SF

Science Fiction, Spaceships, Alternative Worlds, Aliens, Conspiracy, Cyberpunk, Supernatural, Futures, Alternative history, ‘Weird’, Horror…

 

 A+

 

BANKS, Iain M.    

Use of Weapons (Culture series)    1990

Brilliant style, mood, climax: stinging best of an excellent series

 

CARD, Orson Scott    

Ender’s Game (Book 1 of the Ender saga)      1985

Classic, clever taut plot, powerful convincing brutal narrative

 

                                                                    

 A

 

ADAMS, Douglas 

The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (A Trilogy in Four Parts)    1979, 1980, 1982, 1984 Humour/SF

A must read/listen to

 

Life, The Universe and Everything (The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy 3)  1982

Clever, funny, original, post-modern themes

 

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency   1987     Humour/SF

P.G. Wodehouse meets Dr. Who: a complete pleasure

 

ANDERSON, Poul

My Object All Sublime      1961     Short Story/SF

In ‘The Giant Book of Science Fiction Stories’

Killer twist

 

CLARKE, Arthur C.    

Childhood's End         1953

      Wow

 

LEWIS, C.S.   

Voyage to Venus (or Perelandra) 1943

Christian insights in imagined dialogue with contemporary unfallen Eve

 

 

 A-

 

ASIMOV, Isaac     

Second Foundation    1964

Dramatically the best of the series

 

BANKS, Iain (Iain M. for SF)  

The Algebraist      2004

      Banks is very good

 

DOZOIS, Gardner  (Ed.)   

The Year's Best Science Fiction, Ninth Annual Collection    1991     SF/Short Stories

Best of 1991. Consistently good

 

HARRISON, Harry

A Stainless Steel Rat is Born 1985

Excellent prequel to the consistent humorous series

 

LE GUIN, Ursula K.    

Semley's Necklace (in ‘The Wind’s Twelve Quarters’)   1964     Short Story/Fantasy/SF

Wonderful evocation of a fantasy legend somehow effectively incorporating SF elements

 

The Left Hand of Darkness     1969

Manages a rare gravity and dignity

 

ROBINSON, Kim Stanley       

Red Mars   1992

Impressive epic of colonisation of Mars – depth in characters, setting and plot

 

SMITH, E. E.

Gray Lensman      1951     SF

Politically/socially juvenile, but fantastic scope and originality

 

 

 B+

 

ADAMS, Douglas 

The Long Dark Tea-time of the Soul   1988

Somewhat surreal second ‘Dirk Gently’ novel

 

Mostly Harmless   1992     Humour/SF

Enjoyable hotchpotch of action, humour, SF satire and post-modern philosophy

 

ASIMOV, Isaac     

Foundation     (Book 1 of the Foundation trilogy) 1951    

A decent idea competently realised, if a bit repetitive

 

BANKS, Iain M.

The Player of Games (Culture series)  1989

Typically sophisticated and striking ‘Culture’ novel

 

Feersum Endjinn (Culture series-ish)   1994

Potentially great book (ride, ideas, characters) reduced to very good by plot

 

BEAR, Greg    

Blood Music    1985

Genetic thriller apocalypse odyssey

 

BRADBURY, Ray  

The Day it Rained Forever      1959

Richer moods than the usual SF single idea short stories

 

CARD, Orson Scott    

The Speaker for the Dead (Book 2 of the Ender saga)      1986

Flawed overpopulated sequel, but some great lines given to the Speaker

 

Seventh Son (The Tales of Alvin Maker 1) 1987

Messianic child magic in US pioneering alternative history

 

Prentice Alvin (The Tales of Alvin Maker 3)     1989

Magical/messianic Alvin moves into manhood. Series back on track

 

The Memory of Earth (Volume 1 of Homecoming) 1992     SF

Intriguing deep future saturated in Old Testament flavour, characters and dilemmas

 

CHERRYH, C.J.    

