Escape from Recession: Sci-Fi Sales Up

On Sunday, I told my wife that I needed a run to Barnes and Noble to stock up on some sci-fi. My haul included Vernor Vinge's Rainbows End (which I am enjoying immensely), Calculating God by Robert Sawyer, and Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. (I know, I know, they've all been in stores for years, but reading peer-reviewed science articles and technology policy papers gets in the way of my sci-fi pleasures.) In any case, it turns out that I far from alone in my need for escapist literature.

An article this week in Publishers Weekly finds that financially depressed Americans are snapping up escapist titles of all types, including sci-fi:

While some readers look for dark fiction to reflect dark times, others just want to get away from it all. This has led to strong sales on all sides of science fiction and fantasy, from pulpy escapist romps to grim dystopian parables. “In down times, escapism is more important and necessary than ever,” says Diana Gill, executive editor of the Eos imprint at HarperCollins, “and genre sales reflect that. We saw this after 9/11, and it continues to be true now. Urban and supernatural fantasy are unquestionably the strongest sellers in the genre.”

Seale Ballenger, group publicity director for Eos, concurs: “We are seeing the trend toward escapism across the board in all areas of publishing right now due to the faltering economy. People really want to focus on something other than the nonstop woes of the world. The escapist nature of SF and fantasy gives readers a doorway into a world very different from their own.”

Publishers Weekly further notes:

Readers of both fantasy and science fiction seem particularly drawn to books that connect with their real-world experiences. Postapocalyptic fiction has been selling well for years, says Ginjer Buchanan, editor-in-chief of Penguin's Ace and Roc imprints, and it's not because of the economy. “I'm not sure that the increasing market for apocalypse stories has much to do with the current state of the world,” she says. “It's science fiction that's accessible to a wider readership. The singularity and nanotechnology can be hard to grasp, but people who have experienced a natural disaster or loss of electricity don't find it so hard to take the leap to thinking about the entire earth flooding, or about electricity not working anywhere.”

While it is obvious from my latest selections that my tastes are eclectic, in general give me high tech sci-fi, rollicking space operas, and fraught encounters between alien cultures. But if zombie stories help get you through these confusing times, enjoy! 

Whole Publishers Weekly article here. See superb articles by my colleagues Brian Doherty on sci-fi master storyteller Robert Heinlein turning 100 here and Katherine Mangu-Ward on the publishing house Tor's anti-authoritarian sci-fi here

Kudos to frequent H&R commenter Sugarfree. 

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  • ||

    Get This is Not a Game by walter jon williams. Just came out. Excellent alt reality game plus murder mystery. Very readable and moves fast.

  • ||

    albo: Thanks much. Suggestions are very welcome.

  • JP||

    On Sunday, I told my wife that I needed a run to Barnes and Noble to stock up on some sci-fi.

    If you had a Kindle, you wouldn't need to run anywhere to stock up on sci-fi. You wouldn't even need to get out of your comfy chair.

  • Walter R. Johnson||

    On the Amazon.com customer forums, I've read many times that the OCR software doesn't always work well and that the Kindle editions of books can come out garbled. Apparently, the Amazon staff doesn't do any proofreading of the final product before it's load onto the Kindle server.

  • ||

    speaking of kindles, who won the kindle giveaway?

  • GXE||

    Make sure you read "A Deepness in the Sky" and "A Fire Upon The Deep" by Vernor Vinge as well. I must re-read those books twice a year. Probably some of the best hard-science space opera books out there.

  • ||

    I'm a huge gadget fan, but I can't get behind the Kindle. I buy too few new books for it to make any sense. And, maybe it's the librarian in me, but I just love books as objects too much. Maybe once they get down to OCRing most everything, I'll look into it.

    Although, this aspect of the Kindle intrigues me.

  • ||

    I'm a big fan of F. Paul Wilson's:Repairman Jack series, Wilson is a libertarian, his novels are fun and the main protagonist basically lives like a libertarian porn star. I've also enjoyed John Scalzi(Last Colony), John Ringo(total garbage, but very fun to read) and Phillip K Dick. I think sci-fi offers an unique view of escapism; for me its pseudo-therapeutic in nature.

  • Xeones||

    Liberation is pretty good so far. I'm hoping that's not because it's so timely.

  • Xeones||

    speaking of kindles, who won the kindle giveaway?

    TofuSushi, proving that there is a God, and She hates us.

  • ||

    Albo,

    If you've never, my favorite Walter Jon Williams' novels are the unashamedly-dated cyberpunk Hardwired and the military SF/revenge Voice of the Whirlwind.

  • kinnath||

    Good Omens was my introduction to Pratchett. It's a brilliant book and lead me to the discworld series of which I just completed the 17th book (books 1-17 in just under a year).

    So, yeah, I'm a huge fan.

  • JP||

    Sugar -- I still have a dead-tree book collection. But the Kindle has enabled me to give away all the paperbacks and not-inherently-valuable hardbacks that I was hanging on to because I might want to refer to them "some day."

    If you read a lot, you really need to spend a few hours with a Kindle before you decide whether you'd like it.

  • ||

    If you haven't read the original Bill, the Galactic Hero, you should. But do not subject yourself to any of the "sequels".

    And, this has prompted me to think it's time to read A Canticle for Leibowitz again.

  • ||

    xeones, thanks, yo.

  • ||

    Good Omens was my introduction to Pratchett. It's a brilliant book and lead me to the discworld series of which I just completed the 17th book (books 1-17 in just under a year).

    Same here. If Mr. Bailey hasn't read Good Omens yet, he's in for a treat. And he'll understand why the old cassette tapes in his car now only play The Best of Queen.

  • ||

    If you read a lot, you really need to spend a few hours with a Kindle before you decide whether you'd like it.

    My wife keeps looking at them. (She reads a lot of technical and non-fiction books.) I might have to breakdown and get one. (I was heartened to find they now have 265,000 titles.)

  • ||

    Read Bester if you haven't already. His shorts are good, but I especially recommend The Demolished Man and The Stars My Destination.

    I'm finally reading the first of Iain Banks' Culture series. I like it so far.

    I'm a major book collector, owning a couple of thousand fiction and non-fiction books. However, I'd love to have a Kindle 2, as well.

  • Xeones||

    brotherben, i'm really hoping i made that up.

  • phalkor||

    sugarfree, what sort of kudos did you get? I prefer chocolate chip.


    As someone who probably can't read Dune I wonder if I'm just incapable of enjoying science fiction novels. I like to read and write short stories. The concise format forces all details and characterization to be important in the context of the story. Sci-fi novels seem unweildy and awkward.

    That said Chrono Trigger is likely the best sci-fi story ever told. Don't argue, it's just a fact.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    I've recently been reading Dickens on my iPhone Stanza reader: David Copperfield, Bleak House, Nicholas Nickleby, A Tale of Two Cities, all on a 2" by 3" screen, all for free. I'm encouraged enough to think I might be able to purge all my English-language public domain literature from my bookshelves.

  • ||

    Oh, and if you haven't read Clifford Simak's works, I recommend him, too. My favorite is Way Station. He was a major influence on a number of writers, especially Asimov.

    Incidentally, I'm going for the less well-known category. If you haven't read the major titles, go and do so now.

  • robc||

    Make sure you read "A Deepness in the Sky" and "A Fire Upon The Deep" by Vernor Vinge as well. I must re-read those books twice a year. Probably some of the best hard-science space opera books out there.

    THIS. In comparison, I was disappointed in Rainbows End.

    Also, I recommend reading Fire before Deepness. They arent really related, but I fine knowing some of the future events in Pham's life makes some of Deepness more amusing.

    And, Deepness was written later.

  • ||

    xeones, you dirty bastage

  • ||

    phalkor,

    sugarfree, what sort of kudos did you get?

    Only the misformatting of my handle to Sugarfree apparently.

  • ||

    I was amused to find that the Kindle edition of the rare Kurt Vonnegut story 2BRO2B uses the illustration from the 1st edition of Eye in the Sky by Philip K. Dick.

  • High Every Body||

    Kudos to frequent H&R commenter Sugarfree.

    Congrats! Did you get the linkies correct for Mr. Bailey?

    When is that book of your and Naga's Ninja chick coming out? Is it kindle only or can people with real computers read it too? Is it as kinky as she sounds?

    phalkor,

    I would suggest starting with Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Azimov, then try some Neil Stephenson.

  • T||

    I love the idea of the Kindle, but I have concerns about backup of the books, and I'm with SugarFree. I like the physical artifacts of books too much to ever entirely get rid of them.

    However, keeping all of my technical library on a Kindle appeals to me. I'm using my acer Netbook right now with e-versions of Machinery's Handbook and a few others, but it's difficult getting everything I use as a reference in PDF.

  • Taktix®||

    And, maybe it's the librarian in me, but I just love books as objects too much. Maybe once they get down to OCRing most everything, I'll look into it.

    Agreed. Plus, what will line the shelves in my study once I become enormously rich?

    Muh ha ha...

  • ||

    Mad props to Terry Pratchett; the later Discworld books show a remarkable growth in this writer. The Sam Vimes books and the ones on how Lord Vetinari reformed the post office, mint, etc. are excellent.

    Just finished re-reading Jack Vance's Demon Princes novels. Fabulous - the quality of the writing is just incredible.

    When you've finished those, read the Green Pearl novels.

  • ||

    Same here. If Mr. Bailey hasn't read Good Omens yet, he's in for a treat. And he'll understand why the old cassette tapes in his car now only play The Best of Queen.

    Going to have to disagree here. I thought Good Omens was disappointing. It was like reading Pratchett lite. Half the funny and little of the insight. Of course I had been reading Pratchett for awhile so if you aren't as familiar with his stuff ir might seem more fresh.

    His Discworld novels are just so much better.

  • ||

    Agreed. Plus, what will line the shelves in my study once I become enormously rich?

    Lifetime collection of drug paraphernalia? With the down Bushbama economy, I'd think that would be more popular than reading anyway.

  • ||

    Another suggestion: I'm readinig Gregory Benford's Timescape right now, and enjoying it immensely.

  • High Every Body||

    Agreed. Plus, what will line the shelves in my study once I become enormously rich?

    Computing devices through the ages, pr0n posters and bondage gear . . .

    Wait, that is for my study. Never mind!

  • Elemenope||

    Speaking of sci-fi I accidentally stumbled upon a copy of the Caprica pilot last night. Wow, good!

  • kinnath||

    Going to have to disagree here. I thought Good Omens was disappointing. It was like reading Pratchett lite.

    Remember, I said Good Omens was my first Pratchett . . .

    So Good Omens lead to Thud! Thud! lead to "there's a whole series?!?!?!". So I started at the beginning, and I haven't made it back up to Thud! yet. I expect it will read much different the second time.

  • Ross||

    "Sugar -- I still have a dead-tree book collection. But the Kindle has enabled me to give away all the paperbacks and not-inherently-valuable hardbacks that I was hanging on to because I might want to refer to them "some day.""

    What happens if your Kindle is lost or stolen?

  • dhex||

    "Urban and supernatural fantasy are unquestionably the strongest sellers in the genre."

    so do they mean urban as in fantasy set in a city or is it a publishing code-word for "black/minority"?

  • Xeones||

    dhex: based on the layout at my local Barnes & Noble, it's the second one.

  • dhex||

    "hmmm...a novel about strange, dark-skinned tribes of humanoids called 'african americans'...how curious!"

  • Rimfax||

    I don't have time or energy for World of Warcraft escapism, but I do play Kingdom of Loathing. It's kind of XKCD meets D&D as made by Steve Jackson Games.

  • JP||

    What happens if your Kindle is lost or stolen?

    I would buy a new one without hesitation. That's now much I love it.

    Needless to say, I'm also very careful with my gadgets.

  • ||

    dhex,

    Urban fantasy is a genre of magic-based fantasy in modern settings, usually cities.

