What sci-fi series should I read?

The majority of what I read is historical fiction, but I’ve always wanted to read a good sci-fi series. What’s a good one to start out with and why?

And oh… I don’t really like aliens. Well, mostly the traditional Area 51-bulbous-headed-big-eyed-looking ones, but then I still have ET issues… :slight_smile:

(A tiny plot description would be great! Thanks!)

If you like Historical Fiction, Alternate History might appeal to you. Turtledoves’ How Few Remain/Great War/American Empire series is a good choice.

It might help if you added which historical fiction you like. Any particular eras? Epic scale or intimate? Ancient Rome or Regency? For alternative history selections, look at Uchronia: The Alternate History List.

Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series.

From the back cover of my paperback edition of “Foundation”

"The Galactic Empire had lasted for 12,000 years and ruled over a million planets. But now it wsa dying. Hari Seldon, creator of the science of psychohistory, knew that its death would be followed by 30,000 years of brutal barbarianism and savage history.

"To preseve knowledge and shorten the dark period to a mere thousand years, Hari Seldon set up the Encyclopedia Foundation and started it with the best scholars and scientists of the Empire. Then he placed it upon Terminus, a bleak world at the edge of the galaxy.

"But now the Empire was retreating, leaving the Foundation isolated and unprotected. Around it, little barbarian kingdoms were already beginning their wars of dominance.

“The Foundation knew itself as the only hope of mankind. But what could it do, alone and helpless, against the greed of the warlords who were reaching out to conquer it and destroy it?”

The series started with three books: Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation. There subsequently were some sequels and prequels.

Also “The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy” trilogy, which is now at five books. This is beyond description and hilarious. Read it.

Well, now, it all depends on what you’re looking for…

Rip-roaring action?

Mind-blowing sense of wonder?

Character studies?

Examination of social issues by extrapolating various trends?

Criticism of a current policy by exaggerating its worst effects to extreme in a “near future” society?

Utopias? Dystopias? Ecotopias?

Galactic civilizations that still inexplicibly but satisfyingly require lots of swordplay?

Murder mysteries set in the future?

Shootout at the OK corrall set in the future?

Future war stories?

The interaction of vast social forces and organizations over centuries?

Humans as the roughest, toughest creatures in the universe?

Humans as part of a peaceful Galactic empire?

Plot problems due to the physics of unusual cosmic objects?

Vast conspiracies triumphant?

Vast conspiracies defeated?

Earth invaded and conquered?

Earth invaded and repulsing the invaders?

Invaders arriving and getting suckered by con men?
All these and many more are available, and that’s without even dipping into the fantasy side of things.

If you can pin it down a bit more, I’d be happy to get more specific, as a Certified Old SF Fart™ who’s been reading and enjoying it for better than 40 years. (Hey, we can’t all be writers; someone has to buy the damn books.)

The “Dune” Series has no aliens, though some of the humans are a bit strange, and takes place over the course of several thousand years from start to finish. It’s interesting, because society is feudal, so you have a who “Mideviel society on a galactic scale”, with some machvellian politics.

Some people like it, some don’t. Try the first book and how you like that is usually a pretty good indicator if you should continue or not.

The Island in the Sea of Time series by SM Stirling is very good.
The Reality Disfunction series by Peter F Hamilton is also very entertaining.

The books of Vernor Vinge are worth looking into. He’s a real life astrophysicist as well as a novelist, so you know there is going to be a least a little science fact to compliment the fiction.

Lois McMaster Bujold’s Barrayar series is great, really well written characters and the sf part is not overly geeky. She is on my Hardcover purchase list ( a very select group, that).

The Night’s Dawn trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton (of which The Reality Dysfunction is the first two-part book) is very good. Lots of interesting ideas and hard sci-fi in there. A real page-turner.

The Bolo universe created by Keith Laumer. He’s the author of some stories and more are contributed by established sci-fi authors. Basically it’s about AI robot tanks and they’re exploits with their commanders on the battlefield. Guns and Glory.

The Berserker universe created by Fred Saberhagen. It’s like Skynet from The Terminator movies but on a galactic scale with robot ships and warriors carrying out their orders to eliminate “bad life” from an alien race that died out eons ago. Full length novels and short stories available and with several different authors contributing. Most stories are good, some aren’t.

