • Andy

    I seriously recommend Warhammer 40k. It’s just a lot of fun to read, when you’re into that kind of story.

    I think ‘Ciaphas Cain – Hero of the Imperium’ could be a good start.

    Greetings from Berlin


  • Kathleen in Oakland

    Miles Vorkosigan series by Lois Mcmaster Bujold. her others are great too, but the Miles series is the best out there.

  • Jays

    A little bleak but The Death of Grass by John Christopher is classic 50s scifi.

  • Kevin Dunlop

    Ender’s game is the one book I couldn’t put down. Read in a day which is a big thing since it normally takes me a couple months to go thru a book.

    Also like Starship Troopers too.

    Current listening to the audiobook of the honor harrington series. Very entertianing. David weber’s safehold series is pretty good.

  • I would totally recommend Robert J. Sawyer (especially Factoring Humanity, Frameshift and Flash Forward), Charles Sheffield (Cold as ice, Godspeed and The Ganymede Club), Steven Pizikis (In the company of mind). Also, I don’t know if you have read the Pern saga by Anne McCaffrey, and if so if you consider it fantasy (looks like it in the first book, but it is actually scifi, just as Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover).
    I hope this was helpful 🙂

  • Roy

    A few recommendations, though you may have already read some of these:

    Neuromancer by William Gibson
    This is the granddaddy of all cyberpunk novels. A must read.

    Seeker by Jack McDevitt
    A good “hard sci-fi” novel, kind of an Indiana Jones in Space.

    World War Z by Max Brooks
    A zombie apocalypse novel, written in a non-fiction style. The movie version is currently in production.

    Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman
    This one is a Super-Hero novel, but told first-person from the point of view of “Doctor Impossible”, a super-genius villain, and the POV of a rookie super-hero “Fatale”.

    Space Pirates vs the Time-Traveling Ninjas
    Not a real book, unfortunately. If it were, it would be SWEET! =)

    Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
    This, however, IS a real book. I have not actually read it, but I have it on good authority that the title is exceedingly accurate, so if you like Jane Austen, and you like Zombies, this is right up your alley!

  • Have you read Under The Skin by Michel Faber? It’s a kind of sci-fi/fantasy/dark fiction hybrid and it’s totally awesome socks. So if you fancy a break from the space opera, I think you might love it. My friends think it’s too weird, but I don’t think that’s a thing.

    I don’t know why a huge stack of Robin Hobb fills me with glee, but the Dan Simmons Hyperion Cantos books that have been sitting on my desk for about a year make me really nervous. I love sci-fi! It should be easy. 🙂

    Also, totally using this page as a crib sheet for future reading. Love it when you blog about books.

  • About your comment about old Sci-Fi being shorter than new Sci-Fi, I would guess that would stem from Sci-Fi first gaining popularity through magazines. Early Sci-Fi was dominated by short stories rather than novels, which I imagine resulted in shorter “full length” stories when popular Sci-Fi was transitioning from short stories to novels.

  • Chris

    I second “A Canticle for Liebowitz” Should be on any SF reading list

    If you want well written, but not super dense or challenging stuff, Tim Zahn is a fun author. The two best are “Icarus Hunt” and “Triplet” (for me at least)

    I second (or is it third, or fourth, or… whatever) the Lois McMaster Bujold series, both the Vorkosigan stuff, and her fantasy novels.

    “Starmaker” by Olaf Stapledon is some old school SF that is fairly unique, and very interesting (and another example of the complex-idea-in-not-as-many-pages thing you were talking about)

    And don’t over look short stories! I strongly feel that SF is a genre that lends itself especially well to the short story format. I’ve read great short stories by Asimov, Haldeman, Bradbury, and many others. And there are several other comments both here and on the Facebook page which reference short story collections as noteworthy reads.

    • Chris

      ::smack self on head::

      Maybe it didn’t occur to me because it lies somewhere in that odd realm between SF and fantasy, but “His Dark Materials” by Phillip Pullman (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass) are also phenomenal if you haven’t read them yet.

  • AJ

    I am surprised by the lack of Iain M. Banks recs!

    I just popped open “Consider Phlebas” and was tingley and warm after realizing it’s old school “Firefly.” I haven’t finished the book yet but I think you might enjoy. He wrote a bunch of standalone noves (11) but they are all based in the same world and are psuedo named “the Culture series.” I can’t give my undying devlotion b/c i’m not done with it yet. but so far so good.

    Also huge Hyperion Fan by Dan Simmons.

  • crAsh

    For old-school golden-age science fiction, you should absolutely not miss the Science Fiction Hall of Fame anthologies, ed. by Robert Silverberg.

    You recently read The Diamond Age, and commented that some of the tech talk was a little much … I found the same thing, more of that book than just about any other of his. I think you will find that in the Baroque Cycle and Anathem, Stephenson’s writing has really matured – though his first novel – The Big U, and Snow Crash both remain on my all time favorites list.

    To stray a little further off topic, while I am writing here, Winter’s Tale by Marc Helprin is a little difficult to pin a tag on, but is an absolutely beautiful book, and you should read it 😉

  • Clearly, you have a lot of great suggestions here and will be busy just browsing the comments! But if you happen to get all the way down to mine, one little-known book I’d like to recommend is Emergence, by David Palmer. It’s out of print, but was popular enough that you can find more than a few used copies floating around. It’s a post-apocalyptic adventure told from the pov of a precocious girl prodigy. It’s thrilling, and sweet, and fast paced… basically everything you’d want in any book, but it happens to be sci-fi.

  • my favourite, Dune, you should read at least Dune Trilogy (Dune, Dune Messiah and Children of Dune), Dune universe is so great so complex and everything works together in there, everything makes sense 🙂 You just have to love it 🙂

  • nurbles

    Rather than a book suggestion, I’d like to point out a blog being written by Frederik Pohl, one of the pioneers of Science Fiction:

    Many of his blog entries are about the very early days, when many of the “classic” writers were young (sometimes even as kids). I find them fascinating and think (hope?) that other serious fans would as well.

    Also, if you can get your hands on any, almost any issue of the old pulp magazines will have at least one or two good short stories, often more.

    –sorry if this is a double post … it didn’t show the first time, but I’ll add a short story that would otherwise be overlooked: The Gold At the Starbow’s End by Frederik Pohl.

  • KD

    AJ beat me to it. Yes, definitely check out Iain M Banks. Start with Consider Phlebas and work your way forward. His books are violent, funny and sexy in equal measure. Marvellous :o)

  • Ildeth

    Starship Troopers and Ender’s Game make a great duo; I love them both separately but I think that reading them concurrently really makes your brain explode. Ender’s Game was written partially as a response to Starship Troopers, and they’re philosophically opposed to each other but each make their arguments eloquently and compellingly. I suspect that adding The Forever War and reading all three in one month might just make a sensitive person brain hari kari.

