What is a Good Science Fiction Book?
Nevertheless, if you enjoy science fiction, I hope to give you a semblance of a starting point to see how the modern form of this genre has progressed from its early roots to its modern actualization. It is imporatnt to bear in mind that each and every one of the novels on this list was written over 25 years ago. It is simply a testament to the foresight and writing skills of their authors that these novels are still, not only readable, but also extremely relevant to today’s world. I hope that you enjoy them as much as I did.
Foundation and Empire (1952)
The Stars My Destination (1956)
Starting as a captured merchant spaceman, Gully Foyle, bespectacled in full face tattoo, endures adventure after adventure as he charms, bribes and blackmails his way across the galaxy. Despite his repeated failures, Gully is special for he learns the secret to “jaunting” across apace and not just planets. Have a little faith and read this spectacular but somewhat unnerving look in to the basest motivations of the human race.
A Canticle for Leibowitz (1960)
Predating the purges performed by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia by a decade, Miller’s description of the Simpletons and their methods is incredibly prescient. Leibowitz, a former Jew turned Roman Catholic, defies this mob and is eventually betrayed and martyred. Leibowitz’s legacy has only begun, however. Mankind does rise again but to what ultimate end? The novel is justifiably renowned for its scholarship, literary skill and its consideration of knowledge, religion and absolute truth.
Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)
The Man in the High Castle (1962)
Philip K. Dick
Imagine a constructed world that is one million miles wide and completely circles their star at the same distance as the Earth circles the Sun. Those facts describe Ringworld and, to put it in perspective, it has approximately three million times more area than our own planet Earth. Almost needless to say, this environment provides endless possibilities which Mr. Niven and other writers have explored in dozens of other novels and short stories. Still, the first time is always the best and the original Ringworld novel is a great romp through a great universe.
The Forever War (1974)
Two soldiers, William Mandella and Marygay Potter, and their comrades always fight, usually die and sometimes survive in this brutally honest but ultimately heartwarming story of war and love. Conscripted in the early years of a war against an alien enemy, the Taurans, recruits undergo a grueling set of training exercises where pass/fail means the difference between living and dying. Unfortunately for those who survive, the worst is yet to come. Since neither side has a faster than light drive, time dilaton has a serious effect. One never knows if he will encounter an enemy with weapons from the past or from the future. The results are typically military, snafu’d.
The Mote in God’s Eye (1974)
Jerry Pournelle & Larry Niven
Ender’s Game (1985)
Easily the weakest entry on the list, I include it because it is one of the few, excellent sci-fi novels that can be understood by a child. Indeed, the novel is rife with the themes of duty, honor and responsibility. It should be included in the curriculum of every grammar school in the country. It is a far better choice for educating our children than the discredited claptrap of Rachel Carson, the pseudo-intellectual ghost writings of Hilary Clinton and the semi-literate drivel of Maya Angelou. One precaution, however; only read every other chapter.
Rather watch a science fiction movie? Check out this article, "The Best Science Fiction Movies by Decade."
N.B. Yes, I have heard of H.G. Welles, Philip Jose Farmer, Arthur C Clarke, Kurt Vonnegut, Harry Harrison, Frederick Pohl and, of course, Cordwainer Bird – so don’t bother. Thanks for getting this far, I’d love to know what you think about the Best Classic Science Fiction Books. Regards - hil