Juvenile science fiction recommendations?

I got a request from Hillary Rettig: those gift-giving holidays (you know, Cephalopodmas and some other religion-tainted days) are coming up, and as we are all pale, text-focused people here, she thought the Pharynguloid hive mind would be the perfect place to gather recommendations for books to infect young brains with the imaginative side of science. So, please, post your recommendations for juvenile science fiction right here. Everything from the classics to the very latest stuff is welcome.


  1. ckest says

    “Dangerous Visions” a collection of short stories put together by Harlan Ellison would be my pick.

  2. Caledonian says

    “The Cold Equations”, short story by Tom Godwin. Highly effective at illustrating the principle that the world operates according to impersonal principles.

  3. Josh says

    How about “A Wizard of Earthsea” by Ursula K. le Guin, a fantasy novel in which (gasp!) magic actually accords to a law of conservation, and its practitioners are basically engineers?

  4. Martin Christensen says

    Josh recommends Ursula le Guin’s Earthsea books. Well, I wasn’t impressed by them. Certainly, if anyone should sit down to read them, by no means read number four, which totally destroys everything that was built in books one to three.


  5. says

    Peeps, by Scott Westerfeld – a relatively new book – vampires arising as the result of ancient parasites – lots of good fun science-based parasite/host interaction stuff that’s well-designed to grab the attention of teenage boys. A fun read that’s about as far removed from Anne Rice vampires as one could get…

  6. says

    No particular order, mostly aimed at early-to-mid teenage years:

    The Giver, by Lois Lowry.

    On Basilisk Station, by David Weber (the first of the Honorverse books).

    Fantastic Voyage and The Caves of Steel, by Isaac Asimov.

    Transmetropolitan, by Warren Ellis. (Warning: strong language, explicit content, etc., etc. Only give as a gift if you hold no illusions about what your children have already said and seen.)

    I second Roxy’s vote for the Hitchhiker’s Guide.

  7. Darren says

    How about Feed by M.T. Anderson? Here is a blurb from Amazon:
    In this chilling novel, Anderson (Burger Wuss; Thirsty) imagines a society dominated by the feed a next-generation Internet/television hybrid that is directly hardwired into the brain. Teen narrator Titus never questions his world, in which parents select their babies’ attributes in the conceptionarium, corporations dominate the information stream, and kids learn to employ the feed more efficiently in School. But everything changes when he and his pals travel to the moon for spring break. There Titus meets home-schooled Violet, who thinks for herself, searches out news and asserts that “Everything we’ve grown up with the stories on the feed, the games, all of that it’s all streamlining our personalities so we’re easier to sell to.” Without exposition, Anderson deftly combines elements of today’s teen scene, including parties and shopping malls, with imaginative and disturbing fantasy twists.

  8. JScarry says

    “Enders Game” by Orson Scott Card

    I somehow missed this one when I was young and just read it recently. It’s a classic space-fiction story with a strong moral point that’s sure to appeal to young geeks who haven’t come to terms with their geekdom. (sp).

  9. William says

    For imagination in science fiction, nothing beats gaming: consider the well-researched GURPS series of role-playing books, with an emphasis on the recent explorations of science-fiction gaming in GURPS Bio-Tech and GURPS Space. Both contain large amounts of information about the current state of the hard science; GURPS Space has a detailed description of solar system formation, and Bio-Tech talks about the latest hopes for bioengineering.

  10. William says

    Oh, and Heinlein’s “Citizen of the Galaxy” is highly recommendable. It’s on that list of his works for juveniles listed earlier, but I’ve read that one and loved it.

  11. G Barnett says

    Well, even though some of the planetary science in them are now dead wrong (and Asimov revised the forewards to acknowledge the advances since he wrote them), the “Lucky Starr” series is still cracking good Sci-Fi for the younger set.

    Also, despite suffering under the heavy weight of ye olde “White Man’s Burden” themes from the early 1900s, E.E. “Doc” Smith’s ‘Lensman’ and ‘Skylark’ series are still extraordinarily fun reads.

    Of course, I’m also not above advocating early introduction to HP Lovecraft, either. Can’t get the insanity started too soon, ya know. ;)

  12. says

    I would say anything by Michael Crichton. He has some unconventional thoughts on certain things (like global warming isn’t happening?), but he combines fiction with scientific issues that are happening now. I know when I was younger I loved his books. Particular favorites = The Great Train Robbery and Timeline.

  13. Frank Brill says

    The “His Dark Materials” Trilogy – science, atheism and action all rolled up into one brilliantly written story. Should be mandatory for all to read. Phillip Pullman author,

  14. ctenotrish, FCD, PhD says

    On the fantasy side of things, I read and still re-read the Anne McCaffrey dragon rider books, especially “Dragonsong” and the other two books in the Harper Hall trilogy. I also loved (and still re-read) many of the Mercedes Lackey books, especially the first 3-4 trilogies, starting with “Arrows of the Queen.” While not necessarily ‘science-y’, the early books of each author have strong characters who can at least think their way out of a paper bag. A big plus in any book for readers of any age! And again, both authors have stronger science components in later books.

  15. K says

    Not sure if it qualifies as Sci-fi proper (more like steampunk, probably), but the His Dark Materials series by Phillip Pullman is quite good. There are slightly diminishing returns between each sequel, but the story is well done and entertaining throughout.

  16. Dark Matter says

    How about John Christopher’s Tripod books?

    The White Mountains
    The City of Gold and Lead
    The Pool of Fire

  17. Evelyn says

    Martin– Le Guin has published two Earthsea books since Tehanu, which (IMO) redeem its existence. Tehanu never worked for me as an ending to the series, but as as a bridge to Tales From Earthsea and The Other Wind, it’s completely necessary (though still pretty tedious.) And The Other Wind is a very satisfying end to the series, and heals some of what was still broken in her world at the end of the The Farthest Shore, though not easily or without cost.

    The later books aren’t juveniles, though– teens could read them, certainly, but in their handling of death, they speak more to adult experiences and fears.

  18. says

    Some faves of mine from that time of life:

    I Robot — Asimov; short story collection

    Martian Chronicles — Bradbury; actually another collection of shorts, some of them hauntingly beautiful, such as “There Will Come Soft Rains”

    Dandelion Wine — Bradbury; not SF in the traditional sense, this one also has some lovely storytelling to it

    The Cyberiad — Lem; this is more YA read than for tweens, a collection of short stories about two robotic inventors that get into some genuinely inventive trouble

  19. Kerry says

    I’ll give a supporting vote to Ender’s Game

    The Past Through Tommorrow is Robert Heinlein’s short story collection and it is fantastic.

    Heinlein’s Have Space Suit, Will Travel and Red Planet were absolutely my favorites when i was younger (and are still on my bookshelf)

    also, Chronicles of the Lensman by EE Doc Smith (if you can find them) and the old Burroughs Tarzan books (if you can get past the sexism, and just thing about them as textual Frazetta paintings)


  20. says

    Hal Clement, “Mission of Gravity” – “Starlight” the sequal was pretty good too.

    Really good action / adventure set on a superjovian planet that revolves so quickly that gravity at the equator is only 3G, while gravity at the poles is close to 700G.

    The story and action / dialog is so good that the physics sort of slip in unnoticed.

    Oh, and pick up the book “Through the Eye of a Needle” from Clement too – it might be a bit hard to find, but it is so worth reading!

  21. says

    All Isaac Asimov, especially the Foundation series,

    and most of Arthur Clarke, espcially 2001 and the early short stories, but skippping over everything he wrote in the last 20 years or so.

  22. Rich says

    Lord of Light — Roger Zelazny.

    Gives a cynical portrait of various major religions without being too ‘in-your-face’ judgemental. (By rolling it into an excellent sci-fi story).

  23. J-Dog says

    My youngest liked Keith Laumer in 6th grade and read World’s of the Imperium and The Great Time Machine Hoax, both fun, interesting, exciting and suitable for teens IMO. Baen Books has been re-issuing Laumer’s books so they are available again. Some semi-adult situations, but no f-bombs. These were his first really “adult” books, and he knew it and liked having the opportunity to read them.

    In 7th grade he has read and likes David Drakes, Ranks of Bronze,(way more adult language and situations BTW). Starship Troopers and Tunnel in The Sky by Heinlein have his approval, and he read and liked Jurassic Park and Lost World by Crichton.

    I gave him one of the new Harry Turtledove authored “written for juveniles” alternate history books, but he found it too boring, not enough action… too juvenile?

    I won’t recommend any Orson Scott Card stuff, because he came out in favor of teaching ID last year. Sorry, but no knucklehead authors recommended. I know, I said that my son just read Crichton, a total loon, but I did not recommend the books, he read them because of the movies, I had the books sitting on the bookshelf, and his big sister and brother both read Crichton when they were his age.

    My $.02 – Good luck – Have fun reading!

  24. Occam's Electric Razor says

    When I was a kid I had a lot of fun with the ‘Doc’ E.E. Smith Lensman and Skylark novels. There are a lot of them and they have a comic-book sensibility that kids like.

  25. Tiskel says

    The Diamond Age — Neal Stephenson.

    Any Beserker story, especially A Teardrop Falls.

    The Integral Trees, and whatever the sequel was.
    A Mote in God’s Eye
    Ringworld, Ringworld Engineers

    I read, and enjoyed, all of the Foundation series from Asimov when I was 12 – 14. I re-read them recently, and didn’t enjoy them at all, but I think I still recommend them.

  26. Becca says

    anything by Terry Pratchett, although that’s more fantasy than anything else. Going Postal, which addresses the issue of identity (who am I, anyway?) is a favorite of my kids, as is Wee Free Men (and to a lesser extent, the sequel, Hat Full of Sky). And, once you have them hooked on Pratchett’s Disk World, get them the Science of Disk World books.

  27. Rheinhard says

    The books that seriously hooked me on literary SF were Asimov’s “Foundation” series. Also of note for the kid who’s a Star Wars buff, because the galactic capital Coruscant is just Isaac Asimov’s Trantor with the serial numbers filed off. (In fact I believe Lucas originally wanted to call his planet Trantor as an homage.)

    However for younger kids I think Asimov’s “Lije Baley” mysteries are probably better. Still science fiction, introducing two of Asimov’s most enduring characters, the humaniform robot R. Daneel Olivaw and the grizzled human detective Lije Bailey. The first of these was “Caves of Steel”.

    Like others I also enjoyed “Ender’s Game” but it’s worth noting that Card has gone off the right wing deep end, with his latest novel which is little more than wingnut war porn. (Radical leftist pro-terrorist army takes over blue states and manly America-lovin’ crackers have to take the country back! No, seriously!)

    But since you also asked for new suggestions, and Asimov has been around since the 40s, I’d like to offer the following (assuming that books that include illustrations with their words are OK): “Grease Monkey” by Tim Eldred. As another long time anime fan I bought a copy from Tim at Anime Weekend Atlanta a few months ago and just got around to reading it last week. A wonderful book for kids which not only includes a cool SFnal premise reminiscent in some way’s of David Brin’s “Uplift” series (also great books BTW, but maybe a bit much for young kids), but also with some great lessons about growing up. According to the site it has been nominated for “Best book for young Adults” for 2007 by the American Library Association!

  28. Dave Regan says

    I second Ender’s Game, or any other of Orson Scott Card’s books. Also I remember reading the tripod trilogy by John Christopher when I was young, that was a great series. The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander are good too, that’s more fantasy than sci-fi though.

  29. Adam Cuerden says

    The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov. One of the most interesting Sci-fi books I’ve read, set in a history where, starting approximately 2000, a way was set up to preserve all of history from then onwards and go back and forth through it to fix things. Brilliant work, very pro-science, and makes interesting points about the need for risk. Also his Nemesis.

  30. Russ Myers says

    I strongly recommend “Red Thunder”, “Red Lightning”, and “Mammoth”, all by John Varley. Very much in the style of Heinlein’s whiz-bang juveniles by a modern and talented author.

  31. Stephanie says

    [I]Daughter of Time[/I] – By Josephine Tey. It’s not sci fi but it is nice historical fiction about how investigation should really work. “Truth is in the accounts not the account books.”

    [I]Does God Play Dice: The New Mathematics of Chaos[/I] – By Ian Stewart. This isn’t exactly for kids and it’s non fiction but it’s a relatively easy read for the general populace. I also love the title.

    Scientific Progress Goes “Boink” – classic Calvin and Hobbes

  32. says

    I second “Airborne”. It’s wonderful and brought back why I read great fiction.

    Heinlein’s “Starman Jones” is also still wonderful, other than the computer stuff being dated, the rest still resonates very well.


  33. octopod says

    I always liked the Tripods series by John Christopher when I was younger. Good, exciting, philosophically sound take on your usual “evil alien invaders” sci-fi. I think there’s a movie version in the works; make sure they read it before that comes out ’cause the movie is by Disney and sure to mess it all up.

    Also, absolutely anything by Terry Pratchett. The Johnny Maxwell (“Only You Can Save Mankind”, “Johnny and the Dead”, “Johnny and the Bomb”) books are probably more sci-fi than the rest of his stuff and are still excellent — that’s how I got my little brother hooked on Pratchett. Probably appropriate for kids around 3rd-5th grade, but everyone will end up stealing them anyhow. His earlier Bromeliad Trilogy (“Truckers”, “Diggers”, “Wings”) is also excellent but often neglected; somewhat older audience possibly, I’ve never been good at judging these things.

    Also seconding Neil Stephenson. Besides “Diamond Age” I’ve also read “Snow Crash”, “Zodiac”, and the Baroque Trilogy; all were excellent and highly recommended. I think the best thing to do with them is put them in the bookshelf and tell teenagers they shouldn’t read them until they’re older, so that they get to feel excitingly transgressive about reading them; they’re just that kind of books. I think it’s good to have books like that about.

  34. jufulu says

    These aren’t SciFi, but my 11 1/2 year old has started reading the Myth (Adventures, etc) series by Robert Aspin and can’t stop. I’m interested in seeing what he thinks of the books at age 18, 25, and 35 as he starts to get more of the puns in the books.


  35. HM says

    When I was that age, I was reading Jules Verne. Some of my favorites, in no particular order:

    Journey to the Center of the Earth

    From the Earth to the Moon
    Around the Moon

    The “astronauts” actually go up in a capsule shot out of a gigantic cannon. This is silly by today’s standards, but would have been hard sci-fi if there were such a thing when they were published way back in 1865 and 1870.

    Around the World in Eighty Days

    Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

    I’ve reread this one several times. Of all of Verne’s novels, I think it is the best. It is great read for the young and old alike. I highly recommend it.

  36. llewelly says

    For all of those reccomending Orson Scott Card … well, I loved his early SF as well, but as I grew older, and learned more about him, I came to feel quite differently.

