Monday, April 28, 2008

World-Shaking Sci-Fi

  • The Puppet Masters by Robert Heinlein. Old-school rock-n-roll science fiction: fast, noisy and nuts with the fate of the world at stake.

  • A Stainless Steel Rat is Born by Harry Harrison. First in a series. The Rat really is the galaxy's greatest crook, but somehow, he always ends up cheating only bad guys...

  • Hospital Station by James White. The first in the Sector General series. Sector 12 General Hospital is a 384-level medical space station. It's located in deep space and designed to treat a wide variety of xenobiological life forms -- furred bipeds, methane breathers, and more.

  • Pandora's Legions by Christopher Anvil. Fast paced, funny, good old space adventure, from the days when going to space didn't mean being a NASA scientist with a PhD, but being part of a unit who got the job done. Nobody looks too hard at the methods; all that matters is ...results. (Also under the heading 'War').

  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Peeing your pants laughing--it's not just for little kids anymore.

  • A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr. Will tomorrow's religions be based on today's scrap paper?

  • Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. The other Ender books had a hard time living up to the first, but Ender's Shadow comes highly recommended.

  • Gun with Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem. The hardboiled detective -- combined with some truly clever sci-fi weirdness, it's an awful lot of fun.

  • Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. Somehow strikes the balance between awesome cyberpunk action novel and spoof of cyberpunk action novel. Hilarious and a classic, and a great intro to his other novels (The Diamond Age and Cryptonomicon are also highly recommended).

  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick. A true sci-fi classic that inspired the movie Blade Runner.

  • The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. Philip K. Dick's stuff is weird and awesome and maybe even mind-blowing. This book imagines America having lost World War II, and under the thumb of Nazi Germany and Japan.

  • A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. An ultra-violent fascist Britain as viewed by our teen narrator, the leader of a gang who gets caught up in the politics of correctional reformation and behavior modification. Told in a first-person gumbo of slang that includes archaic English and Russian words (the British Cold War fear was invasion and occupation when it was written) it's a bold piece of horror-show political and social satire.

  • Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. A fictitious Nobel laureate creates a substance called Ice-9 which, when it comes in contact with liquid water molecules, turns them all into ice at room temperature and could theoretically freeze the planet. Vonnegut adds a fictional Caribbean island run by a despotic leader (hailed by the US as "one of freedom's greatest friends"), and a religious leader with Zen-like beliefs into the mix, both of whom are competing for the attention of Nobel laureate's heirs who are in possession of Ice-9. Slaughterhouse Five usually gets all the attention, but might just be Vonnegut's best.

  • Sun of Suns by Karl Schroeder. Mindbending physics jammed into a swashbuckling adventure: inside a planet-sized space sphere, inhabitants experience atmosphere but not gravity, so they create spinning city states and miniature fusion suns and do battle like it's 1799 in wooden space ships. High adventure and huge ideas on almost every page = awesome-ness.

  • The Ballad of Halo Jones by Alan Moore and Ian Gibson (graphic novel). This classic space epic begins in the slums of a bleak future and ends beyond the stars, following the unlikely hero Halo Jones as she just tries to achieve one thing: getting out.

  • The Uglies sequence by Scott Westerfeld. In a post-apocalyptic world with hoverboards and rusted out cities, everyone gets plastic surgery at 16 that makes them beautiful. But is that really a good thing?

  • Growing Up Weightless by John M. Ford. A great coming of age novel set on the moon.

  • Prowlers quartet by Christopher Golden. When Jack's best friend Artie dies, cops say it was a freak attack by wild dogs, something that will never happen again. Then Artie appears to Jack as a ghost and tells him what really happened: it was shapeshifters, Prowlers, things that look human but are definitely not. This quartet is action-packed and heart-racing. Wait 'til you read the scene at the subway station.

  • War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. The granddaddy of all alien invasion stories begins, "No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's..."

  • 1984 by George Orwell. People are political prisoners within their own country. Everyone is overseen via "telescreens" by Big Brother's Thought Police. Winston, a worker in the Record Department of The Ministry of Truth, finds himself resisting, not completely accepting the "news" as it is reported. Essential reading, even if (especially if) you don't like science fiction.

No comments :