Ten S-F Books for Complete Beginners...

[SIZE=“4”]Can you name ten science-fiction books for complete beginners? Please note those words, complete beginners. The criterion here is ten books that such readers can enjoy, but ones that would constitute a sufficient introduction to the genre in all its forms and stimulate continued interest in SF. Your turn![/SIZE]

Are we talking about books for adults or kids? Either way, there are several I’d recommend by Robert Heinlein (some would even be on both lists).

I’m working this with my 10 year old girl right now. It’s a challenge.

If I needed to name ten…

Have Space Suit Will Travel by Robert Heinlein
The Mote in God’s Eye by Niven and Pournelle
Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper
Earth by David Brin
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Cities in Flight by James Blish
The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

Well, that’s nine off the top of my head.

There are better ones, to be sure, but I limited the choices by introduction value. Nothing too difficult to read and nothing too ‘out there’ for the novice to get put off by reading.

Moving thread from IMHO to Cafe Society.

Complete beginners? The Cat in the Hat has talking animals…

I’ll add any of the “Deathworld” trilogy by Harry Harrison, the Stainless Steel Rat books by Harry, or any of the “Thieves World” series created and edited by Robert Lynn Asprin.

Lucifer’s Hammer by Niven and Pournelle for good ‘hard’ science fiction (ie - no magic/fantasy elements).

For space opera I like David Weber’s Honor Harrington series, especially the early books, which are a homage to the Hornblower books by CS Forester.

Just hard SF, or can we include fantasy?

I’d suggest the Stainless Steel Rat books for someone that age. The violence in them isn’t very…violent. Lots of fun. Interesting themes.


I’d say Earth and Cities in Flight is going to be over many ten year old’s level. The Stars My Destination and The Martian Chronicles might also be.

Here’s a few possibilities;

Citizen of the Galaxy - Robert Heinlein
Gunpowder Empire - Harry Turtledove
Emergence - David Palmer
The Practice Effect - David Brin
Rendezvous with Rama - Arthur C. Clarke
A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L’Engle

Here’s a page of lists of recommendations.

Heinlein’s “juveniles.” It’s all there.

Some genre archetypes (if that’s the right word)

*The Day of the Triffids * - John Wyndham (see also The Kraken Wakes)

Dune - Frank Herbert

Neuromancer - William Gibson

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by that really tall guy… (Though if *at all possible *you should try to hear the original radio play version)

I read “I have No Mouth and I Must Scream” when I was 10 years old.

Agree with silenus, Heinlein’s juveniles are a great introduction to the genre. I’d add a collection of Asimov’s short stories, as well as his Foundation Trilogy. Add Clarke’s 2001 or A Fall of Moondust (since Rama already got mentioned. Heck throw Childhood’s End in there too) I like Clarke’s short stories as well; The Other Side of the Sky is a great collection of them, with The Star, 9 Billion Names of God, and others. Planetes if they already like manga.

Depending on your definition of “beginner” (are we talking a 10 yr old, or adult new to SF?) some of the recommendations strike me as a little dark, E.g: The Stars My Destination Rape, assorted revenge. Lucifer’s Hammer Ritual cannibalism —let’s throw in The Road, while we’re at it…

Love the recommendation of Mote in God’s Eye, and I’d throw in one of his Known Space short story collections too, like Neutron Star.

Little Fuzzy - H. Beam Piper
A Wrinkle in Team (This one deals with gravity waves. Not bad for a 5th grade book).

Oooops, sorry!

I’m thinking more adults here.

I’d start with a few of the robot short stories by Asimov. (“Satisfaction Guaranteed” is my favorite.) These stories hit on some common themes to be found in science fiction.

After that, I’d do Caves of Steel, partially because it’s a hybrid of a science fiction novel and a detective novel so it provides easy entry into the genre. It also incorporates a lot of common themes, including some which are quite timely.

I’d also recommend short stories by Heinlein. There are some good lighthearted ones about the lives of teenagers living in the moon. Cliff and the Calories is fun.

You don’t say how old these people are, but Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is my “if you’re only going to read one science fiction book, read this one” choice. The moon short stories would be a nice segue.

ETA–if they’re adults, maybe don’t do the “teenagers on the moon” stuff. But in case you’re not familiar with them–Heinlein’s “juveniles” are great for all ages.

And I don’t care whether you’re young or old, John Christopher’s Tripods trilogy is a real corker.

I’d say don’t be so hung up on the “big four” names I see repeated over and over here.

My personal introduction to SF was “Sargasso of Space” by Andre Norton, an excellent read, but I’d say “Galactic Derelict” would be better. And her novel “Judgment on Janus” reads an awful lot like the inspiration for the movie “Avatar” though it is not. She is known by her fantasy now, but she started out writing SF.