Science Fiction 101
Instructors: Shawn Boyles, Steve Diamond & Nick Dianatkhah
Course Info: What you can expect from this course is a selection of recommendations from your instructors to give you a doorway into the science fiction genre.
Introduction: As we did with the University of Fantasy series, we wanted to give our readers who wanted to expand their horizons (or just nibble a bit) in the Science Fiction genre a good starting place. This is not to be taken as a list of the best books in the SF genre (though many books on the list are excellent). Instead this is a "If you're new to SF and want a good start" type of list. The novels on this list should be easily accessible to anyone who picks them up. The weird sciency stuff doesn't overwhelm and the geek factor should be relatively low. If you have a friend or neighbor who doesn't really read SF, these would be a good place to start their conversion process. Enjoy.
In our University of Fantasy entries, we each made a few selections. That won't be the case here. Together with one of our newer reviewers, Shawn Boyles, we talked much more about what to include here. It was one of those "Go Team" moments. We even had a group hug after. Honest. Shawn really took the lead here, because he likes SF better than we do. Kudos to him for justifying nearly all of these picks.
ENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card:
This book could very well be the SF 101 course in and of itself. For anyone who has ever thought of reading SF, and has wondered where to start, this is THE book. It's a fast fun read with excellent characters and a killer plot. It won both the Hugo and the Nebula and it is rumored to be one of the most stolen book in school libraries around the country. It's one we have each read several times. The other novels in the series never even come close to ENDER'S GAME in terms of quality, because it is just THAT good.
WALLS OF THE UNIVERSE by Paul Melko:
This is a recent addition (it came out a year and a half ago). It is here because of it's accessibility. It's about a boy who meets a version of himself from another reality. The main character gets tricked into going to another reality, and then spends the rest of the book trying to get home. the reason it is so accessible is because all of the earths our hero visits are just variations on our own earth. The science is light and most of the book is about the character. It's also a lot of fun trying to see the hero try and make a quick buck by inventing pinball in a universe that has never seen it before.
I, ROBOT by Isaac Asimov:
This is the SF books that our parents game to us to get us started on the genre, and it worked. I, ROBOT is a series of Asimov's robot stories (and has almost nothing to do with the movie of the same name. The book is WAAAY better). We feel that Asimov is at his best in short stories and these are among the best the genre has to offer. They are simple, beautiful, touching and frightening in equal measures.
HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY by Douglas Adams:
Come on. You knew this was going to be on this list. This is an amazing starter book because it doesn't try and cram SF down your throat and make you take it seriously. The book doesn't even take itself seriously. It's a comedy about the end of the earth and the last two humans to survive. It's also about a two headed three armed president of the universe, trans-dimensional mice, endless paperwork and the answer to life the universe and everything. A pure fun read. Just remember, DON'T PANIC!
DIVING INTO THE WRECK by Kristine Kathryn Rusch:
We reviewed this novel back when it came out last year. If you want a complete view of why we loved it, go check out our review HERE. In short, and like many of the novels contained in this list, we love this novel because it take no effort to enjoy. It is deep-sea wreck diving put in space. Completely awesome. Rusch doesn't try to make you feel like you need an advanced degree in physics to understand the story, which is a nice departure from what a lot of SF tries to do.
STARSHIP: MUTINY by Mike Resnick:
Really, any SF by Resnick fits here. You want popcorn SF? Look no further. His pacing is always lightening-quick, and fueled by adrenaline. We reviewed the finale to his STARSHIP series HERE. Go check it out to see why Resnick hits the right notes for us.
So what do you all think? Is there anything you think should be worthy of SF 101? If you justify your suggestion in a way we like, we might even add it to this list...
Science Fiction 101