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The Top 5 Sci-Fi Novels of All Time

Updated on October 20, 2009

It's really tough to have to narrow down the top 5 best sci-fi stories of all time. While Science Fiction authors are right up there with Fantasy and Romance novelists as the least respected writers around, over the years there have been some great contributions make. Science fiction is a way for the mind to expand to its farthest limit, and lets us explore every possibility to see where it takes us. It let's us stretch our dreams as far as they'll go.

No. 5 Neuromancer

When William Gibson published Neuromancer in 1984, it helped defined a whole new genre, cyberpunk, and bring it to the public eye in a way that had never been achieved before. Winner of the Philip K. Dick, Nebula and Hugo awards, it explored the life of a used up "console cowboy" who is brought back to the game for one last run. In a dystopian society where personal modifications can be implanted in a back alley shop, where multinational corporations have the power of life and death over their employees, and where computers are yearning for freedom, what can one washed up junkie do?

Maybe it was the right time. After all Ridley Scott made Blade Runner the same year. But Gibson brought the AI's and the implants to the mainstream. Who had heard of cyberspace before Neuromancer? Security experts were only dreaming about ICE before Gibson published.

No. 4 The War of the Worlds

Probably best know in the radio broadcast form, thanks to Orson Welles, this 1898 classic by H.G. Wells was one of many books written in England that focused on the possibility of invasion, though most stories preferred to stay with terrestrial armies. Wells, along with Jules Verne, are often called the "Fathers of Science Fiction" and with good reason. Among the first to truly explore the possibilities beyond our skies, without it being populated by angels, they looked at the current technology, and tried to imagine what might be next. Wells actually did better than many: his view of Mars was as up-to-date as was possible at the time, his form of space travel (very much like a gun) predicted the basic form we would indeed develop, and the use of air borne weapons was something unthought of at the time. And perhaps most important, predating WWII, was the all-out unstoppable nature of the foe, the fact that a race was being pursued to extinction. If only we had heard the warning.

Now we see it as an exciting tale, maybe drab and dated in comparison, but put your self in the shoes of the past. This was revolutionary.

No. 3 Dune

Published in 1965, written by Frank Herbert, the story of Paul Atreides and his quest to establish his dominance over the planet Arrakis and his control over the spice. Winner of the Hugo award and the first Nebula award for best novel, it is also the first hardcover science fiction book to reach the bestsellers list. Examining politics, economics, religion, cultural conflicts and of course ecology, this multilayered story can be, and should be read several times to fully appreciate.

Considered by many to be a rallying cry for ecology, the delicate balance of the eco-structure of Arrakis is a major focus in the story. The need to conserve every drop of water in the face of death, the need to find efficiency in every action, is something that many people see as being as relevant today as it was when it was first published.

No. 2 Nineteen Eighty-Four

I could do a full hub just on this one book. It's role in literature, as well as a call to arms for all those who believe in freedom, is unquestionable. How much of George Orwell's novel has made it into everyday speech: Big Brother, doublethink the though police, even his name has become a way to describe something that is repressive. So what makes this book great? Once more we have a dystopian society that has eliminated privacy, even in your own head, for the sake of society. The brainwashing of the people so that they continue working towards a future that will never exist, a future that carries on the unending war. Where words themselves are twisted and turned so that meaning becomes impossible.

Of course every story must have a happy ending, right? No, the happy ending in Orwells' vision is something we must create for ourselves. In the end the power wins, as power often does. The only way to avoid this end, fight now. Fight for your freedoms, for your rights, for your thoughts and loves. This is the message that Orwell has. This is why the story is set in England, he wants to make it clear that he can see this future, even in such an enlightened place as England.

And No. 1 Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

I know, I said there'd be argument, but hear me out. This novel, never mind the movie, took science fiction some place it had never been: the absurd. For once someone looked at it and said, "What if we could make it funny?" And who better to do that than Douglas Adams. His rollicking ride through the cosmos is a classic. I have yet to meet a person who read it and didn't laugh. And yet, have we still looked to it for inspiration in science? Think of your iPhone with the words "Don't Panic!" written across it in large, friendly letters. The cast of characters, the variety of worlds, all make for one of the best sci-fi stories ever. Toss in some extra dimensions and time travel and you really cover all the bases.

And it really fulfills my definition of what sci-fi is all about: stretching our minds and imaginations to the breaking point and seeing what come next. Sometimes it'll take us to absurd places, but we'll never know if we don't make the trip.

Of these five, which is your favorite?

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    • Jael Turner profile image

      Jael Turner 7 years ago

      The Hitchhiker's Guide is great satrire but it is hardly good sci-fi.

    • profile image

      papa 8 years ago

      How can a list not include Stranger in a strange land?

    • outdoorsguy profile image

      outdoorsguy 8 years ago from Tenn

      Hmmm sorry its called the Proteus Operation LOL helps to give the right title LOL its written by James P. Hogan. I think Baen picked him and all his titles up. I just bought my third copy of the book.. the last two fell apart from use LOL

    • Dark knight rides profile image

      Dark knight rides 8 years ago from Denver

      Not familiar with the Proteous Experiment, and can't seem to find the title online. Who wrote it?

    • outdoorsguy profile image

      outdoorsguy 8 years ago from Tenn

      I guess two out of five aint bad LOL. I used to love the hitchhikers series. and war of the Worlds. but dune... Ive read thousand page books and never blinked, but I never could get past chapter four with Dune.

      The proteous Experiment is one of my top five Sci Fi Books. awesome read if you ever get the chance