Okay, so I’ve set myself a new task, of reading all the winners in the Hugo for Best Novel category, figuring it would give me a broad overview of the genre that I love. (Plus there’s a lot of good books there that I haven’t read.)
But this leads me to the obvious question: What would you consider somebody who’s well-read in science fiction (and heck, we’ll throw in fantasy, too, as several of the Hugo winners are fantasy) to have read? In some ways, a canon of speculative fiction is what I’m asking about.
I haven’t thought it over totally, but I think some of the books on my list would be:
The Foundation trilogy and I, Robot by Asimov
Childhood’s End, 2001, and Rendezvous with Rama by Clarke
Stranger in a Strange Land, Starship Troopers, and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Heinlein
Ringworld by Niven
Canticle for Leibowitz by Miller
Man in the High Castle by Dick (There should be more Dick here, but I’m drawing a blank.)
Forever War by Haldeman
The Lathe of Heaven and The Dispossessed by LeGuin
Snow Crash by Stephenson
Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit by Tolkien
And this is a very incomplete list, I point out, this is just off the top of my head. So what am I missing? What would you think required reading for a science fiction geek?
I’m locking posts on this on LJ, because I want the discussion to happen over at my blog. :)
10 thoughts on “Science Fiction must-reads?”
Personally, I’d recommend anything by Peter F. Hamilton (especially his “Nights’ Dawn” trilogy) or Alastair Reynolds. Neither of them, as far as I know, have received any Hugos or Nebulas, but they’re pretty much my very favorite sci fi writers right now. Serious hard core space opera epics.
I would say that something by Marion Zimmer Bradley — Darkover series — and something by Andre Norton (I loved Year of the Unicorn) should be on the list. One of the early Pern books, too. (You can’t see the Pern shout-outs/subversions in His Majesty’s Dragon unless you’ve read the Pern stuff!)
His Majesty’s Dragon is a more recent classic, I think.
Bujold’s Vorkosigan series — The Warrior’s Apprentice or the omnibus it gets put into, Young Miles. Hasn’t Bujold gotten as many awards, now, as Heinlein?
H. Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy.
The Witches of Karres, which is science fantasy and I found it hysterically funny in parts. James Schmitz, I think, is the author.
You need to add a Heinlein juvenile, I’d suggest Citizen of the Galaxy or Rocketship Galilleo.
L. Sprague de Camp, Lest Darkness Fall.
Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451
To be fully conversant in SF, you need to include a list of short fiction:
Clarke’s “The Star”
Tom Godwin’s “The Cold Equations”
Murray Leinster’s “First Contact”
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s “Harrison Bergeron”
Frank Herbert, Dune, Dune Messiah and God-Emperor of Dune should be on the list.
Zelazny’s Amber books, specifically Nine Princes in Amber and Guns of Avalon.
Vernor Vinge, A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky.
Well, as an old fart (defined as anybody who can order from the seniors’ menu at Bob Evans), and limiting myself to ONE volume per author, rather than saying “all of…”, I’d add the following to your list:
Gray Lensman (or The Skylark of Space), E. E. Smith
1984, George Orwell
Sirius, Olaf Stapledon
When They Come from Space Mark Clifton OR Pohl and Kornbluth The Space Merchants.
Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury
The High Crusade, Poul Anderson
At least one short story by Zenna Henderson
At least one of Judith Merrill’s The Year’s Best SF anthologies, for the flavour of her introductions
For Zelazny I’d prefer Lord of Light or Isle of the Dead Or his magnificent novella “24 Views of Mount Fuji.”
For Arthur Clarke I prefer Against the Fall of Night.
Harlan Ellison — “Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes”, or “I have no mouth and I must scream”.
Our Patron — I had to think long and hard about this one, but I settled upon Time Pressure, with Mindkiller running a close second.
Sorry to stop at this point — needless to say, I could gas on for many hours — I mean, you’re talking to an entity who, according to official estimates, has read over 10,000 volumes of CNADIAN POETRY… just IMAGINE how much SF I’ve gorged myself upon during my fifty-three years of reading life….
For a second Philip K. Dick, how about Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, which was (I believe) his only other Hugo novel nominee. Of course, it’s really the short stories that set him apart.
Off the top of my head, I’d add (in addtion to the excellent additions above):
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, by Phillip L. Dick (if only to compare it with Bladerunner)
Gateway, by Frederick Pohl
Neuromancer, by William Gibson
Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
I hear there’s a follow-up to that, due out Real Soon Now…
Alfred Bester, The Stars My Destination. Though if you’re going for “I’d have expected you to have read” rather than “You should read,” I’d say The Demolished Man.
I also second Gateway, and suggest The Left Hand of Darkness by LeGuin as well as the two you mentioned. TLHOD is kinda classic.
Wild Seed by Octavia Butler.
The Clockwork Orange is an oldie but a goodie. It is not a Hugo winner but still good even now.
Dead Empires Fall is good as a gritty set of novels. Stephen Donaldson’s Gap Cycle series was wonderful too.
I like sci-fi writing myself and have a new novel Doom Of The Shem. Futuristic alien invasion story were alien species fight over real estate and to be top of the food chain and for their freedom.
doomofthe shem.blogspot .com