Recomend some 'realistic' science fiction books

I’ve come to the conclusion that I am severely behind in my geek knowledge of Science Fiction books. I am interested anything from the classics of fifty years ago to things published recently.

The one requirement I have is that it is ‘realistic’. If at all possible, I would like the stories to be able to believably play out in our universe such that there is the minimum of having to suspend belief. I want to read stories based on science and feasibility, not a fantasy story dressed up with futuristic robots, if that makes sense. No telepathy, magic, psychic powers, etc. Aliens are fine, as long as they aren’t unstoppable, unfathomable, and godlike. Basically I want to understand the world the author puts forth and not have to attribute many of the happenings to ‘mysterious powers’. If I wanted that, I’d join a religion.

So what Science Fiction books are must reads?

Have you read any Michael Crichton? If not, I’d recommend starting with Sphere, and if you like that, try The Andromeda Strain and The Terminal Man.

This might be farther out than you want to go, but I think Hal Clement’s “Mission of Gravity” is an excellent choice. The aliens and their world are utterly different from ours, but everything (IMHO) is based on hard science.

Many fans agree that Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is the best science fiction novel ever written, and the most far-out it gets is a single AI (and a relatively plausible one, at that). The only “mysterious power” is politics.


Has a psychic power.

I suck at appreciating science fiction, but I’ve always been able to get down with Neal Stephenson’s books.

Earlier Michael Crichton stuff, when he was still basically a medical writer, are pretty good, as noted above. Five Patients is probably his best.

Sure, but most of it is hard science fiction. He said ‘a minimum’, so I thought I’d throw it out.

I read Blindsight by Peter Watts because somebody here on the board recommended it to somebody else and wasn’t disappointed. It’s pretty far out sf and has aliens and lots of weirdness, but it’s still very hard. There’s even an appendix with notes to the science of the book. Rainbow’s End by Vernor Vinge is set in the near future and the whole thing seems pretty solid to me (but what do I know). It’s got lot’s of interesting speculation and still it remains very grounded on the here and now. Greg Egan is also a solid bet as far as hard sf goes.

I hated Rainbow’s End, but YMMV. My reaction was, “I’ve already read Neuromancer, why should I read it again?” I’'d recommend Vinge’s previous work, A Deepness in the Sky instead. Hard Sci-Fi, set in a universe with a slower-than-light trading empire bumping up against a ruthless totalitarian culture, while both compete to exploit a third, pre-atomic alien culture. Great book.

Poul Anderson – Tau Zero. IIRC, there is absolutely nothing in that book that breaks or even bends current scientific knowledge (except for the deus-ex-machina moment at the very ending, which personally has always been disappointing to me, but it doesn’t ruin the book and I won’t spoil it here.)

I’ll grant you that Rainbow’s End owes a huge debt to Neuromancer in many, many concepts.* However, I’d argue that the book updates all those concepts enough to make them fresh again, that it introduces some interesting new ones and that the characters and the main thrust of the narrative are different enough not to make reading one of the novels enough to discard the other. Not to say you should like the novel; I’m just explaining why it didn’t bother me. Now that I think about it, Neuromancer itself seems like a great recommendation for the OP. Also, I agree with you one hundred percent on A Deepness in the Sky and I only chose Rainbow over it because I had already recommended a book set in space that featured aliens.

*Gibson himself owed a lot of Neuromancer to Vinge’s own True Names, so maybe we can let it slide.

The Manifold Trilogy by Stephen Baxter is about as realistic as you’re going to find, and they’re well worth reading to boot. Each book is an alternate exploration of the Fermi paradox and presents a different explanation, using the same characters in different ways.

The Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson.

“Inherit the Stars” by James P. Hogan. Set in the near future, it’s basically a scientific detective story, and a pretty good one at that.

Most of Heinlein’s stories would qualify, although some are set in a more distant future. “The Door into Summer” was set in 1970 and 2000 (from the standpoint of the 50’s when it was written). So the world is a little different, but it’s very interesting nonetheless.

Its kind of the SDMB in space, or a 100 of the most active posters anyway

I read the first one but couldn’t stomach the second two. Granted it was years ago, are they worth another look?

A Fall of Moondust by Arthur C Clarke

The Dispossessed by Ursula Leguin - no magic, robots or psychic powers of any kind.