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Best SciFi book ever


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The Photographer in Blowup
13:22 / 15.12.02
What science fiction book do you consider as the best of all times?

And judge the book on the grounds of its relevance nowadays, originality, intelligent researched science, and influence on nowadays writers of scifi - and not just because it's a classic of one hundred years ago.
John Adlin
13:38 / 15.12.02
Pure sci fi and not fantays its got to be William Gibson's Neuromancer.
rizla mission
17:53 / 15.12.02
ONE SINGLE BOOK? ah, c'mon now..
The Photographer in Blowup
18:00 / 15.12.02
ONE SINGLE BOOK? ah, c'mon now..

What are you complaining about anyway? People always answer the same: Neuromancer; Grosse Point has proven it
Mourne Kransky
18:07 / 15.12.02
Frank Herbert's DUNE

because it's about ecology and worlds despoiled by humans, water wars, drug wars, messianic cults and jihad, religion kidnapping politics, bioengineering, bionics, retro fashion, and so much more. A huge influence on the genre.

Could make a similar argument for Brian Alldis' Helliconia Trilogy too but I've had my shot so won't go there.
18:16 / 15.12.02
Neuromancer, Count Zero, Mona Lisa Overdrive by William Gibson

If you are only going to read one sci-fi book this year, MAKE IT THESE THREE. Gibson's bleakly compelling vision of a world in which the Internet is very important indeed is EERILY PRESCIENT. WHO IS JACKING ON YOUR INTERTRODES?

Tricky to find, but there are rumours of a reprint.

Bloody that honestly the best we can manage? "People always say Neuromancer. The fact that ONE PERSON has said so proves that".
Let's try to show the nice people that sci-fi readers can actually form sentences, shall we? What's so good about Neuromancer?

I'd say, for example, that "Lord of Light" by Roger Zelasny is more engagingly written than "Neuromancer". Writing from a single conceit, Zelasny creates a cohesive and convincing universe, peopled with likable, involving characters, and playing out a self-contained narrative that plays with concepts of divinity, humanity and the right of "lesser" peoples to self-determination.

Or how about UBIK by Philip K Dick, or the ever-popular Vurt, or Snow Crash, or the Sirens of Titan, or....Christ, or "Dead Things" by Richard Calder, for that matter. What's so good about Neuromancer? And why should we stick to the criteria set up at the beginning of this thread?
The Photographer in Blowup
18:54 / 15.12.02
And why should we stick to the criteria set up at the beginning of this thread?

Because i've said, so, but i never listen myself, so why should you guys?

Okay, let's hear everyone's list of best scifi novels out there

I'll start:

Blood Music - it's not everyday someone wakes up with a whole Universe inside one's own body

Contact - if not for science fiction, for science itself as it gave birth to a new time-travelling theory

Jem - Pohl's story of three diferent races learning to live in peace/harmony after a whole holocaust triggered by their actions kills almost every living thing is an important message of hope (it was the 70's)

Darwin's Radio - so i have a thing for Greg Bear; i've read only half of it, and sounds good; involves genetics, evolution, exctinction, change, anthropology - the science is almost real, it's intelligent and original
Lurid Archive
21:09 / 15.12.02
Hmmm. I don't think I'd pick Neuromancer.

Haus is right that Philip K Dick deserves a mention. More than a mention, even.

I've got a big soft spot for Olaf Stapledon's Last and First Men - the science is dodgy, but it has a breadth that is staggering.

Also, I like some of the older stuff and I am quite broad about what I consider scifi. For instance, I think that Orwell's 1984 should be mentioned. As should Frankenstein and HG Wells - the Invisible Man is my favourite.

For any lefties, I think that Ursula K LeGuin, especially Left Hand of Darkness and Disposessed are worth a look.

Theres lots more, but I do find that I prefer older scifi with the possible exception of Iain Banks Culture novels, which are certainly fun if nothing else.
The Strobe
23:34 / 15.12.02
Favourites of mine, and sod genre boundaries?

Frankenstein, The Island of Dr Moreau, 1984, Brave New World, Slaughterhouse 5, Left Hand of Darkness, Vurt, The Demolished Man, Flowers for Algernon.

