Saturday, December 15, 2018

Science fiction for the holidays - and beyond

With the holidays near, it's no surprise I'll recommend books - as the gifts that keep on giving! I've previously posted my own list of what I consider the greatest science fiction & fantasy novels. Also a list of my personal favorite science fiction and fantasy tales for young adults – with lots of exploration and sense-o-wonder. Many are classics I grew up with .... along with some marvelous recent additions. But for today...

I wrote the introduction to this beautifully illustrated volume. Aliens: Past, Present, Future: The Complete History of Extraterrestrials form Ancient Times to Ridley Scott, by Ron Miller, provides an extensively detailed look at the possibilities of alien life, as seen through the varied lenses of history and science, philosophy and religion, fiction and popular culture.

Meanwhile, James Cameron has released the companion volume to his six-part television series – James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction. This volume focuses on the talented directors and filmmakers who have brought SF with much success – and impact - to the big screen, including in-depth interviews and discussions with George Lucas, Christopher Nolan, Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro – and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

This lovely hardcover - The Astounding Illustrated History of Science Fiction – by Dave Golder and Jess Nevins provides a thoroughly illustrated and well researched, but entertaining dive into the roots of science fiction, from Frankenstein to Lovecraft, Bradbury, Clarke and beyond, with timelines and posters that illuminate the branching evolution of speculative fiction through the pulp magazines to novels, cinema and gaming – and its pervasive influence on science and technology. Its companion volume explores the Illustrated History of Fantasy and Horror, from myths and fairy tales to cinema.

Long before science fiction, our ancient ancestors dreamed of artificial life forms - moving statues or even mechanical beings that spoke, walked and served. In the recently released Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines and Ancient dreams of Technology, Adrienne Mayor explores references to artificial life in tales from ancient Greek, Roman, Indian and Chinese mythology - ranging from the classic tale of Pygmalion to the bronze giant figure of Talos - built by Hephaestus, Greek god of invention. 

Diverse mythic tales of automata can be found in classical stories of Medea, Daedalus, Prometheus, Jason and the Argonauts.  Read an excerpt from Gods and Robots here.

== And fictional suggestions ==

Celebrating a wave of innovative forward-looking fiction coming from Asia, a new anthology The Reincarnated Giant: An Anthology of Twenty-First Century Chinese Science Fiction offers imaginative stories from Chen Quifan, Han Song, as well as Hugo winner Liu Cixin, exploring the realms of robotics, computers, AI and the ever-changing fortunes of humanity.

And among the most welcome trends is the recent rise of Afro-Futurism! Brilliantly well-timed with our joy in Wakanda, here's a web survey of nine recent or classic innovations and explorations that will stretch you and make you proud to be human. (I so miss Octavia.) Specially noted below is the haunting imagery in Rivers Solomon's A Haunting of Ghosts.

Among my own recent editions, try Chasing Shadows: Visions of Our Coming Transparent World, with selections that explore the more positive implications of a future of  openness. Tales by Bruce Sterling, Cat Rambo, Jack McDevitt, Gregory Benford, Robert Silverberg, Scott Sigler, Robert J. Sawyer - and so many more!

And of course my best - and most recent - short story collection Insistence of Vision, which includes The Logs, The Tumbledowns of Cleopatra Abyss (in best-of collections), Stones of Significance, Transition Generation, and more. 

Horror fans, Dell has collected some choice recent tales, including my own chiller “Chrysalis,” in the recently-released anthology Terror at the Crossroads: Tales of Horror, Delusion, and the Unknown

There are vivid and eerie tales by authors including Chris Beckett, Kit Reed, Will McIntosh, Louis Bayard, Tara Laskowski and others - which explore the margins of the dark and sinister, the scary and the mysterious.  The ebook is available on Kindle and Nook and other sellers.  

And try these recent science fiction and fantasy - marvels by rising stars in the field:

Medusa Uploaded, by Emily Devenport offers a beautifully written and thrilling tale of revenge and insurgency on an inter-generation starship, with vivid multi-layered world-building. 

