25 Mar SF Masterworks
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SF Masterworks began in 1999 and comprises selected pieces of science-fiction literature from 1950 onwards with the goal of bringing important books back into print. The list was described by science fiction author Iain M. Banks as “amazing” and “genuinely the best novels from sixty years of SF”. Check out the list below!
The Forever War – Joe Haldeman
Private William Mandella is a reluctant hero in an interstellar war against an unknowable and unconquerable alien enemy. But his greatest test will be when he returns home. Relativity means that for every few months’ tour of duty centuries have passed on Earth, isolating the combatants ever more from the world for whose future they are fighting.
I Am Legend – Richard Matheson
The last man on earth is not alone…Robert Neville is the last living man on Earth…but he is not alone. Every other man, woman and child on the planet has become a vampire, and they are hungry for Neville’s blood. By day he is the hunter, stalking the undead through the ruins of civilisation. By night, he barricades himself in his home and prays for the dawn. How long can one man survive like this?
Cities in Flight – James Blish
James Blish’s galaxy-spanning masterwork, originally published in four volumes, explores a future in which two crucial discoveries – antigravity devices which enable whole cities to be lifted from the Earth to become giant spaceships, and longevity drugs which enable their inhabitants to live for thousands of years – lead to the establishment of a unique Galactic empire.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Philip K. Dick
World War Terminus had left the Earth devastated. Through its ruins, bounty hunter Rick Deckard stalked, in search of the renegade replicants who were his prey. When he wasn’t ‘retiring’ them with his laser weapon, he dreamed of owning a live animal – the ultimate status symbol in a world all but bereft of animal life. Then Rick got his chance: the assignment to kill six Nexus-6 targets, for a huge reward. But in Deckard’s world things were never that simple, and his assignment quickly turned into a nightmare kaleidoscope of subterfuge and deceit – and the threat of death for the hunter rather than the hunted…
The Stars My Destination – Alfred Bester
Gully Foyle, Mechanic’s Mate 3rd Class. EDUCATION: none SKILLS: none MERITS: none RECOMMENDATIONS: none That’s the official verdict on Gully Foyle, unskilled space crewman. But right now he is the only survivor on his drifting, wrecked spaceship, and when another space vessel, the Vorga, ignores his distress flares and sails by, Gully becomes obsessed with revenge. He endures 170 days alone in deep space before finding refuge on the Sargasso Asteroid and returning to Earth to track down the crew and owners of the Vorga. But, as he works out his murderous grudge, Gully Foyle also uncovers a secret of momentous proportions…
Babel-17 – Samuel R. Delany
In the far future, after human civilization has spread through the galaxy, communications begin to arrive in an apparently alien language. They appear to threaten invasion, but in order to counter the threat, the messages must first be understood.
Lord of Light – Roger Zelazny
Imagine a distant world where gods walk as men, but wield vast and hidden powers. Here they have made the stage on which they build a subtle pattern of alliance, love, and deadly enmity. Are they truly immortal? Who are these gods who rule the destiny of a teeming world? Their names include Brahma, Kali, Krishna and also he who was called Buddha, the Lord of Light, but who now prefers to be known simply as Sam. The gradual unfolding of the story – how the colonization of another planet became a re-enactment of Eastern mythology – is one of the great imaginative feats of modern science fiction.
The Fifth Head of Cerberus – Gene Wolfe
Far from Earth two sister planets, Sainte Anne and Sainte Croix, circle each other. It is said that a race of shapeshifting aliens once lived here, only to become extinct when human colonists arrived. But one man believes they still exist, somewhere out in the wilderness. In THE FIFTH HEAD OF CERBERUS, Gene Wolfe brilliantly interweaves three tales: a scientists son gradual discovery of the bizarre secret of his heritage; a young mans mythic dreamquest for his darker half; the mystifying chronicle of an anthropologists seemingly-arbitrary imprisonment. Gradually, a mesmerising pattern emerges.