Gate of Ivrel (Book 1 of The Chronicles of Morgaine)  1976

1st of the dark, compelling, morally tortured ‘Morgaine’ series

 

Well of Ishiuan (Book 2 of The Chronicles of Morgaine)         1978

2nd of the dark, compelling, morally tortured ‘Morgaine’ series

 

Fires of Azeroth (Book 3 of The Chronicles of Morgaine)  1979

3rd of the dark, compelling, morally tortured ‘Morgaine’ series

 

Cukoo’s Egg   1985

Unusually tight (for Cherryh) story of a human raised in a demanding alien discipline

 

DOYLE, Arthur Conan     

The Lost World     1912

The unforgettable Professor Challenger finds living dinosaurs!

 

The Poison Belt    1913

Classic SF model – a short story based around a daunting ‘what if’

 

FFORDE, Jasper  

The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next, Book 1)   2001     SF/Humour/Crime

As good as, worse and better than Adams or Pratchett

 

The Big Over Easy      2005     SF/Humour/Crime

Another enjoyable excursion

 

GIBSON, William 

Neuromancer  1984

Groundbreaking cyberpunk, wild ride, ultimately shallow characters

 

HARRISON, Harry

The Stainless Steel Rat     1961

Classic likeable master-thief in comic but workable SF environment 

 

The Stainless Steel Rat’s Revenge     1970

Enjoyable James Bond/Pimpernel farce in space ships

 

The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World 1972

Enjoyable James Bond/Pimpernel farce in space ships

 

Stainless Steel Visions     1994

Ranging between action, humour, comment – pretty consistent

 

Galactic Dreams    1994

Ranging between action, humour, comment – pretty consistent

 

HERBERT, Frank  

Dune    1965

Original. Grand

 

HOWEY, Hugh

Wool    2013     SF/Action

Unapologetically formulaic, but cohesive and engaging

 

HUXLEY, Aldous  

Brave New World 1932

Disturbingly relevant extrapolation to a dystopic ultimately permissive society 

 

KRESS, Nancy     

Crossfire   2003     SF

Old school SF without the wafer thin characters

 

LEWIS, C.S.   

Out of the Silent Planet    1938

Characters personify philosophical viewpoints in a classically Wellsian setting

 

That Hideous Strength      1945

Lewis incorporates his love of Christianity, renaissance angelic conceits and Merlin in SF conspiracy novel

 

LOVECRAFT, H. P. with DERLETH, August

The Lurker at the Threshold   1968     Short Stories/Horror/SF

Original. Not ‘boo!’ horror, but creeping suspicion that there’s something much bigger than humanity out there

 

MARTIN, George R. R.

Tuf Voyaging 1978-1985 SF/Short Stories

Some flaws, but one good thriller and a couple of fascinating themes

 

MAY, Julian

The Many Coloured Land (Book 1 of the Saga of the Exiles)       1981

Wonderfully original and potent opener to ultimately disappointing series

 

McINTYRE, Vonda N.

The Moon and the Sun     1997     Historical Fiction/SF

Cleverly evoked ‘What If’ SF/French court romance hybrid. Condescending historical revisionism

 

SHELLEY, Rick

Eyewall     1991     SF/Short Story

(in The Giant Book of Fantastic SF; Ed. Gardner Dozios)

Able development of a scientific idea into a story

 

SIMMONS, Dan          

Hyperion   1989

Space Opera Canterbury Tales

 

Ilium    2003     SF

Starts pretentious, but becomes potent, epic and thrilling

 

STURGEON, Theodore

The Dreaming Jewels       1950     SF/Novella

Mixed treasure: sometimes soars, but climax descends into cliché

 

VINGE, Vernor

A Fire Upon the Deep       1992

Very impressive ideas. Much of the ‘ride’ a bit dark/frustrating

 

WELLS, H.G.  

The First Men in the Moon     1901

Ripping yarn, good characters, robust alien culture, integrated thought-provoking issues

 

WILLIAMS, Walter Jon     

Prayers on the Wind   1991

(in The Giant Book of Fantastic SF; Ed. Gardner Dozios)

Capable dramatic yarn in a largely Hindu syncretic future

 

WILLIS, Connie

Doomsday Book   1992     SF / Historical Fiction

Two concurrent storylines: one mired in triviality and stereotype; the other powerful and affecting

 

To Say Nothing of the Dog     1997     SF / Humour

Light comic SF. Usable Wodehouse characters and settings around passable Dr Who premise

 

WYNDHAM, John

The Day of the Triffids      1951     SF

Nothing like the monster/horror ride I was expecting: intelligent, thought-provoking post-apocalyptic issues

 

Consider Her Ways and Other Stories      1956     SF (Weird)/Short Stories

Able ‘weird’ tales around slips in time or parallel universe

 

ZELAZNY, Roger       

A Night in the Lonesome October      1993     Fantasy/SF/Juvenile (and adult)

Charming, able – ‘light’ horror?