Assisted by a secretive AI that haunts the dark, winding tunnels of the ship, Oichi (saved from imminent death by airlock) is a chilling character who will stop at nothing to uncover the dark secrets and rectify the wrongs that have been done to her family and fellow crewmembers:

"Behaviorists say that killers aren't born in a vacuum. But I was born on a generation ship. Our journey is between the stars, and as massive as those gravity wells be, the space in between them is vacuum. And I'm not the only killer on this ship."

Nuomenon, a debut novel by Marina J. Lostetter also portrays a deep space starship, this one crewed with clones who are genetically selected and replicated repeatedly across the centuries of interstellar voyage - the older clones training their younger replacements over the generations. Their destination: an anomalous star which appears to show distinct signs of extraterrestrial life, presenting mysteries that the crew may be unable to solve. Meanwhile, the mission is threatened as the worst of human nature takes root, revealing enduring divisions and deep animosity among the crew, as they find themselves more and more alienated from their origins. "We were aliens now. Nomads in uncharted territory."

"Stories are where we find ourselves, where we find the others who are like us. Gather enough stories and soon you're not alone; you are an army." Blackfish City, by Sam J. Miller depicts a dystopian future impacted by severe climate change and severely hierarchical social levels. Qanaaq, an engineered floating city in the Arctic Circle, is run by machine intelligence; a city bursting with refugees, rival gangs and political corruption, with threats of a spreading infection. This fragile alliance is disrupted with the arrival of a fierce but mysterious woman who is nanobonded, mentally linked with an orca (and accompanied by a polar bear) who will stop at nothing to achieve justice for past wrongs. 

Starting to see a common thread? Womblike, isolated, 'protective' environments like starships that instead cloy and cramp and oppress?

Certainly that's the general theme of An Unkindness of Ghosts, by Rivers Solomon which uses the classic scifi domain of a generation starship to replicate and amplify the horrors of a racial/plantation slave society. Every morality-tale of The Handmaid's Tale and even more hauntingly written. In this sub-genre, plausibility (e.g. high-tech slaves have options never available to Nat Turner) is not the issue. The aim is to freeze and shatter the soul and help you rebuild it. Solomon does it well.

I've been enjoying Mur Lafferty's murder mystery Six Wakes - also set on a starship where the six crewmembers awake missing 25 years of memories. A very different take than the show Dark Matter and more deeply psychological. And a Hugo and Nebula Award nominee. 

Of course the notion of a generation ship was thoroughly and scientifically... if a bit tendentiously... explored by Kim Stanley Robinson's fairly recent novel Aurora. That one won't cheer you either, though the thought experiment is fascinating.

== Want something a bit more enlivening? ==

Change Agent, a page-turning near future thriller by Daniel Suarez (following up his bestselling novels Daemon and Freedom) explores how we will deal with the complex issues arising from surveillance, ubiquitous CRISPR gene editing, customized 3D drug printers and designer babies. Agent Kenneth Durand is tasked with hunting down black market labs performing illegal genetic modifications, when he is attacked and injected with a 'change agent' - upon awaking from a coma, he is transformed into a doppelgänger of the very crime lord he was pursuing. 

The highly productive and vivid Suarez will be at the plate again soon with a terrific tome on asteroid mining! Keep your eyes open for Delta-V, set for release in April. 

And yes, the truest heart of SF goes one step beyond chindings or dire warnings. It is about stirring the reader to imagine solutions.

Following up on his dystopian future scenario of a drowned NYC - New York 2140 - Kim Stanley Robinson’s latest - Red Moon - offers a near future, thirty year projection, where humanity has established a colony on the surface of the moon. However, ongoing political and economic struggles between the U.S. and China – as well as rising personal animosity - fuel unrest and ignite a rebellion in the lunar colony, setting the stage for a thrilling tale of revolution amid the dusty landscape of the moon base.

And no, it's not that dusty plain where our future will be made.

