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Looking for specific type of Sci-Fi


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#1 dbcooper

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Posted 12 March 2014 - 08:38 PM

Yes I know, a lot of people hate rec threads but I promise you I've scoured the boards posts and lists as well as a fair amount of time going through amazon/goodreads.  So personal recommendations are the next step.

 

I'm looking for Sci-fi novel  taking place in space (preferably) where the main premise is based around exploring the unknown.  What that unknown is is unimportant, I'm mostly interested in the discovery aspect and a compelling journey.  Some examples:

 

  • Blindsight by Peter Watts - Loved this book, anything similar is an instant-win for me.
  • Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear - Great setting, lots of unknowns, characters driven to survive through exploration
  • Ship of Fools by Richard Paul Russo - Has the elements but kind of weak in the characterization/dialogue department.
  • Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer - Excellent exploration of the unknown, mysteries abound.  Main character feels like a human being.
  • Rendevous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke - Kind of sparse on details and a bit flat at times, but interesting ideas and the journey of exploring Rama was good.

 

Here are some elements/themes I'm looking for:

 

  • Prefer it not to be based on war.  Fighting/violence is fine, I'm just tired of the "long military struggle, both sides seek hidden artifact to give them an advantage" trope.
  • No "good guys vs bad guys",  I mean this in the sense that there's some adversarial conflict and one side is definitively good (e.g. wants to save the universe) and the other definitely evil (e.g. wants to enslave the universe).   I like moral ambiguity. 
  • Strong realistic dialogue and multidimensional characters.  No cardboard cutouts spouting off stilted monologues.  This is probably the most important thing to me.
  • Strong emotional content, able to feel connected to the main character.
  • Trials of the mind in addition to the body.
  • Dark/gritty or horror-esque tone and setting.  Anything that plays on the fear of the unknown.
  • Gradual unraveling of a mystery.  I enjoy reading through the process of attaining knowledge.  It doesn't matter what the end result is, the book can conclude with questions still unanswered.  Annihilation and Blindsight did this spectacularly.
  • Emphasis on the journey (not necessarily a physical one) of discovery as well as the investigations in the pursuit of knowledge
  • Leaves room for the reader to fill in some blanks.  Doesn't explain everything in verbose detail.
  • Tense atmosphere

 

Keep in mind I'm not looking for something that fits this bill exactly, these are just some flexible guidelines.  Thanks!

 

 

Edit:  Updated, added more details and some stuff from below.


Edited by dbcooper, 13 March 2014 - 05:25 PM.


#2 Darth Richard II

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Posted 12 March 2014 - 10:08 PM

So....about 1/2 of all scifi?



#3 peterbound

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Posted 12 March 2014 - 10:22 PM

So....about 1/2 of all scifi?

 

 

Ha, but seriously.  That's pretty much the whole genre.  

 

Also, how the fuck is Peter F. Hamilton not on this list.  All his shit fits that to a T. Add a little Deus Ex Machina to the mix, and you've got a winner. 



#4 Darth Richard II

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Posted 12 March 2014 - 10:35 PM

You could watch Alien with the lights off.



#5 felice

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Posted 12 March 2014 - 11:26 PM

Ha, but seriously.  That's pretty much the whole genre.  
Also, how the fuck is Peter F. Hamilton not on this list.


It's really not. A great deal is about space wars, for example. The Hamilton I've read was mostly about people fighting space zombies in their home worlds, not exploration! Though there are some pretty interesting ideas mixed up in it.

Blindsight is indeed a brilliant book; I can't think of too many others like it. Out of the Silent Planet (CS Lewis) might be worth a look, though it's pretty dated.

#6 Darth Richard II

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Posted 12 March 2014 - 11:27 PM

No, but its a LARGE part of the genre.



#7 felice

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Posted 12 March 2014 - 11:38 PM

It may be a large part of the genre as a whole, but it's seldom the primary focus of any specific work. Can you suggest a few good books you think would fit? Should be easy if there are so many...

#8 felice

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Posted 13 March 2014 - 12:14 AM

I'm looking for Sci-fi novel  taking place in space (preferably) where the main premise is based around exploring the unknown.  What that unknown is is unimportant, I'm mostly interested in the discovery aspect and a compelling journey.


Would it be accurate to say a large part of what you're looking for is science fiction where the protagonists' main function in the story (not just their nominal profession) is doing science, rather than say a being a soldier, captain, diplomat, detective, or prey? I've only read Blindsight and Rama from your list.

#9 naz

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Posted 13 March 2014 - 12:35 AM

Planet of Adventure by Jack Vance and the Ringworld series by Larry Niven have some aspect of what you're talking about. Also, Number of the Beast by Heinlein. Also, the Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson, especially the first book.

 

 

eta: It's a good bet that you've already read these, since they're in the pantheon of sci-fi classics, but hey... you never know.


Edited by naz, 13 March 2014 - 12:37 AM.


#10 Eugene V. Debspalm

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Posted 13 March 2014 - 02:05 AM

None of these are perfect, but all have elements of the Discovering A Thing type story...

 

A Deepness in the Sky - Vernor Vinge

Learning the World - Ken McLeod

Ammonite - Nicola Griffith

The Sparrow - Mary Doria Russel

Anathem - Neal Stephenson

Darwinia - Robert Charles Wilson (very much in the style of Annihilation)

For Clarke, you might try Against the Fall of Night/The City and the Stars, or Songs of Distant Earth and of course 2001 (and maybe its sequels) as well. 

Heinlein...maybe Stranger in a Strange Land?

Seconding Ringworld, too. 

Maybe even The Left Hand of Darkness - Ursula K. Leguin

 

Agree the Hamilton is not much in this vein at all. 



#11 peterbound

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Posted 13 March 2014 - 06:11 AM

Yes I know, a lot of people hate rec threads but I promise you I've scoured the boards posts and lists as well as a fair amount of time going through amazon/goodreads.  So personal recommendations are the next step.

 

I'm looking for Sci-fi novel  taking place in space (preferably) where the main premise is based around exploring the unknown.  What that unknown is is unimportant, I'm mostly interested in the discovery aspect and a compelling journey.  Some examples:

 

 

Bonus points for dark/horror-esque atmosphere along the lines of Blindsight/Hull 03 but not necessary.  And I'm flexible on the space setting as well.  Trying not to limit based on too many details.

 

 

Thanks!

 

 

 

None of these are perfect, but all have elements of the Discovering A Thing type story...

 

Agree the Hamilton is not much in this vein at all. 

 

 

The Void Trilogy is exactly what this person is looking for.  Exploring the unknown.  Creepy.  Spacey.  All that shit.  



#12 SilentRoamer

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Posted 13 March 2014 - 07:16 AM

Yeah have to agree with peterbound.

 

The Nights Dawn Trilogy is less about exploration and discovery than the Void Trilogy but even so there is a lot of discovery in Nights Dawn - specifically the fate of the Laymil and the IMO great Deus Ex Machina ending.

 

Void is basically ALL about mystery: The Silfen, The Raiel, The Void, The Tochee (.sp)



#13 dbcooper

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Posted 13 March 2014 - 01:39 PM

 

 

Ha, but seriously.  That's pretty much the whole genre.  

 

Also, how the fuck is Peter F. Hamilton not on this list.  All his shit fits that to a T. Add a little Deus Ex Machina to the mix, and you've got a winner. 

 

Great, if there are so many options it should be easy for you to recommend something.  I've read Hamilton, just didn't list it as he didn't come to mind.  His stuff isn't focused on the exploration/journey, at least what I've read.  I also don't particularly enjoy his

 

It's really not. A great deal is about space wars, for example. The Hamilton I've read was mostly about people fighting space zombies in their home worlds, not exploration! Though there are some pretty interesting ideas mixed up in it.

Blindsight is indeed a brilliant book; I can't think of too many others like it. Out of the Silent Planet (CS Lewis) might be worth a look, though it's pretty dated.

 

Blindsight was indeed brilliant, I've been unable to find anything quite like it.

 

Yeah that's a problem I've had when looking for stuff, there's a ton of older that hasn't aged well.  It doesn't devalue what was written but it tends to be less enjoyable when read through the perspective of a modern sci-fi reader.

 

 

Would it be accurate to say a large part of what you're looking for is science fiction where the protagonists' main function in the story (not just their nominal profession) is doing science, rather than say a being a soldier, captain, diplomat, detective, or prey? I've only read Blindsight and Rama from your list.

Not so much.  I try to stay away from making a shopping list of details like professions of characters, I'm more interested in the broad strokes of the story.  But some other possible criteria:

 

  • Prefer it not to be based on war.  Fighting/violence is fine, I'm just tired of the "long military struggle, both sides seek hidden artifact to give them an advantage" trope.
  • No "good guys vs bad guys",  I mean this in the sense that there's some adversarial conflict and one side is definitively good (e.g. wants to save a planet) and the other definitely evil (e.g. wants to enslave the universe).   I like moral ambiguity. 
  • Strong realistic dialogue and multidimensional characters.  No cardboard cutouts spouting off stilted monologues.
  • Dark/gritty or horror-esque tone and setting.  Anything that plays on the fear of the unknown.
  • Gradual unraveling of mystery.  By no means does the story have to spell out every little detail and tie every loose knot.  But I enjoy the process of attaining knowledge, it doesn't matter what the end result is, the book can conclude with questions still unanswered.  Annihilation and Blindsight did this spectacularly.
  • Emphasis on the journey of discovery as well as investigations in the pursuit of knowledge.

