Arthur C Clarke was next via 'A fall of Moondust' and then I saw Kubrick's '2001 A Space Odyssey' and haven't been quite the same since.
The interesting thing about Clarke is he can't do characters for toffees, his dialogue is awful - he ain't no kinda novelest at all.
There is a sense of nostalgia for the infinite in his writing that is curiously fulfilling. A melancholia of wonderment at the vast aeons of time; suns ripping apart and webs of nebulas strung out over hundreds of light years. He communicates a sort of 'romance of alien-ness' that has a transfiguring effect at its best.
Because Kubrick's great talent was utter faithfulness to the beats of his material (think of A Clockwork Orange, Eyes Wide Shut) in 2001 he communicated this very quality of Clarke's into a concrete state of mind up there on the screen.
All those special effects and cinematic structure were there to do just that - to manifest the transfiguring impulse at the witness to the awsome, the melancholy of our place in the universe (the scenes in the centifuge), the uncertain hope that springs from our intellecual grasp of our context in the grand scheme of things (The space wheel, HAL).
Last edited by Chris Bennett; November 11th, 2011 at 05:49 AM.
The guys and gals here have snapped up all the gooduns!
But a couple I don't think they have mentioned:
Ray Bradbury's 'Dandelion Wine' and many of his short stories. Much of his stuff is the other end of the A C Clarkian 'hard SF' without really belonging to the fantasy genre. It's a sort of 'literary SF' if you will.
J. G. Ballard is someone you definitely ought to look at: 'Concrete Island' and 'High Rise' are particular favourites of mine. (Concrete Island is about someone who's car skids off a busy motorway interchange and cannot escape from the central island wasteland surrounded by the screaming traffic... )
Other good sci-fi writers not yet mentioned and under-rated are:
Bob Shaw, who came up with some of the most ingenious conceits, and was also very funny. 'Who Goes Here' and it's hero Warren Peace is great fun. And his invention of slow-glass in the novel 'Other Days Other Eyes' is fantastic. He also wrote the melancholic 'Orbitsville' and its two sequels.
Christopher Priest, for whom Christopher Nolan owes an enormous debt, not only for 'The Prestige' but also 'Inception'.
Robert Sheckley, who wrote the brilliant 'Immortality Incorporated'.
John Wyndham of course, as mentioned, but he deserves another mention too! Currently re-reading 'The Kraken Wakes' for the n'th time. Brian Aldiss, another sci-fi writer critisised Wyndham's writing as being 'devoid of ideas'. Maybe he'd never read 'The Chrysalids' then.
Richard Matheson - if you aren't familiar with him, Google his name and see how he has been, and still is one of the most influential sci-fi writers of the last 50 years +.
Harry Harrison - once again mixing sci-fi and a great sense of humour.
John Christopher - 'The Tripods' and 'The Death of Grass'. Christopher focussed on world disasters and their effects on how people survived them.
Margaret Atwood too, 'The Handmaid's Tale'. Brilliant!
'Avatar' - A fairground ride with no depth. Imagination should not be limited to how brightly you can paint a canvas.
Last edited by Elwell; November 17th, 2011 at 10:18 PM. Reason: grammar
Aly, I have read "Who Goes Here?" 3 or 4 times. Great fun book. And the stainless steel rat was my hero as a kid. I've tried to reread those and can't though, dunno why I liked Harrison a lot better when I was younger. Gotten so many delicious sounding titles + authors from this thread
Blinovitch Limitation Effect!! The story of a Hollywood studio that goes back in time to film the Vikings discovering America for real, for a movie. I'll say no more...
Some fantastic Sci Fi picks there people. Has anyone mentioned Schismatrix by Bruce Sterling? That's a helluva book. Some fantastic ideas about future societies, seeing as this all started with future society discussions. It doesn't end the best, but it's 90% gold.
I think the first Sci Fi I read was either Foundation or Dune. Those were the only ones that our local library had, so it was one first, then the other. And yet I still continued to read Sci Fi. Younger me must have liked dry texts that I can't go back to now.