  • ||

    If only they pushed Heinlein more, this might actually be good. I'd hate for people to read the luddite fearmongering of a typical Michael Crichton book, though he himself was not one. His last few books at least showed the danger of government run amok.

    I am not into the post apocalyptic stuff since a lot of it seems to be luddite trash, which to me is like "how is this science fiction, more like anti-science fiction". Though really since most science fiction gets you thinking about the future and freedom I suppose it's all better than the Utne Reader.

    I just got a Kindle last week and love it. While I hope more titles get released for it, I am certainly not running out of things to read.

    I have really gotten into Alastair Reynolds, his series starting with Revelation Space is a pretty amazing view of the future.

  • JP||

    And I should add that Amazon keeps a permanent record of all of your purchases, and you can re-download anything you bought through them without any additional charge.

  • Ravac||

    Ron, give Stephen Baxter's Xeelee novels a try. At least the collection of stories in The Vacuum Diagrams. Hard sci-fi, spanning billions of years, based on not understanding what the hell the Xeelee were up to.

  • lunchstealer||

    Speaking of which I'm currently re-reading Hyperion. I can't say there's much there that parallels my real life, though.

  • ||

    The Hyperion series is good. Especially the first two books.

  • Naga Sadow||

    Ron,

    Oh sure. Give all the props to SugarFree. It's not like I've pimped Vernor Vinge's novels everytime the subject of sci-fi comes up. ;)

  • ..||

    I still have a dead-tree book collection

    "Dead tree"? Do you also wear dead-cotton shirts and eat dead-corn nachos?

  • High Every Body||

    JP,

    And I should add that Amazon keeps a permanent record of all of your purchases, and you can re-download anything you bought through them without any additional charge.

    Almost pulled a Naga, but scrolled up to find this.

    Sounds like a cool tool that I need to learn more about.

    I think their formatting is HTMLish, but isn't Kindle the only thing you can download Kindle books with?

  • dhex||

    Urban fantasy is a genre of magic-based fantasy in modern settings, usually cities.

    i like my version better. :(

    that's, like, retardedly specialized though. i can appreciate specific genres and all but, like...durn.

  • Ravac||

    P Brooks - I just started A Canticle for Leibowitz again myself.

    And you can't go wrong with Banks. Recently finished Excession again. This time, it made a bit more sense.

  • High Every Body||

    Do you also wear dead-cotton shirts and eat dead-corn nachos?

    I am wearing dead cow boots right now.

  • Ben||

    Kindle has problems, I'm unaware of a workaround at this point.

    I have one in the form of an iPod touch. My sweetheart has one, same form. We bought all 6 of a 6-book series, but we bought them on my iPod/Kindle. Same IP, same household, etc.

    I'm done reading them (6 books, 6 days.) In order for her to read these books, she now has to borrow my iPod. Leaving me without anything Kindle-ized to read unless I want to read her cookbooks on *her* iPod (which I do not.) She reads a lot slower, so at best, it'll be weeks before I get my iPod/kindle back.

    It's pretty annoying. Paper is better, as you can hand off the books to each other. Speaking as someone with a very large paper library.

    I'm pretty much of the mind that one book per household is a sufficient purchase. I'm sure as heck not going to buy each book multiple times.

  • ||

    OK, Ron... In true science fiction fashion, here's an info-dump:

    My 50 favorite science fiction novels of the last 20 years.

    Asher, Neal - Skinner, The
    Asher, Neal - Voyage of the Sable Keech, The
    Banks, Iain - Player of Games, The
    Banks, Iain - Use Of Weapons
    Banks, Iain - Look To Windward
    Barnes, John - Orbital Resonance
    Barnes, John - Kaleidoscope Century
    Barnes, John - Candle
    Barnes, John - Sky So Big And Black, The
    Barton, William - Acts Of Conscience
    Bear, Greg - Queen Of Angels
    Bishop, Micheal - Count Geiger's Blues
    Di Filippo, Paul - Steampunk Trilogy, The
    Effinger, George Alec - When Gravity Fails
    Effinger, George Alec - Fire In The Sun, A
    Effinger, George Alec - Exile Kiss, The
    Egan, Greg - Distress
    Farren, Mick - Long Orbit, The
    Gibson, William & Bruce Sterling - Difference Engine, The
    Grimwood, Jon Courtenay - Pashazade
    Grimwood, Jon Courtenay - Effendi
    Grimwood, Jon Courtenay - Fellaheen
    Kadrey, Richard - Metrophage
    Lethem, Jonathan - Amnesia Moon
    Maddox, Tom - Halo
    Morgan, Richard - Altered Carbon
    Morgan, Richard - Broken Angels
    Morgan, Richard - Woken Furies
    Reynolds, Alastair - Chasm City
    Reynolds, Alastair - Revelation Space
    Reynolds, Alastair - Redemption Ark
    Reynolds, Alastair - Absolution Gap
    Roberts, Adam - Salt
    Roberts, Adam - Stone
    Ruff, Matt - Sewer, Gas & Electric
    Sawyer, Robert J. - Hominids
    Sawyer, Robert J. - Humans
    Sawyer, Robert J. - Hybrids
    Scalzi, John - Old Man's War
    Simmons, Dan - Hyperion
    Simmons, Dan - Fall of Hyperion
    Stephenson, Neal - Snow Crash
    Stephenson, Neal - Diamond Age, The
    Stross, Charles - Atrocity Archives
    Stross, Charles - Singularity Sky
    Stross, Charles - Iron Sunrise
    Stross, Charles - Jennifer Morgue
    Swanwick, Micheal - Vacuum Flowers
    Takami, Koushun - Battle Royale
    Varley, John - Steel Beach

  • Ben||

    Oh, and I second the Good Omens recommendations. Terrific book; much better than the disc world books IMHO. Which is not to say they are bad, just that Good Omens is *terrific*.

  • High Every Body||

    Ben,

    I recall something about other e-books not always being formatted correctly resulting in odd display problems. Have you seen that with Kindle too?

  • lunchstealer||

    I guess I have read a bit of urban-fantasy in the Dresden Chronicles books. Well, I've only read the first one, but eventually I'll pull out the second.

