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Science Fiction | Reading

This page lists and rates (0 to 10) various SF/F books I have read. The books are organized by author. Perhaps you will stumble upon something new to you.

          *Oregon authors

Jon Armstrong

Grey is his first novel. It was nominated for the P. K. Dick award. In my opinion, it should have won (I read all but two of the nominated books that year). This is a writer to keep an eye on.
http://www.jonarmstrong.com/

Jon Armstrong
YearTitleComments#
2007 Grey A fresh and interesting look at fashion, celebrity, consumerism, corporate culture, and human culture. Equal parts Romeo and Juliet, futuristic satire, and right now. 8
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Neal Asher

In his Ian Cormac novels, Asher writes of a far future where, more or less, benevolent AI's are in charge and everything from ships to droids have personality at least equal to any human character. Readers of Banks will think this a bit familiar, and it is. Banks got there first, but each author has his own take on this imagined future. His future "culture" is called the Polity (as opposed to Banks' Culture). Ian Cormac is a special agent and reoccurring character in the Asher novels (quite the opposite of Banks). Besides Cormac, there are other reoccurring characters, entities, creatures, and a particularly nasty technology. These reoccurring elements keep developing over the course of the books, but to some extent they also start to wear out their welcome. Asher does have a gift for creating interesting (and deadly) flora and fauna. Overall, I wish he had expanded these ideas into fewer words and fewer books. To that end, try reading The Engineer Reconditioned, a collection of Asher's short stories, and you will see how extremely competently he handled many of the same ideas in a much shorter format.
http://freespace.virgin.net/n.asher/

Neal Asher
YearTitleComments#
2001Gridlinked The first Ian Cormac novel. This is my favorite of the series. It delivers that mix of SF/detective that I like. It also has the advantage that everything is fresh and new. 8
2003The Line of Polity Interesting fauna! Also gives you much to wonder about, but could have tightened this up quite a bit and saved a few trees. 8
2005Brass Man Another planet, more interesting fauna. Oh, and a fairly entertaining AI transplanted into an alien (to it) body. 8
2006Polity Agent By this point I am rather tired of Ian bumping into friends in this vast galactic empire as well as the further milking of the brilliant and interesting but rather beaten-to-death concepts of the series. 7
2008Line War This novel does end up in an interesting place and leaves you wondering "what next?", but the shtick is rather worn by this point and he can't effectively wow us with more of the same. 7
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Isaac Asimov

I read Asimov's Foundation series when I was 11, or so. I have enjoyed Science Fiction ever since.

Isaac Asimov
YearTitleComments#
1951

1952

1953
Foundation;
Foundation and Empire;
Second Foundation
Originally written as a serialization for the pulps, the first three books of the Foundation series are not as smooth as the later ones, but they are required reading if you like SF. 7
1982
1986
Foundations Edge;
Foundation and Earth
The story continues! Better than the first three and longer, too. 8
1986Prelude to Foundation Ties into the Robot books and done very well. Should read the robot series first! 8
1993Forward the Foundation Not sure this was actually finished before he died--I'd like to think that it wasn't. 4
1953
1956
The Caves of Steel;
The Naked Sun
The first two Robot novels. Good characters and good stories. 7
1983
1985
The Robots of Dawn;
Robots and Empire
Lays the background for the eventual tie-in between the Foundation and Robot books. 8
1972The Gods Themselves A great SF idea brilliantly executed in a story well told that includes aliens that truly are alien. This story is not of the Foundation/Robots universe, which is alien free. 9
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Iain M Banks

In his Culture novels, Banks writes of a far future where benevolent AI's are in charge and everything from ships to droids have personality at least equal to any human character. Readers of Asher will think this a bit familiar, and it is. But besides getting there first, Banks also has his own take on this imagined future. Each of Banks' books is a standalone with no reoccurring characters (quite the opposite of Asher), which to me adds to the sense of a truly vast population in a truly vast space. Banks delivers with vast ideas and a true sense of wonder, oh and compelling characters too!
http://www.iain-banks.net/

Iain M Banks
YearTitleComments#
1987Consider Phlebas A Culture novel, see above. 8
1988The Player of Games A Culture novel, see above. 8
1990Use of Weapons A Culture novel, a bit darker than the others ... and with a brilliant twist, so don't be a fool and read the end first. 8
1993Against a Dark BackgroundThe action unfolds in a planetary system at the far reaches of the galaxy, a system so far from other systems that there are few stars in the sky and no contact is ever made with other systems. Civilization has risen and fallen many times on the world, each living in the ashes and remains of what came before. As always with Banks, the characters and story are well crafted and engaging. This tale is a bit dark, but not quite to the inky extent of Use of Weapons.8
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Alex Bledsoe

