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  1. #1
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    Science-Fantasy Recommendations

    I like the whole range of science fiction, from its 'softest' to its 'hardest' spectrum, but my preference has usually been for either hard sf or grand space operas. Recently, though, I find myself wanting to explore those books that offer a good meld between science fiction and fantasy. I don't know what exactly the generally accepted [fuzzy] criteria are that make such a novel.

    For example, would you consider Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun tetralogy a science-fantasy? It has a very fantasy feel to it, but its underpinnings are decidedly science fictional.

    Although I read Jack Vance many years ago (several novels and short stories), I somehow skipped The Dying Earth. I recently read it and it genuinely felt like a science-fantasy. It's set on a future Earth in our reality where the Sun has expanded into a Red Giant, and there are examples of actual technological explorations side-by-side with inexplicable magics that don't seem to conform to any known rationale.

    I also read Mark Lawrence's Broken Empire trilogy early last year. It started out as fantasy, then I thought it was really a post-apocalyptic science fiction story, then I changed my mind again to regard it as another science-fantasy example (the impetus for what caused the 'apocalypse' was rooted in science, but the effects produced fantastic elements that seemed incompatible with science rooted in our reality).

    I don't include works like Simmons' Hyperion Cantos or Banks' Culture novels in the science-fantasy realm. I consider them proper science fiction, even though both works don't really attempt to properly flesh out any science aspects to the stories, except for in concepts. On the other hand, I consider Star Wars more of a fantasy than either of the aforementioned Simmons and Banks works. Neither do I consider Herbert's Dune a science-fantasy, though I've heard lots of arguments from some people proclaiming it more of a fantasy.

    China Mieville certainly bends (and blends) genres to quite a degree in his Bas-Lag books.

    So, what do you think are good examples of science-fantasy works and why?

  2. #2
    aurea plectro goldhawk's Avatar
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    Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern. It has one fantastic element, teleportation, and several scientific goofs but most of its science is accurate.

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    Quote Originally Posted by goldhawk View Post
    Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern. It has one fantastic element, teleportation, and several scientific goofs but most of its science is accurate.
    My first foray into McCaffrey's works were the first two Freedom books in the 1990s. I'm afraid it didn't do much for me and I never continued after the second volume. But I should read "Dragonflight", at least, since it's supposed to be a classic + I've got a used paperback somewhere. So, thanks for the nudge.

    I have the huge "Chronicles of Amber" omnibus of which I only read the first arc (books 1-5) many years ago. I've been thinking of reading them again and, this time, finishing all 10 books. I've also gotten myself a copy of "Ariel" by Steven R. Boyett after I saw krisbslick recommending it on the 'Just a Hint of Fantasy/Sci-fi' thread. Thanks, krisbslick!

    Anything else that comes to mind as a science-fantasy work?

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Bacchus View Post
    I've also gotten myself a copy of "Ariel" by Steven R. Boyett after I saw krisbslick recommending it on the 'Just a Hint of Fantasy/Sci-fi' thread. Thanks, krisbslick!

    Anything else that comes to mind as a science-fantasy work?
    Anytime, hope you enjoy it!

    Also, I just read Off to be a Wizard by Scott Meyer, might be what you're looking for. Pretty straight forward story but enjoyable and fun.

  5. #5
    "Jack of Shadows" by Roger Zelazny.
    Mostly fantasy with the typical larger than human Zelazny protagonist, but we eventually discern that it is a sun-locked world where the "light" side experiences modern or even (at the time of writing) possibly somewhat sf'nal conditions (blurry memory here sorry). And the depths of the world are apparently made of gearwork.

    "Isle of the Dead" / "To die in Italbar" by the same.
    Protagonist is some kind of world-maker trainee who as part of the process is also trying to adapt to hosting the persona of an actual alien god.

    World of tiers books by Philip Jose Farmer.
    Supra-human rival "Lords" created artificial worlds, the one most prominently featured in the books is heavily influenced by human mythology and history.

