I consider myself pretty well-read when it comes to science fiction. Look at my shelves and you’ll see a lot of the big names. Asimov, Herbert, Scalzi, Weber. There’s tie-in novels for Star Trek, Star Wars, and more. Then there’s books no one else seems to have heard of. Michael Mammay, Christopher Ruocchio, H. Beam Piper, and countless others. But it is the tragedy of all readers that no collection will ever be complete. There are gaps in my shelves that I’m embarrassed to admit. While I love picking up obscure reads, there are some rather more famous ones I should probably get around to reading. here are some that I’m planning to get around to this year.
David Brin: Uplift – Brin is the author of my favourite authorised Asimov sequel, but his original work is something I’ve never given much thought. As I bring myself up to date on a fair few series though, my eye inevitably turns toward new material from a familiar name. From what I’ve seen of it, Uplift and the accompanying universe look like the sort of concept-driven SF that I want more of. I’ve heard a lot of mixed things about his writing, but I’m fairly forgiving on that front, especially if the ideas are as good as I’ve been led to believe.
Ben Bova: Grand Tour – Bova is one of those names that I’ve always seen floating around in used bookstores, but have never picked up. He has a lot of books to his name, and a quick glance suggests something like an early version of The Expanse. Bova’s recent death brought him back to my attention, and it seems only fitting that I delve into his legacy now. With a reputation for hard SF mixed with pulp, I’m interested to see where his works take me, though the titles of his books offer some pretty good clues.
Peter F. Hamilton: The Commonwealth Saga – I have read a little bit of Hamilton before. Manhattan in Reverse was an interesting collection of shorts, but I found The Dreaming Void to be something of a slog. Apparently this isn’t one of his best books, though, and given the size of his writing (both books and page-count), I’m happy to give him a second chance. Pandora‘s Star has been sold to me as a good starting place, though the standalone nature of Fallen Dragon or Great North Road certainly appeals to me. With a choice between matching covers or a diverse spread of fantastic and bizarre images, this is an author I hope I enjoy purely so i can collect the books themselves.
Alastair Reynolds: Revelation Space – I have a mixed history with Reynolds. On the one hand his short stories are engrossing and his YA(ish) Revenger trilogy was very good. On the other, both House of Suns and Aurora Rising I found lacking. Given that the latter books represent the style of his larger body of work, I’m hesitant to plunge in. But I also know that Revelation space is touted as some of the best British SF by people who know about that sort of thing. Even if I don’t get on with the series, I’ll probably continue buying his novellas and short story collections as they become available.
Clifford D. Simak – With a name as recognisable as Asimov, Simak is an author I’ve long been intrigued by, especially with the bright orange spines all his old paperbacks seem to have. I’ve read the odd short story by him, and haven’t be overly impressed. But nor have I been convinced to stay away. I’ll be honest and admit I have no idea where to start with Simak, but most of his work does appear to be standalone. And if can find fun in someone like A.E. van Vogt, then I’m sure Simak is worth the pittance being asked for admission.
Vernor Vinge: A Fire Upon the Deep – This is another book I’ve seen on shop shelves for as long as I can remember. To tell the truth, I have no idea what it is about, but that title is one that demands further investigation. Some of the online communities I’m part of are planning a readalong for April, but I know I won’t have time for that. Nor, in truth, are readalongs my thing. But they have brought it back to my attention, and there’s only so long I can ignore a classic of its standing.
So there you have it. A glimpse into my gap-toothed shelves. I don’t know when I’ll find time to read these classics, especially with all the new books being produced month after month, but they are in my plans at some stage. If there’s any message here, it’s this: Don’t worry about the gaps in your knowledge. They just mean you have new experiences still ahead.