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Sci-Fi Books For Pre-Teens? 1419

Posted by kdawson
from the needle-definitely-oh-and-mission-of-gravity dept.
o2binbuzios writes "I have two pre-teen boys who are avid readers, and I am going through my mental catalog for great sci-fi & fantasy books for them. What are some of the classics (and maybe new additions to the classics) that would be great for them to read? I am asking because some of the 'straight-up' classics I remember actually seem kind of dark & cynical for younger readers. Starship Troopers and some of the other Heinlein are definitely darker and more political than I remember... Foundation Trilogy and psycho-history maybe too dry. Road-trip reading season is upon us — what are the good reads for the kids in the back seat?"
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Sci-Fi Books For Pre-Teens?

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  • Try these (Score:4, Informative)

    by fyngyrz (762201) * on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:08PM (#24109163) Homepage Journal

    I'd suggest you try Anne McCaffrery's "Decision at Doona" and James Blish's "Welcome to Mars."

    Both are great SF, both are aimed at younger readers, both are upbeat and greatly enjoyable to read.

    • Re:Try these (Score:5, Informative)

      by TheRedSeven (1234758) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:20PM (#24109327) Homepage
      Anne McCaffery has some good ones, but they are generally dragon & space oriented. Pretty good reads, and there's quite a few in the series.

      Orson Scott Card has Ender's Game (and several more in that series). These are definately classic.

      A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle, and the follow-ups are all very well written, though some of the deeper themes might be a bit above your kids depending on how sharp they are.

      CS Lewis' Space Trilogy is excellent, though it gets pretty violent, and might be a bit advanced for pre-teens.

      Terry Pratchett's books are funny, but they tend to spoof the politics and happenings of the US and the UK, so your kids might not grasp all the jokes. Much better would be Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the (increasingly misnamed) Hitchhiker's Trilogy (there are five books there).

      If you like, you might even start them on JRR Tolkien, which is more fantasy than sci-fi, but definitely a classic. You also have the advantage of the movies once they're done with the books. (Books are better though.)

      Those are my picks, and that should be enough reading for at least this summer, if not longer. You can also walk into your local Borders and ask someone. There's tons of great kids books in Sci-Fi...
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Addams and Tolkien Great choices.

        But since the topic is scifi"&"fantasy I suggest the Christopher Stacheff Books in the Warlock series. It's about a space "secret agent" who is sent to a world where magic appears to be a real phenomenon. Witches, shapeshifters, robots and rayguns. Its great stuff.

        http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/s/christopher-stasheff/ [fantasticfiction.co.uk]

        C.

        • Re:Try these (Score:5, Insightful)

          by iocat (572367) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @12:04AM (#24111461) Homepage Journal
          All the books by British author John Christopher are really great. The Tripod series, and the Burning Lands series [wikipedia.org] are both post-post-apolyptic and blew my mind when I read then around age 12 or 13. Nerds of a certain age may remember that the Tripod series was serialized in comic form in Boys Life for years in the 1980s.

          The burning lands series has some great elements of questions about science and technology whether or not its use is ultimately good or evil -- good food for thought for youngersters raised in the Internet age, and also is sex-scene free.

          Additionally, if you read some books you now think are too old for your kids, maybe you should consider that those books were too old for YOU, and you turned out fine! I cringe when my son reads MAD, but it was probably just as nihlistic and subversive in the 1970s as it is today.

      • Re:Try these (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Famanoran (568910) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @10:15PM (#24110161)

        Anne McCaffrey is definitely on the top list, along with David Eddings.

      • Re:Try these (Score:4, Interesting)

        by herdingcats (21219) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @10:16PM (#24110175)

        i can still tell you the exact time and place i picked up my first sci-fi read.

        i was thirteen, in junior high school, and it was Heinlein's "The Star Beast". that was decades ago.

        been hooked ever since. don't always have time for it, but always come back to it.

        don't live in the parent's basement or fit any other definitions of hardcore nerd- or geek-dom, but picking up that first sci-fi book (and i subsequently read _all_ of heinlein, hebert, asimov, campbell, pournelle, niven and the rest) definitely started me on a path to looking at the world with different eyes.

        the guys that write sci-fi (especially in the "golden age") are/were genuine pioneers of thought. fuck disney; they're the _real_ imagineers.

        i can't recommend more highly turning your kids on to a "thinking out of the box" genre like sci-fi.

        as to which first? don't know; times change, but you see where i started, for better or worse.

        hell, i'm just glad someone wants their kids to actually read.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by GryMor (88799)

        Heinlein's juveniles [wikipedia.org] aren't dark.

        Niven's stuff may work, depending on your definition of dark.

        I can't think of any of Frank Herbert's [wikipedia.org] work that isn't dark (or at least twisted) though the Jorj X McKie [wikipedia.org] ones may just be a bit odd (I Arthur C Clark's work? Certainly some classics, although, a bit slow in places.

        And a random smattering of alternate suggestions:
        Greg Bear
        Peter F Hamilton [wikipedia.org]
        David Weber [wikipedia.org]
        Louis McMaster Bujold [wikipedia.org]
        David Brin [wikipedia.org]

      • Re:Try these (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fireboy1919 (257783) <rustyp@@@freeshell...org> on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:16PM (#24111001) Homepage Journal

        Terry Pratchett's books are funny, but they tend to spoof the politics and happenings of the US and the UK, so your kids might not grasp all the jokes.

