I’m looking for something fun to read and thought I’d take a stab at some sci fi. Here’s a rough idea of what I want and don’t want in the book:
Characters that think and act like real adults (in some SF I’ve read, the characters act more like teenage boys (including the women));
No space magic, technology should be plausible;
If there are aliens, I don’t want them to just be humans with something funny on their foreheads: aliens should be truyl alien;
More emphasis on the fiction than the science: by that, I mean that I don’t necessarily want every plot point to be resolved by deep knowledge of the laws of physics, but rather I’m interested in character driven stories.
Humor is good (ala some of Vance’s work).
I haven’t read a lot of SF, but here are the authors that I’ve read and like: Jack Vance (don’t suggest anything by him, I’ve read it, reread it, and argued arcane plot points with my brother about it); Ursula LeGuin; and Stanislaw Lem (really liked some of his stuff).
I hope that’s enough to go on, I have confidence that Cafe Society is the place to ask this question. Also, I’ve tried to clean up the typos, but my fingertip is still healing from a grisly kitchen mishap and I’ve probably missed some. Thanks in advance.
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman first published in 1974. Haldeman uses relativity and time dilation to examine the alienation soldiers often feel when returning home from war. It meets all your requirements I think and it’s something you can read in one afternoon.
These are both books that have a big focus on “world building” laying out a plausible, complete, alternative ecosystem. The Skinner is story focused with the world as a backdrop, whereas in Helliconia Spring the world is the story, with plot arcs as a backdrop.
I’ve recently read a new space opera by James S.A. Corey called Leviathan Wakes. It’s set within our solar system, where every decent-sized rock is densely populated and there’s no warp drive or artificial gravity. There’s major conflict and prejudice between the populations on the inner planets and those in the Belt, and a war is brewing. There are evil corporations, and there’s a divorced alcoholic detective who’s become obsessed with his newest case, a missing rich girl. It’s fairly light reading, with some humor, and I enjoyed it. It’s the first in a series - the second book is due this summer.
I’m sure you’ll be deluged with suggestions, but here are a few:
If you’re looking for plausible with little “magic”, and accurate science but character-driven stories, than some oldies but goodies are:
1.) Robert Heinlein. Besides TMIAHM, look at his “Future History” stories set in the Solar System. Or read “Space Cadet”, a juvenile, but better written than most adult novels. It’s all dated some, but the rules of physics (or of people) haven’t changed.
2.) Arthur C. Clarke. Read the relatively recent Collected Stories, or his stories set in the solar system – Earthlight, The Other Side of the Sky, * Sands of Mars*, etc.
3.) Larry Niven – lots of hard-sf stories, with varying
Vernor Vinge: A Deepness In the Sky and Fire Upon the Deep are excellent for aliens that are anything but humans-with-forehead-prostheses. Good for characterization. And he uses a decent handwaive to explain the FTL and other implausible technology.
Sounds like you should become acquainted with Iain M. Banks, and his Culture novels in particular.
I would suggest starting with:
The Player of Games
Use of Weapons
There are great ones later, too, but they’ll make more sense (and be more enjoyable) if you read the earlier ones first. Banks writes wonderful, sprawling space operas with remarkably personal and character-driven plots. They might be a little magicky-science for you, but not enough to offset their virtues.
I am working my way through the list at: http://scifilists.sffjazz.com/lists_books_rank1.html. I am not overly sure who really put together the list, but it is pretty good in covering the bases in the “best” of science fiction. Each book has a short synopsis, which should give you an idea if it is up your alley. I wouldn’t suggest that I love every book on that list, but I think it is hard to argue that many are not objectively good or important books to the genre.
This straddles the line between science fiction and horror/suspense, but I highly recommend Feed by Mira Grant (and its sequels). It’s set about 40 years in the future, in a world where zombies have risen, and become a way of life. Zombies are integral to the plot, but they’re not the focus.
More importantly - the story is excellent, it spends time discussing the completely plausible reasons behind the zombies, how society reacted, and how the world looks that day. The characters mostly act their age, all of the technology appears to be just extrapolations of where we are today, and the entire plot is ultimately driven by certain character interactions.
1. characters that think and act like adults
2. no magic, technology should be plausible;
3. aliens should be truly alien;
4. character driven stories.
5. humor is good
I would say that this list meets the criteria you laid out:
The Foundation Trilogy (Asimov)
Childhood’s End (Clarke)
The Demolished Man (Bester)
More Than Human (Sturgeon)
The Stars My Destination (Bester)
The Sirens of Titan (Vonnegut)
A Canticle for Leibowitz (Miller)
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (Heinlein)
Tau Zero (Anderson)
Rendezvous with Rama (Clarke)
The Forever War (Haldeman)
The Fountains of Paradise (Clarke)
Red Mars (Robinson)
David Drake does interesting hard SF as well, always military based. His Lt Leary series is very character driven and based around a space navy Lt and his pet librarian. With the Lightnings is the first in the series, and here is a free copy of it as well.
Heck, just head over to the Free Library and see what lots of different authors have to offer, SF and fantasy both.
I enjoyed the Lost Fleet series by Jack Campbell. I have found most of the series by John Ringo to be good military Sci-Fi. It’s not really science fiction, but I really liked the Destroyerman series by Taylor Anderson. Not great sci-fi but entertaining was teh Kris Longknife series by Mike Shepherd. Of course there is also the Honor Harrington books by Weber, which I liked a lot better, and Vatta’s War by Moon. Recently I listed to a series called Star Force by B. V. Larson which wasn’t bad, as well as another by Ian Douglas called Star Carrier.
I have just finished Allen Steele’s Coyote Series which primarily deals with colonizing a new world named Coyote. The first three in the series are listed below.
I am also a big fan of Kim Stanley Robinson. His Mars Series (Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars) is excellent. He also has a series that is more ecological/sociological that I liked (Forty Signs of Rain, Fifty Degrees Below, and Sixty Days and Counting.)
Here are some of my favorites that fit your criteria (and some of which have already been mentioned):
Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke – Powerful aliens offer us peace and prosperity, but we must give up our dreams of going to the stars.
The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke – The challenges, setbacks and triumphs of building an orbital elevator or “beanstalk.”
All My Sins Remembered by Joe Haldeman – A spy for a distant-future republic begins to lose his own sense of identity the longer his career runs.
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman – Military sf novel about how relativity draws soldiers in an interstellar war away from their homeworld.
Tool of the Trade by Joe Haldeman – A Soviet sleeper agent in late-1980s Boston develops a practical form of mind control, and decides to use it for his own purposes as both the CIA and the KGB try to catch him.
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein – Colonists on the Moon revolt against Earth’s harsh rule.
Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein - A classic military sf novel about humanity fighting two alien races for survival.
Tuf Voyaging by George R.R. Martin - Satirical sf novel about ecological engineering, overpopulation, absolute power and war. Probably my all-time favorite sf book.
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger - The inadvertent and uncontrollable time-travelling of a young man wreaks havoc upon his decades-long romance with his eventual wife.
Old Man’s War by John Scalzi – Sardonic, clever military sf novel about humanity fighting several hostile alien races. There’ve been several very good sequels, too.
I just finished this book recently, and I REALLY enjoyed it. I’m pretty hard to please these days, and I was skeptical at first about a book set within the solar system. But it grabbed my attention and didn’t let it go At. All. Highly recommended.
And if you want aliens that are truly ALIEN, check out Peter F. Hamilton’s books Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained. It does have a little sciency-wiency so-high-tech-it’s-like-magic stuff. But it’s still good. And the aliens are really strange. Really, really strange.