DAVID BRIN's science fiction recommendations

David Brin's best-selling novels include The Postman (filmed in 1997) plus explorations of our near-future in Earth and Existence. His award-winning novels and short stories explore vividly speculative ideas through a hard-science lens. His nonfiction book, The Transparent Society, won the American Library Association's Freedom of Speech Award for exploring 21st Century concerns about security, secrecy, accountability and privacy.

Here are books both inspiring and well worth recommending.

Brin's science fiction

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  • recommended science fiction

    great science fiction themes

    great themes of science fiction

    Let's try something ambitious — a bigger, broader reading compilation. This column is divided according to unique interest-categories, beginning with...

    dire warnings and self-preventing prophecies

    These novels and shorter works inspire the reader to imagine the dreadful-but-avoidable dangers that may lurk down the road ahead. A few of these books even attained the most powerful status any work of fiction can achieve: they changed the future by alerting millions, who then vowed that the bad things should never happen.

  • Paolo Bacigalupi: The Windup Girl
  • Stephen Baxter: Flood
  • John Brunner: The Sheep Look Up
  • Harry Harrison: Make Room! Make Room! (basis for the film Soylent Green)
  • Aldous Huxley: Brave New World
  • Dani Kollin & Eytan KollinThe Unincorporated Man
  • Walter M. Miller Jr.: A Canticle for Leibowitz
  • George Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-Four
  • Frederik Pohl: The Cool War
  • Nevil Shute: On the Beach
  • Kurt Vonnegut Jr.: "Harrison Bergeron" in (Welcome to the Monkey House)
  • Philip Wylie: The Disappearance
  • Yevgeny Zamyatin: We
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    harbingers of hope

    These tales offer something almost as important as warnings... a tantalyzing glimpse at (guardedly and tentatively) better tomorrows. (It's actually much harder to do than issue dire warnings!)

  • Iain M. Banks: Consider Phlebas
  • John Brunner: Stand on Zanzibar
  • Robert A. Heinlein: Beyond This Horizon
  • Aldous Huxley: Island
  • Kim Stanley Robinson: Pacific Edge
  • Vernor Vinge: Rainbows End
  • John C. Wright: The Golden Age
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    huh! I never realized!

    Some tales simply rock readers back with wondrous stories that also broaden their perspective... from strange cultures to alternate social systems to unusual ways of thinking.

  • Frank Herbert: Dune
  • Donald Kingsbury: Courtship Rite
  • Ursula K. LeGuin: The Dispossessed
  • Kim Stanley Robinson: The Years of Rice and Salt
  • Neal Stephenson: Snow Crash
  • Vernor Vinge: A Deepness in the Sky
  • Roger Zelazny: Lord of Light
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    the hard stuff

    Take us someplace new. Boggle us with possibilities grounded in the strange-real universe of science!

  • Poul Anderson: Tau Zero
  • Isaac Asimov: The Foundation Trilogy
  • Stephen Baxter: Anti-Ice
  • Greg Bear: Eon
  • Gregory Benford: Timescape
  • Greg Egan: Diaspora and Quarantine
  • Wil McCarthy: To Crush the Moon
  • Linda Nagata: Vast
  • Larry Niven: Ringworld
  • Robert Sawyer: Flashforward
  • Charles Sheffield: The Web Between The Worlds
  • Robert Charles Wilson: Spin
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    fantasy — with brains

    Just because there's magic and wizards and kings and such... doesn't mean it has to be lobotomizing. There really are exceptions!

  • Neil Gaiman: Neverwhere: A Novel
  • China Miéville: The City & The City
  • Tim Powers: The Drawing of the Dark
  • Cherie Priest: Boneshaker
  • JRR Tolkien: The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings
  • Eliezer Yudkowsky (aka Less Wrong): Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (free online fanfiction)
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    Or... what if things were different?

  • Poul Anderson: Brain Wave
  • Alfred Bester: The Stars My Destination
  • Michael Chabon: The Yiddish Policemen's Union
  • Arthur C. Clarke: Childhood's End
  • Robert Silverberg: Dying Inside
  • Peter Watts: Blindsight
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    rip-snorting good storytelling

    Just go along for the ride.