    All the "Planetary romance" or "Sword and planet" subgenre... Darkover, the Books of Skaith, Majipoor, etc... The setting is nominally sf'nal as it happens in the future on another planet, but it reads as fantasy.

  6. #6
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    Two immediately spring to mind: The Dying Earth series by Jack Vance (which you mentioned in your first post) and Lord Valentine's Castle by Robert Silverberg, which has more than a touch of the Vance about it (and I just see Ysen has also mentioned as Majipoor.)

    I would include Shadow of the Torturer as Science Fantasy.

    M.
    Last edited by Hobbit; March 1st, 2015 at 03:15 PM.
    Mark

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ysen View Post
    "Jack of Shadows" by Roger Zelazny. "Isle of the Dead" / "To die in Italbar" by the same. World of tiers books by Philip Jose Farmer. All the "Planetary romance" or "Sword and planet" subgenre... Darkover, the Books of Skaith, Majipoor, etc...
    Thanks, will look into those Zelazny books. I've not read too much Zelazny, but what I have read I've liked (except that I gave up on "Creatures of Light and Darkness"). Will look into Farmer's novels. I've always been peripherally aware of them, but never made the effort to check them out. I've always been a little put off by the Darkover books. I never knew where to start (she wrote so much and in such a haphazard manner concerning her timeline) and of those people I've asked, I keep getting different answers. In the end, I found that DAW did these omnibus editions, and I figure it's best just to start there. Will look into the Books of Skaith.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hobbit View Post
    Lord Valentine's Castle by Robert Silverberg...I would include Shadow of the Torturer as Science Fantasy.
    I did read "Lord Valentine's Castle". On my first try during my teens, I think I got around the 1/3 mark before I gave up. My second try was around 5 years ago and I finished it. I did end up enjoying it, but I wasn't all that inclined to read any subsequent Majipoor volumes. Would you recommend them? I've also read Wolfe's Book of the New Sun tetralogy some 15 years ago, but never any of his Short Sun or Long Sun books.
    Last edited by Bacchus; March 2nd, 2015 at 05:07 AM.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Bacchus View Post
    I did read "Lord Valentine's Castle". On my first try during my teens, I think I got around the 1/3 mark before I gave up. My second try was around 5 years ago and I finished it. I did end up enjoying it, but I wasn't all that inclined to read any subsequent Majipoor volumes. Would you recommend them? I've also read Wolfe's Book of the New Sun tetralogy some 15 years ago, but never any of his Short Sun or Long Sun books.
    I enjoyed "Chronicles of Majipoor" as well.
    I think it goes mostly downhill from there, I hated "Mountains of Majipoor" which I read a few years later and made me avoid any further Silverberg for a while, and "King of Dreams" still another few years later was so-so. Yeah, I'm not too particular about order in series.

    I haven't read the New Sun yet though I expect to enjoy it a lot and will probably pick the Short and Long Sun as well further down the line. "The Fifth Head of Cerberus" is among my favorites and I have fond memories of "Soldier of Arethe" as well.

  9. #9
    Registered User ShaunWP's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hobbit View Post
    Two immediately spring to mind: The Dying Earth series by Jack Vance (which you mentioned in your first post) and Lord Valentine's Castle by Robert Silverberg, which has more than a touch of the Vance about it (and I just see Ysen has also mentioned as Majipoor.)

    I would include Shadow of the Torturer as Science Fantasy.

    M.
    Nice choice!

  10. #10
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    Thanks, Shaun.

    I did end up enjoying it, but I wasn't all that inclined to read any subsequent Majipoor volumes. Would you recommend them?
    Yeah: I liked the first three: have dipped in and out of the rest. The last book collected the remaining short stories, which worked quite well for me. But if you struggled through the first, I'm not sure that the rest would work for you.

    M.
    Mark

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