    Another great pairing would be A Canticle for Leibowitz and Anathem. They’re not so much thematically linked, but slightly different interpretations of how a monastic structure might exist in the far post-apocalyptic world. Both excellent!

    I also routinely cheat and look at the SF Masterworks series – whenever I see a title or a cover that I like, I buy it. Makes for some excellently varied reading! I really enjoyed The Stars my Destination by Alfred Bester, which I picked based solely on the title.

    • Mike Donatello

      Starship Troopers should be on every high-school civics reading list. What a thoroughly awesome piece of work, and you can kill it in a Saturday. It’s too bad that the movie didn’t do it justice — although I did like all the bug splattering!

  • Ron


    Wow! There are enough great suggestions here to keep you busy for quite a while!

    If you’re looking to firmly entrench yourself in the space opera genre, if you haven’t read it, may I suggest the Hope series by David Feintuch; the first book in the series is Midshipman’s Hope. On the front cover of my copy, the tag line states “In the triumphant tradition of Starship Troopers and Ender’s Game” which have been mentioned frequently (and rightly so). I had chance to meet the author a few years back and he signed my copy of the book, which I happened to be reading at the time.

    A little off topic, but my favorite “quick and fun” read is Good Omens my Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

    Have an amazing and successful 2010!

  • Mike Donatello


    I took a look at your list and can’t believe you’re missing The Mote in God’s Eye. I reread that last year for the first time since I was a kid, and it was just as great as I remember from … a long time ago. What a classic. Check it out — you can knock it out in a weekend.

    I’ve moved around a lot and unfortunately lost a several boxes of the sci-fi that I devoured as a kid. But I still have a couple boxes of books packed away in the basement and am introducing my sons to them. Once the kids get past some of the now-goofy depictions of the future, they get wrapped up in the stories just as I did. Very cool to see. 🙂

  • Jon

    The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold
    Check out: Young Miles
    The publisher is combining 3 books into 1, so look for the combined books.

    Lt. Leary Series by David Drake
    1st Book: With the Lightnings
    Available for free from
    Has a strong female part.

    Honor Herrington Series by David Webber
    On Basilisk Station
    can’t wait for the next book in the series this fall.

    • William George Ferguson

      Something you’ll likely realize on your own, Weber based Honor Harrington on Horatio Hornblower and Drake based Leary/Mundy on Patrick O’Brien’s Aubrey/Maturin. These are both very much space opera, and milsf (military sf), but a subset that could be called ‘sailing ships n space’.

      I like both, but be warned, Weber’s technobabble infodumps are infamous.

      Several people have mentioned Doc Smith’s Lensmen books, but you might also take a look at his Skylark books. Skylark of Space (first written in 1917, and published in 1928) virtually invented Space Opera as a genre. Smith’s co-originator would be Jack Williamson, specifically his Legion of Space stories from the 1930s. Someone has already recommended With Folded Hands (The Humanoids) which is his entry in the ‘seminal sf, recommended in college literature courses’ books.

      You should probably try at least one book by
      Poul Anderson
      John Wyndham
      Leigh Brackett
      Edmund Hamilton
      Andre Norton (I thought you had, but you don’t have any on your GoodReads)
      C.L. Moore

      Lord, there are so many more.

  • Felicia, Octavia E. Butler’s books are not often sold as a series but if you can dig them up, these are the books I’d recommend in this order: Wildseed, Mind of my Mind, Clay’s Ark, Patternmaster. Please be careful, they may blow your mind.

    And if you’re looking for other female authors, try the Spacedoc series by S. L. Viehl. For a while I needed a good read with few humans, far from Earth and filled with many different aliens. This fit the bill nicely.

    Also, I second anything by Robert J. Sawyer. His Flashforward is the clearest example I’ve seen of “here’s an idea, now let’s explore the human ramfications.” Due to an experiment at CERN, everyone in the world gets a few minute glimpse of their future twenty years from now, if they’re alive then, or are awake at that time, … Brilliant.

    • On the other hand, try reading Octavia E. Butler’s tetralogy backwards, like I did. I discovered Patternmaster when I was a kid. Only later did I find Clay’s Ark followed by the first two. So some of my pleasure came from finding out how the brilliant process by which the very different world of Patternmaster came about.

  • Lots of good suggestions, mainly for big-name authors. As a small-press author, I’d suggest seeking out some small-press sci-fi too. Someone mentioned space pirates; well, there’s a small-press anthology called “Space Pirates,” two volumes, actually, made up of short stories from small-press authors (and publishers).

  • Well, I’d thought to suggest Stross’s _Halting State_, but I see you’ve already read that one! Thinking Space Opera-wise, I enjoyed his _Singularity Sky_ / _Iron Sunrise_ transhuman-space-opera pair, but most of the things that bugged me about _Halting State_ are also present in those, so. Of course, YMM(APD)V.

    There’s also _Accelerando_ / _Glasshouse_ , but they’re less space-opera-y. Still good fun, though.

    (I’d probably disrecommend _Saturn’s Children_, though. Stross pastiching late Heinlein doesn’t seem to come off too well, plus the revealed backstory of the setting is Humans Are Bastards to a frankly squick-y degree. I prefer my fiction not to leave me applauding the extinction of mankind, thanks!)

    My absolute recommendation, Space Opera-wise, though, has to be John C. Wright’s Golden Oecumene trilogy (_The Golden Age_, _The Phoenix Exultant_, _The Golden Transcendence_), which are Transhuman Space Opera fully deserving of its capitalization and with all the knobs turned up to eleven. Pretty much made of solid awesome for space opera lovers, I do believe.

    (His Orphans of Chaos series is also excellent, but that’s fantasy. Ish. Fantasy written in an SFnal style. Hard to really nail down, genre-wise, but also great fun.)

    – Alistair

    • Kevin

      Accelerando, Glasshouse, and Singularity Sky/Iron Sunrise are some of his greatest. This just reminded me that my buddy’s borrowing Accelerando and Glasshouse and I need to get them back. Oh and not so SF but The Atrocity Archives and The Jennifer Morgue are pretty good too, basically an IT guy becomes a supernatural spy. Using math as magic.

  • If you’ve never read Hyperion, by Dan Simmons, it’s fantastic.

    Someone else said Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross… really great book. I liked it a lot better than Halting State, FWIW.

    Rainbows End, by Vernor Vinge. Fantastic not-to-distant future of augmented reality, etc… sort of similar to the Halting State concept, but much more interesting.

    A Fire Upon the Deep, also by Vernor Vinge. Probably my favorite “space opera” type of book of all time. OF ALL TIME. (sorry)

  • Tony

    Lots of great suggestions that’ll keep you busy for a long time. I’ll throw in some of my favs. Dancers at the End of Time – Moorcock. Berserker series – Saberhagen. All My Sins Remembered – Haldeman. All 4 of the 2001 : A Space Odyssey series. And for some light space sci-fi – Bio of a Space Tyrant – Anthony. I just got finished with some Banks. Worth checking out too.