More - recent SFF selections, many of them mentioned in earlier postings: 

Terra Nullius, by Claire Coleman
Semiosis by Sue Burke
Summerland, by Hannu Rajaniemi
Embers of War, by Gareth Powell
Rosewater, by Tade Thompson
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
Gnomon, by Nick Harkaway
Before Mars, by Emma Newman
Bandwidth, by Eliot Peper
Empire of Silence, by Christopher Ruocchio
The Book of M, by Peng Shepherd
The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal
The Oracle Year by Charles Soule
The Rig, by Roger Levy
One Way, by S. J. Morden

Something for the kids?  A SpaceX engineer’s Epic Space Adventure trilogy takes a spacefaring giraffe on a tour across the solar system from Mars to Europa. A delight that leaves kids delighted to know stuff.  

And set for release in May of 2019:
Children of Ruin, by Adrian Tchaikovsky, the sequel to his vivid Children of Time.

Final note! The comments section below this blog is one of the oldest and best on the web! Under this posting you will find bright folks chiming in with more wonderful suggestions of books you can give, to enliven someone's universe, and maybe derive strength from this implication -- there will be a tomorrow!


Unknown said...

I'm 65, and until recently have been away from SF for awhile. As a result, I know considerably more about 20th century SF than I do about the contemporary field. Mr Brin's work, both his fiction and this web site, has gone a long way towards rectifying this state of affairs, and I'm very grateful. The field is more exciting and dazzling than ever! And discovering this is making me feel young again...LOL. I would like to add, though, that anyone who is interested in SF's past should read Alec Nevala-Lee's *Astounding*, about the field's legendary roots and its greatest personalities. The best book about SF I've ever read.

David Brin said...

cool recommendation, thanks.

Mike Will said...

James Cameron and Guillermo del Toro were about to shoot "Fantastic Voyage" when "The Shape of Water" happened. I don't know what the current status is, but I assume it too will be shot in Toronto. They'll have a tough time topping Asimov's novelization of the 1966 movie (no, Asimov didn't write the screenplay). I know that Cameron is a big Asimov fan. What a great book, especially after you read Asimov's honest thoughts about the whole miniaturization premise.

Ilithi Dragon said...

I recommend The Destroyermen series, by Taylor Anderson.

More of the historical fiction side of speculative fiction/sci-fi, but still a good read. A pair of WWI-era Wickes class destroyers (USS Walker and USS Mahan) get teleported to an alternate-reality Earth while fleeing the Second Battle of Java Sea, a reality where the dino-killing asteroid never hit. They make friends with cat-like lemur people, descended from the giant lemurs of Madagascar, and enter into an existential conflict with the Grik, a raptor-descendant species. A lot of fun is had with throwing WWI/WWII-era tech and industrial know-how into a bronze-age war, and the rapid up-teching that results, and it explores a concept of various alternate-realities crossing over and interacting with each other. It also delves into the rather weighty philosophical question of how to deal with a devouring swarm civilization that has the capacity to be fully intelligent, compassionate, and not be a devouring swarm. Anderson is an historian by education and profession, in addition to being an author, and his portrayal of the tech, cultures, and attitudes of the people of the WWII period are pretty accurate, and he gets a lot of the military culture and mindset spot-on (something I see a lot of military-fiction writers get wrong, or fall hard into tropes with), and he doesn't pull any punches when portraying the brutality of pre-industrial and industrial combat (and the results of mixing the two), and gives accurate portrayals of self-sacrificing valor, courage, and heroism that largely avoid the hollywood action hero tropes.

Most of the other reading I've been doing lately has been stories posted on the HFY subreddit, which has a lot of awesome stories, both short and long, but it's not a medium conducive to gift-giving.

Keith Glass said...

I've been reading SF from a different political angle than Dr. Brin, but will be looking at these.

But a few recommendations of my own. As a fairly precocious youngster, I discovered Heinlein at about age 8 or 9, and "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel" blew me away back then. The "Early Enrichment Program" (Gifted classes, before "gifted" was a thing.. . ) introduced me to several series of historical fiction: the "rags to riches" tales of Horatio Alger, and C.S. Forester's "Hornblower" series of Naval tales.

