Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Science Fiction for Young Adults: A Recommended List

What books can we give our teens that don't mire them in a swamp of  vampires, domineering wizards or nostalgia for feudalism? These are a few of my personal science fiction favorites for young adults, weighted more toward SF and a little common sense mixed with lots of sense-o-wonder. Many are classics that I grew up with...along with some marvelous recent additions.

Adams, Douglass: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Seconds before Earth is destroyed to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is saved...for a hilarious journey across space and time.

Anderson, M.T.: Feed A futuristic consumer-mad world where news and advertisements are fed continuously to the brain--till a hacker disrupts the flow during a teen trip to the moon...


Anderson, Poul: The High Crusade Nominated for a Hugo Award. An alien spaceship from the Wersgorix Empire lands in 14th century England during the Hundred Year's War. Adaptability plus stubbornness tilt the odds! (Any book by this author will please a bright teen.)

Anthony, Piers: A Spell for Chameleon A humorous fantasy, from the Xanth series. Every citizen possesses magical powers, except for our young hero, Bink.

  • The Source of Magic Bink and his friends set off on quest to determine the source of Xanth's magic, when they encounter unexpected enemies. And worse puns.


Asaro, Catherine: Quantum Rose  This Nebula Award winner is a retelling of the Beauty and the Beast, incorporating quantum science and hard science fiction elements.

Asimov, Isaac: The Caves of Steel A murder mystery, set in a far future, when vast domed cities house an over-populated Earth. Detective Elijah Bayley teams with a humanoid robot to solve the crime.
  • Foundation Trilogy Gibbon's Decline of the Roman Empire with an interstellar twist. The Galactic Empire is going to fall, but Hari Seldon has a plan. Vast in scope. (Later concluded by us Killer B's).
  • I, Robot Selected stories about humanity's future love/hate relationship with our artificial friends.

51G8vz8lVnLBacigalupi, Paolo: ShipBreaker presents a gritty near-future world where young people work long hazardous jobs scavenging beached oil tankers among the drowned cities of the Gulf Coast. Nailer makes an unexpected find which will change his future…
  • The Drowned Cities is the companion book, telling the story of refugees trying to survive in an America suffering from the effects of climate change and flooded cities. 

Barnes, John: Orbital Resonance Through our 13-year old protagonist, Melpomene Murray, Barnes presents a riveting portrayal of life in space aboard the Flying Dutchman, an asteroid colony  which supplies the overpopulated home planet Earth.

Baxter, Stephen: The H-bomb Girl An alternate history look at the Cuban Missile Crisis through the perspective of a teen girl living in a gritty Liverpool in 1962.


Bear, Greg: Dinosaur Summer In a world where Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World actually happened, only one dinosaur circus remains on Earth. Fifteen year old Peter Belzoni sets off on an expedition to return the creatures to the wild.


Benford, Gregory: Against Infinity A coming of age story of a young man on the icy surface of Ganymede, searching for a dangerous alien artifact that haunts the dreams of humans.

  • The Jupiter Project A teenage boy has spent his entire life on The Can, a scientific station orbiting Jupiter--looking for signs of alien life.
 
Bester, Alfred: The Stars My Destination A classic of Science fiction, this is a story of revenge. Gulliver Foyle, left stranded in space, is determined to track down those responsible.
  • The Demolished Man Winner of the first Hugo Award in 1953. Ben Reich intends to commit murder in a world where crime is virtually unheard of, due to Espers, telepaths who can probe the inner reaches of the mind.
 
Bradbury, Ray: The Martian Chronicles A short story collection about the colonization of Mars, as terrestrial expeditions set off to explore the planet, often with devastatingly poignant consequences for the native inhabitants.
  • Fahrenheit 451 A chilling future dystopian world where "firemen" ransack houses, looking for forbidden books to burn. Often assigned reading in many classrooms.
 
Brin, David: Glory Season Genetic engineering has largely reduced the role of males on planet Stratos--ruled by clans of cloned females. Young variant twins, Leie and Maia set off to earn their fortunes in a world where they don't quite belong, uncovering their world's role in a wider human cosmos.

The Postman After much of America has been devastated by war, a wanderer comes across an abandoned mail truck and finds long abandoned letters...and delivers hope to isolated towns. (Okay, that's a self-plug. But lots of kids prefer the lighter tone in The Practice Effect!


Butler, Octavia E. Parable of the Sower Set in a future dystopian America, the book tells the story of an 18 year old woman with hyper-empathy syndrome -- who assumes the pain of others. 

Card, Orson Scott: Ender’s Game Boy genius Ender Wiggin trains to save the world from alien Buggers. A blatant "chosen one" fantasy that appeals to the Harry Potter "I'm a demigod" reflex.


 
Cherryh, C.J. : The Chanur Saga These novels tell the story of the alien races that make up The Compact, a spacefaring civilization and their first contact with a human. (Any book by this author will please a bright teen.)

Christopher, John: Tripods Trilogy  Humanity has been conquered and enslaved by aliens who travel in giant three-legged machines--and control the minds of humans.


Clarke, Arthur C.: Childhood’s End Just as Earthlings are about to launch their first spaceship, alien invaders, the Overlords appear, imposing peace and a golden age. And yet...


Clement, Hal: Mission of Gravity An adventure story told from the point of view of an alien living on the planet Mesklin, venturing from the extreme gravity of the poles to the low gravity of the equator--as they encounter human visitors seeking a lost probe.

Collins, Suzanne: The Hunger Games Sixteen year old Katniss is forced to represent her district, by competing in the televised Hunger Games--a fight to the death contest for survival.


deCamp, L. Sprague: Lest Darkness Fall is the classic timeslip tale about an achraeologist who finds himself in 435 CE Rome. Can he stop the Dark Ages from coming? Terrific. Started the modern era of "Connecticut Yankee" tales.


