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February 29, 2008

The Twenty Science Fiction Novels that Will Change Your Life

io9's The Twenty Science Fiction Novels that Will Change Your Life is interesting. Looks like someone decided that should actually talk about some books for a change, rather than SciFi soft-porn. Not sure that all of these are life-changing books.

I thought it would be nice to add some comments about them, done in the minimal amount of words, as befitting a top twenty list:

  • Frankenstein (1818), by Mary Shelley

Haven't read it. The Last Man is on my shelf. I might get round to reading it one day.

  • The Time Machine (1895), by H.G. Wells

Read it, liked it, but War Of The Worlds is better.

  • At the Mountains of Madness (1931), by H.P. Lovecraft

Haven't read it. Never fancied reading Lovecraft.

  • I, Robot (1955), by Isaac Asimov

Read it, it's okay.

  • The Dispossessed (1974), by Ursula LeGuin

Haven't read it. On my shelf.

  • Kindred (1979), by Octavia Butler

Haven't read it. Or anything by Butler. I want to read the post-apocalyptic novels (if I can find a decently priced copy)

  • Wizard (1979), by John Varley

Haven't read it. Haven't heard of it.

  • Consider Phlebas (1987), by Iain M. Banks

Read it. Didn't like it much. Use Of Weapons should be the first Culture book you read.

  • He, She, and It (1991), by Marge Piercy

Haven't read it. Haven't heard of it.

  • Sarah Canary (1991), by Karen Joy Fowler

Haven't read it. Haven't read any novels by Fowler, but feel I should.

  • A Fire Upon the Deep (1992), by Vernor Vinge

Haven't read it. Definitely should. Sounds like my type of book. A Deepness In The Sky is on my shelf (unread).

  • The Bohr Maker (1995), by Linda Nagata

Haven't read it. Haven't heard of it.

  • The Sparrow (1996), by Mary Doria Russell

Read it, loved it.

  • Cryptonomicon (2000), by Neal Stephenson

Read it, loved it.

  • The Mount (2002), by Carol Emschwiller

Haven't read it. Haven't heard of it.

  • Perdido Street Station (2002), by China Mieville

Haven't read it. Don't fancy it.

  • Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (2003), by Cory Doctorow

Read it, it's okay. Good ideas.

  • Pattern Recognition (2003), by William Gibson

Read it, loved it.

  • Newton's Wake (2004), by Ken MacLeod

Haven't read it. Loved the Fall Revolution series but hated the Engines Of Light, and haven't been back to MacLeod since, although The Execution Channel is next on my reading pile.

  • Glasshouse (2006), by Charles Stross

Read it, loved it.


He, She and It was published as Body of Glass in the UK, and won the Arthur C Clarke Award. I keep meaning to read it, if only because I find it really hard to believe it's better than Red Mars, which was on the shortlist.

The last two choices seem a bit odd to me. Newton's Wake is fun, but to me one of the less substantial MacLeod books (and definitely more in the Engines of Light vein than the Fall Revolution vein, for what that's worth). And surely the canonical Stross is Accelerando? (Although saying that makes me wonder why Sterling's Schismatrix isn't on the list.)

James - can I suggest that, for my benefit and perhaps that of some other readers, you publish you're

"Top 5 Sci-Fi books to be read by someone who has never really go into the genre before and needs to know where to begin." The shorter the novel the better too.

To give you some idea I've only read 1 of the above (I, Robot).

A nice list of books, but I think it's a little overstated as books that will 'change your life'. Perhaps it should have been books that 'alter your perception of science fiction' or something. Cryptonomicon I really don't feel deserves to be labelled as SF either, really. A better book by Stephenson for that list would be The Diamond Age, I believe.

As for Stross, Glasshouse was simply a decent sci-fi book... Accelerando is definitely the one that attempts to be more than the sum of its parts.

Dave T - it would depend on your own taste in books, whether you like the subtle thinker novels or action type ones or space opera?

Personally, I would say give this lot a go:

Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
Hyperion by Dan Simmons
Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan
Oryx & Crake by Margaret Atwood