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10 Sci-Fi Books That Even Non-Geeks Would Love

The following is reprinted from Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Plunges Into the Universe. The question of which science fiction books are the best ever is a pointless one for most people, since many of the "greatest science fiction novels" are books that no one but science fiction fans will read. A better question to ask might be: What are the best science fiction books that you don't have to be a hard-core science fiction fan to enjoy? We scanned our library and came up with these 10 (well, 12) books that not only provide great SF fun, but also are approachable enough for the casual reader. Some old, some new - but all good reads.

Dune by Frank Herbert

David Lynch made this book into a 1984 film that was so incomprehensible that the actual novel - 600 pages on the future of religion, politics, desert ecology, and drug trafficking - look positively streamlined in comparison. When the book came out in the mid 1960s its multiple story threads were daunting. (Photo: Robert E. Nylund, via Wikipedia) But (ironically) thanks to shows like The X-Files and even The West Wing, in which several things are happening all at once, people got used to following intersecting story lines. The result is that Herbert's magnum opus now comes across more like an epic historical novel that happens to be set in the future, not the past. Herbert wrote several Dune sequels of varying quality. More recently, Herbert's son Brian teamed up with SF author Kevin J. Anderson to write a trio of prequels that Uncle John doesn't think are on par with the rest. Stick with the original. Links: Dune | More by Frank Herbert

Earth by David Brin

Scientists in the near future create a tiny black hole and - oops - allow it to sink into the earth's core; in the process of digging it out, they discover there's another black hole down there, and that one's origin is a mystery - and a problem. (Photo: David Brin) This plot line is the skeleton on which author and real-life physicist Brin hangs some fascinating episodic story lines that involve problems the world faces today (global warming, privacy, energy crunches), carried out to their possible outcomes 50 years from now. Originally published in 1991, Earth has already pegged a couple of items correctly (such as a version of the World Wide Web and the idea of futzing with old movies using new computer graphics). Plus, scientists have begun trying to generate tiny little black holes in labs. So imagine what else Brin might (eventually) be right about. Links: Earth | More by David Brin

Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead, by Orson Scott Card

Supersmart child-warriors are used by the military to battle an invasion of buglike aliens. That's the setup of Ender's Game; the meat of the story comes from the struggle of one of these extraordinary children (named Ender) to keep a grip on his humanity even as he's being turned into the perfect killing machine. (Photo: nihonjoe via Wikipedia) Card sets up a lot of questions about morality, war, and man's purpose in Ender's Game; in the sequel, Speaker for the Dead, these questions get a payoff as the grown-up Ender finds himself in a position to save a new sentient species or allow it to be destroyed. Proof that interesting philosophical questions can be asked (and even answered) in the form of a purely entertaining story. Links: Ender's Game | More by Orson Scott Card

Grass by Sheri Tepper

Like Dune, this is a large tale involving nobility, religion, politics, and the fate of the human race - but for a change, the hero is a heroine. (Photo: Charles N. Brown, via Locus Online) Marjorie Westriding is dispatched with her family to a far-off planet to find a cure for a plague, but she ends up confronting questions of original sin among aliens. Lots of philosophy, and even some sex (well, sort of), but also lots of action, plus a group of purely malevolent creatures who love nothing better than to toy with humans. Hand this to someone who enjoys those massive romantic epics for a change of pace. Links: Grass | More by Sheri Tepper

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Earth is destroyed to make an intergalactic bypass, launching the interstellar travels of one completely ordinary and befuddled human being named Arthur Dent. (Photo Jill Furmanovsky, via DouglasAdams.com) Geeks love this one, but for the right reasons - namely because it'll make you laugh so hard that you may vomit involuntarily. Note that this is humor of the distinctly British, Monty Python-like variety, so if you're not into that, you may wonder what the fuss is about. But if you ever laughed at Monty Python and the Holy Grail (or even A Fish Called Wanda), you'll be laughing at this one, too. Hitchhiker has several sequels, each progressively less funny than the one before (but still worth a chuckle or two). Links: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy | More by Douglas Adams

