OK, I finished "Dune": now what?

Let me back up a bit. I was introduced to sci-fi reading at the age of 12, and for a short while, I was a voracious reader. You can probably figure out who my favorite author was, but I’ll spoiler box it for you, in case you want to guess.

Stephenie Meyer :wink:

Anyway, though I read quite a bit as a teenager, my reading fell way, way off in my adult years. I go through phases here and there where I’ll get engrossed in a book or three, but then I’ll stop reading again for a few months.

In the past few months, I’ve started paying a bit more attention to my Kindle. I’ve read a couple of recent (2016 and 2017) sci-fi short story compilations, and as referenced in the title, I just finished Dune. And it made me realize that, despite having read a few books in my day that might be considered classics, I know there are many, many more that I’ve missed. As a non-scientific example, I took a look at this Good Reads compilation of “100 Science Fiction Novels Everyone Should Read.” Of the first ten books, I’ve read either seven or eight of them, including the first six on the list. But after that, it drops off quickly. I’ve only read a total of 22 of the top 100.

I’d like to get some additional “classic” sci-fi under my belt, in addition to picking up some new stuff. For what it’s worth, I liked Dune, and I’m well aware of the debate about whether to finish part or all of the rest of that series. Suffice to say that isn’t going to be my next step. I thought it was more of a hybrid of sci-fi and fantasy, and while I don’t object to fantasy, that’s not what I’m after at the moment.

So, where to, now? Obviously, I like Asimov a lot. I like Arthur C. Clark. I’ve enjoyed Neal Stephenson quite a bit. I like Greg Bear. I like Lois McMaster Bujold. I don’t like Heinlein much (I got incredibly turned off by the sliminess of “Stranger In a Strange Land” and never finished it). What are some of the classics you think I might be missing that I shouldn’t? I realize that you can’t give me perfect recommendations without me providing you with an exhaustive list of what I have and haven’t already read, so I’m happy for this to be a broader discussion of sci-fi literature. But I’m hoping for some focus on books that might be considered classics and/or “must-read” for sci-fi fans.

The floor is yours.

FWIW, Dune, Children of Dune and God Emperor of Dune were originally intended to be one humongous book that was broken up by the publisher. While I can agree that the rest of the books are strictly on a “if you really want to” basis, the original three can’t be properly separated and you should read the other two. They’re way short, though, comparatively speaking.

If you’re going ahead with Dune series, you might be tempted to bail after “Children”. Don’t. “God Emperor” is almost as good as the first book in the series. Didn’t care for “Stranger in a Strange Land.” Give Heinlein another try with “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” or, perhaps, a shorter work like “Double Star”.

First off, STOP reading Dune. Just stay right there at the perfect spot.

Others that I enjoyed immensely…

Startide Rising, by David Brin
The Stars My Destination, by Alfred Bester
The Engines of God, by Jack McDevitt
Neuromancer, by William Gibson
American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
Lucifer’s Hammer or Footfall or The Mote in God’s Eye, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

That’s a start. I know you said Heinlein skeeved you out but try ‘The Moon is a Harsh Mistress’ by him.

OK, some quick feedback. I will say that I’m not completely ruling out going further in the Dune series (though there will be plenty, including my own wife, who would and will strongly advise against it). It’s just not going to be my next read.

Jonathan Chance, I’ve read Neuromancer (liked it) and American Gods (one of my all time favs). Gaiman is one of my favorite authors, but he also skews much more toward the fantasy realm. I’m also certain that I have “Lucifer’s Hammer” on a bookshelf here somewhere, but I cannot for the life of me recall if I’ve actually ever read it.

The comments regarding The Moon is a Harsh Mistress are noted and taken under advisement.

Tastes really vary when it comes to the rest of the books in the Dune saga. FWIW, I’ve read from another person whose views I respect, that God Emperor is better than Dune. I completely disagree with that and I’m more with Jonathan’s line of thinking. Dune Messiah is pretty straightforward, if a bit dull, and there are parts of Children of Dune that I found interesting, but I found God Emperor to be a gigantic turgid slog.

I probably need to reread it. As I said, tastes really vary when it comes to the Dune books. I’d have you read Under Pressure if you wanted any more Herbert.

