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Sci-fi books

Discussion in 'TV / Movie Geek' started by Yellow Fang, 3 Jan 2015.

  1. Yellow Fang

    Yellow Fang Veteran Geek

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    When I was in my early 20's, I read quite a few sci-fi books, mostly Larry Niven and Frank Herbert. Then I read 2000AD for a while, until a switch turned in my head and I didn't want to read it any more. I recently started reading science fiction again. I read Neuromancer by William Gibson, which I could not make head or tail of. Last year I read The Time Machine by H.G. Wells (different, short and disturbing), The Affinity Bridge by George Mann (steampunk, quite fun) , The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham (cold war, post apocalypse), and The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin (disconcerting, pretty good science, almost queer literature). Currently I am reading The City and the Stars by Arthur C. Clark (fun enough, but slightly disappointing, TBH, in light of his reputation). I have The Martian by Andy Weir on my shelf waiting to be read. I also intend to read Frankenstein by Mary Shelly and something by Issac Isamov, probably I Robot.
     
    Last edited: 4 Jan 2015
  2. sidevalve

    sidevalve Well-Known Geek

    I never gave up sci-fi but I began to question the likelihood of some of the post apocalyptic scenarios. So I decided to write my own, just create some characters and try to imagine what would REALLY happen. Publishing is easy on line and you can get hours of fun just creating and writing it. You might not make any money but it really is satisfying. Try it.
     
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  3. amusicsite

    amusicsite dn ʎɐʍ sᴉɥ┴ Staff Member

    Location:
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    I've read a lot of H.G. Wells & John Wyndham stuff. I love the turn of last centuries si-fi when almost all the assumptions or predictions were wrong. It's a good reminder that they are fiction and predicting the future is hard. A useful thing to remember when reading modern si-fi or predictions.

    I've been writing a si-fi piece on and off for the last 5 years, may finish it sometime in the next 5...
     
  4. andyfraser

    andyfraser Active Geek

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    Swindon, Wilts
    For Isaac Asimov I'd recommend the Foundation series. I love them and if you like the first one there are 6 more to read.

    I, Robot is a collection of short stories and I found them a bit hit and miss. If you do plan to read I, Robot then I'd recommend The Complete Robot instead. It contains the stories from I, Robot but adds quite a few more, some of them quite famous in their own right. Still hit and miss though.
     
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  5. SatNavSaysStraightOn

    SatNavSaysStraightOn Well-Known Geek

  6. Yellow Fang

    Yellow Fang Veteran Geek

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    Thing is, I did not want to sign up for the complete trilogy. I am a man with a lot of books to read. I was looking for something more stand-alone.
     
  7. Yellow Fang

    Yellow Fang Veteran Geek

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    I saw a copy of The Gods Themselves at a bookshop. It was described as Asimov's best stand alone book, so I bought a copy. It might be a while before I get around to reading it.
     
  8. andyfraser

    andyfraser Active Geek

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    I'll have to give that a go. It's one of Asimov's books that I haven't managed to read yet.
     
  9. EddyP

    EddyP Well-Known Geek

    Enders' Game is one of my favorites for sure, even after all these years. For such a short book it's so epic, and definitely vindictive of the use-and-abuse military culture. In that regard it is way ahead of its time.
     
  10. Yellow Fang

    Yellow Fang Veteran Geek

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    I have started reading The Martian, which I see is being turned into a film by Ridley Scott. It's not beautiful literature, but it is crammed full of science.

    Edit: finished it. Not bad. I watched an interview of him on YouTube. He said the book was first published electronically in blog form. Many of his readers double-checked the science, so scientifically it is pretty good. Only two bits of science do not really work out. One is the storm that strands the astronaut on Mars could not have been that powerful. The other is that the process for turning hydrazine into water is very exothermic, which he could not have survived at the rate he was doing it.

    It is an odd sort of science fiction book. Usually the science is just means to get to a different world where the drama happens. The drama is not usually in the actual science.
     
    Last edited: 13 Jul 2015
  11. SatNavSaysStraightOn

    SatNavSaysStraightOn Well-Known Geek

    Currently on Hydrogen Sonata which will probably take me some time...
     
  12. welsh dragon

    welsh dragon Active Geek

    I love isacc asimov books. They stand the test of time.
     
  13. TheDoctor

    TheDoctor Rocket Engineer

    The Martian is a very good book. Looking forward to the film.
    And yes, hydrazine is very exciting stuff. The guys at work are practically in space suits when dealing with it.
     
  14. andyfraser

    andyfraser Active Geek

    Location:
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    I started The Martian. So far I'm enjoying it. I've been reading a lot of Philip K Dick recently too. He wrote some fantastic stories, and not just the famous ones.
     
