If you’re looking for some unusual science fiction books for the summer, here’s a list of ten of my favorites. Some of the are easy reads, some are extremely challenging (like Dhalgren). All of them are sure to make you think. I’ve included links to Kindle and Nook versions where available. The books are listed in no particular order, except as they came to mind.
- The Schrodinger’s Cat Trilogy (Robert Anton Wilson). Includes The Universe Next Door, The Trick Top Hat, and The Homing Pigeons. Wilson’s solo follow-up to the Illuminatus! trilogy, this book is just as strange, but less dated. An amusingly weird exploration of what quantum physics can mean for individuals. (Kindle – Nook)
- And, of course, the Illuminatus! Trilogy (Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson). Includes The Eye in the Pyramid, The Golden Apple, and Leviathan. A funny, at times disturbing, piece of 70’s weirdness. (Kindle – Nook)
- I Will Fear No Evil (Robert Heinlein). Not as widely known as Stranger in a Strange Land, this book tells the story of a dying, immensely wealthy old man who has his brain transplanted into the body of his beautiful young secretary. Part trashy sci-fi romp, part serious philosophical work on the nature of consciousness, all good! (Kindle – Nook)
- Stand on Zanzibar (John Brunner). I first read this years ago. It’s an oddly frightening look at the consequences of unlimited population growth. (Kindle – Nook)
- The Andromeda Strain (Michael Crichton). One of his early works, yet it can still be creepy. Definitely a foreshadowing of some of Crichton’s later “dangerous technology” works, like Prey. (Kindle – Nook)
- Pebble in the Sky (Isaac Asimov). You can’t have a sci-fi list without Asimov! This is his first published book and the first in his Galactic Empire series. Late WWII concerns about atomic energy and weapons are clearly evident in this story of a 20th-century American transported to a future Earth rendered virtually uninhabitable by radioactivity. (Kindle – Nook)
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Philip K. Dick). The basis for the dystopian film Bladerunner. If you’ve seen the movie, read the book. If you haven’t seen the movie, read the book and then see the movie! (Kindle – Nook)
- Dhalgren (Samuel R. Delany). Massive in scope, this post-apocalyptic novel tackles serious questions of race, gender and sexuality in a ruined mid-America. Difficult, but well worth the effort.
- Alongside Night (J. Neil Schulman). A dystopian/utopian story of a United States in collapse and the brave new world that follows. A bit over the top in some places, but still an excellent read. (Kindle)
- The Probability Broach (L. Neil Smith). An interesting polemic about a Denver cop who is transported to an alternate world where the United States as we know it doesn’t exist, and the national hero is the man who killed George Washington. Also available as a graphic novel, but I prefer the original.
There we go. My list of favorite offbeat sci-fi. I’m sure you have your favorites. Tell me about them in the comments.