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Topic: I need your recommendations

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Subject: I need your recommendations
Date Posted: 2/5/2008 9:47 AM ET
Member Since: 12/28/2006
Posts: 422
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I teach 9th grade literature in a conservative, private school setting. I would like to include the sci fi genre as I feel it is snubbed (by some) as not "true" great literature.  I am looking for suggestions other than the older masters of sci fi, such as Jules Verne and H.G. Wells.

My guidelines are: well written,  no sex (romance is fine) and no gratuitous violence. I am teaching Fahrenheit 451 this year (with some rumblings from parents-I feel it is worth reading) and plan on "The High House" by Stoddard the next year (I move up with the students).

Please post your suggestions here or PM me. Thanks in advance for your help!

Date Posted: 2/5/2008 1:54 PM ET
Member Since: 5/23/2005
Posts: 6,143
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Nina, definitely Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.  I think it would be really good for that age, and the conservative private school setting.  You could also follow it up with Speaker for the Dead, also by Card (which is the sequel).

Date Posted: 2/5/2008 10:12 PM ET
Member Since: 6/7/2007
Posts: 4
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OMG, where to begin....1) "The Giver" by Lois Lowry....future dystopia is the theme & it's a Newberry Award winner.  It was part  of my daughter's 8th grade reading in a conservative Catholic school.  Disturbing ending, so read it thru.

2)"The Left-Hand of Darkness" by Ursula K. LeGuin.  Alternate vision of a race of hermaphrodites & how their society develops.  No explicit sex.  Really would recommend anything by this author-she has a voice I've never found anything to compare to & her writing is technically very good.

3)"Starship Troopers" by Robert Heinlein.  A bit dated in outlook, but a good intro to this author.  I'd also recommend "The Moon is A Harsh Mistress" but the themes of polygamy & surrogate motherhood might not fly in a very conservative enviroment. 

4) "I,Robot"  by Isaac Asimov.  'Nuff said. (Seeing the movie doesn't count.)

5) "Night's Daughter" by Marion Zimmer Bradley.  A bit more towards fantasy.  The author took the bones of the story from Mozart's opera "The Magic Flute", so you could always fob that off on the parents.

6) "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?"  & "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale"  By Phillip K Dick.  Both have the advantage of being fairly short reads.  DADES was the basis for the movie "Blade Runner," but the film only bears a passing resemblance to the book.

7) "Jonny Mnemonic" by William Gibson.  Probably about the only one of his I'd recommend for your audience.  Short story, actually.  Does contain some references to substance abuse.

8) "Slan" by A.E. van Vogt.  This one is being republished this year in some anthologies, so it should be readily available, even though it was first published in 1940.  Theme is mutant humans in a post apocalyptic world & how they're accepted (or not) by normal humans.  Subtext is racial prejudice.

Whew!  Those are my rec off the top of my (admittedly opinionated) head.   Cheers.

Date Posted: 2/5/2008 10:50 PM ET
Member Since: 10/8/2007
Posts: 1,951
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Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

I'm pretty sure there isn't any sex or violence... and I know its increasingly read in English classes.

Last Edited on: 2/5/08 10:51 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 2/6/2008 7:58 AM ET
Member Since: 12/28/2006
Posts: 422
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Thanks for all the suggestions so far, keep them coming!

Date Posted: 2/6/2008 3:28 PM ET
Member Since: 9/17/2007
Posts: 367
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The Steam Magnate, by Dana Copithorne, satisfies your requirements; my review of it is here:


Date Posted: 2/6/2008 8:16 PM ET
Member Since: 1/2/2008
Posts: 174
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The Jupiter novels is a series of science fiction novels from Tor Books featuring stories about young men and women. They may be YA, but I own and love all of them!


The series includes the following books:


Higher Education (1995) by Charles Sheffield and Jerry Pournelle

The Billion Dollar Boy (1997) by Charles Sheffield

Putting Up Roots (1997) by Charles Sheffield

The Cyborg from Earth (1998) by Charles Sheffield

Starswarm (1999) by Jerry Pournelle

Outward Bound (1999) by James P. Hogan



Also check out     www.goldenduck.org/   

They give yearly awards in different age groups for excellence in children’s science fiction.


Also check out    www.readingforfuture.com/ 

“Encouraging literacy through Speculative Fiction”. Lots of resources for teachers!