 

 B

 

ALDISS, Brian     

Helliconia Spring (Part 1 of the Helliconia trilogy) 1983

Two sentient pre-industrial species wax and wane with eon long seasons

 

Helliconia Summer (Part 2 of the Helliconia trilogy)    1985

Two sentient pre-industrial species wax and wane with eon long seasons

 

Helliconia Winter (Part 3 of the Helliconia trilogy) 1989

Conclusion to epic series: odd slide into technologically advanced human interference

 

ALDRIDGE, Alan  

The Gnole 1991

Inconsistent Pastoral/Supernatural/Conspiracy fantasy

 

ASIMOV, Isaac     

The Early Asimov, Volume 2  1940s

Definitive magazine SF, individual stories around a novel idea

 

I, Robot     1950

Average characters and dialogue flesh out novel dilemmas from the ‘three laws’ of his anthropomorphic robots

 

Foundation and Empire    1962

More episodes in the galactic history of peoples guided by a statistical seer

 

AUEL, Jean M.

The Clan of the Cave Bear 1980

Epic around a Homo sapiens heroine raised by Neanderthals

 

BANKS, Iain M.

Consider Phlebas (Culture series) 1987

Great start, impressive mythos, laboured & silly final third

 

Inversions (Culture series) 1998

Clever structure but less compelling than usual

 

CARD, Orson Scott    

Red Prophet (The Tales of Alvin Maker 2)  1988

Fairly surreal US magical alternative history

 

The Folk of the Fringe      1990

Post nuclear WWIII US Mormons survive like early settlers

 

Pathfinder (Book 1)     2005    

Promising opening premise and characters, but descends into silliness and transcriptions of discussions of draft ideas

 

CHERRYH, C.J.    

Hunter of Worlds   1976

Moral dilemmas involving aliens and action

 

The Faded Sun: Shon’jir  1978

Human interaction with the last of a proud, ruthless species

 

The Pride of Chanur   1981

A spaceship captain discovers a new species during an uneasy peace

 

Serpent’s Reach    1981

A surviving noble seeks revenge through alliance with an intelligent ant-like race

 

CLARKE, Arthur C.    

2001 A Space Odyssey     1968

An interesting foil to the movie (it’s based on the screenplay)

 

Imperial Earth 1977

I don’t recall much but I must have liked it enough to keep it

 

DICK, Phillip K.    

The Simulacra      1964

This guy had six impossible ideas before breakfast...,

 

DOYLE, Arthur Conan     

When the World Screamed           1928

Professor Challenger in an oddly Gaia setting

 

The Disintegration Machine         1929

Striking spin on how far scientists are responsible for the application of their research

 

FFORDE, Jasper  

Lost in a Good Book (Thursday Next, Book 2)            2006     SF/Humour

Funny, original, but poor plot and villains

 

GREENBERG, Martin H. (Ed.)      

The Giant Book of Science Fiction Stories    1986     SF/Short Stories

101 1950s-70s magazine SF stories

 

HARRISON, Peter F.

The Evolutionary Void      2010     SF

Some great ideas better as short story 'what ifs'; juvenile dialogue and perspective 

 

HARRISON, Harry and HOLM, John  

King and Emperor (The Hammer and the Cross – Book 3)      1996

Alternative history set in 800s, plays with anachronistic technology and grail theories

 

LEE, Tanith    

The Silver Metal Lover      1982

Teen romance in a Blade Runner-ish setting

 

LE GUIN, Ursula K.

