SF CORE Best Lists
- Best Modern Science Fiction Books
- Best Science Fiction Series
- Best Stand Alone Science Fiction Books
- Top 25 Underrated Science Fiction Books
- Best Science Fiction by Women
- Best Science Fiction Books for Young Adults
- Best Science Fiction Books for Children
- The Alternative Top 25 Best Science Fiction List
- Top 25 Science Fiction Books
- Top 100 Best Science Fiction Books
- Top 50 Best Science Fiction Movies of All Time
- Best Sci-Fi Movies of the 21st Century
- Best Sci-Fi TV Shows of All Time
- Best Science Fiction Graphic Novels
SF ERA Best Lists
- Best Science Fiction Books of 2014
- Best Contemporary Science Fiction Books
- Best New Wave Science Fiction Books
- Best Classic Science Fiction Books
- Best Early Science Fiction Books
- Best Proto-Science Fiction
- Best Modern Science Fiction Classics
SF GENRE Best Lists
- Best Hard Science Fiction Books
- Best Cyberpunk Books
- Best Space Opera Books (OLD AND MERGED WITH NEW)
- Best Dystopian Science Fiction Books
- Best Post Apocalyptic Science Fiction Books
- Best Alternate History Books
- Best Time Travel Science Fiction Books
- Best Robot Science Fiction
- Best Artificial Intelligence Science Fiction
- Top 25 Best Mars Science Fiction Books
- Best Literary Science Fiction Books
- Best Books About Science Fiction
- Best Space Opera Books
- Top 25 Post Human Science Fiction Books
- Top 25 Best Science Fiction Mystery Books
- Top 25 Best Science Fiction Books About the Moon
- Best Non-English Science Fiction Books
- Best Science Fiction Games of All Time
- Best Science Fiction Comic Books
- Best Science Fiction Anime
- Top 25 Military SciFi Books
OTHER Best Lists
Best New Wave Science Fiction Books
The May 1964 issue of the venerable British science fiction magazine New Worlds had a new editor: Michael Moorcock. Moorcock, still in his early 20s, had already made a name for himself as editor of Tarzan Adventures and the Sexton Blake Library, hardly a CV that suggested radical change, but that is what happened. Backed by Brian Aldiss and J.G. Ballard, already the star writers of New Worlds, Moorcock encouraged experimental writing, the use of modernist literary techniques and the exploration of what became known as "inner space". It is in the nature of experiments that many of them failed, but enough succeeded to cause a sensation. New writers like M. John Harrison and Christopher Priest were attracted to this exciting new form of sf, while more established writers were encouraged to try something new. It helped that this was the mid-60s, the era of Swinging London and The Beatles, and this radical no-holds-barred literature suited the zeitgeist.
Judith Merril took the British New Wave to America with her anthology, England Swings SF, but a slightly different new wave was already under way there. It was an age of the counterculture, of youth versus old, of protests against the Vietnam War. In 1967 the magazine Galaxy carried two full-page advertisements on facing pages, one was signed by sf writers supporting the war (without exception, authors associated with the classic sf of the 40s and 50s), the other signed by writers opposing the war. Except for one or two names (Isaac Asimov), this list was composed of writers who would become associated with the American New Wave. The exemplary text was Harlan Ellison's massive, groundbreaking anthology Dangerous Visions, which set a tone of iconoclasm, of breaking taboos, of bringing sex and politics into science fiction.
Within ten years, the new wave had run its course on both sides of the Atlantic. But that period was one of the most exciting in the history of science fiction, with a host of new writers emerging, and with a steady parade of stories, novels and anthologies (whether the experimental fictions from Britain or the iconoclastic ones from America) that changed the character of science fiction, and laid the groundwork for the cyberpunk, feminist and postmodern science fictions to come.
Ballard wrote a load of books that easily merit a place in any Top 100. These are just a few of the works that we offer as Alternative Choices.
