Sci-fi books that blew your mind?

Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by Kanly, Apr 15, 2018.

  1. Kanly

    Kanly Well-Known Member

    I would like to know what sci-fi books blew your mind.

    For me, it was these: Frank Herbert's Dune series, Greg Bear's Eon, Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep, Neal Stephenson's Seveneves, Iain M. Banks' Excession, and most recently Dan Simmons' Hyperion duology.

    I'm looking for more hardcore and epic books like these.
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  2. Safari Bob

    Safari Bob Well-Known Member

    Asimov's Foundation series, The Book of the New Sun by Wolfe, A Canticle for Leibowitz by Miller, and Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky.
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  3. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Asimov's Foundation series was pretty mind-blowing for me. Actually pretty much all of Asimov, including the Robot novels, and especially The End of Eternity and The Gods Themselves.

    The Gods Themselves was probably the only time Asimov went out of his comfort zone and experimented with both narrative structure and sex! And it paid off with both a Nebula and a Hugo. The new wave influenced everyone, even the good doctor. Imagine, Asimov writing about sex. The mind boggles. Although, he's well known for his lecherous limericks, of which he wrote lots.

    Vernor Vinge's Marooned in Realtime was pretty damn high-concept. I was in a daze for days after that read. One of the earliest 'what if?' stories on the singularity concept I ever read, and it was pretty heady.

    Most of the mind-blowing stuff in SF is usually high-concept science fiction, and most of it is usually hard SF. Like Watts' Blindsight or Egan's Diaspora and Schild's Ladder, or Stephenson's Anathem.

    Egan is kind of special, though. He'll blow your mind right from the start. Man, that opening of Diaspora is a mind bender with the birthing of a new and bodyless consciousness (not AI). I really felt the whole book pushed my limits to the utmost when I first read it. And Egan did it again with the opening of Schild's Ladder: it starts off with a description of some vector/node mathematics, then describes a woman being transported some 600 hundred light years as pure information/light to attend a conference, where she's re-constituted into a miniature physical form (extremely convincing description of that micro-perspective), and then Egan literally unravels the universe! Egan is probably the pinnacle of high-concept science fiction.

    Or sometimes it's high-concept space opera like Attanasio's Last Legends of Earth, Zindell's Neverness and Reynolds' entire Revelation Space output. Some of Baxter's Xeelee instalments also totally blew my mind, like Timelike Infinity and Ring and Flux. The Reynolds and Baxter books merge exotic science (known and speculative) with epic scales. Also Rajaniemi's The Quantum Thief was extremely weird and strange with lots of pretty amazing ideas (but it didn't really 'blow' me away like the others).
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  4. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    Greg Egan scares me. I have Axiomatic, but I keep putting it off because I have the feeling it's going to leave me feeling rather stupid. I guess my academic background and the way I decode and enjoy literature might clash with Egan's style. Shame!
  5. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    @Kanly I honestly believe you will love The Forge of God and Anvil of Stars by G. Bear. Besides, they tick both boxes: mindblowing and dystopian stories.
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  6. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Also, if you liked Simmons' Hyperion Cantos, then you should really check out his Ilium/Olympos duology. I need to re-read the duology again. Might deserve to be on the 'mind-blowing SF' list.

    The short stories are much easier to get into, so you'll be fine. And since they're short stories, you don't need to read them all at once.
    Dtyler99 likes this.
  7. Dtyler99

    Dtyler99 Well-Known Member

    Ilium/Olympos was indeed mind-blowing, Boreas. But, like you, I've only read it once. Too many other giganto-books on my nightstand so tough to revisit.

    Agreed that the best SF is almost--I say almost--invariably high concept and certainly agree with Safari Bob on Wolfe's BotNS (and his overlooked Book of the Long Sun and Book of the Short Sun series, esp. On Blue's Waters--you don't get a more personal and emotional piece of fiction from Wolfe than that volume). But "mind-blowing SF" is, as I've found, always in the--wait for it--mind of the reader.