Several years ago, I stumbled on a series, Peter Grant's "Maxwell Saga", a starfaring combination of all three genres. Our hero, Steve Maxwell, is an orphan from a hyper-bureacratized Earth, after the Diaspora to the stars. Through talent and effort, he gets a berth on a merchant as an Apprentice Spacer, and through the subsequent adventures, battles pirates, joins the Navy of the Lancastrian Commonwealth, and moves on to become a pilot and Naval Officer. There are several ongoing sub-plots of intrigue and revenge. 5 books so far, and 2 spinoffs in the same overall universe. Yes, it's Space Opera, and the author's skill improves through the series ("Take The Star Road", the first, was apparently Grant's first book. . ) in both writing skill and character development. I recommend them.

locumranch said...

The Generation Ship trope is venerable century old tradition, a few of my Golden Age faves being:

(1) 'Common Sense', RH Heinlein, published May 1941, re-released as 'Orphans in the Sky', 1963.

(2) ‘Spacebred Generations’, C Simak, published April 1953. Available online at

(3) 'Thirteen to Centaurus’, JG Ballard, published April 1962. Available online at

(4) 'The Ballad of Beta 2', SR Delany, published 1965. Available online at

(5) 'Ship of Shadows', F Leiber, published July 1969. Available online at

Recent GS sagas include (a) 'The Dark Beyond the Stars', FM Robinson, published 1991, (b) the 'Long Sun' series, G Wolfe, published 1993 & (c) our host's thinly-disguised generation ship saga called 'The Tumbledowns of Cleopatra Abyss' from 2015.


David Brin said...

Not even slightly sci fi... but the historical FLASHMAN series is a delight and you'll learn gobs about the Victorian era.

porohobot said...

"Three Worlds Collide" by Eliezer S. Yudkowsky.

Its short. And scandalous. But also gives a whole new place for thought and debate.
And... isn't it the most important thing we love sifi for?
(as not native I use Google to check if some phrases are valid in English... so)

And... Lem was right. (but hardly anybody from here would read that old rusty geezer %) )

porohobot said...

I'd like to advertise,
but also to ask the audiance here.

Is there some other sifi stories,

where'd AI be not only a mere plot device (as SkyNET),

or its own actor (like R.Daniel),

but a person/entity who share his/its own wise thoughts...
as it is in
"Golem XIV" by Stanislav Lem.

Cormac Williams said...

Having mentioned Flashman, I'll throw in the McAuslan series, drawn from George McDonald Fraser's experiences of the end of the Second World War but very much from the worm's eye view :-)

Anonymous said...

Well, that takes care of my holiday reading…

David Brin said...

Yeah, Yudkowsky flashed some amazing gedankenexperiments.

porohobot said...

\\Yudkowsky flashed some amazing gedankenexperiments.

He just showed himself as Perfect Marty Sue. %) Again.

But... it poses a lot of complex questions all around that thing...

I personally prefer Second Level ones.

Talin said...

David, how about some holiday recommendations for science (non-fiction) books?

DP said...

Is there a trend in SF towards realistic physics? None of these books listed seems to rely on magical tech like FTL propulsion.

Anonymous said...

This is like movie; although this idea had already occurred to me, and in a simpler way:



Andy said...

Researchers at MIT have developed a process to shrink objects down to nanoscale size. Materials are placed in a gel in the desired configuration, and the gel is then exposed to acid, shrinking down to (up to?) 10 times the initial size.

"The MIT team is now exploring potential applications for this technology, and they anticipate that some of the earliest applications might be in optics -- for example, making specialized lenses that could be used to study the fundamental properties of light. This technique might also allow for the fabrication of smaller, better lenses for applications such as cell phone cameras, microscopes, or endoscopes, the researchers say. Farther in the future, the researchers say that this approach could be used to build nanoscale electronics or robots."

Brin's Corollary, anyone?

matthew said...

I wonder how much anisotropic shrinking they get on their nanoscale shrinking experiment? I deal with anisotropic shrinking of metals everyday and I'm intensely curious if they see the same effects.

