A Partial Space Science Fiction Reading List

From Robert Heinlein to Joan Slonczewski

As NASA’s manned space efforts shrank, starships became more the stuff of science fiction. The following envision different paths to expansion into space.

Voyage, by Stephen Baxter (1996): An epic saga of America’s might-have-been. If President John F. Kennedy had lived, we could have sent a manned mission to Mars in the 1980s.

Coyote, by Allen Steele (2002): Gallant misfits, led by a spaceship captain named Robert E. Lee, steal a starship. They flee a declining Earth rife with dictatorship and technophobia to found a new society on a new world. 

Time for the Stars, by Robert A. Heinlein (1956): Identical twins are enlisted to be the human radios that will keep starships in contact with Earth, but one of them has to stay behind while the other explores the depths of space. Einstein intervenes.

Earth, by David Brin (1990): A small black hole escapes from the lab that made it, and Earth is in danger of being hollowed out. Wracked by gravity lasers from core to pole, Earth explores whether humanity and freedom can survive. 

Hull Zero Three, by Greg Bear (2010): Interstellar planet hunting on an enormous damaged starship. Strange things have come to live in the starship’s vast corridors on the long voyage.

The Highest Frontier, by Joan Slonczewski (2011): College in an orbital space habitat. Global climate change and advanced social change amid an intriguing biotech future.

A Fire Upon the Deep, by Vernor Vinge (1992): Supersmart entities rule part of our galaxy. Human minds remain limited, but our lot is not as bad as that of creatures in the Unthinking Depths, where only simple animals can function. Add conflicts and stir.

Mars Crossing, by Geoffrey A. Landis (2000): Adventurers endure an agonizing trek halfway across the surface of Mars to reach a ship designed to carry only half their number. A rugged, inventive tale.

Red Thunder, by John Varley (2003): A Chinese spacecraft, Heavenly Harmony, threatens to land on Mars a few days before the U.S. shuttle gets there. A tribute to Heinlein, the space program, and American ingenuity.

Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson (1992–1996): A trilogy about founding a Mars colony. The settlers fragment into political factions which differ on how to alter the Mars environment and govern the first society independent of Earth.

Find this and hundreds of other interesting books at the Reason Shop, powered by Amazon.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    Release the hounds of opposition!

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    This post is the equivalent of hunting deer using a salt lick and corn. If the FBI wanted to track down the Hit and Run commentariat, this would be the way to do it.

  • Apatheist||

    The Avatar - Poul Anderson

    Hyperion Cantos - Dan Simmons

  • ||

    I was going to mention Hyperion for "different paths to expansion into space."

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Did you guys know that Heinlein guy apparently did the novelization of the movie Starship Troopers? Yeah, but he added a bunch extra dumb shit that wasn't in the movie and didn't need to be there.

  • sarcasmic||

    Yeah. Like flashbacks to History and Moral Philosophy.

    Who needs that shit? It's like all boring and stuff.

    Look! Squirrel!

  • Confusius Say...||

    And he time-warped to 1959 to do it!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I assumed that was a typo on the book jacket. Anyway, every time a successful movie comes out they always have to make a book out of it for marketing purposes, but usually they have to common decency to stay true to the film's script. But not Heinlein.

  • Confusius Say...||

    I assumed that was a typo on the book jacket.

    Maybe whole chapters of the book are typos!

  • ||

    The book normally comes before the movie. It's very rare that they do a book adaptation of a movie.

  • Large-mouth Bass||

    I admire your courage.

  • Moogle||

    Don't make me come over there.

  • ||

    You have crossed from sarcasm to sacrilege.

  • Radioactive||

    or from merely stupid to imbcelic?

  • Brett L||

    Maybe you should pick a safer activity, like running down Atlas Shrugged or swearing your undying love for Michael Bay's art.

  • killazontherun||

    ahem . . gentlemen

    Michael Bay is the John Galt of the film industry.

    Iconoclasm comes almost too easily for libertarians.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    I hear you. It's just like how those Lord of the Rings movies totally ripped off orcs from World of Warcraft. They should sue those bastards.

