Top 5 Old School Sci-Fi Books

At this time of year – when Winter just seems to drag on and on – you might find yourself in need of a little escapism.  And if you’re going to go – you might as well go far.  How ’bout to the future?  Or another world?  Or another world IN the future?   And where better to find great stories of the future?  In the past, of course.  Today’s Top 5 List takes a look at some of the best classic Sci-Fi.  So strap in and get ready for take-off.  We’re getting out of here:

#1 – FOUNDATION by Isaac Asimov

For twelve thousand years the Galactic Empire has ruled supreme. Now it is dying. But only Hari Sheldon, creator of the revolutionary science of psychohistory, can see into the future—to a dark age of ignorance, barbarism, and warfare that will last thirty thousand years. To preserve knowledge and save mankind, Seldon gathers the best minds in the Empire—both scientists and scholars—and brings them to a bleak planet at the edge of the Galaxy to serve as a beacon of hope for a fututre generations. He calls his sanctuary the Foundation.

But soon the fledgling Foundation finds itself at the mercy of corrupt warlords rising in the wake of the receding Empire. Mankind’s last best hope is faced with an agonizing choice: submit to the barbarians and be overrun—or fight them and be destroyed.

#2 – 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY by Arthur C. Clarke

2001 did seem way in the future when this one was written! Now, it has been forty years since the publication of this classic science fiction novel that changed the way we look at the stars and ourselves. From the savannas of Africa at the dawn of mankind to the rings of Saturn as man adventures to the outer rim of our solar system, 2001: A Space Odyssey is a journey unlike any other.

This allegory about humanity’s exploration of the universe, and the universe’s reaction to humanity, was the basis for director Stanley Kubrick’s immortal film, and lives on as a hallmark achievement in storytelling.

#3 – THE TIME MACHINE by H.G. Wells
The Time Machine is a science fiction novella by H. G. Wells, published in 1895 for the first time and later adapted into at least two feature films of the same name, as well as two television versions, and a large number of comic book adaptations. It indirectly inspired many more works of fiction in many media. I mean really, you can’t go “Back to the Future” without a time machine, right? This 32,000 word story is generally credited with the popularization of the concept of time travel using a vehicle that allows an operator to travel purposefully and selectively. The term “time machine”, coined by Wells, is now universally used to refer to such a vehicle. Wells also introduced the idea of time being the “fourth dimension”, as well as an early example of the “dying earth” sub-genre.

#4 – 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA by Jules Verne
We’re not going off planet or to another time for this one, but before there was a cute little fish named Nemo, there was a Captain by that name that definitely took us somewhere new.  This famous novel by Jules Verne was first published in French in 1869.  Professor Pierre Aronnax, the narrator of the story, boards an American frigate commissioned to investigate a rash of attacks on international shipping by what is thought to be an amphibious monster. The supposed sea creature, which is actually the submarine Nautilus, sinks Aronnax’s vessel and imprisons him along with his devoted servant Conseil and Ned Land, a temperamental harpooner. The survivors meet Captain Nemo, an enigmatic misanthrope who leads them on a worldwide, yearlong underwater adventure. The novel is noted for its exotic situations, the technological innovations it describes, and the tense interplay of the three captives and Nemo.

#5 – STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND by Robert Heinlein

Stranger in a Strange Land, winner of the 1962 Hugo Award, is the story of Valentine Michael Smith, born during, and the only survivor of, the first manned mission to Mars. Michael is raised by Martians, and he arrives on Earth as a true innocent: he has never seen a woman and has no knowledge of Earth’s cultures or religions. But he brings turmoil with him, as he is the legal heir to an enormous financial empire, not to mention de facto owner of the planet Mars. With the irascible popular author Jubal Harshaw to protect him, Michael explores human morality and the meanings of love. He founds his own church, preaching free love and disseminating the psychic talents taught him by the Martians. Ultimately, he confronts the fate reserved for all messiahs.  Some of Heinlein’s statements will raise an eyebrow or two now, but the book was a product of its time and had a huge impact in the free love days of the 1960s!

Of course – there are many more books and authors of classic sci-fi to consider and if you’re a fan of the genre you may fight me on some of the titles that make the Top 5.  I welcome the challenge.  Bring it!

— Dana Barrett, Managing Editor

By | 2011-03-09T08:40:46+00:00 March 9th, 2011|Books, Lists|3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Guy Montag March 15, 2011 at 11:25 am - Reply

    What? No Frank Herbert? No Bester? No Ender’s Game? No PKD? But I see what you did here, going old school. Nice nod to Asimov at #1. Maybe this could be a top 10 and include some more recent uber-geekery.

  2. Dana Barrett March 15, 2011 at 11:34 am - Reply

    Ah yes @Guy – all good additions to the list! I did call the list “Old School” for a reason… but perhaps a Top 5 New School is in order!

    — Dana

  3. C indy Dehner March 19, 2011 at 9:50 am - Reply

    Thanks, Dana. There are 2 book on your list that I haven’t read and I will definitely put them on my to-read list.

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