NPR recently compiled a list of the Top 100 Science-Fiction/ Fantasy Books and as a certified sci-fi geek I am making it my duty to comment on said list. This is definitely a list to be reckoned with; most of these books are by sci-fi heavy hitters such as J.R.R. Tolkein, Douglas Adams, George Orwell, and Ray Bradbury to name a few. However, the “Young Adult” writers were left off this list to be considered for a future “Young Adult Reading List” despite the fact that I think they definitely deserve to be considered alongside the “Traditional” science fiction writers. With that being said I’ve decided to compile my own comprehensive Top 10 Science-Fiction/ Fantasy Books for your consideration.
Image Credit: Chris Silas Neal
10. Y: The Last Man series by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra
This graphic novel series explores what the world would be like if a plague killed every living mammal possessing a Y chromosome except one man and his male Capuchin monkey.
9. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
I love both of these authors and together they are unstoppable. Good Omens is a parody on books/films that explore the birth of the son of Satan and the End Times.
8. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
This book makes me cry every time I read it. It tells the story of a man, Charlie, the first human test subject to enhance his intelligence through artificial means. It handles the ethical and moral issues surrounding the treatment of people living with disabilities.
7. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Brave New World is intriguing because it looks at a negative utopia based on the principles of mass production and Pavlovian conditioning. The caste system, material consumption, and recreational sex are topics used to engage and reflect upon modern issues and the possible consequences.
6. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
As a feminist, I can’t help but appreciate what Mary Shelley endured as a female writer in the 19th century. Beyond that, however, her book endures the decades and continues to paint a chilling portrait of a scientist obsessed with creating life whose success comes at a great cost. This theme is as relevant today as it was then.
5. The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series by Michael Scott
This falls under “Young Adult” fiction, however I’ve always loved mythology and Scott develops these gods, immortals, and monsters so effortlessly that they jump off the page and make you believe maybe Mars Ultor or Bastet, The Cat Goddess really do live in our modern society.
4. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
While there are many books about Dracula this tale hunts Vlad the Impaler from the 15th century through the present day in a dark, historical thriller. I don’t know if it’s my love of history or perhaps my interest in vampires that makes this one of the best novels I’ve read.
3. Wicked by Gregory Maguire
I grew up watching The Wizard of Oz and I loved this interpretation from Elphaba, The Wicked Witch of the West’s standpoint, who was really just a misunderstood girl. Maguire has written other stories, that bring new life to old fairy tales including Confessions of An Ugly Stepsister and Mirror, Mirror.
2. His Dark Materials Trilogy (Northern Lights/The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass) by Philip Pullman.
Even though these are classified as “Young Adult” I love them. They are so well written and weave a masterful tale of Good vs. Evil with allegories that upset the church.
1. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams
I can’t help it, I love this series; it’s irreverent and fun and shares the meaning of life. 42. Duh.
A lot of great tv shows and films have originated from books including True Blood (The Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris), The Lord of The Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkein, The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowlings, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams, Game of Thrones (A Song of Fire and Ice series by George R.R. Martin), The Princess Bride by William Goldman, and countless others. Some of the tv series and movies are arguably better than the books. Honestly, I love the soap opera drama of True Blood but the Sookie Stackhouse books are so poorly written that I couldn’t get through the first book and while I admittedly read The Harry Potter series there are so many other novels with multi-dimensional characters and superb plotlines that I can’t count it among my favorites.
Bonus: Here’s a list of my Top 10 science-fiction/fantasy films and tv shows
10. The Wizard of Oz
While I watched this film as a kid I didn’t come to love it until I watched it shown alongside the live music of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. The musicians were able to bring the story to life in a way that the film was never able to accomplish on its own for me.
9. The Princess Bride
How can you not love this story with rodents of unusual size, a battle of wits, and the cliffs of insanity? It’s definitely not your typical Disney love story.
8. X-Men Film Series
There are a lot of really good science fiction films and superhero genre films but I really enjoyed this particular series because of its evolution and how much dimension there was to individual characters.
7. Dead Like Me
This short lived tv series combined a coming of age sory with a dark comedic edge. George, an 18 year old girl, lived an ordinary life until one day she died and began an even more extraordinary afterlife as a grim reaper. This series shares a twisted look at life and death.
6. Battlestar Galactica (the new series)
This show takes stories such as I,Robot one step further and investigates the repercussions of artificial intelligence and what could happen to humankind if artificial intelligence overtook the human race.
I loved the tv show that this film was based on, Firefly, and the movie was even better. There are plenty of space exploration films but there aren’t many space westerns.
The film (and book by Neil Gaiman) are magical. Perhaps it’s because I had an overactive imagination as a child but I could see how this magical world could materialize from everyday interactions. It is a re-imagining on a popular idea that brought Alice In Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz to life.
Anyone who watched the newest Doctor Who series knows Captain Jack Harkness and the troubled Torchwood Institute (Torchwood is an anagram of Doctor Who). It’s a darker, sexier, adult version of Doctor Who, which I hear may be getting an American update soon.
2. Doctor Who
I started watching this show as a kid when it reran on my local public broadcast channel. I was so excited when they announced that a new doctor would reignite the series and I love what Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant brought to the new doctors.
1. Buffy The Vampire Slayer
I was *slightly* addicted to this show in high school and college. My college roommate and I would have Buffy night with our dorm-mates where everyone would crowd into our room each week to watch the latest episode. While at times it could be hokey (especially Season 1) it defined my college experience which is why it deserves top honors.