What are some good soft sci-fi books?

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by Kelthaz, Dec 19, 2009.

  1. Kelthaz

    Kelthaz Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Apr 28, 2005
    Toronto, Ontario
    I made this topic on another forum and got quite a few good suggestions, so I figured I would make it here too. A few more good books to add to the list couldn't hurt.

    I'm really interested in reading some good sci-fi books, but whenever I look online all I see are recommendations for Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, etc. That's great and all, but I have absolutely no interest in the science behind the technobabble. Any scientific explanation beyond "it goes ding when there's stuff" tends to bore me at record speed.

    Basically I'm looking for some good, intelligent sci-fi books that focus heavily on the characters. It can be fun fluff or deal heavily with sociological or political themes. I don't care. As long as it focuses primarily on people instead of the science or technology I'll probably enjoy it. Ender's Game is the perfect example of what I'm looking for in a book.
  2. S. Gomez

    S. Gomez Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 9, 2005
    Vancouver, BC
    Someone's doubtlessly already mentioned it, but Dune is a good example of science fiction that isn't about science at all (besides sociology).

    Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion is a duology by Dan Simmons that has a sequel duology, Endymion and The Rise of Endymion.
  3. darkwing_duck1

    darkwing_duck1 Vice Admiral

    Nov 18, 2001
    the Unreconstructed South
    Anne McCaffrey's "Pern" books, including the Harper Hall books are fantastic. Some people also like her "Crystal Singer" books, but I'm not so into them.

    The Moreau series by S. Andrew Swann is EXCELLENT. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moreau_series

    If you like the cyberpunk genre but want a less techy edge to it you might consider the Shadowrun series. You don't want the new stuff, though...you'll want the old Original Shadowrun books


    Scroll down to "Novels". I recommend just starting at the beginning with the books published by FASA, esp the first four.

    For that matter, the Battletech novels are pretty good too (anything before the Invasion of the Clans).
  4. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

    May 10, 2005
    The visitor's bullpen
    Blood Music by Greg Bear

    It's not as hard sci-fi as it sounds. :borg:
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2009
  5. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

    May 12, 2004
    Lancaster, PA
    On the classic side, check out Theodore Sturgeon, John Wyndham, Ursula K. LeGuin, H. G. Wells, etc. More modern: Peter Hamilton, Tony Daniel, Neal Asher . . . .
  6. Ruaidhri

    Ruaidhri Commodore Commodore

    Jun 27, 2001
    Ruaidhri...Toronto in body, Philly in spirit!
    Le Guin would be my first suggestion. Go and immediately read The Dispossessed, The Left Hand of Darkness, and The Lathe of Heaven.

    Then, sit back and reflect on them.
  7. Caliburn24

    Caliburn24 Commodore Commodore

    Apr 23, 2005
    Gig Harbor, Washington
    Give David Brin's Startide Rising a try. Very fun book.
  8. Starbreaker

    Starbreaker Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Feb 19, 2001
    Birmingham, AL
    The Dark Beyond the Stars by Frank M. Robinson

    Excellent dialogue, suspenseful situations, and some of the most memorable characters I have ever come across. Probably my second favorite book after Dune if that says anything. I actually want to reread it just thinking about it.
  9. Hyperspace05

    Hyperspace05 Commodore Commodore

    Jul 18, 2005
    - Anything by Simmons (primarily the 'Hyperion' saga - epic space opera)

    - Scalzi's 'Old Man's War' series
  10. Mysterion

    Mysterion Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Jun 28, 2001
    SB-31, Daran V
    The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula Leguin
    Dying Inside by Robert Silverberg
    When HARLIE Was One by David Gerrold
  11. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

    Aug 20, 2009
    Don't know if I would describe Ursula as "soft sci-fi", her stuff is deep.
  12. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

    May 12, 2004
    Lancaster, PA
    "Soft" doesn't mean shallow. It just means that it isn't focused on the hard sciences: math, physics, astronomy, etc. Le Guin's work is more sociological.
  13. Robert Maxwell

    Robert Maxwell memelord Premium Member

    Jun 12, 2001
    Poul Anderson's The Saturn Game is one of my favorites. It's not too heavy on the hard elements. Instead, it's about the crew of a ship on its way to Saturn, playing virtual role-playing games to relieve the boredom, and things start to get a little... confused. :lol: It's a short story rather than a full novel, but still quite enjoyable.
  14. diankra

    diankra Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Jun 22, 2005
    Given the OP's starting point on how interested (or rather, not interested) he is in the science, I'm not sure Peter Hamilton's what he's looking for. Even Neal puts a lot of effort into explaining the hard science of the runcibles any time it becomes important (in so far as you can with any FTL situation).
    For modern stuff, I'd suggest David Feintuch's Seafort books - they're at the Trek-ish sort of level of 'The FTL fusion drive exists, it has these limitations, and hence consequences which impact on how the characters live their lives, and that's it in terms of the physics'.