  • ||

    Not to mention the elves and dwarfs thing. At least they were original enough to come up with those hobbit dudes.

  • Brett L||

    Pssh. They stole those from the frickin' 80s cartoon.

  • ||

    It's funny, but I've only read a few of those--Heinlein, Vinge, and part of Red Mars, which I just didn't care much for about halfway in.

  • ||

    I haven't read any of them. I just can't get into Vinge, I've tried, but I've read most of the authors themselves on the list, just not these books.

    Besides, all you need to know is "It's a cookbook!"

  • ||

    Oh, and fuck David Brin. I won't waste a dime on that hysterical eco-slaver.

  • ||

    The first Uplift Trilogy and The Practice Effect are great. They're worth it regardless.

  • ||

    I've got so much other material to read, I doubt I'll ever bother, but thanks for the rec.

  • kinnath||

    I agree on the Uplift Triloty. I don't recall reading The Practice Effect.

  • ||

    It was his first book, and very original. Try it.

  • ||

    Ditto what Epi said.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Absolutely, the Uplift Trilogy is awesome. I liked The Postman, too.

  • Jumbie||

    You've clearly never read the Uplift trilogy.

    um, Episiarch.

  • Ryan M||

    With a name like "episiarch", I guess you'd have to be a Brin fan. I love the Uplift series (all 6 of them), and while it is very preachy about the environment, I don't consider it to distract from a very good story.

  • KW6||

    ". . .and not a tankerload of barbecue sauce to be found . . "

    One of the best lines ever to appear in a novel. So I'm probably botching it.

  • robc||

    The Vinge I really like (Fire Upon the Deep, A Deepness in the Sky) I really, really like. His other stuff, not so much.

  • Jack the Reaper||

    I got halfway throught the second book, Blue Mars and put it down. I got so bored with it I started skipping pages just to find something interesting. Not a good sign.

    The story seemed to progress at about the actual pace of a terraforming project.

  • Jack the Reaper||

    Damn...Green Mars. Whatever. It was that boring.

  • killazontherun||

    Robinson sucks that is why you couldn't complete it.

    No Alastair Reynolds, Mr. Benford? He mostly plays by the rules of physics, mostly.

  • Jumbie||

    Yeah, I suspect there's a lot of us that got to Vinge and Heinlein based on their prevalence and also copped out of Red Mars halfway due to teh boring.

  • ||

    There's also the coercion path...

    Eight Worlds universe, John Varley
    The Ophiuchi Hotline, Steel Beach, The Golden Globe, numerous short stories
    Mankind has to expanded into space because we have been evicted from Earth.

    Vacuum Flowers by Micheal Swanwick explores the same premise

  • Nipplemancer||

    Love me some Varley. Which is unfortunate because Red Thunder sucked.

  • ||

    Yeah, of all the Heinlein to pastiche, Rocket Ship Galileo is a poor choice.

  • Nipplemancer||

    Steel Beach is my favorite. I love how the opening of the book takes place at a press release for a new form of biomechanical sex device.
    The Titan trilogy #2 on my Varley list. I must have read that trilogy a dozen times just to figure out the Titanide sexes.

  • ||

    Steel Beach is amazing. I've read all the other Eight Worlds material and the scope of it is very impressive. He is supposedly working on another 8W novel.

  • ||

    Steel Beach is excellent. Reminiscent of Iain Banks.

  • Moogle||

    You have to love a novel where the POV protagonist changes genders halfway through.

  • ||

    Earth (1990), by David Brin and "David Earth" character in Steel Beach(1993)... hmm...

  • ||

    [Nipplemancer: I love how the opening of the book takes place at a press release for a new form of biomechanical sex device.]

    With a name like "Nipplemancer" why am I not surprised?

  • Moogle||

    Oh, c'mon, Red Thunder was fun. It'd make a good miniseries for TV. It could be this generation's "Salvage 1". I kept thinking how filmable it was while reading. Maybe I'll just go ahead and write up the treatment and pitch it somewhere. Do I need permission just to pitch a treatment?

