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Posted on Mar 5, 2007 in Blog, reading | 14 comments

Looking for a few Good Books

So, I haven’t been reading much recently, owing to time constraints. Now that my kid is becoming more self-sufficient, I’m looking to find some new interesting books to read.

Amend that, lets just say that I’ve been reading very little in the sf/f genres in the last decade. I’m looking to educate myself as to what the genre looks like these days. I’m looking for good reads with interesting ideas, and I’m looking for good reads that are just plain fun (I write too much depressing stuff to spend all my time reading it, too, right? ;-) ).

Any suggestions?


  1. Two of my favorite books that I read last year, both SF:

    MAPPA MUNDI by Justina Robson
    WARCHILD by Karin Lowachee (this book is now out of print, but you should easily be able to find a used copy at

    Other faves:

    PERDIDO STREET STATION by China Mieville
    THE SPARROW by Mary Doria Russell
    COYOTE by Allen Steele

    These aren’t exactly new titles. I just happened to read all of them in 2006. And there’s quite a variety here too. If you get a chance to read any of them, I hope you post your thoughts in your blog! :)

  2. I think that it’s quite possible that you’ll dig BLINDSIGHT, by Peter Watts.

    Other interesting things from the last couple of years:

    The first three books by Richard Morgan.

    The first one is a little derivative, and the second is in an uncomfortable transition, but I thought that the third one was good. Plus they’re all a lot of fun.

    NATURAL HISTORY and LIVING NEXT DOOR TO THE GOD OF LOVE by Justina Robson are interesting.

    Hal Duncan’s VELLUM was an untidy read, but ultimately worth it. I’ve still yet to get around to the second one, though.

    Gene Wolfe’s WIZARD-KNIGHT books are something that might be cool to share with the kid when he gets a little older, though they’re not his best, I don’t think.

    I might pop back in after work when I’m a bit closer to my bookshelves and add a few more.

  3. How self-sufficient is your kid? Mine is 8 and still needs to be reminded to eat, bathe, sleep and dress. fact of the matter is I need the same reminders at 38.

    How far back do you need to go? I mean, when was it that you last checked in with the state of SF?

    I’d second BLINDSIGHT. It frigging rocked.

    Richard K. Morgan is good, though I found his sex scenes a trifle overly graphic.

    Alastair Reynolds “Revelation Space” is alright.

    I know you don’t need to read an John Scalzi, as I found your site there.

    Elizabeth Bear’s Carnival is awesome.

    I’m also very fond of Paolo Baciagalupi.

  4. I agree that you should put VELLUM in your “to be read” pile. It’s a fascinating piece of work. INK was just released last week, so you’ll be able to get your hands on it as soon as you finish the first volume.

    You might enjoy Liz Williams’ SNAKE AGENT and THE DEMON AND THE CITY. They’re funny, with a bonus of creepy!

    I’ve also really enjoyed both THE ANDROID’S DREAM and OLD MAN’S WAR by John Scalzi.

  5. Thanks! These are brilliant.

    I’ve only read MARKET FORCES by Richard Morgan and thought it was quite excellent. Flawed in places as it felt like he was working with too many ideas for the overall novel to hold them all comfortably, but it was so uncompromising and blistering in its passion that it won me over. I’ll go hunt for the trilogy you mention.

    My wife has SNAKE AGENT, so I can steal that from her, and the bookstore that rents me an office has a couple copies of VELLUM for sale, so that gives me a starting point. I also admit to having PERDIDO STREET STATION on my shelf. I’ve started it twice and kept getting stalled, though that has more to do with the last three years of kid-rearing than anything to do with the book.

    Maybe I’ll tell the bookstore lady to pick up Scalzi’s books. She’s always asking me for suggestions about what she should stock, and I’m always a bit stuck because I know that my tastes aren’t necessarily what move lots of (or sometimes any) books. The last time I was successful with a book suggestion was when I got her to stock the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin, so Scalzi might be a good experiment for a rural town’s bookstore. The rest of the authors are mostly new to me. I’ll go hunting.

    As I get through them, I’ll post my mileage. If there are other suggestions, I’d love to keep building a list. Cheers!

