Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Best of Science Fiction

The Guardian / Observer continue their listing of the 1,000 novels you must read; so we’ve had the Crime Fiction list and now we have Science Fiction and Fantasy –

As a Philip K. Dick reader, I was pleased to see Dick represented though I was perturbed not to see ‘The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch

[Graphic (c) Steve Young] This is one of my favourite pieces of art related to Philip K Dick and used for the Orion cover for The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch and entitled "Perky Pat Paraphernalia" by Steve Young

In Philip K. Dick's "The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch" the Mars colonists take a drug called Chew-Z to alleviate their suffering. To enhance the experience they use "Perky Pat" mins, small replicas of the world they have left behind.

Instead we have from Dick’s work –

Philip K Dick: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)
Dick's novel became the basis for the film Blade Runner, which prompted a resurgence of interest in the man and his works, but similarities film and novel are slight. Here California is under-populated and most animals are extinct; citizens keep electric pets instead. In order to afford a real sheep and so affirm his empathy as a human being, Deckard hunts rogue androids, who lack empathy. As ever with Dick, pathos abounds and with it the inquiry into what is human and what is fake.

Philip K Dick: The Man in the High Castle (1962)
Much imitated "alternative universe" novel by the wayward genius of the genre. The Axis has won the second world war. Imperial Japan occupies the west coast of America; more tyrannically, Nazi Germany (under Martin Bormann, Hitler having died of syphilis) takes over the east coast. The Californian lifestyle adapts well to its oriental master. Germany, although on the brink of space travel and the possessor of vast tracts of Russia, is teetering on collapse. The novel is multi-plotted, its random progression determined, Dick tells us, by consultation with the Chinese I Ching.

Also there seems to some horror writers represented including one of my favourite dystopian novels –

Richard Matheson: I Am Legend (1954)
Robert Neville is the last man standing, the lone survivor in a world overrun by night-crawling vampires. But if history is written by the winners, what does that make Neville: the hero or the monster? Matheson's pacey fantasy charts its protagonist's solitary war against Earth's new inhabitants and his yearning, ongoing search for a fellow survivor. The ending upends the genre's moral assumptions, forcing us to review the tale through different eyes. Clearly this was too much for the recent Will Smith movie adaptation, which ran scared of the very element that makes the book unique

Also inclusion of Micheal Marshall Smith’s debut novel ‘Only Forward’ is a good choice indeed -

Michael Marshall Smith: Only Forward (1994)
Before his current incarnation as a thriller writer specialising in conspiracy theories and psychopathic gore, Marshall Smith wrote forward-thinking sci-fi which combined high-octane angst with humour both noir and surreal. His debut features a bizarre compartmentalised city with different postcodes for the insane, the overachievers, the debauched or simply those with unusual taste in interior design; as well as adventures in the realm of dreams, a deep love of cats and a killer twist.

Read the full listing from Today’s Guardian here -

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

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