        You're just thinking of the Discworld, which isn't even Sci-Fi. Then there's the Diggers and the Johnny Maxwell trilogy, both of which are actually Sci-Fi series written for children. Kids should be able to get those jokes. They have lessons in them, too. It's a complete package. Pratchett also happens to be an amazing writer. His command of language, plotlines, and character development are a wonder to behold. People have written doctorate theses examining the art that is Terry Pratchett's work. So he's definitely a good choice.

        Anne McCaffery has some good ones

        You're reading them as an adult, and you're glossing over things. Her novels are definitely PG-13, or possible R rated. She makes sex and death an everyday part of her novels, and not the Judy Bloom way. Characters are mating with/killing other characters, and she's describing how it makes them feel, which makes it much more real than seeing random redshirt die in Star Trek, or Kirk sleep with the green chick.

        CS Lewis' Space Trilogy is excellent, though it gets pretty violent, and might be a bit advanced for pre-teens.

        Definitely. The language is too complex for most. It's also highly Christian. As in, the protagonist is a Christian fighting the forces of Satan with the aid of angels. And this isn't all symbolic/easy to overlook like it is with the Chronicles of Narnia. So if you're hostile to Christianity, don't have them read it. If, however, you're not, it's a really good read. One of the first sci-fi novels written where you actually end up getting to know what the characters are *feeling*.

        Which is a problem with the early works of the genre as a whole (i.e., pre-1960 or so). Start with people who actually write well to get them hooked on reading. Sadly, quite a few of the classics - Heinlein, Asimov, Bradbury, Wells - are terrible writers. They have excellent ideas from the broad "wouldn't this make a good story?" sense, but their command of language, plot development, and characters aren't as vivid as many of their counterparts of the times they wrote. That was just the way that sci-fi was. Most important of these is the characters. The timid reader has to become attached to them early on in the story so that he'll keep reading.

        Later, once they're voracious readers, they can take on the guys who have great ideas but don't write well. They won't need to constantly be fed the writing equivalent of high definition to want to "view" it.

        And for that reason, I definitely like the parent. These writers he has chosen are really good at writing to grab the readers and hold their attention.

        Bearing that in mind, I have two more authors to add:

        David Eddings - he's known for his endearing characters. Unfortunately, I don't think he's ever strayed from writing fantasy. The important poitn is that you can basically start with "you liked Harry Potter? Why don't you read this..." IMHO, going from Harry Potter books to David Eddings is a fairly natural progression. Once you've absorbed those, you're pretty well prepared to move into heavier stuff.

        Alan Dean Foster - writes, among other things, the "Pip and Flinx" novels. While he's not the greatest writer in the world, Flinx is a young boy at the start, and very well developed as a character. Young readers will identify with the feelings and attitudes that Flinx goes through as he transitions into someone remarkable.

        • by itsdapead (734413) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @08:20AM (#24114975)

          Definitely. The language is too complex for most. It's also highly Christian. As in, the protagonist is a Christian fighting the forces of Satan with the aid of angels.

          Nothing wrong with reading CS Lewis provided you go on to read Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials for balance (protagonist fighting the forces of God and the church with the aid of witches and fallen angels...)

          PS: Beware - do not place His Dark Materials on the shelf next to Narnia or the Space trilogy - they will annihilate each other in a burst of dark matter.

      • Re:Try these (Score:4, Informative)

        by willib (590293) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:18PM (#24111035)
        H Beam Piper The Fuzzy series are great books Most can be found on the gutenburg project
  • Jules Verne (Score:5, Informative)

    by Spy der Mann (805235) <spydermann.slash ... Hl.com minus cat> on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:11PM (#24109187) Homepage Journal

    When I was a kid, I had a lot of fun time reading Journey to the Center of the Earth, from the Earth to the Moon, etc.

    • Re: E.E. Doc Smith (Score:3, Informative)

      by fyngyrz (762201) *

      Those are good. Along those lines, if the readers in question can put up with a style like Verne's (in the sense that it isn't a modern style) they might enjoy E.E. Doc Smith's Skylark and Lensman series; those were very cool to read. The styles can be a show-stopper for some, though. Personally, I just re-read the Skylarks and they were great.

      • Re: E.E. Doc Smith (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:43PM (#24109705) Journal

        A problem with the Skylark and Lensman series is that they were written when eugenics was still popular in the US, before the NAZIs made such a graphic display of their dark-side implications. The good guys are good guys and the bad guys bad guys largely due to their genetics. The last book of the Lensman series shows that the police/military organization you've been following was actually a secret breeding program, run by behind-the-scenes aliens, to produce a human master race to rule the galaxy and wipe out their ancient enemies.

        Whenever I feel like trusting government officials I re-read the section of _The Grey Lensman_ where an "unattached lensman" (a supercop, with carte blanch to do whatever he pleases, no oversight, massive resources, and a gadget that lets him wiretap minds remotely) wipes out a nest of dope dealers by calling in the equivalent of a massive surprise nuclear carpet-bombing on the city they're in, to vaporize them all before they can get away.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bsDaemon (87307)

      agreed!