Mike Will said...

Here's a blurb from 30 years ago about "Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain"
Obviously, the original shrinking problem bothered him for years. Typical scientist, "that's funny..."

If anyone knows of his own piece that he wrote (~1977 I think), please post the link. It's one of those things I read in the distant mists of the past that I'd love to see again.

I'm dying to read Brin's "Foundation's Triumph", I'm having a bit of trouble with my Amazon acct at the moment (thermal meltdown probably). Foundation for Christmas, wow looking forward to it. No spoilers!

David Brin said...

Of course the Asimov novel and the flick Fantastic Voyage come to mind. With James Cameron talking about a vivid new-CGI remake. This is one that should be utterly remade, every 20 years!

Another? The song “It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine).” I mean jeez, most of the pop and political figures run-off in the lyrics are completely obscure now. Either R.E.M. or their heirs should do a new version every decade or they should license it! And yes, I’m “just sayin’.”

While we’re at it, is “Feel it still” by Portugal the Man by or about a guy my age? Who can still kick it? Just askin’…

Mike Will said...

And Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" - again, should be updated every 20 years.

I once laughed at a peace-nik friend from Wallonia about the "Belgians in the Congo" line :)

Larry Hart said...

@Mike Will,

"We Didn't Start the Fire" would have to be extended rather than replaced in a re-make. The whole point of the song is to connect the then-present to a string of milestones, most of which were already like ancient history at the time of the original.

The proper way to update it would be to keep adding on to the end.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of miniaturization ... And what would happen, if an extraterrestrial invading fleet were composed of ships and microscopic troops? The viruses would not serve as a defense and the size of the enemy would make it almost impossible to locate the targets. Our soldiers would have to carry microscopes instead of binoculars and by the time the enemy was detected, it would be too late.
I guess we could not survive that kind of event. Of course, we could lock the last survivors in bunkers; but that would only delay the inevitable end.
I wonder how the force of Earth gravity would affect microscopic invaders. Would it be very difficult for them to move forward? Or easier?
If the invaders are physically equal to the terrestrial ones, I suppose it would be possible that they had the same final destination as the tripod drivers of the movie "the war of the worlds"
In addition, there would be thousands of situations of voyeurism among the invaders, probably 8)


David Brin said...

“the mighty ships tore across the empty wastes of space and finally dived screaming on to the first planet they came across - which happened to be the Earth - where due to a terrible miscalculation of scale the entire battle fleet was accidentally swallowed by a small dog.”."

― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Anonymous said...

So that idea had already occurred to Douglas Adams? As I said before, it seems that all the ideas were already invented.
But then, the opposite case: Planet Earth sees an invading fleet come with ships the size of jupiter, ships of gigantic beings that inhabit gigantic planets.
The United Nations is preparing to send a message of immediate surrender. However, the extraterrestrial fleet kept advancing, I passed by our world and they left; because they did not even see our little planet.
Of course, super-giant extraterrestrial beings would have to be totally different from mammals, which, as is known, can not go beyond a certain weight, or the bone structure collapses. (or if the height is too high, the heart could not pump enough blood). But of course, we do not know life in the aquatic super-planets, and as we know, marine animals can be huge, because floating in the water allows us to develop enormous bodies. Difficult it would be for the inhabitants of an aquatic world to invade the surface of a planet. But the dolphins; whales and jellyfish would be quickly defeated by the aliens. Of course, humans would help the dolphins, offering them weapons and training. (I think the US Navy already has trained dolphins to be lethal).


Tony Fisk said...

@Winter7, no doubt there is an upper structural limit for a land mammal, but the primary factor is environment and necessity. One reason sauropods got to be so huge was that they couldn't chew, and needed a big vat of a stomach to digest fibrous plant matter. The bigger the better.
Cheeks and the ability to chew removed the need, so iguanodons and hadrosaurs started to predominate.
(The above is a potted history that any paleontologist is free to use for target practice)
The largest land mammal known was Paraceratherium, which had a shoulder height of 4.8m. Modest by sauropod standards, perhaps, but not *that* much smaller, and no indication that it was the structural limit.

