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Messages: Hard Science Fiction anyone?

social science fiction

The days after by ballantine is the best PA social science fiction book i've read (bar the great wyndham). It's strange as hell, but once i got into it, i was fully immersed.

5 months, 14 days ago
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End of the world anyone?

I'm always looking for good apocalyptic fiction. I can't say I'm much interested in the "Left Behind" series, but I really get into anything remotely plausible. Some examples of books I've enjoyed in this vein:

- Lucifer's Hammer (Niven & Pournelle)
- The Stand (King) - didn't much like the whole good vs. evil bit, but everything else was right up my alley
- Aftermath (Sheffield) - I'll read the sequel if the owner ever sends it to me
- Alas, Babylon ()
- Moonseed (Baxter)
- Ill Wind (Anderson & Beason)
- The Forge of God (Bear) - the sequel's pretty good, too
- Earth (Brin)
- Earth Abides (Stewart)
- Ice! (Federbush)
- I am Legend (Matheson)
- Circuit of Heaven (Danvers)

Honorable mentions:
- The Road (McCarthy) - post-apocalyptic really, but enjoyed it anyway
- Battlefield: Earth - not much for character development, but very fun
- Footfall (Niven & Pournelle) - Earth never gets trashed, but fun nonetheless
- The Hammer of God (Clarke)
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Adams)

Any recommendations out there? I'm hoping to get all the really good disaster books on my shelves (I'm sure there's some psychological neurosis that makes me enjoy this stuff, but I'd rather not be treated for it until I've read all the good ones).

Rebel Sun
4 years ago

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(5 months, 14 days ago)The days after by ballantine is the best PA social science fiction book i've read (bar the great wyndham). It's strange as hell, but once i got into it, i was fully immersed.
(4 years ago)I LOVE post-apocalyptic novels. I'd add Jacqueline Harpman : I Who Have Never Known Men to the list. It's a lovely translation of an incredibly bleak story. Also P.D. James : The Children of Men .
Mary H
(4 years ago)Il Gobb, I'm glad you liked Stephen Baxter : Moonseed. In the last month I've mooched some more apocalyptic books: James Wesley Rawles : How to Survive the End of the World As We Know It James Howard Kunstler : World Made by Hand: A Novel John Christopher : Death of Grass Alex Scarrow : Last Light I'm reading and enjoying the short "The Death of Grass" now. Jon
Jon Maloney
(4 years ago)@ Jon I just wanted to thank you for "Moonseed": it was awesome. I'm in the process of acquiring other books you pointed out to me, many many thanks for your great counseling ^___^
Il Gobb
(4 years ago)Just finished the classic post-apocalyptic "A Canticle for Leibowitz". "A Gift Upon the Shore" M. K. Wren for bibliophiles.
(4 years ago)Wyndham isn't good! He is Great! His books are so good that people who don't like SF should read them!
(4 years ago)The Change novels by S.M Stirling starting with Dies the Fire are pretty good.
(4 years ago)I love post apocalyptic stuff too. John Wyndham is good - I've read The Kraken Wakes, Day of the Triffids and The Crysalids - all good. If you can stand a bit of fantasy in the mix (demons and magic, etc), then I've just read Terry Brook's Genisis of Shannara trilogy - I was absolutely hooked on them.
(4 years ago)John Christopher wrote several apocalyptic books, but I've yet to see one. Here are a few that are on my wishlist: John Christopher : The Year of the Comet (1955) (US: Planet in Peril) John Christopher : Death of Grass (1957) (US: John Christopher : No Blade of Grass) John Christopher : World in Winter (1962) (US: John Christopher : The Long Winter (Fawcett Gold Medal, No. T2323)) John Christopher : A Wrinkle in The Skin (1965) (US: John Christopher : The Ragged Edge (Signet SF, P3124)) John Christopher : Empty World (New Windmill) (1977) Jon
Jon Maloney
(4 years ago)John Christopher's No Blade of Grass (published also as The Death of Grass, I think) is a British oldie (but gruesomely goodie), in which civilization crumbles as a virus kills off all grass plants (including wheat) and famine looms.
(4 years ago)I'm glad I read Stel Pavlou : Decipher. My personal enjoyment scale is 1-6, with 3.5 being average. I gave Decipher a 5. I keep a reading record in which I enter comments about each book I read. Here's what I wrote about Decipher (POSSIBLE SPOILERS): "Filled with fascinating information about myths, ancient languages, ancient civilizations, physics, astronomy, religion, polar shifts, Atlantis, and more. It has a wild premise, undeveloped characters, poor dialogue, unbelievable action sequences, and an awful last hundred pages." Jon
Jon Maloney
(4 years ago)I've been thinking about reading Stel Pavlou : Decipher. Thanks for your words on it Jon. I am not sure If I'll read it now., but I'll keep it in mind. Hercules40 (a.k.a. PapaG) inventory
Hercules40 (a.k.a. PapaG)
(4 years ago)I received another apocalyptic book today: 1979, Mary Vigliante : The Colony I've got one apocalyptic book coming: 1977, Arthur Herzog : Heat Within the last few months I've read a few apocalyptic books: 2002, Stel Pavlou : Decipher (from you, Rebel Sun!) 1998, Stephen Baxter : Moonseed 1955, Leigh Brackett : The Long Tomorrow 2009, James Wesley Rawles : Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse 1977, George Stone : Blizzard 1981, Ralph Hayes : Drought 1980, Robert Sheckley : After The Fall I loved the ideas and trivia in Decipher, but the last third of the book was a mess. I thought the parts about space travel and the moon in Moonseed were absolutely excellent, but I thought there were significant human-behavior errors and the book was about 300 pages too long. The Long Tomorrow was better than I expected and showed a maturity I didn't expect from a cold-war-era novel. I liked Patriots for it's survivalist ideas, but the story wasn't that great. Blizzard and Drought! basically sucked. :-) I enjoyed only two of 15 stories in After the Fall. Apocalyptic books on my to-be-read shelf include: 2008, Scott Sigler : Infected: A Novel 1998, Jack McDevitt : Moonfall 1994, John Barnes : Mother of Storms 2006, Z. A. Recht : Plague of the Dead (The Morningstar Strain) 2007, Jeff Carlson : Plague Year 2006, Cormac McCarthy : The Road (Oprah's Book Club) 2003, Humphrey Hawksley : The Third World War (also from you) Jon
Jon Maloney
(4 years ago)Hey Jon, Thanks for the link to your blog list...a lot of books I'd never heard of on there (and quite as few that I forgot about). I'll be adding many of them to my wishlist.
Rebel Sun
(4 years ago)Thanks for you lists, Rebel Sun. I have just submitted mooch requests for Kevin J. Anderson : Ill Wind and David Brin : Earth, and I added Arnold Federbush : Ice! to my wishlist. Jon
Jon Maloney
(4 years ago)I too like apocalyptic stories. Last year I performed online research and made a list of apocalyptic books. I divided the list into categories based on whether I owned, had read, or wanted them. (I haven't bothered to maintain the list, so several books are listed in the wrong categories now.) You might find some books to enjoy on it. I published the list in a blog post here: You might find some ideas on my wishlist too: Jon Maloney/9999/ Jon
Jon Maloney