  • len

    Heinlein had a really good run in the Seventies when words like grok became the trendy terms. I read most of his work in junior high and early high school in the time when I was devouring sci-fi and sci-fantasy (what the bookmobile brought to the ymca during summer vacation). After a time I realized that Heinlein had a limited set of characters and plots that he was repeating in one guise after another. Because I liked the sci-fi that taught a bit of science along with the action as I grew older, most of what passes for sci-fi now (really, fantasy in future settings), fell off the shelf. Really long books that would be the same regardless of setting in time and space don’t hold much appeal. In other words, taking Star Trek as an example, you could put the same characters in western outfits (and they did that) and not much would change. Science isn’t really central to the story. It is as described the writer, “Wagon Train to the Stars.” Arthur C. Clarke is the other end of the spectrum: lots of science but too often, underdeveloped characters.

    I think the many modern writers lost some of the magic having not had the short-story training.

    Ursula Le Guin: perfect. Note that she is on the warpath over copyrights and the Google settlement. It’s tough to watch the creative fire of real artists being put out by a media that claims to love them. First the photographers, then the songwriters and now the novelists.

  • Chris

    I like the Asimov stuff a lot. The ‘Foundation’ series was really interesting. I like Joe Haldeman’s work a lot too, I’ve read several of his newer books recently and really enjoyed them. I’m also really glad to see you reading that because he’s a friend of mine and I think you’re super-cool. =) Cheers!


    • Mike Donatello

      Funny you mention the Foundation set. After I moved out of engineering, fascination with the idea of “mathematical psychology” is what got my career underway. I haven’t read that since high school — I guess I’ll add it to the list.

      Loads of good stuff on this thread, btw. Thanks, Felicia!

  • BobW

    I agree that Emergence is good, but stay far, far away from any of David R. Palmer’s other books. They are even more disappointing than the other books by James H. Schmitz, who wrote Witches of Karres.

    I think Ender’s Game is overrated. Sorry folks.

    Try A. Bertram Chandler. He was an Australian merchant marine captain turned author. His character John Grimes is no saint, but he’s not a total louse, either. Baen sells his collections in Mobipocket format, which will work on your Kindle.

    I definitely vote for Canticle for Leibowitz. I warn you, though, it’s extremely Catholic, and there are no female characters until the third act. It’s set in a monastery, after all.

    I also think Dune is overrated. Do the math on those sandworms.

    Poul Anderson is great, in moderate doses. I love Domenick Flandry’s line: “You know how they say a coward dies a thousand deaths, but a brave man only one? Well, after the 347th I got bored with it.”

    Why hasn’t anyone mentioned Keith Laumer? He wrote wonderful satire. I recommend In the Queue from The Lighter Side collection of short stories. You might also like Retief, the unofficial history of the Corps Diplomatique Terrestriene. You can find them on the Baen Free Library website.

    For another great satire, try Fallen Angels, by Niven, Pournelle, and Barnes.

    It’s not satire, but you might also like their Dream Park.

    Try L. Sprague de Camp for more humorous SF and Fantasy.


  • You certainly read a lot. Good for you! I hope you will find all the books that will benefit you.

  • Joe

    1) Holy cow, who has time to get through all that verbage? I don’t even have time to keep up with RSS taglines these days with so many distractions going on around me.

    2) Felicia said: “I¡¯m almost glad that I¡¯m able to experience all these classics as an adult.” The classics used to mean Illiad, Aeneid, the neo-classics were like Tolstoy, Dickens, etc… heavy hitters in their own right, and quite a bit denser too, IMO.

    3) I’m perplexed/disturbed/horrified/intrigued/aroused that Felicia’s got a category called vaginal-fantasy on, which I initially interpreted as books about fantasizing about vagina. Any way it’s interpreted, makes her even more adorable.

    4) For all you readers out there who’s thinking about buying an e-book, I’d like to say


    The Barnes & Noble Nook e-book file format has been hacked, and it contains your name and credit card information. If someone gets a hold of those files, they can strip the encryption from the file and obtain your ID and CC#! Amazon Kindle doesn’t have this problem. See

    5) Stop recommending more authors/series/books for Felicia to read. We want to see her more in movies and TV and webisodes. Having her scrunched up on a couch reading does not contribute to this.

  • As to the money the authors get from that science-fiction collection, I’m guessing not much, if any. A quick look at the listing suggests that most (not all) of the stories are in the public domain (copyrights never registered, or expired a long time ago). In fact, I’d guess that a lot of the pieces are just converted files from Project Gutenberg.

    That said, you’ll love H. Beam Piper and wish he lived long enough for you to give him money.

    In fact, it’s hit or miss, but Project Gutenberg actually has a “Science Fiction Bookshelf” with a ton of books and short stories, some even from writers you’ve heard of. Though I’d have to dig through the list to find real “recommendations.”

  • “Childhood’s End” by Arthur C. Clarke (freely ripped off by “V”)
    “The Demonlished Man” by Alfred Bester
    “Alone Against Tomorrow” is required Ellison, but most of his pre-1980 stuff is fantastic.

  • *meep!* Peter F Hamilton. You rock! I’m sure you’ve already read Pandora’s Star series, if not…I strongly recommend!

  • My purchase list has gotten a lot larger from reading the comments on this post so I appreciate everyone sounding off on their suggestions; many of us will benefit from it.

    I am just going to put my two cents in and suggest some authors and reading from the era that spawned the modern day Space Opera Genre…Pulp…

    Leigh Brackett, Edmond Hamilton, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Michael Moorcock (believe he is mentioned above), among many others; although Brackett and Hamilton are by far my favorites (start with The Secret of Sinharat by Brackett, Outside the Universe or Crashing Suns by Hamilton, and A Princess of Mars by Burroughs). Although many will say that Verne and Wells truly made the genre, the pulp era truly spawned what we know as Science Fiction today, in my opinion. Any true Sci-Fi fan must have at least some pulp on their shelf or in their digital collection. This era of Sci-Fi is much more accessible now that Paizo is republishing Planet Stories. Still I am always on the look out at the used book stores for the pulp classics.

    These are fun, imaginative, quick (lazy Saturday) reads. I strongly suggest them…

  • I read The Night’s Dawn Trilogy back in 2000… An awesome series!

  • Oh! I love the Peter Hamilton series!

    In the same vein my favorite sci fi trilogy of all time is the Frank Herbert Destination: Void trilogy. SO GOOD. And a planet called Pandora that isn’t filled with blue cat hippy people.

