Dirkjan Ochtman: writing

Science fiction recommendations

Published on 2018-07-15 by Dirkjan Ochtman in books

I've been thinking about writing more blog posts again recently. Since I sometimes write in blog-like form elsewhere, I thought I might syndicate those posts here, partly out of a desire to make it easier to find things I've written (compared to digging through my Twitter feed for links). As such, here's an edited Hacker News comment from a post asking for SF recommendations.

Isaac Asimov is one of the classics. I'm particularly fond of the robot novels (all four of the Elijah Baley ones especially) and the entire Foundation series. Of course, you also can't miss the robot short stories. The End of Eternity is less famous, but it was one of the first ones I read and classic time travel fiction.

At some point I found Charles Stross' Accelerando online, where it is freely available along with a bunch of other stories, and found everything I've read enjoyably fast-paced. In particular the Laundry series — though arguably these cross over from SF into fantasy a bit — and the Halting State trilogy. (In recent years, I've bought every Laundry book as soon as it came out.)

In terms of online available work, Cory Doctorow's work is also great. Like Stross, his work is more near-term SF, which I like. It often moves fast and is politically interesting; sometimes the activism shines through a little too much, but on the plus side it makes me think. His latest is Walkaway, which I would recommend.

I got into Neal Stephenson through Cryptonomicon, which is awesome and a little crazy. Stephenson has a rambly wordy style, but that lends a kind of depth to his stories — and some of his books make me laugh out loud (including Cryptonomicon) which is rare for me. After that, I got into Anathem, Reamde and Seveneves, all of which are big and interesting and great reads (Anathem has a slow start, but it's worth it). I tried one of the more historic ones (I think it was Quicksilver) at some point but haven't finished it. His latest work The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. is lighter, but another fun take at the time travel theme.

I would also recommend William Gibson. I read the Sprawl trilogy a long time ago, and it's made a lasting expression — I started re-reading it recently. I also liked the Blue Ant trilogy and The Peripheral, but have so far missed the more recent work (which means I have something to look forward to).

In the one-off category: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell is one of my all-time favorites, and mixes deep SF with psychology and religion in interesting ways. There's a sequel, but it's not as good. I also liked The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, which is also on the softer side. I read John Scalzi's Redshirts and liked it (though probably not as much fun if you're not familiar with the Star Trek universe). It feels similar to Ernest Cline's Ready Player One in some ways. Daniel Suarez's Daemon is fun and easy to digest and has some interesting ideas, as does its sequel, Freedom. I liked Robert J. Sawyer's The Terminal Experiment, but someone I recommended it too found it too flimsy — I still think it's fun, if not very deep. I also bought his Factoring Humanity and liked it okay.

I hope this list is useful to someone. If you have recommendations for me based on this selection, I'd like to hear them.