Gateway – Frederik Pohl
Wealth…or death. Those were the choices Gateway offered. Humans had discovered this artificial spaceport, full of working interstellar ships left behind by the mysterious, vanished Heechee. Their destinations are preprogrammed. They are easy to operate, but impossible to control. Some came back with discoveries which made their intrepid pilots rich; others returned with their remains barely identifiable. It was the ultimate game of Russian roulette, but in this resource-starved future there was no shortage of desperate volunteers.
The Rediscovery of Man – Cordwainer Smith
Welcome to the strangest, most distinctive future ever imagined by a science fiction writer. An insterstellar empire ruled by the mysterious Lords of the Instrumentality, whose access to the drug stroon from the planet Norstrilia confers on them virtual immortality. A world in which wealthy and leisured humanity is served by the underpeople, genetically engineered animals turned into the semblance of people. A world in which the great ships which sail between the stars are eventually supplanted by the mysterious, instantaneous technique of planoforming. A world of wonder and myth, and extraordinary imagination.
Last and First Men – Olaf Stapledon
One of the most extraordinary, imaginative and ambitious novels of the century: a history of the evolution of humankind over the next 2 billion years. Among all science fiction writers Olaf Stapledon stands alone for the sheer scope and ambition of his work. First published in 1930, Last and First Men is full of pioneering speculations about evolution, terraforming, genetic engineering and many other subjects.
Earth Abides – George R. Stewart
In this profound ecological fable, a mysterious plague has destroyed the vast majority of the human race. Isherwood Williams, one of the few survivors, returns from a wilderness field trip to discover that civilization has vanished during his absence. Eventually he returns to San Francisco and encounters a female survivor who becomes his wife. Around them and their children a small community develops, living like their pioneer ancestors, but rebuilding civilization is beyond their resources, and gradually they return to a simpler way of life.
Martian Time-Slip – Philip K. Dick
Mars is a desolate world. Largely forgotten by Earth, the planet remains helpless in the stranglehold of Arnie Kott, who as boss of the plumber’s union has a monopoly over the vital water supply. Arnie Kott is obsessed by the past; the native Bleekmen, poverty-stricken wanderers, can see into the future; while to Manfred, an autistic boy, time apparently stops. When one of the colonists, Norbert Steiner, commits suicide, the repercussions are startling and bizarre.
The Demolished Man – Alfred Bester
In the year 2301, guns are only museum pieces and benign telepaths sweep the minds of the populace to detect crimes before they happen. In 2301 murder is virtually impossible, but one man is about to change that…Ben Reich, a psychopathic business magnate, has devised the ultimate scheme to eliminate the competition and destroy the order of his society. The Demolished Man is a masterpiece of imaginative suspense, set in a superbly imagined world in which everything has changed except the ancient instinct for murder.
Stand on Zanzibar – John Brunne
There are seven billion-plus humans crowding the surface of 21st century Earth. It is an age of intelligent computers, mass-market psychedelic drugs, politics conducted by assassination, scientists who burn incense to appease volcanoes…all the hysteria of a dangerously overcrowded world, portrayed in a dazzlingly inventive style.
The Dispossessed – Ursula K. Le Guin
The Principle of Simultaneity is a scientific breakthrough which will revolutionize interstellar civilization by making possible instantaneous communication. It is the life work of Shevek, a brilliant physicist from the arid anarchist world of Anarres. But Shevek’s work is being stifled by jealous colleagues, so he travels to Anarres’s sister-planet Urras, hoping to find more liberty and tolerance there. But he soon finds himself being used as a pawn in a deadly political game.