  15. Yellow Fang

    Yellow Fang Veteran Geek

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    I have started reading The Gods Themselves by Issac Asimov, which won the Hugo and Nebula science fiction awards. It is the first Asimov book I have attempted So far it is pretty good. It is proper science fiction, with plausible science in it.
     
  16. Yellow Fang

    Yellow Fang Veteran Geek

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    I recently finished War of the Worlds. I posted some thoughts on a literature forum, but I'll repeat them underneath. I also read The Invisible Man last year. That had a bit of science in it. The invisible man found some way of changing the refractive index of his body tissue so that it matched air. He also happened to have very little pigment as he was almost albino. I think H.G. Wells' science may have been a bit dodgy even for the day, or maybe he just used a bit for dramatic effect, even though he knew the science was implausible or incorrect. Like Andy Weir's use of an atmospheric storm on Mars to strand Mark Watney.

    Ch 1 - The narrator assumes Mars was warmer in the past and that life was there when Earth was molten, but that it had cooled. It had cooled because it was smaller than the Earth, as if he thought the planets' surface heat came from the planets' molten cores - wrong.

    The narrator thinks that Earth will cool and be like Mars one day. Well the Earth's seas will evaporate and life start to die off, but that would be due to increasing heat from the sun.

    The narrator refers to the persecution to extinction of other animals, and inferior races, in particular, the Tasmanian Aborigines. This is interesting, so British persecution of the Tasmanian Aborigines was known about. Note, a modern author would never dare call another race inferior, though.

    Ch 5 - The heat ray could be an infra-red laser.

    Ch 8 - The narrator refers to an ultimatum made to Germany. I've read before there was a climate of militarism in Europe in the 1890s.

    Seems unbelievable that the events of that days would not have spread more panic, even without radio.

    Green smoke - what could that be, chlorine?

    The narrator refers to a Martian element with 4 lines, unknown on Earth. It sounds like they put it through a spectrum analyser. Scientists had discovered most of the naturally occurring elements by 1898, but there were a few gaps in the Periodic Table.

    The black smoke used by the Martians put me in mind of the gas warfare of WW1, and also the fear of it at the start of WW2, when Britons were issued with gas masks.

    How many Martians were there, and did they only land in the south of England? It seems that there were not very many of them. I think there were ten pods with a few Martians per pod. Britain was the greatest superpower at the time and London was the biggest city in the world, so maybe the Martians decided to tackle it first.

    One ship, Thunderchild, got lucky and destroyed two Martians before getting destroyed itself. The Royal Navy was vast then. Mightn't they have put up a bigger fight?

    If the Martians landed today, I doubt they'd have it all their own way. The soldiers managed to destroy one with their field guns. Modern targeting systems are much more effective.

    The refugee stream is reminiscent of Dunkirk.

    It was a bit unlucky for the narrator to be in the house right next to where a Martian pod landed.

    Part 2 Ch 2
    It becomes increasingly obvious that the Martian invasion failed. Interesting narrative device.

    Did the pods slow down at all before hitting the Earth? That's a lot of kinetic energy.

    Why wouldn't Martian technology include wheels? Does that mean Martian machinery did not have gears, shafts or other rotating bits?

    Ch 8
    The narrator says there are no microbes on Mars. Seems odd. Today scientists would look for life in the form of microbes where conditions are too tough for higher forms of life to exist.

    Ch 10
    The narrator says the secret of flying was discovered from the Martian flying machine. Surely it was just an engineering problem by then. They knew about aerofoils. It was just a question of putting a light but powerful engine on a frame with some wings and away you go. Difficult to do with a steam engine I imagine, but internal combustion engines were around by then. The Wright Brothers' first flight took place about five years after the book was published.

    The narrator refers again to the unknown element. What equipment was used to analyse it: mass spectrometer, chromatography, spectrum analyser? Each element has a signature spectrum response. An electron in a lower shell absorbs light above a certain frequency to jump to a higher shell. When the electron drops back to a lower shell, it emits light at a certain frequency. I think it's something like that anyway. I think there were still a few gaps in the Periodic Table in 1898, but why would these elements be more abundant on Mars than on Earth? He says this element was combined with Argon. Argon is a Noble gas that barely reacts with anything, so that does not sound likely.

    The narrator says the Martians may have tried landing on Venus. Venus is more inhospitable to life than Mars, so that does not sound likely.

    The narrator says the sun is getting cooler. No it's not. It's getting hotter.
     
  17. amusicsite

    amusicsite dn ʎɐʍ sᴉɥ┴ Staff Member

    Location:
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    If you want dodgy science try this one!
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_First_Men_in_the_Moon

    I think there was a bit of Hollywood in Mr Wells, never let science get in the way of a good plot. Also I'd imagine at the time the public were not that well informed and the scientists still did not know a lot of the answers we now take for granted.