  • ||

    I went to the local Barnes and Noble a couple weeks ago and asked about "Salt." I was told it was unavailable here. Any idea why? Was the clerk wrong?

  • ||

    brotherben,

    It might just be out-of-print in the US. (Roberts is British.)

    You can get a used paperback for the cost of shipping from Amazon Shops.

  • ||

    The Hyperion series is good. Especially the first two books.

    Very true. The Shrike and the Steel Tree still gives me the chills. The third one really fell off.

    SPOILER ALERT:

    I always thought, BTW, that the Matrix really blew an opportunity to steal from the best. The whole farming-humans-as-batteries thing was just jarringly stupid. The Hyperion farming-humans-as-server-farms was much better.

  • High Every Body||

    SugarFree,

    So, you are in on lots of big giant secret stuff, eh?

  • JP||

    I think their formatting is HTMLish, but isn't Kindle the only thing you can download Kindle books with?

    Yes and no. Documents in pretty much any text format can be downloaded and read on a Kindle (I read law-review articles that way). You can thus read anything offered at Project Gutenberg on a Kindle. However, Kindle-ized books sold by Amazon cannot be read on any other device (unless the publisher makes them available that way). But Amazon announced earlier this year that it was going to start making Kindle books readable on other devices.

    I'm pretty much of the mind that one book per household is a sufficient purchase. I'm sure as heck not going to buy each book multiple times.

    Amazon lets you register up to 6 (IIRC) Kindles as part of one "household" if they are all linked to the same credit card on Amazon. Anyone in the same "household" can read books purchased by another person in the household with no added charge, even at the same time.

  • High Every Body||

    JP,

    How is the pr0n adult literature on there? Yes, I KNOW I can go look at the titles, but what about the content?

  • T||

    OK, Ron... In true science fiction fashion, here's an info-dump:

    See, that's useful. A nice list I can peruse and see what interests me.

    How about China Mieville? Anybody got an opinion?

  • Daran||

    I second the Repairman Jack series!

  • robc||

    SugarFree,

    Not to be nit-pickity (okay, I do mean to be that way), but no Cryptonomicon but 2 other Stephenson novels? Really?

  • JP||

    HEB -- I honestly don't know. There does seem to be a lot of it. But I have no idea if it's any good. (That's not my bag, babay.)

  • LarryA||

    On Sunday, I told my wife that I needed a run to Barnes and Noble to stock up on some sci-fi.

    If you had a Kindle, you wouldn't need to run anywhere to stock up on sci-fi. You wouldn't even need to get out of your comfy chair.


    I take it you're single?

    I am not into the post apocalyptic stuff since a lot of it seems to be luddite trash, which to me is like "how is this science fiction, more like anti-science fiction".

    Lucifer's Hammer and Fallen Angels. In both, luddites are the bad guys.

  • High Every Body||

    Not to be nit-pickity (okay, I do mean to be that way), but no Cryptonomicon but 2 other Stephenson novels? Really?

    In advanced defense of SF, I only liked Snowcrash but did not like Diamond Age. Could be quirks about Stephenson's style. Or, maybe the Kentucky book buggie has not gotten the rest of the collection yet for fear of overloading the horses.

  • ||

    Niven--especially his older works--is almost always worth reading.

  • ||

    robc,

    Like the The Baroque Cycle, I waffle back and forth on whether I consider Cryptonomicon science fiction. Snow Crash and it's semi-sequal Diamond Age definitely are. It was a hard call, but World War Z was left off after a similar internal debate.

  • T||

    In advanced defense of SF, I only liked Snowcrash but did not like Diamond Age.

    One comment about Stephenson: he's finally learning how to end his books. Anathem actually had an ending that worked, as opposed to Diamond Age or Cryptonomicon.

  • High Every Body||

    T,

    IIRC, the only thing I really did not like about Snowcrash was the way he ended it.

  • ||

    Sugar f ree,

    Thanks, I guess I'll have to go to the little used book seller. I don't buy things online.(old 3bdrm house with books from wall to wall and floor to ceiling. Very well organised and computer catalogued)

  • robc||

    SugarFree,

    Cryptonomicon is Sci-Fi. The Baroque Cycle isnt. IMO on both.

    I admit that Crypto' is genre straddling, but I think it qualifies.

    Havent read Anathem, but if Stephenson has finally learned to end things, that is a good sign. I thought The Baroque Cycle was better in that regard, but was kind of Return of the Kingish.

    On an unrelated note, Im amazed the way he managed to work minor details from Cryptonomicon into The Baroque Cycle - the best example being when Randy glimpses what looks like two Samurai Swords in the trunk of the Shaftoes' car. Never comes up again, just a mood/character filling decription. Yet, explained by actions in The Baroque Cycle.

  • ||

    I hate series. With the exception of the Amber and Tolkien, I cannot think any that I enjoyed reading the third book.

    Here are some older, more obscure SF books that I enjoyed. I do not know if any are still in print.
    Octavia Butler - Wild Seed
    Thomas Disch - Camp Concentration, On Wings of Song
    Pat Frank - Alas Babylon
    Charles Harness - The Paradox Men
    Edgar Pangborn - A Mirror for Observers
    John Sladek - Roderick, Tik-Tok
    Norman Spinrad - Agent of Chaos, Bug Jack Barron
    George Stewart - Earth Abides
    Wilson Tucker - The Year of the Quiet Sun
    Ian Watson - The Embedding
    Bernard Wolfe - Limbo

  • ||

    Christ, does no one like David Brin any more?

  • ||

    Wilson Tucker - The Year of the Quiet Sun

    An excellent, if mostly forgotten writer. His The Long Loud Silence is a great empty world novel.

  • stuartl||

    So Good Omens lead to Thud! Thud! lead to "there's a whole series?!?!?!". So I started at the beginning, and I haven't made it back up to Thud! yet. I expect it will read much different the second time.

    My son left Thud! around, I read some random pages and was hooked.

    As good as Thud! is, my Favorite Pratchett work is Small Gods. It is one of the best books I have ever read on religion.