Hyperion and Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons

It takes guts to snatch the format of The Canterbury Tales and use it to crank out epic science fiction, but the extraordinarily talented Dan Simmons (who also writes bang-up horror and action novels) is just the guy to do it. (Photo: Dan Simmons) Over the course of these two novels, Simmons creates a galaxy-wide human civilization that's pitted against a mysterious enemy. Hyperion uses the overlapping stories of a clutch of pilgrims to paint the picture of this future civilization; Fall of Hyperion describes its downfall, as seen through the eye of a clone of the great Romantic poet John Keats. Great storytelling, great action, great plotting; not just a couple of the best science fiction novels ever, but two of the best adventure novels in a long time, period. Links: Hyperion | The Fall of Hyperion | More by Dan Simmons

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

This one shows up on a lot of high school reading lists, and for good reason. It's a fine combination of science fiction and fantasy and an increasingly neglected literary form - a series of short stories, hung together with a single thread: they all take place on Mars. (Photo: Alan Light, via Flickr) The stories include encounters with real live Martians (who may or may not be happy to see humans), the stories of the humans who leave Earth to come to Mars, and, in the end, the stories of the humans who are left behind, each short enough to be read in a single sitting. It's Bradbury at the top of his form, which means these are some of the better short stories you'll find almost anywhere. Links: The Martian Chronicles | More by Ray Bradbury

Perdido Street Station by China Miéville

The perfect book for anyone who thinks that science fiction can't be literary and/or adventurous in form. Miéville's genre-buster of a novel is not unlike what you would get if you spliced together the genes of Charles Dickens and horror master H.P. Lovecraft and raised the resulting creature on the writings of Orwell, Huxley, and Philip K. Dick (the fellow who wrote the story that was the basis of the movie Blade Runner). (Photo: Andrew M Butler, via Flickr) It's difficult to describe the novel, except to say that it involves mad scientists, interspecies romance, vampiric moth creatures, Tammany Hall-like urban politics, the value systems of alien species, interdimensional spiders, and a rip-roaring final action scene that takes place on the rooftops of a city you really can't imagine. All written by someone who uses the English language like Yo-Yo Ma uses a cello. Fabulous writing, regardless of genre. Links: Perdido Street Station | More by China Mieville

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

William Gibson's Neuromancer may be considered the first "cyberpunk" novel, but the fact is, it's kind of a deadly bore. Snow Crash, on the other hand, is a real hoot right from its first scene, which involves a madcap pizza delivery and is written with the same sort of delirious cinematic urgency that you'll find in the best novels of William Goldman (Marathon Man). (Photo: Bob Lee via Flickr) The novel's plot involves a computer virus that (get this) dates back to Sumeria, but it doesn't really hang together, so instead, enjoy the book for its portrayal of both an insanely Balkanized America and a huge cyberworld so vividly imagined that a whole bunch of Internet companies bankrupted themselves in the 1990s trying to create a world just like it. Also, any book that features a large Aleutian with a nuclear bomb in a motorcycle sidecar and the words "Poor Impulse Control" tattooed on his forehead is one you know you're going to have fun with. Links: Snow Crash | More by Neal Stephenson

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein

The expiration date for this novel and its ideas regarding love and sex and human transcendence has sort of passed (people used the novel for years as a foundation for their own desire for hippie polygamy, and now they don't so much), but it still make for a good read for two reasons. (Photo: Dd-b, via Wikimedia Commons) One, Robert Heinlein wrote damn fine dialogue, which makes him more fun to read than most other writers today (and how sad is that, since Heinlein's been dead coming up on 15 years now). Two, Heinlein thought seriously about the nature of God and the interrelationship between God and His followers, which is interesting to contemplate even if you're not interested in the polysexual hijinks. Also, Jubal Harshaw, the cranky old man who counsels the "Stranger" is like a dyspeptic Yoda advising an extraordinarily horny Luke Skywalker, is one of the great curmudgeons of the 20th century writing, and you don't want to miss out on a character like that. Links: Stranger in a Strange Land | More by Robert A. Heinlein
The article above is reprinted with permission from Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Plunges Into the Universe. Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute had published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts. If you like Neatorama, you'll love the Bathroom Reader Institute's books - go ahead and check 'em out!
What have we missed? Let us know in the comment section!

