Science Fiction hit academic mainstream some time ago, but is still in need of horn-tootin'. Here are some books I might use in my sci-fi class—which is a DEC H, soon to be one of the technology units, so come on down!
Starship Troopers, Heinlein
This book always has the "Wait. . . WHAT???!!!" effect on people. It challenges all our notions about the fabric of our society in very interesting ways. And it has cool space suits!
Dune, Frank Herbert
This is one sneaky book. Herbert went through 56—or was it maybe 58?—submissions before he was accepted, and now look what we've got! This, admittedly very long, novel explores palace intrigue, politics on a galactic level, and freedom fighting for ecology like no other. So much science, so well presented, and such huge sandworms. The only one up there with it is David Brin's Earth—even longer, but SOOOO good!
The Illustrated Man, Ray Bradbury
A short story collection with a common theme, this book explores what happens to us as human beings when we have technology do too much for us, as well as our aspirations to live on other planets—that often don't want us. The language is gloriously beautiful; more fiction than science. Also, do try The Martian Chronicles, the poetry of sci-fi.
I, Robot, Asimov
No, nothing like the movie at all—except, yes it is, somehow. This is another short story collection, this time looking at the "humanity" of robots and challenging us to explore the definition of "human." As robots develop—where do we end and they begin?
A Canticle for Liebowitz, Miller
This is easily the most moving sci-fi book I have ever read; it leaves me humbled and chastened. In three sections, Miller describes the development of humanity after a nuclear "flame deluge." We are collecting scraps of knowledge, scraps indeed, and we spend our lives—unless we are warring or political animals—in making head and/or tail of what we have left. And yes, history repeats itself in spectacular fashion.
Dragon's Egg, Forward
DEC H, here we come! This is the novel I usually have as much outside help for as I can, and I can always depend on my husband, a nuclear physicist, to come by and try to make sense of something for English people. We follow the development of the Cheela, an alien race the size of thinly sliced pencil erasers, from their plant origins (yes, plants!) to a stage where they surpass our development. And it all takes place on a neutron star!
Prey, Michael Crichton
Famed Jurassic Park author Crichton once again shares with us his utter terror of technology gone mad. This time it is nano-particles that set out to devour us! Here is also some nice social commentary. This is a fast and fun, but thought-provoking read.
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
A fantastic Victorian science and social experiment. Rich and lovely—and short. Do try! And also try this The Island of Doctor Moreau.
There are so many more gems out there. No more for now, but don't hesitate to email me for further readings.
Department of English, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-5350 - Undergraduate: 631 632-7400 | Graduate: 631 632-7373