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Sci Fi Novel for Book Club

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Initial post: Mar 17, 2013 3:15:07 PM PDT
Bookgirl says:
I belong to a book club and am looking for a science fiction novel for our group to read. None of the ladies have ever ventured into sci fi!
My first thought was 'Stranger in a Strange Land' by Heinlein.

What would be your suggestions for a good introductory read?

Posted on Mar 17, 2013 3:24:43 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 17, 2013 3:30:30 PM PDT
Tom Rogers says:
I'd start a group of non-SF readers off with "City" (Simak)--it's got a lot of cross over appeal and is listed as a big influence by a lot of authors who don't necessarily work in SF. For something more recent that might be easier to relate to current events, I'd probably go with "The Possibility of an Island" (Houellebcq) which is one of very few recentish SF books that has made an impact on the larger literary culture. "The Carpet Makers" (Eschbach) would be a lot of fun too, it's got a lot of stuff going on at a lot of diffferent levels, so if you've got an eclectic group, you'd probably have fun trying to figure it out.

Posted on Mar 17, 2013 4:37:40 PM PDT
K. Rowley says:
Flowers for Algernon

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 17, 2013 4:39:33 PM PDT
Bookgirl says:
Tom, thank you! You have just increased my reading list! I have heard of "City", but not of the other two. It's a good thing that my turn to choose a book is not for a few months, I'm looking forward to reading these.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 17, 2013 4:41:16 PM PDT
Bookgirl says:
I had forgotten about that one. Good choice!

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 18, 2013 6:24:54 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 19, 2013 6:28:45 AM PDT
W.T. says:
Excellent suggestion for a non-sci-fi audience!

Another option: A Canticle for Leibowitz

This one has a lot of meaning that goes beyond i's post-apocalyptic settings. It's a very powerful study of the relationship between faith and knowledge. Frankly, it's a profound work that has at different times been banned by the Catholic church and later highly praised by it. It would be a great book for a group with religious diversity to study.

Posted on Mar 18, 2013 1:31:50 PM PDT
If you want something recent, the ladies might like The Host: A Novel

It was written by the lady who wrote the Twilight series, and is similar in that there is a love triangle. I liked it at first but then it became too much the alien in the human body loves a different person from the body owner, and oh my I can't resolve what to do. Ugh (for me, at least).

Or, another love triangle but not so heavy handed on it, and very good, was The Hunger Games (Book 1) -- but they may have seen the movie already and the movie was a very close account of the novel.

Posted on Mar 18, 2013 2:38:15 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 18, 2013 2:39:09 PM PDT
Bookgirl says:
Bill and CivWar64 - thank you for the suggestions.
Nothing has really struck my fancy yet, I will read some of these that are new to me.
I do have a question - Where in books like the The Hunger Games (Book 1) is the "Science"?? Maybe I am looking for a book more like Eon by Greg Bear or Rendezvous With Rama (Macmillan Readers) by Arthur C. Clarke.

Are there any discussions on what makes a work of fiction - science fiction?

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 18, 2013 2:56:37 PM PDT
K. Rowley says:
"I do have a question - Where in books like the The Hunger Games (Book 1) is the "Science"??"

Sounds like you're looking for Hard Science Fiction...

Posted on Mar 18, 2013 10:13:53 PM PDT
I agree with K. Rowley -- you are probably thinking of wanting to introduce them to hard sci-fi.

Hunger Games is more like the novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four" or Fahrenheit 451 or more recently "The Handmaid's Tale" or even "Anathem" in dealing with a dystopian future without a bunch of 'futuristic' science. By definition, I believe any novel about a possible future is sci-fi.

The problem with picking a hard science fiction novel is that it might be too different for someone who has never read one. "Dune" is a top book, but very complex. "Ender's Game" is usually at the top of any list, but the military and political aspects might not be interesting to some. Still, it's an awesome read. Rama I think is too intellectual without a lot of action.

I assume you don't want an 'old' classic like "The Time Machine"? How about Asimov's "I, Robot"?
Two of my favorites are Niven/Pournelli books -- "The Mote In God's Eye" and "Footfall"

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 18, 2013 10:26:48 PM PDT
Tom Rogers says:
"Dune" and "The Mote in God's Eye" are both exemplary instances of world building in SF (and darn fine novels). "Dune" is probably the most famous crossover SF book. For more recent hard SF, I'd add "The Wreck of the River Stars"

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 19, 2013 6:32:55 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 19, 2013 6:33:05 AM PDT
W.T. says:
Since you mention Asimov, how about the Lige Bailey robot novels? They're basically old-fashioned detective stories at heart, so they are very accessible to a mainstream audience, and they also have a subtle dystopian undercurrent because of the difficult conditions that people are living in, though that isn't really part of the main plot.

Posted on Mar 19, 2013 12:51:38 PM PDT
KatHart says:
May I ask what types of books you normally read for your book club? Are you looking for intense discussion or just an introduction into the genre?

Posted on Mar 19, 2013 3:12:57 PM PDT
Bookgirl says:
I can't believe how great your comments are! I am thinking of actually doing a pre-read discussion of science fiction with giving examples of all the great books you mentioned. I have read about 60% of them, many of them long ago... I want to re-read them all.

KatHart - our book club is very eclectic. Just a bunch of old (some not so) ladies. We have worked in education, business, were homemakers, etc. And we did not want a 'pretentious' book club, where you have to read books just because the critics rave about them. Each one of us selects a title for the following month (no criticism allowed!). We have read Kite Runner, Outliers, The Woman in White, The Language of Flowers, Safe Haven, The Thirteenth Tale, The Book of Negroes (a very interesting read!) and so on. You can see that we are all over the place!
I really do want to introduce a science fiction novel since they have not read any...

And all of you have given me great ideas! So if you think of anything else, let me know! Thanks!

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 20, 2013 10:21:28 AM PDT
KatHart says:
First of all I just love the fact that you have a wonderful group of friends who like to get together to discuss books. Science fiction is also an extremely eclectic genre so I'll just list a few of the ones that I have read that made me want to continue to read science fiction.

The Robots of Dawn by Isaac Asimov, a robot detective puzzler.
The Lathe of Heaven by Ursela le Guin
More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon
A Cuckoo's Egg by C. J. Cherryh
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - dystopian
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, also a dystopian novel which will stay with you for a very long time.

I also loved "Dune", "Enders Game" and "The Mote in God's Eye" there are so many great books to choose from. Good Luck!

Posted on Mar 20, 2013 10:52:14 AM PDT
Larry Kelley says:
I would suggest, as a way to gently break into Sci-Fi, The Chanur Series of books by C.J CherryH. They are soft on hard science but full of adventure. If your readers "get into" Cherryh, then you have what are considered "The Alliance War" books (that's what I think they are called) and they are also not-too-technical but fascinating.

I always recommend Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's books that take place in "The Liaden Universe". I think they are some of the best books being written today--and I am not alone in this

Another great world builder is Anne McCaffrey. Her Dragonriders of Pern books are great. Suck you right in and you can hardly wait to get your hands on the next one. She has passed on and her son has taken up the books--but he is not nearly as good as McCaffrey. Some individual books by her, almost novelettes that are fascinating, "The Crystal Singer" and "The Ship Who Sang" which each have several followup books that are also quite good.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 20, 2013 10:57:23 AM PDT
W.T. says:
Ann McCaffrey is a great suggestion. The Dragronriders exist in that space between sci-fi and fantasy. They are hardly "chick books" and have millions of male readers, but at the same time they do seem to be more popular among females than some other types of sci-fi. That might make them a fit for this group, as described.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 21, 2013 9:12:39 AM PDT
Wounded Worlds Nihil Novum (kindle download). Great for newbies. Not too techie, lots of character development, really good dialogue & interplay between characters. Believable love story. Good moral dilemmas, strong female characters as well.