  • William Goldman: The Princess Bride
  • Joe Haldeman: The Forever War
  • Keith Laumer: The Great Time Machine Hoax or Earthblood
  • Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle: The Mote in God's Eye
  • Frederick Pohl: Gateway
  • John Scalzi: Old Man's War
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    alternative histories & parallel worlds

    Extra points if it seems plausible that this might-have-been really might have been. And even more points if the reader goes, "That world seems more plausible than this one I'm living in!"

  • L. Sprague de Camp: Lest Darkness Fall
  • Philip K. Dick: The Man in the High Castle
  • Eric Flint: 1632
  • Ward W. Moore: Bring the Jubilee
  • Neal Stephenson: Cryptonomicon
  • Harry Turtledove: The Great War series (American Front, Walk In Hell, Breakthroughs)
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    time travel

    Here the biggest test is whether you can offer a new or surprising logical twist. Bring on them paradoxes!

  • David Gerrold: The Man Who Folded Himself
  • Harry Harrison: The Technicolor Time Machine
  • Robert A. Heinlein: All You Zombies and By His Bootstraps
  • Fritz Leiber: The Big Time
  • Richard Meredith: Run, Come See Jerusalem!
  • Robert Silverberg: Up the Line
  • Connie Willis: Doomsday Book
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    The hardest thing of all to do well. Dare to try this most-difficult type!

  • Douglas Adams: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
  • Poul Anderson and Gordon Dickson: Hoka! (or any book in the Hoka world)
  • Harvard Lampoon: Bored of the Rings: A Parody of J.R.R. Tolkien's the Lord of the Rings
  • Terry Pratchett: The Color of Magic
  • Connie Willis: "Blued Moon" in Fire Watch
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    sheer beauty

    Forget science, logic and other superficialities. Just love it. The words... the words...

  • Ray Bradbury: The Martian Chronicles
  • Harlan Ellison: "Repent Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman
  • Russell Hoban: Riddley Walker
  • Thomas Pynchon: Gravity's Rainbow
  • Dan Simmons: Hyperion
  • Cordwainer Smith: The Rediscovery of Man
  • Theodore Sturgeon: More Than Human
  • Gene Wolfe: The Book of the New Sun, Volume 1 (Shadow and Claw
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    quirky classics

    Hey, it's a kind of time travel!

  • Edwin Balmer & Philip Wylie: When Worlds Collide
  • JD Bernal: The World, The Flesh & The Devil
  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Herland
  • Aldous Huxley: After Many a Summer Dies the Swan
  • Olaf Stapledon: Last and First Men
  • Jules Verne: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
  • H.G. Wells: The Time Machine
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    predictive successes

    SF authors often disclaim any intent to foretell the future. We explore it, test possibilities, perform gedankenexperiments, even warn or entice. But predict it? Well, at times we do try... and even keep score! Brin fans maintain a wiki tracking hits and misses from my most predictive near-term book to date, Earth. Here are some looks-ahead that have been impressively on-target.

  • John Brunner: The Shockwave Rider
  • William Gibson: Neuromancer
  • E. E. Hale (1865): The Brick Moon
  • Robert A. Heinlein: Beyond This Horizon
  • Frederick Pohl: Age of the Pussyfoot
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    SF isn't just Anglo-American

    International contributions to this genre are undeniable.

  • Sakyo Komatsu: Japan Sinks
  • Stanislaw Lem: The Cyberiad
  • Cixin Liu: The Three-Body Problem
  • Arkady and Boris Strugatsky: Roadside Picnic
  • Tetsu Yano: The Paper Spaceship
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    science fiction for children

    science fiction for children

    Science fiction opens young minds readers to the exciting possibilities of the future. Here are David Brin's recommendations of science fiction and fantasy novels for children.

