Recreational Literary Endeavors

seitora

Well-Known Member
I recently realised that for all that I supposedly love science-fiction, I have apparently read almost no hard science fiction in my life, outside of the Foundation series, and not even that much soft science fiction outside of Star Wars. Now trying to catch up and read some things.

I read Sundiver, the first book in the Uplift series. I guess this one is actually a little divorced from the timeline of the rest of the series, basically showing the very basic beginnings of the new era humanity finds itself in? The writing style in this book seems really strange. It's more than just the stereotype of hard science fiction presenting cool ideas but having a relatively lacklustre story proper. A lot of terms and background events are thrown at the reader without ever really trying to elucidate on it, outside of a few repeat mentions to give ever slightly more context. The writing itself seems flighty, sometimes having scenes that are literally only a half a page long before skipping over to another point of view. There's a weird crescendo and rising action for a false climax about two thirds of the way through the book, and it struggles to build up after to the real climax. There's innuendo, both sexual and otherwise, that feels strangely sanitised. More amusingly, the story is actually a mystery novel wrapped up in a science fiction shell.

My library offered this as a digital read, so that's what I used, otherwise it would take weeks to get a physical copy. I feel like I should have, since apparently the book would have had a map of the in-story starship about half the book takes place on, which would give a better read on a lot of the scenes. Also, this may be the first book I've read in...maybe ever, where I absolutely struggled to visualise the scene descriptions. A lot of that was descriptions of the sun surface, trying to describe filaments and spicules in ways that never really clicked.

Anyways, I'll still give the next book a rise, since that's apparently the proper start of the series.
 

PCHeintz72

The Sentient Fanfic Search Engine mk II
Hmmm... How are you defining HARD vs. SOFT Science Fiction, meaning just where are you drawing that line in the sand between the two...

I've read Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven, and others like Douglas Adams... I quite liked things like Mote in Gods Eye and the Ringworld saga, Hitchhikers Guide and Dirk Gentley Sagas despite their age.

- I've read literally hundreds of Star Trek, dozens of Babylon 5, a number of older Star Wars expanded universe novels.

- I've read literally a few dozen Star Trek tech manuals and even a couple tech manuals for Babylon 5.

- I've read some old Harlequin Super romance, which includes some sci-fi and mystery, even though it centers on romance.
 

da_fox2279

California Crackpot
To be honest, I couldn't get into hard scifi. I tried Asimov's Foundation series, and found it just too dense for me.
 

da_fox2279

California Crackpot
Thanks, I'll give them a look.
 

seitora

Well-Known Member
Hmmm... How are you defining HARD vs. SOFT Science Fiction, meaning just where are you drawing that line in the sand between the two...
I don't quite go with the nominal hard vs soft definition where they divide it up into hard sciences versus social sciences. To me, 'hard' science fiction would be anything where the plot or setting relies on futuristic technology and/or scientific concepts to drive the plot, or at least substantially alter how society is formed. Whereas 'soft' science fiction would basically be a story that could potentially be set in modern day Earth or the past, but is instead set in the future, in space.

Star Wars would be almost 100% soft science fiction by that standard.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy would be also mostly soft science. It uses some scientific devices such as the Infinite Improbability Drive or concepts like the Total Perspective Vortex to drive absurdist comedy, but itself doesn't drive the plot or the setting.

Ender's Game would straddle that line. It's essentially a bloody boarding school followed by a counterattack war against invaders, but global resource scarcity and the overhanging threat of another potential alien invasion drive a subtle change in the setting's society and politics, and the zero-g battle school drives over half the plot of the book.

Foundation series I would classify as being hard science by my above standard. Psychohistory alone drives the very core of the series.
 

PCHeintz72

The Sentient Fanfic Search Engine mk II
Hmmm... I was envisioning it being split more along the lines of just how much science a storyline relies on in the plot, vs. instead just relying on characterization and glossing over of the science fiction portion.

By *that*, I would think Star Wars, B5, and Battlestar Galactica would be soft, Star Trek would be borderline depending on the individual episode or book, and stories like those by Larry Niven or Jerry Pournelle would be hard.
 
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