Dick, Philip K.: The Man in the High Castle Hugo Award winning alternate history, that tells the story of life after World War II if the Axis powers had won, occupying America. For that history buff!
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? A post-apocalyptic story of the near future. Bounty hunter Rick Deckard tracks down and kills escaped androids. Served as the basis of the film, Bladerunner.

Doctorow, Cory: Little Brother After a terrorist attack on San Francisco, a group of teens are taken into custody by the Department of Homeland Security. After his release, 17 year old Marcus Dallow uses his computer expertise to take down the DHS.


Farmer, Nancy: The House of the Scorpion In the land of Orpium, an opium-producing estate between Mexico and the United States, a drug lord enslaves illegal immigrants, through chips planted in their brains. Our protagonist, Matt, has been raised as a clone for organ replacement.

Gaiman, Neil: The Graveyard Book To escape the clutches of Jack the man who killed his parents, Nobody Owens was raised in a graveyard--learning history from the ghosts among the headstones.


Harrison, Harry: The Stainless Steel Rat A great joyride fantasy for teens who like to think they're smarter than civilization or the law. Take a master thief. Turn him into a supercop. Way fun!


Heinlein, Robert: Tunnel in the Sky Teens who want jobs in space must spend a week surviving an alien world, but what if they're stranded? Heinlein's answer to Lord of the Flies.
  • The Door into Summer Brilliant time travel tale. Great predictions about robots. Just a super yarn--one I read aloud to my kids.
  • Farmer in the Sky Teenager Bill Learner and his father leave over-crowded Earth to emigrate to the farming colony on Ganymede--in the process of being terraformed. The harsh reality is not quite as Bill imagined...
  • The Star Beast Heinlein's mastery of point of view at its best. Lummox had been a family pet, growing increasingly cantankerous--until aliens arrive with a demand.
  • Red Planet Mars, Mars, Mars - done by the master.
  • Podkayne of Mars Podkayne Fries, a bright young woman, dreams of becoming a starship pilot. She and her genius brother travel from their home on Mars to Earth. Some female readers cringe, but others say Heinlein nailed it. You decide.
Henderson, Zena: Ingathering Henderson's classic "The People" novels--about alien refugees stranded and hiding on Earth--is a bit languid by modern tastes, but deeply moving and thoughtful. Personal and character-driven portrayals. 

Herbert, Frank: Dune A Hugo and Nebula Award winner: the story of the desert planet Arrakis and its complex ecology and struggles between the House Atreides and the dreaded Harkonnen. Demanding but detailed, for bright kids.


Huxley, Aldous: Brave New World A dystopia fast becoming more likely than 1984. Also more fun, but creepy. Thought provoking and on college reading lists.


Laumer, Keith: Earthblood and Reteif's War and The Great Time Machine Hoax are all great fun.


Le Guin, Ursula: The Earthsea Trilogy If you must have imperious secretive wizards, at least make them self-consistent and well-intentioned. Le Guin's fantasy world of Earthsea.

  • The Lathe of Heaven A young man  has effective dreams that change the world when he wakes. A doctor schemes to manipulate dreams for his own purposes.
  • The Dispossessed Le Guin's exploration of a non-Marxist Anarch-Socialist society, with all its pros and cons. Her best book.

Matheson, Richard: The Incredible Shrinking Man The basis for the movie of the same title, Scott Carey mysteriously begins shrinking to encounter ever-larger dangers looming in the world.


McCaffrey, Ann: The Ship who Sang A second life opens for a crippled woman, to live as a starship. But first she must choose a human partner. (Any book by this author will please a bright teen who likes a very personal-feminine style.)
  • Dragonsong Not fantasy! Dragons, lords, arts and crafts... all the fantasy "furniture...  but genuine sci-fi about a human colony knocked flat but determined to rise up again. They want science back...while riding dragons!

McDevitt, Jack: The Engines of God Two archeologists struggle to preserve the alien artifacts on planet Quraqua before terraforming destroys all traces of the alien civilization--which may hold essential clues to humanity's survival


Mieville, China: Railsea A fully imagined take on Herman Melville's Moby Dick -- melded with the stark landscape of Duen. Hunters ride criss-crossing railways, seeking whale-sized moldywarpes, or giant moles -- in particular the great white! 

Miller, Walter: Canticle for Leibowitz Must civilization fall? Brilliant stories about the few who maintain candles in the darkness after nuclear war.


Niven, Larry: Ringworld The Hugo and Nebula Award winning story of a vast habitat larger than a million earths! Stunning ideas!

Nix, Garth: Shade’s Children Evil overlords rule the Earth, and no child is allowed to live past their fourteenth birthday. Gold-Eye escapes his fate, meeting up with other refugees. Will they be able to destroy the Overlords?


Norton, Andre: The Stars are Ours No one wrote escapist adolescent adventure in space better than Andre Norton. Her Young Adult novels were legend, and SFWA's YA award is named after her.
(Any book by this author will please a bright teen.)

O’Brien, Robert: Z for Zachariah Sixteen year old Ann Burden has been left completely alone after a nuclear war, until a stranger enters her remote valley...


Palmer, David: Emergence A bionuclear war has killed over 99% of earth's population. Candida, an eleven year old girl is among the few who remain--who soon discover they are the next phase of human evolution.


Panshin, Alexei: Rite of Passage A multi-generation colony ship tests its youth by casting them out to survive for a month of Trial upon the hostile colony worlds. Truly the classic YA science fiction novel and a pioneer at the young-female point of view.

Pangborn, Edgar: Davy A post-apocalyptic novel, which follows the adventures of Davy, as he escapes life as an indentured servant in a church-based society that suppresses technology.


Piper, H. Beam: Little Fuzzy Nominated for a Hugo Award, this classic by H. Beam Piper explores the discovery of a sapient race on planet Zarathustra--previously believed devoid of intelligent life. Oh... features the cutest lil' aliens you ever met.

  • Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen Korean War veteran Calvin Morrison is caught up in a passing Paratime Patrol time machine, and sent to a parallel time track, the feudal kingdom of Hostigos, where he becomes Lord Kalvan, "inventor" of gunpowder and champion of freedom against the Cult of Styphon. (Any book by this author will please a bright teen who likes action adventure in space.)

