Good (modern) science fiction books

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  • [maven] 25 Oct 2005 23:13:32 5,692 posts
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    Now that I've finished my last batch of books I'm on the lookout for some new authors again, seeing that you all seem to have mentioned quite a few I've never heard off, I'll just start of and recommend a few in case you haven't bothered with them yet.

    I don't regret reading any of the following books, but my criticism will concentrate on the negatives. Every book is at least as good as Halo (or maybe a 7 ;)). IMO disclaimer.

    Alastair Reynolds - Revelation Space, Chasm City, Redemption Ark, Absolution Gap:
    Some interesting concepts executed well. Chasm City is a side story, but still good reading. The ending of Absolution Gap is an absolute cop out. Hard sci-fi. Near light-speed travel due to constant acceleration (and deceleration), later on reduced inertia becomes important. Cyber-punk / -noir influences but further away future than traditional Cyber-punk. Good feeling of dread.

    Dan Simmons - Hyperion, Endymion:
    Fairly independent set of 2 x 2 books. 2nd Hyperion book is the weakest IMO; the Endymion saga has gotten me very attached to the characters and it had a very good ending. Strong fantasy slant and relation to Keats' poems (which I've never read). Worked allright with applying the LotR-tactic of skipping everything that looked like a poem or song.

    Peter F. Hamilton - Night's Dawn Trilogy
    Takes half of the first book to get going. Has a bit of a problem with different narrative strands being far more interesting than some others. Quite (IMO too) descriptive, focused on a semi-religious theme. Large cast of characters (with some strange non-sensical alterations, e.g. why exchange Warlow (a character) for Beanlieu (a statist)). Too many deus-ex-machinae for my taste; for me sci-fi is (within reason) about the most probable thing happening (i.e. extrapolation), but this series has the most improbable things happening (Al Capone?) which makes it either hard to take seriously or moves it more towards fantasy (but not as much as Hyperion). Chapters are a bit too long (and towards the end they mix narratives to make it more frantic I guess). Travel via ship-created space-time rifts, excess heat is taken into account (but after jump #23485763487 I can well remember that the ships extends its thermo-dump panels, all right? No need to mention it every single time!)

    Stel Pavlou - Decipher:
    Near-future sci-fi / techno-thriller written very cineasticly, seems to have a fairly good technological background (which is important seeing that it's not too far away). Reminded me of Snow Crash (in a good way), but not cyber-punk.

    Neal Stephenson:
    Writes very distinctive books, from Snow Crash (near future scifi with a pre-biblical history lesson, has virtual world / internet) to semi alternate-timeline science fiction based on nano-technology (The Diamond Age) or more recently Cryptonomicon (pseudo-historical mixed with a "now" story about encryption and Google Money) and The Baroque Cycle. His later books get (too) wordy, but mix fact and fiction very endearingly.

    Ian M. Banks:
    (Mostly Culture). His books are a bit shorter than the average but distinctive enough. Unfortunately the overall structure and feeling / mood each book has left me with was fairly similar.

    Vernor Vinge:
    Fairly long books of hard scifi, usually with focus on a single (or two) non-human species which bear relevance to the human situation. Has also written interesting (not-quite-) short stories. Manages to evoke a feeling of absolute hopelessness without then having to resort to some sort of cheap ending.

    So then, would you have anything to add to this list which from the above I should read?

    edit: Confederation != Culture. Thanks otto.

    Edited by [maven] at 09:29:16 26-10-2005
  • phAge 25 Oct 2005 23:16:29 25,487 posts
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    Richard Morgan: Altered Carbon. There is a 2nd book in the same universe just out - will be picking it up shortly.
  • Deleted user 25 October 2005 23:18:39
    'The Saga of the Seven Suns' by Kevin J Anderson - Great books, written 4 so far, writing the 5th. Can't recommend them highly enough.
  • phAge 25 Oct 2005 23:20:51 25,487 posts
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    Also (not sci-fi, tho) China Mievilles Perdido Street Station and The Scar. Steam-punk extraordinare.
  • UncleLou Moderator 25 Oct 2005 23:23:00 40,158 posts
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    I'll recommend you a book I didn't like that much, but some of the people here who read sci-fi more than me love it (I think otto and Khanivor, for example). And disregard that I didn't like it, as my sci-fi taste is underdeveloped. :)

    The Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson, the first book is called "Red Mars", hard sci-i about the colonization of the Mars in the not so distant future.

    I had problems with the book's structure and pacing, but it has a lot of fascinating aspects.

    edit:
    typing is getting worse by the minute


    Edited by UncleLou at 23:27:56 25-10-2005
  • Wobble 26 Oct 2005 07:21:43 1,028 posts
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    I second the Richard Morgan recomendation. Takeshi Kovacs FTW!

    and phAge, get Woken Furies asap, It's great :) and set on Harlan's world (Kovacs home world).
    Also worth reading by Richard Morgan, but not in the Kovacs trilogy (Altered Carbon, Broken Angels, Woken Furies) is Market Forces, it's more near future, day after tommorow type stuff, same kind of time frame as Snow Crash, but in the UK.
  • Phattso 26 Oct 2005 07:29:10 25,705 posts
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    /strokes signed copy of Altered Carbon.

