Top 5 Famous Sci-Fi Novels
I love reading stories, it’s awesome and the world (and me personally) would be a hell of a lot more worthless without them. Most people I talk to agree they like reading but unfortunately I believe a large portion of them don’t actually read a lot. I don’t want this to be a about that particular problem though.
There are many, many awesome books out there but sci-fi is one of my favourite genres and today I going to recommend my top five famous sci-fi books. As a small aside because I know some people will maybe wonder why; sci-fi is not my favourite genre because of spaceships and sex with aliens and all the other stuff idiots generally associate with it (although you know, spaceships are cool) but more because the great thing about science fiction is that it can be fairly existential and/or political without being in your face or actually commenting on specific places, events or people and thus coming across like a bit of a twat. If one thing is true it’s that we explore the best and worst of humanity in our art, especially our fiction *cough*Bible*cough* and the futures, Utopia’s, Distopia’s and more explored inside science fiction are another way of exploring ourselves and I honestly can’t think of any reason not to promote that.
I’m not specifically aiming to give you the best five sci fi books out there, partially because that’s an impossible distinction to make but I want to give you five books from famous series’ and/or authors so that next time you can be part of the huge global family of people who read this stuff and hopefully enjoy, identify with and discuss them in the future.
Every one of the books below is considered a classic or modern classic and I love them all, I wouldn’t be the same person without them. I’ve been writing this post for a while, just been a bit busy to finish it off, worth noting this article on i09 which very much emphasises my point of sci-fi analysing culture.
I expect Cameron will run this next year
1984 is one of the most famous science fiction novels ever written, it has been copied, remade, referenced and parodied more times than I would care to imagine. Its ideas and terminology are so strong and iconic they have literally shaped language, responsible for phrases like “Big Brother” “Doublespeak” and “Orwellian”. It’s a dark, intellectual thriller of a story which is [paradoxically] emotional and intensely thought provoking.
Orwell offers a wonderfully horrific view of a potential future[world] where a class divide has practically created different species and notions of truth, belief and freedom blur in and out of existence. His dystopia may be more clichéd now but at its release it was groundbreaking and the sheer roller-coaster of events throughout range from enlightening to heartbreaking.
You won’t find spaceships and aliens here, in many ways it’s not really a sci-fi story other than the fact it was “set in the future” when it was written and a bit of advanced tech, but it does perfectly embody some of the points I mentioned earlier about sci-fi exploring political (and in this case also sociological, psychological and spiritual) problems.
Read 1984 because it’s one of the best books ever, read it so you actually understand all the concepts it coined and read it because it deserves a few hours of your life.
At least the voice acting was awesome
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
- Author: Douglas Adams
- Originally Published: 1979
- ISBN: 0-330-25864-8
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (HGTTG) is a highly renowned comedy science fiction book and the first in a series of books set in the same universe by British legend Douglas Adams. It has always been a successful novel but gained particular infamy when produced as a Radio series by the BBC in the xxx and later as a Television show to.
More recently HGTTG was also made into a fairly average film featuring the awesome Martin Freeman and the pretty but not especially great Zooey Deschanel. It was enjoyable and it captured much of the books spirit and the presence of Stephen Fry (a real life friend of the sadly deceased Adams) was a welcome addition.
HGTTG follows the (mis)adventures of British hero Arthur Dent after the Earth is destroyed. Dent is very much the everyman, he is in no way special, clever, fast or strong. It doesn’t mean he’s a bad guy though and what I love about Dent as a main character is that the Author doesn’t need to use any tricks to make him identifiable or more human, he’s as flawed as all of us and he knows it.
HGTTG is well written, silly and thought provoking, it has lots of cool ideas in it (my personal favourite being the Someone Else’s Problem Field from later in the series) and however silly and over the top it gets it still all manages to feel oddly “real” for a sci-fi novel. Maybe it’s the grounding presence of Dent or the fact that much of it is British satire but you’ll know what I mean when reading it.
Don’t miss out on experiencing this book and the (increasing) series, they are all fantastic and they definitely changed my outlook on a few things. You will struggle to find such a wonderful blend of story and satire in anything else and if you don’t enjoy it then, well, what’s the point of anything?
Yeah they invented Sandworms. And Tatooine.
- Author: Frank Herbert
- Originally Published: 1965
- ISBN: 0450011844
OK Dune, you get to be on the list. I was strongly debating whether to give this place to Dune or War of the Worlds but I think that WotW is quite short and a lot older than Dune so if I succeed in making you read these books you can go and read some HG Wells stuff for extra credit.
Dune is the best selling science fiction book of all time. Among the right circles it’s practically sacred. It’s probably the book on the list that’s hardest to get into but once you’re there it really is worth the effort. It’s had a massive influence on modern sci-fi, both literature and cinema (hey Tatooinie practically is Arrakis) and as you read it you’ll not doubt notice elements spliced into loads of your favourite stories and shows.
The great thing about Dune is just how rich the world is. Herbert pulls a Tolkien and crafts a whole Universe to play in with an incredibly intricate political structure which encompasses an Empire, a mega-corporation and a mysterious space pilots guild who control all interstellar transport. The core story follows Paul, son of one of the many Dukes who battle for power under the Emperor and follows a complex web of war and deceit. It also slowly reveals all the magic of Arrakis , a fantastically interesting planet.
Dune has since become a somewhat huge series and while I’ve by no means covered it all I still recommend you give this first book a try, it’s pretty epic and full of drama (but in a good way). Dune also has some great philosophies in it and some of the most interesting supporting characters ever, my personal favourite is Gurney Halleck (played by non-other than Patrick bloody Stewart in the somewhat odd 1984 movie), a battle master and bard.
Speaking of movies we are well overdue for a new Dune one, I demand they start work right away and more importantly, not cast Taylor Lauten as Paul.
One day, I will be an SC officer.
Player of Games
- Author: Iain M. Banks
- Originally Published: 1988
- ISBN: 0-333-47110-5
Player of Games is a later novel that’s part of the “Culture” series by Ian Banks. It’s by no means the craziest, coolest or even most interesting book of the series but it’s by far the most rounded and the easiest to get into.
Banks’ Culture is one of my favourite Sci-Fi universes. It tells of a technological advanced civilisation made up of a mixture of (mainly) humanoid species that all live and work together in a kind of utopia. Denizens of the culture live a huge amount of time, are practically immortal, can swap genders and generally only work to further their own interests or develop new technology to improve the Culture itself, no one actually has to work. If you have time read this written by the author which gives a more complete overview and introduction to who and what the Culture are.
Player of Games centers around Generi Gergai, a Culture member who specialises in games of skill and tactics. His whole life is pretty much devoted to playing, discovering and beating people at super advanced chess and similar stuff. He’s kind of a “minor celebrity” in the Culture world and Gergai is every much the moaning over pampered git sometimes. This all changes however when the Culture encounter a new Empire who’s whole civilisation is based around playing, and winning, a complex game. The Culture sends in Gergai as their special envoy but all is not as it seems…
I love the whole Culture Universe, the sarcastic drones, the moody super computers, the hedonistic but loveable Culture members and the contrast they create with our own lives and view points. Banks challenges his whole concept of a Utopia in his own books and “Consider Phlebas” (another Culture book) pits the culture against a fierce religious race who see their Utopia as a kind of heracy. Player of Games is a great book to introduce you to the Culture and the Culture world, after that maybe try Consider Phlebas or Matter, they are just as awesome but a little “deep end” for the Culture Universe.
From the lovely Ender's Game comic
- Author: Orson Scott Card
- Originally Published: 1985
- ISBN: 0-312-93208-1
Enders Game is a fantastic sci-fi novel and while fairly popular, is still massively underestimated in my opinion. I only got around to reading Enders Game is the last few years or so but I am gutted that I’ve not got through it before, it’s a fantastic story and Ender has rapidly become one of my favourite characters ever.
The first book of the series follows the progress of young Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggin, a promising child from a future America who gets selected to attend a special military battle school to help humanity prepare for battle against a mysterious alien race called the Buggers. Battle school is a pretty horrific place, very young children are stripped of their lives and forced to learn and train non-stop and their progress is judged by competing in huge team based virtual combat events. To save Earth Ender needs to become the best military leader humanity has ever seen and the Battle School has to prepare him for this.
The book would be wonderfully enjoyable if the plot ended there but it continues to expand exploring the nature of war, the way people look at “aliens” and what that word even means. As the series goes on into the second and third books (Speaker for the Dead & Xenocide) the Author really does a fantastic job of setting up a plausible (both sociologically and scientifically) human galactic community and almost flawlessly examines how difficult the future could be, our relationship with other species and the highs and lows of humanity.
I cannot recommend Enders Game enough, there are only two types of people who have read Enders Game, those who love it and those who are wrong. I’m really excited that a film has finally gone into development; I can only hope it lives up to the story of Ender that I know and love.
OK that’s my ranting done for now. Seriously, put time aside in your life to read these books or listen to them on audiobook, I promise you won’t regret it and I personally think you’ll be a better person because of it.