Pratchett, Terry: The Color of Magic The first of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels offers a light-hearted spoof of fantasy. (Any book by this author will please a bright teen who likes groaner humor.)


Sargeant, Pamela: Earthseed To save the remnants of humanity, Ship was launched, containing the DNA of Earth's flora and fauna, as well as children created from the genes of the starship's builders. To prepare for colonization, these teenagers are sent to a final test, a competition within the Ship's hollow--which pits friends against friends.

Scalzi, John: Zoe’s Tale A first person narrative, told from the point of view of teenager Zoe Boutin, who travels with her adoptive parents to establish a new colony on Roanoke, struggling against hostile aliens.


Sheckley, Robert: Store of the Worlds Sheckley's stories are classic, and great to read aloud to your kids.


Sleator, William: The Last Universe  A story inspired by the uncertainties of quantum mechanics. Susan and her invalid brother, Gary, discover an ever-changing garden which allows them to access parallel universes.

  • Interstellar Pig Barney is sucked into an addictive role-playing game called Interstellar Pig--when he begins to wonder if it is a game after all..
 
Smith, E.E. “Doc”: The Skylark of Space A classic from the pre-Golden era of 1930's Sci-Fi. Terran genius Dick Seaton and his violinist girlfriend shake up the galaxy.
  • The Lensman Series Humanity rocks! We're the great hope for goodness across the galaxy. Our uber-sheriffs take on the ancient baddies from Boskone!

Stewart, George: Earth Abides In this post-apocalyptic story, most of humanity has been wiped out by pandemic. Ish Wiliams emerges from his solitary cabin to find the land deserted... almost. A gentle, thoughtful book, easy to read but very literary.


Sturgeon, Theodore: More than Human This Science Fiction classic tells the stories of six outcasts with special gifts. When they 'blesh'  or blend their abilities, they can obtain superhuman powers.


Tevis, Walter: The Man Who Fell to Earth Alien Thomas Newton arrives on Earth, hoping to construct a spaceship to rescue the rest of his civilization and transport them to earth. He is discovered, setting off waves of paranoia and distrust.


Tolkein, J.R.R.: The Hobbit Classic fantasy...the tale of Bilbo Baggins and his quest. Prequel to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series.


Varley, John: Red Thunder China and the United States are in a space race to reach Mars. Teenager Manny Garcia and friends meet a brilliant inventor who has developed a 'squeezer' that can power a spaceship. They set off to win the race to Mars.

Verne, Jules: Verne wrote brief, captivating "go there" adventure tales that still read well. Choose a direction: up, down or into the sea and Verne's intrepid adventurers head that way! But his Captain Nemo, in 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, was a character with tragic depth.


Weber, David: Mission of Honor The Honor Harrington series typifies the Space War Sci Fi genre. Other authors along this vein include Dave Duncan and Lois MacMaster Bujold.


Wells, H. G.: The Time Machine One of the earliest works of science fiction, this classic tale by H.G. Wells tells of the Time Traveller, who journeys into the far future to meet the placid Eloi who live on the surface and the oppressive Morlocks who live underground.

  • The Invisible Man A dark tale of a scientist who discovers a potion to render one invisible. He tries it on himself; at first he feels invincible, but the consequences eventually drive him mad.


Westerfield, Scott: Uglies A future dystopian world where everyone undergoes extreme cosmetic surgery at age sixteen to render them beautiful. But our protagonist, Tally Youngblood rebels against this imposed conformity...

  • Leviathan This steampunk novel presents an alternate history of World War I, pitting the Central Powers and their steam-powered war machines, against the British Darwinists, who have genetically modified animals for fighting. Our protagonist, the son of Archduke Franz Ferdinand rides into battle on the Leviathan, an enormous biological dirigible.

Wilhelm, Kate: Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang The Hugo Award winner. This post-apocalyptic novel centers on a surviving community. Finding themselves infertile, they turn to cloning, which leads to a stagnant society. Until a teenager, Mark seeks another way....


Wylie, Phlip: The Disappearance This book follows two worlds that split from ours. In one, women learn to get along without men (it's difficult in the 1950s, but do-able).  In the other, men start out better but find it harder to make it alone!

  • When World's Collide (written with Edwin Balmer) This was huge in the 1960s. Two planets enter the solar system. One will smack Earth. The other might replace it. Can teams build space arks to cross over in time?
 
Wyndham, John: The Day of the Triffids A post-apocalyptic novel. Bill Masen awakes in the hospital to find he is the one of the few who can see, while most of the population has been blinded by a meteor storm. He must survive giant walking, stinging plants, Triffids, who wage war upon a collapsing civilization.
  • The Chrysalids (Re-Birth) In the aftermath of a devastating nuclear war, a rigid religious civilization has arisen which persecutes anyone with genetic deformities. Our protagonist, David Strorm, discovers he has unusual telepathic abilities, and escapes with others to the Fringes, where he contacts a more advanced society.

LordLightZelazny, Roger: Lord of Light Set on a Hindi-settled world, this book introduced us in the 1960s to many eastern concepts, amid a great (if philosophical) action-packed adventure. Zelazny's "Amber" series rollicked with sword fights across countless parallel worlds.


Other very reliable authors worth a look for young adults: Nancy Kress ("Beggars" series), Alan Dean Foster's "Flinx" series, David Gerrold's "Bouncing Off the Moon" series and Erik Flint's "1632" series. Look them up!


I have mostly left out fantasy, but some are epochally good! For example William Goldman's "The Princess Bride" is by far the best book to read aloud to kids. It was designed for that exact purpose. Do this at least with the first big chapter.  Simply do it.  Right now.


For those young people ready to transition into the really thoughtful, grownup stuff, these authors pack in mind-stretching ideas:  Kim Stanley Robinson, Vernor Vinge, Robert Sawyer, Neal Stephenson, Iain M. Banks, Charles Stross, John Varley, Kay Kenyon, Greg Egan, Russell Hoban, Frederik Pohl, James Tiptree (Alice Sheldon) and so many others.


