Popular 25 Alternative Best Science Fiction List

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by Neal Stephenson

4 avg rating

A #1 New York Times Bestseller, Anathem is perhaps the most brilliant literary invention to date from the incomparable Neal Stephenson, who rocked the world with Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon, and The Baroque Cycle. Now he imagines an alternate universe where scientists, philosophers, and mathematicians live in seclusion behind ancient monastery walls until they are called back into the world to deal with a crisis of astronomical proportions.


Anathem won the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel and the reviews for have been dazzling: “Brilliant” (South Florida Sun-Sentinel), “Daring” (Boston Globe), “Immensely entertaining” (New York Times Book Review), “A tour de force” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), while Time magazine proclaims, “The great novel of ideas…has morphed into science fiction, and Neal Stephenson is its foremost practitioner.”

Locus Science Fiction
John W. Campbell
Arthur C. Clarke

The Player of Games

by Iain M. Banks

5 avg rating
The Culture - a human/machine symbiotic society - has thrown up many great Game Players, and one of the greatest is Gurgeh. Jernau Morat Gurgeh. The Player of Games. Master of every board, computer and strategy. Bored with success, Gurgeh travels to the Empire of Azad, cruel and incredibly wealthy, to try their fabulous game...a game so complex, so like life itself, that the winner becomes emperor. Mocked, blackmailed, almost murdered, Gurgeh accepts the game, and with it the challenge of his life - and very possibly his death.

Praise for Iain M. Banks:

"Poetic, humorous, baffling, terrifying, sexy -- the books of Iain M. Banks are all these things and more" -- NME

"An exquisitely riotous tour de force of the imagination which writes its own rules simply for the pleasure of breaking them." -- Time Out

Shadow & Claw: The First Half of 'The Book of the New Sun'

by Gene Wolfe

The Book of the New Sun is unanimously acclaimed as Gene Wolfe's most remarkable work, hailed as "a masterpiece of science fantasy comparable in importance to the major works of Tolkien and Lewis" by Publishers Weekly, and "one of the most ambitious works of speculative fiction in the twentieth century" by The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Shadow & Claw brings together the first two books of the tetralogy in one volume:

The Shadow of the Torturer is the tale of young Severian, an apprentice in the Guild of Torturers on the world called Urth, exiled for committing the ultimate sin of his profession -- showing mercy toward his victim.

Ursula K. Le Guin said, "Magic stuff . . . a masterpiece . . . the best science fiction I've read in years!"

The Claw of the Conciliator continues the saga of Severian, banished from his home, as he undertakes a mythic quest to discover the awesome power of an ancient relic, and learn the truth about his hidden destiny.

"Arguably the finest piece of literature American science fiction has yet produced [is] the four-volume Book of the New Sun."--Chicago Sun-Times

"The Book of the New Sun establishes his preeminence, pure and simple. . . . The Book of the New Sun contains elements of Spenserian allegory, Swiftian satire, Dickensian social consciousness and Wagnerian mythology. Wolfe creates a truly alien social order that the reader comes to experience from within . . . once into it, there is no stopping."--The New York Times Book Review


Old Man's War

by John Scalzi

John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife's grave. Then he joined the army.

The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce―and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So: we fight. To defend Earth, and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding.

Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity's resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force. Everybody knows that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don't want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You'll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You'll serve two years at the front. And if you survive, you'll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets.

John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine―and what he will become is far stranger.


Test of Honor: Shards of Honor and The Warrior's Apprentice

by Lois McMaster Bujold

The point of conflict is clear and straightforward: the democratic Betans versus the ultra-militaristic Barrayarans. At least that's what biologist Cordelia Naismith, heroine of Shards of Honor, believes. But when she's stranded on an unexplored planet - at the mercy of Aral Vorkosigan, the very Barrayaran she's been taught to despise - she discovers that the truth has become crudely twisted. And when Vorkosigan, himself the victim of a politically inspired mutiny, tries to draw Cordelia into the struggle against his culture's fascistic military elite, she has to make a choice. A choice that will mean betrayal, no matter which side she's on. In THE WARRIOR'S APPRENTICE, Cordelia's son, Miles, depressed and angry after failing the physical entrance exams to military training school, decides to take a long vacation - and inadvertently falls into a deal well suited to his abilities and sense of adventure. He buys a starship, contracts to smuggle contraband into a war zone - and without quite meaning to, he finds himself a far-too-active participant in the war!
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