      I'm less than a month past my 24th birthday and have just started getting into Jules Verne. He's not just for kids - its great literature and you can learn a lot. Verne was waaaay ahead of his time with some of the things he discusses.

      For instance, he proposes hydrogen fuel cells (using electricity to separate the hydrogen and the oxygen) as an alternative to coal (which he predicts to run out in 250-300 years) in "The Mysterious Island," which is sort of the sequel to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

    • Re:Jules Verne (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SputnikPanic (927985) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:33PM (#24109547)

      At first I was going to suggest The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, and the Foundation series -- you know, the classics. Then I got to thinking a bit and the sad thing is that I'm not sure the kids today would appreciate those works as much as we did when we were their age. If they were to read those when they're slightly older or maybe even as adults, then maybe they might appreciate them more. But now? Probably not so much. I mean, we're talking about a generation that's grown up on a style of television and film different from that that we grew up with. Today, a camera angle rarely holds for more than 10 seconds before it cuts to another angle.

      All this to say that I think your recommendation of the Verne novels is pretty spot on. There's more plot and more stuff happens in those Verne novels -- which are indeed great -- than in the works of Bradbury and Asimov which tend to be more contemplative and intellectual.

      • Re:Jules Verne (Score:4, Insightful)

        by GradiusCVK (1017360) <originalcvk@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:15PM (#24110983)
        Yes, you keep shoveling horse manure at your kids and they will grow up with a taste for horse manure. Why are you all so quick to discount your kids? Do you honestly consider them to be "not good enough" to enjoy tasteful books? How about not trying to lower the level of entertainment to what you perceive as their standards, but elevate it to what is likely well within their reach. As a young child I had a major hardon for "contemplative and intellectual" books, and I'm only 23 now, and not an outlier for my generation. Due to your own pre-screening of their entertainment, your children will grow up to be exactly as superficial and attention-deficient as you expect them to be.
  • by drdanny_orig (585847) * on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:12PM (#24109195)
    Always at the top of my list. It's one of those books that when you finish, you think "how the hell did he fit all that in so few pages?" I can't remember if there's any sax or violins, but that's good for kids too.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ugmo (36922)

      I love almost all of Larry Niven's books but World Out of Time may not be good for pre-teen boys. Part of the plot is that most of humanity is wiped out. The remainder is look like pre-teen boys but are actually immortal. So far so good. These boys do maintain a breeding population that consists mostly of women with the minimal number of men to keep them pregnant. There is at least 1 orgy scene and some other sex scenes. Minimal violence though. So if you don't mind your 10 year olds reading about orgies, g

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by drinkypoo (153816)

        This is going to go into the borders of TMI territory, but I have to admit to being turned on by events that I found even in Piers Anthony's Xanth books as a teenage boy - when let's face it, anything will accomplish that. It does not seem to have unduly warped me, however; for example, I do not believe Piers Anthony to be a competent author now that I am an adult.

        Long story short, kids will actually seek that stuff out once they know it exists; but they have a short attention span and low burnout factor. O

  • Terry Pratchett (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rminsk (831757) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:12PM (#24109199)
    Almost anything by Terry Pratchett.
  • Modesitt (Score:4, Informative)

    by YoungHack (36385) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:12PM (#24109203)

    I like the Recluse series by L. E. Modesitt. I read those books over and over.

  • Ender's Game (Score:5, Informative)

    by MattW (97290) <matt@ender.com> on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:12PM (#24109209) Homepage

    Ender's Game [ender.com], of course.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by porcupine8 (816071)
      I would add to this that kids are much more likely to enjoy the Ender's Shadow line of sequels that focus on Bean rather than the actual Ender sequels like Speaker of the Dead. Hell, I couldn't even get through that whole series - Xenocide was bad enough, I still haven't bothered to pick up Children of the Mind. The Ender's Shadow series, on the other hand, keeps a lot of the pacing and feel of the first book instead of plodding into endless philosophical discussion.
  • by gral (697468) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <37rracsk>> on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:14PM (#24109243) Homepage
    He is the same guy that wrote Tarzan. There are several on http://www.gutenberg.org/browse/authors/b#a48 [gutenberg.org] They are a little light on the Science part on occasion, but they were written in 1914.
  • by PlatyPaul (690601) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:16PM (#24109271) Homepage Journal
    Back in six grade, we read "Invitation to the Game" [amazon.com] by Monica Hughes, and I've been hooked on scifi ever since.

    Brief plot synopsis: unemployment is skyrocketing due to mass mechanization of society, although the unemployed are well taken-care-of due to the same efficient use of resources. It can be dull to be unemployed, at least until you get an invitation on your doorstep mentioning a secret game with a very exclusive list of players.

    Mystery/adventure/scifi, very highly rated, but do not read the Amazon editorials (thar be spoilers afoot).
  • Heinlein juveniles (Score:5, Informative)

    by opencity (582224) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:16PM (#24109281) Homepage

    Citizen of the Galaxy, Farmer in the Sky, Have Space Suit will Travel, Starman Jones - all by Heinlein. These are his juveniles and are all good stories, drama and action along with some moralizing about studying hard etc ... I read them as a kid and was hooked. The Larry Niven short stories.