  • Susan Cooper: The Dark is Rising. During the twelve days of Christmas, Will Stanton must battle the forces of the Dark.
  • Bruce Coville: My Teacher Is an Alien. Can Susan save her sixth-grade class from a fate worse than math tests?
  • Peter Dickinson: Eva. What have the doctors done, with their amazing medical techniques, to save Eva?
  • Diane Duane: So You Want to Be a Wizard. Nita wants to become a wizard to help her stand up to bullies, but soon learns there are worse things to fear than bullies.
  • Jeanne DuPrau: The City of Ember. Ember was designed as a last refuge for the human race. But when the storerooms run out of food and the lights begin to fail, it’s up to two teens, Lina and Doon, to find a way out.
  • Neil Gaiman: Coraline. When Coraline steps through a door to find another house strangely similar to her own (only better), things seem marvelous — at first.
  • Margaret Peterson Haddix: Running Out of Time. Can Jessie bring back the medicine needed to save the other children of her village?
  • Madeleine L'Engle: A Wrinkle in Time & A Swiftly Tilting Planet. L'Engle's classic book also received an Newbery Award.
  • Lois Lowry: The Giver. Another Newbery recipient: Jonas struggles with the dark secrets of his not-so-idyllic community.
  • Susan Beth Pfeffer: Life As We Knew It. After an asteroid brings global catastrophe, Miranda struggles to hold on to hope in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar world.
  • Daniel Pinkwater: Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars (and 4 other books). Leonard meets a new friends in Junior High — a Martian.
  • Terry Pratchett: Only You Can Save Mankind. Johnny is playing a video game, isn't he?
  • Philip Pullman: His Dark Materials trilogy (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass). Lyra Belacqua and her daemon travel between worlds battling a great evil.
  • Neal Schusterman: The Dark Side of Nowhere. Nobody is who they say they are — including Jason.
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    science fiction for young adults

    science fiction for young adults

    What books can we give our teens and young adults that don't mire them in a swamp of vampires, domineering wizards or nostalgia for feudalism? Here are just a few of Brin's favorites.

  • M. T. Anderson: Feed. A futuristic consumer-mad world where news and advertisements are fed continuously to the brain — till a hacker disrupts the flow.
  • Isaac Asimov: The Foundation Trilogy. Gibbon's Decline of the Roman Empire with an interstellar twist. The Galactic Empire is going to fall, but Hari Seldon has a plan.
  • John Barnes: Orbital Resonance. Through his 13-year old protagonist, Melpomene Murray, Barnes presents a riveting portrayal of life in space aboard the Flying Dutchman, an asteroid colony which supplies the overpopulated home planet Earth.
  • Gregory Benford: Against Infinity. A coming of age story of a young man on the icy surface of Ganymede, searching for a dangerous alien artifact that haunts dreams.
  • Alfred Bester: The Stars My Destination. A classic of Science fiction, this is a story of revenge. Gulliver Foyle, left stranded in space, is determined to track down those responsible. (Predicted an entrenched wealthy subculture, and a tattooed-tribal subculture.)
  • Ray Bradbury: The Martian Chronicles. A short story collection about the colonization of Mars, as terrestrial expeditions set off to explore the planet, often with devastatingly poignant consequences for the native inhabitants.
  • David Brin: The Postman. After much of America has been devastated by war, a survivor comes across an abandoned mail truck, finds long abandoned letters... and delivers hope to isolated towns. (Okay, this is a self-plug. Though lots of kids prefer the lighter tone in The Practice Effect!)
  • Suzanne Collins: The Hunger Games Trilogy (The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay). "Today, we need more sophisticated legends, that show us not only possible failure modes, but humanity buckling down to get things right." (Brin has more to say about this)
  • L. Sprague de Camp: Lest Darkness Fall. The classic timeslip tale about an achraeologist who finds himself in 435 CE Rome. Can he stop the Dark Ages from coming? Terrific. Started the modern era of "Connecticut Yankee" tales.
  • Philip K. Dick: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? A post-apocalyptic story of the near future, which served as the basis of the film, Bladerunner.
  • Nancy Farmer: The House of the Scorpion. In the land of Orpium, an opium-producing estate between Mexico and the United States, a drug lord enslaves illegal immigrants, through chips planted in their brains. Our protagonist, Matt, has been raised as a clone for organ replacement.
  • Neil Gaiman: The Graveyard Book. To escape the clutches of Jack the man who killed his parents, Nobody Owens lives in a graveyard — learning history from the ghosts among the headstones.
  • Robert Heinlein: Tunnel in the Sky. Teens who want jobs in space must spend a week surviving an alien world, but what happens if they're stranded? Heinlein's answer to Lord of the Flies.
  • Aldous Huxley: Brave New World. A dystopia fast becoming more likely than 1984. Also more fun, but creepy. Thought provoking and on college reading lists.
  • Jack McDevitt: The Engines of God. Two archeologists struggle to preserve the alien artifacts on planet Quraqua — which may hold essential clues to humanity's survival! — before terraforming destroys all traces of the alien civilization.
  • Andre Norton: The Stars Are Ours!. No one wrote escapist adolescent adventure in space better than Andre Norton. Her Young Adult novels were legend, and SFWA's YA award is named after her. (Any book by this author will please a bright teen.)
  • Alexei Panshin: Rite of Passage. A multi-generation colony ship tests its youth by casting them out to survive for a month of Trial upon the hostile colony worlds. Truly the classic YA science fiction novel and a pioneer at the young-female point of view.
  • George Stewart: Earth Abides. In this post-apocalyptic story, most of humanity has been wiped out by pandemic. Ish Wiliams emerges from his solitary cabin to find the land deserted... almost. A gentle, thoughtful book, easy to read but very literary.
  • Jules Verne: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Verne wrote brief, captivating "go there" adventure tales that still read well. Choose a direction: up, down or into the sea and Verne's intrepid adventurers head that way! But his Captain Nemo was a character with tragic depth.
  • Scott Westerfield: Leviathan. This steampunk novel presents an alternate history of World War I, pitting the Central Powers and their steam-powered war machines, against the British Darwinists, who have genetically modified animals for fighting. Our protagonist, the son of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, rides into battle on the Leviathan, an enormous biological dirigible.
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    nonfiction for sf fans

