Science fiction is a genre like no other. It takes the most personal, profound concerns we have, and stretches them across the vistas of space and time, to tell stories we might have thought impossible. There is no limit in sci-fi. Be it conceptually or emotionally, there is nothing that cannot be explored within this genre. As such, the sci-fi genre provides some of the most incredible novels you’re ever likely to read.
Lord of Light
Written by Roger Zelazny, ‘Lord of Light’ is something of an atypical sci-fi novel – set on a planet influenced by Hindu and Buddhist culture, ruled by a group of gods wielding immensely advanced technology. The book concerns the rebellion of Mahasamatman – or Sam – that aims to end the rule of the gods and bring freedom to the populace of the planet. ‘Lord of Light’ investigates the relationship between freedom and faith, and our ability to take life into our hands in opposition to forces far greater than us. It is a thrilling novel rich in character and a wonderfully rendered environment – with Zelazny creating a world that jumps out at the reader as lush and fascinating.
‘Ammonite’ is a novel that depicts a truly revolutionary mode of existence. Written by Nicola Griffith, the novel contains Marghe Taishan, an anthropologist sent to research a planet called Jeep. During an expedition some years previous to the story, Jeep was found to play host to a disease that rendered it uninhabitable by men – but despite that, there is somehow a thriving all-female population on the planet. ‘Ammonite’ is a novel that asks questions about the fundamental ways that we organize our society, and the nature of our shared relationships – all presented through a vividly-realized world and intriguing story.
‘Gateway’, written by Frederik Pohl, is a novel set on an asteroid populated with ships left behind by a species known as the Heechee. The ships have unknown pre-set destinations, and cannot be controlled by humans. Explorers thus undertake uncertain – often dangerous – expeditions in the hope of finding yet more Heechee technology and becoming rich. ‘Gateway’ follows Robinette Broadhead, a newcomer to the asteroid – known as Gateway – who is both determined and terrified in his desire to go on an expedition using one of these ships. ‘Gateway’ is a deeply touching novel, taking the infinite space offered by Heechee machinery and focusing it all in on Robinette, revealing his deepest thoughts and insecurities regarding the Heechee and his own existence.
Rendezvous with Rama
One day, a giant cylinder appears from space, on a route that will take it past Earth. The cylinder does not emit signals or respond to them, and seems entirely void of life. As such, an Earth spaceship already surveying the solar system is sent to investigate Rama, and discover what secrets it hides. ‘Rendezvous with Rama’, written by Arthur C. Clarke, is an exercise of stunning imagination and scale, taking readers through a fascinating world in which mystery and awe are constant presences. Placing human life against something so colossal, alien, and indecipherable, it throws our own place in the universe into question.
‘Hyperion’ is a novel of nearly unmatched imagination, encompassing a range of thought, feeling, and imagination rarely seen in any genre. The novel, written by Dan Simmons, concerns six pilgrims on their way to the time tombs, mysterious structures on the equally mysterious planet Hyperion. Each pilgrim has their own narrative that connects them to the time tombs, and the time tombs to chaotic fluctuations in a universe that is on the brink of changing forever. ‘Hyperion’ is a masterpiece, with each distinct narrative exploring unique concerns, alongside the larger question of what our lives mean in a universe dominated by such vast and inscrutable forces.