    As a person who is rather popular around these parts once said :

    I’ve liked some of Card’s stuff, but his fascist ideology just got to me. I know, I shouldn’t judge a work by its author’s politics, but in this case Card’s beliefs are just so far beyond what I consider tolerable or humane that they’ve leaked into my interpretations of his writing.

  37. says

    Does it say something about my personality that what got me interested in science at the age of 10 or 11 wasn’t a science fiction book but rather Cosmos by Carl Sagan?

  38. says

    I suppose it depends what your definition of “juvenile” is. I’ll assume you mean less than 16; these are what I remember reading (and enjoying) before that point in my life:

    * Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien. I know it’s not strictly scifi and the chances of anyone not having read it by now are pretty slim – but it’s very good.

    * Neuromancer, William Gibson. Fitting so many cyberpunk touchpoints in one novel makes it seem grossly unoriginal, but that’s the price you pay.

    * Against a Dark Background, Iain M Banks. Not his best by any manner of means (I still contend that title goes to Use of Weapons, a far maturer book) but the one that got me into Banks when I were just a littl’un.

    * Anything by Robert Rankin: certainly his earlier stuff in the Brentford Trilogy was fantastic. I must stop now before I start quoting…

  39. wmock says

    My daughter’s decision to pursue genetic research has been heavily influenced by Anne McCaffrey’s books — there must be something worthwhile in them.

    A novel that can serve as a launchpin for parent/juvenile discussions of religion, government, culture, and personal responsibility is Robert Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land,” although I wouldn’t recommend presenting that tome to a young person without comment or followup.

  40. Flex says


    Okay, for SF, I would recommend Larry Niven’s ‘Known Space’ series of short stories. I wouldn’t bother with the Ringworld books unless the reader liked ‘Known Space’.

    The short stories of Frederick Brown are excellent. Both for children and adults.

    Bradbury’s _Something_Wicked_This_Way_Comes_ is ideal for an adolescent reader.

    The old copies of Judith Merrill’s collections of the ‘Best of F&SF, 19XX’ are always a good bet. As the editor of Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine she put out a yearly compilation including plenty of excellent work which was not published in the magazine. I encountered Franz Kafka and Jorge Luis Borges for the first time in these collections.

    Heinlein’s juveniles are okay (IMHO), _Starman_Jones_ is the only one I recall. They are the standard juvenile patten where an adolescent (or younger) proves himself as good, or better than, the adults. That form of story seems to be popular with children and adolescents (from Hansel and Gretel to Tom Sawyer and beyond).

    A little bit less SF and more into the fantasy realm is the L’Engle ‘Wrinkle in Time’ trilogy. Although there are plenty of science related themes, from tesseracts to mitochondria, they are often treated anthropomorphically (not that there is necessarily anything wrong with that).

    I would place Lovecraft here as well.

    As for good solid juvenile fantasy, you can’t beat Particia McKillip’s ‘Riddle Master of Hed’ trilogy. It’s a ripping good yarn, it strongly encourages logical thinking, it displays diversity without condescention, and illustrates that control is more important than power. It also displays a love of music. It follows a classic adolescent theme of growing into adulthood.

    Not that I would discourage anyone from reading Leiber’s ‘Fafherd and Grey Mouser’ series either. Good clean fun.

    As an aside, I read _Ender’s_Game_ as a short story many years ago and thought it was one of the best short stories ever written. It was tight, to the point, and just about perfectly structured. After that I couldn’t read the novel, it felt bloated. Apparently I’m alone in this opinion, everyone I know raves about the novel. It’s not because I hate turgid prose either. I really enjoyed the Gormanghast trilogy, although I don’t recommend it to anyone who wants a plot to follow.


  41. HM says

    I should also add that I really enjoyed all the Anne McCaffrey , Mercedes Lackey, Issac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, and even Orson Scott Card (I confess, I still like most of his books with a few exceptions, but I agree his earlier books were by far the best. Ender’s Game and Hart’s Hope are two that I was particularly fond of.) books that have already been mentioned. I just didn’t start reading any of those authors until after I got into high school. The librarian there was a big SciFi/Fantasy fan and introduced me to all of them and more. I wish I had read many of them earlier.

    Back when I was in sixth grade and junior high, I first discovered SciFi by reading Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. I found them somehow in the school library, and I was hooked. :-)

    It’s not strictly SciFi, but the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are quite good. Mark Twain also wrote A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court which is very good. If it’s not SciFi, it’s close.

  42. CanuckRob says

    I second Becca. The Pratchett juveniles Wee Free Men, Hat Full of Sky and The Amazing Maruice and his Educated Rodents are excellent, very funny but with strong messages. The Science of Discworld books are excellent and can be read without having read the Discworld books although knowing the characters from the books does add to the enjoyment.

  43. Josh Brown says

    Anything by H. M. Hoover. I’m not sure if her books are in print anymore, but they’re worth tracking down on Bookfinder. These really are juvenile science fiction–you’re more likely to find them in the young adult section of the book store than the sci fi section. But I kept re-reading them even once I grew out of their target age-range. (And I often had to fight my mother for them.) I can’t reccomend Hoover highly enough.

  44. says

    Here is what my young adult readers liked:
    – His Dark Materials
    – The L’engle series starting with a Wrinklein Time (is this not counted as SF? No one has mentioned it yet? Or do all of you not like her stuff? I loved it as a kid)
    – LOTR – naturally (their mom is insanely purist about Tolkien books – but I always considered them fantasy not SF)
    – Dune (though one of the kids did not get through it)

    If anyone is into straight fantasy for kids I found the Bartimaeus Trilogy very very fun. For both myself and the kids, though they have not got through it yet.

  45. luna_the_cat says

    I’ll stick in supporting votes here for Phillip Pullman and “His Dark Materials” trilogy; he also wrote a sort of mystery series beginning with “The Ruby In The Smoke” — not as good as “His Dark Materials”, but still very good.

    ANYthing by Terry Pratchett, anything at all. It’s all excellent. “The Wee Free Men” isn’t a bad place to start, either.

    Another dragon-ish possibility is the “Temeraire” series by Naomi Novik. It’s more an alternative-history thing than straight fantasy, as in “Napoleonic wars with dragon air support”. A good read.

    Also in the fantasy line, the books by Tamora Pierce, especially for girls. It sounds cheesy, but her Alanna (“Lioness”) series came into my life like a revelation — good, strong female characters with enough flaws to make them interesting, and a lot about what morality really entails in the daily grind.

    And also good: the “Mortal Engines Quartet” by Philip Reeve. Excellent forays into where technology goes wrong on a sort of post-apocalyptic earth. However, it is not exactly cheery, and a lot of the main characters die, in variously unpleasant ways. Surprisingly good for all that, but you need heavy fortification of chocolate to not feel somewhat suicidal after the last book.

    Incidentally, I have to disagree with Jen about Crichton’s books. Not only is his science lousy, I have to say, I’ve never actually read a book of his where I felt his protagonists had any redeeming qualities (and I’ve read a few of his books). There are far better writers to spend money on.

    The other author I would have to really recommend is Garth Nix — his “Old Kingdom” series (Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen) is probably for the 12+ age range, because it is actually quite, quite scary in places; his “Keys To The Kingdom” series is for slightly younger kids.

    Happy Christmas Shopping!

  46. Judy L. says

    Older SF may be more appropriate for children if you’re concerned about too much violence or sexual content, and short story collections are a great way to go for younger folk with potentially shorter attention spans and less time to read (homework loads are killer these days). I gave my nephew the classic “50 Short Science Fiction Tales” which hooked me on SF when I was a kid. My brother and I loved Fredric Brown’s work when we were younger (and still do); his story “Something Green” always gave me chills.