"The interesting thing about Clarke is he can't do characters for toffees, his dialogue is awful - he ain't no kinda novelest at all.
There is a sense of nostalgia for the infinite in his writing that is curiously fulfilling."
Yep, agreed. His stuff is very quaint. the novel version of 2001 is almost bereft of the awesome mystery and majesty of the film. But his heart is completely in the right place.
Was fall of moondust the one where the spacebus crashes into the superfine dust that acts like a liquid?
My mum read John Christophers terrifying Tripods stories to my sisters and me, they made a big impression, and reading them now they stand up really well.
The excruciatingly tense 80s Tv version is well worth a watch too; I love the West Country vs Alien Hypertech vibe.
Matheson, Atwood, rock solid bullet proof goodness. Mathesons Shrinking Man has a classic B-movie plot but is just as interested in the life-wrenching effects of inexplicable shrinking on the main character as anything else. The lonliness of living in the towering boxes and junk in the basement of hisown house, his family lost to him... and fighting to survive without hope, battling with daily onslaughts of a spider every bit as monsterous as the Alien with the added complication that it seems to get bigger every day.. excellent stuff. the desperate romancing of the circus midget in one of the flashbacks has the kind of horrifying comic reality real life tragedies seem to often be thick with.
Bruce Sterling is good too, I liked The Difference Engine a lot. Slots nicely with ian Stephensons The Diamond Age.
Ballard; The Drowned World is masterful. Theres a great short story collection called the Terminal Beach, which I must have read 10 times in 20 years since I was 10. very bleak, very sardonic, very cool.
Also check out Kingsley Amis' New Maps of Hell. Another very classy shorts collection. If you like the clever fiction of Graham Greene or Amis' own stuff youll dig it.
Good short ttories always leave an impression burned into your mind long after you lose the book you read them in; heres one.. set in a world where implacable aliens have arrived, instantly taken over and made humanity a slave race, one guy tries to fall through the cracks..
The Pardoners Tale by Robert Silverberg
Last edited by Velocity Kendall; November 13th, 2011 at 01:58 PM.
What I find fascinating is when current events catch up. Pollution has made Czechs evolve. I'm waiting for a couple of extra arms.
Dr Who (3 & 4) was my introduction to SF. I think Asimov takes up a fair chunk of one of my shelves.
Looooong time ago that I read it, probably terribly written, but it takes me back to the times when SF drawings were done with white chalks on black paper and gleaming cigar-shaped rockets stood upright on their fins with spacemen doing colonizing-the-moon work in the foreground.
Not read Ballard's 'Drowned World' - going to put that right in the next couple of weeks!
Last edited by Chris Bennett; November 13th, 2011 at 03:58 PM.
Re Dr Who (3 & 4): Is that Pertwee and Baker to which you refer?
Troughton was my man (2)...
"gleaming cigar-shaped rockets stood upright on their fins with spacemen doing colonizing-the-moon work in the foreground."
the first three things im going to ask my smartmatter nanotech spacehouse thing to look are as follows,
and then go from there
Not read Ballard's 'Drowned World' - going to put that right in the next couple of weeks!"
its very strange SF. it has more to do with Heart of Darkness and (the making of) Apocalypse Now than Star Wars.
conrad's marlow tell his story to his shipmates while moared up in the thames estuary; by the time of the drowned world; the steaming water, crushing heat, flies and nameless channels of his african river are what the thames has become, but the metaphor of shifting sands under peoples sanity remains the same. frightening.
Last edited by Velocity Kendall; November 13th, 2011 at 07:56 PM.
Velocity, if only i could thank you a hundred times for your comment on avatar. I've never really seen a more accurate description of its flaws.
