Science Fiction and Fantasy Must Reads
The love for reading is the best thing that one can learn to develop. While it is best developed at an early age, I believe that it is never too late to start making reading a habit. A widely read person is armed with more knowledge and experience - albeit vicarious - than anyone else. Even if you do not have a post graduate degree, if you have a passion for reading, you can be sure that you have an edge over others.
When it comes to reading, my favorite genres are science fiction and fantasy. Some people say that these genres do not offer much practical use, but I counter that with the concept that science fiction and fantasy hone your imagination. In addition to this, science fiction and fantasy actually provide a lot of moral insights and give the reader a lot of food for thought.
If you are looking for something to read along these lines, check out my personal list of the best science fiction and fantasy reads.
The Lord of the Rings
Any decent fantasy fan will have this series at the top of his list. J.R.R. Tolkien's work is the perfect introduction to the world of fantasy, and with the movies having been made, more and more people have discovered this world. The movies are excellent. There is no doubt about that, but I still believe that one has not had the real experience of The Lord of the Rings if he has not read the books.
From mythical creatures and beings to humans to magic to fighting to the concept of friendship and loyalty - The Lord of the Rings gives you all the excitement that you can ask for.
The Wheel of Time
As much as I love The Lord of the Rings, I have to be honest and say that Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time tugs at my heartstrings much harder. The series is a massive one and requires more dedication to read. With 13 books in the series (the last one is yet to be completed), you can easily see where that comes from. (Actually, there are 14 books if you count the prequel.)
Robert Jordan secured his place in the world of fantasy books with this story, where the main characters are the Dragon Reborn and the Dark One. The plot also revolves around men and women with special powers, the women being called Aes Sedai and the men Asha'man. Ordinary people treat these characters with a mixture of respect and wariness (sometimes with contempt), but they are not necessarily evil, with some on the side of the good and others on the side of the Dark One. The series is dedicated to the ascension of the current Dragon Reborn (Rand al Thor) to his full potential, with him <em>hopefully</em> beating the Dark One.
Robert Jordan passed away before he could finish the series, but Brandon Sanderson has taken on the task of bringing the story to an end. Some fans were - understandably - worried at the beginning, but Sanderson was chosen by Jordan's wife, who worked closely with the author. Additionally, Jordan left copious notes about his ideas. I don't know about other fans of the series, but while I saw the differences in style, I was not unsatisfied with Brandon's treatment of the story.
A Song of Ice and Fire
You have probably heard of this fantasy series so many times in the recent months, thanks to HBO's television series, Game of Thrones. The TV series has been received enthusiastically worldwide, and unsurprisingly so! I am one of those who await every episode, but as with many books that have been adapted for TV (or the movies), I still strongly recommend actually sitting down to read the original work.
When I first read George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, I was introduced to a world of high fantasy that I never imagined I would get so hooked on. Sure, the fantasy elements are there - dragons, knights, imaginary kingdoms, and magic - but the way the characters are portrayed and the way they interact with each other is so close to reality that one cannot help but think about human nature.
A Song of Ice and Fire is about the survival of the Seven Kingdoms, with kings vying for power and the common people for stability. There is also the element of having to deal with the impending winter - both literal and figurative - where creatures of the night and the dead start walking in the real world again. Politics, sex, violence, and love - A Song of Ice and Fire will enthrall you for sure.
The Ender's Game series by Orson Scott Card is a science fiction story that one can easily imagine happening in the near future. The series started with a little novelette, but has since then expanded to 11 novels plus short stories and comics. Yes, it is that good!
Truth be told, however, I have only stuck to the novels. As captivating the stories are, I think that one can only write about the premise so much. My suggestion is to simply pick up the first one, Ender's Game, and see how far you go. I am pretty certain that you will go through the first several novels wanting more.
The plot revolves around Ender Wiggin, a child soldier being trained to help protect humankind from annihilation by antagonistic aliens called Formics. The story touches on the "weird" concept of using children as soldiers, as well as the idea of fighting to the death - or possibly living in harmony - with other species. That is only the tip of the iceberg, though, as the series also brings you to a world of the politics and technology of the future, which may very well be where we are headed.
What Am I Missing?
If you only have a little time to spare, then I suggest starting with these science fiction and fantasy books. I am sure that other enthusiasts will want other titles in the list, but in my opinion, if you have to have a starting point, then this list will get you off to a good start.
For those with sci-fi and fantasy "experience", what other books will you recommend under the must read category?