Science Fiction and Fantasy are the twin genres that still supply the vastness of imagery and wonder that filled the tales of human cultures stretching back to Achilles and Gilgamesh. But what a pity if kids only wallow in images of faux-feudal nolstalgia-romances.


Turn their gaze down the road ahead of them! A road filled with dangers, opportunities and possibilities. Into a future they will imagine, and then boldly make come true.



Books for Younger Readers


Cooper, Susan: The Dark is Rising

Coville, Bruce: My Teacher is an Alien


Dickinson, Peter: Eva


Duane, Diane: So You Want to be a Wizard


DuPrau, Jeanne: The City of Ember


Gaiman, Neil: Coraline


Haddix, Margaret: Running out of Time


L’Engle, Madeleine: A Wrinkle in Time


Lowry, Lois: The Giver


Pfeffer, Susan Beth: Life As We Knew It


Pinkwater, Daniel: Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars


Pratchett, Terry: Only You can Save Mankind


Pullman, Philip: The Golden Compass


Schusterman, Neal: The Dark Side of Nowhere


***********************************************



GreatestSFReadingLIstSee also a list of my personal favorite Science Fiction novels

 More Lists of Recommendations for Young Adults:


The Golden Duck Awards


Young adult: Speculative fiction


Science fiction & fantasy: Books for teens


From io9: List of young adult science fiction


Worlds of Wonder: Science fiction for teens


Plymouth Library: Young adult list


From Jeffrey Carver: Recommended science fiction & fantasy


Hoagie's Gifted Education: Science fiction & fantasy favorites


From Tamara Pierce: Young adult science fiction & fantasy


From Tor books:  A young adult reading guide 

86 comments:

matthew said...

Don't forget Vernor Vinge! A Fire Upon the Deep has two great YA role models. And great aliens to boot.

And Clive Barker's The Thief of Always is one of the best YA fantasies / horror storries of all time.

sparecake said...

Dang that list brought back some memories. Every book/author on that list that I recognize, I loved.

TheMadLibrarian said...

I suggest the YA trilogy by Kenneth Oppel: Airborn, Skybreaker, and Starclimber. More alternate history, where air travel is accomplished by dirigible, strange life forms populate the upper atmosphere, and unobtanium is used to create a beanstalk!

TheMadLibrarian

tautu: Drumming that accompanies ritual tattooing

Mitchell J. Freedman said...

No Kornbluth? No Pohl? Rather surprising, that. My son, when in eighth grade, read Man Plus by Pohl and was knocked out by it. Same with The Space Merchants. (Yes, he loved The Postman, as does his Mom and Dad!).

Happy that the Pratchett Johnny Maxwell series made your list. When my son was in sixth grade, he read and loved all three of the Johnny Maxwell series books.

David Brin said...

For two decades I've been involved in projects to help engage young readers with science fiction, from the AboutSF and Reading for the Future programs to my own WoW Prize and helping establish the Andre Nortion Nebula Award for Young Adult SF.

After years replying to personal queries I finally compiled my own recommended reading lists for Young Adults as well as elementary and middle school kids. I hope they prove useful. Good sci fi correlates with vigor, creativity and success, not only for young readers, but for any civilization!

Tony Fisk said...

I remember some of these! (eg 'Rite of Passage') Oh, the things you find in the shelves of regional librariies!

Lists like this are always going to raise some objections! (It's part of the fun!!)

So, odd that you choose 'Childhoods End' over 'Islands in the Sky'. The former might be for a 'younger reader', though.

Likewise, recommending the downer Earthsea trilogy without referring to its more upper sequels (Tehanu, Tales of Earthsea, the Other Wind) is pandering to youthful angst. Then again, it leads 'em on...

Pulman's Golden Compass trilogy can be read at a number of levels, particularly the last one.

Who else can I suggest?
- I recall Alan E Nourse with some fondness (Star Surgeon in particular: an alien intern battling interstellar disease, sentient viruses... and racial intolerance!)
- Heinlein, of course, could fill a teen sf book section on his own! (also add 'Citizen of the Galaxy')
- For the younger reader, 'The Happy Planet' by Joan Clarke is worth grabbing, if you ever come across it.
- also a bit of a rarity is Terry Dowling's 'Rynnosseros' series. Who can resist a mysterious landscape where speeding charvolant sand yachts speed across dusty red landscapes dotted by dreaming belltree AIs and peopled by a race of snooty aboriginal superbeings, who seem to have a tiger by the tail?
- Michael Coney's 'Hello Summer, Goodbye' is a poignant coming of age tale, set at a time of transition that doesn't turn out as expected.

That'll do for now,

Abilard said...

Thank you for posting this! My oldest is reading The Hunger Games now and I think it is the first book to really catch his imagination. I don't think he is quite old enough for The Postman, however. ;-)

Robert said...

You know, it was Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time that got me into science fiction to start with. For the longest time it's been a personal favorite of mine. And while it may deal with spiritual subjects, the discussion of dimensions was a fascinating method of dealing with geometric concepts as they relate to space and time. ^^

That, and "tesseract" is just a fun word all around. ;)

Rob H.

Tony Fisk said...

The back-cover description of 'Hunger Games' chills me.

Then again, I thought 'Anansi Boys' was a distinctly creepy proposition as well to begin with! (it's actually quite funny! I particularly like the account of how Spider stole the tales from Tiger, and why this is a Good Thing)

Tim H. said...

Alan Dean Foster's Humanx commonwealth universe is very good, especially the pip and Flinx stories. James P. Hogan's giants novels are also worthwhile.

Carl M. said...

Need Heinlein's "Orphans of the Sky." and "Between Planets" to the list.

You need to add Jean Sutton's works to the list as well, if copies can be found. I particularly like "The Programmed Man."

