Sci- Fi is one of the largest and fastest growing areas of litriture around today ( and by its very nature tomorrow aswell ) . The best place to start if you want to get involved in the whole thing is not T.V or cinema but books, upon which all T.V and cinema is directly based or plundered from. Sci - fi encompases alot so a variety is in order when exploring. Here is a list and brief review of a number of books and I shall rate them ( this is only my own preferance ). Some of them may be hard to find but if you persevere you probubly won't be disappointed.

The Hellconia trilogy. Brian Aldiss ( rating :*****)I am alergic to the plethera of trilogies and Oct tuplets etc, today but the helconia trio is amazing. It takes place over centeries as civilisations rise and fall amid a planets seasons which last centeries instead of months. great characters and the books each stand alone as individual novels. They are Hellconia Spring, Summer and Winter.

The Forever War . Joe Haldeman ( rating : **** ) A very imaginative work which deals with a war between mankind and the first aliens they contact. Due to the fact that faster than light travel is impossible it takes decades to reach the war zone and hence each tour of duty for the main characters means Earth has changed radicaly between each visit. Solid Sci-fi.

Orditsville . Bob Shaw ( **** ) Involves the discovery and exploration of a Dyson sphere. As with most sci-fi books it falls down on characterisation but can be forgiven for this by the mind scape it showss the reader.

The Immortals . James Gunn ( *** ) Three stars because its a bit dated but an excellent story about the fate of people who remain young forever when their secret is revelled to the world of commercial medicine. Written in 1960 it is more relevent today in its analysis of the medical industry than when its was written.

The World that Jones made. Philip K. Dick ( ***** ) A dated piece of work which never the less stands up as an inspiring look into the future as shaped by a pre-cog. Very few stories can tackle this subject matter successfully but the author of Blade Runner and is masterful. Not for kids as recreational drug referances are made ( this book was written in 1956! ).

The City and the Stars. Auther c. Clarks ( **** ) A SStunning vision of a utopian society, one of the few I have read about which really appeal. Given the current research into VR and AI this is a story way ahead of its time.

Valintine Pontifix . Robert Silvergerg ( ***** ) Silverberg creates an alien world of immense size and beauty in this the first of four seperate books. If you are the thoughtful or imaginative type a trip accross the vast world of Majopoor in these books is in order. A suprising lack of violence and intelligent characters combine to make stories which are a must read. Science Fiction with a dash of adventure and wonder.

Ring World . Larry Niven. ( **** ) The stupendus creation that is ring world and the journey within its amensity make this an enjoyable read. Let down slightly by overly smug heroes but this is a commen fault with science fiction in many cases.

Smoke Ring . Larry Niven ( ***** ) The story is built around the fantastic setting of the unusual and imaginative world of the Smoke Ring and so can never live up to the setting. But that siad it stands together well as a piece of completely origional fiction and the Smoke ring is indeed some thing to behold.

The Tom Swift Series ( ***** ) Childrens science fiction is often over looked. However for children this is a real science fiction book with incredable adventures ( space races, new worlds etc,) and some thought provoking science fiction which will really capture a clever child with its enginuity.

Contact. Carl Sagan ( **** ) An excellent read ( much better than the Hollywood Film which ended both differently and sadly predictably.) which first put forword the idea of worm holes, trek fans take note. It is not hard sci - fi which is good and in keeping with Sagan's efforts to introduce the wonders of the universe to the everyman.

Neuromancer. William Gibson ( *** ) Gibson is the man accredited with inventing cyber space. His stories revolve around this theme in a dark corperate future. His stories are great and really clever although after reading a few of his books you can see alot of repetition ( the word neon keeps popping up all the time ) and his endings are quite weak. That said he is a very good writer and his short stories are great. Worth reading.

Urban Prey. Peter Berrie ( **** ) This is very adult sci - fi in so far as it is very dark and very violent ( his eyeballs hung out on ladders of slime ). Untimatly its a very depressing read but I found the characters in it excellent which mad the story a very sad one. The humer is very dark throughout and very funny. Second book is called the Cruxification Squad.

The Worthing Saga. Craig Bear. ( **** ) A very well written piece of sci - fi about the fall of a future galactic Empire which revolves around a man called Worthing funnily enough. Very good story.

Well thats all I have time to do right now so by way of being your guide let me expand on the do's and don'ts as I see them.

Avoid: 1. Series of books which run for more than a trilogy. These are invaribly flawed and end up being the character studies and soap operas. They also deliver little in the way of origional science -fiction and more in the way of Drama.
2. Books whose blurb says " that fate of the galaxy/mankind/planet rest with this young man or woman. One or two stories of this nature can be good but not lots.
3. Stories that have a main character who is a prince/son of a millionaire etc.These books tend to have the smug heroes you would like to see and punch in the face. Arrogance in heroes tends to make the reader feel in common with the villan who invariably is troubled and weak and hence at least has some trait which the reader shares or can sympathise with.
4. Bloody Scientists. Some books have nerds as the central character who expand endlessly upon the authors ideas and eventualy come up with some idea like if x = y x Pi then Mankind will face inevitable and terrible doom. Only an egghead can save us now. The authors of these book make sweeping assumption about the rest of humanity and tent to lump the resder in with the cattle.
5. Star Trek Books. Essentialy an ongoing and successful money spiner. An plot which is solved by the last minute "If we could configure the forward array/transporter/tractor beam to emit anti- matter/tachyan/negitive ion/ionic pulse at such and such" followed by some pitching in "that just might work!" is a sad excuse for imaginative writing. Other content outside of this revolves about already mentioned points two and three.

The Do list ( advisory ): 1. Read a selection of authors and science fiction topics to find out what you like.
2. Look inside the inside cover of a book for the date first published. A new cover can be wrapped around something written in 1932 by somebody who was crap even then.
3. Try second hand book shops for a wider seletion of books. Book shop stock what sells and in many cases nowadays that is not neccessarily good science fiction.
4. You can judge a book by its cover in some cases if you are familier with science - fiction artists. The best artists will illustrate books they read in some cases.
5. Most Important. USE YOUR IMAGINATION. Visualise what you read and you can make a life time out of your lunch time.