Sunday, March 26, 2017

Favorite SF novels or short works--2016

These are those SF/F works that I read and enjoyed during 2016, and many of which I might read again, sometime down the road.


First Reads:

Kim Stanley Robinson:      Aurora
--my favorite new SF novel read during 2016
--a grim, gritty, and discouraging tale of life aboard a generation ship.
--Robinson's theme seems to be that while travel in the solar system may be possible, travel to another star to set up a colony by humans is impossible with today's technology and what seems potentially possible in the future.  
--perhaps his Red, Green, and Blue Mars trilogy presents the most we can hope for,  but who knows what future research may bring--FTL anyone?
--for my longer commentary, see

Gene Wolfe:      A Borrowed Man
--A very unique concept--writers are cloned after death and the clones are placed in libraries to be used as resource materials where they can be borrowed just like any other material in the library.
--see my longer post on this work at

Sylvain Neuvel:      Sleeping Giants
--this is the first novel I've read by him.
--a young girl falls into a sinkhole and lands in the palm of a huge metallic hand, one obviously not made by humans.
--some decades later, she becomes involved in a research project devoted to answering questions about the giant robot:  who, what, where, why.  .  .  and where's the rest of it?
--the story is told through a series of interviews conducted by an unknown, unnamed, and mysterious questioner.
--the sequel Waking Gods is the second in the series, and I will definitely read it.

Kazuo Ishiguro The Buried Giant
--a fantasy set in England shortly after the death of King Arthur
--an elderly couple set out to find their son who left after a quarrel with the father.
--on their journey, they and the reader encounters dragons, evil monks,  Sir Gawain, and a mysterious disease that affects the memory.
--for a longer commentary, see my post at

Iain M. Banks:    Consider Phlebas and The Player of Games
--two novels set in Banks' "Culture" Universe.
--diverse topics with little if any overlap between these two novels, and from what I've read this holds true for the other novels set in this universe.  Culture is not really an organized government, as such, but a union of like-minded planets and cultures.  It's purpose is to envelope all cultures but not through military means.  

Thea von Harbou:      Metropolis
--the basis for the classic SF film by the same name.
--the problem is the gap between the head (capitalists owners) and the hand (the workers).

Olaf Stapledon:          Odd John
--the life of a mutant superman, who is one of the most unpleasant "superman" I've ever read about.

Stanislaw Lem:         Solaris
--the basis for the two films of the same name
--the best novel I've ever read that portrays aliens as really alien and not humans    
   dressed up in funny suits.

M. John Harrison:     The Pastel City
--a novel set in the far future on Earth, but an Earth that no longer resembles anything we know
--so much time has passed that several alien species are no longer considered aliens
--two rival queens vie for control of Viriconium, the strangest city I've ever visited in print.

Ursula LeGuin:          The Left Hand of Darkness
--this novel is a permanent fixture on that desert island list.
--it's one I always recommend when someone asks for a recommendation
--for more information, see my post at

Wilson Tucker:          The Long Loud Silence

--this may not be the first post-holocaust novel I ever read, but it's the first one I remember.
--probably outdated today, but still it's a nostalgic favorite I go back to every once in a while.

Dan Simmons:          Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion
--two of his best works-complex plot and characters.
--it begins as the story of a war between a galactic empire and the barbarians who left the empire and
   have now returned to exact revenge.  It is much more than that, as we read on.
--for more information, see my posts at, and

John Brunner:           Stand on Zanzibar
--rather than struggle with trying give you an idea of what this complex novel is like, go to my post
  for a brief summary at

Roger Zelazny:     The Doors of His Face, The Lamps of His Mouth
--a favorite short work by Zelazny.  A man earns his living by being hired to act as bait.

