The idea of a great beyond have always been a source of mystery and fascination for scientists and artists alike. It has left many of us in awe and inspiration throughout the centuries, and it inspirited many generations of great writers and poets to create their own worlds, planets, stars, and galaxies that reside in the words and pages of their works. Though it can be daunting to try to find a good and stirring science fiction book for your next read among thousands.
So, if you are a geeky stargazer like us and want to immerse yourself in an eye-opening book, we have compiled a list of 5 amazing science fiction books that stood the test of time, and we wrote it down for your next stellar journey.
by Samuel R. Delany
In a time where humanity have spread among the galaxy, the Earth is under siege by the Invaders, whose only weapon is the titular Babel-17. The only defender is a crew of outliers, and their star-ship captain, a poet, and a linguist, Rydra Wong, commissioned by the Alliance’s General Forester. The survival of the entire humanity depends on Wong’s ability to decipher and figure out the intercepted alien messages to bring down the alien threat.
This adventurous space-opera was written by Samuel R. Delany in 1966 when he was only at the age of 23, and it wasn’t even his first book. It was the joint winner of the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1967, the other winner being Flowers for Algernon. It was also nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel in the same year.
The plot of the novel is built on how much language influence our lives and ourselves, and the narration takes you on a spectacularly galactic journey, as well as a journey into the psyches of the characters. It makes use of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, which posits that the language we speak shapes the way we percept the world around us. Babel-17 is not only packed full of thrilling interstellar war and espionage, but it also has poignant character backstories as well. If you are a sci-fi fan as well as a language nerd, this is definitely the perfect book for you!
by Ursula K. Le Guin
One planet is populated by a society of sheer anarchy and isolation, and the other with warring nations teeming with brutal inequality and capitalism. The only variable in this centuries-old disorder is the brilliant physicist, Shevek, who takes on a self-appointed mission to achieve the impossible; to unbuild the walls between the two twin planets, Anarres and Urras, and reunite them.
The Dispossessed is an award-winning utopian science fiction book written by Ursula K. Le Guin in 1974. It is the fifth book of the author’s the Hainish Cycle series. Although, because of the fictional ansible, it can be regarded as chronologically the first book of the Hainish Cycle. It has won the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1974, both the Hugo and Locus Awards in 1975, and was nominated for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award in the same year. This bone-chillingly powerful novel is all about the exploration of dichotomies, be it between the idea of a utopia and a dystopia, capitalism and socialism, or anarchism and pacifism. It’s full of revolution and symbolisms, and it will surely ignite the revolutionary fire within you. It combines thrilling adventures with an insightful look into societies, and it is a must read for every sci-fi geek.
“The Dispossessed started as a very bad short story, which I didn’t try to finish but couldn’t quite let go. There was a book in it, and I knew it, but the book had to wait for me to learn what I was writing about and how to write about it. … If I had known then that my country would continue making aggressive wars for the rest of my life, I might have had less energy for protesting that one. But, knowing only that I didn’t want to study war no more, I studied peace.” – Le Guin, a brief commentary on her novel in a recent edition after over 40 years of writing it.
2001: A Space Odyssey
by Arthur C. Clarke
After the monolith, a mysterious alien structure, nudge the Moon-Watcher into evolution, humankind progresses from mere primitive man-apes starving in the deserts of Africa to a technologically advanced civilization that is capable of deep-space exploration. In a moon exploration mission in 1999, Dr. Heywood Floyd and his team make a discovery that will change the humankind forever; a black object that is too precise to have occurred naturally, which indicates the first evidence of intelligent extraterrestrial life. First beam of sunlight falls onto the object after millions of years and it sends a signal to one of Saturn’s moons, after which the executives decide to explore it. In 2001, Dr. David Bowman and Dr. Frank Poole, along with three crewmates onboard in hibernation and HAL 9000, their artificially intelligent supercomputer, embark on a mission named Discovery One to Saturn to find the source of the signal. However, unbeknownst to them, their mission is destined to break bad.
This trailblazing science fiction novel was written by Arthur C. Clarke in 1968. Even though its film version is mostly believed to be an adaptation, Clarke actually started ideating for the novel and the film in tandem with Stanley Kubrick. Later on, Clarke published the novel and Kubrick made the film. The novel gives quite a lot of insight into human evolution, potential risks of technological development such as AI, space travel, and nuclear weapons. It is a very gripping read and highly recommended!
by Isaac Asimov
The salvation of the entire human race is at the hands of a visionary, and he is willing to fly in the face of darkness and savagery to save it. The magnificent Galactic Empire has been in power for 12,000 years but the visionary scientist Hari Seldon predicts that it will slowly fall, and the ensuing 30,000 years will be utter darkness, ignorance, and barbarism. He is able to make these predictions by using psychohistory, the field he founded to predict alternative futures based on statistics. He proposes to assemble the most brilliant minds in the galaxy and store the humankind’s entire knowledge for future generations. He is sent to Terminus, a planet at the edge of the galaxy, to establish his sanctuary, what he calls the Foundation.
The Foundation was actually written by Isaac Asimov as a collection of short stories, which then turned into a book and published in 1951. Later on, Asimov developed it into a series that won him a special, one-time Hugo Award for Best All-Time Series in 1966. It delves into major real-life topics such as historical development, psychology, progress and evolution of nations and civilizations, and inevitably the human nature. It has gained lots of praise from science fiction fandom, and it is a brilliantly written work of art that is guaranteed to feed your mind and soul!
The Illustrated Man
by Ray Bradbury
Considering all of the books on this list, The Illustrated Man might be the most unusual one. It is a collection of short stories, some of them are about space and some are not, from which we have chosen three of our favorites for you space lovers!
After their spaceship broke down and disintegrated, the crew are scattered across space. While drifting in utter darkness into a menacingly near end, they reminisce about their lives and look back on what they have done right or wrong, and they make their last wishes.
The Rocket Man
The ardor of a true astronaut is wreaking havoc on his relationship with his family, his wife and son, Doug. He is hankering for the warmth of his home while he is in space, and he is hankering for the stars when he is at home. As he see-saws between the stars and his family, he makes his son promise to never become an astronaut, and he goes for his last trip to space.
A desolate city in an untraversed planet comes alive and turns into a killing machine flaming with vengeance once human astronauts step foot in it. Unbeknownst to the astronauts, the planet was once populated with a pre-historic civilization who was wiped out by the humankind. With their last burst of fire, they designed the city to avenge their death if any human comes across again.
This creative masterpiece was written by Ray Bradbury in 1951. The Illustrated Man is a collection of 18 science fiction stories, and each story is told by the tattoos of the Illustrated Man, who approaches the narrator asking for work. The book combines science fiction, fantasy, and horror successfully. It is mostly an entertaining and imaginative, albeit gloomy, exploration of human nature and the human condition with a remarkably creative twist in terms of narration.
I am a writer, photographer and programmer based out of Chicago, IL USA. I enjoy finding creative ways to combine my studio still life photographs with fictional stories. I am always on the lookout for interesting stories and writing, which I love to really dissect and figure out how it works, and to share what I have found.