Classic Science Fiction

Name: Stefanie Claydon
Genre: Classic Sci Fi
Title: The Left Hand of Darkness
Author: Ursula K. LeGuin
Appeal Factors: lyrical, character development, fast paced, world building, introspective,
Read Alikes: Star Trek, other Hainish Cycle books, All the Windracked Stars
Summary/Thoughts: This is a really beautiful and quick read that blends science fiction with a an odd combination of political science, anthropology, satire, and gender studies. In a world where there is no male or female only the androgen, what happens when a human visitor attempts to make contact? For fans of Star Trek and exploration of space this novel is a good read to look at how do people interact based on their gender roles, how does patriotism impact choices, and how do we as humans relate to the world around us? The pace and tone of this story make it an easy enjoyable read while at the same time making you think deeply about the themes.


Name: Susan Allison
Genre: Classic Science Fiction
Title: City of Illusions
Author: Ursula LeGuin
Appeal Factors: SETTING: Earth in the Far Future; TONE: Atmospheric, haunting and melancholy; CHARACTERS: Detailed, evocative, intriguing; STYLE: Lush, lyrical at times, descriptive, complex; STORYLINE: Mystical/Mythic, complex, layered; PACE: Moderate, densely written
Read Alikes: Planet of Adventure Series by Jack Vance; Children of Dune by Frank Herbert
Summary/Thoughts: Great characters and plotting, nice leisurely pace. Beautifully written with lyrical style. Her turns of phrase are awesome –
The hermit, who calls himself All-Alonio, talks of the weather outside saying “Cold tonight in the wide world, isn’t it? Cold as a traitor’s kiss.” I’d recommend it for a lover of Fantasy who may be making a first foray into Sci Fi, since I’d consider it “soft” Sci Fi.


Name: Christine Muir
Genre: Classic Science Fiction
Title: The Handmaid’s Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Appeal Factors: character-driven, leisurely pace, thought-provoking, soft science
Read Alikes: Time Traveler’s Wife, Outlander, Giver series
Summary/Thoughts: The Handmaid’s Tale is a story about a society in which something (some kind of scientific event, perhaps a nuclear event) renders some people sterile. The upper-class Captains and their Wives bring handmaids into their homes to serve as surrogate mothers; those handmaids who do not successfully give birth are banished to an undisclosed location (reminiscent of the society in Lowry’s Giver series). The story is told from the perspective of one handmaid, and very little is known of the men’s thoughts or reasons for doing things.


Name: Karen Perkins
Genre: Classic Science Fiction
Title: A Case of Conscience
Author: James Blish
Appeal Factors: The pacing of the book is quick though the theology in the later half may slow down the reader for contemplation. Style of writing is lyrical in the beginning but as Blish moves into the world of Christian theology he becomes more static in his writing. The beginning of the books is more about framework, planet Lithia, than the second half. The characters, with the exception of Fr. Ramon, are not intricately developed but enough to make them interesting. Though the story line has much human alien contact it is the moral character of the characters that make the story.
Read Alikes: Explorations of faith – The sparrow by Russell, Mary Doria The book of strange new things by Faber, Michel Human/Alien contact – Contact by Sagan, Carl The left hand of darkness by Le Guin, Ursula K.
Summary/Thoughts: Noted as being the first Scifi novel to use belief in god as a decision factor A Case of Conscience, the third book of the series Such Knowledge, is more of a religious exploration of God than of academic science. Since faith is timeless so, too, is the story incorporating such factors as ego, oppression, greed and of course one’s beliefs. This book is a good choice for those interested in the moral advances of space travel.
Quick plot overview
The year is 2049.
Four scientists, one of whom is a priest, 314 trillion miles from earth on the planet Lithia must determine if the planet can be of use to earth.
Lithia, inhabited by 12 foot bipedal lizards with marsupial pouches are peaceful intelligent beings who always do what is right because it is reasonable. Father Ramon grows suspicious.
Blish also authored 11 Star Trek shows into novels.


Name: Liz Reed
Genre: Classic SF
Title: The Time Machine
Author: H. G. Wells
Appeal Factors: Thought-provoking, plot-driven, bleak/apocalyptic, candid writing style, short book
Read Alikes: Anything else by H. G. Wells such as “War of the Worlds;” Anything by Jules Verne such as “Journey to the Center of the Earth”
Summary/Thoughts: Good book for someone who likes something thought-provoking and philosophical but also short. Written in 1895 but since it’s plot-driven and so short I didn’t get bogged down in the language and grammar of the time period; it would be good for someone who wants to dabble in classic 1800s literature but doesn’t want to commit to “Jane Eyre.” No character development whatsoever, and no female characters other than Weena, who is really more a prop for the story line than anything else. Well worth the read as a foundational work in SF.


Name: Margaret Perkins
Genre: Science Fiction
Title: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Author: Douglas Adams
Appeal Factors: humorous, original
Read Alikes: Terry Pratchett, Piers Anthony
Summary/Thoughts: Arthur Dent is rescued from the earth just before it is destroyed, and spends the rest of the book moving around the galaxy with the alien writer who had been posing as a human. Full of odd, quirky characters, the book is a quick read and often humorous.


Name: Pam Aghababian
Genre: Classic Science Fiction
Title: Stranger in a Strange Land
Author: Robert Heinlein
Appeal Factors: thought-provoking
Read Alikes: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Summary/Thoughts: Valentine Michael Smith was a human child abandoned on Mars. He was raised by Martians, and years later, arrives on Earth, a complete outsider. The book tracks his progress on Earth as he learns our ways. There is a strong religious theme throughout the story.
Honestly, I couldn’t get into this book. The language feels very stilted and dated, as do the depictions of women. I would recommend either read-alike listed above before this title.


Name: Sarah Breen
Genre: Classic Science Fiction
Title: The Time Machine
Author: H.G. Wells
Appeal Factors: futuristic, exploration, time travel, it’s short!
Read Alikes: Star Maker, The Time Ships, The City and the Stars
Summary/Thoughts: I’m not a fan of science fiction, especially classic/old science fiction. This book appealed to me because it is short at about 130 pages. It starts in the 1800’s with a time traveler traveling thousands of years into the future where humanity has split into two distinct groups. It’s survival of the fittest where one group eats the weaker group.

That’s about it! I guess it’s interesting to think about what could happen in the far future of humanity and to civilization.