Science Fiction 101

Science Fiction 101

Science Fiction 101

Instructors: Shawn Boyles, Steve Diamond, & Nick Dianatkhah

Course Info: What you can expect from this course is a selection of recommendations from your instructors to give you a doorway into the science fiction genre.

Introduction: As we did with the University of Fantasy series, we wanted to give our readers who wanted to expand their horizons (or just nibble a bit) in the Science Fiction genre a good starting place. This is not to be taken as a list of the best books in the SF genre (though many books on the list are excellent). Instead this is a “If you’re new to SF and want a good start” type of list. The novels on this list should be easily accessible to anyone who picks them up. The weird sciency stuff doesn’t overwhelm and the geek factor should be relatively low. If you have a friend or neighbor who doesn’t really read SF, these would be a good place to start their conversion process. Enjoy.

In our University of Fantasy entries, we each made a few selections. That won’t be the case here. Together with one of our newer reviewers, Shawn Boyles, we talked much more about what to include here. It was one of those “Go Team” moments. We even had a group hug after. Honest. Shawn really took the lead here, because he likes SF better than we do. Kudos to him for justifying nearly all of these picks.

Our picks:

ENDER’S GAME by Orson Scott Card (Amazon):
This book could very well be the SF 101 course in and of itself. For anyone who has ever thought of reading SF, and has wondered where to start, this is THE book. It’s a fast fun read with excellent characters and a killer plot. It won both the Hugo and the Nebula and it is rumored to be one of the most stolen book in school libraries around the country. It’s one we have each read several times. The other novels in the series never even come close to ENDER’S GAME in terms of quality, because it is just THAT good.
WALLS OF THE UNIVERSE by Paul Melko (Amazon):
This is a recent addition (it came out a year and a half ago). It is here because of it’s accessibility. It’s about a boy who meets a version of himself from another reality. The main character gets tricked into going to another reality, and then spends the rest of the book trying to get home. the reason it is so accessible is because all of the earths our hero visits are just variations on our own earth. The science is light and most of the book is about the character. It’s also a lot of fun trying to see the hero try and make a quick buck by inventing pinball in a universe that has never seen it before.
I, ROBOT by Isaac Asimov (Amazon):
This is the SF books that our parents game to us to get us started on the genre, and it worked. I, ROBOT is a series of Asimov’s robot stories (and has almost nothing to do with the movie of the same name. The book is WAAAY better). We feel that Asimov is at his best in short stories and these are among the best the genre has to offer. They are simple, beautiful, touching and frightening in equal measures.
Come on. You knew this was going to be on this list. This is an amazing starter book because it doesn’t try and cram SF down your throat and make you take it seriously. The book doesn’t even take itself seriously. It’s a comedy about the end of the earth and the last two humans to survive. It’s also about a two headed three armed president of the universe, trans-dimensional mice, endless paperwork and the answer to life the universe and everything. A pure fun read. Just remember, DON’T PANIC!
DIVING INTO THE WRECK by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Amazon):
We reviewed this novel back when it came out last year. If you want a complete view of why we loved it, go check out the EBR Review. In short, and like many of the novels contained in this list, we love this novel because it take no effort to enjoy. It is deep-sea wreck diving put in space. Completely awesome. Rusch doesn’t try to make you feel like you need an advanced degree in physics to understand the story, which is a nice departure from what a lot of SF tries to do.
STARSHIP: MUTINY by Mike Resnick (Amazon):
Really, any SF by Resnick fits here. You want popcorn SF? Look no further. His pacing is always lightening-quick, and fueled by adrenaline. We reviewed the finale to his STARSHIP series, STARSHIP: FLAGSHIP (EBR Review). Go check it out to see why Resnick hits the right notes for us.

So what do you all think? Is there anything you think should be worthy of SF 101? If you justify your suggestion in a way we like, we might even add it to this list…

Parent page: Elitist University


  • Caleb says:

    I'm not sure if it's SF or space opera in your rankings, but the one possibility I can think of is one of Bujold's Vorkosigan books, probably The Warrior's Apprentice.

    Others that were classics I read during my school years (although not directly assigned) are Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles.

  • Dragen says:

    I hate Hitchhiker's guide to the Galaxy, but I love Enders game.
    I am locking forward the series of classes, and am willing to bet that more of my favorites are on the lists ๐Ÿ™‚

    Th only fault with you guys is the amount of money I pay amazon every moth do to you book reviews. Thanks a lot!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Mick says:

    You pretty much nailed the sci-fi that got me started (Ender, Hitchhiker's, I, Robot). Great list! I was going to recommend things but then realized they are probably on your later classes.

  • @Lenore – David Weber, in my mind, is more of a 201 level author. I personally like his books (though I understand people's frustrations with them), and you can expect to see him in SF 201.

  • Lenore says:

    David Weber is conspicuously absent. I'm not a fan of his books, especially the latest ones, but you can't argue that Honor Harrington is one of the most popular (if not THE most) characters in modern science fiction.

  • Vanessa says:

    @Caleb, I think Bujold is more level 201; space opera isn't an issue, esp if they plan to include Alistair Reynolds in subsequent courses, which, of course, they should cuz he's awesome. As for Bradbury, he's a classic! Which is why he is included in the Elitist University series.

  • Lenore says:

    @Steve I stand corrected then. And you are right – the Sheer bone-crushing depth and complexity of the Honorverse is not for the faint of heart ๐Ÿ™‚

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