Okay, time to get back into this. I'm currently on holiday and, naturally enough, the weather has been crap in Wellington and, as I understand it, in most of the country. In the middle of summer.
I have a friend - let's call her the Short Dominatrix - who just went camping in the Coromandel. Seeing her yesterday, I gloated that she must have frozen her ass off. "Oh no," she chortled, "it was fine all the time. I have pictures. Including many of girls in bikinis. Wanna see them?"
I think I'm getting too predictable.
Anyhow, I picked up a few extra bookcases in an idle moment, and am in the process of sorting my collection and moving all the mediocre SF and non-fiction into the bedroom away from the gaze of those I wish to impress, or at least not to sneer at me. I am going to leave a short shelf of SF that I wouldn't mind being associated with in plain view, that which I would press on casual browsers.
So here's part 1 of what PiatoR suggests you read, assuming you can't avoid a SF geek:
i, Tim Powers, The Drawing Of The Dark - an excellent fantasy novel set at the seige of Vienna, 1529. A down-to-earth protaganist, and Arthurian themes moving in the background.
ii, Ursula Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven - a classic. Le Guin takes on Phillip K Dick's territory with her own sensibilities.
iii, Greg Egan, Quarantine - Egan is a writer much better at short stories than novels, where his hard sf leaves readers cold. Quarantine is the exception - a story solidly grounded in a real protaganist in a believable world led step by step into Egan's flavour of high weirdness
iv, Tom Robbins, Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas - Robbins's best, IMHO.
v, S M Stirling, Drakon - Stirling is pretty contemptible as a person, and as a writer given to overwritten alt-history military sf. Passable, but others do it better (John Birmingham, for example). Drakon, however, is the exception where his talents are actually harnessed in a good story. Imagine the film "Predator 2" done intelligently...
vi, John Steakley, Armor - a story that takes the tropes of military sf, powered armor and the war against the bugs, and twists them to tell a very humanistic tale. What exactly happens to a man stuck in a war he can't survive if he refuses to die?
vii, Garfield Reeves-Stevens, Dark Matter - What at first appears to be a competent attempt at a standard serial killer novel turns weird. What if the psychopath running around gruesomely slaughtering innocents in search of some mad insight into the universe - was right? Definitely give this a try if you're into slasher fiction.
viii, Charles Stross, Sigularity Sky - a cutting edge (i.e. post-Vinge, post-cyberpunk) retake on space opera, with more than a hint of satire thrown in. The New Republic is at war with - what, exactly? They're taking the planet - how, exactly? And when their mighty war fleet confronts the Enemy - will it even notice?
ix, John Brunner, TeheCompleat Traveller in Black - classic high fantasy as it should be done. Should be read at least once by anyone who thinks they like fantasy.
x, George MacDonald Fraser, Flashman - the start of the series. Fraser mixes stories grounded in firm historical detail of the heroic or more obscure parts of the Victorian era, a quick and funny imagination, and one of the most memorable characters around. If you haven't met Lord Harry Flashman, coward, lecher and blaggard yet, do yourself a favour.
Okay, part 2 follows in a day or two.