Ben Bova's "Exiles from Earth" was packaged as a juvenile read and I enjoyed it back in 6th grade or so. Gordon Dickenson and Jack Williamson also had some younger fiction that might be worth adding to the list.

Tacitus2 said...

Superb list. Many fond memories.

If you let a little more "fantasy" sneak in alongside Tolkein I would stand up for Lloyd Alexander's Chronicals of Prydain series. And not only for our occasional poster who is named after Taran, the main character!

The 4th and 5th books in the series are near perfect, and the conclusion of the 5th and last actually attains literary perfection. Sad, happy, an ending that is unexpected and....right.

And never, even in these lesser times, assume that a young adult can't read things at the adult level. Kids who enjoy reading at all are a select group.

On the parental balance sheet I can claim three first rate readers (youngest turns 18 next week!). Thousands of bed time stories with a cast of "voices" that in my prime must have been a couple of dozen!

Tacitus

Gilmoure said...

So glad you mentioned David Palmer. For those not familiar with his work, he writes in the style of Heinlein and came up with a great character in Emergence.

A second vote for Man Plus and Heechee books. I suddenly understood why Mom was so paranoid about insurance.

Fountains of Paradise as a way to get kids to think of what may be possible in their lifetimes.

I do like the EarthSea books because they showed that there was no dark side or evil but what Man did. And there were consequences for every action. So much cooler than the HP books Magic Sprinkles kinda stuff.

LarryHart said...

This might be slightly off your stated topic, but I can't recommend highly enough Isaac Asimov's collections of ESSAYS. Not "fiction", but compelling enough even for the novice to science to remain rivited.

Many years later, I still fondly recall his explaination of the discovery of vitamins, and how that word survives the fact that they are no longer limited to the "amine" group. And how follow-up statement: "We've known for 400 years now that 'oxygen' is a misnomer, but what are you going to do?"

rewinn said...

Great! Now I have a whole bunch more books to put on my reading stack ;-)

May I also suggest a bit more in the "Connecticut Yankee" genre:

"Lest Darkness Fall" - L. Sprague De Camp - an modern engineer is zapped back to Rome just before Belisarius; can he stop the Dark Ages?

"The Other Time" - Mack Reynolds & Dean Ing - a modern archaeologist is zapped back to Aztec Mexico; can he save civilization from the barbarian Spanish?

I don't know whether de Camp & Reynolds read as well today ... character development is not their strong suit ... but I enjoy the problem solving! De Camp's "The Falliable Fiend" may be formally fantasy but treats demon etiquette in a near-scientific way, and Reynold's "Mercenary/Gladiator" series could be made into a miniseries with only minor changes.

Le Guin's "The Left Hand of Darkness" is hard to beat as an exploration of friendship and gender roles in a way that only SF can.

A mature teen could get quite an essay out of comparing "Starship Troopers" with Haldeman's "The Forever War", especially considering their author's respective IRL wars. The SF we're going to get from the GWOT clust*rf*ck will be mindblowing.

---

"The Graveyard Book" felt so familiar until I realized: it's a Goth "Kim"!

"The Door Into Summer" has a minor conceit in the title - that when you open a door for a cat, it expects summer outside or it's your fault! - which we all know is NONFICTION ;-)

'Childhoods End' finishes with Earth's children wandering around apparently in a daze, but actually with their minds on another plane of reality ... clearly predicting the iPod!

renato martins said...

Great list! I'd add"Stars in my Pocket like Grains of Sand", by Samuel R. Delany.

Jeff said...

for younger readers, you need to include Suzanne Collins' "Underland Chronicles" (Gregor the Overlander, etc.)

For more mature teens, include Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality series.

In the main list, include Taylor Anderson's "Destroyermen" series and Neil Gaiman's "Stardust" and "Neverwhere."

Jao Romero said...

there is yet to be a a hard sci-fi YA book that has hit big today the way HP and Twilight has hit the YA market.

in a forum i'm a a member of, where most members are of the YA demographic, my posting on science-y stuff hardly elicits any replies, much less understanding.

BADKarma! said...

I'd like to add AE Van Vogt and FM Busby (anything by either of them).

Robert said...

Great list!

I'd add some Vance, especially "Emphyrio". The Demon Princes series should probably wait until college.

I'm glad to see that you included Ursula Le Guin, and even happier to see a poster add "The Left Hand of Darkness". Her good stuff is very good indeed, and shouldn't be ignored because she perpetrated the Norton Anthology (speaking of books that should not go on a YA recommended list).

"Childhood's End" remains my favorite SF book of them all (maybe a tie with "Emphyrio"). I'd add "The City and The Stars".

Nice to get off of politics for a little while, too.

Anonymous said...

I cannot recommend David Weber's Safehold novels enough. Honor Harrington's science may go over the head of some younger readers, but the series that starts with "Off Armageddon Reef" is an insight into the nature of good and evil, faith and honor. Concepts that will not be lost on the younger audience.

And it has pirates. How cool is that

Larry Rubinow said...

Relegating Terry Pratchett to "will please a bright teen who likes groaner humor" is horribly unfair. Just as one non-Disc example, "Nation" is touching, heartbreaking, funny, and overflowing with new ideas that any young reader could ruminate on for days or weeks afterward.

sociotard said...

5 ways we ruined the Occupy Wall Street generation.

Michele Lee said...

Maria V. Snyder came out with a really great SF YA book last year about class warfare on an isolated spaceship.

Also I was recommended the City of Ember books when I asked for recommendations earlier this year.

sociotard said...

I think that David would like this comic, by an 87 year old man. It's a little autobiography and it touches some themes I think he'd appreciate.

http://i.imgur.com/Cpdaq.jpg

sociotard said...

The city of Ember books are interesting in taht the characters actually have flaws. They recognize these flaws and they try to work on them, but they still lapse, and keep working on them. That isn't something you see often in YA lit.

Andrul said...

I still have fond memories of reading Octavia E. Butler's Patternist series, especially Patternmaster, Mind of My Mind, and Wild Seed. I listed them by publication date but they are reversed chronologically. I recommend reading the third first and the first last.