  • ||

    Do I need permission just to pitch a treatment?

    Do you have the proper license and permits?

  • KW6||

    "Stand where you are, and have you permits were we can see them!"

  • Irate in Louisiana||

    Time for the Stars? That is the first Heinlein book that comes to mind when considering man's expansion into space? It's a really good book, but not my first choice - or even my second or third.

  • Brett L||

    "The Man who Sold the Moon", or the collection of the whole Future History timeline.

  • killazontherun||

    'Year of the Jackpot' in that one? That was a good little thriller.

  • Brett L||

    I can't find the index for that one now. I don't recall.

  • Jack the Reaper||

    Moon is a Harsh Mistress would be my choice.

  • ||

    Brin's Earth is disappointing and rather tedious. It was where he started to suck. Way too long and too drawn out.

    His pinnacle will always be Startide Rising.

  • ||

    So true. I used to read his stuff, but stopped.

  • Trespassers W||

    Thirded. What was the name of the AI in that book? It was freaking sweet.

  • ||

    For my money, nobody does names better than Iain Banks.

    Cheradenine Zakalwe? And his handler, Diziet Sma? Awesome.

    And the agency they work for: Special Circumstances, a branch of the military wing, Contact. So awesome. The British gift for euphemism is unsurpassed.

    The warship No More Mr. Nice Guy? Double awesome.

  • Gray Ghost ||

    Wiki of the Culture Ships' names/types.

    Falling Outside the Normal Moral Constraints, from his latest one, is a favorite. I love that the tone of the names often mirrors the personality of the ships.

    Another +1 for Alastair Reynolds's Revelation Space universe. Frankly, I prefer the short stories in Galactic North to the full length novels.

    I'll have to take a look at some of the selections from Dr. Benford's list, in my copious free time...

  • Trespassers W||

    Thanks for the link. My favorite might be All Through With This Niceness And Negotiation Stuff.

  • Trespassers W||

    "Djan Seriy Anaplian" has stuck in my head.

  • Tim||

    ANything by early Larry Niven.

  • ||

    Yes, Niven did some great stuff.

  • robc||

    Absolutely.

    Protector is still one of my favorites.

  • killazontherun||

    Protector. Now that is some come good stuff.

  • Fluffy||

    Posting a Gregory Benford article just made Reason quite a bit cooler in my eyes.

    Timescape is one of my favorite classic sci-fi era works.

    On this list, I've also only read a few: Baxter, Brin, Robinson.

    Hull Zero Three sounds entertaining.

    I think the best way to look at the Robinson trilogy is that it will provoke you to think about what terraforming Mars might actually be like in practice. There's a lot I don't like about Robinson's own narrative choices, but you can still have fun thinking about them. I prefer the MacAuley Quiet War universe to the Red Mars universe.

  • Nipplemancer||

    "I think the best way to look at the Robinson trilogy is that it will provoke you to think about what terraforming Mars might actually be like in practice. There's a lot I don't like about Robinson's own narrative choices, but you can still have fun thinking about them. "

    That sums up my opinion on KSR's Mars trilogy. Even the initial colonization of Mars is a decent idea - launch all your supplies before the mission leaves, arrive and put your shit together.

  • ||

    Halfway through the series I started screaming "terraform Earth".

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    I'm guessing the only reason the Mars Trilogy was mentioned was to drive the very socialist Robinson into a fit of apoplectic rage. :)

  • db||

    I got very tired of reading partway through Green Mars but stuck with it. I gave up on Blue Mars when it basically became a tract on how socialism will work so well on a planet WITH SCARCER RESOURCES THAN EARTH.

  • robc||

    It took me two tries on all three books...I never made attept two on Blue Mars.

    Never made attempt one on White Mars.

  • ||

    The only thing I've ever liked by Robinson was his doctoral thesis on Philip K. Dick.

  • ||

    The Wild Shore wasn't too bad, but I read it about 20 years or so ago. My memory is hazy at best.

