Sunday, October 15, 2006

A bleg?

This post by Chad Orzel reminds me of a request I made on Ye Olde Usenet when I first started teaching at DePauw. DePauw has a wonderful science fiction collection, thanks to the presence of sci-fi scholars Art Evans and Istvan Csicsery-Ronay and the journal Science Fiction Studies. The request is for book recommendations. I've been reading through the Hugo winners, from this year's back through 1982 so far. I've also read other books by the same award winning authors as available. I also read the library's holdings of Octavia Butler after she died, and various other authors as I've seen or heard reference of them. I find that I prefer the deep thinking books (especially with cultural, philosophical or political issues involved), and those with a good sense of humor. Zelazny's Lord of Light was highly enjoyable, as an example. So, what are the great science fiction books I should read?

9 comments:

Josiah said...

Ursula Le Guin's my favorite. I'm a big fan of her Earthsea series, and her book The Dispossessed is my all time favorite.

(Interesting you mention Lord of Light... I quoted that for my personal statement in my high school yearbook)

Scott Spiegelberg said...

I've read the Earthsea series, and The Left Hand of Darkness. I have not read The Dispossessed, and it is in the library, so that goes on the list. Thanks!

Steve Hicken said...

Scott--

My two favorite science fiction book are Walter M. Miller's A Canticle for Liebowitz and John Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar.

calebd said...

If you've read all the recent Hugos, you've found The Diamond Age, but Snow Crash is my favorite SF from Stephenson. The Baroque Cycle is also excellent, but not necessarily SF.

I'd also recommend Jonathan Lethem's Gun, With Occasional Music and Jeff Noon's Vurt.

Scott Spiegelberg said...

I've read all of Stephenson's works except the Baroque Cycle, which I may tackle next summer. I've also read the Lethem, though I got bogged down in The Fortress of Solitude. I think because I did not grow up in an urban environment I am not the target audience. I have not heard of Vurt or Stand on Zanzibar, though I have heard good things about the Canticle (it is mentioned often by music theorists or musicologists). All of these are in the library, so I will check them out (literally!)

I've started reading The Dispossessed and am enjoying it. Thanks for the recommendation, Josiah.

Josiah said...

Of course there is also Stanislaw Lem. The Futurological Congress reminded me of a conceptual cross between The Matrix and Clockwork Orange but is also hilarious. As a bonus, the English translation is good. Lem's Solaris is also worth reading, but unless you can read Polish, you should be warned that the English translation isn't very good. It's too bad that Lem died before he could convince the powers that be to finance a good translation.

Anonymous said...

If you've been going through Hugo winners and not yet run through the Nebulas, you've missed Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun, which is not exactly easy reading but is easily one of the best things in genre of the past fifty years.

Scott Spiegelberg said...

DePauw only has one of Wolfe's books from that series, and unfortunately the second one (The Claw of the conciliator). Would it still be okay to read that one, or is it necessary to read the first book to appreciate/understand the second book? They do have his Book of the Long Sun series, how does that compare?

Lisa Hirsch said...

No, no, no, no! You'll be VERY unhappy if you read Book of the New Sun out of order, and don't read the Long Sun series until you've read New Sun. They're all connected, and...well, they're dense and worth the effort.

There is undoubtedly a Web site out there with the correct order in which to read the Wolfe books.

If you haven't read him, John Varley is great fun. Start with the short stories, then read the Gaia series.