Six must-read sci-fi novels for newbies and seasoned fans
Science fiction is a genre that has consistently brought us a few stone-cold classics each decade. But if you’re a newbie looking to get into science fiction, or you’re already a fan and looking for something new, there are fewer books better than these six greats.
The Deep (1975) – John Crowley
It actually would have been quite easy to fill this list with just the works of John Crowley, who has enjoyed critical acclaim but never received the public recognition that he sorely deserves. The Deep is Crowley’s first novel and tells the story of a war between two factions and a mysterious figure from above. Despite being only around 200 pages, it’s a densely plotted and epic read.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979-1992) – Douglas Adams
In this absurd, quick-witted and hilarious series, Adams recounts the adventures of Arthur Dent and company following the destruction of Earth. Beginning life as a BBC Radio show and later becoming a “trilogy of five” (or six if you count the non-Adams 2008 instalment), it’s a series for young and old alike. This is the only series worth including in its entirety – sorry, Hunger Games fans. The reason for its inclusion is a fairly simple one: the novels are short enough that they can be (and have been) compiled into one book.
Dune (1965) – Frank Herbert
Herbert’s opus is easily the heftiest commitment listed here. It is a longer book than the others and a noticeably more complex one; it’s often compared to Tolkien’s painstakingly detailed Middle Earth. Indeed, that may be too light a comparison. Dune is also a franchise (and the five sequels are worth a look) but that is only for those who can get through the first novel of Herbert’s meticulously constructed world – it doesn’t get any easier.
Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) – George Orwell
There is a pretty high likelihood that you’re familiar with this beloved dystopian novel. If you’ve heard of it but haven’t read it, then let’s say this: there are few pieces of fiction as influential and thought-provoking as this one. Orwell’s exploration of surveillance, totalitarianism and censorship is possibly even more relevant today than it was when it was published. It is an exceedingly clear example of the capabilities of science fiction as a genre, so much so that calling it ‘sci-fi’ almost seems reductive.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) – Phillip K. Dick
The novel that would become Blade Runner -- one of the greatest science fiction films of all time -- is an introspective and immersive experience in its own right. The main character’s hunt for “Andys” leads to him questioning the nature of humanity and his own religious faith, while holding out hope to own the ultimate status symbol: a real animal. Dick is a titan of a sci-fi writer, and Androids is the best possible introduction to one of the men who heavily shaped modern science fiction.
A Clockwork Orange (1962) – Anthony Burgess
Clockwork matches Dune in complexity -- not in narrative, but in prose. The language Burgess uses is so vivid and interesting (yet, on the face of it, impenetrable) that Clockwork will stick in your mind long after you’ve read it. The “clockwork orange” refers to the combination of technology (clockwork) and the organic (orange, here meaning “human”). Burgess’ examination of moral choice, and lack thereof, is a disturbingly violent and emotionally draining piece of fiction.
Ally is a uni student who is shockingly good at remembering facts no one cares about involving TV shows and films. She also writes a bit.