    nonfiction for SF fans

    Here are some of David Brin's favorite nonfiction books. Read for a grounding in the science behind his science fiction and nonfiction.

  • In this fascinating look at human progress over the last one thousand years of civilization, Ian Mortimer’s book Millennium: From Religion to Revolution offers perspective on how far we have come, especially by developing new tools... and a vigorously open society. And especially science.
  • John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt: Networks and Netwars. Prescient, spooky and worrisome, yet remaining hopeful about our ability to cope — over the long run — with terror threats to our complex civilization.
  • Robert D. Atkinson: The Past And Future of America's Economy. Explores measures that would allow us to play our roles better in the world economy.
  • William Calvin: A Brain for All Seasons. It takes you on a tour of the new science that links deep ocean currents with the climate patterns that made Earth a crucible for human development. Did ice ages and hot spells act as a 'pump' forcing our ancestors to adapt and change? Europe lies at the same latitude as Canada, yet supports 20 times as many people, because of the Gulf Stream... which may 'switch off' because of Global Warming. Find out more, it's important.
  • Gregg Easterbrook: The Progress Paradox. The clichés that most hobble us are those we don't notice, because we accept them so readily. Like the common belief that the world is going to hell. Easterbrook suggests we may be better than we thought. There's a world to be saved and those who spread either complacency or gloom aren't helping.
  • Ann Florini: The Coming Democracy. Dares to raise a long-neglected question: how will Planet Earth be governed during the next century and beyond? Might it be wise to start thinking now about using our influence for its most noble and most pragmatic purpose — taking a lead in helping to design Whatever Comes Next (WCN)?
  • Sarah Blaffer Hrdy: Mother Nature and The Woman That Never Evolved. Author, anthropologist and feminist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy takes a fresh look at evolution fact and theory, then moves on to a cross-cultural view of motherhood, in this pair of stimulating books, re-evaluating things we thought we knew.
  • Kevin Kelly: Out of Control. Explores the new field of "emergent properties," showing how marvelous and surprising new complexities and capabilities often arise out of systems that began simply or primitively. Wonderful examples.
  • Melvin Konner: The Tangled Wing. Takes a wider focus on the biological foundations we all have to work with.
  • Ray Kurzweil: The Singularity Is Near. Pursues the argument that our scientific competence and technologically-empowered creativity will soon skyrocket, propelling humanity into an entirely new age.
  • Lawrence Lessig: Code: And Other Laws of Cyberspace, Version 2.0. Anyone interested in the dilemmas we face in the digital age should look at this book.
  • Michael A.G. Michaud: Contact with Alien Civilizations. Ponders the topic of "where is everybody out there?" An excellent book, covering these issues from many angles!
  • Chris Mooney: The Republican War on Science. Will the 21st Century be known as the time when our Scientific Age came to a whimpering end? Mooney explores how partisanship can explain much of this collapse of confidence... and why partisan interpretations don't cover everything.
  • Bruce Schneier: Secrets and Lies. From a more technical background, encryption expert Bruce Schneier talks common sense.
  • Lee Smolin: The Life of the Cosmos. Striking off to the very boundaries of this universe — and about a trillion others — Smolin lays out the notion that universes may behave like a form of life, evolving within the context of a meta-time far, far vaster than mere billions of years. This book inspired my novella "What Continues... and What Fails," which is contained in the story collection Otherness.
  • Edward Tenner: Why Things Bite Back. Says we are often fooled by our own best-laid plans. Possibly the most tragic human character flaw is our tendency to avoid the very criticism that may help us find our mistakes before they erupt and ruin our hopes.
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    a brief intro to science fiction author DAVID BRIN