As to that best of list the OP cited, it made me realize just how many of the classics, I need to go read. From the ones I’ve personally read, and that aren’t any of the authors the OP mentioned, I’d recommend the Mote in God’s Eye. It’s a much more streamlined book than many of Larry and Jerry’s later collaborations and it has a Heinlein-y feel, sans the sex. Lucifer’s Hammer is good, but boy is it a product of the time. If Stranger creeped you out, there are scenes in Lucifer’s that will too, IMHO. Ringworld is nifty. Don’t read it expecting amazing characterization. Amazing toys and settings, maybe.

There’s this book by Le Guin about gender-shifting aliens that’s considered a classic, but maybe someone else wants to recommend it.

Le Guin in general is very, very good. But it’s also worth noting that SF is a really active field, with a lot of interesting stuff being done in it in the past couple of decades. Are you interested in recommendations from this millennium?

If so, I’ll start with just a couple, in the spacefaring civilization genre:

Leviathan Wakes is the first in the Expanse series (the basis for the show). It’s space opera, done just about perfectly. Not all the books in the series are excellent, but the first one is.

Ancillary Justice shows off some of the really fun stuff being done with modern SF. It was a huge award-winner, for good reason.

I’m tempted to rattle off a whole list, but I suspect that’s not helpful. If you want more, though, I love giving SF recommendations!

I never felt like Dune needed a sequel. The other book by Frank Herbert on the list is The Dosadi Experiment, which can be read on its own even though the list says it’s “#2” in a series.

Hard to say which books on that list you “must read”; I think Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, Ursula LeGuin are all pretty famous authors I wouldn’t ignore.

Iain M. Banks - all the Culture novels

Stephen Brust - To Reign in Hell

“A Fire Upon the Deep” and “A Deepness in the Sky” by Vernor Vinge were both terrific reads, especially the latter.

I also really, really enjoyed the Mote series of books by Pournelle & Niven, and Jennifer Pournelle (Jerry’s daughter)- “Mote in God’s Eye”, “The Gripping Hand” and “Outies”.

As others have observed, there’s quite a bit of personal taste in what you “ought” to read. I can give some of my recommendations, which tend to run to older, “classic” works.

First, though, I can understand being turned off by Stranger in a Strange Land, but is that the ONLY Heinlein you’ve read? Because I’d argue that it’s not really typical of his stuff. If you haven’t tried them, his “juveniles” are better-written than a lot of “adult” science fiction, if somewhat dated. Have a look at them. In addition, I highly recommend Double Star and The Puppet Masters and his “Future Historyu” stories (Collected as The Past Through Tomorrow)
Although I’d read his stories “Scanners Live in Vain” and “The Ballad of Lost C’Mell” in collections, I hadn’t realized that these were only parts of Cordwainer Smith’s own “Future History” series. Smith is wonderfully offbeat, his books taking their inspiration for legends and Chinese stories and filled with incredibly obscure puns and wordplay. His stuff was in print recently, but you can get just about everything in the 1970s-1980s collections *The Best of Cordwainer Smith, When the People Fell, *and Norstrilia, or NESFA press currently sells a two-volume set of his best stuff, The Rediscovery of Man and Norstrilia. They also sell a Concordance of Cordwainer Smith that explains all those weird puns and references.

If you haven’t read his stuff, Hal Clement’s science fiction is wonderfully hard-core, and several of his books are classics. I’m convinced that the movie The Hidden ripped off Clement’s Needle. I also recommend IceWorld and * Mission of Gravity*.

Frederic Brown didn’t know enough science to fill a hat, but he was a helluva writer. He wrote straight mysteries and fantasy, as well as science fiction. His stuff is well worth the reading – he was a master of the Short Fiction, and he loved a witty short story, often with a twist. He wrote the much ripped-off story “Arena”, which was sort-of adapted as the Star Trek episode with the reptilian Gorn that Kirk has to fight. Brown’s story is better. Since his stuff is mainly short stories, you’ll have to look for a collection, unless you read one of his few SF novels, like The Mind Thing, the surprisingly serious The Lights in the Sky are Stars, the Mind Thing, the hilariously weird Martian, Go Home, and the novel What Mad Universe, which pokes fun at science fiction fan culture.

Other masters of the Story with a Sting in the Tail from the 1950s were William Tenn, Theodore Coggswell, Robert Sheckley, Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson (both of them authors of many Twilight Zone episodes).

*If you like that kind of thing, definitely read Sharyn McCrumb’s non-sf mysteries about SF culture, Bimbos of the Death Sun and its sequel, Zombies of the Gene Pool.

Huh I’ve only read a touch over half of the top 50 there. I didn’t see any Banks on there (re: naita) in the top 100, but I do enjoy. From the list, I haven’t seen Vernor Vinge mentioned yet.

Some of these I read when I was very young. Dan Simmons was amazing when I was 13. I really have no idea how he stands up now. Scalzi strikes me as someone I would have liked when I was 13, whereas now I don’t understand the love.

The older items tend to be there because they’re somewhat archetypal, good or not. And IMO worth reading just for context.

Eh ninjad on Vinge, so I’ll second him.

I read “The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress” back in college, really liked it, but I just never could get into anything else Heinlein wrote. Then earlier this summer I read TMIAHM again and enjoyed it as much as I did 30 years ago. So then I thought I would give “Stranger In A Strange Land” a shot, got about 1/3 of the way through it, and said “Nope.”

I went through a stage many years ago where I tried to read everything I could get my hands on by John Varley. Check out the Gaea trilogy (Titan / Wizard / Demon) if they’re still available.

Scalzi is real good at the smart, sneaky protagonist who overcomes overwhelming odds with a crazy-ass plan. I really loved the first thing I read by him. His schtick can get old, but even so, I’ll read his new stuff because on his off days he’s still pretty fun.

I don’t understand why The Fountainhead would be considered science fiction. Atlas Shrugged is definitely scifi (super metals! Perpetual energy machine! Apocalyptic!), but TF? Not seeing it.

Have you read Brin? If not, I would start with Earth, a one-off novel published in 1991. If you like the style, you can then move to his Startide/Uplift books, though I found them to be very, very frustrating - Brin created a fascinating society/setting for these books, then focused on characters doing their damndest trying to hide from it. It’s the equivalent of creating “New York City”, then have 90% of the action occur inside a closet in an upper eastside apartment where the characters keep telling themselves “Be quiet! Do you think somebody heard us?”

He did this over, and over, and over again, to the point where I couldn’t be bothered to finish the second trilogy in this setting.

I got about 20 years behind on Hugo and Nebula winners, and have been catching up. Not all are great, but they are a good place to start.
Heinlein juveniles are almost all excellent, but if you don’t like Stranger I wouldn’t read much of his stuff after 1971 or so.
I read Stranger back in high school, and I reread the uncut version. The cutting wasn’t of the “good” parts (almost everything I thought was restored was in the original) but of bloat. They didn’t take out the dirty bits, just the boring bits.

I definitely like Jonathan Chance’s list, but can add some:

Tau Zero, Poul Anderson - classic SF in the best ways
The Dispossessed, Ursula K. Le Guin - LHoD vaguely described it but I’ll go ahead and recommend it by name.
Forever War, Joe Haldeman - can edge into political messaging, but has enough SF elements to be worthwhile
Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner - this or Shockwave Rider by Brunner, I think Zanzibar has aged better.
Expendable, James Alan Gardner - a more recent choice, I adored his League of Peoples universe of which this was the first book.

I think LHoD might have another Le Guin in mind.

Although you can’t really go wrong with her. If she wrote a bad book I haven’t read it.

Another vote for stopping after the first Dune book.

Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson.
Nova, Samuel R. Delany.
Sirens of Titan, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

You liked Asimov, you like Bear, you like Clarke. If you haven’t read your Niven, you should. Stick to the ones he wrote in the the 60s and 70s; after that he got a bit lazy, I think. A couple of his collaboration series are good (Moties, Dream Park). Great short stories, btw, especially the ARM stories.

If you like space opera, David Weber’s Honorverse novels are good, though you probably should be careful about going too far down the sequence, since he started milking them for money, before abandoning them.

CJ Cherryh has several novels worth reading, most importantly, of course, Downbelow Station. Also, C.S. Friedman has a few excellent novels; I particularly like In Conquest Born.