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Five Must-Read Science Fiction Novels

A Refreshing List for the Eclectic Sci-fi Lover

There's a whole universe of science fiction out there! But who has time to navigate it?

If you’re anything like me, you probably find yourself scouring the internet every couple of months (or weeks...) in search of your next great read. While the web is a great source of inspiration and information, sci-fi queries wind up with the same old same titles unfortunately often. No disrespect to the brilliant Isaac Asimovs, Frank Herberts, and Philip Dicks of the genre, but with thousands upon thousands of blogs, journals, and social media pages dedicated to literary suggestions and reviews, why is it so hard to find some fresh titles in science fiction?

Don’t get me wrong, these are not necessarily obscure names in the genre. More than likely anyone well-acquainted with science fiction will be familiar with the likes of William Gibson, for example ("jacking into the matrix," anyone?); instead, what's important here is that these are exceptional novels spanning decades in publication and representing vastly different sub-genres in the universe that is science fiction.

While these are listed in descending order of my own personal preference, I've included a brief description of each novel to help narrow down what interests YOU: 

5. 'Dark Matter' by Blake Crouch

- All about the physics and human relationships.

New to science fiction and looking to test the waters? Look no further; South Carolina writer Blake Crouch's most recent novel will have you floored whether or not you're into the hard stuff. A dramatic thriller that explores the very human side of technological advancement, Crouch is an expert in a long-overlooked area of science fiction: character development. If you're looking for a quick, heated page-turner to get you through the colder months of the year, check out Dark Matter.

4. 'Calculating God' by Robert J. Sawyer

- Refreshingly bio-centric with an ending that still has me going hmmmm...

With a unique contemporary take on the genre, Ontario-based author Robert J. Sawyer is the first Canadian to win all three of the most prestigious science fiction accolades: the Hugo, Nebula, and John W. Campell Memorial awards. With such a triptych under his belt, Sawyer has made a name not only for himself, but for Canadian science fiction as a serious competitor to the neighboring American tradition. If you're interested in a unique spin on the extraterrestrial visit trope with unlikely heroes and a whole lot of paleontology, Calculating God is a witty, pensive read that will have you questioning the things you take for granted about science fiction.     

3. 'The Cyberiad' by Stanislaw Lem

- Whimsical, smack-in-the-face stories that will give your imagination a hard workout.

We're breaking from the trend here a little, as Polish author Stanislaw Lem's The Cyberiad is actually a collection of his silly, stunning, short stories. From bedtime to beach-read, this all-purpose collection has accompanied me all the way from childhood, and I continue to get something new out of it with every read. Want a real brain twister? Flip straight to "The Dragons of Probability," just be sure to find an edition containing Lem's original illustrations!

2. 'Idoru' by William Gibson

- Is Cyberpunk your jam? Have you read THE founding father William Gibson??

If you're a self-identified science fiction fan, you might as well know the guy that defined the cyberpunk subgenre. American-born author William Gibson did most of his writing in Canada after fleeing the Vietnam War draft in the late 60s. Coining the term "cyperspace," Gibson did more than define a genre—he helped to build the internet culture that is easy to take for granted today. You may know him as the creator of the dark, dystopic "Sprawl" space with the iconic novel Neuromancer. But whether you're a veteran of his work or looking to be newly acquainted, his novel Idoru is the place to start. Dealing with themes of cyber-reality intermarriage, and fascinated by the very human down-and-dirty sub-cultures we spawn like cells divide, Gibson's hard-edged, cyber-fused realities become only more relevant with each passing year.   

1. 'The Forever War' by Joe Haldman

- If you share my heavy bias for the niche fusion of war stories and science fiction, this military sci-fi gem is more than worth a read.

Maybe best science fiction novel ever written, certainly my favorite novel of any genre (yup). Veteran of the Vietnam War, author Joe Haldman draws from his experience in the US military for his novel The Forever War. Still, this brilliant work of science fiction is by no means heavy handed, and is enjoyable from just about any angle. Fusing concepts of hard science fiction, and (surprisingly) progressive, studied cultural projections, Haldman conducts a space opera that isn't a space opera, a war story that isn't about war. Combine that with a refreshing avoidance of the tired chosen-one motif, and you get a beautifully crafted, all-inclusive science fiction world you cannot miss. And it's all packed economically into some 300 pages. Sigh. Read it.

*Notice a lack of women in this list? Me too! Coming next will be a list of my all-time favorite favorite ladies in science fiction.

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