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Monday, May 6, 2013

Write In For May's Poll: The BEST Stand Alone Science Fiction Novel

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We're overdue for a new poll here.  I think after the epic scope of the last one and it's three months of quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals a moment's respite was needed.  Also, I kept asking people what the new poll should be about and getting back the sound of crickets on a lonely stretch of late-summer Michigan backroads.  But I think I'm going to go with the epic and the respite when I tell the story.

Yep, it was just too epic.  We needed a break from all the epicness.

So our last poll was about Science Fiction/Fantasy series.  As was pointed out, it probably should have been one or the other, but what was intended as a whimsical little poll turned into the ultimate showdown of ultimate destiny.  This time let's talk about stand alone books.  And let's limit it to SCIENCE FICTION.  The book can be the start of a series (or even in a series) as many books that did well eventually had sequels written when one wasn't first intended.  It has to also stand alone as a single work.  (So no ending on a cliff hanger.)  For example, Star Wars would be a stand alone movie, but The Empire Strikes Back would not.

What is the best stand alone Science Fiction novel?

You may use any criteria you wish.  Most foundational.  Most literary.  Most fun.  Best sex scene that I used to fap to because we didn't have internet when I was a kid.  Or even some combination of these factors that only you know in dark places that you don't talk about at parties.

You may also define Science Fiction however you wish.  I'm not going to police the meanings of the sub-genres, so unless your submission is WAY off base (like Spell For Chameleon or something), I will pretty much accept that you have your reasons for calling it Science Fiction.  (Just know that eventually we'll do a poll for fantasy, superhero fiction, alternative history, horror, utopian/distopian, and surreal/weird/other, and maybe even other main genres if there's interest, so if you love a book that seems like a square peg for science fiction, you can save it for later.)

I'll be putting the following books up for consideration.

Left Hand of Darkness--LeGuin
1984-Orwell (which is alternative history NOW, but was science fiction when it was written)
Slaughterhouse Five--Vonnegut

But three choices do not a poll make, so I need you all to write in some suggestions that will join them on the poll.  Please limit it to one choice or perhaps two if you are torn and simply cannot decide.  But this is for best novel, so choosing which one is best is part of it. I'll probably put the poll up this coming weekend.

I'm not going to do multiple rounds this time, so which novels go up will depend on how many times something gets nominated.  If there are ties, I will weigh more heavily those who responds HERE (instead of on FB or G+), and those who respond first.

And lastly, these lists tend to be ABSOLUTE sausage fests, so please please please feel free to nominate women authors.  There are some faboo writers out there with voices outside of the white male paradigm.  Butler, L'Engle, Shelly, Atwood, LeGuin and more have written wonderful science fiction that is worth considering.

23 comments:

  1. The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon
    It's not a hard piece of science fiction, but it's really wonderful character piece.

    I also liked Heroes Die by Matthew Woodring Stover, but looking on Amazon, it seems to be part of a trilogy. Thanks, Amazon. Now I have to read that, too.

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    1. A lot of the best novels stand alone and then later became part of a series. Enders Game and Dune are two very famous examples. If you think Heroes Die stands alone (which, I'm guessing you do since you didn't even know it WAS part of a trilogy) then it's fine to offer up.

      Thanks for the titles!

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    2. I also must mention that Heroes Die is halfway in a high fantasy world, so it is really more of a hybrid than straight sci-fi.

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    3. If you love it, and you think it fits, that's good enough for me.

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  2. Dragonsdawn by Anne McCaffrey

    I'm more of a fantasy reader, but this book explored the sci-fi beginnings of Pern. I remember LOVING it, crying over it, and vowing to name a child after a character. I named a cat and a role-playing character, but that's as close as i got to keeping the vow.

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  3. Snow Crash. Without a doubt. :D

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    1. I was pretty sure that one was a sure thing for the list.

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  4. Travis BrecheenMay 6, 2013 at 7:43 PM

    This may be dependent on how strictly we adhere to the cliffhanger clause, but I would nominate Hyperion by Dan Simmons. I also would like to give honorable mention to Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes; it may not be able to compete with the larger novels, but it is beautiful nonetheless.

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    1. It's been a LOOOOOOONG time since I read Hyperion. I can't really remember if it is a stand alone novel or not. This is less about "cliffhangers" per se, and more

      Flowers for Algernon is a very interesting choice. I guess technically it could be science fiction.

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    2. Travis BrecheenMay 7, 2013 at 1:23 PM

      I apologize. I must have glossed over The Empire Strikes Back example. Episode IV would be quite analogous to Hyperion in regards to their ability to stand alone. grumble grumble arbitrary criteria grumble ;)

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    3. No apology necessary. You actually didn't gloss over that example. I added it to the post after I wrote the comment above.

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  5. I would say "2001", but that became a twofer, and then a trilogy, and then a tetralogy.

    I would also nominate "Rama", but that got a trilogy tacked on to it and then other books in the same storyline.

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    1. As long as they stood alone when they were written, I'd say they qualify. It's the books that you definitely need to have read the books before to understand what's going on or you have to keep reading to get a complete story arc--like with lots of loose ends that don't get tied up until the sequels. Like I'd say Star Wars could totally stand alone, but Empire couldn't.

      So I'll add these to the potentials.

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  6. Dune - Herbert
    Neuromancer - Gibson
    Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy - Adams
    Hardwired - Williams
    Ringworld - Niven
    Lord Of Light - Zelazny

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    1. Are these in order of preference? Because this is way more than one or maybe two. ;-)

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  7. Triplanetary has a special place in my heart, but I don't know if it qualifies. Its Wikipedia article talks about its origins in the beginning of the article, and provides additional detail in the Publication History section: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triplanetary_(novel)

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    1. If you think they qualify, I'll put them on the poll. I'd rather err on the side of inclusion than be all persnickety about labels.

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  8. I forgot The Time Machine by Wells and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

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  9. Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold works as a standalone; it's the same universe as the Miles Vorkosigan books, but set 200 years before all the other books, and a long way off through the wormhole nexus from where most of the action in those books takes place. If reading the series, it's best read any time after "Labyrinth" (one of the novellas in Borders of Infinity -- the quaddie in that story is more interesting if you don't yet know where she comes from) and before Diplomatic Immunity (in which the main protagonist meets and interacts with the descendants of the characters in Falling Free).

    Heinlein wrote a lot of standalone novels, many of which are excellent if you like Heinlein. I do; problematic as his female characters and portrayal of gender relations are, reactionary as he can seem by our twenty-first century standards, and obnoxious as his libertarian political and economic ideas can be, by the standards of the time and place in which he was born and raised, and especially compared to other white, heterosexual (maybe? there's enough bisexuality in his work, including among protagonists, to make me wonder), cisgendered, Christian (by upbringing, but not once he was old enough to draw his own conclusions) men of his generation, he was a radical SJW. Favorite stand-alone books of his for me include Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, The Door into Summer, and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

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  10. Ah, didn't read carefully; if I'm nominating one of these for a "Best Stand-Alone SF Novel," I'd have to go with The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

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    1. Best stand alone SF novel will definitely come around again, but it's from last May. I run a different poll each month. Our current poll is Best heroine and is still in the nomination phase: http://chrisbrecheen.blogspot.com/2015/02/nominations-needed-best-fiction-heroine.html

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