The Sword-Edged Blonde is his first novel. This is another writer to keep an eye on.
http://www.alexbledsoe.com/

Alex Bledsoe
YearTitleComments#
2007The Sword-Edged Blonde Noir meets sword and sorcery, and to good effect! Picture Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep with horses, swords, and a touch of magic. 8
2009Burn Me DeadlyMore Noir medeval action, this time with dragons. 8
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David Brin

I count Brin as a technological libertarian optimist. In recent years he seems to have eschewed SF in favor of consulting about risks and threats and writing about privacy, security, and the role of technology. If you have any interest in such topics, visit his site where a number of articles are available. http://www.davidbrin.com/

David Brin
YearTitleComments#
2002David BrinAn SF detective novel, my favorite sub-genre. The basic premise is that you can make disposable copies of yourself in several different quality levels, each suitable to different sorts of tasks. The copies expire after a day, or so, depending on the type made and what it was used for. You have the option of integrating its accumulated memories with your own once its work is done. While that is an interesting SF idea, it is largely a plot device. The real story is an exploration of individual and societal privacy versus openness and the role technology plays in that.8
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Philip K. Dick

Hollywood loves Dick. More of his short stories and novels have been turned into movies than any other SF writer--perhaps even more than any writer in any genre. The reason? Well, he certainly has told some mind bending stories. It probably doesn't hurt that many of those stories take place in a bleak future in which corporations rule and advertising is an inescapable plague (very photogenic). Or maybe it was just the drug abuse and mental illness ...
A number of themes are prominent in most of his work: Reality v. Unreality; Sanity v. Insanity; Conformity v. Non-conformity; Religion v. Rationality; Humanity v. Inhumanity.
http://www.philipkdick.com/aa_intro.html

Philip K. Dick
YearTitleComments#
1987The Philip K. Dick Reader Short Stories. Published by Citadel Twilight. 7
?Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? The movie Blade Runner was made from this book.  But, even though some of the movie is word-for-word straight from the book, the central theme was left out. 7
1977A Scanner Darkly An interesting look at the drug culture, paranoia, and the war on drugs.  And remember, being paranoid doesn't mean that they aren't out to get you! 8
1970A Maze of Death To date, my favorite P. K. Dick.  As usual, a well told story where neither the reader or the characters know what is going on or what is real.  His signature topics are well presented here, religion, conspiracy, sanity/insanity.  Dick sometimes disappoints the reader with an obvious or indecipherable ending--not this time.  A Maze of Death has an ending that makes sense and is worthy of the rest of the book. 9
1962The Man in the High Castle Dick won the Hugo for this book--and it is good--but, once again I am disappointed with an ending that is a bit too psychedelic to make sense to me. 7
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Ursula K. Le Guin

The social anthropologist of SF writers.
http://www.ursulakleguin.com/

Ursula K. Le Guin
YearTitleComments#
1969The Left Hand of Darkness A good story and a unique look at male/female roles and society. 8
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Christopher Hodder-Williams

His SF books tend to involve some sort of experiment or science project that has unforseen effects. Adventure ensues. His books are old and probably out of print. Keep an eye out in your local used bookstore.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Hodder-Williams

Christopher Hodder-Williams
YearTitleComments#
1962The Egg Shaped Thing The title caught my attention as I wandered in the bookstore. "What on Earth could that be about?" The book has a very 1950's feel, which I enjoy. It is a nice little adventure/mystery guised in "science". And the made-up science project is very well conceived and presented. 7
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K. W. Jeter

He has written a few novels continuing the Dickian world of Blade Runner, which is probably what he is best known for, but I have not read those as of yet.
http://www.kwjeter.com/

K. W. Jeter
YearTitleComments#
1998Noir A film noir Dickian future where copyright infringement is a serious crime and death is not the ultimate punishment, or even an obstacle to your creditors. 8
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Rudin Moore

Blurb

Rudin Moore
YearTitleComments#
1987Ultra VueFour stories and a novel. Well written and inventive.
The novel Ultra Vue is a cool Dickian extrapolation of just how bad TV is for your brain (not to mention the rest of you).
The Hoodoo is a fantastic and creepy take on the native American legend of the Hoodoo. It puts me in mind of Killdozer by Sturgeon.
The other three stories are fun, and remind me of the golden age. However, some may find that they tread territory and themes already well worn.