I can't really pick between them, though the first two are my candidates for most important SF book ever, Moreau being definitely SF and Frankenstein being a superb prototype of it.
Tryphena Absent
03:30 / 16.12.02
Just to repeat what others have said I'd go for quite a few books. The Dispossessed is definitely in my top five, I love Brave New World though I don't think I'd rate it as the best book ever, The Time Machine was magic the first time I read it and yeah Philip K. Dick deserves to be noticed again and again. I'd have to stick Lem in there as well and my favourite Neal Stephenson is The Diamond Age and not Snow Crash (though it is without doubt a classic). I had a thing for Cyteen by CJ Cherryh a few years ago and I had a thing for David Brin as well. I love them all, way too much to choose one, they're too diverse, they brought me up.
Constitution Hill
04:17 / 16.12.02
The SF novel that means the most to me is Stand on Zanzibar, by John Brunner, but for balls-out SF how about bester's The Stars My Destination?

In terms of speculative SF, i'd have to give the nod to the KSR's Mars trilogy - i was kind of bored by the end of the first book, but they just got better & better, especially with Sax - his character development over the three books was wonderful.

But if we're really trying to get to the heart of great SF, shouldn't the question be which is the best SF short story?
Foust is SO authentic
04:27 / 16.12.02
The Nine Billion Names of God, by my main man Mr. Clarke.
05:02 / 16.12.02
I'm gonna chime in on Neuromancer. Though it's becoming less astounding as it seems less and less sci-fi. That, and it's a future from the 80s. Where people wore mirrored sunglasses.

Phil K Dick's Time out of Joint is wonderful, eerie, and accessible. A Scanner Darkly is also good, albeit bleak as fuck. The last three (VALIS, Transmigration and Divine Invasion) are too weird, I think, to reccomend for people. If you want to read a book where the author writes about himself as a pseudonym to give himself distance, then brings himself in again under his real name to portray another personality, and then sends one of his personalities, and only one, to china... you're probably reading this board.

I didn't like Vurt. I didn't see the point, really. But I don't really think it's bad. Just that it missed me.

Bruce Sterling has some bitching short stories - the Leggy Starlitz ones, Our Neural Chernobyl, I have to add The Unnameable because it's got the line "Poor old Oppie. Shame about him having to go and become Death and all."

If Infinite Jest counts, it gets on the list. As well as the Crying of Lot 49. And Naked Lunch.

The thing about Neuromancer, though... is that it's got all of the above elements in it already. Dunnit?
11:16 / 16.12.02
Well, I haven't even finished the damn thing yet, but I may as well throw in "Light" by M John Harrision. Alright, I have no idea if it qualifies for best SF book ever, but such categories are a bit arbitary to say the least.
It's certainly the book I've enjoyed most this year.

I was going to start a thread on it but I may as well hurl it in here - it anyone has read it/ is reading it, lets discuss it elsewhere.
Without giving to many spoilers, it's got Space Opera, sentient mathematics, magickal serial killers, bummed out alien races and touches of Lovecrftian horror around the meaninglessness void hinted at in quantum physics. All this takes place in the orbit of the Kefahuci tract - a naked singularity surrounded with 65 million year old technology from dead and disappeared alien races. Plus unpredictable, compellingly human characters. I'm far enough in to see how the narrative strands are blending together slowly and the moment I get out of work, I'm not ploughing on till it's finished. It's absolutely ace and I think it's going to be a stand out book in the genre.

Perfect Xmas present for Barbelithers?
19:03 / 16.12.02
Hyperion by Dan Simmons.

It's so very good.

Canterbury Tales at the end of the Universe.
Knodge - YOUR nemesis!
19:57 / 16.12.02
A lot of great works have already been mentioned... I'd like to throw in Childhood's End and Solaris.
Mourne Kransky
20:05 / 16.12.02
Foust: The Nine Billion Names of God

Excellent, but that would be The Best SciFi short story ever. In which case, I would argue for The Machine Stops by E M Forster or Dark They Were And Golden Eyed by Ray Bradbury.
The Photographer in Blowup
21:37 / 16.12.02
Solaris was good, better than 2001: a space odissey (the sequels ruined it even further)but don't know if it survived the test of time (that remake with Goerge Clooney wasn't exactly good for nowadays standars of a science fiction movie)which is a pity

Jules Verne's Paris in the twentieth century written in the middle of 19th century is of a story set in 1960's, foreshadowing many of our inventions nowadays - very crude story actually, but Verne's power of imagination was superb, so i think it deserves a mention.
01:17 / 17.12.02
Perfect Xmas present for Barbelithers?

