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OTHER Best Lists
Best Early Science Fiction Books
On successive days in May 1895 a young writer, previously known only for a couple of textbooks, had two books published. The first, a collection of humorous newspaper articles, sank without trace; but the second, also drawn from earlier newspaper articles, was an instant bestseller that has been continuously in print up to the present day and that changed what we now know as science fiction. That book was The Time Machine by H.G. Wells.
With that, and with four more novels published over the next six years - The Island of Doctor Moreau, The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man and The First Men in the Moon - Wells set the tone and established the subject matter that science fiction would pursue over the next half century or more.
Therefore, in laying out the best early science fiction, we start inevitably with Wells, and we take the story up until a young writer called John W. Campbell took over the editorship of America's most successful science fiction magazine, Astounding, and ushered in the Classic or Golden Age of sf. But if you think that science fiction only really took off with Asimov and Heinlein and others in Campbell's stable, think again! The early years of the twentieth century saw some of the strangest, most wonderful, and most lasting science fiction ever written.
There are many tales of Hitler winning the war, some of the more interesting examples of which are:
The Sound of His Horn by Sarban tells of a British Prisoner of War who is transported to a Nazi dominated future where genetically-modified women are hunted for sport.
The Iron Dream by Norman Spinrad presents an alternate history in which Hitler failed as a politician and became a pulp novelist, whose sf novel The Lord of the Swastika reflects much of Hitler's ideology in the form of a lurid post-apocalyptic tale.
Fatherland by Robert Harris is set in 1964 when a detective, investigating the murder of a high-ranking Nazi official, uncovers a conspiracy that leads him back to the Final Solution. There's a similar plot in SS-GB by Len Deighton, in which the investigation of a murder in Nazi-occupied Britain leads to a plot to help the king escape.
Resistance by Owen Sheers is set in a remote Welsh valley where all the men have gone off to join the resistance and have presumably been killed, leaving the women to tend the farms and cope with the occupying German troops.
Karel Ã?apek was a prolific journalist, playwright and critic. As Arthur Miller said: "There was no writer like him...prophetic assurance mixed with surrealistic humour and hard-edged social satire: a unique combination...he is a joy to read." This unique combination is not just evident in R.U.R., but also in his amazing science fiction novel, War With The Newts. Like R.U.R., this is a story about the way people exploit others, in this case a race of intelligent newts discovered on a remote Pacific island. At first the newts are enslaved by an industrialist, but eventually clashes start, and the newts begin to destroy the landmass in order to create more living room for themselves.