My Problem Finding a Good Science Fiction Book to Read


Today I thought I would hunt down a decent SF book. I was in a fairly big city in southern Australia and browsed the limited racks labelled SF – with a measure of Fantasy thrown in. My plan being: find a good title, remember it, go home and buy digital copy to read on my tablet. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?I should preface what I have to say by mentioning that I’m a young 61 (aren’t we all, I hope). So, I have happy memories of Heinlein, Robert Sheckley, Asimov, Harry Harrison, van Vogt, Philip J Farmer, Sheri Tepper, Frank Herbert, Poul Anderson, Ursula Le Guin, and others who have temporarily slipped my mind. I hear this period of authorship being sometimes referred to as ‘The Golden Age’ – though I think there may have been a pre-Golden Age before this one. Be that as it may, I am unable to go back to that style of writing (excepting Le Guin, F Herbert, Brian Aldiss, and perhaps Sheckley, who I remember fondly). And I’ve tried.

These writers have been superseded by: A. Reynolds, C. Stross, Richard Morgan, Cixin Liu, S. Neuvel, Neal Stephenson, Ann Leckie, Dan Simmons, (though perhaps getting off topic), and some other gems that have also slipped through my mind. These writers personify the type of SF writing I can profoundly get my teeth into. Perhaps I should say that John Wyndham has survived – again, perhaps I have a soft spot for his calming prose and slow catastrophes.

The house I live in is full to the brim with books, and though there has been some decluttering, I am well past needing to hold a hard copy in my hand – I read SF books on the kindle app on a tablet. Now, I come to the problem if you’ll forgive my meanderings.

I committed to memory a couple of titles I’d seen at the bookshop I mentioned earlier. I jumped onto Amazon and found said titles. I noted how many people had reviewed said stories and the average star power we are all familiar with. For example, 800 readers, averaged out at 4 stars – looks good. Let’s dig into the reviews. Short story shorter – over one and a half hours of searching and review reading? I have found nothing. And not only nothing. I’ve found a plethora of dross. All these 4 star books, when I drilled into their reviews, did not fare well. Whether it’s editing, proofing, plots that are Young Adult (I don’t have a problem with YA, but I’m older) dead set boring, or repetitious writing, etc. This is my beef. Where’s the good stuff, because I’m sure there are good writers about.

I know I shouldn’t be too hard on SF authors learning their craft, as I am one of them. I have recently sent a novel written by me, of this genre to an editor overseas. Heaven help her sorting out my 150,000 words – but that is another story. Anyone wishing to appraise me of SF books that fit into the good category, please let me know.