Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Heart & Soul of 20th Century Science Fiction - Part 10

Here is another list of ten books that, in my opinion, should be considered part of the Heart & Soul of 20th Century Science Fiction. Here we see a mixed bag of super humans, books written for younger readers, epic fantasy disguised as science fiction, space opera, cyberpunk, humor, a short story collection and apes...

1)      Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold
2)      Monkey Planet by Pierre Boulle
3)      Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
4)      Lord Valentine’s Castle by Robert Silverberg
5)      A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
6)      Out of the Everywhere and Other Extraordinary Visions by James Tiptree, Jr.
7)      Podkayne of Mars by Robert A. Heinlein
8)      Slan by A.E. Van Vogt
9)      Grass by Sheri S. Tepper
10)  Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove

Barrayar is a great example of "space opera" and part of a "future-history" timeline called Vorkosigan Saga, and it was a major book in the genre when it was published, winnng the Hugo Award and being nominated for the Nebula.  

Monkey Planet, as the source material for the Planet of the Apes movies, is responsible for one of the most enduring images of SF cinema and is one of the most well-known tales of the collapse of civilization, a popular theme in science fiction that translates well to the big screen.

Snow Crash provides the perfect book-end to the Cyberpunk movement with Neuromancer, one heralding the creation of the sub-genre, the other signaling its descent into becoming, simply, just another flavor of SF crowded with hack work (the same can be said about Military SF and Alternate History SF).

Lord Valentine’s Castle is science fiction that reads like epic fantasy, which has become fairly common in the genre and is, in my opinion, a direct descendant of space opera (married with elements of epic fantasy). It is part of Silverberg's Majipoor series.

A Wrinkle in Time is a classic in the world of young adult literature and won a whole bunch of awards outside of the genre and in fact transcends the genre completely, pushing a "Christian-light" agenda (my opinion) and remaining popular continuously since it's initial publication.

Out of the Everywhere showcases some amazing short stories by a female writer who wrote under the name of a man, and who had such an effect on the genre that there were those who could not believe the stories to be from the hand of a woman. 

 Slan is a prime examples of early SF of the "tales about super-humans" variety, or √úbermensch stories, along the lines of Octavia Butler's work, or Sturgeon's More Than Human

Grass is a great combination of "big idea" science fiction coupled with what I call "investigative" science fiction, with an interesting premise: the idea that a plague afflicts all of humanity, despite their interstellar civilization, but for some reason does not affect humans on the world called Grass.

Investigative science fiction is often an element in the genre that is used to kick off the story, as in Rendezvous with Rama and The Mote in God's Eye, and as such leads to some of the most interesting tales.

Podkayne of Mars is arguably Heinlein’s best, most popular, and most daring juvenile novel (in the original version). Indeed, many consider it to be the best juvenile SF book ever written.

Guns of the South, while not the first Alternate History novel, is certainly the most celebrated in the sub-genre. Along with The Man in the High Castle is has real crossover appeal to general SF readers.

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