Subject: Not Starship Troopers
Date Posted: 2/6/2008 11:01 PM ET
Member Since: 11/4/2006
Posts: 1,499
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This is Tammy's boyfriend and resident sci-fi junkie, Geoff ...

Since you're in a conservative private school, I'd actually recommend against Starship Troopers.  It's widely considered to be the most controversial of Heinlein's early (ca. 1950s) books, mostly due to how it took the norms and mores of the day and put them on their head.  It comes out most strongly in the parts of the book where Rico (the main character) is in classes called "History & Moral Philosophy."  If you think you want to teach it anyway, I'd recommend that you read yourself first, before you even ask the powers-that-be at your school about it.  You're a better judge than I am of what might get their knickers in a twist, but I suspect that Starship Troopers would fall under the "twist" category.

Don't get me wrong here - Starship Troopers is a great book; just not all that suitable for your environment, IMO.  For more information about it, look it up in Wikipedia - there's a nice long article with plenty of information about the book and the controversies surrounding it.

Here are some Heinlein books I would recommend for your class:  Between Planets, The Rolling Stones, Time for the Stars, and Have Spacesuit-Will Travel.

Heinlein might be considered to be one of the "old masters," and you said you were trying to teach something else.  You might want to take a look at the Danny Dunn series by Jay Williams.  They're juvenile SF, pretty good reading even for us grown-ups, and there shouldn't be anything for the school folks to get riled up over.  Another series worth checking out, for the same reasons, is the Chris Godfrey UNEXA books by Hugh Walters.

You can find out more about those two series by looking up Danny Dunn and Hugh Walters (author) on Wikipedia.

Hope that helps!

Rose M. (RoseM) - ,
Date Posted: 2/7/2008 9:06 PM ET
Member Since: 1/2/2008
Posts: 26
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Let me put in a vote for Octavia Butler.  I'd recommend "Kindred," a story about an African-American woman who mysteriously travels back in time to her ancestor who is a slave owner.  I read this back in junior high and still remember it.  That led me to another of her other books:  "Parable of the Sower."  It takes place in the future and is about a teenaged girl who flees a very dangerous, on-the-brink-of-collapse Los Angeles.  She also is empathic, so she feels others' pain as her own.  Along her flight, she recruits other refugees with her newly-developed philosophy of community survival.  Now that I think about it, your school might not like this one, as her "philosophy" is also pretty religious.   The kids would like it because they'd identify with the main character.  And the parallels between the future-Los Angeles refugees and what we see in the news today about refugees in other war-torn countries would be interesting to discuss.

I agree with Geoff above about Heinlein.  He would definitely be controversial in that setting.  "Have Spacesuit-Will Travel" might work though.

Asimov is great, too.  In addition to "I, Robot," maybe "Foundation"?  If your class is advanced, they'd definitely like this one.  It's an interesting look at world governments and the cycles of human behavior.

I agree that "The Left Hand of Darkness" is also very good.  The story is really about a man that is an emissary to this world where the beings are completely alien to us (including gender/sexuality, but that's definitely not the only focus), and his struggle to translate their culture in any way that is compatible with humans.  His struggle to reconcile his own biases and the interaction with beings completely unlike us make for a compelling story.

"A Wrinkle in Time" might be too young for them.  I remember reading it at age 9 or 10, but my friend's daughter said she read it in her middle-school class.  "Ender's Game" is also increasingly being read in schools.  I've introduced many friends to sci-fi with this novel.

Oh, and Arthur C. Clarke would be good.  "2001: A Space Odyssey" of course, or "Childhood's End."  Or Jack Finney's "Time and Again" about a man who travels back in time to late 19th C. New York City.  Really interesting details about New York at that time, and great illustrations in the book, too.

 Good luck!

Date Posted: 2/15/2008 7:12 PM ET
Member Since: 8/4/2007
Posts: 162
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One of the high school electives I still remember fondly to this day was a Science Fiction lit class.  Brave New World and 1984 were both required reading for the course and I really enjoyed them, but they may be too extreme for your class.

On the other hand, I think A Canticle for Leibowitz would be a good fit and was a great book, although it was published in the late 50s.   I recently read The City of Ember which is in the YA category, but I found to be very good and would appeal to that age group. 

Last Edited on: 2/15/08 7:13 PM ET - Total times edited: 1