And Mr. Brin, Practice Effect is still as readable to me today as it was almost 30 years ago when I bought the hard cover that's sitting on my shelf. I've never regretted buying one of your books.

sociotard said...

An article about iceland that the bankers and oligarchs don't want you to read.

Why Iceland Should Be in the News, But Is Not By Deena Stryker

Posi said...

I was expecting to come in to be upset ... but you included Little Fuzzy, so you get a big hug instead. This is a really excellent guide to books for Science Fiction, a lot of them I've read, many I have on my future reading list. Thanks for spending the time to make this great list!

Anonymous said...

Excellent list and not just for kids, young adults, and college students. Many of these book's can be read over and over again. Asimov in particular not only wrote science fiction. The Grand Master tackled many things, including Shakespeare. Childhood's End has been credited as being a book that introduced and turned readers on to science fiction. Shameless plug, but The Final Arbiter, written by Mark Rivera, tackles issues related to the disabled and disenfranchised coping in a world becoming dehumanized through rhetoric and procedure that has been described in reviews and by readers alike as being chillingly realistic and original. The book is available at retailers on and offline globally.

Ed said...

Nice to see nods to Doctorow and Westerfeld. I give Westerfeld's books to teens all the time in my library. He owes me a kickback.

John Stanton said...

For your consideration:

John Christopher -- The White Mountains
Arthur C. Clark -- The Nine Billion Names of God
Charles DeLint -- The Little Country
Walter M. Miller -- A Canticle for Leibowitz
Norman Spinrad -- The Iron Dream
Neal Stephenson -- Snow Crash
Jack Vance -- The Dying Earth
John Varley -- Shadow of the Torturer
Vernor Vinge -- True Names

A few are too short to be considered a book, but I read and loved most of these as a child or young adult.

rewinn said...

Not SF because it's real: Quantum Levitation of Stephen Colbert's ice cream just might get someone interested in "how the heck does *that* work?"

(It takes a couple of minutes to get to the point, but trust me, if you haven't seen the effect before you will be boggled!)

Tony Fisk said...

@JohnStanton: a correction. Shadow of the Torturer was written by Gene Wolfe.

To refer to early Pratchett as 'groaner' humour is fair enough but does no justice to the way his style develops. Later discworld books develop a much more biting satirical edge, and *brilliant* twists to stock fantasy characters (eg Lord Vetinari is not your average feudal overlord. His way of maintaining a semblance law and order is... interesting).

'Good Omens' should get a mention as well: Pratchett *and* Gaiman take on the Antichrist. Hellhounds never had it so good!

KWillow said...

I have read almost all of the book you listed, and intend to read the others!

First though, I'm going to re-read "Earth". After reading about, and watching videos about the police violence agains OWS protesters, I was reminded of your tale of the War with the Zurich Gnomes (won by Good guys, temporarily). It does look like some sort of war is shaping up. I hope, in the end the Police will take the side of The People.

KWillow said...

....and another thing, Garth Nix's "Keys To The Kingdom" series is VERY good. Fascinating, funny, and chockablock with literary references. Excellent for the kids, young adults and Old Adults like Me.

Anonymous said...

I'd add two by Cory Doctorow: Little Brother and For the Win. Both had me staying up to finish them, but (more importantly) both had some of my kids doing the same thing.

GypsyComet said...

The Telzey Amberdon stories from James Schmitz, as well as "The Witches of Karres".

I see someone else has already mentioned Alan Dean Foster.

Doug S. said...

The Color of Magic is not the Terry Pratchett book I'd put on a list like this. They should start with Mort.

David Brin said...

I had fond memories of the Telzy series... bought the first one for my daughter... and found them godawfully atrociously written, almost to the point of unreadability!

We must have been desperate, in those days. Or real good at skimming to the good parts.

Tony Fisk said...

Inner googling:

On seeing the name Telzey Amberdon, I recall that I read the 'The Lion Game', but not much about the story itself, and had no great inclination to seek out the others in the series.

Interesting to compare with 'The Happy Planet': an obscure one-off novel which I read when 10. Don't recall the plot in detail (something about authoritarian society sending an expedition to check out conditions on a 'ruined' Earth. They find a restored world with primitive but idyllic lifestyle. Do they report it?). I do recall that I re-read it several times, so it must have had something going for it.

Joshua Kronengold said...

Er...Bujold is not Space War! She gets covers that kinda look like that, but the the Vorkosigan books are very much something else. Really good, though.

steve davidson said...

An absolutely fantastic list.

I'm curious about your introduction and guessing that you are making a case for instilling a respect for science and realism over 'magical thinking'; what's that Jesuit quote about young children's minds...?

Tony Fisk said...

Are there any anthologies that could be included?

LarryHart said...


Childhood's End has been credited as being a book that introduced and turned readers on to science fiction.


It was the first science-fiction novel I ever read. I was lucky enough to have a sophomore-year high school English teacher who taught a unit on science-fiction.

Does anyone remember that Star Trek:TNG episode with Picard's brother the grape-grower when Picard was recovering from his Borg encounter? At the very end of that episode, there's a little scene of Picard's brother watching his young son sitting outside watching the stars and dreaming, and it was just the PERFECT expression of hope and wonder as a kid that age is awakened to the potentialities the world has to offer. That was exactly how I felt reading "Childhood's End" as a teenager in 1976.

LarryHart said...

Tony Fisk:

Are there any anthologies that could be included?


Dr Brin included "I Robot", although I suppose a collection of stories by one author is something different from an anothology?

There was an anthology series called "Orbit" (each one followed by a number, "Orbit 1", "Orbit 2", etc) that my dad used to read in the 1970s. I'd personally recommend the "Orbit 4" collection for its inclusion of "Probable Cause" by Charles Harness. It covers a wide range of themes from ESP to the Lincoln assassination to the US Supreme Court in an absolutely riviting story. Might be my favorite sci-fi SHORT story of all time.

LarryHart said...

