|Top 100*||Book||Author||Read again?||Description|
|1||Ender's Game||Orson Scott Card||Yes||The first book in Card's superb Ender sequence, although it easily holds its own as a stand-alone. Humanity is attacked by aliens and almost wiped out. Child genius Ender Wiggin is top of the heap in the government's military genius breeding program. A race against time springs some surprises for both Ender and the invading forces. A feature film adaptation was released in 2013.|
|2||Dune||Frank Herbert||Yes||The first and best of Herbert's Dune series - to survive on sandworld Arrakis water resources must be carefully preserved. A political power struggle over an immortality drug sees the hero lead desert dwellers and sandworms into battle and begin his rise to messiah status. A sprawling saga that remains immensely popular. Dune Messiah (1969) and Children of Dune (1976) complete the trilogy.|
Much-loved series tracing the decline and fall of a galactic empire. Psychohistorian Hari Seldon, however, makes contingency plans - with art, science and technology eventually saving the day. Asimov's scientific background shows in Foundation's frequent intellectual discourse. Won a retrospective Hugo as all-time best series.
[I read this long before creating this page, so I don't remember much about it, but I do remember it starting out strong but then going downhill from there]
|4||Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy||Douglas Adams||No||
It's the end of the world as we know it - and when a book is this funny - I feel fine. The guide, of course, is what we segue to as we follow Arthur Dent, the last human left alive, on his unlikely travels around the galaxy. By book four in the "trilogy" the jokes were wearing a little thin. This one, however, is not to be missed for the world.
[Hilarious, and I do recommend it, but I don't think I'd find it as funny a second time through]
Orwell got the title by reversing the last two digits in 1948 - the year he wrote this greatest of all anti-utopian satires. A minor bureaucrat in a totalitarian state rebels against the ruling Party and its almost mythical leader Big Brother. Terms like Newspeak, Doublethink and Thought Police became part of the language. Immensely influential.
[It was an amazing book, but far too depressing to do it again!]
|6||Stranger in a Strange Land||Robert A Heinlein||Yes||No respectable hippie-era pad was complete without a copy of Stranger lying on a beanbag somewhere. Human raised by Martians arrives back on Earth, inherits a fortune and is indoctrinated by a Heinlein-like author. He becomes a messiah and free-love abounds. A controversial bestseller in its day and still manages to raise some eyebrows.|
|7||Fahrenheit 451||Ray Bradbury||Yes||Near-future 'firemen' are charged with the responsibility of burning all books in order to wipe out dangerous and subversive ideas. Wall-to-wall TV satiates the masses, while fireman hero Montag secretly reads books. He finally flees the city and takes refuge with a group of 'memorisers' - quite literally people who memorise books. Timeless classic.|
|8||2001; A Space Odyssey||Arhur C Clarke||No||
The now-familiar story of human evolution that culminates in a mission to Saturn to track down the origins of a monolith found on the moon. The super-intelligent HAL 9000 computer starts getting some ideas of his own along the way. Based on the co-written screenplay for the famous Stanley Kubrick feature feature film. A good novel, but rides the film's coattails to a certain degree.
[I know I may be guilty of heresy, but I didn't really care for either the book or the movie]
|9||Starship Troopers||Robert A Heinlein||Yes||A pivotal book in the history of militaristic sci-fi. After some seriously gung-ho training, a space-marine is thrown into a war against some really nasty and violent alien bugs. Duty and country (i.e. America) are of paramount importance. A popular 1997 feature film was roundly criticised by RAH supporters for its depiction of society as a fascist state rather than a libertarian democracy.|
|10||I, Robot||Isaac Asimov||Yes||Collection of must-read early Robot stories sees 'The Three Laws of Robotics' fall far short of being foolproof - with humanity copping some bumps and bruises as a result. Robots go mad, get superiority complexes, enter politics, read our minds, and even develop a sense of humour. As always, Asimov's science is virtually flawless.|
Groundbreaking cyber-granddaddy of them all, this book won the 'Holy Trinity' of sci-fi awards (Hugo, Nebula, Dick). A computer cowboy jacks his mind into cyberspace and swipes information for sale to the highest bidder. Caught in a double-cross, his brain pays the price. The only cure is a conspiratorial cyber-satanic deal. Remains popular.[I didn't make it the whole way through. I think it was the last book before I discovered Smart Audiobook Player, which allows you to increase playback speed, so maybe I should give it another try]
|12||Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep||Philip K Dick||Yes||Filmed as Blade Runner, this PKD classic has lost none of its appeal over the years. Bounty hunter Rick Deckard tracks down renegade 'replicants' - almost-faultlessly lifelike androids created to fill the void left by the devastating World War. As usual, Dick keeps us guessing - and the hunter becomes the hunted. Must read novel.|
A crew sets out to explore the huge 'Ringworld' artificial object. The foursome survive encounters with the local inhabitants ("nothing but savagery"), who are seemingly very human. The apex of the Tales of Known Space sequence, Niven's hard sci-fi may be far too technical and a bit short on entertainment value for some tastes.
