Late to the party, or the 'why haven't I read this yet' thread

So I’m reading Neuromancer, and just finished The Diamond Age last week.

Since these books are over 20 years old (30 for Neuromancer), there isn’t a whole ton of new ground to tread on these books. It also didn’t feel right necromancing a 10 year old thread to discuss either. So instead I’d like to discuss books that are classics that you haven’t read, or waited far too long to do so. So if you have an unopened copy of Ender’s Game on your shelf now’s the time to confess (and also read it, I’ll wait).

My turn

Of late I’ve been far more interested in cleaning up holes in my back catalog than reading anything from the last 10 years. There are far too many of the foundational Sci-Fi greats I had skipped over. Lately I’ve been trying to get to the origins of the cyberpunk genre. I’d read Snow Crash several years ago, but as for cyberpunk that’s been pretty much it. I don’t even have a good excuse, I loved Snow Crash, and typically enjoy movies or games with a cyberpunk veneer. I’ll just blame my misspent youth, instead of reading the Holmes oeuvre for a 4th time I should have mixed it up. C’est la vie.

Other than dated notions of tech (though really they hold up fairly well compared to many of their contemporaries) they have been quite enjoyable. The Drummers in Diamond age don’t make much sense, but the world is suitably changed with the advent of nanotech. As a new father though, the central story of the primer and Nell was quite enjoyable. As for Neuromancer, I get why it was so influential. It’s hard to separate out how revolutionary this must have been 30 years ago, but even though computers are vastly different now the novel still works.

So what about you? Any unfinished classics on your reading list?

I just decided to sign up for Audible, and actually used my two free credits for both Snow Crash and Cryptonomicon. Have started listening to Snow Crash and am quite enjoying it.

I have only read a couple of Discworld books, but am missing a lot of those. Have only read 2001 but not 2010. Still need to get through the Foundation novels.

I keep starting Good Omens and stalling out or getting distracted. Someday . . .

I just finished Childhood’s End and The Man In The High Castle. Both absolutely lived up to their reputations.

I’ve been trying to sprinkle my reading with SF classics that I missed (which is most of them, really…I was busy reading Stephen King and Piers Anthony as a kid). I’ve got Dune and and Hyperion and Foundation and Ender’s Game on my list.

Well for those who intend to read the Foundation novels, you can easily stop after 2 or 3. The latter ones really didn’t hold up that well I though.

I too have missed Diskworld Peter. Read The Color of Magic, but that’s it. Someday…

Man I loved Childhood’s End. Such an interesting concept for the aliens, and their mission.

I agree. I did not like the direction things were going in once. . .

The Mule showed up. I like that idea in principle but it segued into what I liked to call “galactic harmony bullshit”

But the first few were tremendous.

I just read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. I barely read any Sci-Fi growing up, sticking to fantasy and vanilla fiction. I read a book here or there, but missed most of the classics. In the last 10 years I have been revisiting things, and I finally got to this. What a wonderful book. It ended, more or less, like I expected (revolutions tend to go in this direction). I loved the characters, Mike especially. Not sure what I will turn to next for a SF fix.

I agree. I read that several months ago and loved it. I just read Clarke’s The City and the Stars and it was also top notch.

Another book that feels like a foundation of cyberpunk to me (for some reason, the images of scenes are still in my head 20+ years after reading it) is Hardwired by Walter Jon Williams. Without giving too much away, if you’ve heard of ShadowRun (the RPG) and the concept of a “rigger”, that’s the main character in the book. That’s a perspective that I think WJW invented, and I hadn’t seen much of since, but it seemed to become part of the genre after the book was released.

Well I just read Foundation a couple weeks ago and wasn’t too impressed, and had been wondering if I should continue with the series. So, now I’m glad I decided not to. I also recently read some other classics that I really loved (Childhood’s End, Rendezvous with Rama, Lucifer’s Hammer), so I think maybe I just don’t like Asimov as much as I always thought I would.

I honestly had a difficult time getting through the first Foundation book.

I recently read Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy for the first time. Really good. Very well-written and highly literate fantasy suitable for YA but with a grown-up sensibility, no condescension, and much greater depth than most deliberately “adult” fantasy. Also pleased me by being so strongly anti-religious.

I didn’t see the Golden Compass movie, but I get the idea from reviews that not only was it mediocre in itself as a movie, but that they cut the heart out of the story to try to make it acceptable to all audiences, so if that’s your only exposure to the books then it shouldn’t hold you back from reading them.

Re the Foundation trilogy, you have to like Asimov’s voice, which is not only idiosyncratic but sort of doubles down on that stilted style in those books to the point almost of self-parody at times. I enjoy reading them myself, but I can see that many others wouldn’t especially today. The trilogy are considered classics more for the concepts and ideas than for the literary quality.

Asimov has written some much more natural-seeming SF and mystery stories, e.g. The Gods Themselves is superior as literature, and Caves of Steel and the first sequel, umm, The Naked Sun are better as SF mystery stories. But much as I like almost all his stuff, I think Asimov’s best writing is nonfiction.

Working on The Subtle Knife now! It’s quite good and also different from The Golden Compass.

Asimov’s strength is in his ideas. Dialogue in his books is almost comically wooden. Outside of Foundation (and not even then for some) and I-Robot, which is basically a bunch of short story vignettes on a common theme, his novels are almost universally not up to the standards of today. What is eminently worth reading are his short stories. I’ve always felt that was his best work. He can come up with wonderful ideas, and in short story form you get the brilliance of those ideas without the baggage of the novel’s narrative expectations.

Peacedog I’d strongly recommend Heinlin when you get a desire for another SF fix. Starship Troopers and Stranger in a Strange Land in particular if you haven’t read them. They have some interesting philosophical ideas at their core that Heinlin is exploring, really smart sci-fi (even if the ideas are ones I ultimately reject).

I’m no stranger to Heinlien. I love Starship Troopers (it’s not a problem for me to set aside background politics if I don’t like them). This is a longer discussion, but while I thought Stranger in a Strange Land was interesting (it holds the distinction of being the only Sci Fi book I read over the first 28 years of my life or something), it wasn’t a transformative work for me (and I’m used to it coming up in discussions and people falling all over themselves to talk about how transformative it was). I’ve also read three of his Juveniles: Have Space Suit Will Travel, Starman Jones, and Farmer in the Sky. The latter was a solid adventure story. I think the first two are amazing. When Heinlein is on his game he’s incredibly compelling.

I’m going to read more Heinlein at some point, just not sure what I will read next. And yes, I got into sci-fi late (grew up reading a good bit of fantasy). I’ve sampled a lot of the giants, though I have never read Clarke. I’m currently reading Brandon Mull’s Beyonders trilogy, so I may go for some sci fi after that.