KWillow:

First though, I'm going to re-read "Earth". After reading about, and watching videos about the police violence agains OWS protesters, I was reminded of your tale of the War with the Zurich Gnomes (won by Good guys, temporarily).


What seems more prophetic to me is the explanation in the book that the Bad Guys FORCED a war by intentionally co-opting or assassinating any politicians who might have worked out an orderly solution.

A certain amount of that seems to be going on as we speak. Or at least (to quote Dave Sim quoting Alan Moore), "Like any good story, it explains a lot."


It does look like some sort of war is shaping up. I hope, in the end the Police will take the side of The People.


I think that WILL happen in the end, but it's by no means a certainty. A non-shooting war between memes is going on, and the 2012 election will probably be an important battlefield, but the war itself isn't about who is president. It's about which worldview solidifies into general acceptance: the one that says the rich and powerful are the "wealth creators" whose teats the rest of us suck off of, or the one that says that wealth is created from the ground up, and that those who acquire personal wealth by externalizing costs are wealth DESTROYERS.

That war is being fought in the media and in political campaigns right now, and for the first time in a long time, it seems as if the side I am (obviously) on is gaining traction. But as I say, the outcome is by no means certain.

LarryHart said...

...and I meant to add...

The war between memes is also prefigured in Dr Brin's "Earth". The Dragon or the Tiger?

ZarPaulus said...

I'd like to add that one might not realize that Frank Herbert's Dune isn't being nostalgic for feudalism until at least the fourth book.

Phoebe North said...

Hey David,

Great list! I hope you don't mind if I chime in with a little self-plug. I'm the co-founder of the Intergalactic Academy, which is a review site that focuses on new YA & MG sci-fi titles specifically (no fantasy here, thankyouverymuch). I'm a life long SF fan (and writer) and really psyched about the burgeoning teen market for speculative work. Anyway, hope you--and your readers--find stuff that interests you there.

David Brin said...

Keep on striving for civilization Phoebe!

Marjan Mihajlov said...

How about Thomas McDonough and his "The Architects of Hyperspace".

I think it is a book that might also be included in the list. At least I liked it a lot.

Mark B. Wise said...

Many thanks!

(But it's all your fault if my TBR stack collapses into a singularity that devours Earth.)

sociotard said...

It looks like hope for Phobos-Grunt is just about dead.
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/11/russian-mars-probe-crash/

The Anonymous vs. Zeta story is ever more confusing. Not surprising as both groups adore keeping secrets and the hackers are in no way cohesive.

http://abcnews.go.com/International/showdown-looms-anonymous-hackers-mexicos-zeta-cartel/story?id=14875273

As news of Anonymous' threat spread, they appeared to make their first move on October 28, when the group defaced the website of Gustavo Rosario Torres, a former state prosecutor from Tabasco. The page, which remained vandalized at the time of writing, features the message "Gustavo Rosario is a Zeta" imposed over an image of carved jack-o-lanterns.

Tony Fisk said...

The best site for news about Phobos-Grunt seems to be the Planetary Society. Emily's trying to provide a news stream but the official word is: no word. Everything else is churn and speculation.

It does appear that the space craft is still intact, but isn't responding to commands. There's no cause for panic: yet.

Good for you Phoebe! But I have to ask how you distinguish between speculatum scientifica vs fantasia? (Clarke's third law, plus I think *good* fantasy is every bit as 'enlightening' as sf)

Speaking of Star Trek and evocative scenes, I caught up with the latest (retro) movie on the TV last night. (Definitely 'kicks ass' and resets the franchise. Did anyone notice the snark at the previous producers: we'll take the plot of your last movie, and this time we will do it right!?).

Anyway, the evocative scene I'm thinking of is where young Kirk has decided to take Capt. Pike's advice to join up and is driving across through Iowa farms to the nearest starport. Shades of the opening chapter in 'Starman Jones'!

That, and other subtleties I'm seeing (like the comprehensible techno babble in "Terra Nova") suggests that there is a generation of movie directors who grok science, as well as fiction.

wellusly: when they bring Mr. Crusher jr. back and do him right. (You up for it @WilW? ;-)

Tim H. said...

Jerry Pournelle needs to be on the list, while he's better together with Larry Niven, his "King David's Spaceship" is great fun. Eric Flint's "1632" is also fun.

David Brin said...

1632 is mentioned and Niven readers will find Pournelle.

Oh check out this idea:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/11/opinion/to-save-our-economy-ditch-taiwan.html?hp

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/11/
opinion/to-save-our-economy-ditch-
taiwan.html?hp

Stefan Jones said...

John Christopher's "Tripod" books were an early favorite of mine.

Just recently I re-discovered the titles of two YA SF books that I liked back in 3rd grade: "The Star Plague" and "Doctor to the Galaxy" by A.M. Lightner. The characters were young M.D.s on a colony world. It's been going on 40 years, but the medical puzzles struck me as sophisticated.

Tony Fisk said...

Heh! I remember seeing 'The City of Gold and Lead' on the class bookshelf when I was in grade 4 (8-9)

Speaking of YA, but off-topic, I *wish* this was SF. A scary account of what went down at OccupyCal the other day.

Natasha said...

I would suggest also including Diana Wynne Jones - many great books for young adults, ranging from fantasy to sci fi to in-between, and some things for younger readers as well.

sociotard said...

Wow. Frank Millar has harsh words for the Occupy movement. Not really deserved words, either.

http://frankmillerink.com/2011/11/anarchy

David Brin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Brin said...

I decided to turn my answer to Frank Miller into an actual posting. Hold on....

Tony Fisk said...

I take it that Frank Miller has a bit more clout than your average troll (which is pretty much the timbre of his posting)?

Paul451 said...

Re: Anon vs. Los Zetas.

Spokesman for the Dallas branch of Anon has gone into "hiding".

http://news.discovery.com/tech/anonymous-spokeman-flees-111112.html

(oblitin: Reading obituaries as literature.)

LarryHart said...

