Sci-fi Books That Transfer You to Another World

From a story on headlined “11 of the best sci-fi books that transfer you to another world”:

All Systems Red by Martha Wells: Bad news: while exploring an alien planet, you are attacked by a monster. Good news: you are rescued by the expedition’s cyborg security agent, a mandatory part of the service package you buy if you want to do something idiotic, like explore an alien planet. Martha Wells’s novella All Systems Red offers the sort of exploration of human decency no regular ethics class would ever dare to teach.

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson: The first of a tightly plotted trilogy, Red Mars (1992) describes, in painstaking detail, the settlement and terraforming of our neighbour planet. It is a narrative that spans centuries, populated with memorable characters, and dominated, at least in this first volume, by an argument over whether or not to change Mars out of all recognition.

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin: Genly Ai, “first mobile” and emissary of the Ekumen, is reporting back to his home planet from the snowbound world Gethen. Neither of the planet’s two main kingdoms seems to want to join the Ekumen’s commonweal, and various misfortunes and misunderstandings have left Ai in a perilous situation. Worst of all, he is in love. What emerges from Ai’s ostensibly objective account – a diplomatic mission gone awry – was, for 1969, one of the strangest love stories in science fiction.

Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks: Horza, a shape-changing mercenary, is sent to retrieve a Mind (a mind-bogglingly powerful AI with a wry attitude) from Schar’s World, once a jewel in the galaxy’s crown, now a monument to an extinct civilisation. The Mind belongs to the Culture, a sinister, all-powerful machine combine that ingests whole space empires. . . .It takes a while for us to twig that Banks (up to this point known for mainstream entertainments like The Wasp Factory) is playing a tricky game indeed.

Downbelow Station by C. J. Cherryh: Damon Konstantin has a house guest: prisoner of war Josh Talley. Talley has had his memory partially wiped rather than face indefinite incarceration, and Konstantin feels sorry for him. What Konstantin doesn’t know is that Talley has had his memory manipulated not once, but twice….Downbelow Station (1981) is an ambitious vintage space opera that knocks the other shipboard outings of the 1980s flying.

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson: 1942: Lawrence Waterhouse, US Navy codebreaker and mathematical genius, is making up alternative explanations for Allied intelligence successes, thereby hiding from the Nazis the fact that their fabled Enigma code has been broken. . . .Add lost Nazi gold, underground data havens, Alan Turing and more information theory than you could possibly imagine being made comprehensible (let alone entertaining, let alone gripping) and you have the book that established Neal Stephenson as a major voice of the first internet generation.

Ammonite by Nicola Griffith: Government anthropologist Marghe Taishan has been sent to observe life on Jeep, a colonised but long-since forgotten planet that is now being targeted for resettlement by the sinister Durallium Company. One fly in the ointment, at least as far as the Company is concerned, is the planet’s nasty habit of killing off all the men.

Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold: Commander Cordelia Naismith is escorting botanists across an alien planet when her camp is attacked and her team flee, deserting her. She isn’t the only human who has been abandoned. Soon enough she runs into Aral Vorkosigan, “the Butcher of Komarr”, by all accounts her sworn enemy. If either of them is to survive in this hostile place, they are going to have to work together. . . .Shards of Honor (1986) quickly develops into a satisfying, complex, often heart-rending exploration of honour, loyalty and love.

Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress: Where science fiction leads, reality follows. Consider the mutation in a gene called ADRB1, which allows some people to get by on just 4 hours’ sleep a night. I would leap at the chance of a gene therapy that freed up my nights – but what would happen if everyone else followed suit? In 1993, and blissfully unaware that any such mutation would ever make the headlines, Nancy Kress asked herself what would happen if a group of humans were born not needing to sleep. . . .That the sleepless are congenitally a bit brighter and a lot happier than the rest of us doesn’t promote their integration into society one bit.

Light by John Harrison: The Kefahuchi Tract isn’t just a physical slash through space-time: it is an ontological flaw in the universe, a place where the rules of physics break down, or get remade, or in any event cease to make any sense whatsoever to the intelligent species who have been pondering its mysteries for aeons. Exploring the Tract is lethal folly, of course, and only those ridiculous apes from Earth are daft enough to accept its challenge. New physical constants mean prizes in this wildest of gold rushes.

Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson: In a decrepit near-future Toronto, teenage single mother Ti-Jeanne must juggle care for her newborn infant with looking after her grandmother, a tiresome traditionalist, always droning on about the old country, an apothecary and spiritualist beset by voodoo visions. But what if the wild powers she claims to control are real?


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