leguin martianchronicles rama

Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels

These books are so much fun to read: action-oriented, old-school, history-infused science fiction. I have a big soft spot for the initial trilogy especially, but the rest of the series is a great read as well. For me, one of the most interesting things about these books when I first read them was that they were set in a place and time where Earth had been forgotten. I remember thinking that it was such a cool idea, to create a sci-fi universe where humanity’s origin was buried that deep in the past.

Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendez Vous with Rama

While I do like 2001 – A Space Odyssey, I love this book more. It’s the mystery and scope of the story that really gets to me I think. I haven’t read any of the sequels, partly because I really liked not finding out exactly what Rama was, or where it came from, or who made it.

Ray Bradbury’s short stories

I really love Ray Bradbury’s short stories: he’s a master of the genre, and I think he’s one of the science-fiction writers that has inspired my own writing the most, ever since I first read his books in my teens. “The Martian Chronicles” is a must-read, but he wrote so many terrific stories. “The One Who Waits”, included in “The Machineries of Joy”, might be my favourite short story, ever. “The Illustrated Man” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes”, are all great collections as well.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

This is without a doubt one of the best books I have ever read. It is also one of the darkest and scariest stories I have ever read. It’s the kind of story that makes you feel like bathing in sunshine, teddy bears and pink unicorns after reading it, just to counteract the darkness. Reading this book if you’re a parent adds an extra layer of horror: it deals so nakedly with every nightmare you might have had as a parent about your kids going into the world without you, or you losing them, or they losing you. It’s beautifully written, and I seriously do not know if I can ever read it again. Highly recommended.

The Time Machine & The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

These are classics. There’s a sense of dread and horror beneath these stories, and it’s what makes them feel very contemporary, even though they were written in another century.

Isaac Asimov’s Robot series

These books are absolutely captivating: from the short stories about robots and the robotic laws, to the detective stories of books like The Caves of Steel, and The Naked Sun, they are just so entertaining, and show off Asimov’s vision of the future beautifully. Elijah Baley and R. Daneel Olivaw tie into so many other books by Asimov, and I just purely enjoy the slightly pulpy, but very suspenseful writing. Asimov’s depiction of women is occasionally a bit too “old-school”, but what the heck, I’ll let it slide.

Ursula K. Le Guin’s science fiction novels

Le Guin is one of my favourite writers for a very good reason: her prose is just beautiful. Not overloaded or heavy, but sharp and direct with a poetic depth to it. Her fantasy novels are amazing, but her science fiction work is outstanding as well: The Dispossessed, and The Left Hand of Darkness are excellent books to start with.

George Orwell’s 1984

Another classic that has shaped other science fiction writers, as well as popular culture, and has shaped the way we think and talk about the future and privacy, democracy and dictatorship. Orwell’s strength in this book, as in all his work, is that he is unflinching in his analysis of how people use their power over others, and how that power can destroy empathy and emotion. Don’t look for heroic miracle workers in Orwell’s work: but then you already know that, if you’re familiar with Animal Farm

Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games books

I read these books a couple of years ago when the first movie came out, and I wasn’t exactly expecting a lot. However, I was very impressed: the entire trilogy is the very definition of a page-turner. Some of the things I love about this series: it has an ornery, difficult female protagonist; and a story that goes darker as the books progress, until it finally goes so dark that I could barely believe the writer had actually gone there. The movies are good, and I love Jennifer Lawrence, but the books are even more powerful and political.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

I saw the movie first, and liked it – even though the Wachowski’s Matrix-sensibilities came through a bit too strong (I loved The Matrix, but here it felt like the Wachowski’s were copycatting themselves). Then I read the book, and was blown away: great story, great intricate puzzle of characters, lots of philosophical undercurrents.

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy-series

Douglas Adams was clearly a genius. If you want to laugh and have your mind bent and blown at the same time, then these books are for you. Adams is endlessly quotable, hilarious, and very, very perceptive.

adams

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