You've missed GATEWAY by FRED POHL!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gateway

It's one of my favorite stories, and I routinely tell people who don't read scifi to read it because it's just so interesting and so well written.
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"The Sirens Of Titan" by kurt vonnegut is excellent, but not your normal sci-fi. "Eon" by greg bear is cool too, a reworking of Rendevous With Rama but miles better.
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A friend's comment about Ender's Game sums up pretty much what I feel about it, too. When I came across it as a teenager it was just what I needed - but reading them again they're very - well - teenagerish.
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The only decent one was Hitchhiker's Guide.
Martian Chronicles is classic, but shows its age.

Dune is pretentious and boring.
Stranger in a Strange Land is Heinlein's worst ever novel.
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I looooove the Ender's Game series... finally reading the rest of them right now (on Shadow Puppets atm)...
We have Hitchhiker's guide which I haven't gotten around to reading yet, but defo will.
That Earth one sounds interesting though, I'll have to check some of these out.
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i'm kind of baffled... no p.k dick novels in there?
'the man in the high castle'? 'now wait for last year'?
or 'crash' by j.g. ballard?
or ehm... 'beelzebub's tales to his grandson'? by gurdijeff, which is kind of a philosophical work and quite a heavy read, but still...
and ofcourse, a bunch of stories by h.p. lovecraft are scifi as well, though it's always affiliated with the horror genre ('at the mountains of madness' is but one example)
lovecraft and dick shouldn't be mentioned in someone else's article, they should get their own place for pete's sake :D
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I've read all of the books on the list with the exception of Grass. I take that back... I have a copy of Earth, but it is the only David Brin book I couldn't get into.

Ender's Game I've recommended many times.

Perdido Street Station I'd heartily recommend, if I thought the person could handle something a little dark.

The rest of the list I'd change.

I would substitute David Brin's Kiln People for Earth, and John Scalzi's Old Man's War for Heinlein. I love Stephenson (reading Anathem now), but I'm not sure if he is a good gateway author. If I was to recommend one of his books, I might recommend something more accessible such as The Big U or Zodiac.

While the Hyperion Saga is great (I preferred Illium), if someone likes violence and gore, I'd first recommend Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan.

As this list is already brushing close to fantasy, I'd also recommend Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin (currently being made into a mini-series pilot on HBO), American Gods by Neil Gaiman, and Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold.
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No Asimov?

As for the Heinlein comments: While SiaSL is not his best, "Farnam's Freehold" is his worst. My suggestion is to read "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel" and if you like it, find the rest of his adolescent novels.
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I'm surprised there's no I, Robot. I've only read a couple on this list (Ender's Game and H2G2) so maybe the others are better/more accessible than Asimov, but I thought it was a fantastic and fascinating collection of short stories. And considering they made a movie based (very very loosely) on it, Asimov's robot fiction must have some mainstream appeal. Sidenote, Bicentennial Man was a much better movie in my opinion.
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I doubt many people here have read Perdido Street Station, but it is seriously the most fantastic novel I've read in the past year; Mieville writes like Rembrant paints.

Every person in the book, from the main scientist, to the people killed in three sentences by the main conflict, has distinct motivations and character; the author clearly put a great deal of thought into exactly how each person arrived at their particular place in the novel.

Pick it up and read it, you will NOT be disappointed!
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Dune! God I love that book. I was really disappointed that it's the only book on the list I've read, though. I clearly have a lot of catching up to do. Curse you, college!
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I would recommend Diamond Age by Stephenson before Snowcrash, although Snowcrash was very good.