ROBOTA ---- the graphics are stunning. The books are real artwork.
Droids in the feild threshing grain and smokeing pipes. Intermix of dinosaurs
and droids. The artwork was really well done.

i got a copy at library to look at.....would like to mooch it.

neat book.

fiddle 1
4 years ago
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I forget the title for this short story...

Anyone remember the title or author of this short story?

Earth has been conquered by a race of large, carnivorous (as in human-eating) creatures. One human is holed up in a library, and begins sharing messages with an alien who professes that "it" is vegetarian. Can't we all get along?

But the alien's will falters when it reads a recipe on cooking humans...

RS Cobblestone
3 years ago
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Sci fi and fantasy booklists by darkraostedblend

The Ultimate Guide to Modern Writers of Fantastic Literature: 1990-2009:

The Wonder Timeline: SF&F Retrospective

4 years ago
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Your favorite hard SF books?

I just LOVE Hard Science Fiction, that is, science fiction with A LOT of physics involved ;)
I'm looking for books I still don't know the existence of, and that shouldn't be too hard because here in Italy HSF is quite an unknown genre and I have to look abroad for something in english to read, so... come on! Share your love and let me know if I'm missing something great to mooch!

Me first: personally I'm a big fan of Arthur C. Clarke (I know, I know, it's predictable ;P), Stephen Baxter (just finished reading Stephen Baxter : Moonseed">Moonseed, a must-have book for geology-loving people), Kim Stanley Robinson (his Mars Trilogy is hard SF at its best, with a really plausible political plot), Greg Bear (Greg Bear : Eon">Eon, Eternity, Moving Mars) and Robert J. Sawyer (whatever, the man is just great: try Robert J. Sawyer : Calculating God">Calculating God).

So... how about you?

