10 Fantastic Sci-Fi Books

by Dylan Shearer

While guest editing this month's edition of Wired, President Obama included a list of his top Sci-Fi movies. It was pretty tame, not the kind of fire sci-fi takes that one would hope from a President a few months shy of ending their term. So, I decided to make up for our dear President's failings and offer anyone reading this a list of some of the best sci-fi books out there. And no, Dune will not be on the list. I mean it's good, but how many damn times has someone recommended it before? Too many times.

1. Anathem - Neal Stephenson

A classic of the genre. Takes place on an alternate universe. Discussions of the ability of math to change the future or the past and a Faraday cage is a major plot point. Also there are math problems included in the index so you know it's good.

2. The Left Hand of Darkness - Ursula K. Le Guin

A 1960s classic. Le Guin looks at sexual mores and practices in a way that has been imitated but never bettered.

3. Patternmaster - Octavia E. Butler

The first in her Patternmaster quartet. Butler is a master at her job, and this work shows it. Less read then her own Kindred, it's a great starting off point for Butler.

4. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

Maybe the classic dystopian future tale. Would eventually become a trio of novels. Better than The Poisonwood Bible by a long shot in my mind.

5. Pattern Recognition - William Gibson

When you are allergic to brands, how to do you exist in a branded world? Gibson explores these themes and more in this taut thriller. It also made me buy a jacket.

6. The Ear, The Eye and The Arm - Nancy Farmer

One of my favorite books as a kid. I borrowed this from the library at least 3-4 times. Takes place in future Zimbabwe. A coming of age tale that is not to be missed.

7. Vellum - Hal Duncan

A trippy adventure, borrowing heavily from psychoanalysis, biblical and Sumerian myth, sexual mores, and history. I highly recommend listening to Future's "Look Ahead" while reading.

8. Hyperion - Dan Simmons

A re-telling of the Canterbury Tales, but in space. Hyperion takes looks at religion, war, fame, and revenge, all through the tales of the central band of characters. Highly readable.

9. Zoo City - Lauren Beukes

Set in South Africa, Beukes combines magic and a re-imagined Johannesburg to create a compelling tale of class differences, loss and squalor.

10. How To Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe - Charles Yu

Yu manages to be both "meta" and readable, which is a hard trick to manage. MIxing self-awareness, tropes, and a healthy dose of humor, Yu has created a wonderfully self-referential world.

So go and read some of these damn books. Take a break from Star Wars or Dune. It can only do you good.