    Take this for example, made a good decade after War of the Worlds showing what they thought Mars would be like...
    http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_vault/2015/10/16/globe_of_mars_illustrating_canal_theory.html
    [​IMG]

    It implies that there were at least 10 ships, that's if each flash was only one ship and not something that broke up into smaller crafts. I guess that news would travel slower then so there could have been more but reports would not have come in before communications were broken. Though could also be a small advanced crew to see what resistance was like. Probe the defences before the full blown invasion and after what happened not a bad idea.

    Yer but how many were in London, within distance? If Thunderchild could take one down then, yes, the Royal Navy would pull together and could take them down. Tanks too presumably. It certainly seems to play on them only being a little bit more advanced than us.

    Read the The First Men in the Moon book, probably the same antigravity device described in there. Which came out a few years later.


    I'd guess, even if he knew these were unlikely, it was probably to put the story in a context the reader of the age could understand. Take for example microorganisms, they were only just starting to understand them 20 years before the book was written and quite possibly only just getting into the public consciousness. It probably took time to be accepted, the climate change of the day maybe. Then it was considered the source of all disease, so maybe he was selling a future where we evolve beyond disease, gears and the like. As far as gears go, we are slowly replacing them now. Electric cars have very few, so maybe he was ahead of his time there :wink:

    Again, probably a bit of 'science not being fixed' flexibly and making a good story. I'm sure we knew even less about Venus than Mars then, we still do know less about it. We discovered there was an atmosphere in 1761 then not much else till the 1920s. With flight, Leonardo da Vinci though he had cracked it in the 15th-century so all the crackpots of the time like the Wright Brothers could well have failed too. To how they would detect an unknown element, well to most people that would be like black magic anyway. I'm sure there were a lot of things unknown, or at least unclassified then. Something that could baffle the detectors of the time the audience probably could believe.

    I think you really have to take his books in the context of when they were written, which is an exciting time. As you say flight was just round the corner. Along with electricity, cars and the 20thC boom. Though it was still a very conservative and deeply religious England he was writing for and novels were still a relatively new thing to most. These turn of the century sci-fi books got me into this period of science & history and it's a fascinating time. I think Wells took that and made even more fantastic books that walked the fine line between science fact and people's ignorance really well.
     
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  18. Yellow Fang

    Yellow Fang Veteran Geek

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    I am currently reading a sci-fi book called Tau Zero by Poul Anderson. It's about an interplanetary space journey, during which the ship's decelerators get damaged. The crew can't switch off the accelerators because its forcefield protects the ship. As a result the ship approaches light-speed, getting ever larger, while time slows down. The book discusses the relativistic effects for the crew. I found it an interesting premise, but I am not enjoying it very much. It's all the interpersonal stuff I find a bit tedious. It was written about 1970 and it shows. The most unlikely thing for me is all the drinking. I knew someone who used to work on oil rigs. He said they were always dry.

    Edit: I can't really contradict the relativity effects as described in the book. Except that the author wrote that at near high speed, human bodies could stand accelerations of several g without ill effect. I wondered why. They were basically using acceleration as gravity on ship. Also, there comes a stage when most the nuclear energy was being turned to mass rather than accelerating the ship forward, but time was slowing down on board, so would the crew feel acceleration the same?

    Anyway, some things I did notice [SPOILERS]:
    • The author seemed to think the universe would end in a big crunch. We tend not to think that any more as the universe is flying apart ever faster for some reason we don't yet understand.
    • The ship flies through the centre of the galaxy where there is a higher density of gas in order to accelerate closer to light speed. Their engines fuse hydrogen into helium. There are flipping great black holes at the centre of most galaxies, so that might have been dangerous.
    • The ship then flies out of the galaxy into deep space so they can switch off the force field without being hit by any hydrogen atoms, which would be dangerous even at very low densities when travelling near light speed. I don't suppose anyone had heard of dark matter in 1970. That might have put a spanner in the works, or alternatively it might have helped.
    Further edit: Finished it, but I did not like it. I gave it two stars on Good Reads.
     
    Last edited: 19 Jul 2017
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  19. amusicsite

    amusicsite dn ʎɐʍ sᴉɥ┴ Staff Member

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    I'm about to go through my books and recycle the old ones I'll never read again. Though I've been saying I'll do that forever! If I do, I'll put together a list of the si-fi books I've got on my shelves with a brief description of my thoughts on it.
     
  20. Yellow Fang

    Yellow Fang Veteran Geek

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    I have started to read a short sci-fi story by E.M. Forster, surprisingly, called The Machine Stops. It was written in 1909. Everyone lives underground and their lives are controlled by a 'Machine'. The most surprising thing is that they seem to have something pretty similar to Skype.
     
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