    Scalzi's Old Man's War series is a good suggestion, as his science is very important, but not until you've got used to it all, and he then springs a gob-smacking unexpected consequence on the reader.
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2009
  15. FPAlpha

    FPAlpha Vice Admiral Admiral

    Nov 7, 2004
    Mannheim, Germany
    You might want to reconsider Asimov.. especially the original Foundation trilogy.

    Yes.. it's set far into the future and uses many high tech gadgets (though nuclear weapons as the strongest weapon available seems kinda quaint nowadays) but he doesn't go into "transphasic couplers needed to reverse the polarity of xyz".. he tells a grand story set in the future. Period.

    Dune has already been mentioned.. read all original books by Frank and be prepared to get a huge lesson in SF sociology (it's a shame he didn't get to finish the series on his own) but avoid the sequels/prequels written nowadays as they are very light and unworthy crap besides his books.
  16. gblews

    gblews Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Apr 13, 2004
    So. Cal.
    The "Titan" trilogy by John Varley. Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, William Gibson.
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2009
  17. Asbo Zaprudder

    Asbo Zaprudder Vice Admiral Admiral

    Jan 14, 2004
    Bulent's Cafe
    "Solaris" by Stanislaw Lem -- not hard SF, it's more a psychological study of the limitations of human consciousness in the face of a truly alien mind.
  18. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

    Dec 5, 2007
    Between the candle and the flame
    David Brin and John Scalzi are good choices. Spider Robinson's classic Callahan's Crosstime Saloon is amazing. You can't go wrong with a book about a bizarre bar...

    Mike Resnick's Santiago and the companion novel Dark Lady are strictly character-driven and awesome tales that stand apart from the norm, one about a bounty hunter and the other about a woman who seems to keep appearing in photos and other recorded mediums over thousands of years.

    For slam-bang space opera of the first order try Keith Laumer's Earthblood. There's a wild novel called And Having Writ about aliens landing/crashing in Teddy Roosevelt's Presidency and changing the course of our history. It's told from the alien's viewpoint and is hilarious.

    Anything by Harlan Ellison is "soft" scifi. You might try a collection of shorts by Barry Malzeburg called Welcome To the Monkey House. Norman Spinrad is another "soft" writer who avoids technical details for mind-wrenching emotional/sociological tales.

    H Beam Piper is a personal fave. His Little Fuzzy is a classic and pretty obviously influenced Speilberg to write E.T., his two collections, Federation and Empire are reflections of history through a scifi lens and his other collection, Paratime! is ground-breaking alt-hist work.

    Jack McDevitt's Eternity Road is fun, if you can find it the SM Stirling Draka series(or the omnibus edition) is a great tale, if somewhat dark and nauseating. If you like a D&D-with-guns-and-ammo approach Mary Gentle's Grunts! is side-splittingly funny, Glen Cook's Wizardry Compiled is a unique approach to computer programming and magic, Zelazny's Princes of Amber(published recently as The Amber Chronicles V 1, 2), is both top-notch and genre-defying and Peter Hamill's Forever is one of the most haunting books I've ever read. Oh, and saving the best for last- Jack Finney. Time and Again. Also, Rewind by William Sleator. Both are about time-travel and yet they are nothing alike. Both are the kind of books that leave you feeling like someone peeled your scalp back and let a breeze pass over your brain. If you need more, PM me. I currently own about 4500 scifi books and have read 2-3 times that so I have a good knowledge base to draw on....
  19. Stevil2001

    Stevil2001 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Dec 7, 2001
    Isn't that Vonnegut?
  20. Bruno

    Bruno Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

    Apr 22, 2009
    Regina, SK
    If you want excellent characterization and world-building in a scifi framework with little science background beyond "this happens", try the Miles Vorkosigan adventures by Lois McMaster Bujold.

    Start with The Warrior's Apprentice.