    The genre is so fragmented now, how do you compare Perdido Street Station with The Lathe of Heaven or KSR's Mars Trilogy, or anything by Nalo Hopkinson? Each has zealous fans that declare these works "the very, very best." You can't prove it in a laboratory, only in the reading. That's why I shy away from people who ask for recommendations that basically say, "Tell me what the very best/most mind-blowing SF is." It may be the best and most mind-blowing for me, but not for you. Been there, done that, got the hoodie.
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  8. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    @Dtyler99, I think for me it's the immediate conceptual effect, or that of scale, and usually a combination of both.

    A Canticle for Leibowitz is an example of amazing SF that is easily in my top 10, maybe even in my top 5. And unlike most SF, it's an enduring classic that transcends genre conventions and, I think, is admired by many readers who don't necessarily read the genre. But it doesn't have the quality that I associate with 'mind-blowing SF'. It's very thoughtful and affecting, and the themes are of perennial import, but it didn't make my head explode like Diaspora or even Blood Music.

    That's true, but that's why a recommendation thread like this is fun. It lets us all know what SF each individual personally thought of as 'mind-blowing', whatever their yardstick.
  9. Dtyler99

    Dtyler99 Well-Known Member

    Mmmm. It's one thing if we can compare and contrast, it's another thing if we recommend and the new reader crashes and burns with it. Wasn't there a thread somewhere a couple months ago where someone was looking for a SF book written about an alien culture strictly from their POV, no humans? No conflict? Almost like a field archaeology report? We all, I believe, gave many possible examples and he just gave up, saying he picked the wrong genre. SMH. You can't save those who don't want to be saved.

    In a way, it's like someone asking, what's Shakespeare's best play? Well, whaddaya want? Tragedy? Comedy? History? And even then, would they get the humor of Two Gentleman From Verona?
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2018
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  10. kenubrion

    kenubrion Well-Known Member

    Greg Bear's Forge of God, Peter Hamilton's Pandora's Star, Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle (he calls it sci-fi), Ender's Game, Armor, Revelation Space.
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  11. Dtyler99

    Dtyler99 Well-Known Member

    Love love love Baroque Cycle, but it ain't SF.
  12. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Meh, it's up to the people asking for suggestions to filter through the responses and decide for themselves. They can always clarify with additional points if the suggestions don't meet what they were looking for. I still like reading the responses.
  13. Dtyler99

    Dtyler99 Well-Known Member

    What I've found is that reading time, for most mortals, is a limited resource. If they want a shortcut, I can't provide it.
  14. kenubrion

    kenubrion Well-Known Member

    As I said, Stephenson calls it that, and maybe it's because of all the alchemy. I can't think of another genre it fits, can you? But no, it's certainly not.
  15. Tiran

    Tiran Well-Known Member

    Some of my favorite books. Most mind blowing: Peter Watt's novels, like Blindsight, sequel Echopraxia and the Rifters books.

    Everything by Iain Banks' friend Ken MacLeod. (And everything by Banks, too, as well as Stephenson.)

    Anything by William Gibson, but especially his more recent The Peripheral.

    Counting Heads and Mind Over Ship by David Marusek.

    Terminal Cafe and Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone by Ian McDonald.

    Halo by Tom Maddox.

    The manga Blame! by Tsutomu Nihei.

    Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds.
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2018
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  16. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Hey, Tiran. Nice to see you back. David Marusek was recommended to me some years back. I noted him down, but forgot to look his works up. Can you tell me what you liked about these?
  17. Safari Bob

    Safari Bob Well-Known Member

    I was in 5th grade when I read Childhood's End. It blew my mind.
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  18. Safari Bob

    Safari Bob Well-Known Member

    I remember The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe blew my mind the first time I read it. Probably for different reasons than you are seeking, though.
  19. ITviking

    ITviking New Member

    For me, my mind was blown as a kid by a Robert A. Heinlein story in one of those books that features a collection of stories from different Sci-fi writers. It was called "By His Bootstraps", which revolved around time travel paradoxes.
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  20. WPS

    WPS New Member

    Foundation series, Blood Music, Diaspora, most of the Xeelee sequence, Dune, Stranger in a Strange Land (at least when I was 16) and more.
    Just remembered Light by M. John Harrison.

    And just thought of one more, Sight of Proteus by Charles Sheffield. Sheffield passed away in 2002 and his books don't get much attention now, which is unfortunate as he was, I believe, ahead of his time in many of his stories.
    Last edited: May 28, 2018
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