The Well World series by Jack L. Chalker. Awesome series detailing exploits of those stranded on the Well World. Actually, it’s nothing but aliens in this one, but they were all human once before they arrived at the Well of Souls. Very entertaining and adventurous.

The Riverworld books by Philip Jose Farmer might be right up your alley. Many of the characters are actual historic figures. It’s about the reincarnated bodies of everyone who ever lived showing up on a planet with a long, rangy river on it. The main characters, IIRC, were Sir Richard Burton (not the actor), Samuel Clemens, Lothar von Richtoven, King John I, Alice Liddell and Herman Goering.

I’d have to recommend the Culture series by Iain M. Banks. They’re all very high quality, but not recommended for those prone to fits of sucidial depression. These are good books, but not happy books.

4 I can recommend off the top of the head…

Consider Phlebas
Player of Games
Use of Weapons
Look to Windward

I gotta second the mention of Asimov’s Foundation and Herbert’s Dune series. Start at the beginning (the originals, not the prequels) with both of those; it’ll definitely help.

Foundation is the first sci fi series I read, and still my favorite.
Also really good are the Elijah Baley novels by Asimov:

The Caves of Steel
The Naked Sun
The Robots of Dawn

You could try the Kim Stanley Robinson series about the early Martian colonies and terra-forming Mars to make it more habitable. It’s 3 big books, covering hundreds of years (but the characters do live a long time!)
Red Mars
Green Mars
Blue Mars

Or, for a lighter, Hornblower-in-space, sort of gung-ho adventure, you could try the early Honor Harrington books by David Weber. The first is On Basilisk Station - she’s detailed to patrol a dodgy, distant area of the space empire in an ageing ship which isn’t really up to dealing with what happens - but she’s the hero, so she makes do somehow…
The sequels gradually get fatter and the exploits grander, but the first ones are good fun.

Do you like romance? The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon is a very well written time-travel/romance about a women who is sent back in time, from 1945 to 1743. It starts out in Scotland just before the second Jacobite rising, and includes a number of historic figures. There are five books in the series at present, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear she’s working on another.

I read all five books and immediately started back on the first one. I frequently re-read books, but this is the first time I wanted to read a series twice in a row.

Third vote here for the Foundation trilogy. Classic Science Fiction from the days when Science Fiction actually tried to include science.

Can’t believe Orson Scott Cards’s series has not been mentioned yet. Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead . . . um. . . Shadow of the Hegemon. . . I seem to have forgotten all the titles. Damn. Anyway, great sociological treatises with good characters and “human” aliens (that is, aliens with psychologies, with reasons why they do things rooted in their milieu).

Finally, Mary Doria Russell’s Sparrow and Children of God.

It truly depends on what you call “sci-fi”. Do you mean hard science fiction? Anything with ray guns? Space opera?

The classic is the “Lensman” series by E.E. Smith. If you want the definition of “space opera”, this is it. When he wrote it, it wasn’t cliches.

I second the “Honor Harrington” series, and the Robot series by Asimov.

No one has yet mentioned the Ender series by Orson Scott Card. It starts with “Ender’s Game”, goes on with “Speaker for the Dead”, and “Xenocide”. There is a “parallel” series that starts with “Ender’s Shadow”.

The Rama series, starting with "Rendezvous with Rama, is kind of fun (although I liked the first one best — that is me, I suspect).

Wow! Thank you everyone. As requested, let me try to clarify a few things:

-The range of historical fiction I read is roughly this: prehistoric - Celtic and Arthurian legends (a personal favorite) - ancient Rome - 1500s-1800s - and some civil war, but hardly anything more modern than that.

  • I like action/adventure, swordplay is always good, interesting characters you want to root for, battles (but not to excess), murderous conspiracies, interesting creatures/races (that, again, are not bulbous aliens) and anything magical.

-I really probably wouldn’t be interested in anything too, too modern like a lot of machinery/robots or technical mumbo-jumbo. However, I am, of course, open to anything that is highly recommended.

So far, alternate history looks to be a good fit for me, which is wonderful because I didn’t know there was such a genre.

And yes, I love Gabaldon!! Thank you for mentioning her - a wonderful read!