Can't find my ideal book

asif49

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I've never been a reader, but I'm currently trying to get into it.

From experience, a lot of fiction books in the sci fi/fantasy genre read like this:
"John from Regaria was counting his varimases while he noticed a reskat running towards him"...

It seems really pretentious when new terminology is introduced without explanation. Especially if it is littered across every page. I'm more interested in hearing a story being told with a human element rather than be impressed by an author's word making skills... and this also greatly takes away from my immersion in a story as I have to try and figure out what a reskat is??

So I'd love to get some recommendations that can ease me into sci fi/fantasy book reading. The kind of themes I enjoy being discussed in this genre are:
* Immortal life and humanity
* The future of mankind
* When the protagonist has ethical dilemmas to consider with relation to their decisions
* A mystery which slowly unravels
* Exploration - esp if it involves a mystery like exploring another planet/time period

And I like stories that are centered around a few characters. Ideally told from the view point of a protagonist and written after the year 2000 (to start with anyway).

Let me know if something comes to mind!
 

Vince W

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Welcome to Chrons asif49!

Off the top of my head I would recommend Asimov's Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun, and The Robots of Dawn. These are essentially mystery novels set in the future. You might then try his Foundation books if you like those.

Also Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End comes to mind.

If novels are too much, you can try short stories. Your library should have many Best of anthologies available.
 

hitmouse

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Well if I read something with an opening line like that I would be put off too. Fortunately SF has lots of good stuff to discover. Lucky you.
This is the sort of thing that makes me want to read on:

Later, as he sat on the balcony eating the dog, Dr. Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous months.


or

I'll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught as a child on my homeworld that truth is a matter of the imagination.

or

His followers called him Mahasamatman and said he was a god. He preferred to drop the Maha- and the -atman, however, and called himself Sam. He never claimed to be a god. But then, he never claimed not to be a god.

or

The Hegemony Consul sat on the balcony of his ebony spaceship and played Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C-sharp Minor on an ancient but well-maintained Steinway while great, green, saurian things surged and bellowed in the swamps below.

or

Two thousand million or so years ago two galaxies were colliding; or, rather, were passing through each other.

or

Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small, unregarded yellow sun.


etc.
 

tinkerdan

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I'm not sure about it being pretentious. I would have to see more of the text below it to come to that conclusion.
Obviously it is not the wisest decision since they have at least pushed one reader to arms length.

That aside when I look at that I see that he is pushing the reader to three questions maybe four.

"John from Regaria was counting his varimases while he noticed a reskat running towards him

Where or what is Regaria
What are varimases and why count them.
What is a reskat and why is one running at him so important.
and of course who is John
Regaria could be his home world or city and he could now be far from there; and varimase could be currency of the world or city he is at-and he's checking his resources; and a reskat could be a wild beast that might only be running at him only if something much larger and predatory were after it.

But I do have to admit that to keep me in the story a lot of that would have to become evident soon in the next few paragraphs.
 

asif49

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Well if I read something with an opening line like that I would be put off too. Fortunately SF has lots of good stuff to discover. Lucky you.
This is the sort of thing that makes me want to read on:

Later, as he sat on the balcony eating the dog, Dr. Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous months.


or

I'll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught as a child on my homeworld that truth is a matter of the imagination.

or

His followers called him Mahasamatman and said he was a god. He preferred to drop the Maha- and the -atman, however, and called himself Sam. He never claimed to be a god. But then, he never claimed not to be a god.

or

The Hegemony Consul sat on the balcony of his ebony spaceship and played Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C-sharp Minor on an ancient but well-maintained Steinway while great, green, saurian things surged and bellowed in the swamps below.

or

Two thousand million or so years ago two galaxies were colliding; or, rather, were passing through each other.

or

Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small, unregarded yellow sun.


etc.
Some of these sound great. Can I have book names with those quotes?
 

ratsy

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Honestly, I can recommend Endeavour by Ralph Kern who is a member here on Chrons. His book fits a lot of what you're looking for.

And as someone who has read A LOT of SFF books over many years, I do not see anything pretentious from the books I read. There are some medium quality books but so many gems that remind me why I love reading.
 

J-Sun

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I'm not sure about it being pretentious. I would have to see more of the text below it to come to that conclusion.
Obviously it is not the wisest decision since they have at least pushed one reader to arms length.

That aside when I look at that I see that he is pushing the reader to three questions maybe four.

"John from Regaria was counting his varimases while he noticed a reskat running towards him

Where or what is Regaria
What are varimases and why count them.
What is a reskat and why is one running at him so important.
and of course who is John
Regaria could be his home world or city and he could now be far from there; and varimase could be currency of the world or city he is at-and he's checking his resources; and a reskat could be a wild beast that might only be running at him only if something much larger and predatory were after it.

But I do have to admit that to keep me in the story a lot of that would have to become evident soon in the next few paragraphs.

Agreed. Pretentious is not the word I'd use. But off-putting is off-putting, whatever the word.

