the Little Red Reviewer

Ten Gateway Science Fiction Books

Posted on: November 9, 2013

scifi month header

Thanks to the amazing organization skills of Rinn over at Rinn Reads, we’re right in the heart of  Science Fiction Month. And I’ve noticed something. Something wonderful: lots of folks who are participating in SciFi Month are completely new to science fiction.

This is fantastic!  That so many people who have never picked up a science  fiction book are interested in giving some weird stuff a try, it warms my heart.  Getting into science fiction isn’t always easy.   Strange names, alien planets, technobabble, far future technologies. . .  it can be a bit much.  Luckily, there are plenty (countless, actually) of “gate way” books, books that take place right now, or maybe a few years in the future, or even a few years in past. Books that don’t leave the solar system, maybe don’t even leave the Earth. You don’t need to be fluent in technobabble or have a degree in astronomy to enjoy these. You just need to turn the first page. . .

to help you on your journey into scifi, I’ve linked the titles to my reviews.  If you have any suggestions for other gateway books, let everyone know in the comments!

American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett – After her parent’s death, Mona inherits her Mom’s old house in a sleepy town in the southwest. It’s one of those old fashioned towns, where everyone knows everyone else, and the oldsters remember all the family secrets. there are family secrets, and then there are Family Secrets. How will Mona react when she learns her own?

In the Garden of Iden, by Kage Baker. I love Kage Baker, it’s as simple as that. This novel is the first of her Company Series. Don’t worry, it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, you won’t feel sucked into reading another long series. Mendoza is an operative with a company that collects historical artifacts, and they’ve turned her into an immortal cyborg, of sorts. She spies on people, but can’t tell anyone who or what she is. Really sucks, when she falls in love with someone on her first mission. This book is as heartbreaking as it is funny. By the way, I’ve got a review of some Kage Baker Company short stories that’ll be posting in a few days.

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline – In the near future, we spend most of our lives online, playing in huge MMO worlds. The designers of a famous game was a huge fan of pop culture from the 80s, and he left all sorts of Easter Eggs in his games. Collect all the eggs, and win the prize. A fun read, especially if you grew up in the 80s.

Three Days to Never, by Tim Powers – one of my favorite Powers books. Time travel, secret history, Einstein’s secret daughter who followed in his professional footsteps, ghosts who talk backwards. I’m not sure if this qualifies as straight up science fiction, but you can’t go wrong with Tim Powers.

Makers by Cory Doctorow – Doctorow has the uncanny ability to tell the future. Taking place a few years from now, 3-D printers are all the rage, people post printer programs online, and big businesses go nuts trying to get copyrighted stuff off the interwebs. It’s hackers vs antipiracy lawyers, with more characterization and social commentary than you can shake a stick at.

vN by Madeline Ashby – Androids walk among us.  von Neumann machines are self replicating androids, Companies use them as cheap labor, and many families use them as additions to their family.  Designed to always be self replicating, the only way to stop their growth is a starvation diet. Amy is just a kid, she didn’t mean to do anything, she didn’t mean to hurt her grandma. But Amy was so hungry, she was starving, and her grandma attacked someone, so Amy ate her. And grew up.

Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh – speed dating is different in the future. Especially when the beautiful women are mostly frozen corpiscles defrosted when they’ve scored a “date”. Rob is responsible for a woman’s death, and when she wakes up at the Cryomed Dating Center, he vows to free her. The situation quickly complicated itself.

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes – In this alternate world, every jail sentence is a life sentence, no matter what. When you commit a crime, your animal comes for you. Not a totem and not a familiar, the animal brings a special talent with it, and being separated from your animal causes physical pain and death in some cases. Zinzi is one of the animalled, and she has a talent for finding lost things. She needs to make ends meet, but this new case could be the end of her.

Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn-  Ok, I lied. This one takes place long ago in a galaxy far away. Luke, Han, and Leia together again? Of course you want to know what happened after episode six! Timothy Zahn’s writing is fun and easy, this book will bring back the joy you remember from experiencing Star Wars for the first time.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell – a classic of First Contact stories. Yes, there are aliens in this one too. it is, after all, a first contact story. A varied crew of Earthlings funded by a religious order meet an alien race who seems so friendly and benign at first. But the planet has predators, and societal norms we don’t understand until it’s too late.

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31 Responses to "Ten Gateway Science Fiction Books"

It’s one of the reasons I wanted to celebrate the genre, and I’m so happy it’s working! =)
Ooh, I’ve not heard of ‘In the Garden of Iden’ before but it sounds goooood. And Ready Player One was SO fun, a real whirlwind of a read.
vN is on my to read list – I read about it at the beginning of the month and it certainly sounds worth a shot.
Great list, if someone new to the genre is convinced to read just one of these books then that would be brilliant =D

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” if someone new to the genre is convinced to read just one of these books then that would be brilliant ”

my thoughts exactly. :) maybe at the end of the month I’ll do one on Fantasy gateway books?

I’m working on another Kage Baker review right now, for some short stories that take place in the same universe as In The Garden of Iden. When you get to vN, let me know what you think!

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Ooh, I’d happily join you on that =)

Will do, though it probably won’t be for a while!

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Great list! :) I have a copy of In the Garden of Iden in my eReader, I think, glad to hear it’s really good! Am going to have to bump it up my list of books to read now ;)

I’ve also been meaning to read some books from Timothy Zahn–there was a trilogy of his I was looking for but never got around to.

Been hearing good things about Ready Player One, will definitely keep a lookout for that title too, lol! So many books, so little time xD

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that Zahn trilogy you’re thinking of might be the Star Wars one, that’s what he is famous for. LOL, so many books so little time, you got that right! it’s also So Many bookblogs, so little time! :D

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[…] Ten Gateway Science Fiction Books (littleredreviewer.wordpress.com) […]

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Good list. For me, it would change depending on the person. Ready Player One is a good one for thirty-somethings looking for something light and engaging. Lauren Buekes is another good pick, but I would probably favor The Shining Girls (Zoo City is my favorite, though). I recently reread the Thrawn trilogy and was a bit disappointed.

I usually recommend Ender’s Game and Old Man’s War introductions to the genre.

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Ender’s Game!!!! I knew I’d missed a really good one! arrgggg.

I have GOT to get my hands on The Shining Girls. It’s gonna have to be a library one, unless that baby comes out in paperback soon. This kind of list definitely does change depending on who you’re talking to, but I was aiming for 1) stuff I’d reviewed, and 2) stuff that wouldn’t be too weird for someone who has read very little SF.

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This list looks great, I’ve only read Ready Player One (loved it) and I’m a pretty “light” science fiction reader. I’ve been wanting to read Beukes but heard mixed things about The Shining Girls. This list will be a great resource!

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mixed things about Shining Girls? I’ve only heard really good stuff. Ernest Cline is working on a new novel, i don’t know if it’s in the same world as Ready Player One, but I know I want to read it!

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Great list. All of the books above are special in their own way. My favorite is the Zoo City. Reading it I couldn´t look at my turtle the same way anymore.

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that had to have been freaky, reading Zoo City and thinking about your pet at the same time! Which others on the list have you read? Are there other gateway books you’d recommend?

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I love the idea of this list :) And I completely agree with Ready Player One. Sadly, I haven’t read the others…. *scampers off to add them to my TBR*

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if you get to any of the others, I’d love to know what you think of them. :D

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Makers is good but far from Cory’s best work, Little Brother is MUCH better!

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I really did like Little Brother. Damn was I a ball of weeping at the end of that one! Doctorow’s newer books are groundbreaking and inspiring, but I like his older stuff better.

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Actually kinda pleased to see Zahn on the list. I have always felt he was slightly better than his reputation, and that first Star Wars trilogy would have been good enough to stand on its own, without the backing of such a known universe.

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the new Star Wars movies should totally follow the Zahn storyline. It would have been incredible to not have any idea what Star Wars was, read his Thrawn trilogy, and then later find out “omg, there is movies too!!!”

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I haven’t read any of these books, but they all sound so interesting! I play MMOs, so Ready Player One looks really appealing; and Zoo City is another one that I’m adding to my TBR list. Thanks for sharing! :)

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If you enjoy MMOs, you’ll get a huge kick out of Ready Player One! you might also like The Restoration Game by Ken MacLeod. Lots of MMO’s also have tie-in novels floating around too.

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Ooh, thanks for the suggestion!

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Okay, wow, I haven’t read ANY of these books! What is wrong with me?! I do have Ready Player One on my wishlist, though. And also vN, now, thanks to you!

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nothing at all is wrong with you. :) I just happened to pull ten books out of thin air that you hadn’t read yet. Happens to me EVERY TIME I pull up my blog reader and see all the titles my friends are reviewing! :D

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Great list! I love the inclusion of The Sparrow — one of the best sci-fi books I’ve ever read. I’m very into the more anthropological sci-fi, so first contact stories tend to be winners with me. :)

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Great,
Thanks for these suggestions.
I started this sci fi month by award winning science fiction books. Now I will be including these books also .
Thanks again.

http://myscifilibrary.com/

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[…] really liked this list of “Gateway Science Fiction” over at The Little Red Reviewer.  It’s aimed at science fiction for folks who haven’t read a lot of it.  The post defines […]

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I thought and thought and thought about this list, then finally decide I’ll just have to write my own. I’ll put it up tomorrow or the next day. ;)

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that would awesome! DO IT!!! :D

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[…] week, The Little Red Reviewer posted her list of Top 10 Gateway SF titles. I wanted to respond, thought about what to say, thought some more […]

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Fun list! I would completely put Ready Player One and Love Minus Eighty on my list. Those are two books in particular, along with Wool by Hugh Howey, that I’ve gotten people who rarely or never read SF to both read and love. I think Ready Player One is even better if it can be experienced on audio. Will Wheaton does a fantastic job with this one.

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[…] Andrea shares her ten ‘Gateway Science Fiction Books’ – a brilliant introduction to sci-fi […]

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