  • Dave H||

    Le Guin handled this in The Dispossessed. I think you would either love or hate this book.

  • squarooticus||

    A Deepness in the Sky is a much better book than A Fire Upon the Deep: it not only portrays a future that is actually just engineering problems away from the present day (i.e., no positing FTL travel or other things that contradict our current understanding of spacetime), but it's a fantastic story of the triumph of free markets and voluntary association against tyranny and central planning.

  • robc||

    I think Deepness is a better novel, in that it has themes and shit. Fire is a better space opera (in that Deepness isnt).

  • ||

    "The Fountains of Paradise" by Arthur C. Clarke for a different way into space.

    Chemical rockets are silly.

  • ||

    Nuclear! Pulse! Rockets!

  • ||

    Then you should read "Footfall".

  • ||

    I might check it out. Niven's pretty good for hard SF but I find his prose to be rather flat. I liked Neil Stephenson's NPR generation ship in Anathema.

  • robc||

    Niven and Pournelle do some good work together.

    I also recommend The Legacy of Heorot with that pair + Barnes, but I thought the sequel was weak.

    I think Heorot would make a great base for a TV series. Its like Terra Nova without the suck. So its not like Terra Nova at all.

  • killazontherun||

    Another concurrence, I'll give to you, robc. You've got good taste.

  • robc||

    Thats what Ive been trying to tell these clowns for years.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Great book, and though the sequel isn't as good I still liked it, especially the descriptions of the ecosystem.

  • T||

    Its like Terra Nova without the suck.

    What's left, at that point?

  • ||

    This is the type of post that even draws lurkers in.

    I can't believe no one mentioned "The Mote in God's Eye" - my favorite N & P.

  • Jack the Reaper||

    Footfall was a great book. An obvious inspiration for Independence Day...only with elephants.

  • ||

    Footfall would have been so much better - lot's of humor and some logic around the alien motivations.

  • Trespassers W||

    Haha, Footfall is sweet. It's got pungi sticks in it.

  • ||

    The Wheel of Time series, you guys.

  • Brett L||

    The most space ever taken without killing a protagonist. The record will stand forever.

  • ||

    The most words ever about the most annoying women ever, that never get around to actually telling a story, ever.

  • ||

    Way to ruin the thread, asshole. Put your fists on your waist or something.

  • ||

    Don't go twisting your braids around me, missy. And did you find that fucking bowl yet?

  • Trespassers W||

    I think they found the bowl of winds sometime before I quit reading and sometime after you quit reading.

  • ||

    I can assure you, it was long after I stopped caring.

  • Lib'Tarian||

    We. Are. Not. Geeks!

    We. Are...OK, we're geeks.

  • ||

    Ben Kingsley wrote sci-fi?

  • kinnath||

    The Gap sequence (Stephen R Donaldson) had a lasting impact on me.

  • Jack the Reaper||

    Thomas Covenant!!!!

  • kinnath||

    See below ;-)

  • Jack the Reaper||

    Well, it was a fantasy novel :)

  • killazontherun||

    He sure does write about rape a lot though. Second book I liked better than the first.

  • sydnar||

    "Fiasco," by Stanslaw Lem should be required space explorer reading. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiasco_(novel)

  • killazontherun||

    I'm not sure why I find Lem's work to be worthless. People whose taste I trust recommend his work to me. I've tried a short story collection, and I was told it was the height of wit when I found it to be a second rate rip of Heinlein. I read Solaris, and was told of it's brilliance and remarkable ideas, and I found nothing there to hang a hat on, a meh ghost story, not ideas. Really, am I the Kayne West of science fiction connoisseurs and at some fundamental level I just don't get it, or are there a lot of people who are just full of shit?

  • ||

    There are a lot of people who are just full of shit.

  • Trespassers W||

    Lem's reviews of fictional books (e.g. One Human Minute) are insanely thought-provoking.

    Of his novels, I've only read "The Investigation", which is pretty weird.

  • killazontherun||

    I've noticed people lose their sense of taste when it comes to Eastern Bloc writers. Don't get me started on Kundera.

  • ||

    I used to like Kundera when I moved to Eastern Europe as a long-haired liberal. Now I find him extremely pretentious, although he has some moments of insight in his essays.

  • killazontherun||

    I have to admit, I once liked him because of Lena Olin. Now, I just see his fiction work as that of a horny perve with nothing to say (though I can relate to that!).

  • ||

    No mention of the great libertarian moon colony from "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress"?

  • NotSure||

    No mention of the two greats Clarke and Asimov ? Anyway thanks for the listing, will give some of those books a shot.

  • kinnath||

    There have been great SciFi threads in the past. I probably have a list of a hundred or more books that I need to read at some time in the future.

    I think I read every book the library had from Clarke and Asimov (fiction and non-fiction) during my youth. And I read all the fiction by Heinlein as well. I consider them the top three of old-school writers.

    More modernly, I have read everything by Stephen R Donalds (except the last two books of the third chronicles of thomas convenant which are on my desk at home). I'm two-thirds the way through Pratchett's books. I don't know what genre you want to call his stuff, but he is my all time favorite at this point.

    Brin's early stuff was great. Which is what makes his later stuff so utterly disappointing. Orson Scott Card has some great books as well.

    But overall, my list of books read pales in comparison to many of the H&R regulars.

  • ||

    I've got my brother's entire family hooked on Terry Pratchett.

    And I mean hooked. They're bugging me now "When are you going to send more Pratchett books?"

    I about fell off my chair at Christmas when their girls asked to be excused from the dinner table, and their mother said "Don't let me detain you."*

    *In-joke for Vetinari fans. If you don't get it, you need to start reading the Night Watch books RIGHT NOW!

  • NotSure||

    Terry Pratchett is like the Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy, something one either loves or simply doesn't get. I fall into the latter, but I did enjoy the story about the "Hogfather" aired on Sky a few years back, the books I just don't seem to enjoy.

  • ||

    If Pratchett had no other value at all, he'd still be worth reading for the names he gives his characters: "Mustrum Rudcully," "Perspicacia Tick" and "Gytha Ogg" are just three of many.

    Also, his books are only as long as their plots, one of the many ways in which he is better than Dickens.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Eh. I got bored of Pratchett very quickly. Mort is still an excellent book, though.

  • kinnath||

    Small Gods is one of the best books ever written.

  • killazontherun||

    Funny one, but Guards! Guards1 is my favorite of his work. The scene where they are trying to rig the odds on an arrow shot to be exactly a million to one. Or the deposed emperor getting all Machiavelli with the mice in his cell. Funny stuff. Oh, and the dragon's formal request for virgins to eat.

  • ||

    Pratchett responding to if Mort will ever be made into a movie.

    "...Mort isn't fashionable UK movie material – there's no parts in it for Hugh or Emma, it's not set it Sheffield, and no one shoves drugs up their bum..."

    Mort is probably my favorite fiction book of all time. I mean, its me! More or less living my ideal job.

  • ||

    If we are going to bring up the classics, I'm going to have to mention Bradbury. Not hard sf or perhaps sf at all in many cases but the Martian Chronicles will always be THE Mars book for me.

  • guy in the back row||

    Had to read those for a high school English class. I don't mind philosophy, but calling those "science fiction", when I was reading Clarke and Heinlein outside of school, was really weak.

  • sarcasmic||

    O.T. Bar Rafaeli is still OMFG hot!

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/fem.....range.html

  • NotSure||

    Check out supermodel Candice Swanepoel, there is nobody hotter.

  • sarcasmic||

    I did, and Bar is way hotter.

  • Jumbie||

    Just looked her up: weird, actually kinda demonic looking smile.

  • ||

    Anthem. Anthem is sci-fi, right? As a librarian I feel like I can tell you it is no matter what you think. Brave new world, same deal.

  • robc||

    Of course it is.

    I cant figure out if Atlas Shrugged is sci-fi or prophecy.

  • Saulius Muliolis||

    But neither Anthem or Atlas Shrugged involve space travel.

  • Trespassers W||

    I was surprised that Benford didn't mention Kings of the High Frontier, which is a book about different paths of expansion into space, and for which IIRC he wrote the freaking foreword.

  • Sam Grove||

    Treason by Orson Scott Card

  • ¢||

    We. Are. Not. Geeks! We. Are...OK, we're geeks.

    You were right the first time.

    Geeks are a fashion-conscious aspirant-professional demographic who accessorize their standard-issue aspirant-professional images with a very narrow range of nerdism-related products and behaviors that signify "cute," "quirky," or "smart," and who advertise their resistance to vulgar popular marketing by surrendering to a more specific subset of popular marketing (the "look how not vulgar I am" kind).

    You guys are nerds. That's better.

  • NotSure||

    What is the definition of nerd ?

  • ||

    In practice? Anything anyone wants it to be.

    I've always defined it as anyone can be a geek about something (in fact, all people have something they geek out about.) Nerds are often geeky in predictable ways and combine it with a deep social awkwardness.

  • sarcasmic||

    I always thought it was the other way around, that a geek is a nerd without social skills.

  • ||

    And thus the malleability of the terms. Although, a nerd with social skills seems a bit nonsensical.

  • sarcasmic||

    I think of a nerd is someone who gets good grades, but can still have a conversation in a social setting.
    While a geek gets all derpy when there's more than three people in the room.

  • sarcasmic||

    I could be wrong though.
    Wouldn't be the last time.

  • NotSure||

    Well you were wrong about which supermodel is hotter ;)

  • kinnath||

    It thought a nerd was a geek with technical skills.

  • kinnath||

    But not necessarily typing skills.

  • Brett L||

    My understanding is similar to SF's. Geek refers to having deep and arcane knowledge in some area. Doesn't matter if it is Star Trek or comparitive batting averages of backup shortstops. Nerd refers to someone who is socially akward and usually geeks out within a pretty wide rage but often math or science or science fiction/fantasy related.

  • Jumbie||

    There are band geeks. There are no band nerds.

  • Lord Humungus||

    not travel related, but my main sci-fi loves have always been Phillip K. Dick and (early) K.W. Jeter.

    Jeter wrote some fucked up novels - including his horror/thriller stuff.

  • ||

    Thank you Gregory for your reviews. Just purchased Voyage by Stephen Baxter and downloaded it to my kindle.
    By the way kindle is a superior way to read books. The only worthy invention since the internet in my opinion.
    Couldn't stand Kin Stanley's Red, Blue, Green Mars. A runaway fantasy about utopian communist paradise on Mars.

  • robc||

    I have a better description of Fire Upon the Deep -- one of the best space operas ever.

    It contains just about every space opera trope possible, but they are all done excellently.

    In no particular order and trying not to spoiler anything:

    1. Evil Entity trying to take over/destroy galaxy.

    2. Lone space ship being chased by armada of evil.

    3. Two kick ass space battles.

    4. Weird aliens.

    5. The Star Wars Cantina.

    6. Hi-tech kids stranded on primative planet.

    7. Unfrozen primitive man.

    And a dozen more I cant think of. If you told me a single novel had all of this crap in it, I wouldnt read it. Vinge fucking pulls it off.

  • ||

    OK, I'll have to give it a try.

  • robc||

    Plus, it turns out usenet is really big in the distant future.

  • killazontherun||

    Does assembly programming make a come back in that series as well?

  • robc||

    Not that I recall, but in Deepness, they are still using UNIX time.

  • Brett L||

    Actually, kind of. The unfrozen caveman's previous training as a programmer-archeologist comes in handy.

  • robc||

    I dont think Pham was programming in Assembly though. He might have learned it, but I figured he was dealing with the JAVA piled on top of C.

  • Brett L||

    You're right. I was half-kidding b/c he really does end up coding in essentially a modern IDE as they descend, versus having the singularity write his code for him. It is kind of weird that even the code the singularity writes can be managed by JAVA/C human coder...