Tony Fisk:

I take it that Frank Miller has a bit more clout than your average troll (which is pretty much the timbre of his posting)?


If that's the same Frank Miller who became famous for the Batman "Dark Knight Returns" graphic novel in the 80s, and who quasi-directs movies based on his own graphic novels "Sin City" and "300", then yes, he's got some clout.

He used to be more of a rebel until (apparently) 9/11 turned him into a one-issue apologist for authoritarianism.

I'm baffled as to what he thinks al-Quaeda has to do with "Occupy Wall Street". I presume he's insisting that we not complain about the rich and powerful in this country because we'd have it worse under an Islamic theocratic dictatorship. Or maybe (just a bit more charitably) because those institutions are PROTECTING us from an Islamic theocratic dictatorship.

Did he have similar disdain for the Tea-Party protestors of 2009? I have no direct knowledge, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that no, he probably had no issue with THOSE protests.

And I used to be a fan too. But lately, it's like lisening to my dementia-ridden father going on about how the government is going to take away our guns (he never touched a gun in his life). And Dr Brin is right about the MOVIE "300" being un-watchable.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

I decided to turn my answer to Frank Miller into an actual posting.

Well, it's probably too late to inform the posting, but I hope you realize is that this seems to be the same Frank Miller who quasi-directed the movie based on his own graphic novel "300". You've been rightly critical of that one in the past, and it's no coincidence that the sense of his post is the same single-issue that informs that film: "Don't criticize Sparta. They're the only thing standing between us and slavery to a Persian-led dictatorship."

Anonymous said...

_Lord of Light_ : That would be a Hindu settled world. Hindi is a language, Hindu is one of the names for those who follow the sanatan dharma.

Cajeme said...

My favorite "fantasy" series growing up (before I found the likes of Neal Stephenson) was Michael & Kathleen Gear's "People of the ___" series which were Native American historical fiction / fantasy written by archaeologists about the peoples of the US hundreds of years ago, before Columbus.

Not only is it tremendously empowering for indigenous kids (or mixed bloods like me) because every character - good, bad and ugly - is indigenous, but it made me realize that there is so many fantasy contexts that are untapped outside of the standard arc of European history (and Asian history in mediums such as games).

Phoebe North said...

Good for you Phoebe! But I have to ask how you distinguish between speculatum scientifica vs fantasia? (Clarke's third law, plus I think *good* fantasy is every bit as 'enlightening' as sf)

Sorry, just saw this. We don't use hard and fast rules. If it quacks like SF (has aliens or cyborgs, is set in the future, etc.), it's good for our site. For those who care about such things, we include a rating of SF hardness for each book we reviwe.

melior said...

Outstanding list!
Another good John Barnes with a teen girl protagonist: The Sky So Big And Black.

Allison said...

This is a great list. Thank you! I appreciate the many books here that were not originally published as "YA." Yes, Teens can and do read books that are longer and more complicated than the vampire or werewolf YA novel.

Allison
Geek Banter

Free Classifieds said...

Yeah!! I suggest the YA trilogy by Kenneth Oppel: Airborn, Skybreaker, and Starclimber. More alternate history, where air travel is accomplished by dirigible, strange life forms populate the upper atmosphere, and unobtanium is used to create a beanstalk!

Unknown said...

Lots of my lifelong favorites here. I cut my SciFi teeth on the ABC's; Asimov, Bradbury, and Clark, then Heinlien, E.E.Doc Smith, and a myriad of others already mentioned...Brin and a newcomer in Steampunk Cheri Priest are my current interrests!

Lil Dragon said...

I loved The Postman when I read it when I was about 15.

I wouldn't start with Color of magic for Pratchett. I would start with either Going Postal or with the Tiffany Aching series.

I would also say Ready Player One, The Humanoid Touch (one of the only books to actually scary me), and while not scifi, still a great set of books, The Dark Jewel Trilogy.

ElyseHendricks said...

I'd like to add Sylvia Louise Engdahl's books. The Far Side of Evil was my favorite as a teen and more than any other influence in my life helped form my moral base.

Tom Roe said...

I've begun a new series; it falls under a PG rating. The first book is free for the next few days as an e-book on Amazon. You can find it by searching "Silica: Transition". It is a science fiction adventure series. Other books I love, Asimov's Foundation and anything by Dean Alan Foster, Splinter of the Mind's Eye or The Man Who Used the Universe, and others. Of course Hitchhiker's Guide series has some serious laugh out loud moments.

Anonymous said...

The only thing better than a list is the comments from readers adding their favorite books that were overlooked. Rendezvous with Rama (and series) by Arthur C Clarke was one I devoured while in middle school. Z for Zachariah was a wonderful and suspenseful post apocalyptic story.

Conquistadorami said...

I have read (and re-read) many of these great books but there is one i cant seem to remember. its about a young girl/woman who is the daughter of the (i think) president of mars. She is at school with her robotic partner (who was busy increasing how much money she had) when civil war broke out on mars. she ends up going on a journey through the city and even finds out she has a chip in her head which allows her or her father to be made into robotic clones if anything happens (her chip gets turned off in the end) sorry i dont have more to go on :/ my memory is kinda fuzzy with some things.

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Roger said...

Martin King and the Space Angels is a new teenage science fiction book.

Three teenagers get superpowers to help them defeat a mysterious force called XO5.

It's available to buy in ebook and paperback on Amazon!

Roger said...

Martin King and the Space Angels is a new teenage science fiction book.

Three teenagers get superpowers to help them defeat a mysterious force called XO5.

It's available to buy in ebook and paperback on Amazon!

Anonymous said...

I am surprised at the absence of Louise McMaster Bujold's many books,
surely they merit inclusion?

Anonymous said...

I was looking for the same book and stumbled on here via Conquistadorami sa's comment. I ended up finding it. The Wind's of Mars by H. M. Hoover. Hopefully they see this if they ever come back.

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HarmlessHamster said...

Excellent list! I even found a few books I have "missed" from the 1970s ... a time when I was 1-9 years old.