[I was glad that Teela turned out to be more than just a fuck buddy for Louis, but the idea that luck is a genetic trait that can be selectively bred is ridiculous. I might give the sequels a try, because the story was interesting aside from that detail]
|14||Rendezvous with Rama||Arthur C Clarke||Yes||Captain Cook-obsessed commander leads crew in exploration of interior of huge cylindrical alien artefact on near-sun trajectory. No-one knows who built it or why it is here. The allusion to Cook hints at the fundamental premise on offer which celebrates the pure joy of exploration. The book won a swag of awards including a Nebula and Hugo, in the process remaining one of Clarke's most popular.|
|15||Hyperion||Dan Simmons||Shit No||
Canterbury Tales in space. Human ascendancy in the galaxy is under siege as seven pilgrims set off for the Time Tombs to find the creature called Shrike. Along the way they trade their stories - each one harbouring a dark secret. Well constructed high-tech future that adroitly mixes religion and revelation into the plot. At the top of the class.
[A few of the tales were quite interesting, but overall I just wanted to be done with it. If I had known they wouldn't even meet the Shrike, I probably would have given up part way through]
|16||Brave New World||Aldous Huxley||No||
Justifiably famous dystopian discourse on the dangers of technology and hedonistic pleasures. VR movies (feelies) and a psychedelic drug (soma) keep people in check, babies are genetically engineered, and human relationships lack intimacy. Two humans from the Savage Reservation cop fatal doses of mainstream society.
[Maybe I was still just pissed after Hyperion, but I really didn't enjoy this one at all. Surprised to find it in the top 20]
|17||Time Machine, The||H G Wells||Yes||Original far-future time travel story absolutely loaded with inconspicuously incisive social commentary. A time traveler with a proto-steampunk contraption trips over 800,000 years into the future. The desperately carnivorous proletarian Morlocks have little time for the uselessly parasitic Eloi. Unchecked capitalism is the big loser. Socialist classic.|
|18||Childhood's End||Arthur C Clarke||Yes||Straightforward writing propels this intriguing tale about the evolution of humanity. Dreaded aliens invade and impose peace on the planet. They turn out to be reasonably benevolent as they go about unselfishly raising humanity to a new plane of spiritual evolution. A breath-taking climax tops things off, making this Clarke's best by far.|
|19||Moon is a Harsh Mistress, The||Robert A Heinlein||Yes. 1000 times Yes||Heinlein's last great novel is choc-full of the libertarian ideals that saw him fall from favour with sci-fi's mainstream. It is essentially the re-telling of the American Revolution in RAH terms - with an open Lunar penal colony the setting for the plotted overthrow of authority. Very chatty, but Mycroft the talking computer is a load of fun.|
|20||War of the Worlds, The||H G Wells||No||
Wells often referred to this original alien-invasion story as a 'scientific fantasy'. Martians invade and inflict mass destruction on humankind. All resistance fails and things look pretty grim, leaving the survival of humankind in some serious doubt. Darwinist book is in stark contrast to the socialism of The Time Machine. Remade as a feature film starring Tom Cruise in 2005.
[Didn't hate it, but have no interest in listening a second time]
|21||Forever War, The||Joe Haldeman||Yes||
Haldeman's use of deep space settings to portray Vietnam-era military training methods and combat strategies is a history lesson from someone who was there. In a few months at the front lines centuries can pass by on Earth. Sexually-liberated soldier William Mandella finds that things aren't much fun in the 32nd-century. Significant to the genre.
[Somewhat predictable in that the war was all a misunderstanding, but I enjoyed it anyway]
|22||Martian Chronicles, The||Ray Bradbury||Maybe||
Popular collection of linked stories depicting the near-future colonisation of Mars. Published in the UK as The Silver Locusts, the book has a haunting quality, perhaps flagging Bradbury's later forays into horror. Nevertheless, there is no denying the power of these stories and Bradbury's significant contributions to the sci-fi genre.
