Thursday, January 7, 2010

Science Fiction and Sawyer and Flashforward

Once upon a time I would have said that popular fiction was pretty much what I read. But after reading John Brendt's "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," I was sold on the possibility that a non-fiction book could be just as compelling as fiction. Possibly more so. Depending on how the story was told.

Once upon a time I would have said that under no circumstances would I read romance novels. But after reading Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander," I completely and totally changed my mind. In fact, I have become quite the fan of romances. Most of them. Well. Any of them.

Once upon a time I would have said that I don't like fantasy stories. Once upon a time I would never have ventured into the children's section to browse the books. Books for me to read. For myself. But authors like JK Rowling and Suzanne Collins and Lois Lowry and even Carl Hiaasen have made this my go-to genre. And have you noticed that most of the books being published in this genre are fantasy? Veddy interesting.

And once upon a time I would have said that I don't like science fiction. Because it was. Too scienc-y. Too Y chromosom-y. I might still. Sorta. Say this today. I have not completely gone over to the dark side. But there are some books in this genre that are really good. One of them being "The Sparrow" by Mary Doria Russell. In fact. I would put that book as one of my all time favorites.

And then. Once upon a time. I discovered a science fiction author. One that I think you should try. Maybe even think of him as science fiction lite. And that is Robert J Sawyer.

You could start with "Flashforward." Are you watching the TV show? Well. The book is nothing like it. In the novel, there is an event that causes everyone in the world to black out - and see a vision of their future. In the tv show, that future takes place in 6 months. In the book - 20 years. What makes the book so very good is the philosophical angle. Do we control our own destiny? Is the future fixed? Is it malleable?

Keeping with philosophy, why not try "Calculating God." It is the story of a paleontologist who is visited by an extraterrestrial. Specifically to gather information about mass extinctions that seem to happen not only here on earth - but across the universe - at the same points in time. The alien assert that "the primary goal of modern science is to discover why God has behaved as he has and to determine his methods." The book is mostly cerebral. But it is also touching. Laugh out loud funny. Character driven. Especially as we read the grappling our paleontologist must do as he deals with his athiest beliefs ("If there was a God, there wouldn't be cancer").

Or. What about a triology. Where you don't have to wait months for the next one to be published. Don't you just love finding a completed series after the whole thing has been published? You ought to try the "Neanderthal Parallax" (Hominids, Humans, Hybrids). It tells the story of a parallel earth where the neanderthals are the hominids that are dominant. And somehow a bridge between these worlds opens. There are chasms in the differences. Yet. There is shared "humanity."

So...what about you? Do you have a favorite genre? One you never thought you would read? Do you like science fiction?

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Denise said...

My reading has vastly changed over the years. Things I NEVER thought I would read are now on my nightstand. Ultimately for me, it's the story. The ability to lose myself in someone else's life, even if they are fictional characters.

Thanks for sharing your list! I'm putting the ones I haven't read on my future reading list.

Oh, and if I can be so bold as to suggest a book-- Misfit McCabe and No Where Feels Like Home by LK Gardner-Griffie. They're young adult books. Julia and I love them!

lailani said...

I have always leaned towards historical fiction (loved Outlander, can't quite make it throug the second one, but I have had many interuptions) and then writers from Georgia (ferrol sams, sue monk kidd, etc. etc.) I have not tried sci-fi yet. I have just really realized, as I watch older movies, I do enjoy a sci-fi or two. Will have to check out your recommendations.

Sugar said...

Aaaaaand what does Sawyer have to do with this?

Samvach said...

I surprise myself that I enjoy romance novels so much - I used to scoff at them. Now, well, I really enjoy them. I am trying to embrace my trashy reading habits. I still don't take them to swim meets - maybe if they didn't have pictures of half-naked men on the front, it wouldn't be so bad. Of course, almost everybody is half-naked at a swim meet so what does it matter?

