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Musing Mondays: Science Fiction Recommendations

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Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week

• Describe one of your reading habits.
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it!
• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
• Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!
• Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!

Musing Mondays is a meme from shouldbereading.wordpress.com



Card - Enders GameIt's Musing Monday, time for some book-related musing. I was recently contacted by a woman who is just becoming interested in science fiction and wanted some book suggestions. I sent her some, off the top of my head, and want to recount them here. Keep in mind that this is far from a complete list; it's just the books that occurred to me first.

We had already discussed Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card, which was the first science fiction book she had read. It was what got her interested in reading more. And we had talked about the Stargate SG-1 series (for books and television) because she knew I was working on a Stargate book. Specifically, she asked for a list of the top ten best science fiction books. I refused to give her one. I didn't want to be restricted that way. For one thing, researching to come up with some "definitive" list would be time-consuming. Besides, there are just so many good books out there that it's always hard to narrow it down to a limited number. So this list is an arbitrary one; I don't claim that these are the best science fiction books out there, just that they're some of my favorites.

Below are some excerpts from what I sent her. (Some of them are paraphrased; I've added a bit, as well.)
Leguin - Left Hand of Darkness

Musing About Science Fiction Books (Some Fantasy, too)

My own tastes may not be mainstream. By that, I mean that I don't like some of the books that are considered classics in the field, often because they were written at a time when most science fiction books were incredibly sexist, and that just annoys me. So I tend to read more recent works; that said, there are some older books I'd recommend too. I'll focus on some authors to look for, and a book or two of each that I'd suggest. Of course, your choices will depend on exactly what kinds of books you like.

Ursula LeGuin is one of the masters of the field, and has more Best Novel Nebula Awards than any other author. She writes both science fiction and fantasy, and she does both well. For science fiction, I'd recommend one of her best-known books, Left Hand of Darkness, which won both the Nebula and the Hugo Award for Best Novel. I also particularly liked The Dispossessed. (If you like fantasy, too, read her Wizard of Earthsea series.) But really, anything by LeGuin is worth reading.
Willis - Doomsday Book
Do you like time travel? Some of the best time-travel science fiction is by Connie Willis. In most of her time-travel books, university history professors and grad students learn about different time periods by traveling back to them. Great stuff! The Doomsday Book, about the Black Plague, is excellent and won a ton of awards. It's intense and sad and gripping. If you prefer something lighter and funnier, try To Say Nothing of the Dog. I also liked her more recent books about World War II and the London Blitz: Blackout and All Clear.
McDevitt - Seeker
For space opera (big-scale space battles and such) look for anything by Jack McDevitt. He does a terrific job with this kind of adventure book, making them intelligent and thought-provoking as well as exciting. And he handles female characters particularly well. McDevitt has been nominated for the Best Novel Nebula Award eleven times, which is more than any other author. His novel, Seeker, won both a Hugo and a Nebula.

Joe Haldeman's Forever War and the sequel Forever Peace were inspired by his tour of duty in Vietnam and are heavy-hitting military science fiction, but thoughtful and complex. Both have won multiple awards and are considered classics.
Turtledove - Guns of the South
For alternate history (a branch of science fiction that typically takes a historical event, changes one crucial point, and then lets it play out as it would have if that one thing were different) you've got to read Harry Turtledove, especially my favorite, Guns of the South, a very well researched Civil War novel -- except that time-traveling white South African militants have traveled back in time to equip Robert E. Lee's Confederate troops with AK-47s, in order to change the course of history. Their intent is to keep Africans enslaved, but they fail to take into account Lee himself, who was no fan of slavery.

Elizabeth Moon has done a lot of science fiction as well as fantasy. For her science fiction, one of my favorites is a really interesting book called Remnant Population. A colony on a distant planet is being evacuated, but one old woman refuses to leave her home, and hides until the ships have gone. I enjoyed reading a book whose protagonist is an elderly woman. You don't see that a lot, especially in science fiction. Also worth a look: The Speed of Dark. This near-future novel, informed by Moon's experiences as the mother of an autistic son, has Lou, a high-functioning autistic young man as its main character. It explores the ethics of "curing" the condition. A possible cure for autism is available, but it could change who Lou is and how he sees himself. Should he undergo the treatment? This Nebula Award winner is a fascinating look at life through the eyes of a remarkable young man who doesn't fit society's vision of what's normal.
Aldiss - The Dark Light Years
An older book: Brian Aldiss has a terrific little first-contact book called The Dark Light Years. I liked it because the aliens are intelligent but utterly alien (as opposed to Star Trek aliens who look and act pretty much like humans, but with matching skin-tight clothing and funky foreheads) and because I thought the humans' reactions to them were entirely believable.

Anne McCaffrey is well known for her Pern dragon fantasies, which are wonderful. But she has written other books as well, including an excellent series of four science fiction books, beginning with Freedom's Landing. (All of the books in the series have Freedom in the title.)
Mccaffrey - Freedom's Landing
I'm sure there are many more I could add to this (some Jules Verne, perhaps, as an example of some wonderful old classics that hold up pretty well today) but it's a start. Another place to look for suggestions could be the list of novels that have won a Nebula Award and the list of novels that have won a Hugo Award in past years.

And feel free to comment if you'd like to add more books to the list. As I said, I never meant this to be comprehensive. In fact, in writing these down I've thought of so many more I probably should have included, but if I tried to add every science fiction book I've loved, I would never finish this list!

Happy Reading!