  47. Grumpy Physicist says

    Depends on the kids, of course.

    I prefer stuff from the “golden age” of SF: thirteen.

    Heinlein juvvies and Asimov’s entire work, of course.

    For the recomendation of Crichton. Are you kidding? His stuff is bestseller novels with some SF trappings. Not juvvies. And the suggestion of Ellison is just *wrong*. Great writer, but not for kids. That’s the same category
    I’d use for PK Dick, Tim Powers, Iain M. Banks, Cordwainer Smith, and a number of others.

    I have mixed feelings about Card. I did read the Ender’s Game short story, and thought it was pretty good, if a bit trite. His slightly later stuff seemed unimaginative, and you could see bits of his Mormonism creeping in at the edges. Later still: ugh.

    Bujold: great; good choice. How about a classic: A.E.van Vogt’s SLAN? Some that are great, but would require re-reading to be sure that they’re good for kids: stuff by David Brin and Vernor Vinge.

  48. Jason R says

    I second others’ recommendations of the Foundation series, Heinlein, and early Asimov. I’d like to add a recommendation for Joseph Haldeman’s “The Forever War,” a title I pulled off the shelves when I worked in a library in high school. Haldeman is a Vietnam vet and his approach to galactic war is really fascinating, particularly when seen alongside Heinlein’s “Starship.” Also there’s realistic treatment of relativistic travel and long-term human evolution.

  49. David says

    Wow. You guys are OLD. (and I’m 38!)

    There has been some juvenile sci fi written since the 1970’s, you know.

    OK — the Heinlein, Ann McCaffrey, Asimov, Herbert, LeGuin, etc. are all great. They’re all classics. They’re also kind of dated. I’d think a real teenager would probably want something written more recently.

    My votes:
    – Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series is incredible.
    – Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series is very good.
    His Seventh Tower series is pretty good too, but not as good as the Old Kingdom series.
    – Card’s Ender’s Game is awesome. The rest of the series is just OK. It’s kind of like Star Wars — he should have stopped writing earlier.
    – Suzanne Collins’ Gregor the Overlander is entertaining. There are others in the series I haven’t read yet (they’re on the shelf waiting for time)
    – I haven’t read Paolini’s Inheritance Trilogy (Eragon) yet, but the series seems to be popular.
    – China Meiville’s fiction is fantastically twisted, but is probably too dark for most juvenile readers. The stories are lacking, but the settings are exceptional.

    I’m sure there’s more out there, but I haven’t had much time for reading lately.

  50. says

    Anybody considering giving Ender’s Game to a young teen might want to read SF author John Kessel’s article on it first. I’m just sayin.

    Whoever recommended Dangerous Visions must have forgotten the scene in “Riders of the Purple Wage” where the protagonist superglues a can of contraceptive foam into his girlfriend’s nether parts. Didn’t hurt me none when I was 12 but my mother might not have appreciated it so much. Remember it was “Dangerous” because it was put together to challenge the idea that the whole genre had to be “YA”.

    (What that means is that *most* american SF pre-1967 is age-appropriate; the trick is finding the ones that won’t generate too much in the way of anachronistic technological speed-bumps.)

    Bester’s The Stars My Destination for sure.

    I’d recommend Ellen Klage’s The Green Glass Sea, which is about a teenage girl living in the family housing at Alamagordo during the development of the A-bomb. Not quite SF, but …

    The older Van Vogt for the one-damn-thing-after-another can-you-top-this? quality — Null-A and Weapons Shops stuff.

    Robert Sheckley, especially Mindswap.

  51. WookieMonster says

    I second Tamora Pierce, they’re more fantasy than SciFi, but they all have good morals (girls are people too, etc.). Anyone who liked the Lioness series as a kid should know she’s come out with some new ones in the world (Alanna’s daughter is the main charachter) that are aimed at an older audience.

    Ender’s game is fantastic, but I couldn’t read anything else by Card.

    Anne McCaffrey’s books are pretty much all wonderful (except the weird romance novels she put out very early in her writing career which my mom got me instead of the good fantasy ones when I asked for her books for Christmas one year). I so wanted to be a dragon rider when I grew up.

    Tara K. Harper has some good science stuff.

    The Artemis Fowl books mix fantasy with science, but the first book is the weakest IMO, which is never good for a series.

    His Dark Materials is a must-read for almost all non-believers.

  52. sfreader says

    Alan Dean Foster -“Pip and Flinx” series
    “Spellsinger” series (a little on the fantasy side but internally consistent)
    “Humanx” and “Midworld” series.

    Ann McCaffrey and her son are still writing, although often with other authors – so she isn’t so dated after all!
    her “Acorna” and “Ship” series are good also and something I could recommend even to my more conservative friends.

    Although she does have fire-breathing dragons in the “Pern” books there is real science behind the series – the dragons were deliberately bred from creatures that evolved the ability to fight a fungus spore coming from another planet, not magical creatures that just “poofed” into existence!

    By the way, reading these lists always gives me new books I want to read! Thanks everyone.

  53. Cat of Many Faces says

    i’d sudgest wasteland of flint by Thomas Harlan. it’s an alternate future (very far future) in which the inca and aztec societies didn’t die out. the main character is a hard working, poorly paid archaeologist, and one of the best women characters i’ve seen written in a long time. And lets be frank, well written women is rare in scifi.

    it’s an amazingly goos story, and if they like it there are several more in the series.

    on the fantasy side, I practically sleep with the deathgate cycle. just beware of the second book “elven star” i almost stopped reading them at that one, it sucks. apart from that though, all 7 are great books.

  54. bernarda says

    I cannot agree more with Hesselberg on Jonathan Stroud and the “Bartimaeus Trilogy”, which I mentioned in the previous thread. If your kids want something a bit more challenging than Harry Potter, you should get this.

    But every adult I have given it to has loved it too.

  55. Robert says

    I definately have to second “His Dark Materials.” I actually just read them several years ago and could not put them down. So much better than Harry Potter in terms of both writing and general story. Basic plot: Little girl’s father sets out to end the tyranny of god by killing him. Awesome stuff.

  56. says

    For imagination in science fiction, nothing beats gaming: consider the well-researched GURPS series of role-playing books, with an emphasis on the recent explorations of science-fiction gaming in GURPS Bio-Tech and GURPS Space. Both contain large amounts of information about the current state of the hard science; GURPS Space has a detailed description of solar system formation, and Bio-Tech talks about the latest hopes for bioengineering.

    Try also GURPS Transhuman Space – hard science fiction set in 2100. No aliens, but weirder than most can imagine – and entirely plausible. And the kids may end up living there.

    As regards books, I also suggest Jumper by Steven Gould, and Replay by Ken Grimwood.

  57. says

    His Dark Materials is really good for believer kids, too. My Muslim son LOVED it and it made him think a lot and very seriously about theological questions.

    Also, to the person who recommended the Eragon series, my kids are totally in love with them and I forgot to mention them but I would not consider them (or Harry Potter which my kids are also addicted to) SF at all; they are totally straight fantasy, no science involved whatsoever.

  58. orogeny says

    Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham, The Burroughs John Carter of Mars novels, Harlan Ellison’s short stories (especially A Boy and His Dog) were some of my favorites as a kid.

  59. Stwriley says

    A host of good suggestions already, especially the Heinlein, Asimov, and Stephenson (and I second the “don’t bother” with Card, he’s long since gone off the deep end.) For a really good set of speculatives with a science flavor (as opposed to hard sci-fi) I’d suggest a collection of Le Guin’s short fiction, Worlds of Exile and Illusion, which is more accessable than some of her utopian works.

    But the one author I’m surprised not to see on anyone’s list already (given his hard sci-fi orientation and fascination with all things biological) is David Brin. I’d highly recommend the first three books of the Uplift trilogy (Sundiver, Startide Rising, and The Uplift War) as well as his novels The Practice Effect and Earth (despite it’s semi-mysticism.) My favorite of all, though, are his short stories. The collections The River of Time and especially Otherness (which combines his best short stories with some excellent science essays.) Since Brin is a scientist himself (an astrophysicist, no less) the science is always impeccable and the fiction totally plausible.

    One last recommend, just to warp the young one’s brain to the proper state, is Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, with it’s delightful blend of wacky science, religious mockery and excellent social consciousness.

  60. Steve says

    Well, I didn’t see some of my favorites:

    Charles Sheffield
    Most of his books are good possibilities. Especially intended for younger readers (who play major parts in the story):
    Putting Up Roots
    The Billion Dollar Boy
    The Cybord From Earth
    Higher Education

    *Anything* by James Schmitz, very appropriate (and I still re-read them). All of his writing has recently been reprinted. One of my all time favorite authors.


  61. tacitus says

    Ask a kid I enjoyed Asimov’s early works – I, Robot, The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun and especially the Foundation Trilogy. Excellent SciFi storytelling without all that pompous fluff that found its way into his later novels.

    The Tripod Trilogy by John Christopher is also a classic and some of Arthur C. Clarke’s earlier stuff to.

    Loved Ender’s Game, but the rest of the series gets increasingly worse in a hurry.

    For kids more into fantasy then His Dark Materials is, of course, a must, the Earthsea Trilogy is timeless classic, and I also enjoyed Susan Cooper’s “The Dark Is Rising” series which tosses in some spookiness to nice effect.

  62. Will says

    How can anyone recommend Orson Scott Card on this blog? The guy is a wanker. He seemingly wrote his good stuff before conversion to wankerdom though.. Still, Ender’s Game is more of a novella than a novel and it should probably be a short story.

    As a kid my favorite author was Zelazny (and he might possibly still be my favorite author), though I read everything I could get my hands on by Asimov, Arthur C Clarke, Ray Bradbury and Ursula K LeGuin as well. The novel that most affected me as a very young kid was “A Wrinkle In Time” A little older it was Harlan Ellison’s “DeathBird” It is hard to judge what the line is between adult fiction and young adult once you get into that 11-13 year old range (and it depends on the kids probably too.) My 7 year old loves Cornelia Funke… sigh..

  63. jeff says

    not sf, but you can never be exposed to h.l. mencken at too young of an age. on the sf/fantasy front george r.r. martin’s “song of ice and fire” series is quite good, although it would probably not be suitable for younger readers.

  64. Bunjo says

    I grew up on Heinlein, Asimov, VanVogt, John Brunner and can recommend them all…

    Current good authors include Lois Bujold, David Weber, David Brin, the ‘Empire’ fantasy trilogy by Raymond E Feist/Janny Wurts, LE Modesitt Jr, some of the Elizabeth Moon space operas, and of course Terry Pratchett (e.g. Small Gods!!).

    Personally I avoid books about dragons, time travel, King Arthur, and small furry animals, as the disappointment/enjoyment ratio is too high – however these subjects may appeal to younger readers.

  65. Robert M. says

    I second (third? ninth?) the recommendations of Ender’s Game; although someone recently whacked Card with a stupid stick, the novel is well-done and appropriate for any age. For me, it helped bring up a lot of issues about violence, as well as discussing issues about identity and self-confidence in highly-gifted kids.

    Asimov’s Foundation series is also great, as is anything of Terry Pratchett’s, as is Wrinkle in Time and L’Engle’s other novels. The Tripods series struck me, at about 10, as frustratingly simplistic; YMMV, of course. Anne McCaffrey is also good, but be aware that a lot of her stuff (the Dragonsinger series excepted) deals frankly with sexual themes.

  66. ssjessiechan says

    I second the call (and perhaps larger, only read far enough down to see one) for the “His Dark Materials” trilogy. I read it myself and was startled by the anti-deist bent it develops later, which had some interesting implications to a young christian. But how can you say no to armored bears, and animals with wheels? Philip Pullman also has the advantage of being one of the reviews on the back of “The God Delusion” as well as mentioned in the book, which pleased me to no end. You can’t get much more authentically mind-poisoning than that without going straight to Douglas Adams himself. :3

    Some more favourites when I was a child, raiding the garage for my father’s Sci-Fi collection…

    “The Martian Chronicles” — Ray Bradbury
    “Childhood’s End” — Arthur C. Clarke
    “Rondezvous with Rama” — Arthur C. Clarke
    “The Gods Themselves” — Isaac Assimov

    And one of my very favourites, the Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Assimov. I loved the idea of using mathematics to predict and control the future, an idea quite conducive to removing God from the gaps of predistination.

  67. nm says

    I agree with Flex about “Ender’s Game.” It was a gripping story and a turgid novel. But mostly I just want to recommend anything by Andre Norton. I came across some of her stories as a kid and I was immediately hooked on SF.

  68. says

    I thought I had some YA SF titles handy, but apparently all I really have is fantasy. There’s some killer YA fantasy. Franny Billingsley’s books (Well Wished, and The Folk Keeper) are amazing, and different from much of the girl-hero fantasy that you find, even though the protagonist in each is a young girl.

    Of course, everyone should read Terry Prachett.

    One question though: does anyone actually KNOW a kid or a teenager who’s read and enjoyed “His Dark Materials”? I always see it recommended YA, but it seems pretty dense and heavy for most kids. Though this may say more about how out of touch with kids I am than anything else, I guess. I know there are bright kids who would enjoy it, but I really think adults are its target audience.

    I cut my sf-reading teeth on Heinlein and Andre Norton. They might be kinda dated for modern kids, though. I’m an old fart.

  69. JScarry says

    While not strictly fiction, “The Hot Zone” and “Demon in the Freezer” by Richard Preston are interesting stories about Ebola-Marburg viruses and smallpox respectively. The books are fairly detailed on the effects of the disease, so they may not be appropriate for pre-teens.
    Most of Neal Stephenson is probably too old for juveniles, but “Zodiac” is an interesting mystery based on environmental science. It pits a plucky environentalist tracking down the source of mysterious pollution against unknown evil-doers. This was the first book of his I read, and really the only one I liked. It’s not science-fiction per se, but a mystery with a science backdrop.

  70. Peril-Sensitive Sunglasses says

    The Space Child’s Mother Goose. Fifties science fiction updating of classic nursery rhymes. You NEED this book. It is so awesome that it makes nearby books even more awesome by simple proximity.

    I second the votes for the Garth Nix and Anne McCaffrey oevres, most especially for the Old Kingdom trilogy and the Harper Hall trilogy, respectively.

    OTOH, please do not buy Eragon unless it’s for someone you don’t like. Lordy, but it was a gigantic pile of poo.

  71. David Harmon says

    Mostly seconding the prior comments (Heinlein’s juveniles, Asimov, almost anything by Terry Pratchett), but I’d also add Andre Norton.

    For older teens, Niven, Zelazny, Robert Saberhagen (who’s not just about the Berserkers!) Vernor Vinge, Ursula Le Guin, and David Brin.

    The only novel by Don Sakers I’ve seen is The Leaves Of October, but that’s mind-blowing (again, for older teens). He also edited a cute theme anthology, Carmen Miranda’s Ghost is Haunting Space Station Three.

