Speaking of . . .


I'm in the market for science fiction books right now. Does anyone have any particular favorites to recommend?


I'm generally fairly (or perhaps unfairly) short on sci-fi recommendations, but I can't rhapsodize enough about Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. I'd also go so far as to suggest The Mote in God's Eye by Niven and Pournelle. For more than that I'm going to have to look at my bookcase and try to remember what I've read.

I'm kicking myself because I have an unread copy of The Mote in God's Eye sitting on my bookshelf in San Diego. I'll have to remember to grab it at Christmas, or find one in a used book store.

I love Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. I did an entire essay-plus-audio-visual-presentation in Sophomore Humanities in High School on why it's far superior to Blade Runner (which is in a dead-heat with Breakfast at Tiffany's for movie adaptation that I hate the most for being a profound betrayal of its source material). But I'm also a fan of Dick, generally. Have you read Valis? That's a weird one, but a lot of fun, in a depressing Phillip K. Dick way.

Valis, along with three or four other Dick books, is sitting on my bookshelf waiting for me to stop dicking (ha ha) around with anthropology books and get back to reading fiction. It's been recommended to me before, as if D.A.D.O.E.S. isn't enough of a recommendation to read everything else the man has ever written.

Heheh. You said you're a fan of Dick.

I'm glad someone agrees with me about Blade Runner. I find it very frustrating. The book is subtle and poignant and its artistry lies as much in the setting -- the what-has-happened and the what-that-has-created -- as in the story itself. The movie is, well, Harrison Ford and some very nice sets. But what do I need to tell you this for? You already know.

Gah, Blade Runner. I hate that movie, but I come by my hatred rightly. I have seen it far, far too many times.

The first time was in 6th Grade, I think. I came in knowing it was Science Fiction and having a vague sense that it was a "good movie." I watched it, but didn't quite get it.

I watched it again my Freshman year of High School. Alright, I figured, I've developed more sophisticated tastes; this time I will like it. I still didn't. I believe a friend told me I was wrong to dislike it and showed it to me at his house. Still nothing.

In all of this, I operated on the first premise that Blade Runner was a good movie, and that my distaste for it was a failure on my part. At the end of Sophomore year, my humanities teacher assigned us to pick a topic in any area relating to the humanities and write an essay on it, then give a presentation to the class about it with visual aids. I had just bought Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, and thought "Ah-ha! I'll write a comparison between the book and the movie! Intensive study will cause me to like the movie more!"

I read the book and was floored. "This is really good!" I said, "and I like it without forcing myself to!" In the course of that project I watched Blade Runner about half a dozen times. We had it on long-term rental from the movie store. So I came out of that really disliking the movie, particularly now that I'd read the book.

I left it alone for five years, and finally rented it again just to see what I thought of it, whether I could judge it objectively. For one, I appreciate the cinematography a lot more than I did. It's a visually stunning movie. If only there were no dialogue or attempt at a plot, I might appreciate it more. But now, at last, I have closure: I don't like Blade Runner, and it's not my fault. It's just a bad movie.

I've also heard good things about Man in the High Castle, which is apparently a clever alternate history. It's sitting right next to Mote in God's Eye on a bookshelf 3000 miles away, now.

I feel I'd be remise if I didn't take the opportunity to recommend Ted Chiang's Stories of Your Life and Others. It's a collection of short stories and I believe, as of now, it still collects everything he's ever published. So by reading just that one book you can say "I've read all of Ted Chiang." But it's very good, thought-provoking science fiction. I'm particularly a fan of the last story in the collection, "Liking What You See: A Documentary."

Aha! Aha! I finally have my bookshelf and my brain in the same place.

Niven and Pournelle did another book worth checking out, called Footfall. While you're picking it up, don't pick up The Gripping Hand, because it's the sequel to The Mote In God's Eye and you have to read them in order, damnit.

I didn't finish either Ringworld by Larry Niven or the Uplift Wars books by David Brin (Sundiver, Startide Rising, and The Uplift War), but they both looked good and came highly recommended to me.

Technically I didn't finish Kiln People by David Brin either (please note that all this non-finishing reflects my standard approach to books rather than the qualities of the books in question), but after 90% finishing it I'll venture to recommend it. It's an extremely clever detective story.

Er, Zodiac? By Neal Stephenson, suggested to me as the Neal Stephenson book for people who don't like Neal Stephenson? It's not sci-fi in the conventional space-and-future sense -- more like sea-and-present -- but whatever genre you put it in it's enjoyable.

And now I have truly scraped my barrel, bottom and all, and removed everything found therein. I have no more recommendations for you. Use these well.

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on October 2, 2005 8:46 PM.

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