It's quite strange that the concept design of an artist of Wayne Barlowe's calibre could end up as something like avatar
I can, however, comment on both Oryx and Crake and The Year of The Flood. I do not kid when I say these books are some of the best fiction I have ever read, and I cannot help but feel that Atwood (an elderly lady, known for her involvement in feminism) has painted one of the most imaginative and distressing dystopian worlds. In a literary genre dominated by men, it's an old woman that is showing everyone else how it's done.
I really cannot recommend those two books enough.
Hey, now that Sam is banned can this be a discussion of excellent sci-fi again?
I agree, but I was alright with this as that was all I'd gone into it expecting. I signed up for two hours of big mad noisy rollercoaster, and I got it.Avatar' - A fairground ride with no depth. Imagination should not be limited to how brightly you can paint a canvas.
Hardly thoughtful stuff, but it did do what it said on the tin.
Anyway, back in bookland..
*seriously, can someone not just film the thing more or less as written? I can see how, say.."Dune" poses problems just because of scale but "I Am Legend" is a pretty straightforward short story...Albeit a bit light on dialogue until the dog shows up..
Last edited by Flake; November 17th, 2011 at 10:15 PM.
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OMG that guy got his post removed and then the truth replaced with mere entertainment. It's totally Orwellian, dude.
I'm just joking, been doing too much doublethink.
Last edited by Flake; November 18th, 2011 at 09:26 AM.
While we're still on the subject, I can mention some more decent titles for those that have time to read that much.
Piers Anthony can turn good stories into pieces of garbage better than anyone I've read, but the first book "Battle Circle" is pretty good. Post-apocolyptic wasteland, man forms empire with friend, comes back from supposed death altered beyond recognition and destroys it, oh yea and there's a love triangle in there somewhere.
Speaking of authors who write sequels that ruin good stories, Orson Scott Card has some pretty good shorts, quick snack food type reads. "Die a Thousand Deaths" "Kingsmeat" "Fat Farm" "I Put My Blue Genes On". My favorite from him is novel "Treason", humans that can regenerate their wounds/limbs but every so often birth freaks who can't stop growing limbs and body parts. Grotesque but it also has a bit of a love story. That one's really good.
Recently I read "nightwings" short by Robert Silverberg. Very neat tidy piece of Science Fiction.
Harlan Ellison's "I have no Mouth, but I Must Scream" has one of the most depressing happy endings I've ever read. Computer controls the last human beings on earth.
For the ones who like to read about soldiers of the future , Heinlen's Starship Troopers is about space boot camp. Armor by John Steakly is about pretty much the best soldier in the universe kicking the crap out of giant bugs. And Sten by Alan Cole and Chris Bunch is about interplanetary special ops. The sequels are not too bad either.
Stacy, not a fan of Orson Scott Card who sadly seems to affect a Ron L Hubbard pretension to messianic status. Maybe being the great great grandson of Brigham Young does that to you?
Totally agree with that writer though. I was super upset at what he did with the Alvin Maker books. That's why I never read any sequels to Ender's Game..if it ain't broke don't fix it. Also anything by him after or near 1999 is utter cash cow crap.
For some reason Ender's game seem to be the obligatory SF classic among young people...I kind of put Card in the same way as Stephen King. More for their graphic, easy-to-read style of writing than any fantastical ideas or mind-blowing stories like my favorites can make.
Someone I've been enjoying a lot lately is Jack McDevitt and his Alex Benedict novels. They are basically mysteries set in hard sci-fi space and they are great. Alex Benedict the chief character is a dealer in ancient human antiques from the vast expansive past of expansion into space, from colonies now all but forgotten. Along the way, Benedict and his partner (from whom the narrative usually derives) are drawn into mysteries that they are either hired for or thrust into. Seriously fun reads. McDevitt's other works are just as enjoyable, too.
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Why? Because as barbarous as we are, we have hopes and dreams in a way the Culture does not. Our lives are challenging and therefore in some ways more interesting.
Loved some of the Culture novels though. I think the first one, "Consider Phlebas," remains my favourite.