    I've really enjoyed the Alastair Reynolds books. I discovered Stephen Baxter at the same time and while the latter was putting me to sleep the former was really getting my imagination going. The two short(ish) stories in Diamond Dogs and Tourquise Days were very good also.

    Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos was great, and I'm currently ploughing through Ilium which is a pretty large undertaking for him (sci fi reworking of The Iliad) but quite a compelling read.
  • ccfb 26 Oct 2005 08:05:45 337 posts
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    Phattso wrote:
    /strokes signed copy of Altered Carbon.
    Heh, I've got one of those too. Signed copies, eh?

    Anyway Morgan is a good writer. Lots of violence, lots of tech but not at the expense of the story. There's actually 3 Kovacs books (AC, Broken Angels and Woken Furies). I am reading 3 at the moment and despite the slack middle section it's a top read. Altered Carbon is top notch gumshoe tech thriller with a liberal spicing of ultra-violence and "moral flexibility". A Worthy Gawp.

    Also, his non-Kovacs book Market Forces is ok, though not so compelling as the others due to, imo, some weaker characterisation. Interesting near-future story though.
  • oneiros 26 Oct 2005 08:10:16 1,877 posts
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    I'll raise a hand and second Ken MacLeod; I enjoyed his Engines Of Light trilogy thoroughly.

    Big fan of Jeff Noon's Vurt books too, although they're not exactly high science fiction.
  • Pike 26 Oct 2005 08:43:22 13,459 posts
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    I really liked Neal Stephensons books Snow Crash and The Diamond Age. ´They both had problems, the man seem to be unable to write satisfactory endings, but they were both very interesting visions of the future.

    Being a libertarian the cartonish anarcho-capitalist society in Snow Crash was especially fascinating.
  • StarchildHypocrethes 26 Oct 2005 09:15:45 33,155 posts
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    Oooh, that reminds me, if you haven't read the Timothy Zahn Star Wars trilogy, you must read it now! Superblatively Ace :)

    Otherwise, I'd recommend Stephen Baxter. Fairly hardcore SF, but pretty good.
  • glaeken 26 Oct 2005 09:24:36 12,070 posts
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    I have been reading Adam Roberts recently. He is a little more literary than most Sci-Fi authors but he has some decent idea's. Probably not for those who like the more slam bam action style of Sci-Fi or have short attention spans.

    I would particularly recommend Stone, Salt, PolyStom and The snow all by Roberts.
  • MrWorf 26 Oct 2005 09:28:39 63,835 posts
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    [maven] wrote:
    Ian M. Banks:
    (Mostly Culture). His books are a bit shorter than the average but distinctive enough. Unfortunately the overall structure and feeling / mood each book has left me with was fairly similar.

    For the record. I *hate* Ian M Banks. His books always leaves me feeling depressed. ;_;
  • Phattso 26 Oct 2005 09:31:17 25,705 posts
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    StarchildHypocrethes wrote:
    Otherwise, I'd recommend Stephen Baxter. Fairly hardcore SF, but pretty good.

    I thought that at first, and I like some of the 'alternate universes' he creates for his characters from book to book. But ultimately I concluded that wading through 400+ pages of treacle for a fairly average payoff in terms of story and scope just wasn't worth the aggro.

    I'm only surprised that it took me six books to realise that. :)
  • bef 26 Oct 2005 09:32:19 1,742 posts
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    The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson.

    Excellent!
  • StarchildHypocrethes 26 Oct 2005 09:36:51 33,155 posts
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    Phattso wrote:
    I thought that at first, and I like some of the 'alternate universes' he creates for his characters from book to book. But ultimately I concluded that wading through 400+ pages of treacle for a fairly average payoff in terms of story and scope just wasn't worth the aggro.

    I'm only surprised that it took me six books to realise that. :)
    I've only read a few of them, but have enjoyed the ideas in them. I thought Voyage and Titan were both excellent.

    I know what you mean though Phattso, they're bloody hard going and certainly not page turners. I'm half way through the Manifold series at the moment and am beginning to struggle just a touch :)

    Edited by StarchildHypocrethes at 09:41:08 26-10-2005

    Edited by StarchildHypocrethes at 09:41:28 26-10-2005
  • glaeken 26 Oct 2005 09:38:30 12,070 posts
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    Baxter used to be good but seems to have degenerated a lot in the last few years. He just seems to turn out lots of 600 page books that while interesting in places don't really go anywhere. The only exception I can think of to this was his collaborations with Clarke on Times Eye and the Light of Other years.

    If you check out his Xlee series that began with Raft you can see just how far he has slipped.

