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

 

BEAR, Greg

War Dogs       2014

Dispatches style ground-view narration of Space Marine on old-school SF Mars battlefield only about a century ahead

 

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

 

WAHLOO, Per

Murder on the Thirty-first Floor  Crime / SF - Dystopia 

Unengagingly dry narration of bland urban dystopia within standard crime framework

 

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

 

 C-

 

PRATCHETT, Terry   

and Baxter, Stephen

The Long Earth    2012   

Very little Pratchett here. Moderately workable idea of parallel earths, but ill-disciplined pace – long, uninspired tangents

 

 

 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