  • alan||

    As someone who probably can't read Dune I wonder if I'm just incapable of enjoying science fiction novels. I like to read and write short stories. The concise format forces all details and characterization to be important in the context of the story. Sci-fi novels seem unweildy and awkward.

    That said Chrono Trigger is likely the best sci-fi story ever told. Don't argue, it's just a fact.


    If concision is your thing, Samual Delaney's Nova is about as tightly wound as full length fiction gets.

  • alan||

    Havent read Anathem, but if Stephenson has finally learned to end things, that is a good sign.

    Personally, I find an ending where an eco-terrorist gets snuffed out to be emensely satisfying. On that note, it is time to reread Pournelle's Mercenary.

    However, I get whjat you mean, if I recall the sinking sub and the drowning German character, I recal having an, 'eh,' moment.

    I found Snow Crash to be overrated, and very inconsistent. Plotwise, it was up to graphic novel/cinema standards, as it was originally intended, but in written form it came across as very, very, very lazy.

  • kinnath||

    As good as Thud! is, my Favorite Pratchett work is Small Gods. It is one of the best books I have ever read on religion.

    Best of the 18 that I have read so far. So many of the discworld books deserve to be called great, and yet small gods is way beyond those.

  • alan||

    and Diamond Age, was just creepy. Not in a H P Lovecraft sort of way, but stranger on commute reaching for your junk sort of way. That may not be an apt comparison as it wasn't sexual content in any way except for the stupid drummer subplot that made it creepy. It was more of a, the writer's point of view was fucked in an unpleasant, brown acid manner.

  • ||

    Christ, does no one like David Brin any more?

    The first few Uplift books, first-rate.

    Everything else of his that I've bothered to read, meh.

    And I'm still drooling for the next Malazan book.

  • ||

    Not a lot of stereotypes about libertarians being shattered in this thread.

  • ||

    RC, have you read The Practice Effect?

  • High Every Body||

    I know how silly this sounds, especially here, but are there any Libertopia-type Sci-Fi books out there?

    Not including Ayn Rand, at least I don't think she was really Sci-Fi.

    "The Tomorrow File" by Lawrence Sanders seemed sort of Left-Libertopian, but have not read that in ages.

  • ||

    Brin's never captured my attention much, though I haven't read many of his books. What do you recommend?

    Incidentally, Brin is also one of the few science fiction authors that I've met. I talked to him for a good while at a Cato conference in the late 90s, but we were discussing privacy, not science fiction (he was promoting The Transparent Society at the time).

  • alan||

    Effinger, George Alec - Fire In The Sun, A

    I enjoyed the first one, but did not care for the sequel. The Arab culture was too thinly worked in where everybody sounded like a tough, urban American from a gangster movie.

    Effinger came across as someone who 1) never met an Arab, 2) never met a genuine criminal. I doubt if either is true, he is from New Orleans after all on that last point, but his ear for dialog, and eye for mannerism is tin at best.

  • kinnath||

    Not a lot of stereotypes about libertarians being shattered in this thread.

    I moved out of my mother's basement along time ago. Now I have my own basement to hang out in.

  • ||

    ProL, read the first three Uplift books.

  • alan||

    Not a lot of stereotypes about libertarians being shattered in this thread.

    So, you would respect us more if we more into the journals of brooding belly lint collectors?

  • alan||

    strike that second 'more', less is more, better yet, off with More's head.

  • ||

    The Marid Audran novels are supposed to be a thinly veiled take on New Orleans and are consciously written in a noir style. As for depictions of Arabs, beat's me. It is fairly even-handed considering it relies on broadly drawn characters in the noir mode.

  • ||

    You know, it's a bit of a canard that liking science fiction is geeky, in and of itself. If true, who are the tens of millions consuming all of the science fiction movies, TV, and books? All geeks?

    On the other hand, it does appear to be a gateway drug for many libertarians, which, of course, means that it should be banned.

    Episiarch,

    Very well. But I'll only commit to reading one. [Pause.] Okay, this pisses me off to no end. My library only has Sundiver as a book on tape.

  • ||

    I have the original Sundiver edition, and it is one of the few books I didn't ditch during the move. I'd loan it to you, but you're a Dick.

    You should be able to get a version from half.com for peanuts.

  • ||

    True, I could simply acquire it.

  • kinnath||

    You know, it's a bit of a canard that liking science fiction is geeky, in and of itself.

    My mother got me into Sci Fi with Clarke and Asimov. I now have her hooked on Pratchet.

    My daughter takes all my hand-me-down paperbacks, my son isn't interested.

    Maybe geekness skips generations like baldness.

  • ||

    PL,

    You can get by just reading Startide Rising and The Uplift War. And the 2nd trilogy starts off fine, but goes cosmic towards the end and disappears up its own ass.

    Sundiver on Amazon Shops. Actually, you can get them all super-cheap that way.

  • ||

    Additionally, Effinger's feminism/heroic-fantasy satire Maureen Birnbaum: Barbarian Swordsperson is hilarious.

  • ||

    I can see that once the kids have moved out and my sanity has mostly returned, I have a lot of catching up to do. I haven't read a good deal of what's been discussed here.

    FWIW, I also just picked up Rainbow's End (based on recommendations on H&R) and Stross' Atrocity Archives. Reading Stross now and enjoying it very much.

  • ||

    Sundiver is, at heart, a detective novel, so if you like them, you'll like it. But NutraTool is right that you really can just start with Startide Rising (which is excellent). Brin does a lot of speculative physics, if you like that kind of thing (I do).

  • T||

    And I'm still drooling for the next Malazan book.

    Dust of Dreams, baby. Tentative ship date on this side of the pond is September. As soon as Amazon lets me, I'm pre-ordering.

  • ||

    I'm good either way. Some of my favorite science fiction works are detective stories--The Caves of Steel and a couple of Niven stories come to mind.

  • robc||

    JW,

    As was pointed out to me when I typoed it on a thread some time back it is Rainbows End not Rainbow's End. Big diff in meaning there. :)

  • robc||

    Oh, and my take on Rainbows End: interesting and believable (more and more each day) view of the future, but plotline was kind of stupid.

  • alan||

    The Marid Audran novels are supposed to be a thinly veiled take on New Orleans and are consciously written in a noir style. As for depictions of Arabs, beat's me. It is fairly even-handed considering it relies on broadly drawn characters in the noir mode.

    Yeah, I was aware of his intentions and it worked fine in the first book.
    It was not so much whether he was fair to Arabs or not, but it was a mystery to me how he could be so far off in his depiction. In general, Arabs are like Southerners, polite and indirect, these Bobby De Niros Effinger created were, well, gauche.

  • ||

    were, well, gauche

    Hey, like us.

  • A.G. Pym||

    L. neil Smith has been selling electronic books (HTML format) for years through pulpless.com. Lots of good stuff there.

    Surprised no one gave L. Neil any mentions here, not to mention J. Neil Schulman.

    And why has no one mentioned (save once) that "Good Omens" also features Neil Gaiman, not just Terry Pratchett?

    Bravo to cites of Charles Stross and John Scalzi.

  • ||

    As was pointed out to me when I typoed it on a thread some time back it is Rainbows End not Rainbow's End. Big diff in meaning there. :)

    Oh well then, fuck, I'm not worthy to read it now.

  • kinnath||

    And why has no one mentioned (save once) that "Good Omens" also features Neil Gaiman, . . .

    I haven't read any of Neil Gaiman's other works. After I finish the three dozen discworld books, I plan to check him out ;-)

  • renniejoy||

    HEB,

    Michael Z. Williamson, Freehold

  • ||

    http://www.reason.com/blog/show/132905.html#1258362

    I am surprised as to the degree with which my tastes and those of Mr (or Ms) Sugarfree's do overlap

    >SugarFree | April 15, 2009, 11:45am | #

    >My 50 favorite science fiction novels of the last 20 years.

    >Asher, Neal - Skinner, The
    >Asher, Neal - Voyage of the Sable Keech, The


    I am reading an Asher novel right now having been introduced to him in a short story in Gardner Dozois's "The Year's Best Science Fiction" from this past year.

    I now intend to red his entire back catalog- He has a way with stylized violence and world building.


    >Banks, Iain - Player of Games, The
    >Banks, Iain - Use Of Weapons
    >Banks, Iain - Look To Windward


    Bank's fiction is great of course
    [Consider Phlebas not on your list I see]

    Although I think the man himself would drive me crazy if I was ever to endure his presence.


    >Bear, Greg - Queen Of Angels


    I have enjoyed this novel more each of the three times I have read it, one more than the last.

    >Bishop, Micheal - Count Geiger's Blues

    Bishop is great, although this title; has escaped me.


    >Di Filippo, Paul - Steampunk Trilogy, The


    I always feel "dirty" after reading him, which I guess is his intention :-)


    >Effinger, George Alec - When Gravity Fails
    >Effinger, George Alec - Fire In The Sun, A
    >Effinger, George Alec - Exile Kiss, The


    I need to re-read these. What has it been , 20-15 years since they were published?


    >Egan, Greg - Distress


    I think I might like the _idea_ of Egan more than his actual output. I often wonder when reading his characters, if Egan has actually ever met another human being or whether he himself lives in a simulation.


    >Gibson, William & Bruce Sterling - Difference Engine, The


    I think this book gets overpraised in my opinion. And just like almost every over Sterling book it lacks a proper conclusion.


    >Reynolds, Alastair - Chasm City
    >Reynolds, Alastair - Revelation Space
    >Reynolds, Alastair - Redemption Ark
    >Reynolds, Alastair - Absolution Gap


    I read everything by Reynolds _in hardcover_
    I was only disappointed in Pushing Ice.


    >Scalzi, John - Old Man's War
    >Simmons, Dan - Hyperion
    >Simmons, Dan - Fall of Hyperion


    Not my faves, but should be read by everyone interested in Sci-fi.



    >Stephenson, Neal - Snow Crash
    >Stephenson, Neal - Diamond Age, The


    Two obvious seminal works, I also enjoyed the Baroque Trilogy (cause I am a History Geek too)

    and I spent a month reading Ananthem. Finishing it I felt like I won a marathon.

    A pointless meandering marathon.




    >Stross, Charles - Atrocity Archives
    >Stross, Charles - Singularity Sky
    >Stross, Charles - Iron Sunrise
    >Stross, Charles - Jennifer Morgue


    Stross is an aquaintance once removed from me (although he and I have had one or two sentences together)


    Iron Sunrise is one of the few books that I wanted to throw across the room, I was so annoyed with several plot lines.

    I have to wonder if the novel was all an elaborate joke by a European social democrat on what an expectation of what an American author would write.


    >Swanwick, Micheal - Vacuum Flowers


    The book that led the way beyond the New Wave


    >Varley, John - Steel Beach


    Of all of Varley's work, this was the one I had the most fun with.


    >Barnes, John - Orbital Resonance
    >Barnes, John - Kaleidoscope Century
    >Barnes, John - Candle
    >Barnes, John - Sky So Big And Black, The
    >Barton, William - Acts Of Conscience
    >Farren, Mick - Long Orbit, The
    >Grimwood, Jon Courtenay - Pashazade
    >Grimwood, Jon Courtenay - Effendi
    >Grimwood, Jon Courtenay - Fellaheen
    >Kadrey, Richard - Metrophage
    >Lethem, Jonathan - Amnesia Moon
    >Roberts, Adam - Salt
    >Roberts, Adam - Stone
    >Ruff, Matt - Sewer, Gas & Electric
    >Sawyer, Robert J. - Hominids
    >Sawyer, Robert J. - Humans
    >Sawyer, Robert J. - Hybrids

    I will take your recommendation and read these authors

  • robc||

    A pointless meandering marathon.

    Is that a positive or a negative? No, seriously.

  • ||

    I have to say that I enjoyed Iron Sunrise very much, but I may be a more forgiving reader.

    I didn't enjoy Singularity Sky nearly as much. The antagonists just seemed silly.