Well, as long as you don't try it on certain habituees of the Third Alternative message boards...
Knodge - YOUR nemesis!
02:06 / 17.12.02
I enjoyed Soderbergh's version of Solaris. It wasn't on the same level as Tarkovsky's, however it maybe shouldn't be judged as such considering it was not intended as a remake of the earlier film. I am not sure what you mean by "wasn't exactly good for nowadays standards of a science fiction film". Do you mean because it was lacking in big Star Wars/Star Trekian explosions? The set and space shots were very good. I thought it was paced well, absorbing me in the experience. Clooney was somewhat suspect, though I didn't think Banionis was perfect in Tarkovsky's version either. In the end, not a masterpiece, but good and certainly not a failure.

To bring this back to the literature that inspired the film(s), I think Lem's writing has aged quite well. The themes are as relevant today as in the early sixties. I have never read Clarke's 2001 but, again, the film is brilliant.
Kit-Cat Club
02:20 / 17.12.02
Keep it to books as much as possible, chaps...
04:20 / 17.12.02

Third Runner-up:

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, because it made me laugh and shiver at the same time.

1) Holy communion sold as a drug to keep the poor bastards drafted to farm the semi-desert of Mars from killing themselves. One of the richest man in the solar system sells the (addictive of course) drug, Can-D, that provides the experience. The foci of this communion are Perky Pat and her boyfriend living the 1950s white suburban dream, so there's a highly profitable sideline in miniature clothes, cars and household appliances to flesh out the dream.

2) The title character offers a substitute drug, Chew-Z, that's non-addictive, but the side effect is that Eldritch is permanently a part of your personal universe. Filmed, more or less, as "Wild Palms."

Insane and plausible at the same time.

Second Runner-up:

Shockwave Rider (1974), John Brunner. A lot of it came true, but you can say that about a lot of imaginative SF. But the story also leads you to the crux of the central character's motivation. This inspired a lot of geeks, none more so than Robert T Morris Jr. who, in 1988, wrote a worm that disabled 6000 hosts on the then much-smaller internet.

First Runner-up:

The Diamond Age, which is Alice in Wonderland within which Alice grows up, with the help of those who built the Wonderland. Also, it's got great gobs of social commentary, which I love.

Best ever:

Frankenstein, because it nails us for pretending to be gods when we really need to be just good parents. Whether creating life the usual way or innovatively, out of a test tube, from ones and zeroes, or, what the hell, body parts Abbie Normal's brain and a bolt of lightning, you still have to change its diapers annd eventually see that it gets into a good school. It'll quickly figure out that we're not its gods, and less hangs on the question than we want to admit. If Monsanto or the Raelians clone a baby its future becomes a matter for social workers, not patent lawyers.
The science of Frankenstein wasn't bad for the time. Lack of characterization is more than outweighed by the enduring moral, which we show no signs of learning anytime soon.
04:55 / 17.12.02
Hyperion was good, but it was a half-finished story. The second half, The Fall of Hyperion, wasn't as good, in my opinion.

I've recently been making my way through all of the Philip K. Dick I can lay my hands on. I've yet to find a bad novel.
07:37 / 17.12.02
Bruce Sterling's "Our Neural Chernobyl" is my favorite short story for the next five minutes, because fox hunting became legal again. Cross-breed foxes with racoons, boost their IQs and give 'em cute little curare-dart guns, make it a bit more sporting.
11:45 / 17.12.02
Haus: Where's the Third Alternative? Are they Harrison-bashing over there?

Finished "Light" now, BTW. The conclusion is as good as the rest of it. Very optimistic and upbeat ending. Without giving too much away, he seems to be talking about human values, acceptance, positivity, rather than "hard" SF themes. If anyone else checks it out, please let me know what you think.
| x |
12:12 / 17.12.02
Um, I'll always pick a Dick of some sort for number one. Most recently, I'd have to say Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said. Made me cry, even though I'm sure Im not a cop.

Spacetime Donuts by Rudy Rucker was pretty darn good, if I recall.

As far a short stories, hmm..."Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" by Jorge Luis Borges was really enjoyable. In fact, if you ever see a copy of Ficciones it is an excellent read.

