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50 Essential Science Fiction Books


This was  a virtually impossible task. Put together a list of 50 must-read science fiction books  and don’t make anyone angry. Science fiction is the most discussed and argued  over genre in literature but it actually goes way beyond books and into film,  TV, video games and even toys.

Here are the criteria we used. One book per author, so that was hard on the big three of  science fiction – Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke, who each have  multiple classic titles to their name. Attempt to show as many sub-genres of  science fiction and plot themes as possible. Include early stories that  influenced the genre as a whole and launched popular themes, even if those  books appear a bit dated today.

We wanted  to show the unbelievable breadth of this galactic-sized genre and, of course, we  failed because this is just the tip of the spaceberg – there are probably 500  essential science fiction books, not 50.

The War of  the Worlds is on the list, a famous example of invasion literature, but I could  easily have used The Time Machine. For Ray Bradbury, there’s The Illustrated  Man but I could have used Fahrenheit 451 or The Martian Chronicles.

You are  spoiled for choice,  this list includes novellas, short story collections, a  graphic novel and books from published 1864 to 2011…

See our attempt at a best of science fiction shortlist….

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