    • Kiala, Since it’s your favorite sci fi trilogy of all time I’ve got to tell you that there’s four books so you don’t miss out: Destination: Void, The Jesus Incident, The Lazarus Effect and The Ascension Factor. But the first one doesn’t take place on Pandora so it may or may not be to your taste. Instead it’s a journey novel showing the origin of Ship.

      • Oh no, I knew that. It’s when Ship becomes sentient and everything plus lots of Raja Flattery.

        I was just typing too quickly. 🙂

  • ALSO, I think I’ve mentioned this before but the Tad Wiliams’ Otherland books are some of the best sci fi/fantasy I’ve read in a bajillion years. The storyline is amazing and, in some ways, reminded me a but of the Diamond Age but much more engrossing and accessible.

  • Leila

    Felicia, if you want something on the lighter side of scifi (granted, this is recent YA lit) you could try Scott Westerfield’s Uglies/Pretties/Specials/Extras. These four books won’t change your life, but they’re a fun read.

  • I would strongly urge you to read Gene Wolfe; in particular his Book of the New Sun (currently published by Tor as “Shadow & Claw” & “Sword & Citadel”). I’ve actually got several friends involved in a “New Year, New Sun” book club of sorts:

  • Raven

    I second The Book of the New Sun series by Gene Wolfe – the use of language is a thing of beauty.

    Also, if you are going for a lighter, funnier read, you can’t go wrong with the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

  • I’ll second Marge Piercy’s ‘Woman on the Edge of Time’ – it’s one of my first recommendations to anyone looking to dip into high-quality SF (especially if they’re a woman, but not necessarily). For me (a man!) it’s one of my persistent sources of political inspiration – whilst the speculative society it depicts is by no means perfect, it manages to be real and idealistic simultaneously.

    (Also a big Tepper fan. It’s my experience – generalising here a little – that SF written by women often avoids the ‘boys with toys’ pitfalls of the lesser works of the genre).

  • Hey Felicia,

    Lots of great suggestions above; I’ll just add my vote for Dune (completely brilliant) and Neuromaner, and (if you’re loving space opera) for Iain M. Banks’ “culture novels.” There’s Consider Phlebas, Excession, Use of Weapons, Look to Windward, the latest one: Matter, and a couple of others. Each one seems better than the last.

    Happy reading!

  • David Stern

    Ursula K. Le Guin: The Disposessed. If you haven’t read it yet.
    I’d also reccomend checking out Stanislaw Lem. The “Solaris” movie was based on one of his novels, yet it was much worse than his writings. It may be fairly difficult stuff, a lot of philosophical approach in his books.
    Have a pleasant reading.

    • elliot

      I second that. Only she might prefer to start with Left Hand of Darkness. It comes first chronologically. It doesn’t really matter though.

      Okay, I’m going to shut up now. =D

  • elliot

    Yeah, if you haven’t read Octavia Butler I highly recommend the Lilith’s Brood series, also known as Xenogenesis. I read all three books in a week. I loved the MC’s and how they slowly introduce you into the most bizarre concepts imaginable, until the whole setting just feels natural to you and you don’t really know why. Okay, it’s admittedly confusing the way I put that. :/ You should read it anyway.

    Yay! You’re a science ficiton fan. 🙂

  • On the Kindle I would have no hesitation in recommending “Dominant Species” by Michael E Marks (review: )

    And now to get a little out of the mainstream I’m going to recommend some genre fiction and possibly get pelted with old vegetables. If you have any taste for military scifi I would highly recommend “Horus Rising” by Dan Abnett. As far as military scifi goes he IS the master. It is an excellent read.

  • I’m really loving this thread!
    So glad that you loved More Than Human, Felicia. That’s the one I always give to people who make snarky remarks about the “low quality” of SF writing.
    I discovered the Takeshi Kovacs books this past year, and was thoroughly impressed by them, so it’s nice that we share that, too.

    I’d like to recommend…
    • John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series
    • Robert J. Sawyer’s “Neanderthal Parallax”, especially the first book, Hominids
    • Larry Niven’s “Known Space” series, starting with Ringworld
    • Niven’s other collaborations with Pournelle (besides The Mote in God’s Eye): Lucifer’s Hammer and Footfall

    And I agree with BobW on Ender’s Game being overrated. Several things about that kid just didn’t ring true for me.

    As long as I’m here, please permit me to invite all of you in the L.A area to come join us at the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society (LASFS)!
    We could use some cool new members!
    Jerry Pournelle’s there every Thursday night, and Larry Niven comes in about every month or so. (And when he does, he always comes to the “AfterMeeting” at the Coral Café down the street!)

    • Wow, that’s pretty cool, thanks for posting about it! I need to read Ringworld first then, right? haha 🙂

      • Well, I’d never read a “series” of books before, so after I read Ringworld (pretty much the end of Niven’s “Known Space” stories), and went back to his earlier works (both short stories and novels), it was really cool seeing the development of all the technology, the formation of all the colony worlds, and the first contacts with all the aliens that converged on the Ringworld.

  • Stephen R. Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant series and Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series are my two all-time favourite series… neither of them are light, comedic reads by a long shot; both are dark and gritty but with amazing world-building and characters that keep me re-reading them over and over.

    For stand-alone books that don’t run you into thousands of pages, consider Guy Gavriel Kay; especially Tigana and A Song For Arbonne. He is a poet in prose… I still have images from his books in my head, years after the last read.

  • Please forgive the fact that I just suggested a boat-load of fantasy in a sci-fi post. My brain just got overloaded by all the other titles of good books! 🙂

    • It’s ok! I have to admit I’ve tried reading Thomas Covenant about 3 times in my life, last year the latest, and just absolutely couldn’t go on a journey with that character. I mean, the Mirror duology by him is one of my FAVORITES, so I think it’s the character and what he does that I just can’t play along with.

      The Malazan books, the first two I’ve read, were really enjoyable. DENSE stuff though, right? You cannot skim through that stuff. I have had 3 of them on my shelf for a while, I think a part of me is afraid to try to pick them up again without re-reading the two I’ve already read.
      And Guy Gavriel Kay is one of my flat out favorite authors. Tigana is on my hardback shelf, and his Mosaic books are wonderful too, if you haven’t checked them out. Great suggestions, need to see if they’re in my Goodreads account!

      • Wow…I love his Thomas Covenant stuff more than my in-laws. I know, that’s not saying much, but wow. I think I’ve re-read each trilogy about a dozen times. But I can’t seem to get into the newest Chronicles. I hate waiting for new books…that might be the problem. But 3 times is 3 times. And if you can’t get into it by then ya gotta move on. Maybe one day…

      • Colleen

        I’ve worked in a bookstore for most of my life and my favorite section was always Sci-Fi and Fantasy so I have devoured just about all of the major writers and series that are out there. Guy Gavriel Kay is one of my favorites as well :o) Tigana was so beautifully done, but the one author that I will always recommend above all others is Jim Butcher.

        His first and currently ongoing series known as the Harry Dresden series is absolutely amazing. Where other authors start with their strongest book and gradually drag out a series of events that probably could have ended with the first book, Butcher’s books just keep getting BETTER! He is eleven books into his series and I RUN to go pick up the next. Though I have never been a fan of books that take fantasy and the modern day and mesh them together, he does it in such a way that it is completely believable. His characters are more fleshed out and real than any I have encountered, the ideas are incredibly fresh and original and just written SO WELL that he really does ruin a lot of other authors for me. Though his series doesn’t truly fully come together until the fifth or maybe even sixth book, they are small enough and literally at times laugh out loud unexpectedly hilarious enough that you really can’t find enough time to spend with his characters.

        I hope the suggestion comes in handy and that you enjoy your journey through the sci-fi world!

  • Derek

    I think I will just add a vote to what a lot of other people have said,

    Peter F. Hamilton,NightsDawn are excellent books, but don’t over look the Mindstar series with Greg Mandel.

    Iain M. Banks, Don’t forget the “M” it’s very important if your looking for his science fiction work, his culture novels are excellent , hippies with big giant guns,I love the names the culture ships give themselves. “Player of Games” is also a good starting point.

    The madness that is a Jasper Fforde novel, he’s very hard to pigeonhole genre-wise. For example his Thursday Next series of novels are set in a parallel 1985, where time travel and the ability leap in and out of fiction are possible, But at it’s heart is a detective story.they are also very funny and I can’t recommend them enough.

    Larry Nivens ringworld, Alastair Reynolds with his Gothic approach to space opera, and neal ashers Polity sequence of books are all excellent too.

    • I LOVE Jasper Fforde, actually just rememberd he’s signing his new book at Borders in Century City on the 12th, is that tomorrow?!

      • Derek

        Wow! I think that’s the first positive response I’ve ever got to a Jasper Fforde recommendation. Every other time I’ve gotten halfway through describing the plot, realise that my friend is looking at me like I’ve suddenly sprouted an extra head, panic and shout “Wisecracking Wizard Detective!” and throw a Dresden Files book at their head. 😉

  • Megan

    I would second (third?) the recommendation of the Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold. I’m working my way through all the books for the second time, and love it just as much as ever. Miles Vorkosigan is a character for the ages.

    • I read this series a LONG time ago (I love love her fantasy series, Chalion I think?) But it would def be on my list for a re-read too!

  • Well, I realize I’m coming late to the party, so I can pass on suggesting those books already listed (even though The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Heinlein is still one of my favorite books of all time).

    I’ve recently read the Honor Harrington series by David Weber, two series by Elizabeth Moon, and a book called Dead Reckoning by the Cheney brothers; all great examples of space opera. Dead Reckoning is a recent release, but from what I’ve read online, it is the start of a 6-book series itself.

    Best of luck!

  • Jason

    How did I miss the Ultimate SciFi collections for my Kindle?! Thanks Felicia, now I won’t be crawling out from under a rock for the foreseeable future!

  • Sic

    Lovelock by Orson Scott Card was ok. Oh, and I 2nd Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard (know any scientologists?). Looks like you could use someone to read a few books to you so you could give your eyes a rest.

  • The reason old novels are shorter than new ones: the old ones were written on typewriters, not word processors. Authors learned quickly to strip extraneous dialog and wordy descriptions from their work as they typed and re-typed chapters. Word processors let authors be as verbose as they like.

    Another reason stems from economics and psychology. The price of a paperback book has, for many years, been roughly the same as that of movie ticket. Readers seem to prefer a huge book over a slim book — books are essentially the same price regardless of size — on the theory that the entertainment will last longer.

    I strongly recommend that you skip over the later Honor Harrington novels (David Webster). As a writer, I believe that poorly-written novels will injure my own work, and I imagine the same will happen for you in your line of work.

    If you revel in masterful use of the English language, nothing quite compares to Jack Vance, a master of the field. You’ll either love him or hate him. His slim five volumes of the “Demon Princes” series are a classic masterwork beyond comparison.

    (Trying to post this for the second time… did I miss a step?)

    • My spam filter is sometimes a “Harsh Mistress” haha 🙂 I’m very intrigued with Vance now that you recommend them. I will definitely put them at the top of the list.

      • jay

        I am going to have to agree with the recomendation of “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” listed by some others. As I saw you shocking Heinlein comment (I nearly wept) my first thought was, “She should read Mistress”. I have read it more than half a dozen times.. I’ve lost count. I read it aloud to my wife, who is definately NOT a sci-fi fan, and she loved it. I will find it difficult to continue thinking of you as Queen of all Geekdom if you aren’t more familiar with Heinlein…lol

  • Hey Felicia,

    You should checkout THE WINDUP GIRL by Paolo Bacigalupi. Numerous critics have named it the SF novel of the year, and Time Magazine even named it one of the top ten novels of the year. I’m the publicist for the book, so my opinion cannot be trusted, but I’d be happy to send you a gratis copy of the book if you’d like to read it.

  • Mark B

    I strongly second the recommendation for the Vernor Vinge books:

    Fire Upon the Deep – great space adventure, and a very gripping description of an alternate race that left me mesmerized

    Deepness in the Sky – not as strong as Fire Upon the Deep, but some of the ideas in it really stick with you, particular the description of a totalitarian society that harnesses an Aspberger’s like syndrome to create “the focused” – a subclass of slaves that are used to solve scientific and analytic problems – including using them to enslave an entire society.

    Rainbow’s End – I really can’t recommend this enough, particularly with your interest in new media and on-line gaming. He posits a connected world that is truly inspiring, interesting, and not as scary as so many other future cyber worlds.

    And I fourth (fifth?) the recommendations for Lois Mcmaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan series. Rollicking space adventure with a very persistent and brilliant protagonist that inspires and excites. Mildly feminist, at times (or certainly aware of power imbalances, sexual and otherwise).

  • Just want to make a general note, there are a shocking lack of these books on Kindle, the older ones. I might actually have to order paper books for the first time in a year, GASP!

    • elliot

      I noticed that too. You can actually send requests via amazon for the publisher to consider a book for the kindle. Who knows if that actually does anything, though. Right now I’m waiting for all of Le Guin’s Earthsea series to finally be available. The only one that’s up is the fourth book. How that makes any sense is beyond me. I might just have to go ahead and order paperback before my interest fizzles out.

    • The Iliad Bookshop in North Hollywood has a great Science Fiction section, and LASFS has a lending library with one of the largest private collections of SF&F literature and videos in the US.

  • I highly recommend Glasshouse by Charles Stross. It’s a hard sci-fi novel that takes place in a very technologically advanced future where they run an experiment to recreate and study the last dark ages, which is the late 20th to early 21st century.