J.G. Ballard's short stories are generally pretty darn good too, and of course, Italo Calvino has written some stories Id call really good sci-fi, and, and, and...
rizla mission
12:13 / 17.12.02
Without giving to many spoilers, it's got Space Opera, sentient mathematics, magickal serial killers, bummed out alien races and touches of Lovecrftian horror around the meaninglessness void hinted at in quantum physics

Say no more! I'll look out for it.
12:36 / 17.12.02
Cheers. I like to think my description of it is enhanced by my low quality grammer.
The Photographer in Blowup
13:28 / 17.12.02
Do you mean because it was lacking in big Star Wars/Star Trekian explosions?

no, but because it lacks what i consider as good in a science fiction movie: new approaches to technology; new questions about technology and man's place in it; a good twist at the end

Was comparing it to good scifi movies that didn't necessarily make much money: Dark City, 12 Monkeys, Brazil - these made more questions than they gave answers.
13:47 / 17.12.02
Illmatic: Oh, it's a SF magazine -, I think. MJH was/is on the messageboard and made a bit of a cock of himself.
Mister Six, whom all the girls
21:49 / 17.12.02
I'm defintely getting that MJH book, sounds brill.

Flow My Tears and Ubik are amazing, I agree.

My fave would have to be 'Dr Adder' by K W Jeter... which is very creepy because he wrote the damned thing in the early 70's and it predicted the age we're in now. If you chaps don't own it, go out and get it toute sweet, k? Lots of sex grafts, etc.

Also, NOIR by the same author which to my eyes has the best premise of any sci-fi novel, death to plagarists.
04:49 / 18.12.02
I'd say PKD's "A Scanner Darkly". Funny, tragic, and full to the brim with Phildickian reality headfucks.
Cat Chant
11:07 / 18.12.02
Anything/everything by Kurt Vonnegut and Philip K Dick should, indeed, be read ravenously, often and with scrupulous attention and pleasure.

But the best science fiction book of all time is going to have to be Marge Piercy's Woman at the Edge of Time, for the sheer convincingness of its near-utopia, the accomplished cleverness of the way it deals with the interaction of past and present - making a theme out of something which is often clumsily allegorized in science fiction writing - and the way it focuses (focalizes?) the whole future society through the eyes of a really interesting woman character, thus making the whole novel feel immediate, relevant and human-scaled rather than just a show-off about how clever the writer is to think of such big thoughts. Also I really fancy one of the main characters, which always helps, and it's one of the few books to convincingly depict a non-sexist society (including rather a good non-gendered pronoun... in fact the language/slang generally is very clever). It's also marked by being produced in (I think!) the seventies, in that a lot of utopian/dystopian or political science fiction tends to focus on one main social division (The Dispossessed is "about" anarchy vs technodecadence; Left Hand of Darkness is "about" gender) and create a society to explore various possibilities around that one thing, whereas Woman at the Edge of Time much more holistically takes on the interdependence of all manner of things (notably economics, genetics, pollution/ecology and racial and sexual politics) in its reimagination of social forms and forms of subjectivity.

(I know I always say this on science-fiction book threads and maybe I should just start a new one, but, incidentally, isn't it striking how gendered science fiction is - I mean, that "feminist science fiction" is, to some extent, almost a different genre from the boy-authored stuff?)
rizla mission
14:57 / 18.12.02
Hmm.. yeah.. maybe I'm not looking in the right direction or whatever, but, whilst female authors are reasonably well represented on SF shelves these days, it seems to me most of them are writing fantasy/space opera trilogies and the like.. There seem to be very few women working in "literary SF" (ie, the ones that come in slightly-bigger-than-usual paperback format with trendy cover designs). Running upstairs briefly to look at my bookshelf - and I'm a sucker for this vague subgenre - I count a total of one female "lierary SF" author - Mary Doria Russell.

faintly worrying.
15:10 / 18.12.02
Gender issue-wise, been thinking that myself- I go with Rizla on Mary Doria Russell's "The Sparrow" (though I don't think it's one of the greatest skiffy novels ever, it did make me cry a lot.

MDR seems to be one of those female writers who gets past the "skiffy/male" barrier. As well as the "all Christians=BAD" tag too.

But (though I stick with my PKD choice) no-one's mentioned Lessing yet. Which seems a flaw. (not bunging in choices, y'understand. I'm just surprised no-one's said her yet.)

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