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Sunday Question: Which Science Fiction Novels and Story Collections Had the Greatest Impact on You?

collateral tales

collateral tales

Most people I know who read science fiction read it throughout their formative years. Also, there’s no law that this period of “formative years” can’t be extended forever, is there!

On Facebook, my friend asked:

Afonso Cesar Moreira
out of sheer curiosity wants to know what are the favourite ‘science-fiction’ novels of his facebook friends. So, if you had to choose, which one would it be?

This is really a tough question. Even though, seen in hindsight, no book with a thrilling topic or a brilliant idea was ever able to influence me both strongly and lastingly if it wasn’t also well—and preferably very well—written, there are still so many that come to mind!

But I’ll give it a try.

In my Top 5, I would place (in chronological order):

  • John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar
  • Philip Dick’s Ubik
  • Samuel R. Delaney’s Dhalgren
  • William Gibson’s Neuromancer (in extension the Sprawl Trilogy)
  • Alistair Reynolds’s Revelation Space (in extension the series)

To fill up my Top 10, I would choose:

  • A. E. van Vogt’s Isher
  • Jack Vance’s To Live Forever
  • Bob Shaw’s The Shadows of Heaven
  • Cordwainer Smith’s Norstrilia
  • Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War

Each of these had a strong and lasting impact. But, if I really had to decide, William Gibson’s Neuromancer would be it.

Regarding short story collections, the “Top 5” of my most formative ones would be:

  • Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles
  • Robert Sheckley’s Citizen in Space
  • Brian Aldiss’s Starswarm
  • James Tiptree, Jr.’s Ten Thousand Light-Years from Home
  • Cordwainer Smith’s Instrumentality of Mankind

Now what would be yours?

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17 Responses

  1. The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and Glory Road. Seriously though, the Lazarus Long stories…

  2. The Heinlein novels had a huge impact on me as a kid,they were the start of a lifelong sci-fi addiction. Arthur C. Clarke would rank up there high too.

  3. Read loads of Heinlein and totally loved it, but there just wasn’t a specific book by him that caught my attention and fired up my imagination as much as the ones that I listed did. Clarke’s Childhood’s End though came pretty close to making that list.

  4. For specific titles, the Foundation books rate high on my list.

  5. Joanna Russ, The Female Man. At 17 it was just what I needed. At 13 it was McCaffrey. Nowadays it would be LeGuin and Gaiman.

  6. Indeed ^^^^ I was moved quite a bit by Atwood too.

  7. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card was the first Sci-Fi book I read. My mom’s boss, who owned a book store, recommended it and it got me hooked.

  8. Yeah, Ender’s Game, a cherished memory. So long ago! I’d love to re-read it but I’ve learned that that’s not always a good idea…

  9. I have read it 20 times at least and I love it every time. Have you read any of the sequels or the series told from Bean’s POV?

  10. No I didn’t, only Ender’s Game. Have you?

  11. I have read them all. They are very good. There are 4 sequel’s to Ender’s Game. Then Ender’s Shadow is Ender’s Game told through Bean’s eyes and then 3 sequels to that.

  12. Come to think of it, I know what I’ll do next summer.

  13. By that time there will be another sequel to Ender’s Shadow and possibly one that combines both stories back again.

    I think all of Orson Scott Card’s stuff is good. I am not a big fan of his beliefs but he is a damn fine author.

  14. A Top 10 is difficult … but here is #1:

    Robert A. Heinlein: The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress

    It introduced very elegant the possibility of self-awareness in a digital computer.

    From The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress: “HOLMES IV (High-Optional, Logical, Multi-Evaluating Supervisor, Mark IV) is the Lunar Authority’s master computer … The story is narrated by Manuel Garcia ‘Mannie’ O’Kelly-Davis, a one-armed computer technician called in when HOLMES IV begins behaving oddly. He discovers it has become self-aware; the malfunctions are the result of its immature sense of humor.”

    It demonstrated the application of covert cells

    And I learned the term TANSTAAFL! (There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch!) from it.

  15. My most influential science fiction which I read as a kid via copies borrowed from the Bexley Public Library in Columbus Ohio: The “Heinlein Juveniles”:

    Rocket Ship Galileo
    Space Cadet
    Red Planet
    Between Planets
    The Rolling Stones
    Farmer in the Sky
    Starman Jones
    The Star Beast
    Tunnel in the Sky
    Time for the Stars
    Citizen of the Galaxy
    Have Space Suit—Will Travel

  16. Heinlein again :-)

    I really should re-read some of them.

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