San Rafael Public Library

Science Fiction For Beginners

Posted by diane on

If you’re new to Science Fiction, you could of course start with some of the award winners, such as the recently announced Hugo Award or the Nebula Award. But if you still don’t know where to start, here’s our handy-dandy guide!

Sci-Fi seems hard, give me something easy! (Sci-Fi light):
martianAndy Weir’s The Martian is a man vs. nature survival story, but the nature/environment here is Mars, and the man is a wonderfully snarky and resourceful scientist. John Scalzi’s Fuzzy Nation also has a lovable rogue at its heart, who encounters a new species. Scalzi’s books often have an easy to follow story and humorous characters. And of course Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker series is well known for its eccentric British humor, but if you’re into mysteries you can also try Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.

No Alpha Centauri for me! (Earth-based Sci-Fi):kindred
Carl Sagan’s Contact, Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin, and William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition more or less take place on contemporary Earth. Contact and Spin begin in a recognizable present and regard humankind’s reaction to an alien influence. Gibson’s book is like an alternate, more technologically-entrenched present day Earth and reads like a thriller.

Also firmly based on Earth, but involving time travel are Octavia Butler’s Kindred, in which a black woman is sent back to the antebellum South, and Connie Willis’ To Say Nothing of the Dog, her more humorous entry in a series of books on Oxford time travelers.

No 800-page ten-part series, please! (Sci-Fi shorts):
martianchroniclesPhilip K. Dick’s Minority Report was a novella before it was a blockbuster movie. Our copy includes other short stories by the author. Ted Chiang’s Stories of Your Life and Others is a collection of thought-provoking short stories, and the beloved Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles has short narratives linked together as a fictionalized record of Mars colonization.

Don’t pander to me, I can handle the real stuff (Hard Sci-Fi):
Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game introduced many to Sci-Fi with it’s coming-of-age story of a young boy being sent to Battle School in space. To be truly transported to a different world, try Frank Herbert’s Dune— you’ll encounter a sand planet steeped in issues of power, politics, and religion.

leviathanWant something written in this decade? Two well-regarded modern sci-fi series are Anne Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, featuring an artificial intelligence with a burning desire for vengeance, and James Corey’s Leviathan Wakes, a fast-paced action adventure space opera.

Don’t give me that pulp, give me something really well-written! (Literary Sci-Fi):
left handStart with The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell, or Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin. Both tackle complex social issues and are sharply written. Many famous literary authors write books with a speculative bent, such as Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale or Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. Here are some other titles found in the Fiction section that have science fiction elements in them: Alif the Unseen, by G. Willow Wilson; Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut; Yiddish Policemen’s Union, by Michael Chabon.

Find more detailed descriptions of these titles on our Science Fiction for Beginners list.

Happy exploring new worlds of fiction! As always, if you need help finding a good read, come by the library, give us a call or contact us online.

(This post was adapted from an article.)

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