Top ten lists are always cool, so I started thinking about the 10 Sci-Fi novels that have had the greatest impact on my personally. At first I thought that I might have trouble coming up with 10, but just the opposite ocurred. I actually had a hard time narrowing down the list. Do I include I, Robot but not The Caves of Steel? Does Neuromancer make the cut? In the end after thinking hard and long. I came up with 10 novels. This is my personal list, and yours may be different. I included novels without regard for content matter, author, or theme, and put in those that had the greatest effect on me personally. These novels made me think about myself, and my place in the Universe. They made me examine what kind of person I am and who I want to be. That’s really the purpose of all “great” literature. It holds up a mirror, and allows us to examine what we see there in a different context. Who knows, if you haven’t read some of these, then you might just find out something about yourself.No. 1- Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein
Far from being a simple story about galactic war. Starship Troopers is a vast exploration of how a society protects and administers itself. Heinlein comments on crime and punishment, education, and what makes offer his life up for the protection of his society. On the most basic level, it’s a great read, a thrilling adventure story. But on a deeper level, it’s what Science Fiction is all about, examining ourselves and our society in a different context.
No. 2 – The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov
Granted it’s three books rather than one, but the books really don’t stand alone. Each operates in an overall context that’s defined by the trilogy as a whole. This is really a great read, and is breathtaking in it’s scope. I’m still amazed that Asimov began this trilogy in 1942. There have been numerous sequels to the original trilogy, but they don’t seem to have the impact that the first three novels do.
No. 3 – Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Ender’s Game is especially poignant as it explores the capabilities of children. One of the main themes is that children operate in an environment in which they are fully and completely formed sentient beings. Adults tend to treat children as though they are incapable of complex thought or emotion, but it is children who eventually save humanity. In Card’s foreword he says that children do not think of themselves as children. They think of themselves as people.
No. 4 – Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
If you haven’t guessed it by now, I’m a huge fan of Heinlein. Stranger in a Strange Land may be his crowning achievement. It is certainly the most critically acclaimed of his works. The story of a human being not raised among humans and forced to confront the actuality of his species is profound.
No. 5 – Have Spacesuit, Will Travel by Robert Heinlein
This one really turned me on to science fiction as a child. It is almost (but not quite) a children’s story, concerning a young man who finds himself involved in an interplanetary conspiracy. This story blazes along and is reminiscent of the non-stop action of the Saturday serials that used to play in movie theaters across the US.
No. 6 – War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
This is the one that started it all. Wells created many of the themes that Sci-Fi writers rely on to this day, and this may be one of the most copied. The invasion of Earth by technically advanced, yet bloodthirsty (literally) aliens, is still a tremendously moving tale. Even the Deus Ex Machina that saves humanity in the end, offers a compelling look at the nature and interaction of life in the universe.
No. 7 – The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
Again, a war story that is not about war. Haldeman was a Vietnam veteran when he wrote this story of an inter-galactic war that rages throughout the centuries. Relativity throws a few wrenches into the works however, as it takes several hundred years of objective time to learn the results of a battle. The hero watches life move on in great leaping bounds as he is only able to revisit Earth every couple of hundred years, and he feels less and less a part of his own race.
No 8. – Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
In a world where Firemen start fires and having a good time is the highest ideal, Bradbury forces us to look at our increasingly disjointed and isolated lives. Is pleasure possible without pain? Is it enough to simply exist without examining the meaning behind your actions and your life?
No. 9 – Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Pure, unadulterated fun. This trilogy, containing 4 books, (which gives you some idea of it’s seriousness) is a parody of everything Sci-Fi. From the Robots with GPP (Genuine People Personalities) to the little white mice who actually run the galaxy and perform experiments on human scientists by recording their reactions to a mouse in a maze, these books blast everyone equally. I fully believe that we wouldn’t have South Park on television today, if these books hadn’t been written. And to see how pervasive these books are, go to Google and type in “what is the answer to life the universe and everything”.
No. 10 – Dune by Frank Herbert
An epic novel that combines Science Fiction, Mysticism, Ecology and Evolution, Dune treats the reader to an amazing world. If you’ve only seen the movie, then you missed out completely. Dune is an intensely detailed story, epic in it’s scope and brilliant in it’s description of a different universe.