Stasher’s Stay At Home Specials #5: Classic Sci-Fi Books You Need to Read

Stasher’s Stay At Home Specials #5: Classic Sci-Fi Books You Need to Read

by George Mouratidis
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Although COVID-19 pandemic may have entrapped us all in our houses in a seemingly never-ending quarantine loop, we still want to stay in touch with our readers. And even though we can no longer share travel guides and tips with you, this is a great opportunity to connect with you on a deeper level – whether that’s through work from home tips, tools and movie recommendations.

So, as we wait out the pandemic, let’s take a trip with the following list of our favorite sci-fi novels of all time.

Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, Mary Shelley, 1818

Mary Shelley (1797-1851) was an English novelist closely associated with the gothic style and the romantic movement. She lived a literary life from the time she was born until the end of her tragic life. 

Topics of the occult and galvanism were themes which inspired her to write one of the most famous books known to mankind and many writers, literary critics and readers have argued that it should be considered as the first true science fiction novel.

The book, written in epistolary form, tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist obsessed with pushing the boundaries of science, thus through his unorthodox experiments creates a sapient creature. Tortured by guilt for the hideous monster he created and terrified for the blasphemy he committed against the God he tried to imitate, Frankenstein will see his loved ones die one by one from the hand of his creation, until himself will be lost in his attempts to right his wrong that haunt his life.

Foundation, Isaac Asimov, 1951

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) was a prolific American writer and a professor in Biochemistry at Boston University. Many of his best writings are classic short stories and hard science fiction novels, though he also wrote fantasy, mysteries as well as nonfiction ,including scientific topics such as chemistry, astronomy, mathematics, history. 

His most famous work is the Foundation series, following Hari Seldon, the architect of psychohistory -a branch of mathematical sociology, which can make accurate predictions thousands of years in advance, and ,as he believes, can save the human race from its imminent fall. To implement his plan Seldon creates the Foundation, an intergalactic settlement consisting of scientists and engineers with the purpose of persevering science, knowledge, culture and human civilization altogether.

Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury, 1953

Ray Douglas Bradbury (1920-2012) was an incomparable narrator, a poet of what is possible, and undeniably one of America’s favorite writers. With more than 30 books on his track record, Bradbury belongs with the most prominent authors of our time. He worked in a variety of genres, including fantasy, science-fiction, horror and mystery.

Among his most predominant novels stands Fahrenheit 451, often regarded as his best work,  set in a dystopian future where the government deemed books illegal burning them on sight. The novel’s title thus explains its main core, since the temperature the book’s paper catches fire and burns is Fahrenheit 451. 

The hero, Guy Montag, a fireman with the task of burning such books, gradually, through the people he meets, becomes disillusioned with his role of censoring literature and destroying knowledge.

Bradbury’s poetic prose in a combination with his unusual insight regarding the capabilities of technology, compose together an almost prophetic narration.

Solaris, Stanislaw Lem, 1961

Stanislaw Lem (1921-2006) was a Polish writer of science-fiction, philosophy/futurology and satire. His writings explore themes of philosophy through speculation on technology and intelligence, as well as alien intelligence, and often prominent as a motif is the human despair in their limitation when confronted with the vastness of the universe.

He is mainly known for his novel Solaris, which has been adapted into a film three times, including Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1972 work of art with the same name. Its central story ,heavy on philosophy, is centered around a group of scientists on a space station, who try to understand the living oceanic surface of the planet Solaris. The ocean’s response to this intrusion exposes each scientist’s deeper secrets, fears and guilt by materializing physical simulacra, thus ultimately demonstrating the complete futility of humanity to comprehend an extraterrestrial intelligence. 

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick, 1968

Philip K. Dick (1928-1982) was an American science-fiction writer, one of the most esteemed of his kind, whose work is known until this day due to its mainstream appeal, mostly through adaptations to films, like Blade Runner and Minority Report.

His fiction explores philosophical, political and social themes, alternate dystopian realities often through authoritarian governments, simulacra and psychoanalysis leading to questions such as ‘What is real?’ and ‘What is human?’.

‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’, which later became the cult-phenomenon Blade Runner, is a must-read novel, set in a dystopic, post-apocalyptic metropolis of the future, where Earth has been greatly damaged by a nuclear global war leaving most animals species extinct and making them a fashionable status symbol of wealth and power. In this claustrophobic, almost depressing, setting, the story follows our hero, Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter of android fugitives deemed dangerous to humanity ,who is tasked to ‘retire’ such escaped Nexus-6 model androids.

Dune, Frank Herbert, 1965

Frank Herbert (1920-1986) was an American novelist, short-story writer, journalist, photographer, book reviewer, lecturer and ecological consultant.  He is best known for his five-part saga Dune, which ‘sealed’ the genre and influenced thousands of writers with its unique combination of action and mysticism, ecological vision and political intrigue. 

In the distant future we follow the story of young Paul Atreides, whose family must steward the strange world of planet Arrakis, also known as Dune due to its vast desert, sparsely populated, wastelands.  Arrakis is the only planet that can produce Melange, the ‘spice’ that can enhance mental abilities, extend human life and most importantly create the multidimensional awareness required for space navigation, making it a vital thus coveted political enterprise, as the factions of the empire struggle between them for power and control. 

Politics, religion, ecology, technology, human relationships and emotion are amongst the multilayered themes the novel explores, which constantly intertwine with each other through Herbert’s exceptional writing.

The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula Le Guin, 1969

Ursula Le Guin (1929-2018), one of the most important authors of our time, is best known for her works of speculative fiction. Cultural anthropology and feminism, through themes including race, sex, gender and sexuality, all had strong influences on her writings.

Among her most popular works, and among the first in the genre now known as feminist science fiction, is ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’ written in 1969. 

The novel follows an ethnologist, Genly Ai, native of Terra, who visits the planet Gethen, a gender-neutral society, except for once a month during each mating cycle, when its inhabitants go into ‘kemmer’ and become either male or female.

Once arrived, Genly struggles to understand these unique social systems and structures, to understand ‘the other’, alas through his unexpected relationship with a Gethenian, he is required to completely revise not only taboos and views about sex and sexism, but also about cultural alienation altogether. 

The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood, 1985

Margaret Atwood ,born in 1939, is a Canadian novelist, poet, literary critic and activist. Her works engage with a multitude of themes including gender and identity through a feminist scope, religion and myth, the power of language, climate change and ‘power politics’.

She is best known for her speculative fiction novel ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, which was recently adapted to the critically acclaimed homonym series by HBO. 

Due to low birth rate caused by an unknown catastrophic environmental event, ,extremist Judeo-Christian beliefs have won America’s culture war leaving room for a totalitarian state, known as Gilead ,to blossom. Under this fundamentalist patriarchal theonomy women become completely subjugated to men, not allowed to work, vote, read, posses money or anything. The bodies of fertile women are politicized and controlled, individuals are segregated by categories and dressed according to their social functions, which serve to distinguish them by sex, occupation and caste.

The story is told in a simplistic prose by Offred, a handmaid living in this society, through a first perspective narration structured in two parts; her tale and the other handmaids’ tale about their everyday life and eventually about their attempts to gain individuality and independence.

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