The Drowned World – J. G. Ballard
When London is lost beneath the rising tides, unconscious desires rush to the surface in this apocalyptic tale from the author of Crash and Cocaine Nights. Set in the near future, the ice caps have melted and the planet basks in an unendurable heat. London is a primordial swamp; lush tropical vegetation grows up the walls of the Ritz and there are unconfirmed sightings of primeval reptiles swimming through the newly-formed lagoons. Some flee the capital; others embark on harebrained schemes to drain the submerged streets in search of treasure. But Dr Robert Kerans has come to accept this submarine city and finds himself strangely resistant to the idea of saving it…
The Sirens of Titan – Kurt Vonnegut
When Winston Niles Rumfoord flies his spaceship into a chrono-synclastic infundibulum he is converted into pure energy and only materializes when his waveforms intercept Earth or some other planet. As a result, he only gets home to Newport, Rhode Island, once every fifty-nine days and then only for an hour. But at least, as a consolation, he now knows everything that has ever happened and everything that ever will be. He knows, for instance, that his wife is going to Mars to mate with Malachi Constant, the richest man in the world. He also knows that on Titan – one of Saturn’s moons – is an alien from the planet Tralfamadore, who has been waiting 200,000 years for a spare part for his grounded spacecraft…
Emphyrio – Jack Vance
Far in the future, the craftsmen of the distant planet Halma create goods which are the wonder of the galaxy. But they know little of this. Their society is harshly regimented, its religion austere and unforgiving, and primitive – to maintain standards, even the most basic use of automation is punishable by death. When Amiante, a wood-carver, is executed for processing old documents with a camera, his son Ghyl rebels, and decides to bring down the system. To do so, he must first interpret the story of Emphyrio, an ancient hero of Halman legend.
A Scanner Darkly – Philip K. Dick
Substance D – otherwise known as Death – is the most dangerous drug ever to find its way on to the black market. It destroys the links between the brain’s two hemispheres, leading first to disorentation and then to complete and irreversible brain damage. Bob Arctor, undercover narcotics agent, is trying to find a lead to the source of supply, but to pass as an addict he must become a user, and soon, without knowing what is happening to him, he is as dependent as any of the addicts he is monitoring.
Star Maker – Olaf Stapledon
One moment a man sits on a suburban hill, gazing curiously at the stars. The next, he is whirling through the firmament, and perhaps the most remarkable of all science fiction journeys has begun. Even Stapledon’s other great work, LAST AND FIRST MEN, pales in ambition next to STAR MAKER, which presents nothing less than an entire imagined history of life in the universe, encompassing billions of years.
Behold the Man – Michael Moorcock
Meet Karl Glogauer, time traveller and unlikely Messiah. When he finds himself in Palestine in the year 29AD he is shocked to meet the man known as Jesus Christ – a drooling idiot, hiding in the shadows of the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth. But if he is not capable of fulfilling his historical role, then who will take his place?
The Book of Skulls – Robert Silverberg
Four students discover a manuscript, The Book of Skulls, which reveals the existence of a sect, now living in the Arizona desert, whose members can offer immortality to those who can complete its initiation rite. To their surprise, they discover that the sect exists, and is willing to accept them as acolytes. But for each group of four who enter the rite, two must die in order for the others to succeed.
The Time Machine & The War of the Worlds – H. G. Wells
In The Time Machine, Wells’s Time Traveller journeys to the world of 802,701 AD, where humanity has divided into the effete, beautiful Eloi and the brutal subterranean Morlocks. In The War of the Worlds, the Martians – intellects ‘vast and cool and unsympathetic’ – send their war machines to wreak havoc across the world.
Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes
Charlie Gordon, IQ 68, is a floor sweeper, and the gentle butt of everyone’s jokes, until an experiment in the enhancement of human intelligence turns him into a genius. But then Algernon, the mouse whose triumphal experimental tranformation preceded his, fades and dies, and Charlie has to face the possibility that his salvation was only temporary.
Ubik – Philip K. Dick
Glen Runciter is dead. Or is he? Someone died in the explosion orchestrated by his business rivals, but even as his funeral is scheduled, his mourning employees are receiving bewildering messages from their boss. And the world around them is warping and regressing in ways which suggest that their own time is running out. If it hasn’t already.
Timescape – Gregory Benford
1962: A young Californian scientist finds his experiments spoiled by mysterious interference. Gradually his suspicions lead him to a shattering truth: scientists from the end of the century are using subatomic particles to send a message into the past, in the hope that history can be changed and a world-threatening catastrophe averted.
