A lot of the greatest science fiction and fantasy books are not for newbies. They can be daunting for new readers, because they assume you’ve already read a lot of science fiction and fantasy. But what are the best “entry level” science fiction and fantasy books? We asked some top editors and writers, and here are their picks.
Top image: Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke.
There’s been a lot of talk about the need for “entry level” science fiction and fantasy recently, spurred by writers like John Scalzi and editors like Patrick Nielsen Hayden. The great strength of science fiction and fantasy is the wealth of ideas the genre contains, and the long-running dialogue among authors, and between authors, editors, and readers. But that strength can also create a huge barrier to entry for new readers.
So we asked a dozen of our favorite writers and editors to name their favorite “entry level” SF books, including Scalzi and Nielsen Hayden. Here’s what they told us!
Patrick Nielsen Hayden (executive editor with Tor Books)
From SF books published in the last ten or fifteen years, my off-the-cuff answer would be Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin. The events that make this novel science fiction are so vast and inexplicable that, for quite a lot of the “story time,” “science” is as much at a loss to explain them as normal people are. Ultimately there are some (well-crafted) expository lumps of astrophysics, relativity, etc., but these come along only after the entire scientific world has spent quite a few years being as baffled as a normal person would be. This gives Wilson the space to tell a story grounded in the emotional reactions of believable, present-day people to mind-boggling changes in the cosmic scheme of things, a story that can be read and enjoyed unimpeded by the need to swallow big gulps of the usual scenario-justifying science-fictional expository doubletalk. By the time small doses of dense SFnal exposition are actually necessary, even the kind of readers who are usually thrown out of a normal SF novel by the “as you know, Bob” conversation in Chapter Two are so immersed in the human drama that they take it in effortlessly.
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