    And what is it with all these 600 page production line books? Surely creativity and wanting to write the best story you can is not always going to arrive at a book that just happens to be 600 pages long. More the publisher driving things than creativity I think.
  • UncleLou Moderator 26 Oct 2005 09:43:25 40,158 posts
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    otto wrote:
    You didn't like it?? :(



    Not that much, I am afraid. :(




    SPOILERS
    KIM STANLEY ROBINSON MARS TRILOGY SPOILERS AHEAD

    I thought it lack a certain feeling of epicness. I never had the impression they were on a trip to Mars, it all felt a bit like a camping holiday. Everything seems so easy, and the worst thing that happens in the first 2 years is one person losing a finger! Now I don't bemoan a lack of action, but they fly there, have some sex, arrive, all the technology seems to work by itself, and yet at the same time it all seems very unorganized, like they haven't planned at all what they'll do once they arrive.
    What was superbly done was the political and philosophical views of terra-forming, beauty as a value in itself, etc. etc., but I just didn't think the rest was very convincing, including most of the technology (though that might have been researched thoroughly and be realistic, I don't know). I also have some problems with the structure (what he decides to tell in the story and what he skips).
    Anyway, I often enjoyed reading it, but I was also left a little disappointed.

    Mind, I've only read the first book.

    END OF SPOILERS


    Edited by UncleLou at 09:48:47 26-10-2005
  • Deleted user 26 October 2005 09:50:16
    Phattso wrote:
    StarchildHypocrethes wrote:
    Otherwise, I'd recommend Stephen Baxter. Fairly hardcore SF, but pretty good.

    I thought that at first, and I like some of the 'alternate universes' he creates for his characters from book to book. But ultimately I concluded that wading through 400+ pages of treacle for a fairly average payoff in terms of story and scope just wasn't worth the aggro.

    I'm only surprised that it took me six books to realise that. :)

    The best book he wrote IMO is The Time Ships. Its a sequel to The Time Machine and Baxter sticks very faithfully to the style of H G Wells. A right rip-roaring read it is. Highly recomend it.
  • Pike 26 Oct 2005 09:51:19 13,459 posts
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    Has anyone of you read Neal Stephensons Baroque Cycle BTW? And If so, do you reccomend it?
  • spindizzy 26 Oct 2005 10:00:35 7,755 posts
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    Has no one mentioned Michael Marshall Smith? ANY of his books are highly recommended.
  • [maven] 26 Oct 2005 10:06:16 5,692 posts
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    Pike wrote:
    Has anyone of you read Neal Stephensons Baroque Cycle BTW? And If so, do you reccomend it?

    I've mentioned it above, so far I've only finished the 1st book (Quicksilver). It's quite interesting in that it is mixing facts and fiction very closely, e.g. Newton is one of the main-characters associates. So it's some sort of retro-science fiction. Takes a bit long to get going, and the first volume deals with two narrative strands (Waterhouse & Half-Cocked Jack).
    The history in there is quite accurate in general, but hard to distinguish the truth from Stephenson's clever insertions / extrapolations.

    Would I recommend it? If you don't mind rather wordy books or are even remotely interested (in mostly European) history (1650+), then yes. Otherwise approach with caution.
  • glaeken 26 Oct 2005 10:09:08 12,070 posts
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    Michael Marshall Smith was fantastic but he no longer writes Sci-Fi. All his books these days are aimed at the commerical serial killer thriller market possibly straying over into horror.
  • Pike 26 Oct 2005 10:13:13 13,459 posts
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    Ah, damn. Didn't re-read your post before posting. I think I'll check them out. Do you think the book you've read had the same problem with the ending that Snow Crash and The Diamond Age had?
  • [maven] 26 Oct 2005 10:15:33 5,692 posts
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    Pike wrote:
    Ah, damn. Didn't re-read your post before posting. I think I'll check them out. Do you think the book you've read had the same problem with the ending that Snow Crash and The Diamond Age had?

    Having not read the 2nd and 3rd books in the trilogy yet, I honestly cannot tell. ;)
  • phAge 26 Oct 2005 10:19:56 25,487 posts
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    Also - not strictly sci-fi, but Douglas Preston and Lincoln Childs books (notably Riptide and The Ice Limit are both positively FAB. Great mix of fact and fiction.
  • ssuellid 26 Oct 2005 10:21:13 19,141 posts
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    Personally I'm fed up with the techno babble wank that seems to dominate very modern sci fi - concentrating on explaining made up tech rather than a decent story.

    Robert Heinlein wrote some excellent - and some very poor books, but is worth looking out for - as is Simak. Books with a decent story and with Heinlein there was usually some kind of background issue. Suitable for kids and adults alike tho.
  • Pike 26 Oct 2005 10:24:24 13,459 posts
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    If we are also reccomending older sci-fi then Ray Bradbury has got to be mentioned. His books are absolutley fantastic. He is on of those rare science fiction writers who was as good a writer as he was imaginative.

    Kurt Vonnegut also has got to be mentioned. His later books might not be strictly sci-fi, but they contain sci-fi elements and he is a tremendous writer.
  • DodgyPast 26 Oct 2005 10:25:03 9,346 posts
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    Once again I'll pimp Stephen Donaldson's real story.... much better than his Thomas Covenant books... i.e. they move faster than treacle.

    Edited by DodgyPast at 10:29:40 26-10-2005
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