    • by DeComposer (551766) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @10:38PM (#24110507) Journal
      • Rocket Ship Galileo
      • Space Cadet
      • Red Planet
      • Farmer in the Sky
      • Between Planets
      • The Rolling Stones
      • Starman Jones
      • The Star Beast
      • Tunnel in the Sky
      • Time for the Stars
      • Citizen of the Galaxy
      • Have Space Suit--Will Travel
  • by gunnk (463227) <<ude.cnu.gpf.liam> <ta> <knnug>> on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:16PM (#24109283) Homepage
    Both Bradbury and Heinlein are wonderful. I loved The Martian Chronicles in Junior High.

    On the Heinlein side, check out his youth fiction rather than his more political stuff. He wrote a bunch of novels targeted directly at youth.
  • Everything (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Saxerman (253676) * on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:20PM (#24109335) Homepage
    My advice would be, don't hold back. I had a voracious appetite for books as a teenager which crossed many demographics and genres. But the most memorable to me are the ones with more of an adult edge that really made me think. Personally, I think we spend too much time holding children back and looking to make their lives better than our own. Not every novel I've read was a classic, but there are very few I would say I didn't at least enjoy. Let them read everything you can get your hands on that looks interesting.
  • Van Vogt, Russell (Score:4, Informative)

    by shoor (33382) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:21PM (#24109357)

    I mostly bring up old-timers because they're the ones I read when I was young. Asimov's Robot novels like "Caves Of Steel" might be more appealing than the Foundation stuff. Heinlein wrote a lot of juveniles. I've read that "Starship Troopers" was supposed to be a juvenile but it was deemed to rough by the editors and re-marketed as adult. However, "Double Star" is a good juvenile by Heinlein.

    In the old days, Sci-Fi was mostly short stories, go find good anthologies! The Science Fiction Hall Of Fame anthology of the best science fiction stories is a good place to start.

    Other recommendations would be "Voyage Of The Space Beagle" by Van Vogt, "Wasp" by Eric Frank Russell.

  • by PCM2 (4486) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:22PM (#24109383) Homepage

    No doubt Slashdot is full of Harry Potter haters. I was one, too, until I actually read the entire series last month. It's still not exactly my cuppa, but it's an incredibly well-crafted work of fantasy fiction for young adults. The first couple of books are pure wish-fulfillment, which will appeal to any pre-teen. The books are too long for young readers to make it through all of them back to back, though, so by the time they get around to the later volumes, they will be just the right age to appreciate the darker aspects and more complex themes of the series's conclusion.

    Unfortunately, most kids will probably just watch the movies.

    • by russellh (547685) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:37PM (#24109619) Homepage
      I read the entire Harry Potter series to my seven year-old daughter. She *loved* it, and even though we've seen the first few movies, she likes the books much, much better. So much more detail in them, much more involving.
    • Red Wall (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mkiwi (585287)

      Along a similar line as Harry Potter-
      I'm surprised no one has mentioned Brian Jacques' "Red Wall" series of books. Perhaps I am getting older, but those were a lot of fun when I was in elementary school.

      The series is about various critters who act like humans. Lots of well described scenes, battles, and specific personality traits characteristic of which type of critter you are looking at. Your kids will probably learn some vocabulary too.

      Thoughtful and well written series of books.

  • by The Rizz (1319) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:22PM (#24109385)

    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a good, easy read, and is what actually got me started reading Sci-Fi.
    Ender's Game is excellent, and while a little dark in places, it's no darker than most classic fairy tales.

    Also, if you're at all interested in getting them some fantasy books, two of the absolute best reads would have to be Clive Barker's The Thief of Always, and China Mieville's Un Lun Dun.

  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:25PM (#24109439) Journal

    Here's some that got me started, back in the late 50s. They are all quite accessible to a young reader:

    Eric Frank Russel's _Wasp_ (Also good: _The Space Willies_ A.K.A. _Next of Kin_)
    Murray Leinster's Med Ship series.
    Hal Clemmet's _Needle_ (A.K.A _From Outer Space_)
    Heinlein's _Red Planet_
    George O. Smith's _Space Plague_ (A.K.A. _Highways in Hiding_) and _Venus Equilateral_ (though the latter is quite dated, using vacuum tube technology.)

  • Foundation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mrsam (12205) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:26PM (#24109441) Homepage

    "Foundation" is not "too dry". The best thing you can do for your kids is to give them reading material -- sci-fi or any other genre -- that challenges their mind, and makes them think.

    Before Foundation, though, get them started on three Robot novels, then the seven Foundation books. After they're done with Asimov, give them the three Lord Of The Rings books. I read all three LOTR in my early teens, in high school. They weren't "too dry", in the least. I loved them. I had no problems with it, and English isn't even my native language.

    Don't be afraid to challenge your kids. Challenging reading material is very good brain food. Other suggestions:

    * The first three Mars books, by Edgar Rice Burrows. Some of that (mostly the first book) is a bit dated, and a bit bizarre (everyone on Mars walks around naked, and Martian women lay eggs). But, once you get passed the weird stuff, it's great pulp.

    * War of the Worlds, by HG Wells

    * A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's court, by Mark Twain. Yes, it's sci-fi/fantasy.