    In addition to being a good read about the people in the experiment it’s also an interesting study on our current culture and touches on gender roles and societal pressure to conform to arbitrary ideals.

    • Seconded. Glasshouse my favourite Stross by some way – combines great ideas with his better storytelling. And does the crucial ‘mirror on our own world’ element of SF well too.

  • Hi Felicia! Don’t know if you’ll get to this comment, but I went through your list and I wonder if you’ll like these sci-fi or sci-fi-ish recommendations:

    Don’t Look Now – a collection of short stories by Daphne Du Maurier. It has the original “The Birds,” which is quite different from the Hitchcock adaptation. The really great sci-fi/paranormal stories are “The Blue Lenses” and “Split Second,” although “Kiss Me Again, Stranger” is also brilliant in its own way. Overall, the book’s a well-chosen collection of elegantly-written and sly tales.

    I’d also recommend anything by Shirley Jackson. Most people know “The Lottery” and The Haunting of Hill House, but The Bird’s Nest is also brilliant. Don’t read synopses, though – finding out what the book is really about is part of the experience.

    For graphic novels, I’d recommend The Living and the Dead, by Jason. It’s a short but surprisingly heartbreaking take on the zombie survival plot.

    Finally, for non-fiction, I’d recommend Gomorrah. Impassioned but thorough muckracking journalism about the Camorra mafia’s hold upon the criminal underground working in and around Naples.

  • CJ

    Looks like you’re going to be reading for quite a while Felicia. Anyways, if you have the time you should check out Karen Traviss’ Wess’Har series, starting with the first book City of Pearl. It’s a newer entry in sci-fi lore, but Traviss has excellent instincts for bringing hidden moral dilemmas to light in situations that are often overlooked.

    P.S. I know you’re busy with all the projects you have going on, but have you ever thought of running a formal bookclub-it’s pretty clear you have the following to do it already.

  • How happy was The Kid that his team won so that he could get that line off?

    I mean, if the Jets lose, he can’t be joking around up there.

  • Marc


    Stephen Baxters Manifold triology is pretty good and his Xeelee books are also worth to mention. Doc E. E. Smith’ Lensmen and Skylark series are really good and get a huuuuge nostalgia bonus. Larry Nivens Ringworld and Kzin books are quite good.

    Jeebuz! I really need to publish my lib on the net…

    regards & enjoy the reading

  • Travis

    Walter Jon Williams – Angel Station
    Walter Jon Williams – Hardwired
    Bruce Stirling – Schizmatrix Plus
    William Gibson – Burning Chrome
    Ray Bradbury – whichever compilation currently has A Sound of Thunder
    Alfred Bester – The Stars My Destination

    Happy to see Forever War was one of your first delves back into the genre. It’s often my first recommendation to anyone looking for an intro into sci-fi and still a favorite since reading it for the first time in the mid 80’s.



  • Pål R.

    So many great suggestions here! This fills my book-list as well!
    I would like to recommend Paul Preuss’ “Venus Prime” ( )

    As far as ‘hard science’ goes – these ones are both well written, with good science, an excellent story-line and characters you’ll get engaged with. Split into 6 easy books, its hard not to like these.

  • Lots of great reading suggestions here. Many I’m familiar with and many I will have to look into. I want to add to the support for Ursula Le Guin, James Tiptree, Octavia Butler, Gene Wolfe, Stanislaw Lem, and Marge Piercy. Some of my favorite writers period. If I had to recommend just one author it would be Butler. Start there first.

    There are a few others that haven’t been suggested yet (If they have and I’ve overlooked them – sorry) that will appeal to you if you like any of the authors mentioned above.

    One of my favorites is Thomas M. Disch. He passed away recently with very little fanfare and is not nearly so well known as he should be. 334; Camp Concentration; On Wings of Song; The Genocides – all his novels and short stories are worthwhile.

    Robert Charles Wilson is still quietly building a sizable following with his unique brand of thoughtful, sincere SF. His writing is so simple, honest, and unpretentious you want to take it down to the local pub for a drink and a good chat. Looking forward to reading his latest – Julian Comstock.

    Samuel Delany’s writing is more experimental and intellectual, but he has produced some of the finest and most influential works of SF in the past 50 years. A challenging and at times controversial writer and one of my favorites.

    The Strugatsky brothers (Boris and Arkady) are relatively obscure SF writers from Russia, probably best known in the west for writing the short story “Roadside Picnic,” which Andrei Tarkovsky used as the basis for his film Stalker.

    Joanna Russ wrote some of the most radical feminist SF of the 70s. Her writing doesn’t have the mass appeal of Le Guin or Tepper, but it shouldn’t be overlooked.

    Angela Carter is usually found in the literature section, but I’d place Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman; Nights at the Circus; The Magic Toyshop; The Passion of New Eve; and The Bloody Chamber in any list of must-read feminist SF/Fantasy.

    Finally, I’d like to recommend Sarah Canary by Karen Joy Fowler and Lives of the Monster Dogs by Kirsten Bakis. Not standard SF, but fantastic books that fit within the genre.

    Happy reading.

  • Allan Dunbar

    Most people have suggested the books I would have. However, I will thoroughly recommend anything by Alastair Reynolds. He writes some really good books, with some great characters.

    Also, Richard Morgan writes some excellent cyberpunk genre novels – Altered Carbon is the first. They are violent, but excellent. The Takeshi Kovacs novels are all good.

    Peter F Hamilton gets a lot of positive recommendations and while I enjoy his work it is very formulaic and predictable. Still, Night’s Dawn trilogy is quite a bit of fun.

    Also Ken Macleod is very good. I loved his first book The Star Fraction. His stuff can be quite heavy, but he is really good. I’m reading my way through the rest of his stuff and it’s great.

    China Meiville is fantastic. His writing is something else to behold. New Cobruzon settles across you like a greasy mist and his words evoke actual physical responses. I buy everything he releases.

  • bill

    Some great suggestions. A few i didn’t see:

    Glen Cook: The Dragon Never Sleeps. Great space opera.

    Roger Zelazny: Doorways in the Sand, Lord of Light

    Emma Bull: Falcon

    Ron Goulart: Wicked Cyborg (and other short books) good silly fun. May have to get it in used, paper format.

    Chris Dolley: Resonance. And another vote for Baen free library

    Smashwords is a neat place to check out indie authors/publishers

  • I’d definitely recommend anything at all by Greg Egan, his books have the most amazing yet believable hard SF ideas. My favourite is Quarantine, which is a mind-bending novel built around quantum wave functions. Also Diaspora and Permutation City.

    Also one of my favourite books is by Michael Marshall Smith and is called Only Forward – a blackly humourous SF yarn. Very funny and a bit of a page-turner.

