(*) That I’ve read and own.
It’s an old internet law that lists of favourite things are a requirement of all websites annually. Well, this year I’m getting mine in early.
I used to read a lot of fantasy but the genre holds less interest now that I’m older; science fiction has far more depth to it. Nevertheless, fantasy is represented here as there is a particularly cracking novel by C. J. Cherryh that I couldn’t omit. To prevent the rest of the list from weighing too heavily in one author or another’s favour I decided to limit my choices to only one book from any given author.
Enough waffle… to the list!
10. The Forge Of God by Greg Bear
The Earth’s about to be demolished to make way for a hyperspatial express route… no, wait, that’s something else entirely. But the Earth is about to be demolished and for the vast majority of the people on it that means a quite awe-inspiring description of death.
9. Against A Dark Background by Iain M. Banks
How do you like your dark novels? Dark? Well, has Iain M. Banks got a treat for you! Not only is there the word ‘dark’ in the title, but the story is a masterpiece of dark and depressing science fiction at its finest.
8. Engines Of God by Jack McDevitt
McDevitt’s books are, essentially, archaeological sci-fi. Yes, you’re right; that’s a pretty specific genre that might not appeal to those who like their science fiction devoid of exploration and digging. Me? I like it. Engines Of God is in this list, though, not because of its archaeology and interplanetary historical detective work but because it contains a sequence of chapters that I can only describe as unputdownablehighoctanepageturners. One word: tsunami. Ooh! Lovely bit of writing.
7. The Chronicles Of Morgaine by C.J. Cherryh
The only fantasy representative on this list is actually three books in one! You’re being spoiled! And there’s more than a hint of sci-fi to satisfy the science fiction fan too. Gates to worlds separated by space and time, a sword called Changeling which has terrifying powers, and the best description of climate change gone awry you’ll ever find.
6. The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
Essentially a tale of revenge… and teleportation! What more could you possibly want to know?
5. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Another internet law you may already be aware of is that all science fiction lists must contain Brave New World or 1984 or both whether you like them or not. I do like them both but of the two Brave New World pips George Orwell’s classic to a place in my list due to its more prescient nature in depicting the world we live in today; one of luxuries and pleasure and inconsequential oddities to turn the population into sheep rather than pain and oppression.
4. The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison
One of the first books I read that introduced me to the concept of the anti-hero. James Bolivar DiGriz is a master criminal turned to the good side by former criminals to fight crime. Honest. His wife is a former homicidal maniac now reconditioned to be good. Honest.
3. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
Forget the films. Really, really forget the films. They do not do justice to this stunning novel. The lone man fighting the world-turned-vampire you know about. The ending – the awesome twist ending – you need to read.
2. Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds
In a very short time Alastair Reynolds has established himself as one of the finest science fiction authors of our time with his incredibly realistic vision of man’s future; humanity split into different species by their lifestyles mix or fight in a galaxy without faster-than-light travel or wormholes. The sense of plausibility to Reynolds’ universe lends a depth to the many stories.
1. Chung Kuo by David Wingrove
To finish with there’s not one, not two, not three, not… I’ll cut to the chase… there’s eight novels at no extra cost to you. Chung Kuo is a richly detailed picture of a near-future Earth ruled by Chinese emperors in continent-spanning cities. Everyone has their place and, as is the case with these things, some people aren’t happy with their place. The result is rebellion, intrigue, political plotting, and the most sadistic character/architect of destruction you’ll likely ever read.