“[…]’The One and the Other’. But who is the One, and who is the Other, eh? Male or female?”
In “The Moon and the Other” by John Kessel
I feel that there is a big dividing line between good authors and great authors in science fiction and fantasy; I always find that there are loads of books where I enjoyed the characterisation and romped along in the story and had a good time, but very few where you feel that you need two days after finishing it, just to complete appreciating it. Recently, John Kessel is one writer who has reached those moments for me, the same with Dexter Palmer and, in his lovelier works K. J. Parker. Having said that, I would reserve judgment on whether being literary in style means you are actually good. I think there are plenty of writers of what most would consider 'pulp' style genre fiction, who are infinitely more engaging and thought provoking than those involved in intricate lyrical stylings and homages. It's not exclusively one way or the other though; I've enjoyed Murakami just as much as I've enjoyed Stephenson. I grew up with SF, but read less and less of it now. Perhaps ironically, my feelings for the genre are fairly well summed up by Master Ultan's words to the apprentice Severian:
"I began, as most young people do, by reading the books I enjoyed. But I found that narrowed my pleasure, in time, until I spent most of my hours searching for such books".
I gradually stopped reading much SF in my mid-20s, after spending too many hours scouring the SF sections of Bertrand Bookstore and finding far too many re-hashings of the same few ideas, themes and characters.
If you're into SF, read on.