    Moving more toward fantasy, Diana Wynn Jones and Diane Duane are pretty reliable, and Tanya Huff has some good series. Moorcock is still good, too!

    Sharon Shinn has a fairly new fantasy trilogy starting with The Safe-Keeper’s Secret — none of the usual trappings, but sweet little coming-of-age tales with nicely structured mysteries woven in. They’d be good for classroom use too, as they’re brief and simple enough to examine their narrative structures. Shinn also has other fantasy series, but I haven’t really explored those.

    Tad Williams is a “new master” — Tailchaser’s Song is the book that started cats crawling over the fantasy shelves, and Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn compares favorably to Tolkien, but with a more modern sensibility.

    I see that Neil Schusterman has a new series of teen-oriented books, which I haven’t read yet, but they look promising.

    No way is Ellison age-appropriate! His stuff disturbs me!

  72. David Wintheiser says

    Does it say something about my personality that what got me interested in science at the age of 10 or 11 wasn’t a science fiction book but rather Cosmos by Carl Sagan?

    Perhaps, but I’m assuming that’s a good thing, as I was the same way – ‘Cosmos’ was shown on our local PBS affiliate more than once while I was a young teen, and it nailed me every time. I’m not sure how dated the series might look on DVD today, but it’s available through the Discovery Channel Store (and Amazon, but they don’t need a link from me, I’m sure).

    In the realm of ‘real science, popularized’, I’d also recommend Connections (the original series) and The Day The Universe Changed by James Burke. (The price on the latter seems breathtakingly high to me, though.)

    Finally, if you’re determined to go with text rather than video, there’s a recent release from Baen books called The World Turned Upside Down – a collection of the short stories that the editors remembered from childhood and young adulthood as the tales that ‘turned them on’ to SF and fantasy.

    Hope that helps!

  73. David Harmon says

    Oh yeah, McCaffrey (not just Pern), L’Engle (not just Wrinkle et seq, and Pullman are all great. His Dark Materials is indeed pretty deep, but it’s built up in a way that kids can get at the upper levels, and grow into appreciating the deeper stuff. Note that much of McCaffrey’s stuff is better saved for the older teens, as it’s not just “cute dragons”.

  74. says

    These are fantastic! OK, I should have stipulated that the “youf” in question is 10 years old. So Ellison’s right out…

    Glad to have the link to all the Heinlein juveniles, however, and a lot of these others would work, too. Glad to see someone recommended The Magificent Flight to the Mushroom Planet, as I remember that quite fondly. And particularly like the lists of youth oriented works by “mainstreamers” like Charles Sheffield.

    Thanks, all!

  75. Hank Fox says

    Juvenile SF:

    The Terry Pratchett “Tiffany Aching” trilogy set in Discworld is great.

    Wee Free Men
    A Hatful of Sky

    Good stuff.

  76. says

    Of course you must begin with the classics: Foundation (first 3), Dune (first one only), Earthsea (I stopped at 4, but I hear the others are good). Lije Bailey too (first two). Brin’s Uplift books are good for YA if not tweens. (The second one is great.) Maybe even Robinson’s Mars Trilogy (high school). I also second Patricia McKillip, who I have to say is not, as a fantasy author, *specifically* science-oriented, but who can write rings around just about everybody. Riddle-master is available in one volume; The Book of Atrix Wolfe and Alphabet of Thorn are also fab.

    Not sure it’s for kids, but “The Colour out of Space” is my fave Lovecraft also (a non-Cthulhu tale, even).

    I really disliked the second and third Pullman books, but their ham-handed doctrinaire atheism may be just the ticket for certain parents. (Let’s not go into it here, okay?)

  77. zzz says

    Some more fantasy rather than pure scifi (slightly old fashioned but probably OK up to young teen):

    Susan Cooper “Dark is rising” series
    Alan Garner “Owl Service” and others

    more modern, still for young ones:

    William Nicholson “Wind on Fire” Trilogy

    back to some old classics, some possibly better for mid/older teens (suprised that none of these got a mention yet):

    Aldous Huxley: Brave new World
    George Orwell: 1984
    E. M. Forster: The machine stops
    HG Wells: War of the worlds
    William F. Nolan : Logan’s run
    Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451
    Raymond Briggs: when the wind blows

  78. says

    Some of these have already been mentioned but here goes.
    My Mum is a big scifi/fanasty fan and I still remember sitting on her bed aged about 12ish telling me about Pern and Thread and Dragons.
    I couldn’t escape being a nerd girl, its in the genes

    Anne MaCaffery
    Ray Bradbury- The Master-his novels, short shories still blow me away
    Alan Dean Foster
    Terry Prachett
    Doulgas Adams
    Edgar Rice Burroughs-John of Mars books
    John Chrisopher-Tripods
    Usuala Le Guin
    Dr Who
    Star Trek
    Neil Gaiman
    Gor- hahahaha just kidding

    There is so many
    There is heaps of new stuff out there of kids these days, my niece and nephew are just starting to get into them.
    Check any young adult section in bookshops

  79. Torgo2 says

    I suggest “Extreme C-sections” by Michael Carson, an extremely humorous bit of satirical science fiction available at Amazon (I happen to be the authors father but I’m completely unbiased). It is really quite funny.

  80. kurage says

    Previous posters have already made most of my recommendations, but here are a couple more to throw into the mix:

    -Somebody already mentioned China Mieville as being potentially too dark for younger readers; I’d say that for mature teenagers of say, fifteen and up, he’s definitely worth it. Start with _Perdido Street Station_ and move on to its exquisitely well-done sequel, _The Scar_. He also has a young adult book, _Un Lun Dun_, due to come out this February.

    -Clive Barker writes some stuff that is most definitely not younger-reader friendly. (I did grow up more or less unscathed after reading some of his raunchier books in my early teens, but that’s another story.) However, _The Thief of Always_ and his “Abarat” books are lyrical, fantastic, and extremely suitable for early-to-mid teenagers. Clive Barker can be an inconsistent author, but when he’s good, he’s good, and he knows how to write YA lit without condescending to his audience.

    -Unlike Mieville and Barker, who tend strongly toward the steampunk-ish and phantasmagoric, Tad Williams writes straight-up high fantasy. But he does it quite competently, and his “Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn” trilogy is definitely worth a try. For cat-fanciers, there’s also _Tailchaser’s Song_, which is essentially a feline _Watership Down_.

    -If we’re talking about a younger and not particularly bookwormish juvenile, K.A. Applegate’s “Animorphs” series might be worth a try. It’s not great literature by any means, but it remains one of my guilty pleasures to this day. As serial children’s paperbacks go, “Animorphs” is at the high end of the quality scale. The fifty-some odd volume tale of shapeshifting teenagers fighting alien brain slugs becomes increasingly dark as it progresses, and has a strong underlying ecological message besides.

  81. LL says

    I strongly disagree that kids will want less ‘dated’ material. I’m 26 and I read and loved all the classics in high school, esp. Asimov. Hardly anyone can write as simply and clearly without dumbing things down as Asimov could. I read Hitchhiker’s Guide first though, in middle school (it actually allowed me to be into SF cause I convinced myself that it was humor/adventure– not cool for girls to like SF in middle school– then i fell in love with the genre and never looked back).

    Wanted to second L’Engle, as well, who was also accessible to me when I was a girl. My mom was more likely to buy her books cause they were more ‘literary’ and she could order them through those book clubs in elementary school.

    AND: The Green Futures of Tycho by William Sleator. Creepy, awesome time travel book, written for ~5th grade level?

  82. Caledonian says

    “So You Want to be a Wizard” by Diane Duane – the first three books in this series are absolutely superb, presenting scientific ‘magic’ as a programing language for the cosmos and featuring people who are given user access in order to fight the incarnation of Entropy and slow down the heat-death of the universe.

  83. Steviepinhead says

    I recommend any of Sherwood Smith’s YA novels. She has a series of short novels about Wren–Wren’s Rescue, etc., that are enjoyable but lightly challenging on issues of concern to young adults. A recently published adult novel, Inda, is set in the same “universe,” though not in the same immediate locale or involving the same characters, and would be appropriate for older teens (some grim violence here and there).
    Crown Duel and Court Duel–now combined in one book–display an interesting mix of novel of manners, romance, and action/adventure, and are also YA.
    S.S. also wrote a five-novel sf series with a co-author, The Exordium. I think the co-author was Dave Trowbridge. Good stuff, though perhaps not YA.
    Canadian fantasy author Dave Duncan has written any number of enjoyable, twistingly-plotted fantasy novels, most of which would be suitable for YA. Excellent characterization and world=building. A good start might be the “Man of His Word” series of four novels starring the inimitable Rap.

  84. Jake Tucker says

    I’m an education student currently doing a project on Young Adult SF so take that for what it’s worth…

    Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve
    Shade’s Children by Garth Nix
    City of Ember (this one I like becasue it’s kind of anti-anti science)

  85. Larry says

    Larry Niven – Ringworld, The Mote in God’s Eye
    Frank Herbert – Dune
    Arthur C. Clarke – Imperial Earth, Rendevous with Rama, 2001
    Isaac Asimov – Foundation Trilogy, Nightfall and Other Stories
    Robert Heinlein – Stranger in a Strange Land, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
    Ray Bradbury – Farenheit 451
    Jules Verne – 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

  86. hen3ry says

    Most of the Iain M. Banks books are great, (although there is a potential plot hole in The Algebraist.

    Also Charlie Stross and some Bruce Stirling.

  87. chezjake says

    For the younger set (4th, 5th, 6th grades?) and not quite sci-fi, but Norton Juster’s “The Phantom Tollbooth” is a classic. Humorous and really great for learning to think outside the box.

  88. Captain Sunshine says

    If the child’s age is 10, plus or minus, I’d recommend these:

    The White Mountain series, by John Christopher – Mentioned above. These are tales told simply, but the narrator starts out at age 12 or so and grows up during the books. He doesn’t understand a lot of the science around him, but he does his best to figure it out, and brings the reader along with him. I went back and re-read these a couple of years ago, and I still really liked them.

    Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card – also mentioned above. Card’s politics are a real turnoff for me, too, but that wouldn’t really be a problem for the kid, would it? The problem I have with it is that the three later volumes get worse and worse (though I did like “Speaker for the Dead”). The other three are a trilogy, but Ender’s Game stands on its own.

    Ray Bradbury: Dandelion Wine, R is for Rocket, S is for Space. The last two have some short stories that will be a little more challenging for a younger reader, but most of them are fantastic and accessible. Dandelion Wine is Bradbury’s semi-biography of his childhood, so not sci-fi, but it’s amazing. The character is twelve. There’s a sequel that came out just recently, but I don’t know anything about it.

    (In seventh grade all the books we read in school – Dandelion Wine, Shane, Beau Geste, April Morning, Call of the Wild, Tom Sawyer, several others – had main characters that were our age, or close to it. I think that’s an important criterion for accessibility at that age. It was for me/us, anyway.)

    Charles Sheffield: Higher Education. This is one of the four books mentioned above, in his Jupiter series for young adults, but it’s the only one I thought was really good. Better for someone a little older, though, to understand the science. I would have used it in my eighth grade physical science class, if I was still teaching that age.

    Bolo, by Keith Laumer. One of my favorites since I was ten. Intelligent tanks! The recent books are a lot harder in content and descriptions of war, but the first is the best.

    A couple of years older, though, and I would recommend these, too:

    The Forever War – Joe Haldeman

    The Vorkosigan series – Lois McMaster Bujold (great space opera, and clever)

    Interstellar Patrol series – Christopher Anvil, reprinted by Eric Flint. Some of his other stories certainly show their age, most notably with the attitudes toward women, but the IP stories are fantastic.

    Dorsai! – Gordon Dickson. Early sixties, more intelligent space opera.

    Ringworld, and The Integral Trees – Larry Niven. Lots of great ideas and good extrapolation, and written more straightforwardly than some of his later work.

    City, and Way Station – Clifford D. Simak. Note, please, that the science in City is terrible (written in 1951, so no DNA, for example), but the exploration of ideas is thoroughly enjoyable. Way Station is about a Civil War veteran country boy recruited to run an interstellar teleportation relay station. Two of my favorite books. I can’t recommend then highly enough. They’ve reprinted both recently.

    (In the new print of City, there’s a new forward by some guest author. There’s also a section called “Editor’s Preface.” The Editor’s Preface is the beginning of the book, and important to set the frame for the story. TEAR OUT the forward. Ruins the whole story.)

    The Pip and Flinx short stories by Alan Dean Foster. I haven’t read any of the novels, but the short stories I’d come across were great.

    And yes, I would agree that Harlan Ellison is probably a bad read for a younger kid. I picked up “Deathbird Stories” as a freshman in college, read the first story (“The Whimper of Whipped Dogs”) and was spooked for a week. Great now, though.


    PS – Second The Phantom Tollbooth, and Cosmos the TV series.

  89. Caledonian says

    Short story: “Flop Sweat” by Harlan Ellison. A sensationalistic radio show is the catalyst for the end of the world.

  90. says

    Most of the Iain M. Banks books are great, (although there is a potential plot hole in The Algebraist. Also Charlie Stross and some Bruce Stirling.

    Stross and Banks for kids? Are you *insane*?

    Oh, and find the book version of “The Princess Bride” (William Golding IIRC) – better than the movie, even.

  91. Lily Rose says

    I don’t see much mention of William Sleator, who wrote a bunch of really interesting juvenile SF novels; I remember one about travelling between the 2 dimensional, 3 dimensional (ours), and 4th dimensional worlds; one about clones; one about skinner boxes (!); and others.

    I love Pullman but of course YMMV.

    Many classics on the list, and many of them I second (but not Card!) — and a second vote as well for Alan Garner, who wrote really unusual mythically themed fantasy.

  92. abbad0n says

    The best space opera I ever read was The Night’s Dawn Trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton. A little long (3 hardbacks or 6 paperbacks) but well worth the read.

    The Pliocene Exile series by Julian May is excellent for using science (and psience) as magic. And a darn good story too.

    Check out The Wiz Biz series by Rick Cook. A strange mixture of magic and computer programming. Very amusing at times.

    Don’t know if it’s still in print but the Time Wars series by Simon Hawke was in my opinion one of the best of the time travel stories I’ve read.

  93. says

    I was disillusioned by Card the author after I was banned from his website’s Battle School RPG for playing a teacher character as gay (I was in high school) — I even got a long explanation from him directly as to why when I protested (the usual “family site” crap, as if I was writing gay porn). However, Ender’s Game is still one of my all-time favorite books, I’ve read it probably 100 times and never get sick of it and recommend (or gift it) every chance I get.

    Another rec for L’Engle. I actually liked Wind in the Door more than Wrinkle, but was enthralled by them all.