    I missed this earlier: Egan, Greg - Distress

    SF, did ever read Egan's Quarantine

  • T||

    Swanwick, Micheal - Vacuum Flowers

    I loved The Iron Dragon's Daughter but haven't gotten around to any of his other stuff.

  • ||

    Another genre that is proving recession proof, at least so far, is romance, for which I'm glad as I'm about to have my first book, a romance novella, published electronically and in print. I need to get a Kindle so I can read my own stuff.

    I need to finish the Baroque cycle. Got through the first, stalled in the second. I liked it, I just...got tired.

    Really, really, really good book I just finished, by a British guy I'd never heard of - Barking, by Tom Holt. A nebbishy British tax/estates lawyer is turned into a werewolf. It's not urban fantasy - more magical realism and laugh out loud hilarious. Lots of sharp social satire, too, though no one does social satire anywere near as well as Pratchett.

    I inhale each Pratchett book as it comes out.

  • ||

    And why has no one mentioned (save once) that "Good Omens" also features Neil Gaiman, . . .

    I haven't read any of Neil Gaiman's other works. After I finish the three dozen discworld books, I plan to check him out ;-)


    My wife and daughters assure me that reading Gaiman's other works would be time well spent. But like you, I need to get through all the Discworld books first.

  • ||

    I think my favorite Gaiman book thus far is Neverworld. The Graveyard Book is up for a Hugo, and it was wonderful, of course. All his books are. I found American Gods the hardest to get through - it had some very unusual, for him, slow spots - but I've never read anything by Gaiman that I didn't enjoy and didn't say, at least three or four times - "damn, that's good. I wish I could think that way."

  • A.G. Pym||

    Forgot to put in a plug for a dear friend of mine who writes in the "urban fantasy" genre: Patricia Briggs, especially the "Mercy Thompson" novels:

    Moon Called
    Blood Bound
    Iron Kissed
    Bone Crossed

    and related, the "Alpha and Omega" book "Cry Wolf". Her older novels are great as well, with some fetching hundreds of dollars on ebay.

    I have the honor to be one of her "first readers".

  • ||

    You're friends with Briggs? That is so cool - she's awesome.

  • ||

    A pointless meandering marathon.

    Is that a positive or a negative? No, seriously



    Honestly, even a month or so after finishing the novel, I cant even say if that was a positive or a negative.

    I feel a sense of accomplishment for just having finished the entire thing but wager I would have been better served by simply reading study of the contrast between Aristotelian and neo-Platonist thought.

    In the case of Ananthem I felt the worldbuilding or perhaps more specifically the neologisms were a serious stumbling block to following the novel.

  • alan||

    Stross is an aquaintance once removed from me (although he and I have had one or two sentences together)

    Orson Scott Card lives in the same small town outside of Greensboro that I do, and I have bumped into him dozens of times. The funny thing though I have never let on I had any clue to his identity except to acknowledge he wrote a column in a locally published computer magazine that was once nationally successful. I would talk to him about that, but avoid any conversation pertaining to science fiction.

    Even in the early nineties when I was sharing drinks with a professor of his, another writer, at a bar and he came over, he had a perplexed look on his face, 'this guy has got to know who I am.' Err, Ender's Game, you say, sounds vaguely familiar.

  • Ben||

    High Every Body wrote:


    I recall something about other e-books not always being formatted correctly resulting in odd display problems. Have you seen that with Kindle too?



    Not in the iPod touch version, I haven't. I have heard, just recently, that the Kindle 2 has some font smoothing issues too. Anyone have 1st hand experience?

    JP wrote:


    Amazon lets you register up to 6 (IIRC) Kindles as part of one "household" if they are all linked to the same credit card on Amazon. Anyone in the same "household" can read books purchased by another person in the household with no added charge, even at the same time.



    Yeah? I'll have to look into that. We've got four or five bankcards on the Amazon account, but they're all on the same account. Maybe that'll work out for us. That'd be great; thanks for the tip.

  • Ben||

    JP,

    Easy as pie... just not obvious. Both of our iPods now have the books we want to read. I thank you for pointing this out to me, and furthermore, my last end-user concern with the Kindle model is alleviated, which is nice when recommending it to others.

    Now if I can just get them to change the royalty structure so my literary agency's authors are paid a little better, I'd be totally happy.

    BTW, if anyone cares, the iPod/iPhone Kindle application is stellar. I love the thing. Reading on the iPod Touch, the battery lasts about 8 hours, more than enough to finish a book or get the device to the charger as a matter of course.

  • JB||

    Wow I could recommend way too many.

    Currently, I'm reading The Reality Dysfunction by Peter Hamilton. Very, very good.

  • Rick Barton||

    Ah! Government engendered recessions are good for something after all!

  • Ben||

    Some personal recommendations:

    Cyberpunk:
    ----------
    Neuromancer / William Gibson
    Count Zero / William Gibson
    When Gravity Fails / G. A. Effinger
    Snow Crash / Neal Stephenson

    Adventure:
    ----------
    Galactic Odyssey / Keith Laumer
    The Musashi Flex / Steve Perry
    Berserker / Fred Saberhagen
    Sector General / James White

    Hard SF:
    --------
    The Two Faces of Tomorrow /James P. Hogan
    Protector / Larry Niven
    Cryptonomicon / Neal Stephenson
    Surface Tension / James Blish

    Classics:
    ---------
    Dune / Frank Herbert
    Black Easter / James Blish
    Age of the Pussyfoot / Frederick Pohl
    Stranger in a Strange Land / Robert A Heinlein

    Fantasy:
    --------
    Assassin's Apprentice / Robin Hobb
    A Wizard of Earthsea / Ursula K. LeGuin
    Good Omens / Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett
    A Voyage to Arcturus / David Lindsay

  • ||

    So now that real SF is becoming popular again, the SciFi Channel has decided to "broaden" its base and change its name to SyFy, opening the door to more "reality show" dreck, more creature de jour and disaster de jour marathons, more wrestling, and more "action" fantasies such as "Dick Tracy." Vaya con dios, SyFy. Maybe now somebody will start a real SF network that won't bury a show like "Charlie Jade" in the 3am Tuesday morning slot.

