What’s Hot, Science Fiction-wise?

I was saying to someone on Tuesday that although I am reading a lot at the moment, it is mostly crime and thrillers, and almost no science fiction. In fact the only book I have read recently close to that genre was Stephen King’s Under The Dome, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

But while saying that my sf reading was way down, I had no idea why it was. It was definitely not a conscious decision *not* to read sf. I wonder if, in part, it is because there have been several decent SF shows on TV in the last couple of years, so I was getting my fix that way.

Today I received a clue. Having finished my current book, and not having anything in the easily accessible “to read” pile (I am sure I have got unread books still packed in boxes, but they will have to wait), I wandered into W. H. Smiths. Just passing the Crime and General sections, I spotted 4 books that I quite fancied, but I walked past, to go to the SF and Fantasy section. Only to find two and a half shelves of various Vampire novels, not just Stephanie Meyer, but at least 2 other series of vampire books – Vampire Academy, Vampire Diaries, plus assorted other books. There was the ubiquitous shelf of Pratchett, without which any W. H. Smiths would not be complete, and half a shelf of Dr Who novels.

Which left a single shelf of assorted sf novels, half of which were really fantasy, and none of which were of any interest to me. So I went back to the general and crime sections, and picked up the books I had spotted earlier.

Which explains it. I get my idea of what is hot on the general/crime front by recommendations from friends and family, and listening to the radio. My sf “hotometer” was always based on what I saw in book stores.

So what do you think is hot at the moment. No long lists, please, just (a) what is the best sf novel you have read in the last year and/or (b) who is the up-and-coming author to watch.


  1. January 20, 2011

    Robert J. Sawyer (Canadian author). Did you see Flash Forward last year (I think it was on FX in the UK)? It was based on his book of the same name (loosely, same idea but different characters and a lot of the plot). And his new trilogy Wake/Watch/Wonder (only the first two published yet) is awesome, really good both on the science and the human elements. I have yet to read any of his other books, but he’s written quite a lot and I’m told by others that they are also good.

    Can I sell you the Chronicles of Mershane by a certain Janet M. Warner (who you know as being the lady of a certain Nyrond)? I’ll have all of the ones published so far at the filkcon, and if you want them signed that will probably be possible as well.

    Diane Duane: Omnitopia Dawn. First in a series (or trilogy or something like that) but stands alone very well.

    (Apart from those I’ve mostly been recently reading Fantasy apart from rereads.)

    SF in bookstores is really lame now. Waterstones still has more of the non-pulp stuff (‘pulp’ in ths sense meaning “it should have been pulped before it got near the shelves”). I don’t get to places like FP, I get most things from Amazon etc.

  2. January 20, 2011

    Forbidden Planet has 6 bookshelves (half height in the middle of the room, not full height wall ones) of “Paranormal Romance” – i.e. vampires.

  3. January 21, 2011

    I am currrently rereading the Miles Vorkosigan series by Bujold.
    Before that I was reading the Ring of Fire series by Eric Flint, the first couple of these are available from Baen as free ebooks.

  4. January 21, 2011

    If you want some near-future crime novels with SFnal elements, I thoroughly recommend the “[INSERT NOUN HERE] …in Death” series, featuring Lt. Eve Dallas, as written by “Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb”. (Although quite what the point is of having a pseudonym to write your “other genre” under if you’re then going to put your real on the cover alongside it, I have no idea… =:o} )

    They’ve recently started re-issuing the early ones with sequential numbers on the spine, which greatly aids getting the series continuity right in one’s head!

    • chris
      January 21, 2011

      (Although quite what the point is of having a pseudonym to write your “other genre” under if you’re then going to put your real on the cover alongside it, I have no idea… =:o} )

      This may be the same issue that I understand is (in part) behind the Iain (M) Banks thing. For an author writing in two different genres, it can cause problems when distributors and booksellers base their sales predictions on the last book that author wrote. i.e. Author writes a mainstream novel that sells like hotcakes, resulting in the genre novel they write next being overstocked. Or the reverse can occur, of course. So perhaps the J.D. Robb name is just a convenient way of ensuring the books are categorised separately from her other fiction.