    A second for The Hot Zone, I read it in 6th grade after seeing Outbreak and spent a couple years planning to be a virologist and debating with my teachers about whether viruses were living…

    Skewing to fantasy, I recommend Kelley Armstong’s Women of the Underworld series, especially for (older) girls. It’s well-written werewolf-vampire-witch fare, but debates on the genetics of hereditary werewolves have erupted on the author’s website.

  94. says

    How about some Vernor Vinge? ‘Rainbow’s End’
    Because who doesn’t love the technological singularity?

    Also, seconds for Asimov and his Foundation series, Orwell’s 1984, and Huxley’s Brave New World.

    If we’re talking really young, Bruce Coville writes great spacey-fiction and fantasy appropriate for ages 6-10.

    Inflict as much upon them as you can while they’re young! Turns out, not everyone retains their ability to read fiction as adults. :(

  95. Mickle says

    “I haven’t read Paolini’s Inheritance Trilogy (Eragon) yet, but the series seems to be popular.”

    So was The Da Vinci Code.

    I second Scott Westerfeld’s books. All of them – not just Peeps – the Midnighters and Uglies trilogies as well.

    For younger kids, Jeanne DuPrau’s City of Ember is very good (I haven’t read the other two) as is Sebastian Rook’s Vampire Plagues trilogy.

    For the new readers, The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne has tons of science (and other subjects as well) woven throughout the stories. There are even a series of companion non-fiction books written at the same level, many of them on science topics.

    For not yet readers, Chris Van Allsburg’s Just a Dream and Two Bad Ants, Jane Yolen’s Owl Moon and Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax.

    And if fantasy is ok, anything by Holly Black, Libba Bray, or Stephanie Meyer is very good. And of course I have to reccomend Lloyd Alexander’s books. There’s not really a whole lot of science in any of these authors books, but they have as much as Eragon does, and they’re damn good. (cough)

  96. DBarker says

    Another old-guy recommendation for a younger reader would be any of John Wyndham’s novels (Day of the Triffids has already been mentioned), they are favorites of mine and have always seemed rather gently written as if for a younger audience, if that makes any sense. I agree with many of the other authors already mentioned.

  97. Captain Sunshine says

    Two more I was reminded of by a comment above:

    There’s a book called “The Boy who Reversed Himself” by WIlliam Sleator that came out in the late 80s. It’s about two kids who figure out how to travel into a four-dimensional world. After one early jaunt, one kid comes back left-handed instead of right-handed, feeling sick, ketchup tastes like heaven (and everything else tastes like crap), because turning everything in your body around in four dimensions screws up all kinds of things in you body (chirality changes?). He has to jump back and get himself turned around again. It was a fun book. “Interstellar Pig” was fun too.

    And I don’t know how I missed this, but how about “Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars” by Daniel Pinkwater? Absolutely recommended for the elementary school level. It’s more fantasy than sci-fi (mind-reading?), but what a fun ride!


  98. Sara says

    I second the John Christopher Tripods trilogy.

    ALso, his book “The Skin of the ORange” (may also have been published as “A wrinkle in the skin” – an awful “What-if” about a teen waking up on a Channel Island after a world-altering earthquake.

    Most of the newer J and YA stuff I’ve seen (and read) is fantasy, and unicorns-and-rainbows fantasy, at that. But if fantasy is on the table, I’d mention Diana Wynne Jones (especially the Chrestomanci Chronicles, with their play with alternate/parallel universes, spun off by changes in history at key points), Robin McKinley’s “Blue Sword” and “Hero and the Crown,” and “His Dark Materials.” And Emma Bull’s “Finder,” which does have a quasi-sci-fi plague in it. Bull also wrote a harder sci-fi book that would be appropriate for Jr. High kids (Bone Dancer, maybe?)

    I found Eragon really derivative of older stuff I read as a teen… early Jane Yolen Dragonfighter series, etc.

  99. Robert Taylor says

    Sheesh, some of the stuff you guys are recommending, I couldn’t wade through now ;)
    I’m going to break my suggestions down by Gender, as having an 18 year old boy and a 17 year old girl, sort of gives me an inside track here ;)

    For Girls

    Madelaine D’Engle – A Wrinkle in Time.
    Anne McCaffrey’s – Crystal Singer Trilogy
    Andre Norton – Book of the Oak Series
    – Witch World, All of them ;)

    For Boys

    Robert Heinlein – Starship Troopers
    Space Cadet
    Andre Norton – Star Gate
    Time Traders Series
    Solar Queen Series
    Anne McCaffrey – Dragonrider Series

    For Both
    Phillip Pullman – His Dark Materials Trilogy
    JK Rowling – Harry Potter all
    David Eddings – The Belgariad and The Mallorean
    David Eddings – The Redemption of Althalus
    Andre Norton – Star Rangers

    and many many others too numerous to post

  100. Pierce R. Butler says

    Patrick Nielsen Hayden, one of the genre’s top editors, has put together two YA (young adult) anthologies of SF & fantasy, respectively titled New Skies and New Magics. I haven’t read either, but have read his adult “Starlight” anthologies and will testify he has a good eye.

    With Jane Yolen, he co-edited The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy for Teens (published 2005), which I gave to a then 15-yr-old, who gave it a rave review.

  101. Zarquon says

    It’s not really science fiction, but Eric Linklater’s Pirates In The Deep Green Sea has pirates and octopuses battling it out in Davy Jones’s Locker.

  102. Consilient says

    3 key books:

    alfred bester’s The Demolished Man

    and ancient science fiction…Genesis (well the first half) and Book of Revelations. often these two books are the only sci fi many adults have ever read

  103. Susan Francis says

    Has Pratchett been mentioned? He’s known for Fantasy, but also wrote some SF (The Dark Side of the Sun, IIRC). Also, the Science of Discworld series with Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart. If Fantasy is OK, I totally recommend The Wee Free Men, for everybody but especially 9-year-old girls.

  104. says

    I second Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages. And how about Peter Dickinson & Nancy Farmer? “The Ear, The Eye, and The Arm” and Dickinson’s “Eva”.

  105. Pygmy Loris says

    The Antrian Messenger, The Seer, The Mind Trap all by G. Clifton Wisler (appropriate for 9-13 year olds) are all Sci-Fi, but with a more fantastic approach (the main character is an alien with psychic powers).

    I remember loving them when I was in middle school, but that was also when they were new. These books may not even be in print anymore.

  106. Jerry Clough says

    There’s only one book appropriate for Cephalopodmas: John Wyndham’s The Kraken Wakes!

    All of Wyndham’s SF books, and the collections of short stories, are great for young teens: I certainly read several at 13. They may well be hard to get, particularly in the US. The Chrysalids – about teenagers, who are telepathic, growing up in post-apocalyptic and deeply religious Labrador – is probably my favourite. Unfortunately this & The Kraken Wakes are known in the US as Re-birth and Out of the Deeps respectively, losing some of the nice connection with this blog.

    More recommendations:

    Another classic which might appeal is A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter J. Miller.

    Further back (1900ish), and for younger readers, three books by E. Nesbit: Five Children and It, The Amulet, and The Phoenix and the Carpet. Nesbit more or less invented the fantasy/SF genre for kids (she was a good friend of H.G. Wells), and her influence is fairly obvious on modern writers.

    William Donaldson’s Wind on Fire trilogy, is really fantasy, but I read this recently and enjoyed it. Not sure what is most appropriate age group.

    The Inheritors & Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Neither really in the genre, and probably more suited to older teenagers, but both share deep themes with books recommended above, and by other contributors.