The Top Sci-Fi Authors and their best book series

  • I nominate Frank Herbert and “Dune”. I’m hoping the things you all come up with will give me the amazing ride Frank Herbert’s given me.

  • *** note ***
    please no mocking of people’s tastes in books. This is to share your best reading experiences and maybe a short story about why the book was so powerful at its time.

ROBERT ASPRIN - “Phule’s Company”

Does it have to be a series?

Stephen Baxter’s Vacuum Diagrams
Short story collection of the Xeelee Sequence and the only book of the series I actually enjoyed (at least two of which I haven’t read though).
Baxter’s weakness with storytelling and characters is nicely avoided by the short story format. A great mix of the interesting story and history of the Xeelee universe and independent hard science fiction stories ideas which still manage to interlink with each other.
This book made me look for more from the author, which mostly resulted in being underwhelmed, except for:

Stephen Baxter’s Manifold: Space
Part of the Manifold trilogy, each book i it is completely independent from the others. The three books describe three different and unrelated scenarios for an explanation of the Fermi Paradox. Manifold Space is the second Manifold book and one of my all time favourites.

Life is everywhere. Even the solar system is full of remnants of alien life, it’s just difficult to recognize that. The book describes many interesting alien and human cultures as well as their interaction and explores those over a prolonged period of time (with the help of time dilatation).
Also features my all time favourite secondary character, Nemoto. A young scientist, later grey eminence, who can’t let things run their way.

C. J. Cherryh - The Foreigner Universe (first trilogy)
Not many authors does world building and “alien” societies as well as Cherryh.

Pournelle and Niven - “The Mote in God’s Eye” and “The Gripping Hand”
Another of those collaborations where the result is better than either of the authors could have managed on their own. MiGE is the definite first-contact novel, IMO. The sequel is not great, but is worth reading.

Vernor Vinge - “A Deepness in the Sky” and “A Fire upon the Deep”
Set 30,000 years apart with almost no continuity between the two tales, but a couple of fantastic SciFi stories (both Hugo award winners as well). One of the finest SciFi authors around, IMO.

Lois McMaster Bujold - The Vorkosigan saga
A very versatile author. I haven’t read all of the books, but it’s great light reading if one is in mind for some fun Space Opera. I had a period (back when I didn’t have a backlog of books to get through) where, whenever I went into a bookstore looking for something to read, I’d just pick up one of these if I couldn’t find anything else.

Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers.

I agree, but it’s an interesting call - I’d go for the Chanur books myself. Super hard, super gritty scifi.

The Chanur series are great too - she’s really an amazingly profilic author.

Isaac Asimov - Foundation made a great impact on me in my teens. I still love it to this day.

100% yes!

Some great authors mentioned so far.

I’d also add:

David Brin - Uplift Saga. Great, great series, except for Sundiver; you can totally skip that book.

Peter F. Hamilton - Nights Dawn trilogy - Start with the Reality Dysfunction and keep going. Such a great series.

Orson Scott Card - Ender’s Game & Speaker for the Dead. You can keep going with the next two books as well, but I can’t vouch for the recent books in the series.

Dan Simmons - Hyperion, Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, Rise of Endymion. Such a great series of books full of imagination and compelling character. The original Hyperion is still the best, but I really loved Endymion and Rise of Endymion almost as much.

Connie Willis - Doomsday Book, To Say Nothing of the Dog, Fire Watch, and the latest two books she’s writing in that universe, all excellent books if you enjoy History. I never thought I’d like time travel books, but Connie Willis really knows how to write characters, and I just love the way she makes the past come alive in her books.

Frederick Pohl - Gateway. Apparently Gateway is the start of the Heechee saga, IIRC, but I’ve only read the first book. Gateway is totally worth it, even if you don’t read anything else. A very claustrophobic and depressing book, but extremely compelling and well-written. Even more so than CJ Cherryh’s Alliance-Union books set in deep space.

And personally, even though CJ Cherryh’s been mentioned multiple times, I find Cyteen and Downbelow Station (her Alliance-Union book’s anchor books) to be her best work.

Jonathan Lethem - As She Climbed Across the Table

David Brin - The Uplift series

Timothy Zahn - Heir to the Empire (Rereading this series years later, I’ve found that it really, really doesn’t hold up. Still, they brought about a new golden era of Star Wars novels and they’re still probably the best thing Zahn’s ever written.)

Boom, thread over.

Other fun stuff:

John Varley - Titan series. Then read Steel Beach, which is ten times better.

Stephen Gould - Jumper series. Big fun, not brainy but easy to digest. His other books are also a good time, like Wildside.

Ken Goddard - Er, doesn’t really have a series name, but he’s got several books in a row with the same character working in and around aliens visiting.

In a more fantasy/horror bent:

Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child: Pendergast series.

F. Paul Wilson - Repairman Jack series.

A lot of my favorite stuff’s been mentioned, but cyberpunk is under represented so far.

William Gibson: Sprawl trilogy (Neuromancer, Count Zero, Mona Lisa Overdrive) and the Bridge trilogy (Virtual Light, Idoru, All Tomorrow’s Parties)

John Shirley: Eclipse trilogy. Often overlooked, Shirley was incredibly influential early in the movement, credited by many for putting the punk in cyberpunk.

Zahn! I love Zahn. But Zahn’s best, I feel, is The Icarus Hunt. A starship captain takes on a contract to fly a rickety hunk of metal from one end of the galaxy to the other, and he’s tasked with avoiding an alien race desperate to gain control of the ship, keeping the ship running, discovering its secrets, and whether or not he can trust his randomly-assembled crew of misfits.

I think this is Zahn’s best book, and I’ve read it probably fifteen times now. It’s fun every time – it’s science fiction that’s not just in love with the science the entire time.

I’ll also point out his Quadrail series, starting with Night Train to Rigel, as basically sci-fi mystery novels. They are also very good.

The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson. The terraforming and colonisation of Mars! Worth reading - far more than anything else he’s written, which includes some really really bad books.

Julian May - the Pliocene Exile series. The first especially, but I enjoyed them all.

Robert Forward - The Rocheworld series. Probably not in the “best” author category to many, but he had very entertaining aliens and since he was a physicist, the science is hard care. He has a blurb in a lot of his books explaining the science and sometimes notes where he sacrificed it for story.

I agree with the Mars Trilogy.

As far as short stories go, I’d have to say: James Tiptree Jr. (aka Alice B. Sheldon) - The Screwfly Solution

This short story should be required reading for sci-fi fans, and it also contains themes from Sheldon’s other work. used to post classic sci-fi stories, and this was one of them, so I think linking to the wayback machine copy of it isn’t off limits:

I love this series too, and they just keep getting better. My favourite is probably “Mirror Dance”, which is just insanely thrilling and intense and has wonderful character arcs. But I recommend people read the whole series in published order to get the full effect.

Oh! In the YA/Scifi realm, I would say that Jeanne DuPrau’s Ember series is one of the best SciFi kids series I’ve read. It’s very politically left leaning, but it is a great kid’s eye view of a future dystopia.