View Full Version : Can any one recommend a good space sci fi book?

08-31-2012, 01:44 AM
Looking for a space page turning Sci fi book that has plenty of rich vocabulary and is eloquently written with obsorbing characters. "Rich vocabulary" > the type you need a dictionary as a companion. Blessings!

08-31-2012, 12:56 PM
hehe *evil* w.s. burroughs "place of dead roads" *evil*

norman spinrad "child of fortune"

scuese me for suggesting finding blake's 7 on youtube :D

08-31-2012, 04:55 PM
'Dune' is the first one that springs to mind if you want something that gives you good writing and absorbing characters, although it only has a Fog index of 7.9 according to Amazon, so I doubt you will be reaching for your dictionary (depending on you level of vocab of course). It's funny, but for SF set in space although there's a ton of books out there which are very well written and which have great characters, I can't think of a one which has had me reaching for a dictionary more than once or twice.

I would be interested to see if anyone knows an SF novel set in space which has a fog index of 12 or over.

08-31-2012, 08:13 PM
Asimov. 'nuff said :)
Well most of the writing is pretty accessible. But if you read all the Robot books and Foundation novels (in order) it's a pretty epic journey.

David drake is good (Hammer's Slammers and series)

I'll second Dune and sequels for lots of detail :)

08-31-2012, 11:50 PM
Popular books tend not to have lots of big words in them, most likely because people seem to want to enjoy reading their books, not expending a lot of effort studying them like a textbook. http://xkcd.com/483/ sums up a related problem nicely, I think.

For story and characterization, I find the Vor stories by Bujold to be good, as is her Falling Free. For well-written stories with a humanist slant, I like stories by Spider Robinson. I'd have to go visit my local library (half of which is down the hall, half upstairs, and half in the garage) for much more in the way of recommendations, though.

I haven't been overly impressed with Asimov's or Heinlein's characters. They are both excellent authors in the SF genre; their stories are well-done and engaging, but I find their characters a bit flat and 2-dimensional. I also think that Frank Herbert was hitting the hallucinogens just a wee bit too too hard when he wrote Dune, but that may just be personal problems on my part. Then again, I liked the characters in Stasheff's The Warlock in Spite of Himself, so take my recommendations with a pound of salt.

09-01-2012, 04:15 AM
Cool, thanks Waldronate, I might look up some of those. I'm reading 'The Last Ringbearer (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Ringbearer)' at the moment which is clever and funny (if a bit flabby in the middle).

09-01-2012, 05:38 AM
I'm a fan of Ian M. Banks books though some are more accessible than others. My favourite is Use of Weapons, which has a really unusual narrative structure. I like the Player of Games too. Matter was a bit of a heavier read. I'm pretty sure that's the one with the Shell Worlds (?) which would be a great concept for a map maker :) It's full of concepts that haven't got great references to real things, so they're difficult to visualise, but that can be the best part.

09-19-2012, 10:04 PM
Try David Webber. His Honor Harrington books are good and he has several other sci-fi books as well. Path of the Fury is one of my favorites.

09-19-2012, 10:07 PM
Kim Stanley Robinson Mars Trilogy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_trilogy) for sure.

09-19-2012, 10:37 PM
Try David Webber. His Honor Harrington books are good and he has several other sci-fi books as well. Path of the Fury is one of my favorites.

I enjoy the HH books (well, most of them), but I wouldn't at all call Weber's writing "eloquent" or his characters "engaging". His strength is more in just coming up with lots and lots if interesting details for his settings, and then blowing it all up, with equal attention to detail. He's at his weakest when his characters need to be "real people" and engage in conversation with each other. It's a valid way to go, and like I said, I enjoy the books, but I don't think they match what Oliviev asked for.

The best match among the authors that I read are Douglas Adams (The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy), Iain Banks (The Culture), and Timothy Zahn (The Thrawn Trilogy, Angelmass)

Dropping the space requirement, I'd add Neal Stephenson (Snow Crash, The Diamond Age)

09-22-2012, 12:02 AM
I'll second Neal Stephenson. Snow Crash is one of my favourites of all time. I will say I had no idea what I was getting into with Cryptonomicon, but I do not regret a moment of reading it.

09-22-2012, 07:12 AM
Agreed: Snow Crash is superb.

Hungry Donner
09-22-2012, 11:24 PM
Robert L. Forward for hardcore science fiction. He did an excellent job of combining interesting science with interesting narratives and characters.

