Re: Recommendations for Juvenile SF

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Fri Sep 07 2001 - 17:08:02 MDT

Greg Burch wrote:
> Here's the only problem: I don't know what to suggest for a super-bright
> 10-year-old in 2001. I was cutting my teeth on RAH's and Bradbury's (the
> other one)juveniles at that time and fairly quickly graduated to His Most
> Blessed Insightfulness, the Serene Maestro of Serendip. What's good these
> days?

A sufficiently high-powered 10-year-old has no need of "juvenile" science
fiction. Susan Cooper, Diane Duane, Alan Dean Foster, Robert Heinlein,
Anne McCaffrey, and William Sleator can still be read and enjoyed, but
there's likely to be no real problem with going straight to Greg Egan.

But in terms of good starters, I'd recommend:

"A Call To Arms" by Alan Dean Foster
"The Dark Is Rising" by Susan Cooper.
"So You Want To Be a Wizard" by Diane Duane.
"Interstellar Pig" by William Sleator.
"The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" by Robert Heinlein.
"Tschai: Planet of Adventure" by Jack Vance.
"The Complete Amber" by Roger Zelazny.
"The Uplift War" by David Brin.
"Dorsai" by Gordon R. Dickson.
"Pegasus in Flight" by Anne McCaffrey.
"Dune" by Frank Herbert.
"Retief at Large" by Keith Laumer.
Dragonlance, "Chronicles" and "Legends".
"Advanced Dungeons and Dragons", various handbooks.

And, of course:

"Engines of Creation" by K. Eric Drexler.
"QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter" by Richard Feynman (this
was one of my favorites when I was nine).
Collections of Martin Gardner's "Mathematical Games" columns.
"The Moral Animal" by Robert Wright (you're *never* too young to start
learning about evolutionary psychology).
"Metamagical Themas" by Douglas R. Hofstadter (ditto game theory).
"The Incredible Bread Machine" by R. W. Grant.
"Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman" by Richard Feynman.
"The Tao Is Silent" by Raymond Smullyan.

Don't forget to LEARN A PROGRAMMING LANGUAGE. Do this as early as
possible while you still have the brain plasticity. I recommend Python
followed by Java followed by C++.

If you want to learn a foreign language, you have only one year left to do
it before puberty kicks in and your auditory cortex freezes over.

Do stay away from:

Stephen R. Donaldson
John Barnes
David Feintuch
"Vampire: The Masquerade"
All of Heinlein's *later* books (this should go without saying).
The books Anne McCaffrey wrote because they locked her up and wouldn't
give her any food until she wrote more Pern novels.
Ditto, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman and the sophisticated AI devices
churning out upwards of sixty Dragonlance books per day.

And if you read anything of David Eddings', borrow it from the library
rather than buying it, or make really sure you buy it used at a quarter
price, because you and all your friends will suddenly outgrow David
Eddings over a two-week period.

-- -- -- -- --
Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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