  • ||

    It also has kids and their dog(like) friends.

    I just finished "Children of the Sky" and was rather disappointed that most of that stuff was missing.

    I kept waiting for Pham Nuwen or somebody to show up and save the story from utter boredom - or the Blight to arrive and mercifully kill them all.

  • Oosik||

    Agreed that Children was a let-down after the awesomeness of Fire and Deepness. I just read Vinge's Rainbows End and it was even worse. He really is hit-or-miss.

    On a more positive note, Alastair Reynolds has a new book coming out June 5th, which is my birthday. Yay!

  • guy in the back row||

    Not only that, Vinge really excels with his aliens. In both Fire and Deepness they are very different than humans, yet he makes their motivations understandable and sympathetic.

  • ||

    Highly recommended
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colony_(Rob_Grant_novel)

  • ||

    No mention of Poul Anderson?

    His Tales of the Flying Mountains are among the best Libertarian SF ever.

  • Trespassers W||

    Don't forget the Harvest of Stars series.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    If President John F. Kennedy had lived, we could have sent a manned mission to Mars in the 1980s.

    Alternately, Kennedy lives, robbing NASA of its "Do it for Kennedy!" mantra and we never even make it to the moon.

  • ||

    ^This is probably closer to reality.

  • ||

    Guy says if Kennedy lived we'd be on Mars in 80s.
    Horseshit! We wouldn't have the technolgy by then.
    And maybe, even, probably, we never will.
    Sorry to pop your bubble space geeks.
    Time to grow up.

  • ||

    Propulsion, propulsion, reliability, reliability....
    We still can't create a relible vechile to get us into low earth orbit on even a monthly schedule.
    MARS, forgetttabouuuttittt

  • killazontherun||

    U mad, bro?

    Sure, we wouldn't have had the tech by then, but we certainly could of faked a good Mars landing by 1980, right?

  • Brett L||

    I, for one, welcome my Cthulonic overlords. This is the intro to a Charlie Stross story.

  • Trespassers W||

    Damn it, you had me thinking a new Laundry novel was coming out.

  • Brett L||

    There is, but not until like October, or early next year. The only wait more interminable is Pat Rothfuss' 3rd Kvothe book. Which is done, but not due to be released until March 2013.

  • Thom||

    Alastair Reynolds is noticeably missing from this list.

  • sf fan||

    Red mars... ugh. That book was *terrible*, mainly because the science and tech was so severely bad. For instance, in a world covered by unfriendly surveillance satellites, the heroes hid their vehicle under a very large moving rock... something simple image subtraction would have caught them at the very first time they moved -- *today*. That book was a pitiful unthinking environmentalist's wet dream, the author clearly knows very little about technology and isn't qualified to write about it. The saving grace, of course, is the readers know even less.

  • Restoras||

    Ender's Game.

  • ||

    Those are some seriously crappy books.

    Why is a global nut working for Reason magazine?

  • ||

    D'oh. That should be Global Warming nut

  • ||

    Damn... hit the nail right on the head.

  • Sakebito-san||

    LOL - The Random Postmodern Essay Generator! 'Been a long, long time since I've seen one of those. Is that page still in existence? Just a sec...
    here:
    http://www.elsewhere.org/pomo/
    8^D

  • John Rohan||

    By coincidence, I am currently reading Robinson's Red Mars, although it is a little slow. I much preferred Mars and Return to Mars by Ben Bova (although the first book had a huge plot error concerning a mysterious disease afflicting the crew).

    I would also add the short story Requiem and the book The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein, both of which deal with real issues around space travel, which we can already see the beginnings of today (legal issues, overbearing regulations, gender disparity in space, customary laws in the absence of government, etc).

    BTW, why is "Earth" by Ben Brinn on this list? From the description above, it's not about space travel.

  • KW6||

    What better way to travel through space than to bring your whole damn planet with you?

  • KW6||

    Hey, Doc, nice list, but you missed the story that pretty much started speculation on How To Get There -- "Orphans of the Sky"

  • KW6||

    And remember, death will not release you.

