The One Night Stand (Prescient Remembrance, Infinite Moments, Love Beyond Death Book 5)

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These, with Empire of the Sun , which dealt with some of his other ghosts, comprised, I think, his best work. They also served in the main to earth his most violent energies and help him again become a kind-hearted and generous friend. She was born Sybille von Shoenebeck, and although she wrote, impeccably, in English, her outlook was European. Her father was a German baron, her mother half-English, with Jewish blood.

They divorced in her childhood. She stayed with her father at Schloss Feldkirch in Baden until he died, then with her mother in Italy and France.

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Celebrated writers who died in the noughties | Books | The Guardian

They settled in Sanary-sur-mer, where Sybille became intimate with Maria and Aldous Huxley, whose biography she later wrote Her mother's hopeless drug addiction, which dominated Sybille's adolescence, was elaborated without sentiment in the novel Jigsaw With the second world war looming, Sybille acquired a British passport by a marriage of convenience, and became Mrs Bedford. Her love-affairs, at least two of them of long duration, were with women.

Only in did she settle in London, in Church Street, Chelsea. She was a great talker, in inimitable staccato, rapid, hushed tones, and loved food and good wine, on which she was a formidable expert. Her main fictional material was her own early life, until in she published Quicksands , a memoir that illuminated but did not transcend her intense and dazzling fictionalisations. It immortalises her father, and contrasts his overstuffed, torpid Berlin connections, and the sadism of the German officer class, with the light-filled grace of life in the Mediterranean.

Her principal non-fiction subjects were criminology and the law. She was an energetic member of PEN — and was working, and falling in love, into her 90s. Saul Bellow by James Meek. And he longs to have his vultures back again. He wants his customary struggles, his nameless, empty works, his anger, his afflictions and his sins.

Bellow was 38 in when the novel that made his name, The Adventures of Augie March , was published. That picaresque saga was popular and influential, yet the most memorable character is not its eponymous hero, but the bent old Chicago sage Einhorn, who mentors Augie in his youth.

Caught between vitality and infirmity, power and squalor, Einhorn foreshadows the heroes of the later, greater Bellow, torn between defying fate and embracing it — Herzog, the elemental poet Humboldt and his friend Charlie Citrine in Humboldt's Gift , Tommy Wilhelm in Seize the Day.

To some it may seem unlikely that a Nobel prizewinner so beloved of highbrow middle-aged white English writers and critics can really be so great; yet Bellow is. Many have tried to imitate his perfect metaphors, his stories of oft-divorced intellectual men fretting about getting old and womanless, his cutting of the language of high culture with tough vernacular, yet the successors haven't smothered the original. It is one thing to understand that comedy and tragedy are the same.

Bellow actually embeds the understanding in his work. His ability to imbue his heroes' every desperate effort at winning with their own awareness that they can never win gives their actions and their hungry observation of the world a hilarious grandeur, a doomed joy. In Bellow's books, life matters. From the s to the s Malcolm Bradbury wrote witty and sharply observant novels that used comedy to explore a serious subject, which he defined as "the fate of liberalism in a difficult and disturbing age".

Beginning with the classic campus novel Eating People Is Wrong , these books provided an astute satirical commentary on the changing lifestyles and preoccupations of the chattering classes of England, America and eastern Europe. Perhaps the finest of them is The History Man , whose anti-hero, the trendy leftwing sociology lecturer Howard Kirk, finds that the plot of history according to Marx coincides conveniently with his own egotistical desires.

It was a stylistic tour de force, and became Bradbury's most celebrated novel, thanks in part to the success of Christopher Hampton's faithful television adaptation. Bradbury himself wrote many television screenplays, both original and adapted, and contributed scripts to some of the country's favourite detective series, such as Inspector Morse and Dalziel and Pascoe. I cannot think of any writer of his period who reached such widely distributed groups of readers and audiences through such a variety of work: He lived in and for writing, and could seldom resist a commission or a challenge.

This helped to make him an inspiring teacher on the prodigiously successful MA course in creative writing at the University of East Anglia which he cofounded and directed for many years. I am personally indebted to him for his stimulus and encouragement when we were colleagues, and occasionally collaborators, at Birmingham University in the early 60s, and I still keenly miss his friendship. He was knighted for services to literature in and died, aged 69, at the end of the same year, with much literary business unfinished.

Barbara Cartland reminds you just how few true characters there are left in publishing these days. Pinker than life, she understood the value to a writer of being in the public eye and even now is instantly recognisable — as the Little Britain character Dame Sally Markham — to people who weren't even born when she was at the peak of her powers. By , the eternal coquette had sold more than a billion books; she wrote an utterly astonishing With titles such as The Impetuous Duchess , The Duke and the Preacher's Daughter and Conquered by Love , her novels, with heaving bodices and tight breeches on the covers, all told the same story — love and chastity can win over rich snooty types — exactly as her readers wished.

Cartland was famously Princess Diana's favourite author, and as she once remarked: Her dislike of Barbara's daughter Raine, who married her father, Earl Spencer, was legendary. Although no longer a bestseller, Cartland continues to be heavily borrowed from public libraries. She worked, like Enid Blyton and JK Rowling, very well as a starter author; making readers out of people who might otherwise not have been. And her subject matter remains timeless: Michael Donaghy by Don Paterson. When the poet Michael Donaghy died at the age of 50, there was something like a carnival of mourning.

While we remembered to mention the work, we were all too busy grieving for ourselves. All we could speak about was Michael. He had an extraordinary gift for friendship and a limitless capacity for fun and mischief-making. Even now, his death seems like a prank he might still call off at any moment.

The Irish-American Donaghy grew up in the Bronx, but in the mids moved to London, where he spent the rest of his life. When he died, he had long been one of the most admired of British poets though his work is still shockingly neglected in the US. He was often caricatured as a kind of charming "modern metaphysical"; his sharp and sometimes very funny poems often hung on a brilliantly wrought Elizabethan conceit.

Donaghy's too-short Collected Poems , published last year, was our first opportunity to engage with the work without having it overwhelmed by his personality. It was hard to know how they would read, without Donaghy there to recite them from memory, introduce them with some hilarious anecdote, or blast out an air on his flute. The poems are stranger and darker than we could have suspected. Beneath the lightness of their surface, they are deadly serious, musically impeccable, and have an inexhaustible depth and complexity.

The poems float, but they're all built like the Ark. All concentrate Michael's immense wisdom to shed light on the most urgent of our concerns; they are X-rays of the human spirit. And no one reading them could doubt that they were the work of one of the finest poets of the age. UA's lifelong partner, Rosie Bailey, received a standing ovation when she rose to thank the congregation of friends, poets and readers who had come to honour UA's memory. They were applauding a wonderful, loving relationship, devoted to kindness, tolerance and poetry — and a good glass of malt.

But everyone there also well knew — and had long relished — how truly subversive UA Fanthorpe's poetry was, and this delicate subversion was made all the more potent when deployed through her gentle and scholarly personality. She understood the necessity of reimagining our traditions.

She knew the importance of the energy between the past and the present, particularly in poetry. UA she hated "Ursula" possessed an endearing patriotism which was founded on love, not on superiority. All her poems were sourced in love. She could make the difficult accessible and the accessible complex. She had not an ounce of pomposity or ego or self-regard.

She exerted a great influence on contemporary poetry — not only on women poets, but on all poets who performed their work. She was simply brilliant at performing — aided and abetted by Rosie — and so many poets learned much from her charismatic, hilarious and moving stage presence. She revived the dramatic monologue in poetry — not popular since Browning — and brought many marginalised voices to the centre, not least the voices of girls and women. I don't share UA's religious faith, but I like to think of her somewhere, settling down with Simon, with a bottle of wine to share and a new poem to read aloud, as the year ends.

David Foster Wallace by George Saunders. Suddenly, up there over the midwest, I felt agitated and flinchy, on the brink of tears. If the reader was a guy standing outdoors, Dave's prose had the effect of stripping his clothes away and leaving him naked, with super-sensitised skin, newly susceptible to the weather, whatever that weather might be. If it was a sunny day, he was going to feel the sun more. If it was a blizzard, it was going to really sting. Something about the prose was inducing a special variety of openness, that I might call terrified tenderness: This alteration seemed more spiritual than aesthetic.

I wasn't just "reading a great story" — what was happening was more primal and important: I was undergoing a kind of ritual stripping away of the habitual. The person who had induced this complicated feeling was one of the sweetest, most generous people I've ever known. I first met Dave at the home of a mutual friend in Syracuse. I'd just read Girl with Curious Hair and was terrified that this breakfast might veer off into, say, a discussion of Foucault or something, and I'd be humiliated in front of my wife and kids.

I seem to remember he was wearing a Mighty Mouse T-shirt. Like Chekhov in those famous anecdotes, who put his nervous provincial visitors at ease by asking them about pie-baking and the local school system, he defused the tension by turning the conversation to us. Our kids' interests, what life was like in Syracuse, our experience of family life. He was about as open and curious and accepting a person as I'd ever met, and I left feeling I'd made a great new friend. We were together only occasionally, corresponded occasionally but every meeting felt super-charged, almost — if this isn't too corny — sacramental.

I don't know much about Dave's spiritual life but I see him as a great American Buddhist writer, in the lineage of Whitman and Ginsberg. He was a wake-up artist. That was his work, as I see it, both on the page and off it: He was, if this is even a word, a celebrationist, who gave us new respect for the world through his reverence for it, a reverence that manifested as attention, an attention that produced that electrifying, all-chips-in, aware-in-all-directions prose of his.

Simon Gray by Ian Jack. He wondered diffidently if I'd like to look at something he'd been working on for a long time, and perhaps take it for Granta. They're not, I should say, about great matters — just life as it happens, really. An extract arrived soon after, and then the entire book-length manuscript that appeared in as The Smoking Diaries.

Three more volumes of his "life as it happens" followed in the next four years, closing with Coda , which was published a few months after he died. Simon was right to equivocate in his postcard about how they could be categorised — no genre quite fits. They're simply among the funniest, frankest and most courageous self-portraits ever written. He was pleased with their success. Less pleased, possibly, that his long career as a playwright tended to get overlooked in the celebration.

He wrote more than 40 plays for stage and television, as well several screenplays, five novels and four personal accounts of his troubles at the theatre which included the trouble of Stephen Fry going awol from Cell Mates , recounted with biting hilarity. His great stage triumphs came in the s with Butley and Otherwise Engaged. If he'd gone on being successful as a dramatist, who knows? We might never have had The Smoking Diaries and its successors, and that to me would be a poor exchange.

For some reason, "etc" in Simon's writing always came with a semi-colon attached. Hundreds of thousands of words later, I was still excising them from the wonderful story of his life. Thom Gunn was an English poet steeped in the traditions of 16th-century prosody but equally at home in the countercultures of San Franscisco where he lived from the mids until his death.

He wrote in strict metre and stanza form and also in the looser forms more associated with 20th-century American poetry. His series of laments for friends who died of Aids, collected in The Man with Night Sweats , is as moving and eloquent a sequence as Thomas Hardy's poems of lament after Gunn's early work, which honoured energy, movement, advanced masculinity and will, is written with exquisite control and mastery of form.

Later, he came to love the street-life of San Francisco, and his work became not only looser in form, but more open to vulnerability, and filled with greater sympathy for things. As a man, he was modest and polite. He enjoyed his life. As a poet, his immense ambition, care, restlessness and sheer talent are apparent not only in his poems but in his essays, which range in their subjects from poets such as Fulke Greville and Ben Jonson to Allen Ginsberg and Robert Duncan. Gunn was a master of paradox, and in himself he contained certain paradoxes — he was an Englishman at home in California; a literature professor at ease in druggy leather bars; and a poet who knew his Shakespeare finding himself friends with the Beats.

At the time of his death, he was as essential to English poetry as Philip Larkin or Ted Hughes, but he was also the one who got away, and there's a case to be made for him as the greatest poet California has ever produced. In the end, however, he escapes such classification — what remains are the poems, and many of them are masterpieces. When he was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in , Naguib Mahfouz became known in the west. In the Arab world the publication of the Cairo Trilogy — the last of his big "realist" works — had established him as the region's foremost novelist.

In the 60s a series of film versions of his novels — for which he wrote the scripts — made him a household name among Arabic speakers. Mahfouz's career spanned seven decades, and his overarching subject, one could say, was a kind of a history of mankind — taking Egypt as the focal point. In his acceptance speech for the Nobel, he spoke of being "the son of two civilisations that at a certain age in history have formed a happy marriage" — the civilisations of ancient Egypt and of Islam.

A recurring theme in his work is the figure of absolute authority, bound ultimately to be defied, to disintegrate, to become irrelevant — and yet without whom everything falls apart. Edward Said commented on Mahfouz's "astonishingly sustained view" of the close intertwining of eternity and time — and of the centrality of Egypt to that view. In Mahfouz declared that the Arabic language was "the real winner of the [Nobel] prize.

It is, therefore, meant that its melodies should float for the first time into your [Swedish] oasis of culture and civilisation. At the end of March I was on a book tour in America, and one morning at my hotel in Washington a phone call came through from an Irish news service. I felt a deep sadness, even as I laughed. I could imagine John giving me one of his pop-eyed looks and growling, "Rather you than me, Banville!

He was a wonderful writer and, in the years that I knew him, a good friend. He placed a high value on what he called manners, by which he meant honesty, gracefulness, candour. He had his dark side, as which of us has not. His early life was not easy, but he survived a harsh childhood, the banning of his books and subsequent exile and still could smile at the absurdity of it all. Well, John used to say, they weren't hanging out in his direction, that he had noticed. His writing is true and tough, shot through with a hard-won lyricism.

He took a justified pride in the fact that he could do so much, express so much, in what he called plain prose. I once lamented having used the word "lugubrious" twice in a novel, to which John's immediate cry was: These books, and the short stories, will live on, and that is as much as John would have hoped for, or expected.

Arthur Miller by Richard Eyre. If we continue to admire Arthur Miller in Britain which is far from universally the case in the US , it's because we have the virtuous habit of treating classics as if they were contemporaneous. Miller's plays are about the difficulty and the possibility of people — usually men — taking control of their own lives.

His heroes — salesmen, dockers, policemen, farmers — all seek a sort of salvation in asserting their singularity, their "name". They redeem their dignity even if it's by suicide. In nothing does Miller show his Americanism more than in the assertion of the right and the necessity of the individual to own his own life — and, beyond that, to reconcile himself with society.

If there is a touch of the evangelist in Miller's writing, his message is this: Miller was a figure of great moral and intellectual stature, who was unafraid of taking a stand on political issues and enduring obloquy for doing so. He was wonderful company — a great, a glorious raconteur. There was nothing evasive or small-minded about him. He was a deeply attractive man: In he married Marilyn Monroe, provoking wonder, born out of envy and prurience, that the world's most alluring woman chose to live with, of all things, a playwright. But by then Miller had written four of the best plays in the English language, two of which will be continue to be performed in a hundred years' time.

What he said of Mark Twain could just as well have been said about him: Great things — even in the imagination — used to start occasionally with a railway platform. Anna Karenina was one: Tolstoy first saw Anna, in his mind, on a platform, and felt he must return to that image. RK Narayan, in the s, had a similar vision, of a boy waving goodbye to his friends from a train, which became the final chapter of his beautiful first novel, Swami and Friends. The platform signifies the mixture of indecision and excitement that the novelist knows well; in Narayan's case, it also hinted at auspiciousness, in that it inaugurated an incomparable oeuvre, which now, however, risks being overlooked.

Narayan was a mixture of that tiresome pair, the hedgehog and the fox, in that he knew one small thing — the imagined town, Malgudi — in many ways. In the first two-thirds of his career, as his readership grew, he was regarded with suspicion in India for writing in English; from the 80s onwards, when the world changed, he was seen to be too simple, and not postcolonial enough. As Narayan noted in his memoir, My Days , the charge of simplicity came early, with an uncle who'd glanced at a manuscript observing: You write that he got up, picked up tooth powder, rinsed his teeth.

I could also become a novelist if this was all that was expected. I discovered him late, in Oxford, having resisted him myself; but I then fell under the spell of his profound enchantment, an art that spoke to my homesickness in a way that neither the kitsch Raj nostalgia of the 80s nor the busy narratives of the new Indian writing could.

It was a magic arising from the suburban and the ordinary I'd grown up Bombay, but every metropolis has small towns within it and a comical, subversive provincialism that was no more than years old. For much of the 20th century, it seemed that the greatest work must be written against the grain of the epic this may still be true , and Narayan appeared to confirm this in such novels as The English Teacher and The Financial Expert , and in his shrewd and vivid stories. He is still the great Indian novelist in English, although the opposite of "greatness" is what he was always drawn, and drew us, to.

No one can tell me it was meant kindly. In the story "Wants", 27 years are distilled into an intensely savoury two pages. Paley wrote slowly and sparingly — "There is a long time in me between knowing and telling" "Debts". She had a wonderful ear. She grew up in New York speaking Russian, Yiddish and Bronx-flavoured English, and part of her art lay in knowing how to mine the vernacular and smelt it into prose both fanciful and punchy. More than 30 of her 44 stories are told in the first person, often with a good deal of dialogue though never with speech marks.

The rhythm and cadence of individual voices are central. What is man that woman lies down to adore him? In her world, women and men love each other but they want different things. They talk politics while slating each other for any hint of didacticism. Paley poured much of her own energy into political activism, describing herself as "a somewhat combative pacifist and cooperative anarchist", but even so her stories could never be accused of toeing the party line.

She wrote great children, too, touching and aggravating. This in itself was a political act — as she describes in her preface to the stories: As a grown-up woman, I had no choice. Everyday life, kitchen life, children life had been handed to me, my portion, the beginning of big luck, though I didn't know it. Harold Pinter by Craig Raine.

It's just over a year since Harold Pinter died. But I think of him in the present tense, at Lord's cricket ground, ebullient because he has conquered cancer, and the titles of his plays are up there on the scoreboard. He looks as if he is about to score himself — grinning, sexy, full of mischief, irrepressible. As his art was irrepressible. But it co-existed with the riff, a torrential thesaurus, a kind of dramatic Tourette's. This is the waiter in Celebration addressing his uncultured customers: Hardy would have been very old, relative to the other literary celebrities. Pinter's plays are poker-faced, smiling enigmatically, daring us to call their bluff — disconcerting.

In New World Order , one of Pinter's darkly comic political sketches, two torturers are talking above a seated, silent figure — their potential victim. They might be surgeons chatting over an anaesthetised patient. It is a perfect, simple parable of power. Culture Books Science fiction. The best science fiction books We asked for suggestions of your favourite science fiction books.

Here are the results. Send to a friend. Short link for this page: Contact the Books team books theguardian. If you need help using the site: A novel that works on many levels. An insight into the human condition. Not only does the book imagine an alien race, but an alien race without genders. However, this never stops the novel from reaching the high levels of characterization and prose that we expect not only from LeGuin, but from the very best of fiction. By the time the reader leaves the world of Winter, their world will never be the same again.

Philip K Dick is the best author in the genre and this is his best book by a street. The lore and narrative is so well written you could almost believe you were there. Lacking both character aside from the self-effacing ghost who narrates and incident unless you count descriptions of the evolution and slow collapse of entire species and civilisations , Star Maker is a Dantean tour of the possibilities of cosmic creation, culminating with an extended encounter and biography of the Creator itself -- the titular Star Maker.

One of the most visionary, ambitious and influential explorations of the universe ever committed to paper, Stapledon's novel elevates SF to the level of a sacred text. Coelestis is not a comfortable read. But it is one of those science fiction novels which can change the way you look at the world. And there are remarkably few of them. This book is perfect in every respect. The story is rich and satisfying in every detail, the characters are unforgettable, and the language is so good that you want to read every sentence twice.

I always keep an extra copy in the house, because when it gets borrowed, it tends never to come back but that's OK. Experimental, funny and achingly prescient. Set the blueprint for cyberpunk and given all the fuss it kicked up over Arts Council funding, now seems oddly relevant all over again. Hard to adequately describe the majesty of this book. Vast breadth and depth. I'd use the phrases 'mind blowing' or 'mind expanding' if they weren't such cliches.

Hopefully someone else can do more justice to it in their recommendation, but all I can say is you come away from it with a different perspective on the universe. I'm amazed that Zindell is not more popular than he is. This book is described as hard SF - I don't agree.

Sure, it deals with complex mathematical concepts, the far-future evolution of humanity It also covers philospophy, religion Each chapter seemed to me a novella in its scope and depth when I read it. This is an epic quest of a book. It is purely fun and wacky. Relatively soft but with hard elements. It gives a glimpse into one of our many possible futures and problems we may face in the future. The characters are nicely fitted into stereotypes and work well together and the stories are outlandish enough to keep interest but they're not too much. Deranged paranoia, mind-bending ideas and lots of humour.

This last point is crucial as all the Hollywood adaptations of Dick have lack his wit and irony. Indeed, don't think any film version of Dick has really captured his tone properly. Gritty, satirical, thrilling, terrifying, mindblowing I could throw adjectives at this book for the rest of my life and make every one of them stick. Schismatrix not only helped birth what we now think of as the "New Space Opera" e. Iain M Banks, Alastair Reynolds , but was arguably the first novel to imagine a plausible posthuman solar system, riven by ideologies and wild economics, teeming with conflict and graft, and packed with moments of pure sensawunda.

Best of all, apart from the handful of short stories set in the same fictional universe, Sterling never felt the need to cash in on the critical success of Schismatrix with sequels; the end result is a novel that still reads as fresh and powerful to this day, more than a quarter of a century after its initial publication.

While not as evidently prescient as Huxley or Orwell, Zamyatin explores a potential extrapolation of the Soviet ideal. Some may call it a reductio ad absurdum but ultimately it highlights the dangers of the worship of technology, the establishment of systems and rules and progress - while it is full of allusions to the early Soviet state, it has a universal message which is certainly interesting - furthermore, its relatively inconclusive ending evades traditional dystopian SF tropes of the revolution or regime change per se. While its plot can be considered a simple adventure or mystery, Banks' real strength is in realising a genuinely alien futuristic society which at the same time uses elements of the contemporary world, at times exaggerated, in unfamiliar or extreme ways.

On a purely superficial level, the detail with which Banks describes the society depicted, and the impossibly complex alien games which form the core of the plot, ignite the imagination in a way only the best SF does. Well the answer is yes sometimes and particularly in this book albeit some unknown space drug. Put very simply he recognises that when something or anything is looked at more closely reality and consciousness will change ultimately meaning that both are unstable.

In Dicks books this manifests itself firstly in paranoia and then to transcendence. With Dick the journey to transcendence or new forms of understanding can be a very stressful one for his protagonists. While some might consider this novel a pulp horror twist on Lord of the Flies, it is given a new dimension if read with knowledge of Japanese contemporary history and perceptions of young people.

It plays on fears of juvenile delinquency and student violence, which is a common theme across popular culture youth gangs and violent schools feature prominently, another example being the recent film Confessions and then mixes it with ideas of how willing anyone is to kill for self defence or self-promotion. A challenging and interesting book best read with some understanding of the culture within which it was written although the film adaptation is also of high quality.

The cleverest Sci-Fi book i've ever read. A classicand the reason that Azimov deserves his moniker of the father of Science Fiction. This book features on every 'Best of' list at some time or other and there's a good reason: So much of science fiction focuses on heavy subject matter without a drip of humor. Adams wants us to laugh at it all, the pretentiousness and the craziness and never forget our towel. War as a constant theme, messed up with embryonic sleeps through hyper speed jumps across the universe, to fight in a ship that is now 10 years out of date.

Multi-platform emotional relationships and an unknown foe. What's not to like? The aliens will need to know what humanity was like even if only to recreate us as a digital slave race in their virtual reality matrix , and if any single author grasps the state of our technological society today it is William Gibson. I was 14 when I first read Neuromancer, one of the first generation to grow up hooked in to the computer-generated realities that Gibson so presciently explores.

For me and for millions of others who live in the modern reality of computers and the internet, William Gibson's imagined future is closer to the truth of now than any work of realist literature. If you liked Neiromancer, you'll probably like this. Good cyberpunk vibe to it and some literary pretentions , going with a wellpaced, nicely written, occasionally twisted little book.

It has survived a damn sight longer than most 'real' scfi novels ever will. And it's a great yarn. It's got everything - essentially it's about Imperialism and Rhetoric, but it has many lessons and much wisdom for those interested in learning about Imperialism, especially the modern-day form of 'Aid' and 'helping the natives' - but then justifications for Imperialism have usually been wrapped up in fluffy-feel-good 'humanitarian' terms.

A good SF novel should be, above all things, a good novel. Sturgeon, a great short-story writer, uses the genre to explore what it is to be human, and how we can strive to be more. It is a novel of discovery, but also a novel of compassion and hope. It's also a cracking good read! One of the most accurate prediction novels I've ever read. This book is great sci-fi- offers a convincing portrayal of a science-led society where privacy and individualism are crushed with an exploration of love, conscience and desire. Despite some dubious plot points Perdido Street Station features one of the most mesmerising and terrifying monsters I've ever come across.

Described with a stunning, fluid, dreamlike intensity, in a wonderfully rendered world, the Slake Moths made Perdido Street Station the most memorable sf novel I've read. Banks novels are great because you have to think quite hard to understand them while you're reading them. I normally read pretty fast, but I have to slow down to read an Iain M. Which is appropriate for The Algebraist because he created a whole species of creatures, The Dwellers, that are 'slow'. They live for aeons, on gas giants, and little things like having a conversation can go on for centuries for them.

When I read this book I thought that was the most wonderful idea, that we can't communicate with some entities because we're simply on a different time scale. The fun of reading Iain M. Banks novels is that somehow he manages to think of these things, that once you've got your head round make perfect sense but you might never have thought of yourself. The Laws of Robotics have been one of the guiding ethical codes of my life - and should be for any good person, I believe. I was very surprised that not a single person mentioned Asimov as their favourite, despite him having such a wide repertoire.

This is a strange little novelette in the middle of Dickson's epic "Dorsai" series. It tells the tale of a pacifist Dorsai who like all Dorsai is in the military, but whose weapon is the bagpipes. Surrounded in a fortress by hordes of clansmen on a Spanish speaking planet, he uses music to insult and infuriate the hordes and sacrifice himself to win the battle. His honour and courage and the creativity of the cultural values described make this story one my favorites of all time.

Ridley Scott is working up the film project now. Superb book, though if you have seen Starship Troopers the film it can spoil it a bit. Its scary, funny and unusually for PKD its got lots of heart. Gully Foyle is a refreshing bastard of a hero. He's agressive, selfish and mean and deserves everything he gets Very cool book goes a little freaky at the end. A beautifully simple idea a child with an invisible friend that as the book progresses becomes more intriguing and more dangerous at the same time.

Also - it's an easy read that can encourage youngsters to take up SF. Brilliant short story about the exploitation of a young gaming genius by the military, published originally in Unfortunately got expanded into a series of novels, but the original is a chillling political parable, which has gained resonance in the era of child soldiers and xbox. Not only does it have dinosaurs, humour, adventure and a loss of control of the environment in which the protagonists find themselves, but unlike the film version it examines the importance of chaos theory which is what makes it SF for me.

Two more choices in no order of priority: A pretty obvious one - Childhood's End is one of Arthur C. Clarke's best and is a science fiction classic. Any fan of the genre reading this book will instantly notice countless ways in which it has influenced subsequent work. For anyone new to the genre, this book is a good starting point. The story itself is short, enthralling, and easy to read. Even reluctant readers could finish it in a day or so.

Murakami is our greatest living writer, and whilst most of his books have flights of fancy that could loosely align them with SF, this is his full-blown masterpiece. Discovered it when I was 11 or 12, in the adult section of the local public library. It opened me up to the world of "what if" that has remained to this day. I was hooked on Science Fiction since. Smith is human, only he was born on Mars, and raised there. That has caused him to think a bit differently, and use more of his brain than the rest of us do.

When the full version of the book was finally released, I also bought a copy of it. Using it as a way to look at life, and how we can treat one another, as opposed to how we do responded to daily life, remains fascinating. It does not cease to teach. I have given copies of it away, as gifts, to whomever asks "Why do you like to read that junk, anyway?

Asimov's robot stories not only present a coherent, imaginative vision of the future, but also give us an insight into the ways in which he and others during his lifetime thought about and presented the future. Not only that, but he writes excellent prose and the stories he conceived are always clever and illuminate the human condition. I wish very much that he was alive today to see the innovations that are happening now.

It's an SF story that's really all about humanity, including man's inhumanity to man. It's really the history of philosophy disguised as SF but don't let that put you off. Its depth and language. It rung a chord at the time, the messiah will be crucified nor what time what century and what period. Our political masters cannot handle popular uprising even if they are democratic institutions. The original world, within a world, within a world, later used frequently in the matrix inception and others. The thirteeth floor film adaptation doesn't do it justice.

I would recomend this book because it deals with exactly what science fiction means to discuss: Lem's best novel is about epistemology, and the our absolute ignorance of what lies beyond the bounds of the earth, and how utterly unprepared we are to encounter it. Very very difficult to describe - but it's simply brilliant.

It's wildly imaginative, frightening - psychedelic, even. A great, simple story boy searches for lost sister set in a future Britain seemingly viewed through early 90s ecstasy-flavoured optimism. Gods and monsters, budhism v hinduism v christianity in a fight to the finish, the worst pun ever recorded, and a joy in humanity in all of its many aspects and attributes. And yes, it's SF, not fantasy. I used to re-read this book every couple of years; it's long, confusing at times, but has a wonderful circular narrative that invites further exploration.

It's also got a fabulous sense of place even though the city of Bellona is fictional. Like early McEwan stories, Delany brilliantly captures a sense of urban ennui and although there are elements of hard sci-fi in the book, they are kept in the background, so that the characters are allowed to come through - something quite rare is SF.

I also concur with the support for Tiger, Tiger: Find it pretty remarkable that such a list would completely omit any of Dick's work. Many of his books are of a high enough standard to be chosen, but 'Flow My Tears The Policeman Said' is one of his best. Not really SF, but a world where gods actually exist counts as imaginative fiction to me. A haunting modern mythic saga. The first and best of the epic series which ultimately became too convuluted.

Characters innocent and undeveloped, I wish I could read this for the first time again. The book that kicked off the 'Foundation' saga. The dead hand of Hari Seldon and his new science, the mathematics of psycho-history unfold against a backdrop of the whole galaxy. Asimov was just so full of ideas and happily his characters were full and real people I cared about - he was THE giant of Sci-Fi and 'Foundation' one of dozens I could have chosen. Morally ambiguous love-story combined with grounded, 'realistic' sci-fi - i cannot believe no has turned this into a film yet I read it as a child and it has never left me.

I believe it leads a young mind to explore "the other" in a different way. Most science fiction, it has been said, is driven by violent conflict; Babel avoids that, having an idea - an untranslatable language - and unpacking it, unfolding out from there. It packs in interesting and human characters, stylish writing, fascinating concepts and ideas, a manic outpouring of intelligent thought, and a great plot, managing to, even now, 45 years after its original publication, be thought-provoking and boundary-pushing.

I love the language and the way the book draws you into an "alien" perspective by the assumption that this perspective is "normal". Much like Jostein Gaarder's 'Sophie's World,' or indeed most of Stephenson's other writing, 'Anathem' is a lesson in science and philosophy wrapped in narrative. In this case, the narrative is sprawling, believable and dramatic, although the middle section feels like a lecture, the purpose of which only becomes apparent towards the end of this weighty novel.

The best science fiction books

The world Stephenson creates is rich and believable, a parallel universe in which science and philosophy are restricted to an odd, codified monastic system - at least until a global crisis places the monks centre stage. It was one of the first sf novels I read when I was a kid and it blew my mind. The basic idea of taking current trends, creatively extrapolating them into the future and weaving personal as well as social stories from them just stunned me.

And my eldest son is called Isaac. The aliens are fascinating but it's all about the characters and getting inside the heads of flawed, damaged, normal human beings! Not really sci-fi, more fantasy, still a great book to read that gives the world a cracking character - Druss, the Legend of the title. Displays some of the better gamut of human characteristics, without being overly poncy. Dark, satirical, laugh out loud funny, ridiculous and scathing.

The book follows robot Tik Tok as he realises that he does not have to follow the Asimov laws when he kills a young innocent blind girl just for fun. He soon gets a taste for murder and gets very good at it. Farcical in places with a whole raft of ridiculous characters it draws parallels with the slave trade and the fight for equality.

His murderous exploits and cool, calm cunning takes him although way to the top at the White House, his aim: The novel also takes swipes at celebrity culture, religion, mob mentality and pretty much everything else.

whispers in the night

It's one of those goto books when a friend asks for a recommendation. A book that was way ahead of its time, predicting flying machines and total war. Plus it is a great read and adventure story. You believe what you are reading really happended as Martians invide Surrey and London in the late Victorian era. It also created a sub genre of its own the "Alien Invasion" story. A classic novel that stands above all others. Read this, and it's sequels, 20 years ago. Could not put the book down. Finished it in 2 days. Still totally abosrbs me today.

Great detailed story about a lonely, little boy. Also fascinating on the military life of Battle School and the Earth's attitude to alien races. Not just this book but the whole series. Benchmark sci fi novel and whats important is the prose, the ideas expunded in the books and the fact that all my sci fi hating friends read the series on reccomendation and were completely converted. Lazurus Long - how I wish to be him!

I was twelve when I read Ringworld, my first adult Science Fiction novel. It sparked a life long love of SF. The central concept of the Ringworld a constructed habitat that is a ring around a star is vividly brought to life. The story moves at a pace and the aliens very well imagined - especially the Pearson's Puppeteer. This book is a prime example of why SF will always be a literary form with TV and film being very much the poor relations. I still have that battered second hand copy I read first over thirty years ago and have reread several times since.

Becasue it's a collection of haunting short stories about what would happen when humans got to Mars, each filled with twists, turns and pathos. Like the Martians who defend themselves by changing their appearance to look like humans, to the last human left on the planet after the rest have gone back to Earth. Plus, like all good Sci Fi, it's not really about space, but about humanity. As a young boy this book fed my imagination for sci-fi. Having been originally written in the 30s the vivid pictures he paints of far away worlds with bizarre creatures in a swashbuckling story were far ahead of its time.

As you say if current human civilization was unexpectedly destroyed, I'd like this to survive as a warning of how it could all happen again. An ambassador given permission to roam. The discovery that the society is not really primitive and pre-industrial. The gradual realization that the society is post-atomic and that the re-discovery of machinery and science has been banned post the disaster Mary Gentle's book is in itself a voyage of discovery in which the reader starts as a comfortable alien observer and ends as a very uncomfortable but involved critic of a world that wobbles between utopia and dystopia.

Very handy for hitchhikers and the best read. Introduces millions of people to to British humour and the SF genre every year. Great advert for SF and also very funny. A fantastic book that should be read by anyone planning to join the secret service as a subversive officer! It's easy to read, a great story that keeps you hooked. The characters are great and you really root for the hero. A man wakes up naked to find he has been resurrected along with every other human who ever lived during the history of earth. Their new home is a riverplanet, they are all 25, they don't age, they can't die, and it is all a big social and spiritual project, created by an alien race.

This book and the ones that follow are staggering conceptually. They mix history, politics, pyschology, religion, and everyday life in a sublime cocktail. One of the few Sci-Fi books that you read in which that you know you are also a character. For those that go the distance with the whole Riverworld series, the final installment 'Gods of the Riverworld' cranks up the hypothetical social situations to mind boggling levels.

Computers that play your whole life back to you, so you can come to terms with your wasted time, evil deeds, poor posture. A super computer that can build rooms a hundred miles wide, and produce anything from human history at request. A cornerstone of the sci-fy genre. Read how Paul Atriedes uncovers the secrets of Arrakis and the Fremen people. Follow Paul's journey into a dangerous world where unlocking the power of the spice melange and it's keepers transforms him into the most powerful being in the galaxy.

Set in an epic universe filled with wierd and wonderul creatures, monsters and alien races. A must read for any sci-fy nut. Despite not having the easiest of openings you really have to force yourself to get past the first few pages , this really is a superb opening to a wonderful Sci-Fi trilogy. There are some great ideas, some excellent characters and some wonderful speculation on humanities future, but most of all it's a cracking story, and the main plot sideswipes you from left-field when you get to it as it was for me, at least totally unexpected.

Cannot recommend this enough. I really like the way the author describes a data world, and interweaves this with a broader narrative, which includes a comparison between the plight of a Jewish community in Prague during the 16th-century and the futuristic community of the future. So much SciFi work is seen as being written by people whose only talent was a good imagination. Alfred Bester was one a new age of writers who wrote engaging stories that happened to be along a SciFi theme.

Gully Foyle is reborn on the Nomad, but is alive to revenge only, in a plot which takes us through a world where instantaneous travel with the power of the human mind is possible. His journey to discover who he is can only be compared to the greats of SciFi writing. A definite must read. It challenges the concept of self and individuality. It is unremittingly, violently captivating throughout and it introduces the coolest hotel ever imagined. Its simply sublime, beautiful written, and would be an epic if it was on screen.

Simply the best series of SCi Fi books ever written. How was it missed out? Asimov changed our understanding of robots with his formulation of the laws governing the behavior of robots. The stories combine science fact and fiction in such a way that you almost believe the robots are humans. Well written interesting stories that really make the reader ponder the future of robots. It's just a feckin brilliant story apart from the end which was a bit naff imo.

This fantasy doesn't include any aliens, space ships, or magic, but it's in its' own weird universe. A very Dickensian gothic tale. I agree about William Gibson. The tale is a great romp of the imagination with an insight into some physics. It is a completely worked out version of a believable future. It does not require the 'suspension of disbelief' normal to SF. And it is a great adventure story! Old school Silverberg before he went over to the dark side of fantasy , details human feelings of loss like no other SF tale.

Very human story of the more-than-humans living amongst us. The enormous scale and technical details of the science fiction element of the story are breath taking whilst the story still holds the reader close to the characters of the core individuals in the story. As with all Dick's books, it explores his twin fascinations: The human side is handled with his usual tender melancholy, while the metaphysical investigations are ramped up and up as the protaganist, teleported to a colony planet where all is not as it seems, dissolves, with the aid of an LSD tipped dart, into a nightmare where reality itself seems to deconstruct.

Wonderful language and weird world building. The protagonist - Adam Reith - a stranded earthman has many adventures, encountering the various inhabitants of Tschai, a much fought over planet. Not quite a picaresque as Reith is too honest but some of his associates are less so. Charming and lovely books and, let us not forget, anyone who can title one of them vol 2 Servants of the Wankh is worthy of deep respect even if he didn't know what it means to english ears haha.

Do yoursel a favour: The Player of Games does more than tell an exciting and engaging tale. In the empire of Azad, where the books action takes place, Iain M Banks creates a civilization which reflects the worst excesses of our own, despite its alien nature. Using the empire of Azad themes of one cultures interference in another are explored as the benign, peaceful Culture displays the lengths it will go to push a cruel empire closer to its own philosophy.

The story revolves around a man playing a board game. Admittedly it's a vast, complex board game central to the lives of those who play it, but it's essentially just a big, complicated chess set. This sounds like rather dull stuff to relate to the reader, but the authors descriptions of the game are never less than completely involving and genuinely exciting. There is a popular misconception that Douglas Adams was responsible for bringing humour into Sci-Fi. But before him there was already the brilliant Stanislaw Lem, whose humour can be often anarchic and deeply satirical.

This is a good example of his satirical humour at its most razor sharp. If the idea of Sci-Fi combined with Swiftean satire sounds appealing then this book is definitely for you. Supremely imaginative, and enjoyable at some level at almost any age. Written in the 50s, it creates a remarkably believable portrayal of modern life, before continuing an escape into an equally believable future. It asks all the important questions about human beings and society. I'm using UoW as my choice but really any of Banks' culture novels fit the bill. Banks' stands astride 21st century science fiction as a giant.

He not only manages to excel in world building, The Culture has to be one of the greatest realised sci-fi universes in print, but also manages something that virtually all other sci-fi authors fail at; the evolution of psychology over time. The inhabitants of Banks' worlds are existentially flawed and carry with them a melancholy created by pitting emotional psychology against the vast backdrop and advanced science they have foisted upon them.

The scale of his stories could leave the protagonists dwarfed by the spectacle but they end up dovetailing perfectly into the situations thought up by Banks by allowing us to connect to the madness of existance, whether they're human or alien. Each of his new novels are events in the genre and allow their readers to conduct thought experiments of what it would be like to exist in such a reality surely the goal of any sci-fi?

I read it as a teenager and the sheer scale of the technological achievement of building the Ring has stayed with me - even though I cant remember much of the details of the story today! Totally influenced and encouraged me to pursue my dream of working in the building industry which I don't regret, even today. Atmospheric blend of fantasy and s decadence, with a consumptive, sexually ambiguous heroine whom I'd love to see Tilda Swinton play!

It realistically sets out an anarchist society from an anthropological background; it's a hard life but it actually works! AND it also provides the alien's perspective on humanity! Not just the best SF. But best novel Ive ever read. Impossible to explain its importance so briefly. Orwell lays it out. It is appropriated by literary fiction like most great SF. It's a thousand pages of wonder and awe at how mindboggling complex the universe is and the joy and fascination there is in trying to understand it with just the human brain.

This is how physics and philosophy should be taught - at the same time and with multi-dimensional spaceships. An Epic Story, with a dark plot. Donaldson creates a very beleiveable universe. As Soon as I finished the 1st book, I was online ordering the remaining 4 stories. This is the third book in C.

Lewis's science fiction trilogy. It combines themes of mythology, allegory and religion with some great characters and moments of true horror. It's a great story that keeps you gripped all the way through. This book is about the simple acts of kindness that can make immense and profound differences to the future. The main character is Shevik: He makes a difficult decision to travel to the neighbouring planet of Urras to try and use their expertise to piece it together.

The novel weaves around in time: Shevik's present and past are explored: Back on Urras, Shevik begins to realise he is becoming a small pawn in a powerful government's game and has to reconcile himself with the fact that he may never have been able to go home in the first place and may never go home now. At its centre is Shevik: It remains one of the best characters I can remember in any book - at the end the final twist of the twin narratives meets into one of the best endings I have read in any book.

It's a different kind of science fiction that allows the reader to be an active creator of the "other timely" world introduced by Koontz. It's not about zombies or aliens or space but it does represent something maybe even more bone-chilling: The epic scope of the book, showing the terrifying yet exciting possibilities of the human race as an multi planetary starship faring bunch of brilliently flawed individuals, and organsiations. A really rare find these days as I think it is out of print. Witty and engaging, it draws parralels with life on earth in a profound and imaginative alien galaxy.

First published in , the book documents the many highs and lows of man's struggle for survival. The book contains the first mention of genetic engineering in a sci fi novel, a compelling and truly eye-opening read. So maybe it is the outer fringes of SF where myth and fantasy meets "steam punk" but it does have futuristic dimensions albeit in a retro kinda way. It is the way the characters seem unbelievable yet real which gets me in all of his books by the way and sucks me in to a reading time vortex - as all good books should. Bradbury's Mars keeps shifting its identity, becoming a symbol of the dreams and fears of America itself.

No attempt is made at scientific accuracy this Mars is hot, for example , and the stories reflect the Cold War era in which they were written. Bradbury could overwrite, but he keeps this tendency under control here, and the book has a haunting resonance. It has the fastest start I can recollect any book having, The Affront are hilarious and the Culture ships superb.

I also appreciate that the nature of the excession is never defined. Hard sci-fi at its best. The attention to detail and depth of knowledge of the author make this a compelling and inspirational book to read. This is a strange, compelling and beautifully written story. I'd defy anyone from the most hard-nosed SF aficionado on up not to enjoy reading it. If can get into the language, you'll enter a plausible yet mythical world where you'll get your first knowin from the eyes of a dog and learn the secrets of the master chaynjis.

Can't believe that none of these magnificent books were chosen. Some better than others, but all full of wonderful prose, deep imagination, gripping stories and interesting characters. One of the few books I've read in one sitting. Set in a wonderfully imagined dystopic America, it's very bleak but also savagely funny, always brilliant, and ultimately heartbreaking.

This book is a positive, hopeful contemplation of mankind's possible next step. How we might evolve into something better than we are now. The first hint of this next evolutionary step is not evidenced by those we conventionally think of as brighter, stronger or more beautiful, but by the supposed freaks and invalids that just might come together in some way to become, collectively, something Ringworld is SF on a grand scale in many respects. Set far into the future, it is scientifically well researched and utterly believable, with "alien" characters that are lifelike and convincing: A fantastic novel, one of many well-written books by Larry Niven.

Excellent book using Sci-fi construct of time dilation to show futility of war. Written after he server in Vietnam. The sheer scope of the imagination: The gradual unfolding of the driving force of the novel: My son and I discussed it for days. Farmer is woefully under-rated, and really only known for his Riverworld series, but the World of Tiers is, I think, his masterwork. It contains so much of why I read SF - it has terrific characters, it's overflowing with ideas, it has marvellous set pieces and it engenders a sense of awe and wonder at the possibilities of our universe or, rather, the multiverse.

If I had the money I'd personally bankroll a film of the books, now that we have the technology to do justice to them. It has a breadth, wit and complexity that ensnared me from the first line. Banks has the ability to create fullt formed world's that are totally believable. An utterly wonderful read.

Reads like an allegorical account of the Chernobyl disaster, fifteen years before it happened. The love affair between Lazarus Long and Dora Brandon - but much more. Although not usually classified as Science Fiction, Carter's early novel certainly echoes the themes and styles of the genre. After all, what could be more sci-fi than a plot in which our hero must struggle against a mad scientist, in order to restore a world of order and 'reality'? The surrealist form of the novel and it's passionate portrayal of female sexuality which is quite unusual for a genre largely dominated by men makes it, for me, all the more interesting.

But, first and foremost, it is Carter's unforgettable language that puts the Infernal Desire Machines A book about an unbelievably old man and the wisdom that he has learned throughout the years. Shows the way we grapple with the big questions. Not without problems, but has incredibly high peaks. The story of an alien who comes to earth to in a quest to save his planet, not ours but is destroyed when he becomes all-too-human.

The style is nicely understated, the plot, tech and characters believable and the story is full of gentle ironies. Gripping story,fascinating,immaculately drawn characters living in believable world s. This book,and it's sequel,"Fall of Hyperion",are masterworks,in my opinion. I was so caught up in these books that they seemed more real than fiction to me,and this feeling holds up with repeated readings.

The story got it all: Compared to his earlier novel "Snow Crash", Stephenson move further away from "Neuromancer" and into the future. And that's where I like my Sci-Fi: To my mind, Dick is the greatest writer of the 20th Century full stop. Never afraid to tackle the big questions, eg what does it mean to be human? Or, as in this case, what exactly is the nature of reality? Banks' love of the genre shines out of every word. He has all the usual suspects in the Space Opera toy box, but he shows them to us through the eyes of a spoilt man-child who wants to play with them as much as we do.

And finally we get the twist, probably Banks' finest, that makes us immediately turn back to page 1 and read it all again in a completely different context. A bonkers, mad book, the story of Dr Frankenstein taken to a grey-goo-fuelled extreme. As the character's life disintegrates under the power of his creation, the narrative expands and fragments. The structure mimics the plot, sliding deliriously out of control until the reader ends up somewhere quite other than where they expected to. People need to be reminded of its existence; 'Dune,' 'Left Hand Painted with a broader brush than LeGuin's with whose work this one is often compared, it scores through the thought given to its societies and the extraordinary fairness with which it examines the personalities of some truly loathesome characters, particularly the brute like, emotionally retarded Saba and the self loathing vampire beureaucrat Tanuojin, the latter finally emerging as one of the most tragic and pitiable characters in Twentieth Century fiction.

From what I've read of her historical fiction, it's also a tragedy that she's not produced more SF, which she would appear to do far better. This book has so much soul in it. I return to it constantly as a benchmark of how good a book can be when it presumes it has intelligent and sensitive readers. This book also has one of the most pervasive scents, and evocative moods I have read in sci-fi. I'm not a mad fan of gleaming rocket ships. Not a pill-for-lunch or a personal-jet pack in sight.

What happens in this book could happen to any of us today. The ending is set far in the future, but the book is reassuring about man's ability to adapt now, today, to a new life anywhere on earth in this case, at the bottom of the ocean. I found it compeletly believable and beautiful in its detail. The ultimate in political intrigue and dystopian commentary, all wrapped up in Banks' wonderfully realised Culture. Ostensibly about a man invited to play in a tournament of glorified intergalactic Risk, and yet the depth of the social observations, set alongside the super-cool tech, and written with razor-sharp wit, makes it so much more than this.

If you only ever read one Iain M. Banks book then it should be this one; and if you ever read this one you'll certainly want to read the rest. Extra terrestrial humanoid lands on earth, is captured and kept in an institute where he develops friendship with one of the doctors. Book is written in the form of journal entries and newspaper articles as we see a naive outsider's look at our culture and how his attitudes and preconceptions change as he is influenced by ours.

A mightily written account of an outsider attempting to come to terms with his new surroundings. Actually there are three books in the trilogy and they effortlessly combine technology, the spirit of pioneers, rebellion, and political and philosophical issues that arise when mankind invades and irrevocably alters an environment. The whole series is so believable that it drags you in and makes you want to explore the character of each hero and anti-hero as they come in and out of focus as events unfold.

And a satire of the class system too! Just exciting, if counterintuitive, science and a fantastic journey of discovery for the team sent up there to check that mysterious object Rama out.

Franz Kafka's "The Trial" (1987)

This book is too good not to imagine hope? Herbert managed to create a genuinely 'alternative' and unique view of the far, far future, a consistent universe which didn't rely on the common tropes of science fiction. There's also a great adventure story in there too. I loved it the first time I read it when I was about 12, and loved it the last time I read it, aged Azimov - the man who invented the word 'robotics'.

He also gives us the three laws of robotics. His robot stories are a huge influence on the way modern sci-fi sees artifical intellegence. It is a very convincing insight into how the world will be in the near future combined with a grand space opera style plot about danger from outer space. A typical good versus evil, post-apocalyptic novel.

The world finally succumbed to nuclear war. As a result of this final act of paranoid hatred between humans, the ultimate in evil is created. It's very hard to choose one particular book from Ian M Banks' Culture series because those I have read have all been outstanding.

Excession stands out in my memory because of the intensity of the story and the amazing concepts that fill Bank's universe such as the Culture's Minds and the artificially intelligent space ships. Incorporates everything from tarzan to sherlock holmes to dracula to wonder woman, all within a world in which our understanding of the physical universe, macro and micro alike, get both explained and questioned in equal measures. Truly visionary and splendidly realised.

As with all of his first books, Egan pushes his brilliant ideas to the limit of imagination and then pushes them again in mind boggoling areas and then does it again and again. The stories are also well constructed and engrossing. The best hard science fiction in my opinion.

A brilliant look at religion, politics, race and power. I've re-read it 5 times and every time I discover whole concepts not seen before. Because you'll never read anything like it again. It's original, beautifully written, imaginative and highly thoughtful. Really outstanding and the reason I became an SF fan in the first place. A great story with all of the needed ingredients of action, intrigue, suspense and science.

This is my favourite Iain M Banks book by light years. I love his "Culture" series of novels, but "The Algebraist" story is his most complete. A complex and exciting novel based in A. Cruel warlords, invasion forces, friendships lost and remade, beautifully described worlds and a compelling detective story all go to make this book a must read for any science fiction fan.

Although I'd concur with the greatness of Neuromancer, Pavane and its sister novel Kiteworld are an exciting mix of historical and futuristic thinking from a, now, relatively unsung British writer. Perhaps it doesn't have the global ambition of the Gibson novels but it creates a logical coherent vision of an alternative Britain that is very intriguing. Having no Kurt Vonnegut on the list would be a glaring omission so why not this chilling end of the world classic.

The meaning and future of human life, intelligent life in the universe, and everything. Before there was Cyberpunk, there was Shockwave Rider. Before there was an internet, there was Shockwave Rider. Back in the 70s, this was the book that told us the direction. When everyone was still going on about space travel, this told us what was really going to change our world. As far as I am concerned, Neuromancer which i also like is simply fan fiction for this vision.

The scale and detail of this book are without compare. Realistic enough to keep you grounded yet the descriptions and scope of events are so vast that you're hooked and kept interested through the 3 books. This is a very accessible novel that I would recommend to someone who has little experience with the genre. The story is somewhat conventional beginning, middle, end but manages to include a considerable amount of discovery and mystery.

If defines what something truly 'alien' is - not some dude with two arms, two legs, one head and a load of prosthetic makeup, but alien. EE Doc Smith's Lensman series of novels is fantastic. Don't read them out of sequence or you will get confused. Not a classic as such. However a brilliantly formulated and pieced together epic, which is assured to keep you engrossed for a couple of months at least. It has everything - Banks' Culture novels all share a great setting, but out of all of them The Player of Games just delivers that bit extra in character, adventure, epic grandeur, and a sophisticated plot that resonates on so many levels.

Sci-Fi sometimes takes itself too seriously - this five some of the laughs back. Immense in scale, it crafts a entire universe of it's own and then populates it with figures and races over millions of years. It mixes philosophy, Islam, Zen, lesbianism, Cloning into a series of amazing books that stretch our minds and challenge our perceptions of reality and our perceptions of self.

A compelling glance into the future for our technological, alienated, schizoid species. If you think that cyberpunk was invented in the s, then you really need to read this book. Combines both a vicious, futuristic war yarn and the bleeding edge of trippy, Burroughs-style SF. Abraham Lincoln is revived as an android as part of a crazy scheme to re-enact the US Civil War for entertainment only to be hijacked by big business and a darkly disturbed creator - All contribute to this tale in which the author explores his familiar themes of the nature of reality and what makes us truly human.

Fantastic series of books. It does what Asimov tried to do but never quite succeeded, despite his many achievements: The humans end up being almost the rather indulged and very much patronised pets of the AIs. Speaking of pets, David Brin's Startide Rising deserves a mention. And, for the entire body of his work up to the moment, the great Greg Egan: Better than the first volume, Hyperion, this book has a great, dramatic story, fine characters, plenty of time-twisting and some wonderful ideas about AIs, human evolution, religion and What It All Means.

It's not gruesome and funny like Iain M Banks I would nominate all the Culture novels as second choice but it is epic, thought-provoking and a little bit scary the Shrike. Few authors can tell a story from the view of a non human character as convincingly as C. Her worlds are well developed and it is fun to read her books. Mr Banks' science fiction is always absolutely brilliant.

The scope and size of the settings in which the plot is set is so much more than other writers. I enjoy them all, Surface Detail, being the latest developed The Culture concept further, full of dark humour and brain expanding vastness of it all. Consider Phlebas is sf at it's best. Awesome in it's scope, speculative in it's ideas, plausible and at the same time beyond what we have thought before. Huge things in space, sentient machines, a fantastic society and a main character that is on the wrong side in a conflict makes great reading and hopefully some thinking from the reader.

Absolutely terrifying, yet zany, satire of Soviet life. Written in this under-appreciated gem is the grand-daddy of all dystopia. It looks at the mechanation and production line culture that was due to rise. Fordism and a Benefactor scream 'Brave New World' and '' in equally delightful prescient horrors. Space rather than science fiction, this is a penetrating look at humanity through an alien's eye. Lessing is prescient about so much and pulls no punches in her analysis of the human condition.

An endlessly fascinating, worlds-within-worlds exploration. Original, thought-provoking and well plotted, not ruined by exposition. It illustrates the utter futility of projects like SETI - even if we did receive a message from the stars, could we ever agree what it meant. And imagine the religious upheaval it would cause if there was any claim that there is no God. I picked it up by accident from the library and just though, "oh well, I'll read it anyway?