James Alan Gardner for more traditional science fiction. The second book in his League of Peoples series is a bit weak in my opinion, but even so it's my favorite science fiction series.

I don't know if either will cause you to run for a dictionary, but Forward's novels may cause you to flip through some science text books, and I greatly enjoyed the manner that Gardner put forward many of his "big ideas."

09-23-2012, 12:27 AM
Orson Scott Card. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ender's_Game_(series)

09-23-2012, 02:39 AM
Alistair Reynolds - House of Suns - I can't recommend this one enough.

Dan Simmons - Illium duology & the Endymion & Hyperion books - massive, sprawling, full of dictionaria, though I prefer Illium.

Olaf Stapledon - Last and First Men - an epic, massive work, now almost forgotten.

Philip K. Dick - Valis - this one is whacked out, but Philip K. Dick is quite a classic.

John Scalzi - Old Man's War - an accessible but interesting series. Fuzzy Nation is also fun.

That's all from me for now :).

Greason Wolfe
11-12-2012, 07:00 PM
How about Frederick Pohl's Gateway/Heechee series. There's also James Hogans Giantstar series, though that one isn't particularly "star spanning" in nature. Piers Anthony's Bio of a Space Tyrant, again, not "star spanning" but still a pretty good read. Recently I read Leviathan Wakes (James Corey), which wasn't too bad, and started reading Paul McAuley' Quiet War series, but I'm not too far along in that one, so can't say for certain how good it is just yet.


EDIT > Oh, joy, my evil 666th post here. Maybe I better stay in bed tomorrow. :o

11-14-2012, 12:15 AM
Peter F. Hamilton has written some pretty good sci-fi epics recently, and quite a few of them include some reasonably detailed worldbuilding. It would be fun to make maps of some of his worlds.

11-14-2012, 09:43 AM
Id second Datoria's comment on #7. Both my fav Banks novels too tho the others have individual items in them that are awesome as well.

White Raven
12-08-2012, 03:52 PM
Most books won't have you reaching for a dictionary, unless you are new to the Engish language. Most writers are too obtuse to attempt stretching their vocabulary.

12-08-2012, 10:49 PM
Check out Baen Books' catalog - they frequently have teaser chapters and indeed entire free books to sample. Travis Taylor does excellent science, and doesn't dumb down the vocabulary too much. I like Zahn's people and his gadgetry, and his plots work.

12-09-2012, 09:16 PM
I just read the first three books in C.J. Cherryh's Chanur series. Well-written, with interesting aliens. It's a good one. Heinlein is always a good one: Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Friday...just about anything, really.

12-09-2012, 09:35 PM
A saga that I have really enjoyed to read is the Seafort Saga. Written by David Feintuch (i think i have the ei around the right way). The first book is called Midshipman's Hope, I highly recommend it. If you enjoy it, there are 6 more following it.

01-08-2013, 11:36 AM
Neal Stephenson has been mentioned already but I'll mention him again because he's awesome. My screen name is from the first book of his History of the World trilogy.

William Gibson is also pretty amazing. Nueromancer is a good one to start with. I believe he was the first to ever use the term cyberspace.

The most recent thing I've read that's relevant to this thread is Deep Six by Jack McDevitt. No dictionary needed, but some great characters and the science aspects, while basic, are still pretty neat. It's even got a map!

01-26-2013, 08:42 AM
As reccomended by Lukc, the Dan Simmons' books are awesome. Hyperion / Endymion, that's my Sci-fi bible.

05-06-2013, 10:40 AM
The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven is an excellent work of "Hard" Sci-Fi that incorporates quite a few concepts together; religion, xenophobia, warfare, classes.

12-11-2013, 03:31 PM
Depends on what type or era you're interested in. Having grown up in the 60s and 70s I have always had a preference for the modern masters; Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, P.K. Dick, Niven and Bradbury. Some of my favorites are 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress' and 'Starship Troopers' by Heinlein but forget that movie its about social ethic and civic responsibility. '2001', 'Rendezvous with Rama' or almost anything by Clarke or Asimov is a good read. The first two in Niven's 'Ringworld' series are good but the last was a bit too odd.
Enjoy I know I did.

12-13-2013, 09:41 AM
An interesting sci-fi-so-far-out-there-it-seems-to-start-as-fantasy read is the Jacob's Ladder Trilogy by Elizabeth Bear (Dust, Chill and Grail). I found them last year and enjoyed each book more than the previous one.

(As a caution there are some less then mainstream concepts on gender roles and sexuality in the books that some may not appreciate.)

