The site io9 has returned to the topic of SF books with an article titled ’10 Science Fiction Books that Changed the Course of History”. I have previously used io9 as a source of images, but today I want to consider their reading recommendations.
The ten SF books chosen by io9 were an interesting range of titles:
- The Tom Swift Series, Victor Appleton
- Neuromancer, William Gibson
- Gladiator, Philip Wylie
- The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells
- The World Set Free, H.G. Wells
- Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
- Shockwave Rider, John Brunner
- Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
- 1984, George Orwell
- Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
Any such list is always highly subjective, and likely to trigger numerous claims of great books omitted. Firstly, it must be noted that the list is focused on books with an ongoing influence on modern society. This caveat goes a long way towards justifying the presence of Frankenstein.
On a personal level, I am very pleased to see the inclusion of 1984 and Neuromancer on the list, as these are two of my favourite books.
However, I struggle with labelling 1984 as SF. The book is a political satire about an alternate 1948. Yes, it is set in the future, and there is a strong alternate-history setting. I have no issue with SF as a label, yet the categorization feels wrong to me.
Perhaps some writers are simply hard to label. Animal Farm is clearly not a children’s book, although it uses many of the tropes of that genre. Labelling 1984 as SF serves to obscure the political message. As modern governments push society ever closer to the totalitarian horror of 1984, the message is even more relevant today.
Little bit of politics.
The second thing which leaps out at me from the list is how much of it is unknown to me. I have read five of the books, which is not a bad percentage. I am familiar with War of the Worlds, but I simply had not heard of any of the other four titles. This feels like a terrible failing on my part. I can accept not having read all of the list, but to be a SF fan and simply not have heard of four of the titles is a poor showing.
Clearly I need to read a lot more.
So, which books would you add to the list? Share your thoughts in the comments below.