Reading Science Fiction (and finishing the books)

Cover art by Dean Ellis

I’m diving into Science Fiction. And I’m loving it.

When I was a kid I liked sci-fi literature quite a lot. I didn’t read a ton of science fiction books, perhaps because I’m a slow reader and I also liked to read other kinds of books. But I remember reading Ray Bradbury’s short stories and loving them. I also had an original hardbound copy of Burroughs At the Earth’s Core, which I absolutely loved and eventually lost. I also read and loved Burroughs’ Tarzan and several of his John Carter of Mars series. I also loved sci-fi films and television (STAR WARS IV was life changing for me as an eleven year old). And I vaguely remember reading Herbert’s Dune and Asimov’s Foundation (remembering almost nothing btw) in college and loving those too. But time went by and my sensibilities began feel the weight of needing to read the classics of Western Civ. I can’t say how many times I started The Brothers Karamazov but it’s the same number as the number of time I didn’t finish it.

It’s been a long time since have read cover-to-cover a work of fiction let alone science fiction. Long gone have been the days when I let my imagination run over the covers of classic sci-fi books purchased at the supermarket or the used book store. These covers activated my young imagination and probably libido.

Cover art by Gino D’Achille

For nearly three decades now most of my reading has been non-fiction. I’ve really struggled to read fiction. But recently I decided two things: 1) I’m going to read fiction in the morning rather than when I get into bed and fall asleep five minutes later, and 2) I’m going to read science fiction rather than from the “western canon” of so-called great literature. Why science fiction specifically I can’t say, but it seems like the right choice. Maybe I’m more willing to give into my inner nerd and admit I love a lot of what sci-fi has to offer my imagination.

For as long as I can remember I’ve religiously spent between one and two hours every morning reading. I’m a man of routine. My coffee and my books and a quiet house before everyone wakes up are sacred to me. But I’ve lived for so long believing I should be reading “serious” stuff and not frivolous trivialities. Oh well, that’s changed.

“The Three-Body Problem” cover art by Stephan Martiniere

In a sense I feel like I’m trying to catching up. I’m looking at Hugo and Nebula awards lists, recommendations from others, and my own knowledge of sci-fi (and some guilt about books I should have read by now). My list of must-reads is growing, and it’s kinda exciting.

I just finished N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season (decent read, more fantasy than sci-fi), Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem (kinda amazing, need to read the next two), and H.G. Wells The War of the Worlds (so wonderfully victorian in tone and style). I’m also re-reading Asimov’s Foundation (book one and loving it), pecking away at Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (classic and interesting) and Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (a much better read than I expected, but I shouldn’t be surprised). I’ve also got a ton of books ready and waiting to be read next (I’m getting a lot of recommendations from online reviewers and “top” lists). I welcome any suggestions too.

In short, I’m loving reading these books. Switching to reading fiction in the morning is fun and I’m actually getting through these books. This surprises me ā€“ I can actually finish a book!

“Leviathan Wakes” cover art by Daniel Dociu

Finally, I have to say I love the cover art of quite a lot of sci-fi books. There must be something about the genre that inspires artists more than most other genres, for the art is often staggeringly good.

3 thoughts on “Reading Science Fiction (and finishing the books)

  1. So, are you exclusively going for science fiction, or are you open to fantasy? For that matter, there are several books and series that blend both genres. The categorical lines aren’t as distinct as they were 50+ years ago…

    One series you may enjoy that has elements of Science Fiction as part of it’s premise (though it probably gets shelved in Fantasy sections) is S.M. Stirling’s Emberverse series. Sort of an alternate history after an Earth-changing event in 1998, with some interesting ideas about how culture and religion are formed. And the first trilogy takes place mainly in the Willamette Valley!

    1. Hey Brian! I hope you are well.

      I think it’s hard for any sci-fi to not have some fantasy in it, even the so-called “hard sci-fi.” The main distinction I’m making is with “traditional” fantasy ā€“ sword and sorcery, often a medieval vibe, witchcraft and magic, dragons, etc. But I’m fine with mixing fantasy, in the broad sense, with sci-fi. However, my focus right now leans more towards the sci-fi category, and I’m a slow reader, and I have a huge list growing, and there’s way too many books to read. I will probably check out more fantasy in the future. The main thing, of course, is whether it’s a good story well told, regardless of the genre. The Emberverse looks interesting. Thanks for the recommendation.

      1. Hi, Tuck. I’m about as well as can be hoped for.

        I’m in near-violent agreement about the importance of a Story well-told. When your tastes turn towards a newish venture in Fantasy, check out The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold. There’s a great exploration of questions of Faith and the nature of Sainthood, and some chewy theological stuff in the religion she’s created for the world she’s built, as well as a cracking good story.

        She’s also the author of the Miles Vorkosigan books, if you’re looking for a Hugo winner for Best Series in science fiction.

        Best to y’all.

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