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Science Fiction

See also Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Reading List

I, Robot

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

The three laws of Robotics:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm
  2. A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
With these three, simple directives, Isaac Asimov changed our perception of robots forever. In I, Robot, Asimov chronicles the development of the robot through a series of interlinked stories: from its primitive origins in the present to its ultimate perfection in the not-so-distant future—a future in which humanity itself may be rendered obsolete. Here are stories of robots gone mad, of mind-reading robots, and robots with a sense of humor. Of robot politicians, and robots who secretly run the world—all told with the dramatic blend of science fact and science fiction that has become Asmiov's trademark.

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Foundation

Foundation by Isaac Asimov

One of the great masterworks of science fiction. For twelve thousand years the Galactic Empire has ruled supreme. Now it is dying. Only Hari Seldon, creator of the revolutionary science of psychohistory, can see into the future—a dark age of ignorance, barbarism, and warfare that will last thirty thousand years. To preserve knowledge and save mankind, Seldon gathers the best minds in the Empire—both scientists and scholars—and brings them to a bleak planet at the edge of the Galaxy to serve as a beacon of hope for future generations. He calls his sanctuary the Foundation.

But soon the fledgling Foundation finds itself at the mercy of corrupt warlords rising in the wake of the receding Empire. And mankind's last best hope is faced with an agonizing choice: submit to the barbarians and live as slaves—or take a stand for freedom and risk total destruction.

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Ender’s Game

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

In a future where mankind has twice barely survived an invasion by an insectoid alien race, the world's most talented children, including the extraordinary Ender Wiggin, are taken into "Battle School" at a very young age to supply commanders for the coming Third Invasion.

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Neuromancer

Neuromancer by William Gibson

This 1984 novel won numerous awards and established the “cyberpunk” genre. Set amidst the cities of a future world, Neuromancer tells the story of Case, an out-of-work computer hacker hired by an unknown patron to participate in a seemingly impossible crime.

The novel examines the concepts of artificial intelligence, virtual reality, genetic engineering, multinational corporations overpowering the traditional nation-state and cyberspace (a computer network called the matrix) long before these ideas were fashionable in popular culture.

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Stranger in a Strange Land

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein

The story of Valentine Michael Smith, a human raised by Martians on Mars, as he returns to Earth in early adulthood. The novel explores his interaction with — and eventual transformation of — Earth culture.

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Dune

Dune by Frank Herbert

Dune is set far in the future amidst a sprawling feudal intergalactic empire where planetary fiefdoms are controlled by noble Houses that owe allegiance to the Imperial House Corrino. The novel tells the story of young Paul Atreides (heir apparent to Duke Leto Atreides and scion of House Atreides) as he and his family relocate to the planet Arrakis, the only source of the spice melange, the most important and valuable substance in the universe.

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A Canticle for Leibowitz

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

A post-apocalyptic science fiction novel set in an abbey in the Southwestern United States after a devastating nuclear war. The story takes place at intervals of hundreds of years apart as civilization rebuilds itself. The plot combines elements of dark comedy with more serious examinations of the issues surrounding faith, knowledge, and power. The book was inspired by the author's witnessing of the destruction of the monastery at Monte Cassino during World War II.

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Snow Crash

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

In reality, Hiro Protagonist delivers pizza for Uncle Enzo's CosaNostra Pizza Inc., but in the Metaverse he's a warrior prince. Plunging headlong into the enigma of a new computer virus that's striking down hackers everywhere, he races along the neon-lit streets on a search-and-destroy mission for the shadowy virtual villain threatening to bring about Infocalypse.

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The War of the Worlds

The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells

Written in 1898, this is one of the earliest science fiction novels. An invasion of England is launched by aliens from Mars. It appears that man is helpless in the face of superior technology and malevolent intent. Written during the industrial revolution, it is also a cautionary tale about the limits of science and progress.

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The Time Machine

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

A scientist in Victorian London invents a time machine and uses it to travel hundreds of thousands of years into the future, where he discovers the childlike Eloi and the hideous underground Morlocks.

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The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells

With his face swaddled in bandages, his eyes hidden behind dark glasses, and his hands covered even indoors, Griffin—the new guest at the Coach and Horses—is at first assumed to be a shy accident victim. But the true reason for his disguise is far more chilling: he has developed a process that has made him invisible and is locked in a struggle to discover the antidote before he goes mad from the stress.

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Slaughterhouse Five

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

“Billy Pilgrim has become unstuck in time.” The story is written from this point of view, jumping erratically within Billy's life. It encourages flexibility and resourcefulness in the reader, who must fill in many blanks and build a picture of Billy's life out of order, like a jigsaw puzzle. Billy Pilgrim's life seems like a cyclone, in which his birth, youth, old age, and death are all thrown violently around by the central event, the destruction of Dresden by aerial firebombing. By giving his novel this structure, Vonnegut centers everything else the reader has learned on this horrible central event, which is the key to the book's theme.

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