Science Fiction

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.

Forget the Hunger Games. A Canticle for Leibowitz is the grandaddy of all post-apocalyptic novels. In it, Walter M. Miller Jr. eloquently dissects the nature of mankind in a moving manner that is also surprisingly funny.

If you like The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids.  You can browse the book matches here.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood: Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, serving in the household of the enigmatic Commander and his bitter wife. She may go out once a day to markets whose signs are now pictures because women are not allowed to read. She must pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, for in a time of declining birthrates her value lies in her fertility, and failure means exile to the dangerously polluted Colonies. Offred can remember a time when she lived with her husband and daughter and had a job, before she lost even her own name. Now she navigates the intimate secrets of those who control her every move, risking her life in breaking the rules.

If you enjoyed the dystopian themes of this novel and would be interested in similar dystopian works, here are some other titles you may enjoy:

1984 by George Orwell
Doublethink, thought police, constant surveillance, never-ending war. Although this classic dystopian novel was written in 1949, Orwell's lean prose, finely honed political discourse, and penetrating images seem as fresh, as menacing, and as disturbingly prophetic as ever. (Audiofile)


 

The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin
Shevek, a brilliant physicist, attempts to reunite two planets cut off from each other by centuries of distrust. (worldcat.org)

 

 
 

The Moon Pool by Abraham Merritt

The Moon Pool by Abraham Merritt

One of the earliest adventure novels detailing the journey of a group of explorers from the surface world through a subterranean civilization, Abraham Merritt’s The Moon Pool is also one of the best examples of the genre.  With an exciting narrative full of thrilling action sequences, memorable characters, and a fascinating civilization of bizarre wonders, The Moon Pool is a great adventure novel that will thrill fans of classic science fiction.  For fans of shorter novels, it is also a fast-paced read. Edited together from two novellas titled “The Moon Pool” and “Conquest of the Moon Pool,” it is under 300 pages in length and can be completed by most readers in about 3-5 days.  For those seeking to discover the roots of sci-fi adventure stories in the early twentieth century, The Moon Pool is an excellent trip back in time.

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

The Sirens of Titan might be one of Kurt Vonnegut’s lesser-known novels, but it deserves just as much praise and attention as Slaughterhouse-Five or Cat’s Cradle. Vonnegut’s tendency to combine satire and existential inquiry gives Sirens an invigorating edge. It is an inventive drama, one that successfully incorporates space travel, dark humor, apathetic deities, and bleak ruminations on the futility of human progress.

Foundation by Isaac Asimov

Foundation by Isaac Asimov

Many early science fiction “space operas” were simple narratives of good vs. evil, with clean-cut heroes, dastardly villains, and no more ambition than seeing the hero fly off to another adventure at the end. Isaac Asimov’s Foundation, with its sprawling narrative, morally ambiguous characters, and realistic interpretation of both social and mathematical science, changed the course of science fiction forever. Asimov’s masterpiece presents an intriguing story of the fall of civilization, and the many people from varying walks of life who attempt to restore it.  With Asimov’s meticulous attention to detail and a vibrant, chaotic universe, this novel will satisfy any fan of thoughtful, socially-aware science fiction.

Foundation is the story of the planet Terminus, a resource-poor planet at the edge of the galaxy that becomes the seed of a movement to save civilization after the fall of the Galactic Empire.  The novel begins as the renowned “psychohistorian” Hari Seldon, having developed a mathematical model for the behavior of human beings on a mass scale, has foreseen the doom of the Empire and gathers up a group of scholars to create an encyclopedia of knowledge to aid humanity in the coming Dark Age.  

Redshirts by John Scalzi

Redshirts by John Scalzi

Oh, John Scalzi, how I love you (~swoons~).  Your likeable characters, intricate but uncomplicated plots, your passion for science fiction. . .   you COMPLETE me.  And your latest offering, Redshirts, does not disappoint.  I knew the moment I read the title oh, so many months ago, that the Trekkie in me would melt at the book's first words.  I was not mistaken.  

Growing up in a military family, Star Trek's flaws were constantly pointed out to me.  That preposterous notion that the entire senior staff would be sent time and again on dangerous missions with no one with any real command experience left in charge.  I didn't care.  Star Trek was cool, like bow ties, fezes, and Stetsons.  But I'm ashamed to say I never did notice the disturbingly high mortality rate of the red-shirted junior officer on away missions.  It wasn't until years later that I heard the term "redshirt" that it occurred to me, oh yeah, those guys were always toast, weren't they?  Still, I never really gave them much thought, save for when I heard someone use the term I could go "Hey, I understood that reference! Yeah, those guys died, like, A LOT, didn't they?"

Starslip by Kris Straub

Starslip by Kris Straub

As with my review of Altered Carbon, I've arrived at the Starslip webcomic party a little late, as in, the seven-year series is finished.  However, that might add a welcome bittersweet flavor to each strip I read as I come closer and closer to the end.  I have fallen head-over-heels in love with all of author Kris Straub’s characters, his artistic style, and his off-kilter sense of humor as he simultaneously pays homage to and lampoons the best and worst traits of sci-fi soap operas.  With every click of the forward-pointing arrow I know I am coming to the close of an incredible story, but, like with any good book, I can't stop!

Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

I'd put off reading Altered Carbon for a few years, always reading something newer.  Shame on me.  This Philip K. Dick Award-winner is a brilliantly dark and gritty mixture of hardboiled detective fiction and cyberpunk that anyone looking for a story with a razor-sharp edge will love. 

Mangaman by Barry Lyga, illustrated by Colleen Doran

Mangaman by Barry Lyga

In the world of manga, Ryoko Kiyama is an ideal character. His eyes turn into pulsating hearts when he sees the object of his affection, sadness creates literal storm clouds overhead, and he is an expert at combating giant lizards and robots without getting injured. After accidentally falling through an “interdimensional cross-rip,” however, Ryoko’s ordinary behavior suddenly becomes freakish and bizarre. Ryoko has accidentally fallen into Western comics, a place populated by American teenagers who struggle to understand and tolerate such a strange visitor.

If you like Zero History by William Gibson

Zero History by William Gibson

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids.  You can browse the book matches here.

Zero History by William Gibson: "Former rock singer Hollis Henry and ex-addict Milgrim, an accomplished linguist, are at the front line of a sinister proprietor's attempts to get a slice of the military budget. When a Department of Defense contract for combat-wear turns out to be the gateway drug for arms dealers, they gradually realize their employer has some very dangerous competitors--including Garreth, a ruthless ex-military officer with lots of friends. Set largely in London after our post-Crash times."

If you enjoyed this book's depiction of a plausible near future and integration of philosophy into the narrative, here are some other titles you may enjoy:

Blood Music by Greg Bear
Experimenting with biochips, Vergil Ulam creates instead a microscopic intelligence that mutates. Vergil injects himself with the disease culture to smuggle it out of the country. That is how the end of the world begins. (worldcat.org)
 


 

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Aldous Huxley's tour de force, Brave New World is a darkly satiric vision of a "utopian" future—where humans are genetically bred and pharmaceutically anesthetized to passively serve a ruling order. A powerful work of speculative fiction that has enthralled and terrified readers for generations, it remains remarkably relevant to this day as both a warning to be heeded as we head into tomorrow and as thought-provoking, satisfying entertainment.  (amazon.com)