NOTE Ultra Vue was self published, 200 copies. As far as I can determine, it was never commercially published.
7

Richard K. Morgan

His first novel won the P. K. Dick award and was bought by Hollywood (no word yet on if, or when, a movie will result). His novels have a fairly high sex and violence content, but it is always in service to his characters and not gratuitous. Well, except that his characters and societies are a bit gratuitously screwed up, but that is no small part of his point. He is from the UK, and his books are usually published there about a year before they are in the states. The dates below are the UK dates.
http://www.richardkmorgan.com/

Richard K. Morgan
YearTitleComments#
2002

2003

2005
Altered Carbon;
Broken Angels;
Woken Furies
These three books center on the same main character, Takeshi Kovacs. He is a hard-case, a man who has seen and lost much by way of his violent work and life in a universe that is realistically unvarnished and corrupt. In this universe, people carry hardware in their skulls so that they can be restored to another body if they die, or this same data can be transmitted to some far-off world and downloaded into a loaner body if one's services are required somewhere in a hurry. Such is the life of Kovacs. The first book is an SF Noir with Kovacs as the jaded detective. The second book is in a more military vain in which he ends up working with some of the people from his past. The third book finds the Kovacs character struggling to evolve into something more human and humane. The universe does its best to interfere in this process, but ultimately that is just the sort of "help" that this character needs in order to overcome his past. 8
2004Market Forces Cutthroat, free-market capitalism taken to its logical conclusion. 8
2007Black Man (UK)
Thirteen (USA)
Another damaged man doing nasty, violent work in a grim future. This one got a bit too grim for me at one point, but is otherwise as brilliant and fresh as the Kovacs books. 7
2008The Steel Remains A brilliant take on high fantasy. This is a truly fresh approach. This is not a world of black & white, but rather a more realistic world of shades-of-gray in the motivations of characters both human and otherwise. It is to be the first in a three-book series, but stands well on its own, as did the Kovacs books. 9
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Patrick Rothfuss

http://www.patrickrothfuss.com/

Patrick Rothfuss
YearTitleComments#
2007The Name of the WindAn interesting fantasy yarn in a medeval world. It is the story of a man of magic, music, and adventure. This is the first of three books, but it does not suffer from the annoying non-conclusion that long series sometimes use to string the books together. Part of the book takes place what is the present day life of the main character. The rest is stories he tells of his past, and it is these stories that lend the payoff and conclusion as whole moves forward. Superb writing and voice.9
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Robert Sheckley

A writer of wry wit and humor that pokes and prods at the accepted norms of society. Some of his older works will seem dated now, as the target of his humor, society, has changed a bit in the last 50 years.
http://www.sheckley.com/frames.html

Robert Sheckley
YearTitleComments#
1959Immortality Inc. Humorous and Dickian (P.K., not that English chap!). A very good read, if a bit dated. 7
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Jeff Somers

This is another new writer in the SF field to keep an eye on.
http://www.jeffreysomers.com/

Jeff Somers
YearTitleComments#
2007The Electric Church Avery Cates is a criminal, a killer. But at least he gets some paying work, which is more than most people can say in this grim, destitute police state. But there is hope for the hopeless. You can join the ranks of the Electric Church by becoming "monked". Then you can live forever with no need for food or other worldly goods ... or can you? 8
2008The Digital Plague Picks up the story from the first book a number of years later. Life just gets tougher the older you get in this ugly future, and Avery is now old by the standards of this fallen world. Painful (in every possible way) adventure ensues. Will Avery save the day for what still, sort of, passes for the human race? If you enjoyed the first book, this one is a safe bet. 8
2009The Eternal Prison It seemed a little inconsistent both internally and in relation to the other books, almost like he wrote whatever provided the best payoff for the paragraph at hand even if it seemed to contradict something early in this book or one of the others. And there were a few Hollywood style continuity issues within scenes ... such as cocking the hammer back on a semi auto pistol that had just had its slide pulled back to jack in a round a few sentences earlier. Yes, Hollywood does that for the ever-gratuitous I'm-really-fucking-serious-now fiddling with a gun pointed at someone's face. I expect a bit better in my SF novels.

All that said, it is a good read and delivers the goods. Cates is still our ever-suffering anti-hero, which Somers portrays with his patented noir-dark humor and insight. The plot has some good twists and turns, and I particularly like that he has found a way to keep a few interesting characters around indefinitely without the need for improbable seeming chance meetings, coincidences, and the like--brilliant. This should payoff well in the next book, too.
7
2010The Terminal StateIf you liked the others, this one will deliver the same. Looks like he'll have an apprentice in the next one! Good thing, as the world is in terrible shape by this point.8
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Neal Stephenson