More Than Human – Theodore Sturgeon
All alone: an idiot boy, a runaway girl, a severely retarded baby, and twin girls with a vocabulary of two words between them. Yet once they are mysteriously drawn together this collection of misfits becomes something very, very different from the rest of humanity. This intensely written and moving novel is an extraordinary vision of humanity’s next step.
Man Plus – Frederik Pohl
Ill luck made Roger Torraway the subject of the Man Plus Programe, but it was deliberate biological engineering which turned him into a monster – a machine perfectly adapted to survive on Mars. For according to computer predictions, Mars is humankind’s only alternative to extinction. But beneath his monstrous exterior, Torraway still carries a man’s capacity for suffering.
A Case of Conscience – James Blish
Father Ramon Ruiz-Sanchez S.J., is a part of a four man scientific commission to the planet Lithia, there to study a harmonious society of aliens living on a planets which is a biologist’s paradise. He soon finds himself troubled: how can these perfect beings, living in an apparent Eden, have no conception of sin or God? If such a sinless Eden has been created apart from God, then who is responsible?
The Centauri Device – M. John Harrison
John Truck was to outward appearances just another lowlife spaceship captain. But he was also the last of the Centaurans ‘ or at least, half of him was ‘ which meant that he was the only person who could operate the Centauri Device, a sentient bomb which might hold the key to settling a vicious space war. M. John Harrison’s classic novel turns the conventions of space opera on their head, and is written with the precision and brilliance for which is famed.
Dr. Bloodmoney – Philip K. Dick
Seven years after the day of the bombs, Point Reyes was luckier than most places. Its people were reasonably normal – except for the girl with her twin brother growing inside her, and talking to her. Their barter economy was working. Their resident genius could fix almost anything that broke down. But they didn’t know they were harbouring the one man who almost everyone left alive wanted killed…
Non-stop – Brian W. Aldiss
Curiosity was discouraged in the Greene tribe. Its members lived out their lives in cramped Quarters, hacking away at the encroaching ponics. As to where they were – that was forgotten. Roy Complain decides to find out. With the renegade priest Marapper, he moves into unmapped territory, where they make a series of discoveries which turn their universe upside-down…Non-Stop is the classic SF novel of discovery and exploration; a brilliant evocation of a familiar setting seen through the eyes of a primitive.
The Fountains of Paradise – Arthur C. Clarke
In the 22nd century visionary scientist Vannevar Morgan conceives the most grandiose engineering project of all time, and one which will revolutionize the future of humankind of space: a Space Elevator, 36,000 kilometres high, anchored to an equatorial island in the Indian Ocean.
Pavane – Keith Roberts
1588: Queen Elizabeth is felled by an assassin’s bullet. Within the week, the Spanish Armada had set sail, and its victory changed the course of history. 1968: England is still dominated by the Church of Rome. There are no telephones, no television, no nuclear power. AS Catholicism and the Inquisition tighten their grip, rebellion is growing.
Now Wait for Last Year – Philip K. Dick
Contacted by starmen of similar racial stock who have a greatly advanced, galactic society, a united Earth becomes their ally in a lengthy war with the Reegs, blue, six-limbed aliens with no vocal chords. This is the story of how Earth chose the wrong ally.
Nova – Samuel R. Delany
The balance of galactic power in the 31st century revolves around Illyrion, the most precious energy source in the universe. The varied and exotic crew who sign up with Captain Lorq van Ray know their mission is dangerous, and they soon learn that they are involved in a deadly race with the charismatic but vicious leader of an opposing space federation. But they have no idea of Lorq’s secret obsession: to gather Illyrion at source by flying through the very heart of an imploding star.
The First Men in the Moon – H. G. Wells
When penniless businessman Mr Bedford retreats to the Kent coast to write a play, he meets by chance the brilliant Dr Cavor, an absent-minded scientist on the brink of developing a material that blocks gravity. Cavor soon succeeds in his experiments, only to tell a stunned Bedford the invention makes possible one of the oldest dreams of humanity: a journey to the moon. With Bedford motivated by money, and Cavor by the desire for knowledge, the two embark on the expedition. But neither are prepared for what they find a world of freezing nights, boiling days and sinister alien life, on which they may be trapped forever.
The City and the Stars – Arthur C. Clarke
Men had built cities before, but never such a city as Diaspar; for millennia its protective dome shutout the creeping decay and danger of the world outside. Once, it held powers that rules the stars. But then, as legend had it, The invaders came, driving humanity into this last refuge. It takes one man, A Unique to break through Diaspar’s stifling inertia, to smash the legend and discover the true nature of the Invaders.
Blood Music – Greg Bear
Vergil Ulam’s breakthrough in genetic engineering is considered too dangerous for further research. Rather than destroy his work, he injects himself with his creation and walks out of his lab, unaware of just quite how his actions will change the world. Bear’s treatment of the traditional tale of scientific hubris is suspenseful and a compelling portrait of a new intelligence emerging amongst us and changing our world irrevocably.
Jem – Frederik Pohl
The discovery of another habitable world might spell salvation to the three bitterly competing power blocs of the resource-starved 21st century; but when their representatives arrive on Jem, with its multiple intelligent species, they discover instead the perfect situation into which to export their rivalries. Subtitled, with savage irony, ‘The Making of a Utopia’, Jem is one of Frederik Pohl’s most powerful novels.
Bring the Jubilee – Ward Moore<
Trapped in 1877, a historian writes an account of an alternate history of America in which the South won the Civil War. Living in this alternate timeline, he was determined to change events at Gettysburg. When he’s offered the chance to return to that fateful turning point his actions change history as he knows it, leaving him in an all too familiar past.
VALIS – Philip K. Dick
It began with a blinding light, a divine revelation from a mysterious intelligence that called itself VALIS. And with that, the fabric of reality was ripped open and laid bare so that anything seemed possible, but nothing seemed quite right. Part science fiction, part theological detective story ‘ in which God plays both the missing person and the perpetrator of the ultimate crime, VALIS is both disorienting and eerily funny, and a joy to read.
The Lathe of Heaven – Ursula K. Le Guin
George Orr is a mild and unremarkable man who finds the world a less than pleasant place to live: seven billion people jostle for living space and food. But George dreams dreams which do in fact change reality ‘ and he has no means of controlling this extraordinary power. Psychiatrist Dr William Haber offers to help. At first sceptical of George’s powers, he comes to astonished belief. When he allows ambition to get the better of ethics, George finds himself caught up in a situation of alarming peril.
The Complete Roderick – John Sladek
Roderick is a robot and this is his autobiography. Sladek conveys, with great sensitivity and insight the innocence of an artificial intelligence and asks profound questions about mankind’s right to manipulate others. It also portrays how a numerological mind might structure a narrative. Inventive, funny yet melancholy this is one of SF’s greatest creative geniuses writing at his thought-provoking best.
Flow, My Tears, the Policeman Said – Philip K. Dick
Jason Taverner is a Six, the result of top secret government experiments forty years before which produced a handful of unnaturally bright and beautiful people – and he’s the prime-time idol of millions until, inexplicably, all record of him is wiped from the data banks of Earth. Suddenly he’s a nobody in a police state where nobody is allowed to be a nobody. Will he ever be rich and famous again? Was he, in fact, ever rich and famous?
The Invisible Man – H. G. Wells
With his face swaddled in bandages, his eyes hidden behind dark glasses and his hands covered even indoors, Griffin the new guest at The Coach and Horses is at first assumed to be a shy accident-victim. But the true reason for his disguise is far more chilling: he has developed a process that has made him invisible, and is locked in a struggle to discover the antidote. Forced from the village, and driven to murder, he seeks the aid of an old friend, Kemp. The horror of his fate has affected his mind, however and when Kemp refuse to help, he resolves to wreak his revenge.
Grass – Sheri S. Tepper
What could be more commonplace than grass, or a world covered over all its surface with a wind-whipped ocean of grass? But the planet Grass conceals horrifying secrets within its endless pastures. And as an incurable plague attacks all inhabited planets but this one, the prairie-like Grass begins to reveal these secrets – and nothing will ever be the same again…
A Fall of Moondust – Arthur C. Clarke
Time is running out for the passengers and crew of the tourist cruiser Selene, incarcerated in a sea of choking lunar dust. On the surface, her rescuers find their resources stretched to the limit by the mercilessly unpredictable conditions of a totally alien environment. A brilliantly imagined story of human ingenuity and survival, A FALL OF MOONDUST is a tour-de-force of psychological suspense and sustained dramatic tension by the field’s foremost author.
Eon – Greg Bear
Above our planet hangs a hollow Stone, vast as the imagination of Man. The inner dimensions are at odds with the outer: there are different chambers to be breached, some even containing deserted cities. The furthest chamber contains the greatest mystery ever to confront the Stone’s scientists. But tombstone or milestone, the Stone is not an alien structure: it comes from the future of our humanity. And the war that breaks out on Earth seems to bear witness to the Stone’s prowess as oracle…
The Shrinking Man – Richard Matheson
While on a boating holiday, Scott Carey is exposed to a cloud of radioactive spray. A few weeks later, following a series of medical examinations, he can no longer deny the extraordinary truth. Not only is he losing weight, he is also shorter than he was. Scott Carey has begun to shrink. Richard Matheson’s novel follows through its premise with remorseless logic, with Carey first attempting to continue some kind of normal life and later having left human contact behind, having to survive in a world where insects and spiders are giant adversaries. And even that is only a stage on his journey into the unknown.
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch – Philip K. Dick
In the overcrowded world and cramped space colonies of the late 21st century, tedium can be endured through the use of the drug Can-D, which enables the user to inhabit a shared illusory world. When industrialist Palmer Eldritch returns from an interstellar trip, he brings with him a new drug, Chew-Z, which is far more potent than Can-D, but threatens to plunge the world into a permanent state of drugged illusion controlled by the mysterious Eldritch. THE THREE STIGMATA OF PALMER ELDRITCH is, by universal consent, one of his three key novels, and the book in which he first took his perennial interest in the fragile nature of reality to a new level of imaginative intensity.
The Dancers at the End of Time – Michael Moorcock
Enter a decaying far, far future society, a time when anything and everything is possible, where words like ‘conscience’ and ‘morality’ are meaningless, and where heartfelt love blossoms mysteriously between Mrs Amelia Underwood, an unwilling time traveller, and Jherek Carnelian, a bemused denizen of the End of Time. The Dancers at the End of Time, containing the novels An Alien Heat, The Hollow Lands and The End of All Songs, is a brilliant homage to the 1890s of Wilde, Beardsley and the fin de siecle decadents, satire at its sharpest and most colourful.
The Space Merchants – Frederik Pohl
It is the 20th Century, an advertisement-drenched world in which the big ad agencies dominate governments and everything else. Now Schoken Associates, one of the big players, has a new challenge for star copywriter Mitch Courtenay. Volunteers are needed to colonise Venus. It’s a hellhole, and nobody who knew anything about it would dream of signing up. But by the time Mitch has finished, they will be queuing to get on board the spaceships.
Time Out of Joint – Philip K. Dick
Ragle Gumm is an ordinary man leading an ordinary life, except that he makes his living by entering a newspaper contest every day – and winning, every day. But he gradually begins to suspect that his life – indeed his whole world – is an illusion, constructed around him for the express purpose of keeping him docile and happy. But if that is the case, what is his real world like, and what is he actually doing every day when he thinks he is guessing ‘Where Will The Little Green Man Be Next?’
Downward to the Earth – Robert Silverberg
“Who knoweth the spirit of men that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?” – Ecclesiastes 3:21. Okay, they did resemble elephants, it can’t be denied. That led many people to underestimate the Nildoror and their obviously more fearsome commensals, the Sulidoror. But aliens should never be judged by human standards, as the Company learned to its cost when Holman’…
The Simulacra – Philip K. Dick
A few years from now the President of the USA will be an android and his entire government a fraud. Everyone in the country is maladjusted. Doesn’t seem possible, does it? Welcome to the world of Dr. Superb, the sole remaining psychotherapist. Philip K. Dick tells a story of desperate love, lethal body odour and an attempted fascistic takeover of the USA and shows that there is always another layer of conspiracy beneath the one we see.
The Penultimate Truth – Philip K. Dick
World War III is raging – or so the millions of people crammed in their underground tanks believe. For fiteen years, subterranean humanity has been fed on daily broadcasts of a never-ending nuclear destruction, sustained by a belief in the all powerful Protector. Now someone has gone to the surface and found no destruction, no war. The authorities have been telling a massive lie. Now the search begins to find out why.
Dying Inside – Robert Silverberg
Imagine what it would be like if you could tell what the innermost thoughts and feelings of those around you were. Imagine if, as you reached middle age, you lost that ability. What would it do to you to be like everyone else?
Ringworld – Larry Niven
Pierson’s puppeteers, strange, three-legged, two-headed aliens, have discovered an immense structure in a hitherto unexplored part of the universe. Frightened of meeting the builders of such a structure, the puppeteers set about assembling a team consisting of two humans, a puppeteer and a kzin, an alien not unlike an eight-foot-tall, red-furred cat, to explore it. The artefact is a vast circular ribbon of matter, some 180 million miles across, with a sun at its centre – the Ringworld. But the expedition goes disastrously wrong when the ship crashlands and its motley crew faces a trek across thousands of miles of the Ringworld’s surface.
The Child Garden – Geoff Ryman
In a semi-tropical London, surrounded by paddy-fields, the people feed off the sun, like plants, the young are raised in Child Gardens and educated by viruses, And the Consensus oversees the country, ‘treating’ non-conformism. Information, culture, law and politics are biological functions. But Milena is different: she is resistant to viruses and an incredible musician, one of the most extraordinary women of her age. This is her story and that of her friends, like Lucy the immortal tumour and Joseph the Postman whose mind is an information storehouse for others, and Rolfa, genetically engineered as a Polar Bear, whose beautiful singing voice first awakens Milena to the power of music.
Mission of Gravity – Hal Clement
Mesklin is a vast, inhospitable, disc-shaped planet, so cold that its oceans are liquid methane and its snows are frozen ammonia. It is a world spinning dizzyingly, a world where gravity can be a crushing 700 times greater than Earth’s, a world too hostile for human explorers. But the planet holds secrets of inestimable value, and an unmanned probe that has crashed close to one of its poles must be recovered. Only the Mesklinites, the small creatures so bizarrely adapted to their harsh environment can help. And so Barlennan, the resourceful and courageous captain of the Mesklinite ship Bree, sets out on an heroic and appalling journey into the terrible unknown…
A Maze of Death – Philip K. Dick
Fourteen people arrive on the strange planet of Delmark-O,; they have nothing in common other than a desire to make a fresh start. And they have no idea why they are there and no way of escaping. And then the first murder takes place…
Tau Zero – Poul Anderson
Fifty men and women set out in the twenty-third century from Earth aboard an interstellar craft to travel to a planet some thirty light-years away. The ship will approach the speed of light and so (as Einstein predicted) subjective time on board will slow and so the journey of several decades will be of much shorter duration for the crew. But the ship’s deceleration system is irreparably damaged when it hits a cloud of interstellar dust and acceleration continues toward light speed, tau zero. Soon the ship is speeding through galaxies and eons are passing on board the ship in the blink of an eye…
Rendezvous With Rama – Arthur C. Clarke
Rama is a vast alien spacecraft that enters the Solar System, A perfect cylinder some fifty kilometres long, spinning rapidly, racing through space, Rama is a technological marvel, a mysterious and deeply enigmatic alien artifact. It is Mankind’s first visitor from the stars and must be investigated…
Life During Wartime – Lucius Shepard
In the jungles of Guatemala, David Mingolla is struggling to survive amongst the rotting vegetation and his despairing fellow foot soldiers. He knows he is nothing but an expendable pawn in an endless war. On R & R a few miles away from the warzone he meets Debora – an enigmatic young woman who may be working for the enemy – and stumbles into a deadly psychic conflict where the mind is the greatest weapon.
Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang – Kate Wilhelm
The Sumner family can read the signs: the droughts and floods, the blighted crops, the shortages, the rampant diseases and plagues, and, above all, the increasing sterility all point to one thing. Their isolated farm in the Appalachian Mountains gives them the ideal place to survive the coming breakdown, and their wealth and know-how gives them the means. Men and women must clone themselves for humanity to survive. But what then?
Roadside Picnic – Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
Red Schuhart is a stalker, one of those young rebels who are compelled, in spite of extreme danger, to venture illegally into the Zone to collect the mysterious artifacts that the alien visitors left scattered around. His life is dominated by the place and the thriving black market in the alien products. But when he and his friend Kirill go into the Zone together to pick up a “full empty,” something goes wrong. And the news he gets from his girlfriend upon his return makes it inevitable that he’ll keep going back to the Zone, again and again, until he finds the answer to all his problems.
Dark Benediction – Walter M. Miller
Walter M. Miller Jr is best remembered as the author of A Canticle for Leibowitz, universally recognized as one of the greatest novels of modern SF. But as well as writing that deeply felt and eloquent book, he produced many shorter works of fiction of stunning originality and power. His profound interest in religion and his innate literary gifts combined perfectly in the production of such works as ‘The Darfstellar’, for which he won a Hugo in 1955, ‘Conditionally Human’, ‘I, Dreamer’ and ‘The Big Hunger’, all of which are included in this brilliant and essential collection.
Mockingbird – Walter S. Tevis
The future is a grim place in which the declining human population wanders, drugged and lulled by electronic bliss. It’s a world without art, reading and children, a world where people would rather burn themselves alive than endure. Even Spofforth, the most perfect machine ever created, cannot bear it and seeks only that which he cannot have – to cease to be. But there is hope for the future in the passion and joy that a man and woman discover in love and in books, hope even for Spofforth. A haunting novel, reverberating with anguish but also celebrating love and the magic of a dream.
Dune – Frank Herbert
The Duke of Atreides has been manoeuvred by his arch-enemy, Baron Harkonnen, into administering the desert planet of Dune. Although it is almost completely without water, Dune is a planet of fabulous wealth, for it is the only source of a drug prized throughout the Galactic Empire. The Duke and his son, Paul, are expecting treachery, and it duly comes – but from a shockingly unexpected place. Then Paul succeeds his father, and he becomes a catalyst for the native people of Dune, whose knowledge of the ecology of the planet gives them vast power. They have been waiting for a leader like Paul Atreides, a leader who can harness that force…DUNE: one of the most brilliant science fiction novels ever written, as engrossing and heart-rending today as it was when it was first published half a century ago.
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress – Robert A. Heinlein
Luna is an open penal colony and the regime is a harsh one. Not surprisingly, revolution against the hated authority is planned. But the key figures in the revolt are an unlikely crew: Manuel Garcia O’Kelly, an engaging jack of all trades, the beautiful Wyoming Knott – and Mike, a lonely computer who likes to make up jokes…
The Man in the High Castle – Philip K. Dick
It is 1962 and the Second World War has been over for seventeen years: people have now had a chance to adjust to the new order. But it’s not been easy. The Mediterranean has been drained to make farmland, the population of Africa has virtually been wiped out and America has been divided between the Nazis and the Japanese. In the neutral buffer zone that divides the two superpowers lives the man in the high castle, the author of an underground bestseller, a work of fiction that offers an alternative theory of world history in which the Axis powers didn’t win the war. The novel is a rallying cry for all those who dream of overthrowing the occupiers. But could it be more than that? Subtle, complex and beautifully characterized, The Man in the High Castle remains the finest alternative world novel ever written, and a work of profundity and significance.