    To learn more, visit his books page, or see his "about me" page or detailed biography.

    DAVID BRIN author


    David Brin's science fiction novels have been New York Times Bestsellers, winning multiple Hugo, Nebula and other awards. At least a dozen have been translated into more than twenty languages. They range from bold and prophetic explorations of our near-future to Brin's Uplift series, envisioning galactic issues of sapience and destiny (and star-faring dolphins!). Learn More

    shorter fiction

    Short stories and novellas have different rhythms and artistic flavor, and Brin's short stories and novellas, several of which earned Hugo and other awards, exploit that difference to explore a wider range of real and vividly speculative ideas. Many have been selected for anthologies and reprints, and most have been published in anthology form. Learn More

    Contrary Brin blog

    Since 2004, David Brin has maintained a blog about science, technology, science fiction, books, and the future — themes his science fiction and nonfiction writings continue to explore. Learn More

    social media influencer

    Who could've predicted that social media — indeed, all of our online society — would play such an important role in the 21st Century — restoring the voices of advisors and influencers! Lively and intelligent comments spill over onto Brin's social media pages. Learn More

    DAVID BRIN scientist


    David Brin's Ph.D in Physics from the University of California at San Diego (the lab of nobelist Hannes Alfven) followed a masters in optics and an undergraduate degree in astrophysics from Caltech. Every science show that depicts a comet now portrays the model developed in Brin's PhD research. Learn More

    transparency expert

    Brin's non-fiction book, The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Freedom and Privacy?, continues to receive acclaim for its accuracy in predicting 21st Century concerns about online security, secrecy, accountability and privacy. Learn More

    speaker & consultant

    Brin speaks plausibly and entertainingly about trends in technology and society to audiences willing to confront the challenges that our rambunctious civilization will face in the decades ahead. He also talks about the field of science fiction, especially in relation to his own novels and stories. To date he has presented at more than 200 meetings, conferences, corporate retreats and other gatherings.Learn More

    future/tech advisor

    Brin advises corporations and governmental and private defense- and security-related agencies about information-age issues, scientific trends, future social and political trends, and education. Urban Developer Magazine named him one of four World's Best Futurists, and he was appraised as "#1 influencer" in Onalytica's Top 100 report of Artificial Intelligence influencers, brands & publications. Past consultations include Google, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, and many others. Learn More

    other points of departure

    visit other pages on this website

    pages about DAVID BRIN

  • latest news and activities
  • information about DAVID BRIN
  • public speaking and consulting & popular topics
  • speaking/consulting references and testimonials & a list of past appearances
  • print and podcast interviews
  • video interviews and talks
  • Brin's presskit and complete biography
  • traditional media and social media
  • Brin quotes and frequently asked questions
  • pages about BRIN's science fiction

