I think Final Fantasy 9 is not so science fiction oriented- and more of a throwback to the older Final Fantasy games. A lot of people either love this game or don't think to much about it. The characters in Final Fantasy 9, live in a very fairytale setting, and also it's a very romance and theater kind of world overall as well !
I really enjoyed Final Fantasy 8 especiall the side quests. The game isn't like the others since it does revolve around romance so if you don't like it by the of disc 1, I don't think you are going to enjoy Final fantasy 8.