It's ages since I read any science fiction, but a chance discussion about funerals led me to get out "Speaker for the Dead" by Orson Scott Card - to lend, but I thought I'd read it first.
I'd forgotten how much you can get from science fiction. There are so many more things in the book than I could even have been aware of last time I read it (which must have been in 1987, or thereabouts!). Some thoughts:
- an interstellar human community in which different creeds have continued significance, and have found a way to co-exist - as opposed to a kind of universal rationalistic humanism;
- fiction written with a real appreciation of different Christian theologies (Calvinism, catholicism);
- a concept of interstellar community with a plausible extension of different national identities - as opposed to the Star Trek "americanisation" of everything.
Science fiction at its best can be so much more powerful at exploring meaty issues than most other modern forms of literature - The Matrix and Minority Report were possibly two of the most philosophical popular films of the last few years. It's a shame that most people think that science fiction is no more than blasters and bug-eyed monsters.