Crowdsourcing the Best of Recent Science Fiction

Crowdsourcing the Best of Recent Science Fiction September 6, 2012

I’ve been asked if I can come up with a list of the best recent science fiction books for publication in November, as a sort of Christmas shopping list. I am very conscious that I have lagged behind in my reading of fiction, even in this beloved genre, and am worried that something may have simply flown under my radar. And so I thought to myself, why not ask on the blog?

So that’s what I am doing. What would you say are the best science fiction books written in the past couple of years? I’m particularly interested to know if any of them explore themes related to religion.

Thank you in advance for your input. This will be an enormous help since, if blog readers draw to my attention something that I have not yet read but clearly should, I can bump it up to the top of my reading list, and read it myself in time to know whether to include it or not in the list I’ll be putting together.

So what are your recommendations?

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  • Just Sayin’

    I’m better on old science fiction than the new stuff (which all seem to be five inches thick).

  • I might have to stretch the phrase “couple of years” to find anything, But I liked:
    “The Accidental Time Machine”, Joe Haldeman, 2008
    “Anathem”, Neal Stephenson, 2009
    “Galileo’s Dream”, Kim Stanley Robinson, 2009
    “Surface Detail”, Iain M. Banks,2010
    and pretty much anything by those authors.
    Not SF at all (it’s fantasy) but a wonderful book is “Among Others”, Jo Walton, 2012

  • Plutosdad

    the 1st two here are 1st books by authors that have some religious themes. As first books none are awesome, but the 1st two are especially interesting.

    After Life – Simon Funk, very Phillip K Dickensian with some Genesis thrown in. very short novella

    Communion of Dreams – James Downey

    – pretty interesting, the religious themes come out near the end.

    other books:
    Anathem is great. it is all about philosophy, and got me interested in going back and reading much more Plato and others. If you could only read one book, read this one.

    Halting State -Charles Stross -exploration of the internet, online games, “Bitcoin”, quantum computing, and how they are transforming society. This and Rainbow’s End by Vernor Vinge are good glimpses into the near future regarding information technology.

  • GakuseiDon

    Sorry if this has been brought up before, but to build on David’s point: I’m a science fiction “purist”. I like my SF as being grounded in science. Science fantasy in my view is not ‘real’ science fiction. For example, Dr Who’s sonic screwdriver seems to be able to do almost anything; it is the sorcerer’s ‘magic wand’ by any definition. This is “science as magic”. In that world, “reverse the polarity!” is the equivalent of “abracadabra!”

    James, are you looking to include good recent science fantasy books in your list? If so, I’m thinking it might be good to keep those two lists separate. Unfortunately there has been few good “real” sci-fi books in recent years, or at least I haven’t come across them! So I would be interested in suggestions of good recent books in that genre.

    • If Doctor Who counts as science fantasy (and I take your point, and have said something similar myself) then by all means. I think that anything that does not at least have the pretense of science – i.e. books about magic and wizards – would need to go on a different list, though.

  • Thank you to everyone who has shared suggestions and thoughts so far. Clockwork Angels by Kevin Anderson and Neil Peart is one that I am hoping to read now that it is out. And another one that I’ve heard good things about but have yet to read is Redshirts by John Scalzi.

    • Just Sayin’

      Have you read any of Mike Flynn, the Thomist science fiction novelist? ‘Eifelheim’ for example?

      • I haven’t – and would be interested to hear more about his novels!

        • Just Sayin’

          He’s a very intelligent writer. Eifelheim is quite Whovian in some ways. I’d love you to review it!

  • Shane

    Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Should have had a Hugo nomination. Also, Leviathan Wakes and Caliban’s War by James S.A. Corey.