http://www.nealstephenson.com/

Neal Stephenson
YearTitleComments#
1992Snow CrashMy favorite of his early works. Touches upon neuro-linguistic programming and Sumerian history, among other things. Well conceived and engaging characters and situations. Read it. 8
1995The Diamond AgeInventive and engaging. The historical aspect is neo-Victorian.7
1999CryptonomiconDespite the cool black cover and interesting name, this book is NOT science fiction. It is well written and interesting for what it is, but skip it if you are looking for science fiction. It has two storylines, one historical during the time of WW II, the other contemporary. Neal has a huge interest in history (obvious in all of his SF works), this book marked his departure from SF in favor of history.4
2008AnathemWow. An interesting fantasy-like SF exploration of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics and the philosophical debate between Platonic realism and formalism. He invented many words for this project, words like anathem that deviate from our known vocabulary but are still somewhat congruent to it. I had a tough time up to about page 124, then I got sucked in. It was a rather slow buildup, but suddenly I seemed to grok the language and the world and everything got much more interesting. I would read at night and wake up in the morning with his created words rattling around in my head. Your milage may vary, but I suggest sticking with this one for a while even if it does not grab you at first. 8
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Theodore Sturgeon

A writer whose influence has reached well beyond his name recognition. From his early short stories in the pulps to Star Trek, he has had an major impact on the worlds of SF and popular culture.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodore_Sturgeon

Theodore Sturgeon
YearTitleComments#
1961Not Without Sorcery Short stories.  A good mix of topics and very well written. 7
1953More Than Human Quite different and very well written. 8
1944Killdozer A Short Story.  I think Mr. King must have read this when he was a kid--he hasn't been the same since. 9
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J.R.R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien
YearTitleComments#
1954
1955
The Lord of The Rings THE fantasy series of all time. 10
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Vernor Vinge

To me, Vinge is the best Science Fiction writer alive, and A Fire Upon the Deep (AFUTD) is the best SF book of recent years.

Unfortunately, Vinge had a "real" job (computer science professor at Sand Diego State University) so he hasn't produced many books.  But now that he has retired form SDSU, perhaps he will spend more time writing.

Before the WWW, the word Cyberspace, or the PC existed, Vernor Vinge wrote a story called "True Names" about an online virtual reality complete with avatars, hackers, and AI. Originally published in Dell Binary Star 5 (1981) it was also featured in a collection of shorts released in 1987, True Names ...and Other Dangers, and is now available in True Names and the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier.

First published in the mid 60's, he gave up writing for a time in the 70's, but started again when Joan Vinge (his wife at that time) had success with her SF books.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vernor_Vinge
http://mindstalk.net/vinge/

Vernor Vinge
YearTitleComments#
1976 The Witling Imaginative, but not as well written as his short stories or newer books. 5
1986Marooned in Realtime Very imaginative technology and situations 8
1987True Names ...and Other Dangers Short Stories. Well executed and imaginative. 8
1988Threats ...and Other Promises Short Stories. Well executed and imaginative. 8
1992A Fire Upon The Deep Grand Space Opera / Full of ideas. His writing inspires thought in the reader. He does not beat you over the head with explanation, but rather leaves much for you to ponder and discover as the story unfolds. Did I mention Ideas?! 9
1999A Deepness in the Sky Prequel to AFUTD and as good or better in many ways, but some elements of the story telling annoyed me (my personal pet peeve is that aliens should be alien). Best read after AFUTD. 8
2006Rainbows End Set in a near-future Earth, this book is another angle on Vinge's exploration of the idea of a technological singularity. The main character is revived from the dim, dark hole of Alzheimer's and thrust back into a world where his old skills are obsolete. Indeed, even able-minded youth find it difficult to keep up with the pace of change. There are various intrigues and some shadowy and interesting characters who may or may not be human. Adventure ensues, complete with Vinge's usual passion for well conceived and fresh wonder inspiring ideas. 9
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Connie Willis

Connie is a truly funny individual, in person and on the page. Slapstick is not her bag, but she can really capture the day-to-day absurdities that either make you cry or make you laugh.
http://www.sftv.org/cw/

Connie Willis
YearTitleComments#
1992 Doomsday Book Two story lines: one near future, one with our intrepid time traveler doing research in the middle ages. Things go wrong, which is at times horribly funny, horrible, or both. 8
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Short Story Collections

I enjoy short stories. They are perfect when you don't want to commit the time to a book, yet want something interesting to read.

Short Story Collections
YearTitleComments#
1946
1957
Adventures in Time and Space (2nd edition in 57) Over 1000 pages containing 35 stories by the best writers of the golden age. If you like short SF, this is an absolute must have. I found mine at Powell's; it is in perfect, brand-new condition. Published by Random House. Edited by Raymond J. Healy and J. Francis McComas 10
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