Science Fiction & FantasyWhat are some good SF books by authors not generally known for science fiction?
[+27] [24] JustJeff
[2011-01-12 00:37:26]
[ list authors ]

For example, Terry Pratchett is probably best known for his comic fantasy Discworld books, but wrote a great SF called Strata. Similarly, Gillian Bradshaw has produced lots of excellent historical fictions, but The Wrong Reflection was an enjoyable SF read. What other books such as these are there, that would be missed if you look for new reading material only by searching on known Sci Fi authors?

Why only books? - DampeS8N
@DampeS8N: I only said books, b/c of the way I tend to find new books. This would certainly apply to other written material. Recognizing that others might find new movies by searching for writers or producers, I suppose even movies could be listed. The idea is to identify quality works that would be missed by the simple more-stuff-by-author-X heuristic. - JustJeff
For that matter, another type of answer of interest would be "one hit wonders", authors with just one (or perhaps 2-3) well known titles, like Walter Miller with A Canticle for Leibowitz, since this would be another type of work missed by simply reading other works by authors you know you like. - JustJeff
This question was closed as part of the culling of “list questions”. Questions that cannot have a single, definitive answer are not welcome on this site; this is now explicit in our FAQ. Feel free to voice your concerns on the Meta site or chat. - Gilles
[+22] [2011-01-12 00:41:03] DampeS8N

Carl Sagan wrote a great book, and movie, called Contact. I don't need to explain what else hes done, do I? I hope not.

Oh, I knew that one! - J. Pablo Fernández
(2) Although if you have the choice go for the novel it's far superior to the film. - Amos
(1) @Amos: Both are fantastic. This is one case where I don't buy the "Book is better than the Film" hogwash. They are different, there is more in the book, but as the LotR movies prove, more in a film is not better. - DampeS8N
Actually, I have yet to manage to finish the book - I get too distracted by the inaccuracies. The movie, on the other hand, was excellent. - Martha
Indeed, when the internet obsession with Carl Sagan began, I thought "is that the guy who wrote that awesome book?" - MGOwen
[+22] [2011-01-12 00:51:23] Bill the Lizard [ACCEPTED]

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain

(1) Good call. A little Twain never hurts. - Rusty
Not sure that accepting an answer makes any sense on a CW, but that makes this comment meta material. Anyway, I'm throwing the accept on this b/c I like Twain, and apparently hadn't thought through the implications of the title. - JustJeff
(2) One of my favorite books of all time. Brilliant early SF. And a great Time Travel book. Plus brilliant satire. What more could you ask for? - Daniel Bingham
Twain's short story The Great Dark is definitely SF, and is excellent. (I read it in the wonderful collection Letters from the Earth.) - neilfein
[+9] [2011-01-12 01:14:26] Gilles

Since you mention Discworld: Jack Cohen [1] (best known as a biologist) and Ian Stewart [2] (best known as a mathematician and popular math writer) co-wrote The Science of Discworld [3], then went on to write two sf novels, Wheelers [4] and Heaven [5], exploring alien biology.

Winston Churchill [6] wrote a short alternate history If Lee Had Not Won the Battle of Gettysburg [7]¹.

Jules Verne [8] is primarily known in France as a writer of adventure stories (Around the World in Eighty Days, Michel Strogoff, Mysterious Island, …) and technothrillers (The Survivors of the Chancellor, The Begum's Millions, …), but he wrote a few genuine science fiction tales (Robur the Conqueror, An American Journalist's Day in 2889 [9]).

¹ Yes, it is alternate history, in spite of the title.


I like how The Science Of Discworld does a chapter of SF/fantasy followed by a chapter of science explaining the SF elements of the previous chapter. - StuperUser
[+4] [2011-01-12 02:31:20] aaecheve

The Machine Stops [1] by E.M. Forster

Its a short story, not a book, though.


I remember reading this at school. Great piece of work. - Andy Rose
[+4] [2011-01-23 03:39:20] Peter Turner

I haven't read the Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis, but I'd say that's about as good an answer as I can come up with right now.

While I haven't read the first book Out of the Silent Planet, I know someone who did and I have heard the Iron Maiden song [1], so it can't be all bad.


(1) I should point out that these three books are all quite different styles, due to them being written individually and so far apart. Lewis didn't intend to write a trilogy but discovered quite some years after Out Of The Silent Planet was published that he had more to say. - staticsan
[+3] [2011-01-23 12:52:48] Marc

Steven King wrote The Running Man [1] under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. It's a great story that bears very little resemblance to the Arnie movie.

(Don't get me wrong, the film was fun but the book is well worth a read too)


Well worth reading. - Carra
[+3] [2011-01-26 16:18:58] Zottek

Brave New world [1] by Aldus Huxley. Even though this is his most famous work, he mostly wrote general fiction and poetry.


[+2] [2011-01-12 22:17:36] Amos

Nevil Shute [1] - On The Beach [2] a post apocalyptic tale set in Australia after World War III by an author more famous for stories such as A Town Like Alice.


[+2] [2011-01-14 12:12:20] StuperUser

Making History - Stephen Fry

[+2] [2011-01-17 03:07:55] scope_creep

What about a author Doris Lessing [1] who won the Nobel Prize in Literature and wrote the excellent Canopus in Argos [2] science fiction series.


Looks like something I'd like to read :) - Carra
[+2] [2011-01-12 19:52:55] Rodger Cooley

Armor by John Steakley. His only other work was Vampires, which was made into a really crappy movie.

[+2] [2011-01-28 04:30:12] Steven

Children of Men by P.D. James.

[+2] [2011-01-28 13:35:53] Adrian

Iain Banks' Transition

I think this counts because its published under his 'black and white' Iain Banks name, and not his colour/sci-fi name Iain M. Banks!

definatly SCI FI! Great book too.!

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[+2] [2011-01-29 07:58:37] fennec

Someone has mentioned the Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis already, specifically mentioning Out of the Silent Planet. I write another answer, instead of just a comment, to expand a little, but also highlight particularly a different book in that series.

Out of the Silent Planet, the first book, is old-school sci-fi, a bit of an homage to H.G. Wells: you will explore new worlds, imagine alien societies, things like that. Perelandra is similar but waxes much more religious-allegory. (If you're allergic to thinking about Christianity, you can very much survive OotSP, but Perelandra is definitely not for you. Skip it if you want; it won't particularly hurt. The recaps in the third one are limited, but it's kind of tangential to the main story.)

That Hideous Strength is the complex and fascinating one, though! Besides new main characters (and some of the old ones in the background), the setting shifts to Earth, post-World War II, and explores some themes common to that era. It will remind you of Farenheit 451 and 1984 -- it actually predates both of these (and the atomic bomb, to boot, if I'm not mistaken). You will witness the rise of a technocratic authoritarian dystopia. While the the modern world and scientific establishment has (quite fortunately) embarked upon a rather different direction since then, with luck the story can still retain a little bit of that old thrill:

There is nothing outrageously improbable in such a conspiracy. Indeed, at a moment when a single atomic bomb – of a type already pronounced “obsolete” – has just blown probably three hundred thousand people to fragments, it sounds all too topical. Plenty of people in our age do entertain the monstrous dreams of power that Mr. Lewis attributes to his characters, and we are within sight of the time when such dreams will be realisable.

-- THE SCIENTISTS TAKE OVER: George Orwell’s review of C. S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength (1945)

It's still C.S. Lewis, though. Orwell couldn't relate to the "supernatural" angle, and thought it did the book a disservice, but was otherwise quite satisfied. You can't please everyone, I guess; just read the author's disclaimer there in the front, notice the quote at the beginning under the title, pay attention during the first chapter or two, and don't say we didn't warn you.

(Also, don't read the Wikipedia article's spoilers. It will ruin your experience.)

[+2] [2011-02-25 14:21:24] JohnWinkelman

The Road by Cormac McCarthy, if you're into utterly bleak post-apocalyptic fiction.

[+1] [2011-01-12 17:32:06] JuanZe

"La invención de Morel" ( Morel's Invention [1]) by Argentine author Adolfo Bioy Casares [2]. He wasn't a sci-fi writer, just fiction, but this novel is one of the best SF books of Spanish language.

The Inheritors [3] by William Golding (the author of Lord of the Flies)


[0] [2011-01-29 08:10:42] fennec

Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a number of sci-fi stories. I've had the occasion to read The Maracot Deep. There were definitely some good parts to it, and it was reasonably creative and forward-looking for 1929 (though it turns out Doyle apparently hadn't picked up the implications of the Michelson-Morley experiment).

It's not the author's strongest work, but if you value old science-fiction, it's worth a read.

[0] [2011-02-03 23:36:14] DaG

Joseph Conrad and Ford Madox Ford's The Inheritors: see here [1] for a little bit of info and a Gutenberg link.


[0] [2011-01-17 12:49:33] Pulkit Sinha

Abduction [1] by Robin Cook [2]


[0] [2011-01-15 16:10:56] David Thornley

If anybody's interested in short stories, Kipling's "As Easy As A.B.C" is at least interesting.

[0] [2011-02-25 11:48:51] Frédéric Grosshans

The first Century after Béatrice [1] by Amin Maalouf [2]. Amin Maalouf is a Lebanese author writing in French, well known in france for his historic novels happening in the Middle-East.

In this book, he supposes that, in the near future, a doctor find a cheap way to decide the gender of ones children, and explore the consequences on the world history over the next decades. It is (at least in French) a very well written Science-Fiction book in a rather grim near-future.


[0] [2011-02-04 03:59:10] MGOwen

Also more "novelette" than "book", but:

Defending Elysium [1] by Brandon Sanderson (fantasy author).


[0] [2011-01-28 01:56:45] Lill Lansey

Host by Stephanie Meyers, better known for her vampire fantasy books. The basic premise of the book was not particularly original, and I wouldn't particularly recommend it.

[0] [2011-01-31 03:35:02] Lill Lansey

Edgar Rice Burroughs is mostly known for his Tarzan books. He also wrote a series about Mars (Barsoom) that has not held up well over time.