Fantasy & Beyond

A Book Forum for Speculative Fiction

A place to start read-alongs.
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Thanks for your reply, and apologies for coming back to it a bit late. There's been a lot going on!

HormannAlex wrote:Among my more controversial opinions is that there are no 'beginner' sci fi books, I say just dive in and tackle whatever takes your fancy. Though this is admittedly less good advice when setting up a book club.
Yeah, I will have to politely disagree with this. There are plenty of sci-fi books that will put people right off the genre, including many of the fustier classics, but also a plethora of s stories that entirely forego the great potential of the genre has of exploring a variety of fascinating themes in favour of mindless spaceship battles or alien/robot invasions.

What fascinates me about the genre is its ability to widen our perspective on humanity, culture, technology, civilisation, and on the universe. There are plenty of sci-fi books which fail to do that. As a rule, those are uninteresting to me.

HormannAlex wrote:Approach One: Science fiction books that feel like fantasy books.
As much as I love science fantasy, I would like to aim this particular club more towards straight-forward SF.

HormannAlex wrote:Approach Two: Something with minimal sci-fi elements.
See above. I am not looking to 'lure' people in by making them read something that feels more familiar, though I recognise that as a fully viable 'tactic' when bringing people into the fold. :)

HormannAlex wrote:Approach Three: In at the deep end. Pick something that could only ever be science fiction. I'd heartily recommend Stephen Baxter and Ben Bova, because they both deal with amazing sci fi concepts, but have incredibly accessible prose.
This is more interesting to me, though I think there's a middle road of reading some 'lighter' works without stepping away from the core of the genre. But I appreciate the recommendations, and I will look into them (I haven't read either of them). Are there any books by those authors you would particularly recommend?

And yes, we'd definitely aim for standalone stories, and preferably not the 800-page ones either. At least not initially. ;)

Thanks for your comment and interest. I hope you'll keep an eye on this and perhaps join in when the time comes!
Another suggestion could be This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal el-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. It's also a novella. And while it's undeniably hard SF, it's also much more, with what is essentially a romance plot at the core.
HormannAlex wrote: February 4th, 2024, 16:43
In terms of classics, anything on the Gollancz SF Masterworks list should be easy to get hold of and be guaranteed for discussion points. A lot of older SF tends to be ideas-based, which I find makes for more interesting conversations. (Incidentally, I'm running a discord server buddy read at the moment, and we're doing Walter Miller's A Canticle for Liebowitz, so that's where my tastes are right now).

Oh wow I love this book! I'm not sure it would work for people here. It has a lot of religious themes and concepts about mortality. It's also a story about how we don't necessarily learn our lessons from the past and the advancement of technology. If that sounds good, then I highly recommend. I'm not into sci-fi, but I loved that book.
I told my wife about this forum (she's known about FF as well) and how I'm interested in the book club now that I'm getting roped in. I haven't read much fiction in a few years. Her response, with a roll of the eyes: "Finally."

Then she asked if she could join the book club, and I said no.

I'm interested in A Psalm for the Wild-Built. As a fellow solarpunk enjoyer, that sounds really interesting to me.
ScarletBea liked this
I'm reading everything here but I haven't had much time to reply. I'll get on this in the weekend and maybe look at creating a short list for the first book, which we can narrow down to some poll options.
Random book suggestions for 'proper sf' books.

Galaxias, by Stephen Baxter (one day, the sun goes missing. Humanity tries to cope)

Mars, by Ben Bova (A Native American joins the first expedition to Mars)

Startide Rising, by David Brin (artificially evolved dolphins explore an alien planet)

The Apollo Murders, by Chris Hadfield (in an alternate space race,astronauts and cosmonauts come into conflict over resources)

Vagabonds, by Hao Jingfang (a group of friends come of age on Mars)

Fractal Noise, by Christopher Paolini (a group of scientists investigate a massive hole on a remote planet)

Revenger, by Alastair Reynolds (young sisters are drawn into piracy in the remains of a broken solar system)

Children of Time, by Adrian Tchaikovsky (an accident leads to spiders building their own civilisation on an uninhabited world)
I'd be up for this, as I'm intrigued by discussion over shared experiences, or the discussions on the science itself that may inevitably evolve.

I've been reading a fair bit of sci-fi in the past year as it's far more prevalent on the library shelves than fantasy, but as somebody who's coming at the genre from the outside, I tend to find the space survival/first contact stories the most interesting, though admittedly I've yet to tackle any 800page multi-book space politics epics as of yet.
Novellas is quite a good idea, given how many classics started life as novellas (Dune, Flowers for Algernon, Foundation, etc) and how they're having a bit of resurgence in the ebook age. They're also easier to fit in with other reading. Maybe not so friendly to those who prefer physical books, though.
DaveBates liked this
DrNefario wrote: February 10th, 2024, 21:58 Novellas is quite a good idea, given how many classics started life as novellas (Dune, Flowers for Algernon, Foundation, etc) and how they're having a bit of resurgence in the ebook age. They're also easier to fit in with other reading. Maybe not so friendly to those who prefer physical books, though.
Novellas are definitely easy on the commitment front, and there are a lot of great ones out there. Adrian Tchaikovsky alone could probably fill a schedule with SF novellas.

The pricing is a killer though. Despite being so short, most novellas seem to be more expensive than regular paperbacks for physical readers.
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