-Rob A>

12-17-2013, 08:00 AM
If I may add a vote for my favorite sci-fi series: The Vorkosigan saga books by Lois McMaster Bujold. A believable and relatable setting, engaging stories and fantastically written characters.

And for those not so much into sci-fi... she did a number of great fantasy novels as well.

04-14-2014, 03:41 PM
My first thought is that you NEED to read Dune. It's exactly what you're looking for. My next thought is to try to convince you the check out my book, but I've got nothing on Frank Herbert so read Dune.

04-14-2014, 05:06 PM
I agree with most of the above, particularly the five Foundation novels. Also on my must read list:

Anne McCaffrey (and later son Todd McCaffrey): Dragonriders of Pern, The Ship Who Sang et al, The Tower and Hive series (The Rowan, etc. - named my daughter after the main character), Doona and much more.

Ursula K. Le Guin: Earthsea, Hainish Cycle (particularly The Left Hand of Darkness).

Andre Norton: Beast Master (the movies were a joke), The Solar Queen series, The Time Traders & Witch World series, Voodoo World, and a quirky little surprise called The Sioux Spaceman (trust me...).

Marion Zimmer Bradley: Yeah, she writes sci-fi - The Darkover series, for one. But don't skip the Avalon Series - or you'll kick yourself.

...and if I were king, NOT reading The Martian Chronicles and Stranger in a Strange Land would be punishable by 20 slaps with a wet cod.

04-16-2014, 12:08 PM
If you're looking for eloquently-written SF, I'd have to recommend the work of Jack Vance. These days he's mostly remembered for "The Dying Earth", which is excellent but is essentially fantasy; most of his work, though, is SF, from planetary romance (Big Planet or Planet of Adventure) to space opera (Demon Princes). The latter, which was originally published in the 1970s, is probably the pinnacle of his SF writing.

Vance's biggest strength is his eloquent, very urbane style, especially in dialogue. He's probably the best writer I've read at coming up with neologisms that sound like real language; not really "can look up in the dictionary", though.

04-25-2014, 03:06 PM
My "Must Read SciFi List" has long been:

Frank Herbert. THE classic space opera. The rest of the series can be a bit hard to swallow, but the firsy book should be required reading in all universities or something. Not techy at all- in fact the science is a bit of a stretch and rather odd. the action is sociopolitical, and sort of messianic. I generally abhor space opera- I'm much more into hard SF- so when i recommend something pulpy or operatic you can feel confident that it's good.

The Forever War
Joe Haldeman. A thinly-disguised commentary on the Vietnam War, and a bit dated, but great. Wonderful premise- that soldiers fighting an interstellar war are affected by time dilation, so every time they come home a huge span of time has passed and they soon no longer recognize the society for which they are fighting. Haldeman is a great SF author, but he has never quite equalled this work. If you are at all human the last page will leave you with tears in your eyes- something not terribly common in scifi.

Stranger in a Strange Land
Rober Heinlein. An older very pulpy work, but a classic, about a human raised by aliens, and how his outlook thus differs. This book is why some idiots call Heinlein a "hippy."

Starship Troopers
Robert Heinlein. Ok, the book is NOT the movie. Say it three times. (And the people who hated the movie CLEARLY didn't get the joke...) ABut this is also older and very pulpy, but a classic. For a long time it was required reading at various military academies, and remains on some military reading lists. This book is the reason that some other idiots call Heinlein a "fascist."

William Gibson. This book (essentially) started the cyberpunk genre. Like Haldeman, Gibson has never regained this level of work, but this is great.

The Mote in God's Eye
Larry Niven. Set in the CoDominium universe, albeit after the CoDo broke up and the Empire of Man has risen. A great first-contact story.

Islands in the Net
Bruce Sterling. A pseudo-cyberpunk book written from the point of view of the corporate executive. Sort of. I put this on my list when I first made it long ago and was in a bit of a cyberpunk phase, and I'll admit that it probably isn't one of the Great Works that these others are, but still well worth a read.

Ender's Game
Orson Scott Card. I had this on my list LONG before the movie- it is another that is often on military academy reading lists. I guess it appeals to neo-Clauswitzians or something.

My wife has read four of these (Dune, Stranger in a Strange Land, Ender's Game, The Forever War) and despite being a snooty humanities person has liked them all.

