Saturday, 25 August 2012

Five Classic Sci-Fi Novels Worth Rediscovering

We have a guest today, writer Aniya Wells, who stops by with some recomendations for scifi reading:

5 Sci-Fi Classics Worth Rediscovering

Though my reading has been concentrated in other genres lately, science fiction was truly my first love, and I retain the same affection for it today that I had when I was a teenager. I made my way through most of the attested classics of the medium, hungrily poring through lists of the most critically adored novels, and this process set me on a journey of mind expansion that taught me how to think, how to question, and how to wonder. Here are my five personal favorites within the speculative canon:

1. Ubik by Philip K. Dick

Naturally, I could as easily have chosen any number of other Dick masterworks. A Scanner Darkly and Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said are not far behind. And The Man in the High Castle may be an even better book, but I feel its alternate-history framework doesn’t fit as comfortably into the quintessential ‘sci-fi’ rubric. Ubik, on the other hand, best embodies all the queasy, paranoid, wildly imaginative glory of Dick while setting out from a recognizable sci-fi starting point. A mind-boggling and unsettling dissection of the unreality of reality, like all the master’s best, soaked with the particular kind of existential fear and sadness that made him more than a cerebral trickster.

2. The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester

Again, I like this one about equally with The Stars My Destination, but The Demolished Man wins the tiebreaker with its virtuoso mystery ending. This tale of telepathy, conspiracy, and murder in an apparently crime-free society must have been dog-eared by Dick back in the 50s; it contains many of the seeds of the work discussed above.

3. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

The hype is all true. This one is simply the most fun book I’ve ever read. Stephenson employs a postmodern kitchen-sink approach, throwing in enough good, funny, crazy ideas for 10 sci-fi novels and somehow making it all work. Hiro Protagonist, hacker and pizza boy for the Mafia in a Balkanized America of corporate city-states, meets...oh, you’re just going to have to read it (or re-read it) yourself.

4. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

One of the most formally perfect novels ever written (minus the controversial and, in my opinion, regrettable final chapter). Many are scared off from reading this by the narrator’s use of an invented slang called Nadsat, but it’s all part of the total aesthetic package of the book and is music to my ears, as much as Alex’s beloved Ludwig Van is to his.

5. To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmer

Unlike many sci-fi fans, I don’t go in much for series: I want a different thing every time and am always suspicious of the motivations behind stretching out a “franchise.” The point being, I haven’t read the rest of the Riverworld series but I hear they’re good. This first one certainly was. It portrays a strange kind of afterlife on another planet where people from different times on Earth wake up and try to figure out what is going on. Peculiar and intriguing...perhaps I ought to read the rest after all.

Aniya Wells is a freelance writer and blogger. In an age in which consumers have access to unprecedented amounts of information, Aniya hopes to help her readers decode this information to make better decisions about personal finance, parenting, health, and more. She can be reached at

1 comment:

Elizabeth Twist said...

Yes to everything on this list! I loved Dick's Valis trilogy a little more than UBIK, but your mileage may vary. Really great list. I might have to pull down my copy of To Your Scattered Bodies Go and re-read it.

I'm re-reading Martian Chronicles right now, and planning a Twitter discussion of it / general blogginess about it in the next couple of weeks, if you're interested.

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