Crash is every bit as controversial as The Atrocity Exhibition. One of the stories in The Atrocity Exhibition was called "Crash!", and not long after Ballard organised an exhibition of Crashed Cars as well as making a short film on the topic. The novel brings all of these ideas together. The narrator is called James Ballard, and following a car crash he comes into contact with a group of people who become sexually aroused by staging car crashes that replicate those in which celebrities were involved.
Vermillion Sands is a collection of stories concerning the rich and decadent people in a luxurious resort, where various weird art forms are practiced, including sculpting clouds ("The Cloud-Sculptors of Coral D"), singing plants ("Prima Belladonna") and mood-sensitive architecture ("The Thousand Dreams of Stellavista").
The Crystal World is the fourth of four exotic catastrophe novels that Ballard wrote early in his career Ã¢ The Wind from Nowhere, The Drowned World and The Drought being the others. In this, a doctor is making his way into the African jungle while all around him the jungle and its creatures are being crystalised (an effect that recalls Ian McDonald's later Chaga novels).
There is nothing quite like Dangerous Visions, but any of these original anthology series you can lay your hands on will be well worth your while.
Orbit edited by Damon Knight published a host of award winning fiction by such regular contributors as Gene Wolfe ("The Fifth Head of Cerberus"), Kate Wilhelm ("Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang"), R.A. Lafferty, Ursula K. Le Guin and others. There were 21 volumes in the series.
New Dimensions edited by Robert Silverberg contained such award-winning stories as "Eurema's Dam" by R.A. Lafferty, "The Girl Who Was Plugged In" by James Tiptree, Jr., "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" by Ursula K. Le Guin and "Unicorn Tapestry" by Suzy McKee Charnas. There were 12 volumes in the series.
Universe edited by Terry Carr included such award winners as "Good News from the Vatican" by Robert Silverberg, "The Death of Doctor Island" by Gene Wolfe, "If the Stars Are Gods" by Gregory Benford and Gordon Eklund, "The Ugly Chickens" by Howard Waldrop, "The Quickening" by Michael Bishop and "Paladin of the Lost Hour" by Harlan Ellison. There were 17 volumes edited by Terry Carr and a further three volumes edited by Robert Silverberg and Karen Haber.
Stand on Zanzibar was the first of four novels that Brunner wrote that changed the way we looked at science fiction, because they presented crowded, clotted worlds where the background was as important and as fully realised as anything in the foreground.
The Jagged Orbit is set in a future America where racial tensions are at breaking point, and a major corporation is busy trying to sell arms to both sides at once, fomenting war in order to improve their business. It won the BSFA Award.
The Sheep Look Up is another dystopia, this time concerned with damage to the environment. At a time when corporations effectively control the government of the United States, pollution has got so bad that it results in poor health, poor sanitation, poor food supply and, eventually, civil unrest.
The Shockwave Rider is recognised as one of the ancestors of cyberpunk, it is also the novel that introduced the idea of a computer virus, though in the novel it is called a "worm". It is a novel about future shock, in which a programming genius uses his computer skills to go on the run in a world dominated by computer surveillance.
For other novels that confront issues of overpopulation, you should also check out The World Inside by Robert Silverberg, in which people live in three kilometre high tower blocks where order is only maintained by everyone sharing everything, including sex (it is considered a crime to refuse any invitation for sex). It's a brilliant picture of a very disturbing world.
Another classic of overpopulation is Make Room! Make Room!by Harry Harrison (which was filmed as Soylent Green). It's set in a future New York that is so crowded that water and food are in ever shorter supply, people have to share single room apartments, and theft and rioting are daily events.
Another novel that makes brilliant use of John Dos Passos's structure is 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson. Using extracts from science journals, political journalism, history books and more, Robinson creates an extraordinarily vivid picture of everyday life three centuries from now when humanity has spread out across the solar system but the Earth is suffering from ecological collapse. The immediacy of the technique really makes it feel like we are there in the city that rolls around Mercury on rails, or in the hollowed-out asteroids that travel between the planets, or when long-extinct animals are returned to earth. 2312 won the Nebula Award.
