木曜日, 7月 22, 2004

Favorite Books in Adulthood: Science Fiction

Read these books.

1) Beggars in Spain *+
    Nancy Kress

    I can't recommend this series enough. The writing is outstanding. The main character is genetically engineered not to need sleep, but her accidental twin is normal. The characters are great, and the author keeps introducing new plot twists throughout the series to keep things from getting stale.
    The novella "Beggars in Spain" (it is now a full-size novel) won the Nebula Award in 1991 and the Hugo in 1992.

2) Wild Seed *-
    Octavia Butler

    Butler didn't win for Wild Seed or Kindred, but she won best Novelette in 1984 (Nebula) and 1985 (Hugo) for Bloodchild. Bloodchild and the other stories she published in the same volume are also excellent. Wild Seed and Kindred have long been my favorites of her novels, partly because I was interested in the African American history she wove through them, but I suspect now that her portrayal of the slave trade in Wild Seed might have been rather unrealistic--it certainly didn't show the death, disease and hideous cruelty present in other works like Morrison's Beloved. Anyway, it's a brilliant novel and still one of my absolute faves. I met her in Seattle and had it autographed. She's a really nice person.

3) Dune *-
    Frank Herbert
Won the Nebula Award in 1965 and the Nebula in 1966.

4) Doomsday Book
    Connie Willis
1992 Nebula, 1993 Hugo.

5) As She Climbed Across the Table
    Jonathan Letham

6) Gateway *+
    Frederick Pohl
Won the Nebula in 1977 and the Hugo in 1978.

7) Kindred
    Octavia Butler

8) A Game of Universe
    Eric Nylund

    I have been wishing for years Eric Nylund would write another book like this. His other books are okay, but not as fun as this one.

9) Midnight at the Well of Souls
    Jack Chalker

    This book is cool...actually I read it not long before leaving to come to Japan so I didn't get a chance to read the whole series, and unlike the other books on this list I've only read it once. But yeah. The way the characters were reborn as different lifeforms on different worlds was kind of how I felt like I became a new person when I got to Japan. The plot is a little wacky, but it's well-written and original.

10) The Forever War
    Joe Haldeman
Won the Nebula Award in 1975 and the Hugo in 1976

This is a very famous SF novel that's also very good.

11) To Say Nothing of the Dog
    Connie Willis

    Not as serious as Doomsday Book, but with the same time travel laws and appearances by a minor character or two from the other book. The tone is light after you get past the opening sequence, and the book turns into something of a parody of Victorian manners, but the science fiction element is there too and it's amusing.

12) Under the Skin
Michel Faber

    The author didn't intend this to be science fiction but if you read it you'll see why it's not a very mainstream novel. Ethically it challenged me deeply and when I saw the opportunity to become vegetarian later I took it, not without thinking of issues raised in this disturbing, brilliant novel.

*+ This is the first book in a series and the whole series is really good.
*- This is the first book in a series, but...

Books that appear on other lists (The Dispossessed, Flowers for Algernon) were omitted (though those both won Hugo and Nebula awards too).

   I like science fiction; oddly, there's probably still a ton of good SF books I haven't read yet. Looking through the list of Joint Winners of the Hugo and Nebula Awards I'm struck by the fact that I haven't even heard of many of the authors. I feel like the ones I've really liked on the list above I discovered almost entirely by accident. Maybe that's because, with science fiction more than other genres, it's harder for me to know in advance what I'll like before I put some serious effort into reading it. Sometime that initial effort pays off, and often it doesn't. I wouldn't have thought I'd like Pohl's books because they have these intimidating hard sci-fi-type covers, but unexpectedly I really related to his writing. And I wouldn't have started reading them at all if I hadn't been out of money, looking for something to read in the free book box on the Microsoft campus where I worked briefly, and there was Pohl's The Far Shore of Time. There is a cafe in Kobe at Motomachi station which is called Eschaton and every time I see it I think of that book because Eschaton was the aliens' name for Judgement Day in that series of books. Now I'm just rambling so I'd better stop. Right now.


  • At 5:50 午後, Anonymous 匿名 said…

    Connie Willis is wonderful, and Dune is also one of my favorites. Gateway is good, if a trifle dated. I thought Kress was just ok, maybe I didn't give her enough of a chance?

    My advice: If you get a chance to read Bellweather (by Willis), I think it is very apropos of Japanese culture. However, don't read beyond the first 5 "Well of Souls" books (the original series), they are pretty good, but Chalker ran out of good ideas afterwards. The same is (kind of) true of Haldeman's Forever Peace (kind of a let down, like the later Dune books). Alas, I've already read most of your recommended books, but I'll keep an eye out for the rest (Butler, Letham, Nylund, Faber), thanks!


  • At 9:32 午前, Blogger butterflyblue said…

    Thanks for your comments. I liked Bellwether too. Beggars in Spain is probably Kress's best work, so if you didn't care for that, don't bother. I enjoyed her Maximum Light novel also (about a future earth where the fertility rate has declined 80%), but it was a bit unrealistic so I don't really recommend it if you're not a Kress fan. What other authors do you recommend?

    Have you read Chalker's Dancing Gods series? I found a couple of his books at a used bookstore last night, so I was psyched.

    Definitely read Butler, Nyland, Letham and Faber, and let me know what you think! I should mention that Butler also wrote an interesting series called Xenogenesis.



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