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5 Great Science Fiction Books

Updated on February 23, 2012

Below are five of my favourite science fiction books. I have not included a detailed commentary as it would ruin the book for you! It is essentially a suggested reading list for the science fiction lover or those readers new to science fiction. Please don’t be offended that I’ve left out people like Asimov, Verne and Crichton, they are extremely talented and I definitely know their merit. They just aren’t in my personal top five. (Verne would probably six)

The Illustrated Man

By Ray Bradbury

What is it?

The Illustrated Man is a book of eighteen short stories. The premise is that the illustrated man is a man covered in tattoos. When the man falls asleep his companion sees the stories come alive in his ink. Including the prologue and epilogue (which you must read) my paperback copy comes out to 275 pages. It’s futurist, in Bradbury’s fascinating style.

What makes it so special?

All of Ray Bradbury’s work is unique, he has a very interesting, and often cynical (see: realistic) view of the world and the future we are headed for. In these eighteen stories are the things that we never think about when we think about our futures.

Though Orson Scott Card (see below) was the man who introduced me to, and taught me to love, science fiction it’s Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man that I consider my favourite book of all time. Never before have I had such a physical reaction to a book. It gave me chills, my hair stood on end and at the end of it I realized I was out of breath. I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone who would listen.

While trying to choose two or three of the eighteen stories that stood out to me I got completely lost in reading the book again and believe me it gets better with every read. Below are my top five, but they are best read in the order they were printed in.

My top stories in order:

#1 Kaleidoscope

#2 The Long rain

#3 The Veldt

#4 Marionettes Inc.

#5 Zero hour

But honestly they are all amazing!

The Time Traveller’s Wife

By Audrey Niffenegger

What is it?

The Time Traveller’s wife is a novel, in my paperback edition it comes out to about 518 pages. When you get to the end though you feel like it hasn’t been long enough. The science fiction theme is time travel, but somehow it doesn’t really seem like sci-fi at all.

What makes it special?

With this book Audrey Niffenegger has done something completely inventive with time travel in making it a naturally occurring condition. I read a lot of science fiction and her originality with the concept won me over at the start. Her work is so gritty and realistic. She writes the five senses better than anyone else I’ve read.

You can feel the scrape of rough pavement, your nose wrinkles at every smell, your body even pulses to the sound of The Violent Femmes when the hero and heroine are at a club.

Outside of the great imagery it’s a beautiful and heartbreaking love story. Be forewarned, there is some explicit detail, more than I was expecting. It’s all realistic and completely integral to the story, just be prepared for it.

The Lost World

By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

What is it?

Of course, when you think Conan Doyle, you think Sherlock Holmes but for Doyle, Holmes was little more than a cash cow that he got bored of and eventually felt trapped under. Conan Doyle’s work spread into many genres but Professor Challenger is probably his second best known character. The Lost World is a novel, in my Vintage Classics paperback it comes out to just under 250 pages. A group of explorers finds a plateau in South America with a prehistoric ecosystem.

What makes it special?

First of all, it’s so much fun to follow Doyle’s self-deprecating heroes around. In this case our hero is a journalist named Malone who’s a bit of a homebody. He goes on this wild expedition in order to prove his love to a young woman. The other three men on the expedition are all smarter, stronger, generally better than Malone by many degrees. Everyone loves and underdog.

It’s really just a fun, escapist adventure. Each one of the characters has a wild personality of their own. What I loved most about reading the book, though, is reading the early 20th century theories about what dinosaurs and early man were like and how they acted. My personal favourite is the dinosaur that looks like a toad, jumps like a kangaroo and squashes its prey to death. Doesn’t get much better than that!

Ender’s Game

By Orson Scott Card

What is it?

Ender’s Game is absolute brilliance. It’s set in the not too distant future after humans have won the first war against an alien race called the buggers (Formics). It’s about 325 pages.

What makes it special?

This choice was really a rather obvious one but it’s close to my heart so I had to add it in. This book was considered a classic of science fiction almost as soon as it was published. It’s a great starter book too, if you’ve not read a lot of sci-fi. This was the book that caused me to fall madly in love with the genre.

Card’s a pretty brilliant man and his plots are extremely complex. It’s clear that every character (even the minor ones) have strong motivations and detailed character backgrounds. Every aspect of Ender’s universe is thought out in great detail and if you go on to read the rest of the series and the parallel book Ender’s Shadow (which I think you should) you will see what a complete world these character live in. Just a few of the aspects of humanity that Card takes on in detail: Military, psychological, nationalism, familial, religion, political, extraterrestrial, scientific etc. The list keeps going and every aspect is handled with care. Double score? It’s easy to read and you get hooked right away.

A note of caution: If you read Ender’s Game and decide you want to go on to Speaker for the Dead read a couple books in between first. Ender ages considerably between the two books and it’s difficult to let go of the old and care about the new without some time.

Oryx and Crake

By Margaret Atwood

What is it?

Oryx and Crake is what Atwood calls “speculative fiction”, though I would most definitely put it in the science fiction category. The main character, Snowman, is living in a sort of post apocalyptic world surrounded by genetically modified animals that have taken over the ecosystem.

What makes it special?

The premise is not a new one, how many sci-fi books take place in a post apocalyptic world? This one though, is done in Atwood’s unique style. She pulls you through the good and the bad, as well as the anti-heroes tumultuous past, as though it were a dream you can’t wake up from, but you’re not sure you want to. There are moment where you wish you could look away, and plenty of ‘Did I just read that?’ but it’s all so completely worth it. It’s got a bit of a surrealist vibe in the beginning but stick with it and you won’t be disappointed.

This book definitely has mature content, some of it a little shocking, so be prepared.

Science fiction is, in my opinion, the best genre in literature. It’s given the world so much both on and off the page. Plus, there really is something for everyone. Enjoy!


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    • htodd profile image

      htodd 5 years ago from United States

      These are really great fiction books ..Thanks a lot for the nice post

    • ar.colton profile image

      Mikal Smith 5 years ago from Vancouver, B.C.

      Haven't read Hyperion but I love just about everything by H. G. Wells. I'm surprised to hear the Halo books were good, I'll definitley check those out.

      Thanks for stopping by Dremer.

    • M. T. Dremer profile image

      M. T. Dremer 5 years ago from United States

      From your list, I've read the lost world and ender's game, and loved both of them. I'll have to give the other ones a try, but I would also recommend Hyperion by Dan Simmons and the Time Machine by H. G. Wells. Also, the Halo books by Eric Nylund were surprisingly good, despite being based on a video game.

    • ar.colton profile image

      Mikal Smith 5 years ago from Vancouver, B.C.

      No problem tsmog, I haven't seen the movie version of The Time Traveller's Wife but I have heard that it pales in comparison to the book and having read it I can't imagine it being nearly as powerful as a film. I would definitely suggest reading the book first.

    • tsmog profile image

      Tim Mitchell 5 years ago from Escondido, CA

      I'll look into those. I have perused the Illustrated Man reading here and there. The Time Traveller's Wife I Know of from movie trailers. I haven't read most you mentioned. But I have added them to my spiral binder. Thank you ar.colton.