Terry Pratchett has to fall in here somewhere. Not considered "Science Fiction", perhaps?

I think anybody would enjoy Harry Turtledove's work and Asimov's Robot series and Foundation series would be the perfect way to start reading sci-fi.
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I also might prefer The Diamond Age to Snow Crash, but thought they were both great.

I also loved Hyperion and the sequels, although I read them many years ago.

Enders Game just sucks in my opinion. I really don't understand what people see in this book. Maybe if you're 15 (or 12), but I don't think I would have liked it then either. Some things are just a difference of opinion and taste, and some things, like this book, just baffle me. It's just not very good.
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It took me several times of starting to read Dune before I was finally able to make it through, but once I did, I was freakin' hooked and powered straight through Children of Dune and Dune Messiah. He lost me on God Emperor, though. That one was just weird.
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Card = nutcase right wing Mormon homophobe. And besides: Ender's Game? That was cool when I was, like, 14.

I will throw-down for Hothouse by Brian Aldiss.
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i love dune, obviously. i can see why somebody would think it clever to call it fantasy, but that is ridiculous. the basic premise of the series has to do with the human race evolving, spreading outward into the galaxy, and traumatic experiences with computer intelligences leading to Luddite anti-technology notions.

I.E. the buttlerian Jihad would not make sense in a fantasy novel. also, i always say that fantasy writers are just bad science fiction writers. rather than writing elegant explanations for the mechanisms at work they take the easy way out and just say it's all magic. herbert is truly the best science fiction writer too, when it comes to subtle concise rationalizations of relatively astounding and nonsensical ideas.

the only book in the top ten i'm not a fan of is brave new world. yuck. talk about banal dystopian cliche. if you think about the book at all it's just filled with major logic gaps. the writing isn't very good either, you have to be choosey with your dystopian future

i will also say that i love enders game.
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> William Gibson's Neuromancer may be
> considered the first "cyberpunk" novel,
> but the fact is, it's kind of a deadly
> bore.

The author of the above drivel has found a one-sentence long method to avoid *ever* being taken seriously as an SF authority. Kudos for the straight-up mega-fail.
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Ben B., you said exactly what I was thinking. I started Neuromancer and read the next two books as fast as I could get them. The ones since then by Gibson I haven't cared for as much, but I still enjoyed Idoru and Virtual Light.
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Not going to add book[s] to this, but a note about Heinlein - he missed a sure bet when, while in hospital (in the late Thirties), he came up with the idea of the waterbed but didn't follow through.
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Perdida Street Station sounds pretty cool, I think I will pick up a copy at lunchtime.

As for you unbelievers who didn't like Dune, fie! Its an amazing novel, I couldn't put it down. As someone else said though, the sequels just got a bit weird and crap.

Has anyone read any novels by that bloke who invented Scientology? He must be pretty clever to create a religion, I wonder if his novels are any good?
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How about some diversity?

Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany and The Xenogensis Trilogy by Octavia Butler are excellent examples of speculative fiction especially with respect to the way they address African American Diaspora.
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I did not like Perdido Street Station very much, mainly because it's heavily dystopian. China Mieville is a great author--his books came alive when I read them. But perhaps that's the problem. His characters and societies just bug the heck out of me.
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This will be way O/T but without a doubt the worst movie I have ever attempted to watch has got to be Dune. No, I haven't read the book and I realize more often than not the movie versions are usually really bad. That movie made no sense.

gunfumbler "Card = nutcase right wing Mormon homophobe. And besides: Ender’s Game? That was cool when I was, like, 14.

I will throw-down for Hothouse by Brian Aldiss."