  • Brin's novels and books
  • Brin's short stories and novellas
  • all about Brin's uplift universe
  • a selection of book reviews
  • Brin's special-order books for sale
  • Brin's advice for new writers
  • Brin reviews sci fi films — including The Postman
  • a compilation of great sf books to read
  • recommended sf films
  • science fiction that teaches
  • BRIN's nonfiction explorations

  • privacy, security, accountability and transparency
  • designing and crafting our amazing 21st Century
  • predicting and projecting our near and far future
  • leading and following our politics and economy
  • keeping track of changes in science and technology
  • scanning our sky for habitable (inhabited?) worlds
  • Contacting BRIN

    All the Ways in the World to Reach David Brin

    an ornery, contrary BLOG, and other insightful wormholes!

    Do not enter if you want a standard "Party" line! Contrary Brin's incendiary posts on science, sci-fi and politics and its engaged, opinionated community poke at too-rigid orthodoxies, proposing ideas and topics that fascinate — and infuriate. See for yourself, and if you like — subscribe for more.

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    endorsements and recommendations

    praise for The Postman

    "Brin slathers a sober and hard-edged landscape at one turn, and in the next pinpoints with pixel clarity the humanity all jumbled up in the epic action. There are no mutant cockroaches or other absurdities. We are in the Oregon mountains, crawling through bracken, or hiding in the snowdrifts because a sniper has pinned us down. On every page we see the dirty, lined, broken faces of hardscrabble existence, but we also see them light up at the simple gesture of receiving a piece of mail from a long-lost loved one. And we see mythopoesis right in our faces."
    — SF Site Reviews

    praise for Existence

    "Science fiction fans were finally given what they crave: Real science explained and possible science dreamed, all wrapped up in an excellent story. After reading it, you feel like you've done an A-level and experienced a cultural event. Daring yet plausible, challenging yet rewarding, it raised the bar for grown-up alien contact sci-fi."
    The Sun (UK) Best of 2012

    praise for Startide Rising

    Guys, this is why I read Science Fiction. I'm a sucker for a big, thick novel with big ideas and cool galaxy spanning concepts. This book had it in spades. It's not an easy read, and it's certainly not for everyone, but it really hit all the right notes for me. It's why I consider it an Elitist Classic.
    — Elitist Classics review

    praise for Earth

    "The struggle to save the planet gives Brin the occasion to recap recent global events: a world war fought to wrest all caches of secret information from the grip of an elite few; a series of ecological disasters brought about by environmental abuse; and the effects of a universal interactive data network on beginning to turn the world into a true global village. Fully dimensional and engaging characters with plausible motivations bring drama to these scenarios. Brin's exciting prose style will probably make this a Hugo nominee, and will certainly keep readers turning pages."
    — Publishers Weekly

    final thoughts ...

    ... for this page, at least ...

    in memoriam: Ray Bradbury

    Ray Bradbury was the last living member of a "BACH" quartet — writers who transformed science fiction from a pulp magazine ghetto into a genre for hardcover bestsellers. Isaac Asimov, Arthur Clarke and Robert Heinlein helped shatter barriers for the rest of us, establishing the legitimacy of literature that explores possible or plausible tomorrows. But it was Bradbury who made clear to everyone that science fiction can be an art form combining boldness and broad horizons with sheer, unadulterated beauty.

    in memoriam: Jack Williamson

    Jack Willaimson was no Yankee trader, but he might have been. His life is one long tale of hoodwinking fate, of turning adversity into advantage, and above all, changing the world through the sheer magic of his perceptions. By seeing the universe in a new way — and conveying his vision through science fiction — Williamson helped break the old spell that held human beings enthralled for so long. The tradition of static sameness. The old fear of innovation.