  • ||

    I loved "The Difference Engine," wish there had been sequels, and am still looking for the poster version of the original hardcover artwork.

    I recommended Benford's "Timescape" to a student at my wife's school just a few weeks ago.

    "Snow Crash" is a favorite of my son's, which last year became a favorite of mine, as well.

    "Stranger In A Strange Land" and "Time Enough for Love" are essential Heinlein, of course. I also enjoyed his "Waldo" and "Starship Troopers."

    LeGuin's Lathe of Heaven was one of those books that take you on a trip without drugs; I think such stories used to be called "mindbenders..." Another such book ... even further along the continuum, was PK Dick's "Valis."

    Asimov's "Bicentennial Man" remains a memory yet green, so much better than the Robin Williams movie as to prove the latter guilty of vandalism of intellectual property. Harrison's "Make Room, Make Room" and the "West of Eden" series were interesting and thought provoking.

    Turtledove's "Guns of the South" is one of the few books I have bought replacement copies of, after "permanently lending" my own to friends.

    Thomas M. Disch's short stories always interested me more than his novels. "Problems of Creativeness" and "The Man Who Had No Idea" were among my favorites. If you can find a good anthology of his short-story work in the used book stores, pick it up.

    I need to read Stephen Baxter's work more comprehensively. "The Time Ships" and "Manifold: Time" are the only two books of his that I have read so far, but I can recommend them without reservation. His take on H.G. Wells in the former is especially interesting.

    Arthur C. Clarke's "Childhood's End" and his novelization of the "2001" movie were early influences of mine and still memorable after all these years. I also read Daniel Keyes' "Flowers for Algernon" during the same period; the novel came from a short story and after many years, I still don't know which version I appreciate more: the short story has more punch but the novel has more depth.

    Gad. Hundreds, maybe thousands of books and almost as many authors. I'll have to give this more thought and come back with recommendations that aren't so much off the top of my head. It is interesting to see what others like.

  • ||

    Not a Libertarian but I'll Grant that You Might Have a Point There,

    All man, baby.

    Although I think the man himself would drive me crazy if I was ever to endure his presence.
    I'm not so bad. Most of my on-line assholery comes from the fact that I switch between sincerity and savage sarcasm without signaling. In real life, I'm better at it.

    [Consider Phlebas not on your list I see]
    Didn't make the 20 year cut…

    >Bear, Greg - Queen Of Angels
    Did you ever read /(Slant)? It's a sequel of sorts.

    >Bishop, Micheal - Count Geiger's Blues
    It's kind of hard to find. It came and went without a trace. The main character is an art professor dosed with radiation who gains super powers but is dismayed to find that his powers are only recharged by "low art" like wrestling and reality TV.

    I was only disappointed in Pushing Ice.
    Me too.

    >Barnes, John - Orbital Resonance
    >Barnes, John - Kaleidoscope Century
    >Barnes, John - Candle
    >Barnes, John - Sky So Big And Black, The
    Barnes, much like Varley, is in the small sub-genre of science fiction that deals with/subverts/ re-imagines Heinlein. These four are his "answer" to the Past Through Tomorrow future history cycle. Orbital Resonance and Sky So Big And Black are actual Heinlein-esque juveniles.

    >Barton, William - Acts Of Conscience
    Morals-exploring SF, much like Banks best work. The rest of Barton's work is good, but it is very disaffected and not to everyone's taste.

    >Farren, Mick - Long Orbit, The
    Late stage cyberpunk, a little light reading, but enjoyable.

    >Grimwood, Jon Courtenay - Pashazade
    >Grimwood, Jon Courtenay - Effendi
    >Grimwood, Jon Courtenay - Fellaheen
    A re-imagining of Effinger's Marid Audran novels, but not really obvious about it.

    >Kadrey, Richard - Metrophage
    Cyperpunk/ artpunk oddity. But fun.

    >Lethem, Jonathan - Amnesia Moon
    Philip K. Dick pastiche

    >Roberts, Adam - Salt
    >Roberts, Adam - Stone
    Literary SF: Salt is about a resource war that breaks out between a rigid theocracy and an anarchist art community on a colony world. Stone is a rather vicious satire on Banks' Culture novels.

    >Ruff, Matt - Sewer, Gas & Electric
    Lunatic. The SF romp that Tom Robbins never got around to writing.

    >Sawyer, Robert J. - Hominids
    >Sawyer, Robert J. - Humans
    >Sawyer, Robert J. - Hybrids
    Very straight, but well done SF. A parallel world where homo sapiens died out rather than Neanderthals punches through to our world and the two culture interact.

  • ||

    JW,

    SF, did ever read Egan's Quarantine

    Yes. I've read Egan up to Schild's Ladder, but I consider the virtual reality stuff to have a steep slope of diminishing returns.

    Distress without being really obvious about it, is a pretty hard takedown of Luddites and their semi-mystical view of the world.

  • ||

    T,

    Swanwick, Micheal - Vacuum Flowers

    It's late stage cyberpunk. Humans have been evicted from the Earth. You can program personalities, even overlay completely artificial ones (Much like Dollhouse.) Mars is one big Communist planet. Most of the rest of the Solar System is corporate dominated city-states with a mostly anarchist populance.

  • ||

    I apologize for my horrible grammar, diction, spelling, and punctuation in the preceding three posts. My sleep patterns are erratic this week.

  • alan||

    I apologize for my horrible grammar, diction, spelling, and punctuation in the preceding three posts. My sleep patterns are erratic this week.

    Didn't even notice, man. Thanks for the recommendations. I'll hunt down the titles of which I'm not familiar. What is interesting to me are some of the names not on it. I think we must have similar hates. Oh yeah, we talked about Robinson a few weeks back, for one ;)

  • ||

    High Every Body:

    "I am wearing dead cow boots right now."


    I am wearing dead cowboy boots right now.

  • wizard of oz books||

    With many new announcement about the wizard of oz movies in the news, you might want to consider starting to obtain Wizard of Oz book series either as collectible or investment at RareOzBooks.com.

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