Getting back into SF

I’ve recently started reading speculative fiction again after a long drought – the last time I was reading SF regularly was in the late 90s when I was in high school.

I liked then: David Brin, Ben Bova, the Foundation series and Heinlein’s “Moon is a Harsh Mistress”, and some of John Barnes. I think I liked something by Dan Simmons but I can’t remember what and anyway, I hear he’s gone a bit nuts. I liked Ursula Le Guin but what I read of hers wasn’t really SF.

I didn’t like: Kim Stanley Robinson, Stranger in a Strange Land, Poul Anderson.

I have mixed feelings on PK Dick, who I’ve only read since I got out of my SF phase.

Based on this profile, any suggestions for new SF that I might enjoy, especially any written by women? Should I try Stranger again?

Not new, but if you haven’t read Octavia Butler, go do it. I wish I’d never read her, just so I could have the pleasure of first reading her again.

I often recommend Robert J. Sawyer. Many writers get science right, some get people right, Sawyer is that rare SF writer who does both.

Robert J. Sawyer, John Scalzi, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Connie Willis are all current science fiction writers who seem to be quite popular, here on the SDMB and elsewhere, and I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read by them.

Stephen Baxter does some great hard SF.

And much as I like Rob Sawyer, I think Jack McDivett is even better. He’s great with character, and his universe – where FTL exists, but is still very slow – is wonderfully conceived.

Anne Leckie’s Anciliary Justice and Ancillary Sword are very well regarded.

I’m planning to attend WorldCon again, and really need to get caught up with SF, so I’m checking these threads for recommendations.

Can’t go wrong with CJ Cherryh.

Ever read Larry Niven and the Known Space books?

Fred Polh – Gateway and at least the first sequel…

Yeah, I’ve been out of touch for a while too. But recently, The Martian was excellent.

I adore Cherryh but she’s not to everyone’s taste. I’d second the Ann Leckie books, The Vor series by Lois McMaster Bujold and Octavia Butler. I don’t think you can go wrong with any of those.

I’d add the Valor series by Tanya Huff which you might enjoy but it is more adventure or mil-sf. I’ve heard good things of The Red by Linda Nagata; they are on my to be read pile but I haven’t started them yet. I really enjoyed "A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Campbell. I haven’t read anything by Nnedi Okorafor or Emily John St. Mandel but their works are highly praised.

I think Alastair Reynolds is under-recognized as a hard SF writer and would be worth a look.

Thanks for these, keep 'em coming!

I’ve heard of the Ancillary… series, it didn’t sound especially appealing to me, but an interesting idea in any case.

A few words as to why you like someone/why I would would be great too – I’ve heard nothing about some of these authors!

Bout Jim, I haven’t read Larry Niven, though I’ve heard of him. Why do you like him?

Peter F. Hamilton and Robert Charles Wilson are a couple of personal favorites who haven’t been mentioned.

Niven has written some great stuff. But I feel his peak was back in the seventies.

You can always just check the list of recent winners of the Hugos and the Nebulas, the two big science fiction awards given each year. Many of the authors given above appear prominently on these lists. Sure, it’s possible to argue endlessly about any given one of their picks, but it’s a simple way to discover many of the recent good authors:

I went on a Jack McDevitt spree, and really like his stuff. I started with “The Engines of God.” Work your way up through his books, until you’re ready for “Omega” which is one of the two best “first contact” SF novels ever written. Ever.

Vernor Vinge’s “A Deepness in the Sky” is the other. That and Omega need to be set as book-ends for any collection of serious, good, sensitive, dramatic, thoughtful SF.

Also, I’ve met McDevitt, and he is one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to see. A gentleman, through and through.

Second on McDevitt, and Joe Haldeman is what I call a “solid B” writer. Never quite “hits it out of the park” but never disappoints either.

I can’t recommend John Scalzi enough. The Old Man’s War series is amazing. (And completed.) Redshirts is funny and clever. Locked In is great, but can’t find it to reread in my house of books. (I think I loaned/gave it to someone.)

As I’ve said in the book threads, I buy books at thrift stores etc in general. And I can find soooo much good stuff to read. I pay attention to threads like this–I have a Cherryh book to read sitting here.

But Scalzi? I’ve paid full on Kindle. And bought others at HFB and Amazon.

Thanks to this thread I have discovered that Connie Willis is the author of a much-beloved book from my youth, the Doomsday Book. Ive been telling myself I don’t like time travel stories, but don’t think that’s actually true…

Checking out Willis’ stuff, Sawyer, Butler and McDevitt to start, but keep it coming!

You probably read Simmon’s “Hyperion” which was very popular.

You might like Kage Baker’s work - her main series, “The Company” stories feature time travel, cyborgs and a lot of history.

Other than that, I second most everything that the other folks have mentioned - particularly Bujold and Vinge.

Hyperion, that’s it! I remember literally nothing about it.

Time travel, cyborgs and history sounds great!

I should also add that my great love is detective/mystery stories, so any recs that bring in that element are also especially welcome.

[Note added: I’m loading up my Kindle in anticipation of an international move and the attendant travel, and I am absolutely shocked that The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is not available for Kindle. Boo.)

I’ll mention two very obscure choices, both of which are amazingly good novels.

First off is Andreas Eschbach’s The Carpet Makers. Once you read the first chapter – especially the final sentence – you’re hooked. It space opera on a grand scale about a planet where people spend their lives making rugs out of human hair. No one knows why or what happens to them. It gives you one punch in the gut after another as things are revealed.

Next, is Jasper fforde. His Thursday Next novels are excellent, though they gleefully straddle the line between science fiction and fantasy. However his clear SF novel is Shades of Grey, set in a world where your status is determined by which shades of color you perceive. It sounds like fantasy, but slowly you discover it’s a science fiction dystopia. A sequel was planned, but fforde seems to have dropped it, probably due to another vastly popular novel with a very similar name.
Christopher Moore fairly popular and a favorite of mine; his best SF effort is Sacre Bleu, about the French Impressionists and their – possibly alien – muse. Fluke is also good. Judge the book by the cover (check out the whale’s tail) because if you like that, you’ll love it.