Il Gobb
5 years ago

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(4 years ago)I've never read McDevitt, although I do have Jack McDevitt : Moonfall on my to-be-read shelf. I have added Jack McDevitt : The Engines of God to my wishlist. Thanks for the recommendation. Jon
Jon Maloney
(4 years ago)Have you tried Jack McDevitt's books? His "Hutch" series hits my hard sci-fi button pretty well, mixing the sciences with outerspace archaeology in a believable way.
(4 years ago)You should add Iain M Banks to your wishlist - his Culture novels and stan alone SF are amazing. The Algebriast springs to mind. I am just reading the first novel in the Culture series - Consider Phlebus - and it's mind blowing. Peter F Hamilton is also excellent - try the Night's Dawn trilogy - fantastic books.
(4 years ago)I read The Illuminatus! trilogy: Robert Shea : Illuminatus Part 1 The Eye In The Pyramid Robert J. Shea : The Golden Apple Robert Shea : Illuminatus!: Part 3: Leviathan in the late seventies. They're on my shelf between Elizabeth Ann Scarborough : The Healer's War and Robert Sheckley : After the Fall. :-) I don't remember it well, except that it was wild and nonlinear. bio:jmaloney
Jon Maloney
(4 years ago)Il Gobb said, "The fact is that my love for physics...." Greg Egan : Distress is one you might want to try. It's a difficult read with lots of physics. Jon
Jon Maloney
(4 years ago)Hi Jon, nice to meet you ^__^ I completely agree with you: many authors who can get their science right can't equally handle their characters and plots, and balancing those needs is really an unusual feat. Regarding the first ones, in my opinion, Roger MacBride Allen's "Hunted Earth" saga is a good example, while usually Robert J. Sawyer is able to use all those three elements with much more care. I enjoy plot-drive SF too, but, while it's true that there are a fair lot of robust plots and credible characters out there... once I get the fiction, I always feel hungry for science :P The fact is that my love for physics makes me enjoy immensely such (not so easy to find, if you think about it) novels, because science (social science, too) well represented and plausible is one of the main triggers for my sense of wonder ;) I find refreshing, in a number of good, plot-wise novels, to sometimes read something in which physics is the real protagonist, and the characters only mere instruments to display it. Yeah, I'm odd ;P I read - Timescape - the whole Neanderthal series by Sawyer... and everything else - he's one of my top writers. I really loved Calculating God, it blew my mind. How can he have such shattering ideas? O_o - both the Eon Saga and Moving Mars (Bear is my current favorite, I just mooched Darwin's Radio) - Benford's Timescape and - quite a bit of Haldeman, but I never tried Cramer and Hogan: I'll fix that! It's really wonderful to be able to collect such interesting suggestions knowing that they come from other people who loved those books and want to share. Thank you very much, and good reading ^______^ *g
Il Gobb
(4 years ago)Il Gobb, We may have similar tastes. I've read many of the books you named but I don't think I liked them as much as you did. Authors who get the science right often fail when it comes to plot and characters. Apparently an optimal balance is quite difficult to write. Here are some recommendations for you. John Cramer : Einstein's Bridge Joe Haldeman : The Forever War Robert J. Sawyer : Hominids It's the first book in a trilogy, but it stands alone well. The second and third books aren't as good (although I loved the part about the God helmet in the second book). Greg Bear : Darwin's Radio I liked this much more than Greg Bear : Eon and more than Greg Bear : Moving Mars. The Heritage Trilogy by Ian Douglas (military science fiction) Gregory Benford : Timescape James P. Hogan : Thrice Upon a Time Enjoy! Jon Reading: Geoff Ryman : Air: Or, Have Not Have
Jon Maloney
(4 years ago)Noted, thank you very much ^______^
Il Gobb
(4 years ago)I just finished a great book by Gary Tigerman, called The Orion Protocol. 'Ripped From the Headlines' stuff.
Some Science Fiction Resources

The Locus Index to Science Fiction Awards

Waterstone's Guide to Science Fiction & Fantasy

Hard Science Fiction Book List

Fantastic Fiction (not just science fiction)
(I often use the author pages on this site to see when a book was first published and to see if it's part of a series.)



Reading: Geoff Ryman : Air: Or, Have Not Have

Jon Maloney
4 years ago

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(4 years ago)Il Gobb, I hope you found some good possibilities. The Waterstone's guide is a good overview. You can review its categories and from your past reading experiences get an idea of which subgenres you like and which ones you don't. It's list of similar authors is helpful too. I also like to keep up with award winners, so I use the Locus site every few months. Here's another science fiction book list for you: Jon
Jon Maloney
(4 years ago)I didn't even know of the existence of the "Hard Science Fiction Book List": I'm impressed, and grateful O___O
Il Gobb
Been a long while....

I read just about all available SF (in the library) up to maybe the year 1964 or so...beat studying for sure. ;-)

Good to see some recommendations....should be lots available that I haven't read.

I did sort of cringe when the science part got sloppy in a story...but then a good bit has changed as far as "accepted" science since then?

4 years ago
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(4 years ago)"Accepted" science today is a little more "exotic" than it was in 1964, but not too much. The pity is that you missed a lot of good hard sf meanwhile ;)
Il Gobb
Greg Egan

How about Greg Egan? He writes very challenging, high concept SF. It's not hard like Clarke but it is very satisfying.

4 years ago

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(4 years ago)My first Egan book was "Schild's Ladder". My eyes are still sore :D A lot of exotic quantum physics and a disturbing lack of plot. Near the end is incredibly cryptic. A challenge, but not a fair one... don't know if i hate it or simply haven't understood it. I loved waaaaaaay more Axiomatic.
Il Gobb
(4 years ago)I mostly read science fiction and I prefer hard to soft science fiction. I like to be able to believe the science fictions I read. I keep a reading record which includes brief comments about each book. Here's what I've got for the Greg Egan I've read. Greg Egan : Permutation City (1994) Challenging and thought-provoking. Explores the nature of consciousness, virtual worlds, and copying people. Touches on moral and legal issues. Greg Egan : Distress (1995) Interesting, but hard and a struggle to get through. It seemed as though Egan listed lots of neat ideas and then tried to figure out what sort of thin story would allow him to share them. There's a lot of theoretical physics. Although I'm glad I read both books, I didn't find either one very satisfying. I haven't added any more Egan to my wishlist. Jon Reading: Geoff Ryman : Air: Or, Have Not Have (2004)
Jon Maloney
(4 years ago)Well 'Shild's Ladder' was one of my favourites so maybe I'm not the best person to make that recommendation! If you also like a bit of cyberpunk I'd suggest 'Quarantine'. Since you liked his short stories there is another recent collection called 'Oceanic', which I've just mooched myself a copy of.
(4 years ago)I,ve read Axiomatin and Schild's Ladder. I loved the first but I have mixed feelings on the second. Any book in particular you could suggest? ^_____^
Il Gobb
"Hard" SciFi Recommendations


I don't read tons of science fiction myself, but when I do I prefer "hard SciFi" to the more fantasy type. And I listen to a computer security podcast (SecurityNow) of which the hosts also enjoy hard SciFi and frequently give recommendations. I haven't read ALL of these, but I have thoroughly enjoyed enough of their recommendations that I have no qualms about repeating all of their recommendations.

Pandora's Star", or anything else by: Peter F. Hamilton
"The Man in the High Castle", "Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said", or anything else by: Philip K. Dick
Startide Rising: The Uplift Saga, Books 1-3 by: David Brin
Dune by: Frank Herbert
The Andromeda Strain by: Michael Crichton
"Snow Crash", "Anathem", "Quicksilver", or anything else by: Neal Stephenson
Ringworld by: Larry Niven
I Am Legend by: Richard Matheson
"Childhood's End", "Rendezvous with Rama", or anything else by: Arthur C. Clarke
Protector by: Larry Niven
Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