    That should be enough to last until next year. Come back then for more stuff to suggest.

  • give 'em all of it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BootNinja (743040) <mack...mcneely@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:28PM (#24109473) Homepage

    Ringworld, Snowcrash, Cryptonomicon, The Hobbit, LOTR, Harry Potter, Odd Thomas, Dragonlance (the stuff written by Weiss and Hickman, not the 3rd party crap), Star Trek novels, Sword of Truth, A Game of Thrones, Neuromancer is pretty edgy, but a great read. My younger brothers absolutely loved a series called Animorphs. When I was about 12 I really enjoyed Swiss Family Robinson. Maybe throw in some classics like Frankenstein and Dracula. H.G. Wells Time Machine, Gulliver's Travels, Around the World in 80 days, Dune

    I would also second the suggestions of Card's early work. Ender's Game, Songmaster, The Shadow Series, The first few Alvin Maker books are good. I would definitely get them to read Pastwatch: the Redemption of Christopher Columbus.

    You also can't go wrong with comics. There's a lot of really good stuff in trade paperback these days. You can introduce them to Marvel's Ultimate lines; Ultimate Spiderman, Ultimate Fantastic Four, etc. These series start over and reboot the universe. They will be more compelling for young readers because there isn't 40 years of continuity to sift through.

    I would also suggest giving them books that you enjoyed as a child, or even an adult. Just because something is edgy or political doesn't make it automagically inappropriate for a child. You can tell them to come to you with any questions, and you will end up raising a kid who's wise beyond his years, and that will serve the kid well as he gets older.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SpiritGod21 (884402)

      I was practically raised by the DragonLance Saga (definitely Weis and Hickman, though don't avoid Knack's The Legend of Huma), which taught me a lot of my morals. Good guys wear silver armour, bad guys wear black. Honour and chilvary are paramount. Tears that honour life are OK, and we must never give up hope.

      I think I cracked my first DragonLance novel around the age of eight or nine. Definitely grade A fantasy for the younglings.

      As others have mentioned, McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern novels are all gre

  • Darkover! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Deadstick (535032) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:29PM (#24109477)
    One of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series, Star of Danger, is pitched at younger readers...and it could lead them into reading the whole series when they get a bit older. Couldn't put those books down.

    rj

  • by moosesocks (264553) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:32PM (#24109525) Homepage

    I'm not a huge sci-fi reader, but also never really found what I read to be all that difficult.

    'Dune' is a great place to start out. I was never able to get through the sequals, but the original is a classic. Possibly a bit advanced and cynical, but definitely on the 'required reading' list. The Sci-Fi channel miniseries is also excellent.

    Another obvious recommendation is The Hitchhikers Guide series. They're easy, they're funny, and unfortunately not strictly sci-fi. Either way, I'd have a hard time thinking of reasons not to read something by Douglas Adams.

    On the fantasy end of things (more my tastes, and still closely related to SF), I'd strongly recommend His Dark Materials, LoTR (if you can manage to get through the first 250 pages), and anything by Terry Pratchett.

    If your sons have any interest in The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan, I'd highly recommend starting early, as the average lifespan of the typical human is only just barely long enough to cram them all in (I jest, but seriously.... if you follow the user-submitted reviews of the books on Amazon, the readers get fewer and angrier as the series goes on with seemingly no end in sight).

    • by SlowMovingTarget (550823) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:02PM (#24110821) Homepage

      My dad introduced me to science fiction by bringing home a "kid's" novel one day. I couldn't have been much older than eight or nine. I tore through it as quickly as I could, sneaking a flashlight under the covers to finish it. It was Tom Swift: The City in the Stars [bobfinnan.com]. As each new one came out, I'd spend my allowance on it (when I wasn't saving for a Lego set).

      I was hooked. I made it through the sixth book in the series before I tumbled to the fact that this wasn't the original series. At that point I became a regular at the library and checked out every Tom Swift book they had. That's how I learned about this "interloan" thing.

      I'd never been out of the kid's section before but I noticed that the library had this whole other back section that wasn't nonfiction, and wasn't kid's books. I walked back through it and to my amazement I discovered shelf after shelf full of fiction and a fair number of the books had the letters SF written in Sharpie on a label card on the spine. Magic!

      I decided to try out my first "Adult" science fiction novel and I thought robots were just the coolest thing (next to spaceships of course, but all decent science fiction had spaceships in it). Robots of Dawn had just arrived, and since the title sounded cool, I grabbed it from the returns rack. I became a lifelong fan of Isaac Asimov after the first chapter. I went back to the library and dug up as many books by him as I could find, not just his science fiction, but the Ellery Queen stories, his science books, as much as I could find in the library's catalog or through the interloan program.

      I began reading back issues of Astounding Science Fiction, Analog, Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine (IASFM!), and discovered other authors. Many of the story intros or commentaries in anthologies had mentioned this Dune novel, so I decided to check it out. I had to renew it because I couldn't read through it in three weeks (it was 1984, the same year the David Lynch movie was released... I was ten). It was a revelation.