[The audiobook did not make it clear when moving from one story to the next, so I found myself confused and re-listening to portions. I thought it was interesting, and so will likely check out a paperback from the library one day]
|23||Slaughterhouse-Five||Kurt Vonnegut||Yes||Autobiographical hero Billy Pilgrim is deeply affected by his WWII experiences as a POW during the fire-bombing of Dresden. Consequently, he ends up time-travelling between Dresden, a typically meaningless upper-middle class existence, and the planet Tralfamadore where he is a zoo display. Darkly comic work of pure genius.|
|24||Snow Crash||Neal Stephenson||Yes||A satirical farewell to cyberpunk from one of the hottest sci-fi writers of the 1990s. In the not-too-distant future corporations run governments and the Mafia controls pizza delivery. A delivery driver who is also a hacker and samurai swordsman comes to the aid of his best friend who has fried his brain on the designer drug Snow Crash.|
|25||Mote in God's Eye, The||Larry Niven &
The first of several successful collaborations set in Pournelle's CoDominium future. A fully-blown interstellar human empire - complete with royalty and a powerful military sub-class - have an unexpectedly dangerous encounter with the alien Moties. Pournelle's narrative skill and Niven's technical acumen are the perfect mix. All-time favourite.
[I thought for sure we would blow up the Moties, and then ourselves be exterminated by the pair of watchmakers Bury was trying to bring home]
Left Hand of Darkness, The
Ursula K. Le Guin
Intellectual sci-fi classic that still rouses lively debate. A 'normal' human emissary travels to the wayward world called Winter, where the hermaphroditic inhabitants are real live gender-benders. Along the way he forgets his training, gets involved in local politics, and has to face up to his sexual prejudices. Indispensable reading.
[I didn't find this one too science fictiony. Yes, sci-fi was definitely required in the development of Gethen, but the actual events of the story seemed like they could have easily taken place in some remote area of Earth]
|27||Speaker for the Dead||Orson Scott Card||Yes||Riveting sequel to Ender's Game. Ender Wiggin gets chance at redemption for his unintentional xenocide of an alien race. For thousands of planetary years he travels the galaxy performing community-healing ceremonies for the dead. The alien Hive Queen he is carrying finds a home, but the Galactic Federation is not pleased. Sci-fi at its best.|
|28||Jurassic Park||Michael Crichton||Yes||While certainly no masterpiece, most readers will be pleasantly surprised with this thriller on which the hit feature film is based. A theme park featuring bio-engineered dinosaurs cops some industrial espionage and things get out of hand. Crichton's best since The Andromeda Strain and a mega-bestseller in its day. Worth a look.|
|29||Man in the High Castle, The||Philip K Dick||-||
The pick of the alternative-history bunch and the novel that established Dick as a major sci-fi writer. In 1962 the few surviving Jews live in fear and slavery is legal - all because America lost World War II. Literary and quasi-religious themes abound... and ultimately we get an alternative history within an alternative history. In true noir style, the real mystery is the truth. Or is it the other way around?
[Bad quality audio, will try again with another copy]
|30||Caves of Steel||Isaac Asimov||Yes||Future Earth inhabitants live underground in a vast world city. When a robotics expert is murdered, a detective and his robot partner hunt for the killer in the city's elaborate network of corridors. A favourite with fans and more in-depth character development than usual from the master. Robot novel followed by The Naked Sun (1957).|
|31||Stars My Destination, The||Alfred Bester||No||
Energetic 24th century tale of the motivational power of revenge, loosely based on The Count of Monte Cristo. Central character Gully Foyle is left to die in space when a passing ship refuses to render aid. He taps the under-utilised resources of his mind to wreak revenge - becoming a psionic superman in the process. True classic from a genuine master.