Anyway, I am currently reading a classic sci-fi book - Fahrenheit 451. I can't say that I'm ENJOYING the book but it sure is making me think which is good. I even picked up the Cliff's Notes at the library to get some other thought angles on the book. The book is very, very, very sad.

Michelle said...

Yep, Diana Gabaldon opened my eyes to romance. And historical fiction -- especially Sharon Kay Penman -- is among my faves. I still love the incarnations of immortality (I think that's the name?) series by Piers Anthony. And any snarky fiction... I love reading in general. Just finished a highly entertainig (starting icky and ended bleh but great in between) How (not) to have the perfect wedding.

Linda said...

Ah ... books ... I seriously couldn't live without them. Did I tell you about Gone, by Michael Grant? Or wait, did you tell me about it? I can't remember who directed me towards that book ... and the second in the series, Hunger ... but they hooked me. I didn't think I would like a YA novel, but I was wrong.

Thanks for your list ... I'm going to check a few of them out. And I've had The Sparrow on my TBR shelf for about 3 years ... I think I'll read it now!

Glad you're blogging again ... I still can't seem to get a post together. sigh

Firefly mom said...

I *love* science fiction. But about the only stuff I read now is non-fiction. Which I *never* would have thought would be my favorite. But it is. I have a really hard time reading any kind of fiction now. If I'm not learning something it barely holds my attention.

The only fiction that I generally do read is for our homeschool read-alouds (I read whilst the family listens. Oddly - my husband and my dog are the two biggest lovers of this time of day ;) We typically do "classics" - currently "Around the World in 80 Days".

John Deere Mom said...

I like romantic fiction, mysteries, a little fantasy, and some biographies. I rarely read non-fiction. No science fiction for me either.

Jingle said...

I love cheesy mysteries. It's a guilty pleasure of sorts. Cullinary and Scrapbook mysteries are my favorites, making them even cheesier! LOL! I do love the Neanderthal Parallax books, though! SO good! I'm a HUGE fan (and avid collector) of children's books and I am working my way through the Newbury list now. I must say - romance is my brick wall. I can't do it. I'm just not interested. Is that horrible of me? I'm not sure.

Brandy said...

I will read anything and if it doesn't grab my interest within a couple of chapters then I put it down and come back to it later. I've found sometimes it's my mindset and not the book b/c there has only been 2 books that I didn't enjoy enough to finish. Ever.

I was just discussing Robert J Sawyer with someone the other day, so this makes two recommendations for his book.

Shannon said...

I never read a romance novel until I picked up a Nora Roberts book... and that was back in 2003! I think I have now read every book she's written.

The Twilight books were the first YA ones I read. And it is very interesting that YA books are mostly fantasy.

Elena said...

I love science fiction and fantasy. I enjoy historical fiction but sometimes my heart gets a little broken with those (as I know most of what I'm reading was based on true events). I would rather deal with aliens and dragons and whisk myself away into the unreal. Gonna have to check out those Neanterthal books!

Tam said...

I love BOOKS! All genres! I just finished a The Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Linda Bray...I loved that!

Aubrey said...

I always thought Romance was my thing. Danielle Steele was a fave of mine. But then I read Twilight and The Road and *eh hem* Swan House, I realized there was sooo much more out there! It has been a lot of fun trying out different genres!

CaraBee said...

I love Sci-fi. Always have, always will. But I also read just about every other genre. I am surprised though by how much I enjoy non-fiction. A few dry memoires early on made me leery, but now I love them and read them all the time.

Adding all of these books to my list!

Angie's Spot said...

I really didn't think I would like the Twilight saga, which is why I waited so long to read them. And while I enjoyed them, they aren't my favorites of all time by any stretch. I prefer humorous memoirs most of the time, which is why I adore Jen Lancaster. I like Dave Barry and Bill Maher. I think I would probably like David Sedaris based on interviews that I've seen with him. Past that, I take recommendations in every genre and just give everything a shot. Most of the time I'm pleasantly surprised!