I rate books on how effectively they disrupt my life.
There has been a wonderful science fiction shift in recent years… almost as if Douglas Adams inspired a next generation to add light and imagination to theories both hard and soft. So many of this century’s speculative fiction authors have given us fresh, dystopian-light galaxies full of insight, inspiration and, to my eternal delight… humor.
Since I’m currently writing a science fiction novel (kind of a space opera solarpunk about how Earth might be saved) I’m also consuming lots of contemporary sci fi. I chewed through many of the grand master classics when young, then gave up on the genre in the late 80s when doom and tyranny ruled for so long. But no longer.
Scifi is more entertaining than ever. Out loud laughs range from joyful (Becky Chambers’s extraterrestrials trying to describe human cheese) to raucously obscene (John Scalzi’s dolphins). Martha Well’s Murderbot has painfully funny insights, like, “Pretending bad things aren’t happening is not a great survival strategy.” And Dennis E. Taylor’s Bob is endlessly amusing: “Yeah, they still make duct tape. And it still holds the universe together.” Then, of course, there is Andy Weir who is pure dead brilliant: “I’ve gone from ‘sole-surviving space explorer’ to ‘guy with a wacky new roommate’. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.”
I’ve read 25 sci fi novels so far this year. Not included are those I reread several times to figure out how they did it so well. (Yes you, Becky and Martha… and Ursula, too.)
Most books I request from the library. When one strikes me with a blast of laser-like love I will buy it to reread. For others I make the effort to leave a thank you note in the form of a review on Goodreads. Enthusiastic reviews can bump a novel into a more profitable universe on a certain, ubiquitous book buying site (I happen to use the one that rewards local indie bookshops instead).
Here’s how I determine what that worth is: