I’ve always been fascinated with anything futuristic. My favourite viewing as a child ranged from the Tomorrow People through to Logan’s Run and everything in between. When the Star Wars films came out, I was in heaven. Although I liked the science fiction represented on TV and in the cinema, it took me a long time to grow a liking for literary science fiction.
I tried many books, but found that most of them lacked the raw guttural excitement of what I’d seen on screen. I found myself drawn to fantasy fiction. Somehow, the reverse was true. Most fantasy films were pretty ropey when compared to the best of the written word. Of course, these days we are spoilt with Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit & Game of Thrones.
Lately though, I have a science fiction itch that I can’t quite scratch, so I find myself steadily ploughing through the SF Masterworks series from Orion Publishing. I can pick them up for a song from my favourite disorganised bookshop. I started with the Forever War by Joe Haldeman. Published almost 40 years ago, the novel still seems fresh and follows the life of a soldier in an interstellar war against the Taurans. The war ebbs and flows as both sides learn from the conflicts. Straight after this, I read Tau Zero by Poul Anderson which is even older. The bed-hopping colonists in the book suddenly realise there is something terribly wrong with their ship. Although the scope of the novel is epic – the destruction and rebirth of the Universe – I can’t help being disappointed with the ending.
Larry Niven‘s Ringworld was next – again, an old book. Published in the year I was born, it follows an unlikely group of 4 voyagers setting out to explore a the massive ring like construct of the title. The story bounces along at a jaunty pace and the characters grow throughout the book. Of the three, this was the best so far. What struck me about each of these books was the role that physics plays in the story. They almost read like stories made up to illustrate the theory of relativity.
More recently, I read the Demolished Man which is the oldest so far. In a world full of people who can read minds – how can you murder someone? An intriguing concept and the story proceeds at a breakneck pace. Of all the books – it is very difficult to believe that this was written over half a century ago. It feels so fresh. Highly recommended!
Right now, I’m reading Hyperion. A massively imaginative tale of a group of pilgrims heading to a religious site on the planet of the title. The story unfolds in a Canterbury Tales-esque fashion with each character telling their story. Of course each tale is intertwined and quite unlike anything I’ve ever read before. This is the most recent tale and the first to convince me to seek out the sequels. My disorganised bookshop doesn’t carry them, so I’ll have to pay full price – but somehow, I’m convinced they are worth it!
What else should I read to scratch my science fiction itch?
- The Greatest Science Fiction-Themed Bars and Restaurants on Earth (io9.com)
- (Pre-)Golden Age Science Fiction Free Online (sciencefictionliterature.wordpress.com)
- Book Review: Time and Stars, Poul Anderson (1964) (sciencefictionruminations.wordpress.com)
- MIT’s Top Ten Hard Science Fiction (katerauner.wordpress.com)
- Sci-Fi Classic: The Forever War by Joe Haldeman (readmorebooks.wordpress.com)
- Three Hearts and Three Lions – Poul Anderson (yellowedandcreased.wordpress.com)
- My Reading Life: Ringworld by Larry Niven (readmorebooks.wordpress.com)
- My Reading Life: Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein (readmorebooks.wordpress.com)
- Never take a scientist to a Science Fiction Move (mtdecker.wordpress.com)
- CFP: Journal of Science Fiction Film and Television special issue on Science Fiction anime (fanstudies.wordpress.com)