While such writing can be incompetent "smeerping" it can also be part of the essence of SF, which is cognitive estrangement. I was thinking the SFE (speaking of pretentious) had an article on it but they don't. The novum article is relevant though (and references the term which is flagged as "going to be an article"). For instance, "Scanners Live in Vain" is a great story by Cordwainer Smith which begins, "Martel was angry. He did not even adjust his blood away from anger. He stamped across the room by judgment, not by sight. When he saw the table hit the floor , and could tell by the expression on Luci's face that the table must have made a loud crash, he looked down to see if his leg was broken. It was not. Scanner to the core, he had to Scan himself." The first dialogue is in the next paragraph in which Martel says to Luci, "I tell you, I must cranch. I have to cranch." None of this is to be pretentious or confuse the reader for the sake of confusing them, but to intrigue the reader about the mysterious otherness of this fictional world. It's evoking things that don't have a 1:1 correspondence with ordinary reality and so need a new terminology for the new things. As tinkerdan was saying, it opens a flood of questions - what's adjusting your blood, how do you do it, why aren't you doing it? Why are your senses screwed up? Why are you deaf? Why can't you sense your own limbs without scanning? What's scanning? And, most of all, what the hell is cranching? :) But such questions are part of the fun and, by the end of the story, you'll know most or all of this, as the story makes the bizarre and never-experienced become more a part of your conceptual furniture - it bends your brain. :)

But, as I say, a lot of incompetent guys just make up words willy-nilly and/or don't explain them in any aesthetically satisfying way (to paraphrase tinkerdan again - it can't all remain mystifying for long) and it's just junk. And, contrariwise, many SF stories can succeed without being particularly about estrangement or without using that particular method to achieve it. But it is a big part of SF (and fantasy, too, in ways, I suppose) and is a frequently-used method. It's not bad in itself.

Some of these sound great. Can I have book names with those quotes?

#3 is Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny.
#6 is The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.
I feel like I know #4-5 but they aren't coming to me.
Not sure about #1-2.

Edit: they got to bugging me (especially #5 which I knew I knew). Search engines to the rescue:

#1 seems to be J.G. Ballard's High Rise.
#2 is Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness (should have known that).
#4 is Simmons' Hyperion (bleh).
#5 is Doc Smith's Triplanetary (really should have known that, too).

FWIW, I haven't read #1 and didn't like #4 but the rest are great, IMO.

* Immortal life and humanity
* The future of mankind
* When the protagonist has ethical dilemmas to consider with relation to their decisions
* A mystery which slowly unravels
* Exploration - esp if it involves a mystery like exploring another planet/time period

But do you want happy/sad approaches, high-tech/low-tech, pro/con, simple/complex?

Charles Sheffield considers the first two in at least Between the Strokes of Night and Tomorrow and Tomorrow. Robert Silverberg takes a depressing look at immortality in "Born with the Dead". Olaf Stapledon is famous for his extremely long-range looks at humanity and the cosmos.

Not sure what you mean by "a mystery which slowly unravels" but I'll second Vince on Asimov's robot novels. Also McDevitt's Alex Benedict novels are very homey and not at all pretentious but do feature sorts of archaeological mysteries that are inevitably mixed up in present day crimes ("present" for the futuristic characters, I mean).

Murray Leinster's Colonial Survey aka Planet Explorer is a neat, well, planet explorer story series, as is van Vogt's Voyage of the Space Beagle. I recently read Eric Frank Russell's Men, Martians, and Machines and even more recently was directed to Joseph Green's Conscience Interplanetary and Stephen Tall's The Stardust Voyages.

A novel which nails your third item but which would drive you nuts with weird terminology would be Norman Spinrad's The Void Captain's Tale, which begins, "I am Genro Kane Gupta, Void Captain of the Dragon Zephyr and mayhap this is my todtentale." But it's one of my favorite books. Stories like Godwin's famed "The Cold Equations" and Kelly's superb resonance with "Think Like a Dinosaur" also fit well.

Really, there are too many to list - almost everything is about moral conflict and mystery and exploration in one way or another. But those are some.
 
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asif49

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Honestly, I can recommend Endeavour by Ralph Kern who is a member here on Chrons. His book fits a lot of what you're looking for.

And as someone who has read A LOT of SFF books over many years, I do not see anything pretentious from the books I read. There are some medium quality books but so many gems that remind me why I love reading.
I've read a synopsis and it seems really interesting. Would appreciate a link to download/purchase it!
 

Bick

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If you're really into immortality, the best novel dealing with the subject is Poul Anderson's "Boat of a Million Years".
 

ratsy

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I've read a synopsis and it seems really interesting. Would appreciate a link to download/purchase it!

Ask, I think its only available as an eBook right now so check out Amazon. Paperback is in the works ( I think)
 

tinkerdan

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My recommendation would be to read the older masters first and work your way to the current. That doesn't seem to be what you want though so I'll let other people advise.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007Y4CWZG/?tag=brite-21
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B2KI5QI/?tag=brite-21
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ONA7G9Q/?tag=brite-21
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OAGX4L2/?tag=brite-21

On the other hand there are four to start you and you can't go wrong with those.

if you want things that are free then you will likely have to put up with a lot of the stuff you don't like and also some poor writing with poor style choices though there are a few good now and then.
 

kythe

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My recommendation would be to read the older masters first and work your way to the current. That doesn't seem to be what you want though so I'll let other people advise.

Interesting recommendation. That's what I started doing last year, but I think I'm the only person on this forum who is reading in this way.

As such, I've read very little that is "new". Other than the years published, I do think Arthur C. Clarke has several works which meet your criteria.
 

hitmouse

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Interesting SF/Fantasy takes on immortality:

To Your Scattered Bodies Go
Philip Jose Farmer
An Alien Heat Michael Moorcock
Hydrogen Sonata Iain M Banks
American Gods Neil Stephenson

I am sure I will think of some others in a minute.
 

BAYLOR

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Welcome to Chrons

The Veils Of Azlaroc by Fred Saberhagen
 

ralphkern

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To plug myself... 'Endeavour' covers many of the themes you've outlined. It is, however, more of an ensemble following several characters rather than a single protagonist.

The sidequal will be out soon, which follows just one character and starts off as a film moorish SF whodunnit before expanding out into galactic scale consequences. It still covers the themes you're after, but they are subordinate to the central manhunt.
 

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