Several months ago, I asked readers of this blog to put forth their suggestions of ‘first-step’ Science Fiction novels, those books that they’d recommend to readers looking to explore the genre for the first time.
Glancing back at that post, and recently writing a review of Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey (which will be published tomorrow), I was reminded that my own experience with and knowledge of Science Fiction is sadly limited, despite my early love for the genre (I read a fair bit of Science Fiction as a child, but then I found The Hobbit and forgot about spaceships for many years.) To that end, I’ve decided that the second half of 2011 should be devoted to filling in some of those holes. Perusing that list, I’ve gone ahead and put together a selection of novels I hope to tackle over the next several months (just after I finish A Dance with Dragons, that Fantasy juggernaut). It looks thus:
- The Warrior’s Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold — Thanks to Baen’s Free Library (where many of Baen’s novels are available as free eBook downloads), I’ve recently come to own nearly every one of Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan novels. The Warrior’s Apprentice seems like the most likely place to start to explore Bujold’s Science Fiction, but there’s also Shards of Honor, which seems to use the same setting as the Vorkosigan novels, and was published first, but doesn’t feature the titular character. Decisions, decisions.
- Dune by Frank Herbert — It’s, well… Dune. It’s a huge, gaping, ugly, embarrassing hole in my reading. What more is there to say?
- Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin — Like Herbert, this is just an egregious omission. I love what I’ve read by Le Guin, I adore her posts on Book View Cafe, and, from everything I’ve read about it, The Left Hand of Darkness sounds like a wonderful journey.
- The Forge of God by Greg Bear — I’m a sucker for first-contact stories and curious to see Bear’s solution to the Fermi paradox.
- Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson — Like first-contact novels, I’m also a huge fan of novels dealing with the human need to constantly expand and grow outside the boundaries of what we know. I loved Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin and am very curious to read a more in-depth exploration of how Earthlings might terraform and eventually thrive on Mars.
A few others on my list:
- Light by M. John Harrison
- The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
- Hyperion by Dan Simmons
- Embassytown by China Mieville
The purpose here is to feel more confident in my relationship with Science Fiction by the end of the year. As you can see, however, this list is chock full of doorstopper novels (Dune, Red Mars and Hyperion in particular), which isn’t very conducive to a quick exploration of the genre. I’d love to read some Peter F. Hamilton, for instance, but I could read several short novels in the time it takes me to read the three enormous volumes in The Night’s Dawn trilogy. So:
What have I missed? What Science Fiction novels or short stories do I need to read before the end of the year to consider myself a true fan of the genre?
And, also, which shorter SF novels or (even better) short fiction could I add to that list to fill in the gaps — books to fill in the gaps between the heftier tomes?