    And my favourite book of all is Pattern Recognition by William Gibson. It’s got a wonderful central (female) protagonist and is just… cool. It’s definitely SF but it an unusual way as it’s set in 2004 (I think).

    • Kathleen

      Only Forward is amazing. I picked it up from a friend in New Zealand and it wasn’t in publication in the US. I wanted to give it as a gift and had to order it from the UK.

  • I think you’ve got enough recs to be going on with for several years!

    I’d back the recs for Peter F. Hamilton. THE NIGHT’S DAWN TRILOGY is fantastic and gets increasingly offbeat as it goes along, which is quite enjoyable. The constant moaning about the ending of the trilogy is also unfair: the ending is signposted in the first novel and the third novel is basically dedicated to bringing about what happens. The thematic angle Hamilton was going for in the trilogy (which, as a clue, was originally called JOSHUA’S PROGRESS) does get a little lost, however.

    Alastair Reynolds and Iain M. Banks are also essential modern space opera reads. Richard Morgan is also good, but is more into sociological science fiction and cyberpunk than space opera.

    Dan Simmon’s HYPERION CANTOS is a great work. I would also strongly recommend Stephen Donaldson’s GAP SAGA, which is awesome and his best work to date. It’s Wagner’s RING CYCLE loosely converted into a space opera but not as dry as that sounds. A very clever and entertaining series.

    David Brin’s UPLIFT SAGA is also worth a look, although I find the artificially-evolved, talking chimps and dolphins put some people off.

    • Kathleen

      I cannot relate to anyone who is put off by the dolphins.

      • I like the dolphins in the books, but I can understand people going, “Uh, what?”, perhaps involving traumatic flashbacks to SEAQUEST DSV. Apparently it sunk (bad pun intended) the planned Paramount movie adaptation of STARTIDE RISING because they thought people would be too busy giggling at the dolphins to appreciate the story. Although maybe now audiences have been trained into accepting blue cat-people they’ll have another look at it…

        The UPLIFT SAGA is definitely very good space opera.

  • My name is JonellaB, I am a writer of Sci-Fi Romance, Fantasy Romance, and Paranormal Romance novels.

    I wrote my first book at the age of fifteen, it is now an entire SCI-FI series. Part 1. of this series is coming soon, and will be available at It is called She Saved His Panthorian Soul ©. You can read about it on my HOMEPAGE!

    I have written over forty books so far, and all of them will be published one after the other 🙂 I am following you, Felicia, on Twitter, and I am also on facebook…Hope you’ll read my book when it comes out!

    Happy Reading 🙂

  • Mort

    I have to agree with Adam Whitehead about Stephen Donaldson’s Gap Saga, by far the best series I have ever read, but very wonderfully dark. I also agree with the point about Thomas Covenant, but the theme of that series is his redemption, which would be why he begins as such a repugnant git.

    If you want something not often read but very entertaining and clever; then you should try to find Isaac Asimov’s Black Widowers books, a series of short mysteries that are discussed over dinner for the guests to solve. Mmm sounds like a tasty concept.

    Wiki: Black Windowers

  • Cas

    I think you’ve got more than enough to be going on with here! At the same time, I have to put another vote in for John Wyndham. He is the quintessential British classic sci-fi author and is responsible for some great stories, with strong female characters and beautifully written dialogue. Some great films also owe a debt to Wyndham – Midwich Cuckoos became Village of the Damned. The opening to Day of the Triffids became the opening to 28 Days Later.

  • Sagasky

    This is a graphic novel, 4 of them that I know of so far.
    But the art is gorgeous, and it is different that what I have usually seen, it is called The Red Star.

  • Rick York

    I may be older than several of you combined. I’m 65. I started reading Science Fiction when I was 5. I loved it then and love it now. Almost everything recommended here is worth reading. Whoever thinks Ender’s Game is overrated is spitting in the wind. Conceptually, psychologically and artistically it is simply one of the great books, irrespective of genre, of the 20th century.

    If you haven’t read the original “Dune” by Frank Herbert, you owe it to yourself to do so. It is one of the most prescient sf books written. Though written in 1965, it demonstrated to the world what the combination of religion and politics can do. It presaged the Muslim and Christian fundamentalist movements by almost 2 decades. It is powerful and moving as both a political testament and describing what it takes for a human to become a god.

    I simply cannot read all of the comments but, if you’re really interested in the genre, Neal Stephenson, Kim Stanley Robinson, William Gibson, Charles Stross, Cory Doctorow, Alastair Reynolds, Karl Schroeder as contemporary writers come quickly to mind. All are superb writers whose books and stories are thought provoking and entertaining. (See “Little Brother” by Doctorow.)

    If you can find it, David Zindell’s “Requiem for Homo Sapiens” tetralogy is extraordinary.

    I’ve written far too much. But, as you can tell, even in my dotage, I maintain a deep interest in Science Fiction.

    Oh, and yes, SF and Fantasy have become much, much longer (pace Robert Jordan). Publishers like long books because people think they’re getting a better deal.

    Read on Felicia. I envy you discovering these new worlds.

    Rick York

  • Johanna

    As for Andre Norton, I really like a book written by both Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey. The Elvenbane series. I liked it, anyhow. Elves who imprison humans and dragons who like to mess with the elves. You know the story, magic and mayhem. 😉

  • Leo

    Check out Edgar Rice Burroughs “John Carter of Mars” series. I think its kind of a sci-fi/fantasy mix but more on the scf-fi side. one of the best sci-fi trilogies i hold dear to my heart, truly a sf classic.
    There are 10 book in the whole series but all you need to know are the first three which are about John Carter’s undying love for Dejah Thoris and the forces that keep them apart. These books are fast good reads.

  • Ed Vineyard

    I know you have gotten tons of emails, but if you really want to read cutting edge Sci-Fi then you really need to check books by Tom Kratman, David Drake, and David Weber. They do NOT write fluffy “we are all peaceful bunnies” books. I have read all of the stories you have listed, most are good, but Sci-Fi is a really broad grouping. Love you work Felicia!

  • Aerin Caley

    I don’t have time to read the whole list right now, but on a quick scan, I didn’t see anyone mention these. Since you like fantasy and sci fi, I’d recommend the Liaden novels by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. You can get the lowdown on the series here:

    It’s complete space opera, but well written with good character development and an ambitious story arc. I love them!

  • mIKE

    Neal Stephenson’s SNOW CRASH, DIAMOND AGE and/or CRYPTONOMICON are good examples of new scifi (I started reading scifi [Norton] in 1963). I am envious of people who are just now discovering scifi. Enjoy!!

  • Liz!

    I didn’t see it on the list, but if you haven’t read Joan D. Vinge’s “The Snow Queen”, I hope you try it! I first read it in high school, and I reread it every few years. It’s on my I Love You, Book shelf with Robin McKinley’s “The Hero and the Crown”, Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”, and a few Ondaatje books. Yes, I’m a romantic. Shut up.