That coming from one with the ID of "gunfumbler". What a riot! Oh yes, they write like they are now 15 instead of 14, man.
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For non science fiction readers, I would recommend Connie Willis' "Bellwether". It is science fiction, but social science fiction at that (it speculates on how trends are created and dispersed, and the book was written long before Malcolm Gladwell wrote "The tipping point"). Most of her books are excellent choices.
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What a great list! I have tried a few of these and I agree. I am not a sc fi enthusiast but an avid reader. I will be trying the other titles.
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The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell - a sci-fi book recommended to me by a non-sci-fi reader. It was like a better Speaker for the Dead, alien culture clash sort of thing.
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I like the list for the most part, might not put them in the top 10, but I have read all but 2 of them, and enjoyed them all.

My wife is a non-sf reader, and she really liked the Rowan books by Anne McCaffery.
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I second 'The Sparrow'

Also - 'Accelerando' by Charles Stross and 'Barrayar' by Lois McMaster Bujold. Bujold's stuff is pure space opera, but oh so well done.

I think 'Rendesvouz with Rama' by Arthur C Clarke should be here, as well as something from Asimov. The 'Foundation' trilogy is dry but brilliant, and 'I, Robot' is also pretty special.
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Hi All, I read a series about 15 years ago and can't recall the title. If you're up to the challenge, here's what I remember.

Inter-galactic battles. Earth new to the fight, recruited by a society that becomes physically ill when confronted with violence. Possible planet names/races Weebles, Vox Pop?

Can you help?
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I love sci-fi writing. Dune was a wonderful series and the Dead Empires Fall was very imaginative too.
I have written a sci-fi novel called Doom Of The Shem.
Doom Of The Shem is a science fiction novel that incorporates the horror of military action with the unavoidable hostilities that occur when an alien species invade a planet in search of food. The barbarity of war is brought to light by the work achieved by the nurses and medical personnel of the planets inhabitants. While a full blown military action story emerges from an ensuing war that involves the whole planet. It is especially centered on a squad of the planets army forces, who fight the alien invaders.
doomoftheshem.blogspot.com
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I think you've got it wrong. The type of scifi books non-geeks like are:
"Slaughterhouse 5" Kurt Vonnegut
"1984" George Orwell
"Oryx & Crake" Margaret Atwood
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hey great list i've read most, but when i was turned on to the genre it was j.p.hogan's code of the life maker i,ve been reading sci-fi ever since.
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Wow, pretty old school list. What about Iain M. Banks (pick anything, they are all good) or Alastair Reynolds (same again), or Robert J. Sawyer,s Neanderthal Parrallax. Ken Macleod is another bright author along with Stephen Baxter. The choices never end even if you are a casual or hardcore sci-fi type.
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How ridiculous that people take shots at Scott Card. I have worked with him on several occasions and found him to be one of the most brilliant and sane men on the planet.

He himself wouldn't call his works the scientist's science fiction. He writes about what he cares about. If you don't like his religous-socio-political contemplations, go back to reading comic books!

But his character "Jane" was a pretty cool science fiction invention.

Enough of that. Thanks for all the OTHER comments though. Some great suggestions.

Any Henry Kuttner fans out there?
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I grew up in my grandmas bookstore, her sci fi section was really disappointing. When I read Enders game I told her to read it and she thought it was a great book. Scott Card is a genius. To hear someone say they would have liked it when they were 13 tells me they just don't have the balls to admit that it is a good book. Anyway im gonna make sure my grandma puts this list of books in her bookstore so that we can get real opinions.
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If I could make people read only one Heinlein book...it would be 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress'. FANTASTIC book. I have to agree that Stranger in a Strange Land is *not* one of the Master's best, but it is one that people who aren't RAH fans often love, even if they love no other book by him. If I had to name the top five by RAH

1)The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
2) Starship Troopers (ignore the movie, please)
3) Puppet Masters (this was well before body snatchers)
4) Double Star
5)...tough call...I'll reserve this for his juvies...my favorite being 'The Rolling Stones'

I'd also recommend, 'Friday', 'Citizen of the Galaxy', 'Space Cadet', 'Podkayne of Mars'...and many others. :)

Time Enough for Love is also good...but has unusual sexual situations that many would find disturbingly perverse. If you can get past that...it's a damn fine book.
======
I also can't recommend the entire Miles Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold highly enough. I like it even better than the Honor Harrington books! :)
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the only 2 on there i would even mention to a beginner sci-fi is hitch hikers and peridio street. every one is stuck on old shit all the others on the list are pretty ancient AND mostly crap particularly for beginners. the new stuff ia awsome anyone read any peter f hamilton lately he is epic and galexy spanning belivable tech for a possible human evol. storrys and worlds and chars are rediculously awsome. the new void seirise is awsome but i hear the trillogy of is is amazing too and i would recomend reading them before The Dreaming Void beacuse that takes place 1200 years after the trillogy and explains alot. it is funny too that the tech in the novels litteraly makes 1000 year gaps seem no more than several centurys in the feel of the novels. also most all larry niven books i would recomend they are freeking brilliantly imaginative very interesting and charichters are awsome even his new stuff like the sequel to his vertion of inferno, Escape from hell they both are awsome altho not exactly sci-fi.
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I absolutely loved the Hyperion cantos and every other book on this list that I've read, which incidentally, is every one but snow crash and grass. They've now been added to my almost impossibly long list of books I need to read this year. Very good article, I shall pass it along!
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Read Sci-fi for the first 30 years of my life, well, since I was about 13, but school and career got me off the track. I read all the old ones but really missed Asimov on that list, and adore all of Heinlein's juvenile books for teaching good science. Will look forward to reading the authors mentioned that I never read because they sound like fun. Liked Freeman Dyson a lot in college. Had many "water brothers" back then when it seemed so new and strange. Love the genre thanks to my father.
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list is alright. i truly thought dune to be one of the best novels i've read, but as to his next five in the series...a little boring and convoluted. hyperion is a great series, as is HGTTG, which in my opinion, everyone on the world should read if just for the laughs.
if i had to choose one book that should be included here though it would definitely be Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination - nearly forgotten about now, which is unfortunate.
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I have some serious issues with this list. The best way to get non-sf fans to read sf is to make them think they aren't reading sf even though they are.

Michael Chabon's Kavalier & Clay has all the elements of a classic alternate history sf story, yet won the Pulitzer. I'm betting 95% of the people who read and enjoyed it would never think of it as sf.

A good chunk of Margaret "Space Squid" Atwood's oeuvre are actually sf novels.

1984 and Brave New World are excellent gateways. Hell, they're literature. Literary pundits are they clearly can't be sf. That's bunk since they contain all the classic tropes.

The non-sf, more literary repackings of Philip K. Dick's best novels are another great way to go.

I've spent a good chunk of my adult life introducing sf to non-sf fans. It's not so much the ideas in sf that turn people off but rather the often lurid packaging that proudly says "science fiction" and all the negative stereotypes that accompany those covers.
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Re: Heinlein

"people used the novel for years as a foundation for their own desire for hippie polygamy, and now they don't so much"

Couldn't be further from the truth. :) Polyamory is still quite alive and well, just possibly less publicized.
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I would add "nSpace" by Dovin Melhee.
A fun wild ride, lots of new ideas.
Completely out of the box.

http://www.amazon.com/dovin_melhee
http://www.lulu.com/content/paperback-book/nspace/7534554
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Snow Crash? Please. I like Neal Stephenson but that one pretty much sucked. What about H.G. Wells? And Phillip K. Dick and Margaret Atwood and Iain M. Banks and Pynchon and Vonnegut and Asimov and Stanislaw Lem. You list books that hardened genre fans might appreciate but not potential crossovers.
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You have forgot one of the most important science fiction novel of our century '1984'. The novel itself started a new genre of science fiction and appears in almost every 'to-read' books.
Also, another sin was to not include Asimov. He was the grandmaster of science fiction and yet no attention has been paid to him.Foundation series should be on anyone's list of read if he wants to read science fiction. To be SF fan and not to read Asimov is like to be in engineering and not knowing number systems....
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nightfall was made into a movie, but a very bad one. childhoods end by clark is a great book love many years ago. also asimov's the gods themselves is his best stand alone novel
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The only books here that I've read that I'd suggest to someone who isn't much into SF are Hitchhikers' Guide and perhaps Snow Crash.

