Good morning and welcome to Ask a Geek Anything Issue 9
The sort of column where we’ll answer any question, including those likely to get us blocked by TOR. We’ve had a question sitting in our question bank since the start of this show, waiting for the proper time to post it, and I’ve decided that the time is now.
Anony-Moose in Saskatoon asks: Hey, sense you guys are all science fiction and fantasy geeks, what’s your all-time favorite Science Fiction or Fantasy Book?
Well sense that’s a VERY interesting and rather telling question, we’ve posted it to our entire staff, and compiled the answers, You’ll find them below, starting with mine: William Lehman answers: Wow, Moose. You don’t ask the easy ones, do you? A Single book, REALLY? Damn dude, do you have any idea how many SF/F books I’ve read over the last 52 years? Hell if you only count the ones I’ve reread more than three times, that’s still… Let’s see, carry the nine… ah, a metric butt ton. In no particular order, Most everything Asimov wrote in S/F, (NOT everything he wrote, DAMN the man was more prolific than my maternal Grandfather, and that’s saying something, he was in the Army Air Corps and Air-Force, and felt a single handed need to replace the population that his service took out over three continents.) Everything Heinlein wrote, most of Clark’s stuff, most of Robinson’s stuff, Brin’s Uplift trilogy, everything Ringo’s written, ditto Webber, and Drake, the LOR trilogy of course (I’ve read that one at least 6 times) Tom Krattman, Mike Williamson, The Stainless Steel Rat series, most of Norton’s stuff, all of Pournell and Niven’s combined work and everything Pournell has done solo… and this list is just off the top of my head sitting in my office, not looking at my books. OK, fine. One book huh? The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by RAH. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress
This book has everything I look for in a book, a great story line and plot, decent action sequences written by someone who knows how, believable characters, and so on. It doesn’t hurt of course that I agree with the politics expressed, and the lessons put forth. Our hero is not flawless, the Heroine is smart, capable, and well I have a weakness for redheads… The Professor reminds me of one of my favorite individuals from the American revolution (as in one of the three I would most like to set down and have a beer and lunch with, Ben Franklin) All in all, there’s just nothing about the book that I don’t like, except the end… I don’t think Robert liked it either, as he “fixed it” in a couple later books, which is one of the crowning achievements of those books in my mind. Alright, you guys now know mine, let’s see what the rest of the monkeys come up with (yes this is my circus, these are my monkeys)
Joseph Capdepon II– Asking a person what their favorite sci-fi novel is, is kind of like asking a parent who their favorite child is. You love them all, but really we all know that that there is one that you love more than the others.
Having to choose a favorite sci-fi novel, I would have to pick something that I’ve read multiple times and will reread again and again.
For me, that would have to be Dune by Frank Herbert. It was one of the first serious science fiction novels I ever read and what opened the door for me to the broader world of science fiction.
It is also a novel that I have read probably a dozen times over the years and will read every couple of years because I do love the story and the characters.
Sorry RAH, but Mr. Herbert beat you out this time.
Amanda Fuesting– This is a hard question to answer. If I had to choose, I would probably choose Freehold by Michael Z. Williamson. I’ve read it at least 4 times in the last six years, and it’s one of the few books I bought on Kindle despite having a paper copy. I have a real soft spot for military sci-fi, and this is probably my favorite in that sub-genre. I’m usually not one to buy into the line of books needing strong female characters, but it’s worth noting that the ladies in this book are tough cookies.
Declan Flinn: It has to be Heir to the Empire, by the great and powerful Timothy Zahn.Heir to the Empire
Seriously, what can I say about this classic that hasn’t been said by millions of people? For the moment, forget that this is the book that resurrected the franchise – because that leads into all sorts of variable elements, from the entire expanded universe to the prequel trilogy. This is a book that perfectly captured the energy of the original movies, while expanded the universe beyond the relatively narrow scope of the films. It introduced myth and history into the world – be it how clones worked (or didn’t) the Jedi Jorus C’Baoth, the dark fleet, weaknesses in Jedi.
Honestly, for me, Zahn improved Star Wars with The Heir to the Empire. With the character of Mara Jade, there was asymmetrical thinking and tactics that had thought behind them. With Grand Admiral Thrawn, there was an antagonist who wasn’t pure evil, but a brilliant strategist with a definite political agenda, and not some power-mad psychopath who would kill at a whim.
Zahn also answered the age-old question: What the bloody blue Hell is a Bothan?
Now, there is a cross section of fandom that look down upon media tie-in novels: anything that links to Star Wars or Star Trek, etc, is just junk. If anyone wants to dismiss Heir to the Empire like that, then the next nearest book is The Tuloriad, by John Ringo and Tom Kratman.The Tuloriad
A strange book, The Tuloriad is one part Aeneid, one part Constantine (and I don’t mean DC Comics). The book follows a group of cannibalistic alien mongols called the Posleen, freshly routed by the irritating creatures called humans, fleeing Earth in search of a planet to call their own. At the same time, they are being hunted by, of all people, religious missionaries. It is a brilliant combination of classical mythology, science fiction, and faith, that comes together at the end in a fantastic punchline.
The Digital Pythonness: This is supposed to be a short snippet at the OWG about your favorite SF novel. I can’t do it. I just can’t. 50 words about a single title is just too confining.
I guess I will have to settle with which changed me the most in a lasting way. With this, I have narrowed it down to three. They are… Fairy Land, The Diamond Age, and A Brave New World.
Fairy Land is a book I read in 2001. It broke my head. Beautifully written, a compelling story with a gut wrenching twist at the end. The style is reminiscent of “When Gravity Fails” except the world is even more layered vivid and intense. Unfortunately, the silly snake forgot to tell me who the author is, so I can’t give you a link to the book and a view of the cover…(WML)
The Diamond Age is a wonderful character driven story that happens to be about how people socialize and learn. Expect the usual zany Stephensonian world features, and the death of cyberpunk. But, it was a good death.
I don’t have to write about A Brave New World. So I won’t. Brave New World
Woah, wait! That’s not fun! We can’t have what’s good for you be The Best Science Fiction ever. It’s about which was the most exciting and engrossing SF, right? I guess I could come up with three. Fun is a big category, and it’s hard to measure, let alone rank. Those are– man, do I have to choose? There are a fist full of Bujold, so I will arbitrarily pick Brothers in Arms. Weber gave us Honor Harrington– we’re up in the 20-30 range? Pick one. Take two, they are that good. And at this point the ringleader (William Lehman) says ENOUGH already, if I have to find links for every book this damn snake lists, I’m going to end up getting this in LATE, which is a NO GO. So for the rest of them, you’ll have to exercise your googlefu.
I’m also partial to Cherryh, from The Pride of Chanur to The Foreigner series. One of my favorite Elizabeth Moon SF stories is “Remnant Population”. Then there’s Sarah Hoyt. Her short stories are overlooked, but let’s make our life simpler and stick to novels. What, you mean I have to pick… one?!
Oh, no, it’s about mind altering worlds and strange concepts and the wonder in the universe. So Count to A Trillion by John C Wright tops that list.
Should it be all dancing about architecture? well, maybe not. We are storytelling about science. Science in real life is filled with great stories, many of whom are never told. This is why the System of the World trilogy is technically science fiction. Even if its’ also historical fiction,and a swashbuckling epic romp through at least eight novels woven together into three great ox stunning books.
So… you see the problem? Wait… this is a PROBLEM?!
*As a special bonus, we will list links to all books suggested by a commenter, so spread the love and share your favorite sci-fi book with us!