Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Speculative Fiction

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's Top Ten Tuesday is all about my  Ten ALL TIME Favorite Books Of Speculative Fiction.  Using the definition proposed by Margaret Atwood this includes Science Fiction and Fantasy.  They are listed in no particular order. I highly recommend all of the following:

The Voyage of the Space Beagle

by A.E. van Vogt

Among the many science fiction authors I discovered in my youth Van Vogt was my favorite, primarily for the super-human heroes of many of his novels.  This was based on several stories, the first third of  which appeared in the 7/39 ASTOUNDING as Van Vogt's first science fiction story, "Black Destroyer".    Van Vogt (1912-2000), named an SFFWA Grandmaster in 1995, was the most influential science fiction writer of his time.

The Martian Chronicles

by Ray Bradbury

I loved Ray Bradbury's stories but Bradbury's Mars mesmerized me with its stories of  hope, dreams and metaphor - of crystal pillars and fossil seas - where a fine dust settles on the great, empty cities of a silently destroyed civilization. It is here the invaders have come to despoil and commercialize, to grow and to learn - first a trickle, then a torrent, rushing from a world with no future toward a promise of tomorrow. The Earth man conquers Mars...and then is conquered by it, lulled by dangerous lies of comfort and familiarity, and enchanted by the lingering glamour of an ancient, mysterious native race.

Out of the Silent Planet 
by C.S. Lewis

In the first novel of C.S. Lewis's classic science fiction trilogy, Dr Ransom, a Cambridge academic, is abducted and taken on a spaceship to the red planet of Malacandra, which he knows as Mars. His captors are plotting to plunder the planet's treasures and plan to offer Ransom as a sacrifice to the creatures who live there. Ransom discovers he has come from the 'silent planet' – Earth – whose tragic story is known throughout the universe...

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

by Jules Verne

I read several of Verne's adventure novels but this one where French naturalist Dr. Aronnax embarks on an expedition to hunt down a sea monster is my favorite.  He is surprised to discover instead the Nautilus, a remarkable submarine built by the enigmatic Captain Nemo. Together Nemo and Aronnax explore the underwater marvels, undergo a transcendent experience amongst the ruins of Atlantis, and plant a black flag at the South Pole. But Nemo's mission is one of revenge-and his methods coldly efficient.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland 

by Lewis Carroll

This is one of the first novels I remember reading (I still have the original book in my library).  Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (commonly shortened to Alice in Wonderland) is an 1865 novel written by English mathematician Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. It tells of a girl named Alice falling through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world populated by peculiar, anthropomorphic creatures. The tale plays with logic, giving the story lasting popularity with adults as well as with children. It is considered to be one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre. Its narrative course and structure, characters and imagery have been enormously influential in both popular culture and literature, especially in the fantasy genre.  I have reread it several times over my life and look forward to reading it again.

The Left Hand of Darkness

by Ursula K. Le Guin

A groundbreaking work of science fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness tells the story of a lone human emissary to Winter, an alien world whose inhabitants can choose -and change - their gender. His goal is to facilitate Winter's inclusion in a growing intergalactic civilization. But to do so he must bridge the gulf between his own views and those of the completely dissimilar culture that he encounters.  In the process he becomes friend with one of the aliens and it is this friendship that is one of the outstanding aspects of  Le Guin's wonderful story.  Embracing the aspects of psychology, society, and human emotion on an alien world, The Left Hand of Darkness stands as a landmark achievement in the annals of intellectual science fiction.

The Road

by Cormac McCarthy

 A father and his son walk alone through burned America, heading through the ravaged landscape to the coast. This is the profoundly moving story of their journey. The Road boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which two people, 'each the other's world entire', are sustained by love. Awesome in the totality of its vision, it is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation.

The Man in the High Castle

by Philip K. Dick

 It's America in 1962. Slavery is legal once again. The few Jews who still survive hide under assumed names. In San Francisco the I Ching is as common as the Yellow Pages. All because some 20 years earlier the United States lost a war, and is now occupied jointly by Nazi Germany and Japan.  This harrowing, Hugo Award-winning novel is the work that established Philip K. Dick as an innovator in science fiction while breaking the barrier between science fiction and the serious novel of ideas. In it Dick offers a haunting vision of history as a nightmare from which it may just be possible to awake.

 Lord Foul's Bane (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever #1)
by Stephen R. Donaldson

He called himself Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever because he dared not believe in the strange alternate world in which he suddenly found himself.
Yet the Land tempted him. He had been sick; now he seemed better than ever before. Through no fault of his own, he had been outcast, unclean, a pariah. Now he was regarded as a reincarnation of the Land's greatest hero--Berek Halfhand--armed with the mystic power of White Gold. That power alone could protect the Lords of the Land from the ancient evil of Despiser, Lord Foul.  Only...Covenant had no idea of how the power could be used!
Thus begins one of the most remarkable epic fantasies ever written and one of my favorites.

Number Ten must be left to a list of some of the other books that could have been included.   I could not decide between these wonderful works of speculative fiction, all of which I have enjoyed immensely:  The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, A Canticle for Liebowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr., and Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke.  Thus there are fifteen in total for my top ten and many more that have brought me enjoyment over more than fifty years of reading.


Carol said...

I wasn't really familiar with the term 'speculative fiction' but it's a good one especially when you can include such diverse authors and titles. Some interesting books here. Found your blog via Top Ten Tuesday.

Brian Joseph said...

What a great meme. With that I would have trouble choosing my own ten.

You picked some great books here. It has been a very long time since I read The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. I think that it is time that I give the first few books in the series a reread.

James said...


Thank for your comment. The designation of "speculative fiction", while not original with her, was used by Margaret Atwood in the introduction to her collection of essays, In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination.

James said...


Thanks for your comment. It's also been a long time for me since I read The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, but as with all the books on my list I have a vivid memory of being excited and delighted by the whole trilogy.
While this was true of all the books on my list it was a little different with the Donaldson book since I had not read much fantasy, and still have not.

Anonymous said...

This was one of the most interesting Top 10 Tuesday blogs I' read !
I've discovered Le Guin this year....ready to devour her books.
Let's hope she wins the Nobel Prize....someday SOON!
PS: love the website's 'facelift' !

James said...


Thanks for your comment. LeGuin is one of my favorites and a truly great writer.