Science fiction is a rather interesting realm. It is doubtful if SF is a part of the elite literary stuff, but it undeniably has a loyal and fairly broad fan base. Classic SF books have always made significant impact on the readers and a lot of them have sneaked into bestseller lists. SF gurus like H.G wells, Jules Verne, Arthur C. Clarke, Frank Herbert and others are widely considered among the best of writers.
In 1932, Aldous Huxley in his Brave New World envisioned a terrifying world where individualism is treated with hatred. A decade later a new generation of talented writers (Bradbury, Heinlein, and Asimov to name a few) stumbled upon public consciousness, and the golden age of science fiction began.
Estimated sales figures for SF books, particularly the older ones, are rather foggy. The following list is a combination of sales, awards, and the magnitude of influence on the readers . Here is the controversial best of “alien invasions”, “man and machine” and “in a galaxy far, far away”:
Stranger in a Strange Land Robert by A. Heinlein (Hugo Award Winner)
H.G Wells wrote about malicious Martians attacking our planet. The concept got a surprisingly innovative treatment from Heinlein. Michael Smith is born during a mission to Mars and raised there by the inhabitants of the planet. Mike returns to Earth one day. What happens next?
Dune by Frank Herbert (Hugo and Nebula Award Winner)
The epic tale of power struggle in Arrakis — the desert planet. Dune, which intrigues the readers even half a decade after its publication, is one of the most influential works of the genre. The book was followed by several other sequels.
2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
Clarke’s Legendary Science Fiction novel, written concurrently with his screenplay for the film, is an unforgettable trip to the mysteries of the universe. This subversive, mind boggling tale encompasses human evolution, the perils of technology, and the magnitude of the universe. Widely recognized as a timeless classic.
The HitchHiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Inspired lunacy. If you are not humoured by The HitchHiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, then you’re probably the reason that human beings are behind mice and dolphin in terms of intelligence. So long, and thanks for all the fish!
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (Retro Hugo Award Winner)
In one of the most acclaimed SF book ever written, Bradbury describes a frightening world where books and independence of thought are prohibited. The very meaning of life is in question. Fahrenheit 451 was made into a movie by François Truffaut.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick (Nebula Award Winner)
In case you didn’t know, this is Harrison Ford’s cult classic — Blade Runner. It tells the story of a bounty hunter on a quest to kill eight androids. This post-apocalyptic novel is possibly Dick’s best known work.
Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov (Foundation’s Edge won both Hugo and Nebula Award)
One of the best grand masters of SF came up with one of the most sublime achievements in the history of the genre. Foundation delineates an attempt to save mankind from a corrupt empire by building a vast encyclopaedia of knowledge. The seven books in the series have taken SF literature to new heights.
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (Hugo and Nebula Award Winner)
Child prodigies hired to smash malevolent aliens in zero-gravity environments. An ultra cool concept by Card that works on multiple levels. Ender’s game was a huge success with readers of all ages.
Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke (Retro Hugo Award Winner)
Giant air vessels appear from outer space and hover over all major cities on Earth. Over generations, the aliens/overlords solve human problems like hunger and crime, but they seem to have a purpose. What is it? Described as unsettling, pessimistic and deeply insightful, this book will leave a permanent impression on you.
Gateway by Frederik Pohl (Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and John W. Campbell Award Winner)
Humans have discovered relics from an alien civilization, which include numerous space ships. The lead character goes out on one of the space ships to bring back something worthwhile. On his third trip, he is rewarded, but it leaves him mentally wrecked for something happens during his journey. A creative story that won overwhelming critical acclaim.
- Twenty thousand leagues under the sea by Jules Verne
- The Time Machine by H.G wells
- The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
- The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
- The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert a Heinlein
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
- Rendezvous with Rama is a novel by Arthur C. Clarke
- Starship Troopers by Robert A Heinlein
- A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M Miller
What’s your pick? Which one do you think is the most underrated/overrated SF novel?