    Supposedly, “The Snow Queen” is “Girl ‘Dune'” – which seems like a nice compliment to me (so long as we are talking about the first “Dune” book) – but I think “The Snow Queen” would make a much cooler movie… Actually, it’s really awesome in my head. The next two books in the series are good, too, but not quite as lovely as “The Snow Queen.”

    • Liz!

      I felt bad for the other books on my favorite shelf: Tigana (by GGK, I see you love him, too) and Rebecca by DuMaurier. I just thought it might give you a better sense of whether you’d like what I liked.

      All the comments above are fantastic – so many books to read!

  • Crystal

    I can’t believe no one has recommended Catherine Asaro, particularly given that you mentioned burning out on regency heroines. 🙂 Her books are an unusual combo of sci fi and romance, and she’s a physicist (and a ballerina!) and weaves in hard core science here and there (mainly in Quantum Rose, from what I remember).

    I also strongly second/third/etc. the suggestions of David Weber’s Honor Harrington series, and Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan series. Both ‘space opera’, but very high quality.

    Elizabeth Moon is also space opera, but I would put her a notch behind those two authors. Still very enjoyable, but not a series I’ll revisit, whereas I’ve re-read the entire Honor and Miles series on multiple occasions.

  • Jason

    I really enjoyed The Pliocene Exile series by Julian May. She wrote 2 other series along with that, The Intervention and Milieu series. All of these are great. My favorite books by far.

    I also vote for Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.
    Arthur C. Clarke’s Rama series.
    Darwin’s Radio and Darwin’s Children by Greg Bear.

    For some military/time travel sci-fi I would suggest the Axis of Time trilogy by John Birmingham. Not-to-distant future Navy ships get displaced to just before WW2.

    Replay by Ken Grimwood. I don’t know if this would classify as sci-fi, but its a great story about a guy that relives his life over and over.

    Good luck. I hope you enjoy whatever you choose.

  • I’ve been doing something similar, I love sci-fi but I have some MAJOR holes in what I’ve read so have been working through classics, I have read the Foundation series (good example of smaller back in the day, with much larger books written more recently) and Dune, which was excellent. I have since moved onto Ursula le Guin and I am enthralled. I read her Earthsea books as a kid, and then again recently and found I still loved them, but have never tried her sci-fi before now. Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed are fascinating explorations of people, gender, politics, society, landscape and environment. Although they are slim on space opera.

    I am thoroughly enjoying my romp through old sci-fi and will be looking through these comments to find out where to go next.

  • Mark

    I second Asimov’s ‘Foundation’ series. Love it! His ‘Robot’ series is also very good, can’t believe it hasn’t been mentioned. Nothing like the crappy film.

    I also enjoy Jack McDevitt. ‘Seeker’ is great, as is all from that series.

    No good sci fi on the Kindle. Once there is then I’ll get one.

  • My favorite is Alfred Bester:

    Tiger Tiger aka (The Stars My Destination) Amazing Count of MonteCristo revenge novel.Some consider the greatest Sci Fi novel of all time

    The Demolished Man What if we lived in a world were everyone could read each others mind.

    Not to mention some say Bester invented the cyber punk genre he wrote the Green Lantern oath and had a Babylon 5 character named after him played by Chekov from Star Trek (I guess I did not have to mention Chekov was from Star Trek)

    Oh yeah and anything PK Dick has written as well.

    all the best

  • wystan

    since this thread was about good scifi books – I wanted to extend it to cyber punk niche. Niel Stephenson’s (hier appearent to William Gibson the grand daddy of cyber punk?) Snow Crash is a riot. It was my first introduction to him and a great thrill. Probably my favorite just because it was my first, but The Diamond Age and Cryptonomicron I think are considered his best work. Also, just because I got rambling, another author I have enjoyed tremendously Umberto Echo, specifically Foucault’s Pendulum. He is a profressor of semiotics and his writing is a joy.

  • jacouloir

    Just have to put my $0.02 in. Roger Zelazny “Lord of Light” “Creatures of Light and Darkness” the Amber series starting with “9 Princes in Amber”. Almost anything by Larry Niven “Ringworld” “The Mote in God’s Eye” “Tales of Known Space” And 2 of my favorites from Alfred Bester “The Stars My Destination” (aka “Tiger, Tiger”) and “The Demolished Man”

    I would also recommend the BBC Hitchhiker’s Guide series, even with the typical beeb cheesy special effects. Amazing what a good ensemble can pull off with inferior sets and props.

    Btw – loved you since Buffy – glad to see you getting some limelight.

    kick a.

  • John Keagy

    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your web series over the past year. I’ve passed it on to many people I know but none of them get it. Oh, well their loss. Maybe they’ll figure out who Felicia Day is, a genius entrepreneur. Books, hmmm… I don’t have time, but when I did, Lord of the Rings obviously, but that was way back in 6th grade. The Xanth series by Piers Anthony. I liked those book immensely when I was younger. Never got into the sci-fi books. I was an AD&D player back in the day, not a big one, but a skinny one, never a rule nazi, I didn’t care that much. I was just in for the fun of the dungeon crawls. Anyway Ms. Day, I love your work and would hope to meet you someday, but the Navy calls me to duty INCONUS currently. Keep up the good work, you’re on your way if you aren’t there already.


  • Zach

    Glen Cook’s “The Dragon Never Sleeps” and “Passage at Arms” are two of my favorite sci-fi books. I also liked the Hyperion series by Dan Simmons.

  • Mace Moneta

    I’m amazed an mystified that there’s not a single post on A.E. Van Vogt’s novels.

    The Voyage of the Space Beagle:


    The World of Null-A:

    The Weapon Shops of Isher:

    Mandatory reading. They’re not just great, they great to read.

  • Skip

    Several people have mentioned the Uplift series by David Brin. I’ve liked his novels as well, and if your interested in another one of his thought experiments, try “Glory Season”, which is an enchanting yarn about what a world might look like if human parthogenesis were possible. It’s also a great adventure story on another planet.

  • Kevin

    How has Charles Stross not been on this list yet? I’ve read all of his SF works several times, and would have to recommend Accelerando, Glasshouse, and Wireless, his collection of short stories. They are outstanding human based stories wrapped around some sometimes outlandish hard science. No women-in-thigh-high-leather or macho-man superheroes. And now it’s time for me to go re-read some of those…

  • Dan

    You didn’t read the article very closely. The credit card is only used in a one-way hash as the encryption key to your epub files. It’s like saying that your email address contains your email password because if someone knew the password, they could read your email.

  • Dune rocks!!

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  • Snakes and Ladders

    The Big Time by Freitz Leiber left me with that pulling hunger, which cannot be satiated, and yet not unpleasant. It’s a short novel available for free as part of Project Gutenberg.

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