      From there, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Silverberg, Heinlein, Simak, Gordon R. Dickson, Phillip K. Dick, Sturgeon, Bradbury, Poul Anderson, Piers Anthony, Douglas Adams, C.J. Cherryh, Kim Stanley Robinson, Spider Robinson, Ursula K. Leguin, Joan D. Vinge, Vernor Vinge, and more, and more. But to understand all of these, I had to get their references, and so I began to dig into Dickens and Melville and Shakespeare. By the time I was in Junior High School, I was more widely read than just about any other kid in school.

      Don't sell your kids short thinking they're too young for Asimov. Granted, his writings are a gateway drug.

  • Earthsea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bob54321 (911744) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:32PM (#24109535)
    Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea novels + short stories are a fairly easy read. Also each is quite short. Can't remember anything in it that might not be suitable for younger children offhand.
  • Valentine's Castle (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gyrogeerloose (849181) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:33PM (#24109555) Journal
    by Robert Silverberg. Gripping plot, accessible on several levels, no naughty words that I can recall.
  • For Kids Of All Ages (Score:3, Informative)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:37PM (#24109621) Journal

    Pretty much all Hienlien's earlier stuff is what I call "boy scout" stories. I developed the term from his Sunjammer solar sail story that premiered in the boy scout magazine "Boys Life".

    And every kid of any age should read everything from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. Besides 36 novels, he's written some books specific to younger readers (and won awards for same) and there's been both animated and live versions of some of the Discowrld books made. The Discowrld stories are much like the old Bugs Bunny cartoons -- well done for and received by kids, but some more esoteric pieces inserted specifically for those who can find them -- mostly for adults, sometimes for specialists (like the details of the "clacks" being there for techheads).

    Asimov's collections of short stories are good for kids and he puts in well explained details of the science involved. And if you can interest them in these, then you can give them his collections of science essays, which are equally entertaining but even more educational. By the time they catch on to the latter, they'll be more interested in learning more, and that's the best thing that can happen from all this.

  • by GeorgeVW (599773) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:44PM (#24109729)
    My wife is the current librarian of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, and there's a Children's Recommended Reading List [lasfsinc.info] that the club has been keeping up for some time. There's a lot of stuff on there, and it should offer some guidance.
  • Piers Anthony (Score:3, Interesting)

    by KGIII (973947) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:45PM (#24109747) Journal
    Though his Xanth series is probably more widely known there are others to choose from. Terry Pratchett had some good stuff for kids as I recall though I think I only read one of them and it was about gnome type critters but good reading regardless.
  • Heinlein (Score:4, Informative)

    by mknewman (557587) * on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:48PM (#24109793)
    Most of Heinlein's early works (Tunnel in the Sky is my favorite) are pre-teen fodder. It's not till the 60's when he started getting into the more mature stuff. As a kid I whet my teeth on Tom Swift Jr., by Victor Appleton III. There were a bunch of earlier ones that were Tom Swift Sr. that I didn't find as interesting, Tom Swift and his Motorcycle, etc. There are a bunch of new generation ones also, Tom Swift and his IPod or whatever. Any good library's sci-fi section should do splendidly, especially at their schools. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Swift [wikipedia.org] By the way, I got my daughter to read Tunnel in the Sky and she loved it. She's now devouring Bradbury books after reading Farenheit 451 in school (8th grade).
    • Tom Swift!!!! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by BLKMGK (34057)

      Oh heck yes! There have been multiple generations of this series. The older stuff like Tom Swift and his biplane perhaps not as interesting but there were at LEAST 3 generations after that! I actually collect some of the really old ones - now nearly 90 years old and have some of the 2nd and 3rd gen ones too, I think there's a 4th newest generation as well.

      For stuff that is NOT dark, not super violent, and a decent read for younger people this stuff is great I think. It's like Sci-Fi Hardy Boys. When I was a

  • Little Fuzzy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by way2trivial (601132) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:51PM (#24109851) Homepage Journal

    H. Beam Piper.

    2-3 sequels..
    fuzzy sapiens...

    a great read- similar to heinline juveniles.

    hard to find-- worth the search....

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Nimey (114278)

      Ah, another Piper fan. I also strongly recommend the Paratime stories and especially _Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen_.

  • by gorehog (534288) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:55PM (#24109897)

    I loved sci-fi short stories as a kid.

    I, Robot by Isaac Asimov (get the book of short stories not the movie adaptation)

    The Wind From The Sun is a good collection of Arthur C. Clarke.

    If you can find 'em, the Danny Dunn series of books were great, always had hard core science. Kinda like the Hardy Boys, but with a sci-fi influence. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danny_Dunn [wikipedia.org]

    Sherlock Holmes!

  • by syousef (465911) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @10:08PM (#24110073) Journal

    Don't try to avoid dark in sci-fi. A lot of the best sci fi is more about exploring the human psyche - the technology or remote physical setting is more a tool than the focus of the story.

    My recommendation: Go for a short story collection. Anything by Asimov would be good. Or failing that try a collection that exposes the youngster to a wide variety of authors, but in short little bursts. Any story that isn't interesting can be skipped, or if read won't turn into a long drawn out drag that'll put the little tike off.

    If short stories aren't what you want, try Cities in Flight James Blish.

