Recommend a stealth sci-fi type novel for my book club

I am a sci-fi/ fantasy/ what if type of reader. The last thing I read that I couldn’t put down were all ten Novels of the Company by Kage Baker.
Thank you Doper I can’t remember right now for recommending those!

My book club tends to pick standard book club fare like Olive Kittridge (hated) and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (loved).

For reasons that are complicated yet boring (but, rest assured, fair) I rarely get to pick a book, but the person who should pick for September is asking ME for an idea.

Quick, help me sneak in something that’s not just about people and their extremely realistic relationships and feelings.

Examples of what I mean are The Handmaid’s Tale or The Time Traveler’s Wife. Which were of course about people and their relationships and feelings, but not realistic.

By “stealth”, do you mean a book that doesn’t concentrate entirely on stereotypical SF stuff like huge starships with massive planet killing weapons and concentrates more on people and relationships, or are you talking about a book that is arguably SF but doesn’t look like it? The Handmaid’s Tale seems a good example of both - I’m not sure I have really considered it as dyed-in-the-wool SF.

One obvious book that comes to mind is Starship Troopers by Heinlein, if you can get them beyond the title. It’s really about psychology, military life, and politics with some fun SF power-armor trooper action mixed in. Shines the name…

I am talking about a book that is arguably SF but doesn’t look like it. They would never go for a book with a title like Starship Troopers (I would! I did!)

I’m not talking about “dyed-in-the-wool SF” or looking to quibble about definitions of sci-fi, I’m talking about something I can pass off on my book club as being a regular book that would satisfy my desire to read about things other than the reality I live in every day.

Have you considered Pattern Recognition by William Gibson?

The parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, maybe? Warning, It’s depressing as hell.

How about something by Connie Willis? Blackout might be fun.

Would going for a ‘classic’ make it acceptable to the group? I’m thinking of something like Babel 17 by Samual Delaney. Sci fi but ‘literary’! Or on the alt hist how about S M Stirling’s Dies the Fire? Post apocalyptic is sort of in after The Road.

On a completely different track, how about historical fiction? It meets your wish not to be set in the day to day present but can be suitably literary. Something like Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel that won the Booker Prize in 2009.

Oooh Connie Willis is getting warm! Blackout would not be fun though! Blackout ends right in mid story (WHICH I DID NOT KNOW WAS GOING TO HAPPEN AND HAD TO WAIT SIX MONTHS TO SEE WHAT HAPPENED!). To have a good discussion you’d have to read Blackout and All Clear and that’s too many pages.

A classic like Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man?

“Speed of Dark” by Elizabeth Moon
“Canticle For Leibowitz” Walter Miller
“Earth Abides”
“Flowers For Algernon”

How about The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson? Alternate history but definitely stealth SF.

Themes: politics, reincarnation, history, multiculturalism; progress and science; alternative history; philosophy, religion and human nature; feminism and equality of all humans; the quest for freedom; and the struggle between technology and sustainability.

No. **Kindred **by Octavia Butler. It’s about relationships and time travel.

Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson. Appears to be a realistic action-packed war-story, but it’s really SF by virtue of saturation in awesome cerebral geekery.

Most everything Michael Crichton has written has been SF, but was sold as general fiction, so he had some bestsellers. I think a lot of people who’ve read him never realised they were reading science fiction. Unfortunately, much of his stuff is only so-so.

How about Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro?

There’s also “In War Times” which takes real WWII memoirs and mixes in alternate history and other weirdness.

For Connie Willis, I’d recommend “Bellwether” (short, humorous, features chaos theory), “To Say Nothing of the Dog” (mystery, time travel, Victoriania) or “Passage”

You could also try some of Jasper Fforde’s stuff. I really enjoyed Shades of Grey, although it’s a bit slow going in the beginning. Of course, folks will probably think you’re suggesting an entirely different book…

The Road.

Slaughterhouse Five.

Under the Dome.


Fahrenheit 451.

The Fermata. (this one gets a bit sexual/kinky, but it’s a great story/romance about stopping time)

It has great themes, but it’s not for SF newbies. Hell, I’ve been reading SF for over 45 years, and I found it to be a slog. If that had been my intro to SF, I might not have picked up another SF book for years.

I’ve had very good success with giving Barbara Hambly’s Dragonsbane to unsuspecting mundanes, and daring them to read the first couple of chapters. It’s fantasy, not SF, and it’s not stealth…but it always hooks them. Avoid the sequels. Hambly was going through a very bad time when she wrote them.

Most of the books that I read are really not very accessible to people who aren’t familiar with SF/fantasy, or they are long out of print. You could try John Scalzi’s Fuzzy Nation, which is a reboot of Piper’s Fuzzy world, it’s fairly recent and very, very good.

Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress.

All about people and relationships and such. With a SF twist thrown in.
The premise is “What if there was an expensive genetic modification that could be done to embryos such that the people resulting would not ever need to sleep.” Then it just goes from there.