And thank you felice for helping!


Edited by dbcooper, 13 March 2014 - 01:51 PM.


#14 dbcooper

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Posted 13 March 2014 - 01:45 PM

None of these are perfect, but all have elements of the Discovering A Thing type story...

 

A Deepness in the Sky - Vernor Vinge

Learning the World - Ken McLeod

Ammonite - Nicola Griffith

The Sparrow - Mary Doria Russel

Anathem - Neal Stephenson

Darwinia - Robert Charles Wilson (very much in the style of Annihilation)

For Clarke, you might try Against the Fall of Night/The City and the Stars, or Songs of Distant Earth and of course 2001 (and maybe its sequels) as well. 

Heinlein...maybe Stranger in a Strange Land?

Seconding Ringworld, too. 

Maybe even The Left Hand of Darkness - Ursula K. Leguin

 

Agree the Hamilton is not much in this vein at all. 

 

Thank you for the list, I've read many of these books though a couple that I haven't have potential.  Adding Darwinia and Ringworld to my list.  Thank you so much!



#15 dietl

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Posted 13 March 2014 - 03:03 PM

Try Donaldson's Gap Cycle if you haven't already.



#16 williamjm

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Posted 13 March 2014 - 03:42 PM



None of these are perfect, but all have elements of the Discovering A Thing type story...

 

A Deepness in the Sky - Vernor Vinge

Learning the World - Ken McLeod

Those were the first two I thought of. They're both a twist on Rendevous With Rama, a non-interstellar society detects a mysterious spaceship heading towards their planet, although unlike in Rama the spaceship is a human one approaching an alien planet.

 

Yeah that's a problem I've had when looking for stuff, there's a ton of older that hasn't aged well.  It doesn't devalue what was written but it tends to be less enjoyable when read through the perspective of a modern sci-fi reader.

 

I'd probably dis-recommend Ringworld based on this, while it may be one of the defining works of the space exploration sub-genre I thought it had aged incredibly badly.

 

From a similar era as Ringworld, I think Fred Pohl's Gateway would be a much better choice, although it's more concerned with the explorer than what he is exploring.

 

Yeah have to agree with peterbound.

 

The Nights Dawn Trilogy is less about exploration and discovery than the Void Trilogy but even so there is a lot of discovery in Nights Dawn - specifically the fate of the Laymil and the IMO great Deus Ex Machina ending.

 

I think Pandora's Star would probably fit best out of Hamilton's work, I thought the highlight of the book was the voyage to investigate the 'Dark Fortress'. Admittedly, the sequel does focus more on conflict than exploration.



#17 Eugene V. Debspalm

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Posted 13 March 2014 - 04:46 PM

Yeah, Ringworld really only for the OP's criteria. It's, uh, not the best by any other measure.

 

Re: Hamilton - I've only read Pandora's Star/Judas Unchained, and while one or two of the roughly seventy three subplots it has those elements to some extent, it's as part a massively sprawling war/politics story, and the whole thing has very little of that atmosphere of exploration or the tension of an unraveling mystery.  Mileage may vary, of course, but it's more than the fact of the plot elements existing or not - the tone isn't there.

 

Oh, OP, I assume you've read Reynold's Diamond Dogs, right? That whole subgenre/trope boiled expertly down to a perfect, nervewracking novella.



#18 dbcooper

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Posted 13 March 2014 - 05:36 PM

Yeah, Ringworld really only for the OP's criteria. It's, uh, not the best by any other measure.

 

Re: Hamilton - I've only read Pandora's Star/Judas Unchained, and while one or two of the roughly seventy three subplots it has those elements to some extent, it's as part a massively sprawling war/politics story, and the whole thing has very little of that atmosphere of exploration or the tension of an unraveling mystery.  Mileage may vary, of course, but it's more than the fact of the plot elements existing or not - the tone isn't there.

 

Oh, OP, I assume you've read Reynold's Diamond Dogs, right? That whole subgenre/trope boiled expertly down to a perfect, nervewracking novella.

 

I respect Hamilton for his vast universes and sprawling plots, but I can never stay with him for long.  I've read 2 out of 3 Night's Dawn and 1.5 of Void Trilogy and some others I can't remember right now.  I never feel compelled to continue due to disliking the dialogue, one-dimensional characters and the stiff narrative.

 

I have not read Diamond Dogs as I tend towards longer novels.  But I've read 7 or 8 of Reynold's books and I generally like him but I could go for a change of pace at the moment.  Will put Diamond Dogs on my to-investigate list, thanks.



#19 Eugene V. Debspalm

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Posted 13 March 2014 - 05:48 PM

I prefer longer books too, as a rule, but Diamond Dogs is just fantastic.



#20 YellowDogJen

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Posted 13 March 2014 - 05:56 PM

Wouldn't The Expanse fit the bill?