There’s a lot of Sci-Fi out there and a lot of it is boring, or kind of lame. One of the problems with the genre is that when technology progresses IRL, it makes the technology from old Sci-Fi books seem out of date. Unless, the author was able to guess right about what was going to happen in the future, which is very rare. The gimmick of a pretend new tech that doesn’t exist and will never exist, since it’s already been superseded, can leave a reader feeling like they are reading an instructional manual for an 8 track player.
Another reason Sci-Fi can be a bore is that the genre is used to hide weak storytelling ability: an author uses future gadgets and other gimmicks of the genre to hide lame characters and weak plots. Actually, the latter reason is what most of the Sci-Fi genre seems to be. That’s why it’s so great when you can find a truly sick, Sci-Fi book. Below are 5 examples of well written and entertaining entries into the Sci-Fi cannon.
1. The Stars My Destination – Alfred Bester
Set in a future where people have learned that by just focusing hard enough on a physical place, you can transport yourself there. This book is FULL of amazing ideas executed brilliantly. His underlying premise on the power of will is brilliant and inspired by Aleister Crowley. This book goes beyond the genre into the realm of great fiction.
2. Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
Based on a kid that is chosen out of billions to train as a pilot to fight against a race of insectoid aliens. This book has a 36 Chambers of Shaolin charm: lots of fascinating technical training and character development/interaction. The story itself is original and fast-paced plus it’s so good, the author made a zillion sequels.
3. Neuromancer – William Gibson
The Granddaddy of Cyberpunk is also the king of the sub-genre. Apparently, re-written dozens of times rendering the writing hyper-polished and blindingly fast; it can leave your comprehension in the dust. That’s not to say this book is too challenging, its denseness manages to add to the excitement. Lots of weird techs, gnarly drugs, A.I. Philosophy and tons of violence.
4. Altered Carbon – Richard K. Morgan
A modern cyberpunk noir entry where peoples’ minds can be transmitted through space and then “sleeved” into new bodies. In true cyberpunk fashion, the future is not bright and when you don’t have enough money, it’s bleaker still. From an A.I. concierge with a high-velocity machine gun to cut-rate bodies that lack senses and taste discernment, the feeling this book gives you is grimy in the best possible way. The show Netflix made for this book is OK at first and the main dude in it is cool to watch but overall the show fails to capture the pumping neo-noir vibe that pervades the novel. The show is weak; the novel is strong.
5. Dune – Frank Herbert
An absolute classic. Extremely entertaining epic full of great characters and a complex universe that would make Tolkien jealous. Anyone who reads this always wishes it would never end. Too bad the sequels are so lackluster. Truly one of the most entertaining books ever written.