[Much like "2001", I did not enjoy the ending at all. The voice acting drove me a little crazy too, so if I was to listen again I'd have to find another copy. Easier just to not listen again!]
|32||Gateway||Frederik Pohl||Yes||First book in the splendid Heechee Saga and worthy recipient of all three major awards it won. Aliens hideout from 'Assassins' who have little time for any other species. Hoping to get rich quick, humans use their spacecraft in all or nothing missions from the Gateway. Wealthy three-mission veteran has to face what he has become. All-time classic sci-fi.|
|33||Lord of Light||Roger Zelazny||Yes||Zelazny's finest novel focuses on a starship crew that takes over a colony world and becomes technologically-enhanced Hindu 'gods'. Mind-transfers and cloning keep it all humming along nicely until a retired god throws a karmic dose of Buddhism into the mix. Despite the deity war that ensues - just the tonic for the Summer of Love.|
The central character in Solaris is a sentient ocean that humans find impossible to communicate with. The Earth space-station orbiting the planet is practically a death sentence, as everyone who serves on it seems to get the urge to commit suicide. Lem asserts we should accept that there are things we will never understand. Mind-boggling.
[Started out quite good, but part way through I got confused about what was going on. I blame the construction on Governors Road sapping my attention, so maybe I'll try again another day]
|35||20,000 Leagues Under the Sea||Jules Verne||No||
French writer generally regarded as the 'other' father of sci-fi - the first being H G Wells. His SF classic depicts the misanthropic Captain Nemo busily upsetting shipping routes in his plushly-furnished submarine Nautilus. Survivors of an attacked vessel get a guided tour of the ocean depths. Technology on the verge of startling reality.
[Considering it was written in 1870 it seems like it was very much ahead of its time in terms of some of the technology it describes, but since I'm reading it nearly 150 years later it isn't nearly as fascinating as it probably was back then]
|36||A Wrinkle In Time||Madelein L'engle||No||
Widely regarded as the best children's sci-fi book ever written and a Newbery Medal winner in 1963. When an unearthly stranger shows up Meg Murray embarks on a trip through time and space looking for her father, accompanied by her little brother and a friend. Along the way there's mystery, theology and even a bit of science.
[Not bad for a children's book]
|37||Cat's Cradle||Kurt Vonnegut||Maybe||
Vonnegut takes aim at science and religion in this side-splitting nuclear age parable. A scientist invents 'ice-nine' because a general is tired of soldiers' boots getting muddy. An array of misfits take us through some typical Vonnegut mayhem. There is never any doubt about what will happen in the end, but gee it's fun getting there.
[Couldn't get into the audiobook. Might try again with a paperback copy]
|38||Contact||Carl Sagan||Yes||Sagan popularised astronomy through an entertaining series of TV documentaries in the early-80s. He followed the success of the Cosmos series with this highly entertaining novel about a series of radio telescopes that pick up some extraterrestrial communication. A hit 1997 feature film starring Jody Foster rekindled interest in the book.|
|39||Andromeda Strain||Michael Crichton||Yes||The army gets the idea to mine extraterrestrial biological agents after scientists successfully set up a decontamination program. When a 'Scoop' satellite crashes into an Arizona desert a team of scientists is sent to clean up the mess. Crichton's first and possibly best remains popular thanks largely to a riveting film version.|
|42||Cryptonomicon||Neal Stephenson||Yes||This is Stephenson's most complex yarn yet, although many would argue it's not sci-fi. The ultra-hip tale switches between the story of a top secret WWII code-cracking unit and its connection to present day decrypters. The underlying theme is that the universe is a cosmic operating system that uses a command-line interface. Popular with Stephenson's fans.|
|55||Diamond Age, The||Neal Stephenson||-||
Stephenson's popular follow-up to 1992's Snow Crash has nanotech engineer John Percival Hackworth stealing a copy of a computer-interactive book he designed for his wealthy employer. Neo-Victorian society is never the same again when an underprivileged girl gets a hold of it and radically reprograms the future.
[Bad quality audio, will try again with another copy]
|61||Ender's Shadow||Orson Scott Card||Yes||A parallel novel to Card's justly-famous Ender's Game. Again the story focuses on the training of brilliant children to lead a struggle against alien invaders. Whilst the events are basically the same in both novels, Shadow is told from the perspective of Bean, Ender's lieutenant. Read Game first, but be sure not miss this one. Tried and true formula suggesting there is no end to Ender.|
|71||Door into Summer, The||Robert A Heinlein||Yes||Highly regarded tale of temporal revenge sees electronics engineer Dan Davis invent the ultimate household robot, but his greedy business partner and wayward fiancee pull a double-cross. Duped into the 'Long Sleep', he wakes up in the year 2000 and utilises space jumps to inflict his recurring revenge. Heinlein in his heyday.|
|-||American Gods||Neil Gaimon||Yes||Scary, gripping and deeply unsettling, American Gods takes a long, hard look into the soul of America. You'll be surprised by what - and who - it finds there...|
At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with the pop-culture savvy that has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon.