April in Paris (in ‘The Wind’s Twelve Quarters’)      1962     Short Story/SF

Competent early Le Guin magazine time travel ‘what if’; understandably (and unusually) twee

 

NAYLOR, Doug    

Last Human (Red Dwarf series)     1995     Humour/SF

OK if you’re in the right (undemanding) mood

 

NIVEN, Larry  

The Flight of the Horse     1974     SF/Fantasy/Short Stories

Pretty average pulp apart from the enjoyable ‘Glass Dagger’

 

RODDA, Emily     

Finders Keepers    1990     Juvenile/SF

OK theme, ideas, execution

 

TILLEY, Patrick         

Cloud Warrior (The Amtrak Wars: Book 1)      1983     SF

      Boy’s own conflict between post apocalyptic pioneering/marine US, Amerindian and samurai Japan style cultures

 

First Family (The Amtrak Wars: Book 2)    1985     SF

      Boy’s own conflict between post apocalyptic pioneering/marine US, Amerindian and samurai Japan style cultures

 

Iron Master (The Amtrak Wars: Book 3)     1987     SF

      Boy’s own conflict between post apocalyptic pioneering/marine US, Amerindian and samurai Japan style cultures

 

VANCE, Jack  

The Dying Earth    1950     SF/Fantasy

      Future magic more than spaceships

 

The Star King (Demon Princes, Book 1)    1964     SF

      Too long ago, can’t remember

 

Araminta Station (The Cadwal Chronicles, Book 1)     1988     SF

      Nice mythos, original (if arrogant) characters, some punch

 

WEBER, David     

On Basilisk Station     1993     SF (Military)

Right wing colonial future war story

 

ZELAZNY, Roger

Damnation Alley   1967     SF

Post nuclear WWIII US action movie road trip. Usable mood/action, romanticised bikie hero, ending inconsistent with imagined world

 

ZINDELL, David         

The Broken God (Book 1 of A Requiem for Homo Sapiens)   1993    

Impressively original and grand ideas but ultimately absurd hubris

 

 

 B-

 

ANDERSON, Poul

Ensign Flandry     1966     SF

OK SF action, but a bit childish with a dodgy political subtext

 

BRADBURY, Ray  

Quicker than the Eye        1996     SF/Short Stories

Sentimental, indulgent, average

 

FFORDE, Jasper

The Well of Lost Plots (Thursday Next, Book 3)    2003     SF/Humour

Has Thursday Next jumped the shark?

 

KING, Steven       

The Gunslinger     1982/2003(Revised)           SF/Fantasy

Impressive façade

 

LAWHEAD, Stephen   

Dream Thief    1983

Heavily influenced by Lewis’ Christian fiction and Asimov’s settings and cardboard characters

 

NATION, Terry & HOYLE, Trevor 

Blake’s 7   1977

Awful cashing-in novelisation of TV show (at times bad enough to be good)

 

POHL, Frederik    

Outnumbering the Dead   1990

Relatively shallow future utopia

 

 C+

 

VANCE, Jack  

Ports of Call    1998     SF

Pretentious expression, light comic prurience and violence

 

WOLFE, Gene      

Soldier of the Mist 1986

Unusual, based around several interesting ideas but rarely gripping

 

 C

 

ASIMOV, Isaac     

Foundation and Earth 1986

Overlong self-indulgent immature money-spinner

 

ELTON, Ben

Blind Faith 2007     SF/Novel

1984 template to hypocritically vilify facebook and religion 

 

HERBERT, Frank  

Dune Messiah 1969

Disappointing sequel. Supposedly wise characters uninspiring. Random action, rambling dialogue.

 

SHELLEY, Mary

Frankenstein   1816     SF

Great concept, tedious, shallow execution

 

SIMMONS, Dan          

Phases of Gravity 1989

Promising much, ultimately delivering pap

 

 D

 

BOVA, Ben     

Moonwar   1998

Immature sloppy gratuitous SF thriller

 

CHERRYH, C.J.    

Rusalka     1989

Frustratingly boring (and finally just boring) novel of indecision

 

Tripoint     1994

Melodramatic bilge, characters we’re supposed to respect are pathetic

 

RANKIN, Robert         

Armageddon the Musical 1991     Humour/SF

Poor, seedy, charmless Pratchett copy

 

D-

 

WATSON, Ian

Space Marine        1993     SF (Military)

Ultra SF violence with a veneer of philosophy

 

 

 F

 

ELWOOD, Roger  

Angelwalk       1988

Clumsy ignorant self-satisfied middle-American nominal bigotry