Sci Fi Starters

A friend of mine just asked me for suggestions – sci-fi/fantasy books for a very advanced fourteen year old boy. I’m having some trouble with it. I think about what I read now, and it’s fairly adult and literary (Bujold’s fantasy, GRR Martin, CJ Cherryh, GG Kay). It’s been a while since I talked books […]

A friend of mine just asked me for suggestions – sci-fi/fantasy books for a very advanced fourteen year old boy.

I’m having some trouble with it. I think about what I read now, and it’s fairly adult and literary (Bujold’s fantasy, GRR Martin, CJ Cherryh, GG Kay). It’s been a while since I talked books with a teenager.

He just finished Ender’s Game and loved it.

So – sci fi geeks out there – what are some good picks? I dug back into my memory banks about what I was into when I was a teen. My first thought was, actually, Gor, because the first four books are good (no, I’m not kidding, forget what you know about Gor as a BDSM icon,) though what mom is gonna buy her 14 year old Tarnsman of Gor (well, ok, MY mom, but I don’t think she knew).

So I went with some of my faves from the era: Zelazyny’s Nine Princes in Amber, PJ Farmer’s Riverworld, John Christopher’s The White Mountains, and then added a couple of more recent picks that seem like they’d be the right speed (Tad Williams Dragonbone Chair, Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos).

But I’m missing some good picks because I can’t quite dredge out specifics; I can’t recall which books would be at the right level from people like heinlein or asimov.

Help a brutha out; what would you buy for an advanced fourteen year old boy?

12 thoughts on “Sci Fi Starters”

  1. On a Pale horse – Piers Anthony was fun. There’s a whole series of them and I think some will appeal more than others.
    Have Spacesuit will Travel – Heinlein
    Dune – Frank Herbert (its long but good – though i stopped after the 6th installment the first several will work well)
    the robot books by Asimov
    Ringworld -Larry Niven
    Flinx series – Alan Dean Foster

    I’ll see what else I can think of, I haven’t read a lot of the newer sci-fi lately…

  2. Heinlein: Starred are my faves. Notes for some regarding potential PC issues.

    Rocket Ship Galileo
    Red Planet *
    Farmer in the Sky(Retro Hugo Award, 1951)
    The Puppet Masters (politically, may be an issue)
    The Rolling Stones *
    Starman Jones
    The Star Beast * (fun book, I’d say even a little young for him, but good)
    Tunnel in the Sky *
    Time for the Stars *
    The Door into Summer *
    Have Space Suit—Will Travel *
    Methuselah’s Children (potentially too old for him)
    Starship Troopers(Hugo Award, 1960) (he’s probably seen the movie)
    Podkayne of Mars (Diary of a young girl, potentially wierd for a 14 year old male)
    Orphans of the Sky
    Glory Road ***
    The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (Hugo Award, 1967) (potentially too old)

    Can’t say on Asimov, I’ve never really read a whole lot of him. I’ve actually just started on the original Foundation trilogy. Sic_un would recommend Jack Chalker. I’d add in a hearty YES to Alan Dean Foster’s Spellsinger series. C’mon… Even if Mudge is a reprobate 😉

    For fantasy, I’d also include the branch-over to The Dark Tower. I really would. To me, it’s pure fantasy. Horror elements, but it’s really fantasy. Also, there’s one out there by Tanith Lee, a dual title of 2 of her novellas… Dark Castle, White Horse. I’d look for that.

  3. Dune, I cannot do much more than recommend this book. As a 14 year old, he is the perfect age for this book to be fitting in his development (I should know, I first read it at 13).

    Le Guinn’s Left Hand of Darkness might be a bit advanced, but I would also recommend this book; I first read it around that age.

  4. I’s second _Ringworld_ and extend that to the entire “Known Space” series by Larry Niven. The Beowulf Shaeffer short stories were my favorites when I was a teenager.

  5. Ender’s Game used to be an underdiscovered classic. Today, it’s been overwritten (Card played the initial quartet into a second quartet, and then REALLY started selling out.)

    From Heinlein, I’d recommend or second the recommendations for:

    * The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
    * The Man Who Sold The Moon (One of my personal favorites…I’d love to see a movie made of it. I always saw Jeff Bridges in the title role, probably because of the parallels to “Tucker”.)
    * Starship Troopers

    Starship Troopers the movie was a drunken orgy of propaganda-satire, and would’ve been watchable if not for Verhoeven’s usual over-emphasis on playing up the more prurient interpretations of the story.

    That said, it really doesn’t follow the book: In fact, they had the film in development, exploring similar before they realized that Heinlein had already written it. No shit! Just goes to show just how far out of ideas Hollywood has gotten: They’re pirating and plagiarizing prominent works without fully realizing it. They had to go back and show his widow Ginny the Benjamins to avoid a lawsuit, obtain the licensing, and then proceed to ret-con Heinlein’s vision into their own. The result was the hybrid clusterfuck that hit the screens in 2007.

    The important thing to remember with Heinlein is that he was a Naval Academy engineering graduate writing in the early Cold-War era, and forecasting usually only into the foreseeable future. As such, his works are usually well-grounded scientifically, very pro-military, and a touch jingoistic, with a tendency to come off a bit authoritarian. The science aspects of his works where he’s dealing with the very foreseeable future often deal with events that have come-and-gone, such as the Moon landings, and for a modern audience reading him for the first time, it’s best to think of it as an alt-universe story.

    Against that, one must consider his strongly libertarian and pro-sexual-liberation slants, which do tend to show strongly in his fiction.

    Heinlein’s work can be fairly divided into two categories: adult fiction, and the serials and novellas he wrote early on for a young-adult/teenage audience.

    Sorry, I set out to recommend books, not to write one, but it was kind-of necessary to explain why Heinlein’s works can seem so dated, and yet still be totally relevant today.

  6. Even though it’s now a major motion picture (The Golden Compass), the His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman are an amazing read. They’re marketed for young adults, but have a decided adult following. I think 14 is the perfect age for them. (Although, 40+ was a good age, too.)

    The Golden Compass (called Northen Lights in Britain)
    The Subtle Knife
    The Amber Spyglass

  7. I also agree on the Ringworld series.

    I might also add if he is into techie Sci-Fi the Gap series by Stephen Donaldson is interesting. By contrast, if he is into fantasy (and human self-degradation and flagellation), you might suggest the first two Thomas Covanent series by the same author.

    Finally, the old classic five-part trilogy, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, works on many different levels.

  8. Cass read PK Dick’s “The Man in the High Castle” and one her friends recommended “The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch”, so middle schoolers seem to be hipper than we sometimes give them credit for.

    I just reread “The White Mountains” and was surprised at how slow it moved. I remember it being more action-packed, I read it dozens of times when I was a kid.

    Hell, if the boy is that advanced, just start him on “Neuromancer”. Unless you’re trying to avoid the drug stuff.

    Also, a collection of Harlan Ellison short stories that includes “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” plus a voucher for a free psychotherapy session would make a great stocking-stuffer.

  9. My advanced 15 year boy loves the Legend of the Drizzt books, but says they’re mostly fantasy.. potentially not as much Sci-fi as your friend’s son might want.

    My 19 year old son, on the other hand, read and loved Ender’s Game, too, so I asked him and he said if “the kid” (’cause at 19, anyone younger than you is a ‘kid’) liked Ender’s Game, then he *highly* recommends the Saga of Seven Suns series for him. (

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *