The most unique SF/F you've read?

Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by Boreas, Jul 30, 2017.

  1. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    The first one that pops into my mind is China Miéville's The City and the City.

    The idea of two cities coexisting side-by-side the way Miéville presents them is a mind bender. Two cities that are culturally completely different, including their judicial/legal status and how they are governed, yet they share the same topographical space. A particular street may belong to one city and an adjacent street to the other. Alternatively, a street/area may start out belonging to one and at some point switch to belonging to the other. The inhabitants of either city fastidiously try to 'unsee' the other for fear of committing 'breach', a surreal form of felony. Getting around to the idea of 'unseeing' took some effort in this hardboiled detective tale. And while the protagonist is an official detective, there is still a definite noir ambiance around the whole story. Before reading TCatC, I would have nominated Miéville's Perdido Street Station, which is full of weird goodness. But I think TCatC tops it in terms of uniqueness precisely for being set in our own reality (albeit in two fictional, eastern European cities), which makes this surreal rift between the closely linked cities even more pronounced than if it were set in an alternate fantasy world.
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2017
  2. kenubrion

    kenubrion Well-Known Member

    For me it's the Commonwealth books by Peter Hamilton. No, that's not it. It's the Revelation Space series.
  3. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    The Forge of God by G Bear. Why? Because Bear's story and its unsentimental style and characterization kept me hoping till the very end.
    Then, I think I have most probably read some other better books, but like many other things in life, it is about timing and when I picked The Forge of God, it impacted me strongly.
  4. Kanly

    Kanly Well-Known Member

    Radix by Attanasio. It's the only book by him I've read but it was just so damn trippy as hell. I mean, I read it and liked it, but because it was kinda confusing in parts I didn't pick up anything else by him.

    And one I couldn't finish: Dhalgren by Samuel Delany. I got to between 100-150 pages and gave up. Too weird, just couldn't understand what the hell was going on, seemed like it had no plot whatsoever.
    R-Hat likes this.
  5. Tiran

    Tiran Well-Known Member

    Frank Herbert's approach to people in books like Dune and Destination Void have always resonated with me. I realize Dune is so popular that this might not fit the topic, but I keep coming back to Herbert's writing as a unique approach to human advancement.
    Boreas likes this.
  6. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Welcome to the forum, @Tiran!

    His Pandora books resonate with me, too. They are great and as if not more ambitious than the Dune sequence! I think Herbert was one of the few authors whose majority of works focused on encompassing an ever wider circle of 'other' within the ambit of 'human'. It's a core exploration of SF, and Herbert consistently delved into this theme with lot of his novels.
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2017
  7. R-Hat

    R-Hat Well-Known Member

    Radix by Attanasio was pretty damn cool. But for me the special place in heart will always be reserved for The Broken God, which is #2 in Neverness series by David Zindell. I was in a phase of philosophical and psychological work where I dealt precisely with such topics and states of mind and I found it totally hilarious to have my thought processes mirrored by the book.
  8. hrafnwasser

    hrafnwasser Well-Known Member

    I've just finished The City and the City too; I would say it is up there for being unusual.

    The quality of being unique is hard to define.
    If I consider the quality of the author's voice and the ability to identify the author uniquely then many authors have that; Le Guin, Vonnegut, Gibson and Dick come to mind.
    Vonnegut, I would say, is uniquely quirky and humorous. Le Guin uniquely political and humane. Stapledon's Star Maker has a unique language of poetry, unlike other science fiction I've read. Banks uses language in Feersum Endjinn that is uniquely presented and which quickly feels natural.
    Elgin in her Native Tongue books addresses language, power and sexuality in a unique way.
    If pushed I would go for Shelley's Frankenstein as the most unique of science fiction, if is indeed considered science fiction.

    Just a few thoughts.
  9. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Fair enough. I was originally thinking of uniqueness more in terms of conceit rather than overall voice or tone, although Miéville might qualify there, too, I think.

    Regarding an author's voice, I'd say Cordwainer Smith. Sui generis, the only apt description for his SF, especially approaching science fiction from a totally lateral angle as he did rather than sticking to the main-line 'golden age' or the later 'new wave' sensibilities of the genre.

    And The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson! The most bizarre, weird and all-encompassing conspiracy theory thriller/SF/weird fiction I've ever read. It took me around 150 pages to really get into it, but then it was blast. Read most of it in transit between home and school whilst preparing for exams.

    And Feersum Endjinn is absolutely brilliant. I love the Bascule sections, and especially that one section when he takes the form of a crow (or raven?)...those passages were pretty sublime.
  10. Dtyler99

    Dtyler99 Well-Known Member

    The City and the City remains one of my favorite Miéville books (although Railsea just rocks and rolls--literally). And for many reasons you cite, Boreas. But when you are talking about Miéville's urban storytelling, none is stranger or more offbeat that The Last Days of New Paris. I had to stop reading every now and then and say to myself, "Did he really just write that sentence?"
  11. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Say, @hrafnwasser, the mention of Feersum Endjinn has got me wondering whether your avatar image is supposed to represent Bascule the Teller's sojourn into the Crypt. Or just a coincidence?
    hrafnwasser likes this.
  12. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    I've only read 4 Miéville books so far: the Bas-Lag trilogy and TCatC. But I do also have Embassytown, the collection Looking for Jake and Other Stories, and Kraken waiting for me.
    Dtyler99 likes this.
  13. hrafnwasser

    hrafnwasser Well-Known Member

    @Boreas , well there's a good question. Good questions deserve good answers.

    In short it doesn't directly represent Bascule's time in the Crypt.

    But that's not a particularly good answer.

    My username and avatar image connect; and are meaningful in a broader sense, to me.
    It's not always possible to be aware of all the semiotics of an avatar but I did feel that it would likely be perceived to be an image congruent with the forum. I was aware of being influenced by the paperback - first (British) edition - cover image when making it.

    Hope that explains.
  14. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    So, you're saying it serves two purposes: the main one being a representation of your username with which you have a personal connection, but where you were simultaneously aware of Mark Salwowski's cover for Feersum Endjinn whilst choosing the image. And that is probably my favourite cover of all of Banks' science fiction, although all the ones by Salwowski are great! So sad that they reverted to generic covers for all the newer printings of Banks' SF.
    hrafnwasser likes this.
  15. Dtyler99

    Dtyler99 Well-Known Member

    Embassytown is absolutely worth reading. A much richer telling of Ted Chiang's story adapted into the movie Arrival. Kraken not so much. If you start with a shorts collection, begin with Three Moments of an Explosion. Much more polished and muscular. Stranger, too.
    Boreas likes this.
  16. hrafnwasser

    hrafnwasser Well-Known Member

    Exactly that !
  17. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

  18. hrafnwasser

    hrafnwasser Well-Known Member

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