  • Jules Verne books (Score:3, Informative)

    by BlueBlade (123303) <mafortier AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @10:11PM (#24110109)

    The first books I've read and still remember fondly these days were The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne. I think I was 9 or 10 years old at the time and the edition I read had some pencil-drawn pictures every 5 pages or so.

    Amazing, engrossing story of a group of people lost on an island and how they build their own little pocket of civilization. There's an engineer in the group and they build a watermill, a telegraph, etc. They even rebuff a pirate attack! I thought that was the coolest thing ever. I absolutely loved those books (I think it's only a single book, but the ones I had were split in two). They are accessible and I don't remember anything objectionable in them. There's a little tie-in at the end with Captain Nemo, from the Twenty Leagues Under the Seas story, but the books stand on their own.

    I highly recommend this book. Hmm, I wonder if I can find a good online version of it to read again...

  • Clarke (Score:5, Informative)

    by Nicodemus (19510) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @10:33PM (#24110445) Homepage

    Anything written by Arthur C Clarke. I was devouring everything clark when I was around 10. I started with Rendezvous with Rama, which remains my favorite book of all time. It was actualy on the pre-teen shelf at the library when I was a kid. The sequels are really good, too, imo... though many disagree. The 2001 series is good, Hammer of God, Songs of Distant Earth, Childhood's End. Too many to list. Sometimes the themes are a little advanced, but don't underestimate young readers. I think kids should pick up more advanced books early anyways... it helps development. Too many adults these days are still stuck in a Dr. Seuss world =)

    Nicodemus

  • by CDarklock (869868) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @10:35PM (#24110461) Homepage Journal

    You don't remember these books as dry and cynical because you didn't care.

    You're not seeing them the same way today. Just as I look back on books I loved as a child and see new things, so do you. But the fact remains: they were good books. Children are very, very good at ignoring the things they don't understand in favor of the things they do.

    Consider just handing them Heinlein, and letting them figure it out for themselves. Children are robust little machines for making sense of the world. Give them "Stranger in a Strange Land"; all the sex and religion parts whizzed right by me as a kid, and I mainly came away from it with an appreciation for cultural differences. So if you were looking at that book thinking the sex and religion parts were too much, you might be right, but you're also throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

  • by Samrobb (12731) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @10:44PM (#24110577) Homepage Journal

    Series:

    • Steven Brust's "Jhereg" series
    • Glen Cook's "Black Company" series
    • Jim Butcher's "Cursor" series
    • Tamora Pierce's "Lady Knight" series

    Novels:

    • "God Stalk" and "Dark of the Moon" by PC Hodgell
    • "The Practice Effect" by David Brin
    • "Spaceling" by Doris Piserchia
    • "Dreamsnake" by Vonda Mcintyre
    • "Doorways in the Sand" and "Lord Demon" by Zelazny
    • "Millenium" by John Varley
    • "The Door Into Summer" by RAH
    • "Caves of Steel" by Asimov
    • "City", "Mastadonia", "Project Pope", "Cemetery World", "The Goblin Reservation"... really, just about anything by Clifford D. Simak.
    • Ditto for anything by Manly Wade Wellman

    Collections:

    • "Unacomapnied Sonata" by Orson Scott Card
    • "Unicorn Variations" by Zelazny
    • "The Best of Frederick Brown" by... well... Frederick Brown
    • "The Long ARM of Gil Hamilton" by Larry Niven
    • "Casebook of Jules De Grandin" by Seabury Quinn
  • Another fan's list (Score:4, Informative)

    by Sierran (155611) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @10:55PM (#24110727)

    I'll try to stick to ones I didn't see on a fast pass through the topic...

    • George R.R. Martin's Tuf Voyaging
    • Lester Del Rey's Runaway Robot is one for late pre-teens I fondly remember
    • C.J. Cherryh's Chanur books
    • Scott Westerfeld's The Midnighters series (more urban fantasy, I guess)
    • Christopher Anvil's Interstellar Patrol stories
    • It's really hard to find, but This Time of Darkness by H.M. Hoover
    • Roger Zelazny's The Last Defender of Camelot story collection, which includes both the more adult Damnation Alley but my favorite short novel ever, For A Breath I Tarry.
    • John Varley's Red Thunder is a Heinlein juvenile homage
    • Alexander Key's Rivets and Sprockets (also hard to find but wonderful)
    • Eleanor Cameron's The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet
    • Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451
    • Madeleine L'Engle's The Young Unicorns
    • Steven C. Gould's Jumper and Wildside
    • Andre Norton's Star Guard
    • L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz (dammit! :-))
    • Brian Daley's Han Solo books (the older ones, pre-Star Wars licensing craze - Han Solo at Star's End, Han Solo's Revenge, Han Solo and the Lost Legacy).
    • John M. (Mike) Ford's excellent Star Trek novel The Final Reflection and his excellent Princes of the Air

    As always, vet for yourself! Good luck! I envy your kids, just starting out with all the wonder out there.

  • by techno-vampire (666512) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:00PM (#24110793) Homepage
    There's a list of books suitable for children from six to sixteen at The LASFS website. [lasfs.info] It's one of the many projects of This World's Oldest Science Fiction Club.
  • by pvera (250260) <pedro.vera@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:09PM (#24110911) Homepage Journal

    and I really enjoyed Jules Verne. The Asimov short stories are really good and not as convoluted as Foundation.