For sure, other Dick reads that deal with similar themes of reality coming undone: Minority Report, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, A Scanner Darkly, and Total Recall.
Books in Jerry Cornelius Series (5)
Delany has written a bunch of amazing stuff (and also, frankly, a bunch of stuff you probably don't want to bother with). But here are some you really don't want to miss, including our Alternative choice.
Nova as suggested is our Alternative Choice for this position. If you've read Dhagren, read THIS.
Babel-17, which won the Nebula Award, is the story of glamorous spaceship captain Rydra Wong who is on the trail of the enemy code when she realises that it is actually a new language, one that can actually change the way you think, and she finds herself turning into a traitor.
The Einstein Intersection, which also won the Nebula Award, is a haunting story of an Earth in which humans have died out, but a race of aliens have taken on human form and play out mythic roles such as Billy the Kid, Orpheus and Ringo Starr, in an attempt to understand what humans were like.
The Dream Archipelago is a sequence of novels and stories connected only by their setting, and by the powerful psycho-sexual charge they have. Priest's work has consistently undermined our notions of reality, demonstrating that our conceptions of the world around us are built on shaky foundations. And that is particularly true in these very different works. The Dream Archipelago is a chain of islands that stretch right around the equator. The countries in the northern continent have been at war for centuries, but they fight all their battles in the uninhabited southern continent. The islands of the Dream Archipelago provide a neutral zone, a place for leave (with prostitutes and police all over the place), for runaways, for tourists. But the sexual allure of the islands is matched by dangers. The stories collected in The Dream Archipelago explore that, while the novel The Affirmationmatches someone suffering psychosis in this world imagining the Dream Archipelago, and someone in the Dream Archipelago imagining this world. The Islanders,which won the BSFA and John W. Campbell Memorial Awards, is a gazetteer of the Dream Archipelago, with stories of horror and murder and sexual infidelity hidden within it. Most recently, The Adjacent describes war from 1914 through the Second World War and on to the near future, but it concludes with its varied recurring characters brought together in the Dream Archipelago.
The Prestige, which won the mainstream James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the World Fantasy Award, is about two rival stage magicians at the turn of the twentieth century, whose rivalry turns deadly and, through the effects of a machine invented by Nikola Tesla, goes on to affect their descendants down to the present day.
Books in Hainish Cycle Series (8)
Books in Dayworld Series (2)
Roberts was a brilliant writer who was at his best in linked stories that built into a novel and that worked as a kind of mosaic.
The Chalk Giants is another mosaic novel, more ambitious in scope though some would say less successful in detail than Pavane. It starts with a sad, lonely, failure of a man fleeing an unspecified catastrophe. Depending on how you choose to read it, he either succeeds in escaping to a refuge in southwest England, or is overtaken by the disaster and the rest of the novel is his dying vision. From this present, the novel shifts future history, pausing at the diseased and mutated victims of nuclear war, at a primitive community, at something equivalent to the dark ages, and at the arrival of an analogue of Christianity. The various components of the novel varyn in quality, but at their finest, such as the immediate post-apocalyptic "Monkey and Pru and Sal", they are easily among the best work of his career.
Roberts always worried about the way he had made the Church the villain of Pavane, and his later mosaic novel, Kiteworld, can be seen as a response to that. It is set in a post-catastrophe world in which watchmen on the borders are hoisted aloft on giant kites to watch for signs of "demons". The details of day to day life in a world that is slowly running down is what makes this such an effective novel. One of the constituent stories, "Kitemaster", won the BSFA Award.
One of the few novels he wrote, as opposed to collections of linked stories, was GrÃ?Â¡inne, which is largely autobiographical in detail, recounting his life in art school (Roberts was a very talented illustrator) and in advertising. But alongside this conventional, realist story there are persistent encounters with the titular femme fatale who leads the book eventually into a curious technological future. GrÃ?Â¡inne won the BSFA Award.