Kevin Anderson and Gregory Benford:    Mammoth Dawn
--a husband and wife encounter problems while trying to bring back extinct animals, especially the
--for more information, see my post at



  1. a wonderful selection, some of which i've read and some not... i got half way thru Aurora and Buried Giant before quitting - don't know why, really, maybe too scary for me... i've read all the Culture except for one, but i quite them for the same reason, i think... kudos for reading Zanzibar-i tried but couldn't hack it at the time... LeGuin, although she's sort of a neighbor, i've found to be either wonderful or boring - probably me, not her... i highly recommend anything by Lem; there's a lot of his work that hasn't been translated; i think Cyberiad is particularly good... and last, i've read almost of Wolfe, i think, and have found him constantly amazing... postscript: if there's one writer i would recommend over all most all, it would be Jack vance; i've read all his work once or twice and love his books a lot... RIP...

    I'll look into Simmons and the others as time provides opportunity; many tx for the interesting and eclectic list...

  2. Mudpuddle,

    Aurora is a depressing book for those who are enamored of space travel and generation ships. You are far ahead of me in reading the Culture books. I read two last year and those were the first I've read. I definitely will read more in the future. I've read a number of Vance's works and some work for me while others don't, probably a lot like your reaction to LeGuin.

    Thanks for the kind words. Some of them are my choice while others were the selection of the SF book group I meet with every month.

  3. I LOVE the Culture-verse and want to 'respawn' their when I die. The death of Iain Banks is a HUGE loss to literature. I miss him every day.

  4. CyberKitten,

    It was when someone brought up his name and that he had died several years ago that I decided to at least read one of his Culture books.

  5. I wish that I read enough science fiction in 2016 to make a list.

    Your list is so impressive too.

    I like the way that you describe Solaris. It really is a about an alien in a way that most other science fiction is not. I love the book. I want to read more Stanislaw Lem this year.

    1. Brian,

      I hope you get to read more Lem this year. He really is a rather unique writer.

  6. Damn, Fred, you've complicated my life again. Yep! Life is short (really!) and there are too many books left to read. So, help me out here. Boil your list down to two or three that I must add to my bucket list. Then I will try to add them to my necessarily very short bucket list of books. Okay, the ball is in your court. Lob away!

    1. Tim,

      You ask the impossible! I would recommend the entire list. However, I will compromise and list several you should read first: LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness, Gene Wolfe's A Borrowed Man, Harrison's The Pastel City.

    2. Mission impossible? Well, thank you, sir. I really do appreciate your Rx for reading. This tape will self destruct in 10 seconds. Cue theme music. Light the fuse! Onward!

    3. Tim,

      The past is always with us. Enjoy.

  7. I have Aurora on my Kindle and plan on reading it soon. I am a fan of Roger Zelazny, and have been slowing re-reading the Amber series.

    1. Greetings Scott,

      I read a lot of Zelazny years ago but very little recently. I just found a collection of some of his short stories, so I'm looking at that. One of these days, I will dust off my copy of _Lord of Light_ (if I still have it somewhere) reread it. It's my favorite novel by Zelazny.

  8. I am definitely intrigued by the premise of the Gene Wolfe book, Fred. I will be looking to read it. I read SLEEPING GIANTS and talked about it on my blog - loved it (though I could have done without the love story). I too will be reading the sequel. Have you read Ben H. Winters dystopian trilogy about the end of the world? (THE LAST POLICEMAN is the first.) Wonderful. Another novel you might like is THE FOLD by Peter Clines. It's funny how I've begun reading sci-fi more and more as I get older.

    1. Yvette,

      Yes, Wolfe's premise is definitely unique. I liked the way he works it out.

      Yes, I read the Winter's trilogy--an interesting mix of an impending SF catastrophe and police procedural. I think it's the first time I've encountered that.

      I read the Clines' The Fold. It was a strange one, a relatively straightforward time travel or alternate universe which then ends with the alien monsters invasion. I wasn't expecting that. I wonder it there's going to be a sequel. The ending certainly left room for one.

  9. Thank you for this post. I was into Science Fiction in maybe the mid to late 1960s. I appreciate your list on what I have missed.

    1. Mel u,

      The '60s. That was the time the "new wave" emerged. I know that drove a lot of SF readers away. Any connection?

      Although I know you have an extensive reading program already, I hope you look into some of the titles.