I see some other major SF novels have already been discussed. I'll throw in Arthur C Clarke's "The songs of distant Earth" as a favourite. Also "The Hammer of God" by the same author. As others have noted, he's a bad, bad novelist, but has plenty of wonderfully original ideas, and he knows his science and engineering well enough to make them realistic.
Why has no one yet mentioned Douglas Adams? Admittedly perhaps more satire than SF. But he sure is a cool frood who knows where his towel is.
I'll stick my neck out here and at the risk of being booed off the stage mention Stephen King. Even though his science is usually quite laughable. But I enjoyed "The Tommyknockers," and his more recent "Under the dome," and some of his futuristic dystopian visions like "The Running Man," and particularly the rather horrifying and chillingly prescient "The Long Walk."
My sketchbook thread:
I like Good Guys and Bad Guys, but when those groups are split by species or separate societies I think it starts to be dumb without some shades of grey.
I just love when "bad guys" switch sides.
I'm interested by your take on The Culture. The events of the novels take place at the fringes where all the conflicts take place so we are left largely to infer what the Culture is actually like.
Which is, of course, what makes it so enthralling - what is the day to day life of a contented society that can build structures around stars the size of one of their planet's orbits?
Here's some sci-fi I liked that I haven't seen mentioned yet:
- Vernor Vinge's "A Fire Upon the Deep" and "A Deepness in the Sky"
- Dan Simmons's "Hyperion" series (has some issues especially in the second set but there's enough interesting ideas in there to be worth reading)
- Chris Moriarty's "Spin State" and "Spin Control"
I also liked Asimov's Robot series and Frank Herbert's Dosadi books. Brin's Uplift series wasn't too bad either.
I've been meaning to read more Culture books since my husband loves them but after a promising start with The Player of Games I got punched in the face by Use of Weapons and I just never recovered. Although maybe trying to read The Wasp Factory right after wasn't the best way to get back into Banks.
I like the idea of a generally positive future, though. It's a nice change from all those people-crushing dystopias.
Some outstanding stories in that collection.
My sketchbook thread:
Yep, State of the Art. Had a lovely Mark Salwowski cover. That guy has the best job ever.
"Piers Anthony can turn good stories into pieces of garbage better than anyone I've read, but the first book "Battle Circle" is pretty good"
I like to find authors I like and do their nuts a bit, picking their brains usually about books they didnt write..
"From: Greg Bear
[Macroscope is] My favorite Piers Anthony novel. Big and rich with ideas."
hes right i think.
""Treason", humans that can regenerate their wounds/limbs but every so often birth freaks who can't stop growing limbs and body parts."
Try A Planet Named Shayol..
I remember reading Altered Carbon but not really what it was about.
I do remember i prefered the similar but more fun Spares by Micheal Marshall Smith
"Why has no one yet mentioned Douglas Adams?"
D'oh! Good catch. He lived on my road you know. (Mill Road, Cambridge)
"Dan Simmons's "Hyperion" series"
"I'll stick my neck out here and at the risk of being booed off the stage mention Stephen King. "
Whenever I actually bother to read his books Im always slightly annoyed that i really enjoy them. Carrie was really good i thought.
Also It is sort of a Lovecraftian horror from beyond spacetime
"Vernor Vinge's "A Fire Upon the Deep" and "A Deepness in the Sky""
"Frank Herbert's Dosadi books"
"Brin's Uplift series wasn't too bad either."
I always loved The Practice Effect. WOuld make a great HBO miniseries.
"I have since remembered the title of the Culture story in which the Culture is portrayed as somewhat decadent: it was "The state of the art," a novella that was part of a collection of short stories:"
This is always an interesting read
"I've split the book discussions and recommendations off into their own thread."
Last edited by Velocity Kendall; November 20th, 2011 at 08:27 PM.
How classic are we talking? For something that is less classic than things like Rama by Clarke and Eon series by Greg Bear there is:
Reality Dysfunction by Peter F. Hamilton
and Judas Unchained
Finished both sagas recently and they were epic. Highly recommended.