Posted on Mar 21, 2013 3:25:31 PM PDT
Bookgirl says:
KatHart, Joanne, Larry and Bill, thank you for all of your comments and suggestions. I will really have to reread many of the above and have downloaded several of the ones mentioned to my Kindle. That's another factor - most of us read ebooks, so it will be helpful (but not a necessity) if it is available. This discussion has certainly helped me clarify what I consider science fiction as compared to fantasy. Which I could also introduce my book ladies to! And then there are all the paranormal (romance) novels... Never enough time to real all.

Posted on Mar 21, 2013 3:48:41 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 21, 2013 3:49:49 PM PDT
FL Karin,

No one has suggested this one yet. It is recent and an excellent complete and short SF story (around 60 pages). It's free for the Kindle->
Wool - Part One

I read the omnibus (which is parts 1-5). It slows down in part 3, but then gets very good again for parts 4-5.
This way if your group likes part 1 which is a complete story, they could buy 1-5 which is a complete novel -> Wool Omnibus Edition (Wool 1 - 5) (Silo Saga)

Edited post to add - it has strong woman protagonists, esp. in parts 2-5

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 22, 2013 4:24:35 AM PDT
Crystal Singer trilogy is great, hard SciFi with a human touch (iow, the tech is more of a senior support character in the cast than the focus of the story).

Posted on Apr 6, 2013 7:12:21 PM PDT
I'd second the suggestions for Ursula LeGuin and Isaac Asimov - both authors are very much science fiction (space travel, far future, etc.) and readable, but still quite literate and intelligent. Asimov's Robot novels ("The Caves of Steel", "The Naked Sun") combine futuristic settings, social themes, and a fun mystery feel, while LeGuin's works often focus on the effects of society and civilization in different settings ("The Lefthand of Darkness" is a good one).

Posted on Apr 13, 2013 9:18:00 AM PDT
I think these are fantastic suggestions. I would perhaps suggest something like the hitchikers guide series - they are humorous and a nice introduction to the science fiction genre.
Another option would be to choose something from a list of 100 top science fiction novels - that way you can be sure you are getting something excellent. I am currently on a mission to read all 100 of the books (I'm only on my second) so the list can be found on my blog, along with a detailed review of The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy (my first book).
Just visit and please follow me so that you can keep updated with my reviews!

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 13, 2013 10:01:53 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 13, 2013 12:28:31 PM PDT
Tom Rogers says:
that's not a bad list you're working from, but there are some perhaps not so obvious perils and pitfalls to using something like that to guide your reading, e.g. "Snowcrash" assumes that the reader has a really good background in SF in general and the peculiar conventions and idioms of Cyberpunk in particular. "Ender's Game" is a fantastic book, but it's part of an ongoing dialog in SF in which a strain of SF I've seen characterized as genocide in the form of human fascists vs. spacebugs has evolved (or degenerated) from "Starship Troopers", so you really need to read several books as a prerequisite to appreciate what Card is driving at.

Anyway, it's a good idea to talk to the friendly brain trust in forums like this to come up with an optimal reading plan given your goals and background.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 13, 2013 12:12:12 PM PDT
Lettuce Prey says:
This is a joke, right? You're on your SECOND sci-fi novel, which you've been trying to finish for 6 months, and you have a blog about sci-fi novels? If you had hung out here previously your hubris would be diminished considerably.

Tell you what, update us when you FINISH a book. Hitchhikers is a bowl of popcorn compared to most books on that list, which you only glancingly credit to the original source. And probably watched the movie or TV series to help you with Hitchhikers.

I'm sure you're a sweet person but do know that this is a very well read and educated audience, many of whom have read most if not all of the books on the list. Thus my point about hubris. But keep posting as your progress will be of interest. Just be prepared to discuss the books in depth.

And if you're easing into this, let me suggest lighter weight material such as Wells, Asimov, Niven and/or Pournelle and Heinlein. Stephenson is a big bite.
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Discussion in:  Science Fiction forum
Participants:  13
Total posts:  34
Initial post:  Mar 17, 2013
Latest post:  Apr 14, 2013

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