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Old 01-27-2005, 07:37 PM
SusanStoHelit SusanStoHelit is offline
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What is the quintessential science fiction novel?

[url=http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/newreply.php?do=newreply&p=5771632]This post got me thinking about sf, and if there is a book that most fans can agree epitomizes the genre. We need to decide on a book that can be our flagship to the literary universe, one that we can proudly point to when people say, "science fiction? Isn't that, like, robots 'nd stuff?" While it doesn't necessarily have to be hard sf, I think we need to stay away from cyberpunk, alternate histories, utopian/dystopian literature, and speculative fiction. Since each of these is a sub-genre, I don't think they can represent the breadth of the whole sf genre.

I nominate Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, because of the fame of the author, the epic scope of the novels, and the accessibility of the novels.

My second choice would be one of Orson Scott Card's Ender series, because Card does a great job of keeping his characters human, and his books lack the "cold" feel of some more classic sf.
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Old 01-27-2005, 07:49 PM
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If you're talking traditional literary quality, it'll be Ursula K. LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness.

For a great read, it's Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination.
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Old 01-28-2005, 12:23 AM
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I'd have to say The Mote in God's Eye as the quintessential science fiction novel.

It's a roaring mix of Horatio Hornblower in space, entertaining characters, fantastic discoveries, heroism, deception, and a really good first contact story all in one book.

Beyond that, Gateway, Dune, and Neuromancer are my next choices. Even though Neuromancer is a cyberpunk novel, it's got all the right parts- good characters, science fictional setting to bring out conflicts, good story, good writing, etc...
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Old 01-28-2005, 01:12 AM
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The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Fahrenheit 451

Childhood's End

Canticle for Liebowitz

Forever War

Gateway

Foundation

Nightfall and Other Stories

The Illustrated Man
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Old 01-28-2005, 01:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RealityChuck
If you're talking traditional literary quality, it'll be Ursula K. LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness.
I second that nomination and add The Dispossed, her other great novel.

Heinlein's best novel is The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.
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Old 01-28-2005, 01:33 AM
LordVor LordVor is offline
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Taking the thread title into a different direction, I'd like to nominate Fallen Angels by Niven, Pournelle, and Barnes as the quintessential book about science fiction.
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Old 01-28-2005, 01:39 AM
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Yes, but do you really want him representing the genre, when there are equally talented authors out there whose books don't undermine the last 50 years of work toward gender quality?

You're definitely reading the wrong Heinlein books.

I should know. The Cat Who Walked Through Walls is the only book I have ever read halfway through and then quit.

Then I read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Double Star, Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, and a few others. And they were fantastic.


Still, in the end I agree with you on the Foundation series. Asimov is the master.

Also, the Elijah Baley novels should be mentioned. They're right up at the top of the list too.
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Old 01-27-2005, 07:49 PM
Jonathan Chance Jonathan Chance is offline
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I agree with Heinlein...

The Mote in God's Eye is spectacular in all the right Science Fictional ways.
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Old 01-27-2005, 07:55 PM
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Ringworld

No, wait......Farmer In The Sky

Or maybe Double Star

Dune?

Grey Lensman, perhaps?

No, the only possible choice is....

Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers!
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Old 01-27-2005, 08:08 PM
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Okay, go ahead and smack me for this one if you wanna...but I gotta say

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy for two reasons:

1. It's a "guide" for all lonely space travellers.
2. It's logically sound.
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Old 01-27-2005, 08:12 PM
SusanStoHelit SusanStoHelit is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by silenus
Ringworld

No, wait......Farmer In The Sky

Or maybe Double Star

Dune?

Grey Lensman, perhaps?

No, the only possible choice is....

Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers!
I dunno about Heinlein stories. They are so embarassingly sexist, that I kinda want to hide him in my "guilty pleasures" section, not wave him about. Stranger in a Strange Land was revolutionary and all that, but... really?

Dune is perfect - I could vote for that.

I've never been able to finish a Larry Niven book, so I can't say anything about Mote or Ringworld. Of course, the last time I tried to read him was in 7th grade, so maybe I should give him another chance, cos I'm a big softie and all that.
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Old 01-27-2005, 08:52 PM
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I think Heinlein's The Rolling Stones would be a fine choice.

And R.A.H. does not require apology, because he isn't sexist!

His female characters aren't weak, they're strong! The kind of women most men would respect & admire. They may follow "traditional" roles, but they're gutsy as hell, & I'd rather read about one of the mothers Heinlein wrote about than some allegedly modern woman, who may be in a profession, but turns into a sniveling whiner when the going gets tough.
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Old 01-27-2005, 09:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor
And R.A.H. does not require apology, because he isn't sexist!

His female characters aren't weak, they're strong! The kind of women most men would respect & admire. They may follow "traditional" roles, but they're gutsy as hell, & I'd rather read about one of the mothers Heinlein wrote about than some allegedly modern woman, who may be in a profession, but turns into a sniveling whiner when the going gets tough.
Female, and love R.A.H.
And...just for the record...what woman in her right mind would NOT want to stay at home while the man goes off to toil the day away? Lemme just prop my feet up, pop a weepy love story into the DVD, and gorge myself on chocolates. Ahhhh...sweet, sweet power!
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Old 12-07-2012, 10:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by silenus View Post
Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers!
Wow - someone else who has heard of that book!
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Old 01-28-2005, 03:37 AM
armedmonkey armedmonkey is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SusanStoHelit
We need to decide on a book that can be our flagship to the literary universe, one that we can proudly point to when people say, "science fiction? Isn't that, like, robots 'nd stuff?"
It's this sentence that makes me recommend, hands down, Dune.

If you think about it, Dune isn't really a sci fi novel at all. It's a medieval drama that just happens to be set thousands of years from now. My sister can't (or rather couldn't) stand sci fi, yet I bought her the book for her birthday and convinced her to read it.

She loved it.

The interplay between Houses Atreidedes, Harkonen, and Corrino, the Bene Gessuret, the Spacing Guild...... Even if you take the sci fi elements out of it, it's still one Hell of an epic*. If you want to introduce somebody to Sci Fi, tell them to read Dune, and let them develop a small immunity to space travel and future technology. After that, you can start telling them about alternate views of the world, such as Ursala K. Le Guin. Or, possibly, far history like the Foundation series.

Just remember, if they were technophiles the would already be into sci fi. Start with Dune, see what they like about it, and go from there.



*But don't let them read the sequels to Dune. That my kill any ember of interest they had. And if you see a copy of God Emperor of Dune in their place, steal it and tell them dingoes ate it.
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Old 01-28-2005, 05:35 PM
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I absolutely agree with Alfred Bester's "The Stars, My Destination". It's a fantastic read.

One of my favorite books is "White Light" by Rudy Rucker. It's sorta Alice in Wonderland crossed with Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It's claimed by many, or by some at least, to be the first of the cyberpunk books.

David Lindsay's "A Voyage to Arcturus" is a book that was written in the 20's thats turns a journey into outerspace into a journey inward towards our inner being.

Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons "Watchmen", although a graphic novel that pushes the boundaries of the superhero genre, I believe it can be encompassed in the science fiction realm.

None of these books are typical science fiction novels but, at least for me, show how far the genre can pushed into different directions.
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Old 12-07-2012, 03:33 PM
psikeyhackr psikeyhackr is offline
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Here is the quintessential science fiction story but it is not a novel.

Omnilingual (Feb 1957) by H. Beam Piper
http://www.tor.com/blogs/2012/03/sci...-qomnilingualq
http://www.feedbooks.com/book/308/omnilingual
http://librivox.org/omnilingual-by-h-beam-piper/

It is in the public domain and available as an audiobook.

So much stuff called science fiction today has nothing to say about science.

psik
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Old 12-07-2012, 04:03 PM
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It must be Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.


<Check the dates>
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Old 12-07-2012, 10:13 PM
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The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.

Citizen of the Galaxy.

The Mote in God's Eye.
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Old 12-09-2012, 08:27 AM
RTFirefly RTFirefly is offline
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But despite Heinlein's limited view of women, what Charlie Tan says is basically correct: he all but singlehandedly created modern SF. And for the quintessential SF story, I'd have to split my vote between Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and Joe Haldeman's The Forever War.
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Old 12-09-2012, 09:24 AM
Evil Captor Evil Captor is offline
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To nominate a dark horse:

"Sargasso of Space" by Andre Norton. A juvenile, very accessible, but it's got great SF elements: space travelling traders, advanced alien technology, mysterious extinct alien races who are so alien that staring at their art too long can drive you insane. It's got "out there" capitalism with corporations and independent contractors competing to bid on exploration rights to newly discovered worlds, addicts of strange new drugs ... really, an EXCELLENT book to introduce a new reader to SF, especially a young one. Does not represent all of SF, but then, nothing can.
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Old 12-09-2012, 11:32 AM
Springtime for Spacers Springtime for Spacers is offline
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A serious Delany suggestion: Nova. Nova is strong on traditional story telling (in essence it is both a treasure hunt and a grail quest). It presents a galaxies wide human society that is beautiful and strange, civilised and wild. The people of this society have lives full of possibility, they plug themselves directly into their machines for work so they can work at anything anywhere.. In theory, among these bounteous worlds there are still divisions of class, of wealth of health.

Delany places his exotic, human characters into this story, a synecdoche of this society. Mouse, a gypsy who acquired his plugs and his place in society late has an unfixable congenital neurological condition of the voice. Prince Red, heir to riches has a similarly crippled arm, unlike the Mouse he can never be plugged in. The bigger problem of Prince Red however is that, like former spacer Dan, he is a madman. In other ways merchant adventurer Lorq Von Ray is maddest of all. He seeks the most valuable substance in the human universe, in the heart of a nova, at the instant the star blows. If he succeeds he will overturn everything that holds the worlds together.

Nova, a product of the New Wave embedded in the traditions of classic Science Fiction, reaching back to legend, expresses in wonder and beauty and terror all that SF has to offer, everything I, at least, look for in a novel, in 1968 and now.
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Old 12-09-2012, 12:18 PM
RTFirefly RTFirefly is offline
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Two votes against:

1) The Foundation trilogy. Really? The characters are somewhere between wooden and cardboard, and the underlying premise has since had its butt kicked by chaos theory.

2) Dune, in addition to being long and boring, is one of the most morally repugnant novels I've read. Let's unleash the jihad on the galaxy, because the slaying of hundreds of millions will be good for galactic civilization or some such.

Early in the second half of the book, an alternative is briefly presented, discarded as even more morally repellent to Paul Atreides for reasons never made clear to the reader, and then dropped. There's no indication of whether this alternative would result in the death of anyone.
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Old 12-09-2012, 01:09 PM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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Since other people are listing several novels each in their posts, I'm going to go ahead and list my twenty favorite science fiction works that are longer than 25,000 words:

1. Olaf Stapledon First and Last Men and Starmaker
2. Philip Jose Farmer The Riverworld Series
3. Frank Herbert Dune (and maybe its sequels)
4. Walter Miller A Canticle for Leibowitz
5. Alfred Bester The Stars My Destination
6. Ursula K. LeGuin The Left Hand of Darkness
7. H. G. Wells The Time Machine
8. Philip K. Dick The Man in the High Castle
9. Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth The Space Merchants
10. Theodore Sturgeon More than Human
11. Roger Zelazny Lord of Light
12. Arthur C. Clarke Against the Fall of Night
13. Stanislaw Lem Solaris
14. Ken Grimwood Replay
15. Joe Haldeman The Forever War
16. Clifford Simak City
17. Michael Frayn The Tin Men
18. Larry Niven Ringworld
19. Robert Heinlein Stranger in a Strange Land
20. Isaac Asimov The End of Eternity

Last edited by Wendell Wagner; 12-09-2012 at 01:09 PM.
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