Tony Fisk said...

re: periodic remakes. Coco's list song from the Mikado is frequently updated by amateur theatricals.

"... or those people who type 'covfefe', and tweet it in your face. I'd put *them* on the list! (for they'd none of them be missed)"

Alfred Differ said...

Adding to "We didn't start the fire" would probably make heads explode.
It's already long enough and makes its point. 8)
Just amp up the frustration level between sections as we get older.

Neil Diamond has his one for not being ready to kick the bucket just yet.
That list will leave the youngest scratching their heads, so it could be caught up. I'm not tempted, though.
I think it SHOULD cause the young to wonder who those people were.
When they get old, THEN it could be caught up.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Tony
Like John Cleese I have "a theory about the dinosaurs"

To me there is an advantage in size - and in conditions where there is a large land area and little change the largest herbivores and carnivores will become larger over time

The disadvantage is long generation times and very little "fat" on the species - so when things start to change fast the big ones die out

I would love to be able to apply that logic to the fossil record and see if it actually pans out

porohobot said...

Entity known as Star Constructor from rare species known as builers of our Universe with size of a planet and psyche of a toddler.
Planets of aliens misterious and non-communicative.
Brave people who explore that planets.
And. Twice as brave people who trying to keep safe that explorers.
As well as any other ordinary people of Earth.
From misteries of the Universe and from own technogenic problems.

"Relict" series of Vasili Golovachov

I bet no one hear about it. ;)

porohobot said...

\\Is there a trend in SF towards realistic physics?

It seems only natural for me...

What is most interesting and intriguing.
Is emergence of deep fanfics. Like HPMOR for example.
Its probably quite rare thing as it need very well established mother-universe.

For example, I fantasize, for Uplift series it could be (semi)priquel about danikens and their masters, showed as tricksters, liars and "false gods".

But what if... no they'd not be true creators of human race.
But be the race who trully believed in self-evolution.

So they devoted himself to that hard task of hiding presence of pre-humanity Earth from eager uplifters.
And because of it lost in value and autority.
And came through sea of doubts and selfdespise. Etc.

Jon S. said...

Luis, you're (sort of) describing the backstory of John Varley's Eight Worlds series. Basically, humanity was just beginning to colonize the solar system, when the Outsiders came. They moved into Jupiter, because they're (apparently) native to a Jovian or transJovian planet, and didn't communicate with humans at all - except to wipe out all humans in the Jovian moons, and most humans on Earth. Turns out they seem to think the only life forms on Earth worth worrying about are the cetaceans, and humans are a parasitic life form. They seem content to let us occupy the rest of the system, although everyone gives Jupiter a wide berth just in case.

Some time after the event, miners hunting monopoles in the Kuiper belt detected a radio-frequency laser transmission aimed just outside the system. Apparently originating from someplace near the constellation Ophiuchus, it became known as the Ophiuchi Hotline; it carried information on advanced technologies that could be used to help humans survive in open space. The humans of the system picked and chose among the techniques presented in the datastream, resulting in the society depicted in the stories.

raito said...

Like David Martin, I have some trouble finding new authors whose works I like, being much more comfortable with the 20th century, though I haven't been away from SF at all. I am still working though 6 cases of books inherited from a deceased friend.

One of my recommendations is the various several-in-one-volume author series published by SF Gateway. I found several of these remaindered. It's a good way to read inexpensively some of the great authors.

My current problem is finding suitable reading material for my children. One is in first grade and reads as if he's nearly in high school. I gave him the Percy Jackson stuff for his birthday and he's enthralled. He does say that some of the words (the Greek ones) give him a bit of trouble. The other is in fourth grade, and honestly, I feed her adult books. But she dislikes conflict intensely and has a penchant for reading books in which the protagonists are complete idiots who never seem to get a clue. Mostly, I feed her non-fiction at this point.

I'd much rather have this problem than the one at the opposite end of the spectrum. I do need to find some decent math-oriented stuff, though.

I should probably start both of them on Our Host's YA list, as I probably own 80% of them. A few are too adult for them in content, but there's enough left for them to go on for a while.

Dr. Brin,

I can empathize with 'Feel It Still'. I'm far from done yet. Rebellion is what the Establishment calls it. We know it's just being impatient for the future we want to get here, and knowing that we're the ones who have to do the work. I'm not done just yet.

Larry Hart said...


My current problem is finding suitable reading material for my children.

I feel your pain. When my daughter was in her single-digit years, I had a hard time finding comic books that were appropriate for her.

One is in first grade and reads as if he's nearly in high school. I gave him the Percy Jackson stuff for his birthday and he's enthralled. He does say that some of the words (the Greek ones) give him a bit of trouble.

That reminds me of a family encounter during my brother's wedding in the 80s. I was talking to one of my college roommates about him moving to California, and one of us said the word "smog." A precocious six-year-old cousin of mine piped up, "Smaug! That's the dragon from The Hobbit." My roommate and I looked at each other with the same thought: "He's read The Hobbit??!"

The other is in fourth grade, and honestly, I feed her adult books. But she dislikes conflict intensely and has a penchant for reading books in which the protagonists are complete idiots who never seem to get a clue.

You might try giving her some Kurt Vonnegut. Not because of the idiot thing, but because KV doesn't believe in populating his stories with heroes and villains.

It sounds like she shares my daughter's current tastes--she likes graphic novels that aren't about superheroes. Which makes her still hard to buy for.

A.F. Rey said...

RE: "It's the End of the World as We Know It"--although I checked the lyrics, I'm still not convinced that REM didn't mention Trump during that song! :)

RE: Humorous SF--I highly recommend Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Those two had too much fun trying to make each other laugh. If nothing else, at least read the third (or was it the fourth?) chapter that starts out: "It wasn't a dark and stormy night. It should have been, but that's weather for you."

Personally, I'm still working my way through the 237 finalists for NPR's vote for top 100 science fiction and fantasy books. I'm little under half-way through, but I despair of completing it in my lifetime, since most of them I read decades ago.

But it did get me to read The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, which is a fantastic fantasy.

David Brin said...

Winter you described the Jovian hydrogen breathing civilization in my Uplift novels!

Jon S. said...

Well, except the hydrogen-breathers in the Five Galaxies did come into conflict with the oxygen-breathers, which if I recall correctly (and I may not) was supposed to be one of the reasons Jijo was laying fallow.

Anonymous said...


Your daughter might enjoy the Gunnerkrigg Court webcomic/graphic novel. I read it online but enjoy it enough to have bought the hardcover collections. Elevator pitch: like Harry Potter but with a strong female protagonist.

Another set of graphic novels would be the Delilah Dirk series, up to three novels and a short story. You can read the first part of each novel online to make up your mind.

Anonymous said...

Doctor Brin:
I suppose that living beings are more likely to arise in planets of pure hydrogen atmospheres; after all, on our planet, Knallgas bacteria are bacteria that oxidize hydrogen as a source of energy and oxygen as a final acceptor of electrons.
Which means that it is possible that there are different forms of life on the planet Jupiter. I think the place where there might be areas where there is some moisture in the atmosphere of Jupiter, is on the edge of polar storms. Possibly there could be organisms in the form of jellyfish-globes, which feed on microscopic floating bacteria. There would be larger balloons, which would hunt the balloon jellyfish smaller.
Perhaps the formidable geometric figure of storms in the south pole of Jupiter is caused by the activity of life forms. In a planet of formidable hurricane winds, the best zone to exit and enter the atmosphere of Jupiter would be the polar zone. There, intelligent and advanced life forms would create storm walls to create relatively stable atmospheric zones to navigate in them.
Perhaps the civilizations of Jupiter are older than those of the earth, (if there is intelligent life on Jupiter)


Anonymous said...