  • Bioconservative||

    I can see the point in reading sci-fi, especially as the US lost the space race to Russia and (very soon) it will lose it to China. Fantasy of space exploration is the only thing we have left.

    Russia, a centralized non-libertarian state, is currently the only world power that can send a man to Earth orbit. America has lost its will to succeed, and LIEbertarianism (being an incipient form of Liberalism, i.e. Socialism) is definitely not helping. If all you're interested in is short-term profit, investing in space exploration is at the bottom of your list - along with scientific research.

  • ||

    For all those using this as a reading list, it's a good start but here's an even better one. The libertarian futurist society has listed out its prometheus award winnners from the last decade -- I've used it as a shopping and christmas gift list for years. http://www.lfs.org/awards.htm

  • Nathan of Brainfertilizer Fame||

    Anything by C. J. Cherryh.
    It took me a while to catch on to her, but she is one of the best writers out there. Hands down.

  • ||

    James P. Hogan's 'Inherit the Stars' is an excellent hard SF space yarn. If reviews on Amazon count for anything, most readers think it's excellent, and none gave it less than 3 stars. One of my favorites.

  • ||

    Oh, another one that came to mind is A. C. Clarke's 'A Fall of Moondust' which is a wonderfully readable hard SF novel that takes place on the moon. It's one of his best (and best written) novels, yet is often overlooked.

  • Kalkin||

    Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven's "The Mote in God's Eye" is still the best First Contact story I've ever read. "Dragons Egg" by Robert Forward is a good read, too. Life on a neutron star, who would of thunk it?

  • Sakebito-san||

    I'm convinced that all lists like this are clever ploys to get people riled up at what's missing and what shouldn't have been included - therefore debating furiously, which is the goal, and this one is no exception. The word "Partial" in the title makes it all wonderfully self-contained though.

    I'm of course miffed at über-leftwing eco-fascist Robinson's presence here (I maintain the odd belief that science fiction - which is just technological humanism - should not be mixed with the militant anti-humanism embodied in both vestigial collectivism and "green" cultism.)

    The book that perhaps qualifies as "most overlooked classic of Sci-Fi, ever," is Clifford D. Simak's "City." It's sheer poetry, in which man's expansion into space is subject more historical mystery contemplated after-the-fact, than here-and-now action.

    A shoo-in would be Pohl's "Gateway." The expansion into space in that book is more an accident of fortunate discovery than of a triumph of self-directed effort, but the story is fascinating and one-of-a-kind nonetheless. Just avoid all sequels to "Gateway" at all costs...

  • Sakebito-san||

    ...more an accident of fortunate discovery than of self-directed effort, but the story is fascinating regardless. Just avoid all "Gateway" sequels at all costs...

  • Sakebito-san||

    D'OH! Browser-burp. Sorreee....

  • FrancisT||

    May I suggest "Slow Train to Arcturus Slow Train to Arcturus" by Freer & Flint

    and of course there's Ringo's Live Free or Die

  • ||

    Coyote (Allen Steele) is cool, and the next book, Coyote Rising is OK, but I'd stop there...the series turns into a really unimaginative leftist critique of the free market ("entrepreneurs / businessmen are sociopaths") and organised religion (for a smarter critique try the Hyperion Cantos), industrial capitalism ("the noble EU and UN tried to save the earth from global warming, but you evil American conservatives stopped them, the environment collapsed, 4 billion people died, and now you are blithely doing the same thing to a new planet"). By the 4th book (where I bailed) these critiques have grown somewhat less sophisticated (and longer) than the 2am stairwell discussion I had in collage with other 18-year-olds. Don't waste your time - go read Snow Crash (or a lot of other cyberpunk) instead if you want a more subtle socio-political critique. And for Steele fans, broaden your perspective and try some Vinge for (a much more powerful and accomplished) presentation of the alternative.

  • ||

    Why has L.Neil Smith not been mentioned?

  • دردشه عراقية||

    Thanks

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement