Best Literary Science Fiction Books

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1

1984

by George Orwell

4.62 avg rating
View our feature on George Orwell’s 1984.Written in 1948, 1984 was George Orwell’s chilling prophecy about the future. And while 1984 has come and gone, Orwell’s narrative is timelier than ever. 1984 presents a startling and haunting vision of the world, so powerful that it is completely convincing from start to finish. No one can deny the power of this novel, its hold on the imaginations of multiple generations of readers, or the resiliency of its admonitions—a legacy that seems only to grow with the passage of time.
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Station Eleven

by Emily St. John Mandel

A National Book Award Finalist
A PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist


Kirsten Raymonde will never forget the night Arthur Leander, the famous Hollywood actor, had a heart attack on stage during a production of King Lear. That was the night when a devastating flu pandemic arrived in the city, and within weeks, civilization as we know it came to an end.

Twenty years later, Kirsten moves between the settlements of the altered world with a small troupe of actors and musicians. They call themselves The Traveling Symphony, and they have dedicated themselves to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive. But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who will threaten the tiny band’s existence. And as the story takes off, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, the strange twist of fate that connects them all will be revealed.
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The Handmaid's Tale

by Margaret Atwood

In the world of the near future, who will control women's bodies?

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are only valued if their ovaries are viable.

Offred can remember the days before, when she lived and made love with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now....

Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid's Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force.
Arthur C. Clarke
Nebula
Locus Science Fiction
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Brave New World

by Aldous Huxley

4.47 avg rating

"Aldous Huxley is the greatest 20th century writer in English." —Chicago Tribune

Aldous Huxley is rightly considered a prophetic genius and one of the most important literary and philosophical voices of the 20th Century, and Brave New World is his masterpiece. From the author of The Doors of Perception, Island, and countless other works of fiction, non-fiction, philosophy, and poetry, comes this powerful work of speculative fiction that has enthralled and terrified readers for generations. Brave New World remains absolutely relevant to this day as both a cautionary dystopian tale in the vein of the George Orwell classic 1984, and as thought-provoking, thoroughly satisfying entertainment.

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Earth Abides

by George R. Stewart

4 avg rating
A disease of unparalleled destructive force has sprung up almost simultaneously in every corner of the globe, all but destroying the human race. One survivor, strangely immune to the effects of the epidemic, ventures forward to experience a world without man. What he ultimately discovers will prove far more astonishing than anything he'd either dreaded or hoped for.


From the Paperback edition.
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Cloud Atlas: A Novel

by David Mitchell

By the New York Times bestselling author of The Bone Clocks | Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize

A postmodern visionary and one of the leading voices in twenty-first-century fiction, David Mitchell combines flat-out adventure, a Nabokovian love of puzzles, a keen eye for character, and a taste for mind-bending, philosophical and scientific speculation in the tradition of Umberto Eco, Haruki Murakami, and Philip K. Dick. The result is brilliantly original fiction as profound as it is playful. In this groundbreaking novel, an influential favorite among a new generation of writers, Mitchell explores with daring artistry fundamental questions of reality and identity.

Cloud Atlas begins in 1850 with Adam Ewing, an American notary voyaging from the Chatham Isles to his home in California. Along the way, Ewing is befriended by a physician, Dr. Goose, who begins to treat him for a rare species of brain parasite. . . . Abruptly, the action jumps to Belgium in 1931, where Robert Frobisher, a disinherited bisexual composer, contrives his way into the household of an infirm maestro who has a beguiling wife and a nubile daughter. . . . From there we jump to the West Coast in the 1970s and a troubled reporter named Luisa Rey, who stumbles upon a web of corporate greed and murder that threatens to claim her life. . . . And onward, with dazzling virtuosity, to an inglorious present-day England; to a Korean superstate of the near future where neocapitalism has run amok; and, finally, to a postapocalyptic Iron Age Hawaii in the last days of history.

But the story doesn’t end even there. The narrative then boomerangs back through centuries and space, returning by the same route, in reverse, to its starting point. Along the way, Mitchell reveals how his disparate characters connect, how their fates intertwine, and how their souls drift across time like clouds across the sky.

As wild as a videogame, as mysterious as a Zen koan, Cloud Atlas is an unforgettable tour de force that, like its incomparable author, has transcended its cult classic status to become a worldwide phenomenon.

Praise for Cloud Atlas
 
“[David] Mitchell is, clearly, a genius. He writes as though at the helm of some perpetual dream machine, can evidently do anything, and his ambition is written in magma across this novel’s every page.”—The New York Times Book Review
 
“One of those how-the-holy-hell-did-he-do-it? modern classics that no doubt is—and should be—read by any student of contemporary literature.”—Dave Eggers
 
“Wildly entertaining . . . a head rush, both action-packed and chillingly ruminative.”—People
 
“The novel as series of nested dolls or Chinese boxes, a puzzle-book, and yet—not just dazzling, amusing, or clever but heartbreaking and passionate, too. I’ve never read anything quite like it, and I’m grateful to have lived, for a while, in all its many worlds.”—Michael Chabon
 
“Cloud Atlas ought to make [Mitchell] famous on both sides of the Atlantic as a writer whose fearlessness is matched by his talent.”—The Washington Post Book World
 
“Thrilling . . . One of the biggest joys in Cloud Atlas is watching Mitchell sashay from genre to genre without a hitch in his dance step.”—Boston Sunday Globe
 
“Grand and elaborate . . . [Mitchell] creates a world and language at once foreign and strange, yet strikingly familiar and intimate.”—Los Angeles Times


From the Hardcover edition.
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Swastika Night

by Katharine Burdekin

   Published in 1937, twelve years before Orwell's 1984, this novel projects a totally male-controlled fascist world that has eliminated women as we know them. They are breeders, kept as cattle, while men in this post-Hitlerian world are embittered automatons, fearful of all feelings, having abolished all history, education, creativity, books, and art. Not even the memory of culture remains. The plot centers on a "misfit" who asks, as readers must, "How could this have happenned?" Ann J. Lane calls the novel a "brilliant, chilling dystopia." "This is a powerful, haunting vision of the inner and outer worlds of male violence."-Blanche Wiesen Cook, author of Eleanor Roosevelt: Volume One, 1884-1933
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The Plot Against America

by Philip Roth

2 avg rating
In an astonishing feat of empathy and narrative invention, our most ambitious novelist imagines an alternate version of American history.
In 1940 Charles A. Lindbergh, heroic aviator and rabid isolationist, is elected President. Shortly thereafter, he negotiates a cordial “understanding” with Adolf Hitler, while the new government embarks on a program of folksy anti-Semitism.

For one boy growing up in Newark, Lindbergh’s election is the first in a series of ruptures that threaten to destroy his small, safe corner of America–and with it, his mother, his father, and his older brother.
John W. Campbell
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Life After Life: A Novel

by Kate Atkinson

"One of the best novels I've read this century. Kate Atkinson is a marvel. There aren't enough breathless adjectives to describe LIFE AFTER LIFE: Dazzling, witty, moving, joyful, mournful, profound."--Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl
What if you could live again and again, until you got it right?

On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in any number of ways. Ursula's world is in turmoil, facing the unspeakable evil of the two greatest wars in history. What power and force can one woman exert over the fate of civilization -- if only she has the chance?

Wildly inventive, darkly comic, startlingly poignant -- this is Kate Atkinson at her absolute best.
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The Bridge

by Iain Banks

1 avg rating

A reissue of Banks's 1986 Kafkaesque modern classic

The man who wakes up in the extraordinary world of a bridge has amnesia, and his doctor doesn't seem to want to cure him. Does it matter? Exploring the bridge occupies most of his days. But at night there are his dreams. Dreams in which desperate men drive sealed carriages across barren mountains to a bizarre rendezvous; an illiterate barbarian storms an enchanted tower under a stream of verbal abuse; and broken men walk forever over bridges without end, taunted by visions of a doomed sexuality. Lying in bed unconscious after an accident wouldn't be much fun, most would think, but it depends who and what you've left behind. Which is the stranger reality, day or night? Frequently hilarious and consistently disturbing, this is a novel of outrageous contrasts, constructed chaos, and elegant absurdities.

Philip K. Dick
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The Time Traveler's Wife

by Audrey Niffenegger

A MOST UNTRADITIONAL LOVE STORY, this is the celebrated tale of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who inadvertently travels through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course. Henry and Clare’s passionate affair endures across a sea of time and captures them in an impossibly romantic trap that tests the strength of fate and basks in the bonds of love.
John W. Campbell
Arthur C. Clarke
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Fatherland: A Novel

by Robert Harris

4 avg rating
Fatherland is set in an alternative world where Hitler has won the Second World War. It is April 1964 and one week before Hitler's 75th birthday. Xavier March, a detective of the Kriminalpolizei, is called out to investigate the discovery of a dead body in a lake near Berlin's most prestigious suburb.

As March discovers the identity of the body, he uncovers signs of a conspiracy that could go to the very top of the German Reich. And, with the Gestapo just one step behind, March, together with an American journalist, is caught up in a race to discover and reveal the truth -- a truth that has already killed, a truth that could topple governments, a truth that will change history.


From the Paperback edition.
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Gravity's Rainbow

by Thomas Pynchon

Winner of the 1973 National Book Award, Gravity's Rainbow is a postmodern epic, a work as exhaustively significant to the second half of the twentieth century as Joyce's Ulysses was to the first. Its sprawling, encyclopedic narrative and penetrating analysis of the impact of technology on society make it an intellectual tour de force.

This Penguin Classics deluxe edition features a specially designed cover by Frank Miller along with french claps and deckle-edged paper.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
Nebula
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Resistance

by Owen Sheers

Resistance is a beautifully written and powerful story set during an imagined occupation of Britain by Nazi Germany in World War II.

 

In a remote and rugged Welsh valley in 1944, in the wake of a German invasion, all the men have disappeared overnight, apparently to join the underground resistance. Their abandoned wives, a tiny group of farm women, are soon trapped in the valley by an unusually harsh winter—along with a handful of war-weary German soldiers on a secret mission. The need to survive drives the soldiers and the women into uneasy relationships that test both their personal and national loyalties. But when the snow finally melts, bringing them back into contact with the war that has been raging beyond their mountains, they must face the dramatic consequences of their choices.

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Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls

by Matt Ruff

Andy Gage was born in 1965 and murdered not long after by his stepfather. . . . It was no ordinary murder. Though the torture and abuse that killed him were real, Andy Gage's death wasn't. Only his soul actually died, and when it died, it broke in pieces. Then the pieces became souls in their own right, coinheritors of Andy Gage's life. . . .

While Andy deals with the outside world, more than a hundred other souls share an imaginary house inside Andy's head, struggling to maintain an orderly coexistence: Aaron, the father figure; Adam, the mischievous teenager; Jake, the frightened little boy; Aunt Sam, the artist; Seferis, the defender; and Gideon, who wants to get rid of Andy and the others and run things on his own.

Andy's new coworker, Penny Driver, is also a multiple personality, a fact that Penny is only partially aware of. When several of Penny's other souls ask Andy for help, Andy reluctantly agrees, setting in motion a chain of events that threatens to destroy the stability of the house. Now Andy and Penny must work together to uncover a terrible secret that Andy has been keeping . . . from himself.

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C

by Tom McCarthy

Opening in England at the turn of the twentieth century, C is the story of Serge Carrefax, whose father experiments with wireless communication while running a school for deaf children. Serge grows up amid the noise and silence with his brilliant but troubled older sister, Sophie: an intense sibling relationship that haunts him as he heads off into an equally troubled larger world. As Serge goes from a Bohemian spa to the skies of World War I, and from a German prison camp into the tombs of Egypt, we follow his life through the tumultuous course of the nascent modern era. Tom McCarthy—acclaimed author of Remainder—has created a truly singular character, and a world that sparkles with historical breadth and postmodern originality.

John W. Campbell
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A Maggot

by John Fowles

In his prologue, John Fowles tells us that A Maggot began as a vision he had of five travellers riding with mysterious purpose through remote countryside. This image gives way to another - a hanging corpse with violets stuffed in its mouth - which leads us into a maze of beguiling paths and wrong turnings, disappearances and revelations, unaccountable motives and cryptic deeds, as this compelling mystery swerves towards a starling vision at its centre.
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Strange Bodies: A Novel

by Marcel Theroux

AN AMBITIOUS AND WHOLLY ORIGINAL NOVEL OF DECEPTION AND PSYCHOSIS BY THE AUTHOR OF THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST FAR NORTH

Whatever this is, it started when Nicholas Slopen came back from the dead.

In a locked ward of a notorious psychiatric hospital sits a man who insists that he is Dr. Nicholas Slopen, failed husband and impoverished Samuel Johnson scholar. Slopen has been dead for months. Yet nothing can make this man change his story. What begins as a tale of apparent forgery, involving unseen letters by the great Dr. Johnson, grows to encompass a conspiracy between a Silicon Valley mogul and his Russian allies to exploit the darkest secret of Soviet technology: the Malevin Procedure.
Marcel Theroux's Strange Bodies takes the reader on a dizzying speculative journey that poses questions about identity, authenticity, and what it means to be truly human.

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Riddley Walker, Expanded Edition

by Russell Hoban

"A hero with Huck Finn’s heart and charm, lighting by El Greco and jokes by Punch and Judy.... Riddley Walker is haunting and fiercely imagined and―this matters most―intensely ponderable." ―Benjamin DeMott, The New York Times Book Review

"This is what literature is meant to be." ―Anthony Burgess

"Russell Hoban has brought off an extraordinary feat of imagination and style.... The conviction and consistency are total. Funny, terrible, haunting and unsettling, this book is a masterpiece." ―Anthony Thwaite, Observer

"Extraordinary... Suffused with melancholy and wonder, beautifully written, Riddley Walker is a novel that people will be reading for a long, long time." ―Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World

"Stunning, delicious, designed to prevent the modern reader from becoming stupid." ―John Leonard, The New York Times

"Highly enjoyable... An intriguing plot... Ferociously inventive." ―Walter Clemons, Newsweek

"Astounding... Hoban’s soaring flight of imagination is that golden rarity, a dazzlingly realized work of genius." ―Jane Clapperton, Cosmopolitan

"An imaginative intensity that is rare in contemporary fiction.’ ―Paul Gray, Time

Riddley Walker is a brilliant, unique, completely realized work of fiction. One reads it again and again, discovering new wonders every time through. Set in a remote future in a post-nuclear holocaust England (Inland), Hoban has imagined a humanity regressed to an iron-age, semi-literate state―and invented a language to represent it. Riddley is at once the Huck Finn and the Stephen Dedalus of his culture―rebel, change agent, and artist. Read again or for the first time this masterpiece of 20th-century literature with new material by the author.

ITEMS 1 - 19 of 25

Comment on this list

1 comments
Anonymous | 2016-05-20 04:17:47
Ready Player One should definitely be on the list.

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