    Asimov's robot series are also pretty simple unless you try to make them fit into the big picture, then it turns into a huge headache. I still remember throwing Prelude to Foundation across the room when I realized that it connected to some other Asimov books I always assumed to be isolated.

    The litmus test for when a kid is ready for Asimov is to let him read "The Last Question" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Question).

    If the kid goes "uh, whoa" at the end of the story, then he is ready for Asimov.

    If he can't figure it out, then he isn't ready.

    If he goes "this is bullshit, what a bullshit ending!" then there's nothing for you to worry about, hand him some Philip K. Dick and see what happens.

  • Childhood Fantasy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Caleb615 (1322277) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @12:47AM (#24111839)

    The following are all "coming of age" stories which I hope might appeal to your children. Most are winners of the Nebula and or Newberry prizes for literature - which generally means that they can be found in a local library. I will not bother to list all of the wonderful Heinlein novels and stories as they clearly have many champions, though I will plug the anthology "The Past through Tomorrow" which hooked me at age nine and started a life long passion for reading.

    David Eddings

    Lloyd Alexander

    • The Chronicles of Prydain [wikipedia.org] - wonderful series based around Welsh Mythology, basis of Disney's "The Black Cauldron". When Alexander died in 2007, his obituary in New York Magazine hoped that "The High King is everything we desperately hope Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will be."

    Ursula LeGuin

    • The Earthsea Trilogy [wikipedia.org] - I cannot recommend this series enough. If your children had any interest in the "Harry Potter" series this is a must read.

    R. A. MacAvoy

    T.H. White

    • The Once and Future King [wikipedia.org] - A fantasy based around the Arthurian Legend - the first book is "The Sword in the Stone".

    That should keep them busy over the summer.

  • by solprovider (628033) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @01:10AM (#24112063) Homepage

    Over 50 authors sorted by chronological age of readers. Some (e.g. Heinlein) have books for younger readers, but continuing with the author leads to adult books. All (except the Acorna series) are accessible to older readers.

    L. Frank Baum - classic Oz for the very young
    Lloyd Alexander - Prydain
    John Christopher (Samuel Youd) - Tripods series.
    Susan Cooper - Dark Is Rising series
    Robin McKinley
    Robert Asprin - Myth Adventures and Phule series. Other series should wait until mid-teens. Just bought Dragon's Wild -- not read yet, but seems more adult.
    Jody Lynn Nye - Mythology
    Terry Pratchet - Discworld
    Christopher Stasheff - Warlock series, earliest books will need to be reread when older; middle of series is great for children; latest are romances for late teens.
    Craig Shaw Gardner
    Piers Anthony - Xanth
    Brian Jacques - Redwall
    Lyndon Hardy - Only one fantasy trilogy.
    Harry Harrison - Stainless Steel Rat series. Many other books for different age groups.
    Marion Zimmer Bradley - Darkover
    Katherine Kurtz - Deryni
    Barbara Hambly
    Anne McCaffrey - Acorna series is for young children, painful for adults. Talents, Brainships, and Crystal Singer are for any age. Dragonriders vary starting late teens.
    Joel Rosenberg - Guardians of the Flame series; warning: main characters die!
    Stephen R. Donaldson - Mordant's Need (fantasy), then Gap series (SF). Covenant series for late teens.
    Alan Dean Foster - pulp writer great for children but too many clichés for adults.
    Edgar Rice Burroughs - classic Tarzan, Mars, and Pellucidar are mandatory.
    C. S. Lewis - Narnia
    Gordon Dickson - Dorsai (especially appealing to boys), many others.
    Terry Brooks (Magic Kingdom for Sale series)
    J. K. Rowling - Harry Potter, mandatory for this decade
    Fritz Leiber - Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series is great for boys
    John DeChancie - Castle series
    Fred Saberhagen - Empire of the East and Swords series
    Frederick Pohl
    James P. Hogan - SF
    Laura Resnick - Fantasy
    Orson Scott Card - Ender's Game, Shadow series, Enchantment, Songmaster, Magic Street.
    Spider Robinson - Deathkiller trilogy and short stories. Callahan's Series for late teens (fun but adult-themed jokes would be missed when very young.)
    L. E. Modesitt, Jr. - Ecolitan and Recluse series.
    W. Michael Gear - Now writing long-winded pulp with his wife, but his Spider trilogy (and "The Artifact" prequel) is incredible (warning: main characters die!)
    Philip José Farmer - World of Tiers
    Terry Goodkind - Sword of Truth series starts well
    Roger Zelazny - Amber
    David Farland (Dave Wolverton) - Runelords
    Jules Verne - classic
    H. G. Wells - classic
    Harry Turtledove - alternate histories, often fantasy.
    Douglas Adams - mandatory for potential nerds.
    Arthur C. Clarke
    Charles Ingrid - SF
    Robert L. Forward
    Isaac Asimov
    Robert Heinlein - mandatory for sci-fi discussions.
    Poul Anderson
    Larry Niven - Ringworld, etc.
    Jerry Pournelle
    Greg Bear
    Ray Bradbury
    Mike Resnick
    C. S. Friedman - often requires rereading to understand (even for adults)

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