  6. These are all very good suggestions. I would add that, for a quick injection of vanguard SF, you should read anything by Charles Stross but preferably ACCELERANDO, possibly David Marusek’s COUNTING HEADS, Robert Charles Wilson’s SPIN (those two admittedly still on my own “to read” shelf), John Scalzi’s OLD MAN’S WAR, and, if one may plug their own, Ian McDonald’s RIVER OF GODS. On that last, not only does the Washington Post think Ian is one of the top SF writers working today, but the national newspaper of India just gave him a stellar endorsement:

    Meanwhile, I’d second the call to read Mieville. If you had to only read three of the above works, from everyone’s recommendations, I would read PERDIDO STREET STATION, RIVER OF GODS, and ACCELERANDO, in that order. To do so would be to read the three books that seem to have had the most impact on the “dialogue” that is speculative fiction.

  7. I’m reading SNAKE AGENT at the moment and really enjoying it, so I’d second that.

    On the other hand, I’d suggest starting with China Mieville’s THE SCAR rather than PERDIDO. What he had great fun with first time round, he really nailed at the second attempt (imho).

    I know this book is some years old now, but if you haven’t read Robert Holdstock’s MYTHAGO WOOD, do. It’s still my favourite fantasy novel ever.

  8. So, back to the house now, and I’d second Lou’s rec of RoG. If you liked the Song of Fire and Ice books, I’d add Steve Erikson’s Malazan books to your list as well. A couple of others:

    STAMPING BUTTERFLIES, by John Courtenay Grimwood
    THE SKINNER, by Neal Asher
    MARROW & WELL OF STARS, by Robert Reed
    SUN OF SUNS, by Karl Schroeder
    LIGHT & NOVA SWING, by M. John Harrison
    AIR, by Geoff Ryman
    RECURSION, by Tony Ballantyne

  9. Ah, SUN OF SUNS is HIGH on my too read list. As is SNAKE AGENT. I would suggest that the otherwise ingenious Sean’s wrong about skipping PERDIDO, as you’ll be sorry later when you get to IRON COUNCIL that you did.

    If we’re talking fantasy, I highly recommend Greg Keyes’ THE BRIAR KING as well as Sean’s own THE CROOKED LETTER, and his forthcoming ASTROPOLIS is the one book I plan to drop everything I’m doing to read when it comes out. (And I’m not publishing that one).

    And for Christ’s sake, see CHILDREN OF MEN already. It’s out on DVD now too.

  10. Let me ditto SUN OF SUNS, by Karl Schroeder, friggin’ awesome.

  11. More votes for Counting Heads, Air, River of Gods, and the two M. John Harrison books from me. Also, Life by Gwyneth Jones, and Pynchon’s Against the Day, if you have time. I wasn’t so impressed by Sun of Suns; on the other hand, I don’t generally like Richard Morgan, so my tastes may not match your own that closely. Short story collections — Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang, Map of Dreams by M. Rickert, 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill, Mothers & Other Monsters by Maureen McHugh. Not sf but related (in the Pattern Recognition sense: The Weight of Numbers by Simon Ings. And, of course, Julie Phillips’ Tiptree bio.

  12. For a good space opera type read try Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained by Peter F. Hamilton.

    If you are looking for a out and out fun read try A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore.

  13. Let me second Lou on his sequence of Perido Street Station, River of Gods, and Accelerando. I’d add Blindsight to that list (and yeah Lou: you should read it, too…;-).

    Another Ian McDonald favourite of mine is Necroville (released as Terminal Café in the US).

    I would also second Al Duncan’s Vellum although I’m still going through it, with the caveat that I suspect that his short story cycle — The City of Rotted Names, The Prince of End Times, The Whenever at the City’s Heart, The Tower of Morning’s Bones — might very well be even more mindblowing than both Vellum and Ink, to which they are linked.

    Chris Priest: almost anything. My personal faves are The Extremes and The Separation, but YMMV. He is one of the very best British writers living today.

    If you’re looking for hard SF, Greg Egan is your man. Diaspora might be his best, although Schild’s Ladder is quite probably the most far-reaching hard SF novel ever written. My good friend Al Reynolds said, that as an ex-professional astronomer, he tried to understand it, but still couldn’t fully grasp it. In other words, Schild’s Ladder is either the epitome of hard SF, science geekdom gone over the top, or excruciatingly boring, depending on your POV.

    Finally, I really liked Mike John Harrison’s Light, and its sequel Nova Swing was released last year, but I haven’t read it yet. But it’s very high on the ‘to read’ pile, which has grown over a couple of hundred books.

    Now, if that damn day job — that paid for those books — wouldn’t get so much in the way of my reading time…;-)


  14. The best I have read is Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.
    I can’t quit thinking about it.