[Too much was just too obvious]
|-||Cat Who Walks Through Walls, The||Robert A Heinlein||Fool me once...||
When a stranger attempting to deliver a cryptic message is shot dead at his table, Dr. Richard Ames is thrown headfirst into danger, intrigue, and other dimensions, where a plot to rescue a sentient computer could alter human history...
[I'll be honest, I was sad that Mike's fate was unclear at the end of TMIAHM. While reading about the book after listening to it I came across this post on Reddit, which had a reply that made me assume TCWWTW would have answers I was looking for. Boy was I wrong. To top it off, the narration was absolute shit, so yeah I'd rather do Hyperion than this book again]
|-||Damned||Chuck Palahniuk||Yes||The newest Palahniuk novel concerns Madison, a thirteen year old girl who finds herself in Hell, unsure of why she will be there for all eternity, but tries to make the best of it.|
|-||Dark Tower Series, The||Stephen King||No||
In the first book of this brilliant series, Stephen King introduces readers to one of his most enigmatic heroes, Roland of Gilead, The Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting figure, a loner on a spellbinding journey into good and evil. In his desolate world, which frighteningly mirrors our own, Roland pursues The Man in Black, encounters an alluring woman named Alice, and begins a friendship with the Kid from Earth called Jake. Both grippingly realistic and eerily dreamlike, The Gunslinger leaves readers eagerly awaiting the next chapter.
[It's an amazing series, but it's a No to reading again for a few (spoiler filled) reasons. 1) Because holy shit it's long. 2) Because fuck the fact that poor Roland is on repeat. 3) Because fuck Patrick Danville and his magical fucking eraser even harder. 4) And finally, because King narrated The Wind Through the Keyhole, and it is unbearable to hear him pronounce "Deschain"]
|-||Demon-Haunted World, The||Carl Sagan||Maybe||
How can we make intelligent decisions about our increasingly technology-driven lives if we don’t understand the difference between the myths of pseudoscience and the testable hypotheses of science? Pulitzer Prize-winning author and distinguished astronomer Carl Sagan argues that scientific thinking is critical not only to the pursuit of truth but to the very well-being of our democratic institutions.
[After really enjoying Contact I thought I would try this, but I just couldn't get into it. Maybe I'll try again another day]
|-||Good Omens||Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman||Yes||According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world's only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.|
|-||Neverwhere||Neil Gaimon||Yes||Richard Mayhew is a young man with a good heart and an ordinary life, which is changed forever when he stops to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London sidewalk. His small act of kindness propels him into a world he never dreamed existed. There are people who fall through the cracks, and Richard has become one of them. Now he must learn to survive in this city of shadows and darkness, monsters and saints, murderers and angels, if he is ever to return to the London that he knew.|
|-||Norse Mythology||Neil Gaimon||Yes||In Norse Mythology, Gaiman stays true to the myths in envisioning the major Norse pantheon: Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki—son of a giant—blood brother to Odin and a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator.|
|-||Ready Player One||Ernest Cline||Yes||In the year 2045, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.|
|-||Something Wicked This Way Comes||Ray Bradbury||No||
A carnival rolls in sometime after the midnight hour on a chill Midwestern October eve, ushering in Halloween a week before its time. A calliope's shrill siren song beckons to all with a seductive promise of dreams and youth regained. In this season of dying, Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois, to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery. And two inquisitive boys standing precariously on the brink of adulthood will soon discover the secret of the satanic raree-show's smoke, mazes, and mirrors, as they learn all too well the heavy cost of wishes - and the stuff of nightmare.
[Thought I would try this shortly after Fahrenheit 451, but couldn't get into it]
|Yes||Doomed to - or blessed with - eternal life after drinking from a magic spring, the Tuck family wanders about trying to live as inconspicuously and comfortably as they can. When ten-year-old Winnie Foster stumbles on their secret, the Tucks take her home and explain why living forever at one age is less a blessing that it might seem. Complications arise when Winnie is followed by a stranger who wants to market the spring water for a fortune.|
*Top 100 refers to the book's rank in a torrent I found, which I believe may be based off an earlier version of this list: http://scifilists.sffjazz.com/lists_books_rank1.html. Descriptions for the Top 100 are shamelessly stolen from said Top 100 page. [Comments in brackets are my own]