Science Fiction is my favorite genre. I consume it in all it’s forms; from board games to crappy Sy-Fy Channel movies to the classic science fiction books that have fueled the imagination of millions. So, in honor of the release of Blade Runner 2049, which is the sequel to the film Blade Runner, which is based on Phillip K. Dick’s fantastic novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, I bring you today’s Top 5 Friday list…
Rogue Hippo’s Top 5 Science Fiction Books
#5- Snow Crash
I’m a cynic. Maybe that’s why Snow Crash appeals to me so much. It doesn’t just paint a dystopian view of the future (a la Blade Runner). No, Snow Crash paints a cynic’s view of the future. Highways are owned by competing corporations. Students attend CosaNostra Pizza University. People with extravagant, online avatars live in wi-fi connected storage units. Homeowners associations have become independently run nation states; each with their own laws and police forces. Yet, within the cynicism of Snow Crash is an excellent, sci-fi story that features computer-hacking, brain-hacking, intelligent skateboards, religious cults, nukes, sword fights, cybernetic rat-things, and an interactive Matrix-like online world called the “Metaverse”. Give Snow Crash a chance! You won’t be disappointed. I’ll leave you with a small taste of the cynicism…
“All these beefy Caucasians with guns! Get enough of them together, looking for the America they always believed they’d grow up in, and they glom together like overcooked rice, form integral, starchy little units. With their power tools, portable generators, weapons, four-wheel-drive vehicles, and personal computers, they are like beavers hyped up on crystal meth, manic engineers without a blueprint, chewing through the wilderness, building things and abandoning them, altering the flow of mighty rivers and then moving on because the place ain’t what it used to be. The byproduct of the lifestyle is polluted rivers, greenhouse effect, spouse abuse, televangelists, and serial killers. But as long as you have that four-wheel-drive vehicle and can keep driving north, you can sustain it, keep moving just quickly enough to stay one step ahead of your own waste stream.”
-Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash
The most famous book on my list, 1984 is probably just as popular in political circles as science fiction circles. Orwell’s story of the dangers of an unchecked, totalitarian government is frequently quoted by politicians (and non-politicians) to attack the opposition. That’s not surprising; as the terminology used in 1984 is simultaneously clever, terrifying, and easily applied to most political situations. Terms like “big brother” and “thought police” have permeated our lexicon and are easily observed in today’s world of government surveillance and denouncement of unpopular ideas; and I think Orwell would’ve been disappointed that he didn’t think of the term “alternative facts”. The odds are good that you may have already read 1984; but if not, I highly recommend it. At the very least it will inject some healthy government skepticism into your life.
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#3- Starship Troopers
I’m probably one of the few people that really likes both the Starship Troopers book and movie. While the movie is kind of a campy, action flick focusing on the interstellar human-vs-arachnid wars, the book is quite different. Although the human/arachnid war is still prominent in the book (with additional alien species!), author Robert A. Heinlein also includes plenty of thought-provoking passages about the problems he sees in our current world, and how his fictional, future world solved those problems… often controversially. A few of these discussions are briefly featured in the movie…
…and they are greatly expounded upon in the book; which is fine by me because Sergeant Zim and Professor Rasczak are two of the best characters in the film; and the book gives them plenty of additional time to share their pearls of wisdom. If you ask me, Starship Troopers is really just Heinlein creating a sci-fi backdrop for him to spew his thoughts on how humanity should be governed; and I loved it. Plus, it eventually lead to this clip:
Perhaps you’ve heard of Game of Thrones? Dune is basically Game of Thrones in space; but it was written 30 years before Game of Thrones. Dune is an epic story about noble houses at war; each using treachery, manipulation, bribery, deception and murder to overthrow the other competing houses. Prominent characters will die horrible deaths, heirs will dedicate their lives to vengeance, armies will rise, and the great heroes will summon massive creatures of war to crush their enemies. Sound familiar? If you enjoy Game of Thrones, you should also like Dune; and if you really like Dune, there are roughly 20 sequels that continue the story (lets see George R.R. Martin do that!). I haven’t read any of the sequels but they must be doing something right if there are 20 of them; and I can promise that Dune is a great introduction to the series.
What would a Rogue Hippo Top 5 List be without a little controversy? Unless you’re into sci-fi books, you’ve likely never heard of Hyperion. It’s time to change that, because this book is fantastic! Hyperion consists of multiple tales, individually told by each of the main characters (the Priest, the Soldier, the Poet, the Scholar, the Detective, and the Consul) as they travel across the universe in search of the Shrike. The Shrike is a metallic, spike-covered, god-like entity that kills indiscriminately and can, apparently, control time.
During their lengthy journey, each character takes turns telling his/her story of how past encounters with the Shrike have drastically altered their lives. Now, they each seek the Shrike for varying reasons: salvation, answers, help, revenge, closure. However, one among them may have ulterior motives, and it becomes apparent that not all of them will survive the journey. I admit that my description of Hyperion doesn’t do it justice; but believe me when I say it belongs among the great sci-fi novels. Not only is the overarching plot excellent, but each character’s story is unique and entertaining in wildly different ways. From the interplanetary bloodbath of the Soldier’s tale; to the comedic, alcohol-fueled debauchery of the Poet’s tale; to the miracles (curses?) encountered by the Priest in a remote jungle village; each story provides an interesting perspective and unique piece of the puzzle. Also, like Dune, there are multiple sequels to keep Hyperion fans entertained for a long time.
Well, there you have it! While I haven’t read every sci-fi novel, I’ve read quite a few and these are my top 5. Feel free to argue or make suggestions below.
Until Next Time,