Tony Fisk:
The Paraceratherium looks like a huge horse. I wish they had not gone extinct. Those rhino-horses, would have been formidable mounts in the wars. A cavalry charge using many Paraceratherium would have been a formidable thing to see.
Some say that the large oligocene mammals became extinct, because they could not protect the offspring of other species of faster mammals, such as primates. Perhaps the ancestors of the human species were the cause of the extinction of Paraceratherium. Perhaps hordes of primates attacked the offspring of large mammals; It has already been seen in the simians, the habit of hunting other apes to obtain fresh meat. Perhaps from the furthest evolutionary beginnings, humanity was a lethal predator for all forms of life on this planet.


yana said...

Hello raito,

A girl in grade 4? Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter by Marissa Meyer (no, not the recent CEO of Yahoo). A little romancey, but great fun adventure stories with five strong females and a few male sidekicks, pitting their pluck and luck against the evil Queen of the Moon. Series also has a prequel called Fairest and a graphic novel tying the story up.

Or, the Laini Taylor books starting with Daughter Of Smoke And Bone. More F than SF, and even more romancey, but every 11-yo female should have the supporting character of Zuzana as a role model, considering how she gets the nickname Neek-Neek.

yana said...

SF enjoyed recently:

Aurora Rising series by G.S. Jennsen: Starshine, Vertigo, and Transcendence. Galactic war? Check. First contact? Check. Plucky heroine wary of "help" from men who only want to get their hands on her tricked-out spaceship? Check. So obviously she saves the human race. And of course, herself too. Some male characters drawn in caricature, but plenty of adventure and good science.

The Share books by Nathan Lowell. Nothing happens. The plot is so thin that it's uncannily realistic. No nefarious plots to wipe out a star system or obliterate the human race, just regular people gettin' by, in space. Simple easy reading, enjoyable characters, when done with the first book Quarter Share, was left with the goofiest smile on my face, just nodding my head. It felt so good to read that simple little book. A week later, when that feeling of inner quiet happy had still not dissipated, got the rest of the series. Want to know how the future will happen? There it is, the little people, just gettin' by.

The Lost Fleet series by Jack Campbell, hard phallic military SF. Not a deep character study, but enjoyed the concentration on fleet strategy, battle tactics, and the people who really keep a navy afloat: the engineers.

Cari Burstein said...

Larry- your first grader might enjoy Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson. I wonder if the Temmeraire series by Naomi Novik might be up his alley too. Not sure about your fourth grader though- conflict is kind of a major theme in just about every book, even in non-fiction there's a lot of it depending on the topic. I read a lot of dark stuff at a pretty young age myself.

Anonymous said...

\\A cavalry charge using many Paraceratherium would have been a formidable thing to see.

Yeah. And gigapitecs riding on them? %)

Darrell E said...

For comedic science fiction (or fantasy depending on your point of view) one of my favorite examples is The Stainless Steel Rat stories by Harry Harrison. Some of them are more serious, others are nearly slap-stick. I read some of the less serious / more comedic ones with my twins when they where toddlers and we always had a great time laughing to them. One that I think would be especially good for very young readers, even perhaps Raito's son and or daughter, is The Stainless Steel Rat Wants You!.

Another one the kids loved (me too) and which caused lots of laughter was The Belgariad by David Eddings. This is a fantasy trilogy intended to poke fun at standard tropes. Word has it that the author started by compiling a list of standard tropes and then set out to write a story that prominently featured as many of them as possible.

David Brin said...



porohobot said...

>> raito said...

\\We know it's just being impatient for the future we want to get here, and knowing that we're the ones who have to do the work. I'm not done just yet.

Question is... how far can you go in a pursuit of future?

Now is quite that time where any dream would come true...
but it seems current generation are not ready even to talk about it.
They fear "globalization"... while Real Future are much more scarier.

PS Now I know meaning of "onward".

But I thought that question was needed to be asked.

JamesK said...

I followed your link to the greatest SF & F novels. Wonderful lists. But, the link to your Top Ten appears to be a dead end. You might want to repost it. I'd be interested in seeing your Top Ten novels.