For more on the Security Now podcast you can see

5 years ago

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(4 years ago)I read a lot of science fiction and in general I prefer hard to soft sciences, although I am fond of time travel stories. Here are my favorite science fictions I've read in the last two years. James P. Hogan : Thrice upon a Time Joe Haldeman : Camouflage (Ace Science Fiction) Kornbluth C. M. : Gunner Cade. Ian Douglas : Semper Mars: Book One of the Heritage Trilogy Ian Douglas : Luna Marine (The Heritage Trilogy, Book 2) Ian Douglas : Europa Strike: Book Three of the Heritage Trilogy (Douglas, Ian. Heritage Trilogy, Bk. 3.) Ouellette : The DEUS MACHINE: THE DEUS MACHINE John Cramer : Einstein's Bridge Jon Reading: Geoff Ryman : Air: Or, Have Not Have
Jon Maloney
(4 years ago)Wow! How many wonderful recommendations! Love you people :D @ Nolan I never tried David Brin and, sadly, can't stand Benford (good ideas, poor wiriting, IMHO), but Bear is among my favorites ;) I'll read some of the short stories in Brin's website to get started... do you suggest any specific book? @ Jim "Technology driven" sounds good, even if it's not "hard". I surely can get through the first 100 pages, I did it with The Lord of The Rings at 12 so it should not be an overwhelming task :D Thank you ^___^ @ Miss Smilla I LOVE Herbert just for the same reasons you're illustrating. His Dune series is the deepest, most clear-minded analisys of power and messianism I've ever found in fiction. I really like your definition: "Hard SF for folks who are more interested in anthropology and ecology". Well, I am, and I'll read it: thanks :) It seems Banks is widely appreciated, but again... maybe I just can't understand it. I'll try The Player of Games like someone else suggested ^_____^ @ Michael I've read a lot of P.K.Dick, including every book recommended here... when I was young (oh, not so many years ago, but well >_<) he was the hottest writer around, a revolutionary. But sadly I still can't understand nor like him after many years...
Il Gobb
(4 years ago)While I agree that Philip K. Dick can be an acquired TASTE, I recommend to most people who read Sci-Fi to at least try to read one or two Dick books or stories before making their minds-up. My personal favorite right now of his is Philip K. Dick : The Man in the High Castle (S.F.Masterworks S.). It's pretty short. I recommend it. Try it to really get a flavor of how mind-bending, mind-altering his ideas are. The only story of his that somehow successfully got transferred, was Philip K. Dick : Philip K. Dick: Four Novels of the 1960s: The Man in the High Castle / The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch / Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? / Ubik, although I have not read the follow-ups by KW Jeter.
Hercules40 (a.k.a. PapaG)
(4 years ago)For all the folks here who loved Dune, I'd heartily recommend Donald Kingsbury : Courtship Rite -- purists might not consider either title truly hard SF, but the Westbury hits a lot of the same notes for me in terms of showing future societies with discernible threads of influence from old Earth cultures, in-depth exploration of how religious and social mores may be affected by the need to adapt to inhospitable alien environments, political intrigue, and so forth. Hard SF for folks who are more interested in anthropology and ecology rather than physics, perhaps. ^_^ It's a fascinating setting with some great characters -- and much as I still love Dune, Westbury is better about letting his female characters get a chance to DO THINGS than Herbert was. I'd also second the rec for Iain M. Banks' "Culture" stories, and Neal Stephenson : Snow Crash (Bantam Spectra Book), but with the slight caveat that Stephenson is a bit notorious for having trouble writing satisfying, well-structured endings -- his books tend to rattle along really nicely but then just sort of...STOP, abruptly and with a lot of loose ends left hanging.
Miss Smilla
(4 years ago)I greatly enjoyed Tad Williams Otherland series. It's basically just one large book broken up into volumes. It's technology driven, not of the space-faring genre. I found the first 100 pages or so quite slow, but loved it after that (when stuff started happening).
(4 years ago)You're talking about hard science fiction but only mentioned one third of the "killer b's", David Brin. (Who happens to be my least favourite!) For sure read anything by Gregory Benford and Greg Bear
(5 years ago)@ Vanessa I have everything ever written by Herbert, I'm a huge fan. Thank you very much for the advice, though, it's good to have found another one ;) @Robert Schmidt I have "Inversions" and I can't get past the first 100 pages... I don't know, it seems rather uninteresting, but if you recommend The Player of Games I'll check it too ^___^
Il Gobb
(5 years ago)Try reading about The Culture (, a future of vast proportions, creatures living in the centers of gas giants and a billion years old, and extremely advanced technology. Iain M Banks. Try The Player of Games first.
RS Cobblestone
(5 years ago)If you like Frank Herbert you should give The Dosadi Experiment a read, its a wonderful book and great Sci-Fi.
(5 years ago)>>"Never read Neal Stephenson" So far the only Neal Stephenson book I have read is Cryptonomicon. It might be a little bit of a stretch to call it Science Fiction -- more just good fiction with some interesting science (Cryptography, Math, etc) in the story. I definitely enjoyed Stephenson's writing -- he is one of those authors that turn out massive tomes (900 pages) but is still very readable. I plan to read more of his books.
(5 years ago)Hi ssebeny, nice to meet you and thanks for the response ^___^ I'm currently reading "The Dreaming Void" by Hamilton. Didn't know about Pandora's Star, I'll check it. Sadly I really dislike Philip K. Dick. I know, pure blasphemy, but I can't stand his prose. The Dune saga, included all the sequels and prequels written by his son and Anderson (hugely lesser, but not entirely a waste of paper), is one of my favorite fictional universes ^___^ The Uplift Saga by David Brin sounds really interesting, as well as Crichton's book (you surprised me there! Is that so good?). Never read Neal Stephenson, I'll check that too. All the rest is known material ;) TYhanks a lot for the tip on the Security Now podcast, I'll try that and see if their recommendations meet my tastes!
Il Gobb