Some others I really like:

Steven Baxter has his Xeelee sequence, which is grand hard SF written on an epic timescale. Like, a timescale over which human evolution occurs. I highly recommend it. There are many books set on this timeline. Ring, Raft, Exultant, Transcendant, Timelike infinity, Flux, Vaccuum Diagrams, The Time Ships, etc. The only thing he has ever written that I truly hated was the Time's Tapestry series. That was simply not up to his usual standards. The Manifold series is very, very hard to follow at times, dealing as it does with time travel, paradoxes, etc., and I'd recommend saving it for later. The Northland Trilogy is interesting, but different, and i wouldn't recommend it to anyone who doesn't already know they would like it. I haven't read his NASA Trilogy, Mammoth Trilogy, or Time Odyssey series.

Anything by Neal Stephenson is pretty good, but I especially like his Baroque Cycle. It's not really scifi- it's more picaresque historical- but it reads like scifi, somehow. And, wow. It's huge, epic, and will hurt your brain. Lot's of playful language, double-entendres, and crunchy historical sciency stuff. And it is sort of a prequel to Cryptonomicon, in that it involves the anscestors of some of those characters (it's set around the late 1600s and early 1700s). The first 200 pages can be hard to get through, but then you'll be sucked it. Hard to follow at the start- this is a thinking man's book. NOT light reading. Stephenson has yet to disappoint me- I even liked Anathem (the butt of that xkcd joke someone posted) and Reamde.

If you want complex plots with intelligent writing, Baxter and Stephenson are what you are looking for.

I'll also +1 Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy. That stuff was excellent, though he clearly has the classic SF author's tendendcy to neglect character development for cool science. Not that there is no character development- I just mean that the TRUE beauty of the book is in the worldbuilding and societal building.

Oddly, I absolutely LOVED World War Z. (And again, the book is NOT the movie. At all. it's a totally different story. The movie sucks.) I picked it up on a discount rack at an airport and it was great! It is not the usual zombie drivel. It's written as a series of interviews done by a UN rapporteur after the zombie wars have ended. I'd again describe this as a "thinking-man's" zombie book. And, again, my wife the snooty humanities person liked it. (Every so often I challenge her to expand her horizons with a good scifi book. She resists, but it's good for her, and she admits that I haven't disappointed her yet.)

Charles Stross's Accelerando was excellent. He also wrote the less-serious Laundry series, which is hilarious. Along the same lines as Accelerando is Rainbow's End by Vernor Vinge. Vinge's older A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky were also very good.

For lighter reading, I liked the Man-Kzin War books, as well as the first few Ringworld books, by Larry Niven.

Footfall by Niven and Pournell was probably the first alien-invasion story that was "done right." I also liked Lucifer's Hammer. Dated, now, but still great.

Without doubt, the ultimate space combat board game is undoubtedly Attack Vector: Tactical, by Ad astra games. It'll blow your mind, but you actually need to know some basic physics to even stand a chance of understanding it. The ultimate (mostly) non-combat scifi boardgame is Phil Eklund's High Frontier.

Anyone interested in hard scifi should peruse Winchell Chung's Atomic Rockets webpage (http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/).

04-25-2014, 05:00 PM
I'm a fan of Ian M. Banks books though some are more accessible than others. My favourite is Use of Weapons, which has a really unusual narrative structure. I like the Player of Games too. Matter was a bit of a heavier read. I'm pretty sure that's the one with the Shell Worlds (?) which would be a great concept for a map maker :) It's full of concepts that haven't got great references to real things, so they're difficult to visualise, but that can be the best part.

I agree, iain m banks was really a good author, the society he describe as the culture is very interesting and positive as a possible bright future for mankind. to bad he died last year:( hist last sf book the hydrogen sonata is really one of my favorite. Peter F hamilton comonwealth saga is also really good, and long, a good point for a big reader;)

03-23-2015, 07:51 PM
The Rama series by Arthur C Clarke has some good points in it, with an exploration of several Sci-Fi themes.
3001: the Final Odyssey (again by Clarke) is a good Sci-Fi novel although not set in space for much of the time.

Have you read any Doctor Who novels? :blush: Or original Star Trek fiction? Some has quite hard Sci-Fi elements in (e.g. The Wounded Sky, Diane Duane). Gets coat

Asimov, obviously. Often overlooked because of their status as 'children's books' are the Space Ranger series. They're short, so best read as one novel rather than 6 separate ones, but there's a reasonable amount of science hidden in them, though occasionally based on (very) faulty 1950's astronomical information.

04-13-2015, 08:31 AM
Star Rangers by Andre Norton is a good read.