I definitely wouldn't recommend Dune or anything really that long and philosophical to someone who generally wasn't interested in SF already - your average reader tends not to like books over 250 pages (unless they're Harry Potter, but those even started off pretty short).
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I really don't recommend Perdido Street Station. The style of writing is rather old fashioned, full of antiquated words, most people will find it a very difficult and dull read. And while it starts out awesome, it begins to drag and then becomes very odd, including a ten page description of moth sex and bodily functions, just going downhill from there with an ending that doesn't make sense. Instead "The Windup Girl" by Paolo Bacigalupi is better written and readable by the average person. As for as "Stranger in a Strange Land" the only people who like it are members of NAMBLA and burntout hippies. This really isn't a even a list of good SF let alone SF for first time readers.
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No real comments here on Grass from Sherri Tepper. I remember reading it in the early '90's and liking it a whole lot. I try to keep my book diet varied and I too think it had a lot to offer the non-SF reader.
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Why all the hate for Card? I've read 6 or 7 books by him, and it was after I looked him up on wikipedia that I found out his Christian beliefs. Classifying him as a religious nut and then refusing to touch anything he's written is just intellectual laziness.
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How could they not include Asimov's "Foundation" series? It was what started the modern era of sci-fi and is arguably the most influential sci-fi novel of all time; and yes, I do mean even more than "Dune." If you read both closely, you'll see that Herbert took a lot from Asimov and put it in a less challenging context, which is why it tends to be more popular in general.

"The result is that Herbert's magnum opus now comes across more like an epic historical novel that happens to be set in the future, not the past."

-that's the exact premise of Foundation which appeared two decades earlier, only the storyline in Asimov is much more complex and dialectical.
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I've very much enjoyed reading the list and all the comments. And WOW, I've read nearly every book mentioned! I need to get out more.

My 2 cents worth - Perdido Station & Snow Crash would be the only ones from that list I'd give to newbies. I would keep them well away from Asimov and any of the other grand daddies. Don't get me wrong I dig their stuff but I can say from experience (I'm always out to convert) - not many newbies do. Their problems with it generally lie with the out-of-date philosophy, the rampant sexism, and the not-so-good writing skills. Stories, plots, originality etc ABSOLUTELY brilliant, but newbies find it hard to get past the cardboard characters and simplistic writing style - easy to miss when you're already a convert and have nostalgic memories about their stories).

Ian M Banks & Richard Morgan has worked for me, as has Lois McMaster Bujold. Vampire Porn works really well to get women into fantasy and sci-fi. Don't knock it. I've converted many this way : ) There are others, but the main thing I've learnt is that it needs to be modern in style and humour and a fairly recent publication for a successful conversion. Give them the classics later.
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armor, by john steakley great sf read
modessitt, fall of angels
peter hamilton, temporal void
r jordan
rr martin
enders game by scoot card must read! u decide
all good reads
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And so it continues...this is one of the bigger Neato threads I have seen since some of the 'guns rights' ones.

Ok:
-Day of the Trifdids.
-1984
-Death of Grass
-'Tripod' series.
-Altered Carbon
-Starship Troopers (the movie, Verhoeven buried that fascist novel in well deserved satire).
-The Time Machine
-The Maker of Universes

More?
-The Island of Doctor Moreau
-Red Dwarf
-A Spell for Chameleon
-
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The Sparrow, by Maria Doria Russell needs to be included here. Not because she's a female author. Not because it was her first novel. But because it was an unpredictable, futuristic story that dealt with the realities of space travel/first contact.
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Great suggestions. I have lately been exploring independents and self-published authors. I ordered a bunch of books off lulu. I love the masters of sci-fi, but I am ready to give some brave newcomers a chance. I am too curious!
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