  5. chris
    January 22, 2011

    Thanks for the suggestions, and feel free to keep them coming. In some cases, I’m afraid they will fall on deaf ears – much as I am fond of Zander and Janet, I can tell from the writeups that they won’t be my kind of thing.

    Earlier tonight, I thought going through the authors suggested so far might seem churlish and ungrateful for the suggestions. However, on reflection, not all of my comments are negative, and it might be of interest, so here we go… suffice to say I *am* grateful for the suggestions.

    Robert J Sawyer: I actually thought the TV series of FlashForward was a big improvement on the novel, which I started off enjoying, but I felt the longer FlashForward period in the novel (20 years?) made things a lot less immediate.

    Having said that, I did enjoy Frameshift, and loved the Neanderthal Parallax books, so maybe I should hunt down some more of his stuff.

    Diane Duane: Again, read some of her stuff, and just didn’t get on with her writing. Perhaps I should try one of her more recent books.

    Bujold & Flint: I don’t think I have read either of these authors, so worth taking a peek.

    China Mieville: I’ve got a couple of his books packed away somewhere, but have only finished one so far – King Rat, which I enjoyed thoroughly. I then picked up Perdido Street Station, and although I desperately wanted to like it, and thought the writing was excellent, my problem with it was that my normal rate of reading slowed to a crawl, and if I left it for more than a day or so, I found myself paging back to remind myself of what I had read. After a couple of weeks of this, I’m afraid I put it down and started something else. I should try it again, or perhaps something else by him.

    Peter Hamilton: I was a great fan of Peter Hamilton; loved Mindstar Rising and its sequals; also loved The Reality Disfunction, but only liked The Neutronium Alchemist, and almost lost the will to live reading The Naked God. Hated Fallen Dragon, quite like Pandora’s Star. Definitely worth revisiting, but only when I have time to read an epic (I’m not totally against long books, but sometimes it is really nice to finish a book with a rough idea of when you are going to finish it!)

    Charles Stross: All I have read by him is Halting State, which I really liked. I see there is a sequel due out mid 2011. I will check out some of his other stuff too.

    Jaine Fenn: A new one on me, must check out. Doing a quick google suggests that I may well like her stuff.

    Thanks again for your comments.

  6. chris
    January 22, 2011

    Meanwhile I did some book shopping in Cambridge today, and came away with the following:

    The Corner by David Simon and Ed Burns: Non fiction about Crime in Baltimore. I have previously read Simon’s Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets (also non-fiction about Baltimore), and it was heavy reading but excellent. Simon later went on to create the fictional TV series The Wire.

    Dead Like You by Peter James: I know nothing of this book or author, but from the back cover I could see it was a crime novel based in Brighton, where I used to live, so has to be worth a look.

    Knots & Crosses by Ian Ranking: I am a Rankin fan, and this was reduced, so I couldn’t resist.

    The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney: A murder and disappearance in 1860’s Canada. I remember hear some good things about this when it came out; this too was reduced. Also I seem to be on a historical crime kick at the moment.

    The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End by Ken Follett: Having complained about hulks of books, they don’t come much hulkier. I saw about 3 episodes of the PotE TV series, and loved it, but missed the rest. I’ll probably catch it sometime in the future, but I think I will get more enjoyment out of reading the novel first. Both books were at half price, so another bargain. I’ve read other Follett novels and have enjoyed his writing

    Transition by Iain Banks: Released as Iain M. Banks in the States, apparently. Is it SF or not? Time will tell, but I tend to read everything by Banks. Strangely enough, I like his mainstream books more than his SF, but that isn’t a bad comment on his SF – it’s just that I *really* love his mainstream fiction.

    Olympos by Dan Simmons: The only book I paid full price for. I read and thoroughly enjoyed Illium.

    So 1, perhaps 2 SF books, amongst 8 bought. Not doing too well am I!

  7. Jo
    January 22, 2011

    I hope you enjoy the Folletts – I’ve read them both and thoroughly recommend them. He has a new one out, which I’ve also read – didn’t enjoy it as much, (mainly because it’s set in the WW1 period, not my usual cup of tea) – Fall of Giants.

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