Science fiction is a criminally underappreciated genre among today’s readers. Few people realize that Apple TV+’s glittering Foundation saga is based on the eponymous book series by Isaac Asimov. Fewer still have even read those books. This is disheartening given how much Asimov and other sci-fi writers like him contributed to pop culture. All right, the soap box moment is over. I’m here to remind everyone that science fiction has been pushing boundaries and quite literally broadening horizons for decades in ways that other genres (*cough* fantasy *cough*) have only tentatively embraced. Intrigued? Read on for a list of J’s favorite sci-fi reads.
The Illustrated Man
One of Ray Bradbury’s seminal works, this collection of short stories centers on a man covered in tattoos that each convey a distinct cautionary tale. From a carnivorous city to an afterlife on Mars for authors of banned books, The Illustrated Man tackles social justice issues in inventive ways. My personal favorites among the stories are “The City” and “The Exiles”.
This is a great introduction to science fiction because it offers everything from the plausible to the wildly “out there” for which the genre is famed. It also still feels very relevant, despite being originally published in 1951. The enduring power of this work makes it a must-read.
Rendezvous with Rama
Ever heard the saying “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic?” That’s not from this book, but from its author: Arthur C. Clarke. Considered one of the founding authors of “hard” sci-fi (which adheres to the laws of physics as we understand them), Clarke’s mastery is on full display in Rendezvous with Rama. In the story, an alien vessel passes through our solar system. Earth dispatches a mission to intercept and investigate. Unfortunately for the crew, it’s a one-way trip.
This captivating book will force you to consider the vastness of space along with the perennial question: “Are we alone?”
The notion of alien megastructures is nothing new, but Reynolds’ background in astronomy informs his unique take on it. Pushing Ice details humanity’s response when Janus–one of Saturn’s moons–suddenly deviates from its orbit and speeds out of the solar system. A spacecraft is dispatched after the fleeing object, commencing a race against time. What happens next will forever alter mankind’s place in the universe.
Brisk plotting that sweeps the reader along characterizes this book. I couldn’t put it down once I started. And the ending… No spoilers, but it’s staggering in scope.
From the brilliant mind that gifted us Jurassic Park, comes a cautionary tale about progress for the sake of progress. Prey ties together themes from Crichton’s other works as it explores the consequences of unleashing advanced nanotechnology without fully understanding its dangers. The main character must battle to save his family from lethal autonomous swarms that aren’t just growing but evolving.
You knew it was coming. The TV show is great, but it can’t capture all the details of this incredible novel by Asimov. And if you like it, there are 6 more installments in the series to enjoy. For newcomers to Foundation, the book relates Hari Seldon’s mathematical prediction that the Galactic Empire will fall. The reigning dynasty doesn’t take kindly to Seldon’s work and exiles him, unknowingly playing right into the psychohistorian’s hands. But Seldon’s Foundation faces a millennia-long battle for survival against fragments of the Empire and more exotic threats.
This is sci-fi at its finest: galactic stakes, compelling characters, and thought-provoking questions about what it means to be human. It’s not the easiest of reads, but the payoff is worth it. Forward the Foundation!
Thanks for reading!
I hope you enjoyed these recommendations of my favorite sci-fi reads and check some of them out! Check out more book lists from J & K here. Don’t forget to pre-order our new cozy winter fantasy short story: “The Lady’s Crownbearer“. It’s only $0.99, or free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers. And of course, for all those who celebrate, we wish you a safe and happy Thanksgiving. By your compass stay true!