Transwarp Tuesday! Favourites…

The Classic Club – June Meme #ccmeme

classics club logo 2

One of the reasons I was keen to join The Classics Club is that every now and again they come up with a ‘meme’ where everyone can look back over their reading and share their answers to a given question. This month’s question is:

“What is your favorite mystery or science fiction classic? Why do you think it is a classic? Why do you like it?”

Favo(u)rites are always hard – it’s like choosing between your children, or worse, your cats! And science fiction favourites are particularly hard since it’s sometimes hard to decide what falls into that elusive genre. So I couldn’t limit it to just one…

The Caves of Steel
The Caves of Steel

I love the Asimov robot stories, but the book of his I return to most often is The Gods Themselves. Brilliantly imaginative (though I have heard scientists sneer a little at the science), the book seems even more relevant now than it did when it was written, with its story of the unintended consequences of well-intentioned science leading to the possible environmental destruction, not just of Earth, but of whole universes! But the reason I love it is for the aliens he has created, with their three-person relationships. I shall merely say that the book contains some of the most tasteful yet erotic alien sex scenes ever, and I’ve always rather felt that our messy human version just can’t match up…

the gods themselves

But then, there are the Gateway books by Frederick Pohl. Not quite as well written, in my opinion, but back in the day the premise seemed hugely imaginative to me, though now it appears to be becoming chillingly possible. The basic idea is that, by using technology left behind by a now extinct race of aliens, the Heechee, man has discovered a way to download his thoughts, memories and personality into computers, to achieve a kind of immortality. But it’s a process only the rich can afford. So our intrepid hero must first seek his fortune by setting off on the incredibly dangerous task of mining the Oort. I loved these books in my teens and 20s and always mean to re-read them someday.

Gateway
Gateway

John Wyndham stands up much better to time, I think, and has written too many greats for me to pick one – The Chrysalids, The Kraken Wakes, The Day of the Triffids, his short story collection, The Seeds of Time, etc. But if I was forced I’d have to say Chocky is my favourite – I loved this alien entity too and how Wyndham used her (or him) to focus a light back on his own ’60s British culture. Wyndham is undoubtedly a favourite author.

the seeds of time

Then there’s Dune. Admittedly the series went a bit crazy by about book 3 and those who struggled on past that suggest it went totally doolally later. But for the brilliant world-building and the giant sandworms, the first book has to stay on my favourites list.

Dune
Dune

Are Edgar Rice Burrough’s Barsoom books sci-fi? They’re certainly fi and highly imaginative fi at that, with some fabulous creatures, including my Woola, the cutest ten-limbed frog-headed dog-like alien you’re ever likely to meet. But ‘sci’? Well, perhaps solar panels could be seen as a form of ‘harvesting the ninth ray of the sun’ but I felt he was conveniently vague on the whole mechanics of how a sleeping, clothed John Carter ended up on Mars, naked! But for the sheer fun of the books, they earn a place. too.

My lovely Woola...
My lovely Woola…

The top spot, though, has to be given to a book that I only found recently – one of those that I don’t know how I missed till now. Again, Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, is a little light on the science at times, but the quality of the writing easily qualifies as ‘literary’ and the imagination he shows time and time again in this collection of loosely linked stories is second to none – thought provoking and very insightful about his own contemporary society, looking at questions such as racism, the decimation of native cultures and the ever-present threat of nuclear holocaust. Some of them will stay with me forever and this is a book I will dip into again and again, probably for the rest of my life. Which surely must be the definition of ‘favourite classic’, I would say…

The Martians Chronicles illustrations © Les Edwards 2009.

What about you? Do you have a favourite sci-fi novel you’d like to give a shout-out to?

Special treat for reading to the end…

John Carter... not naked, thankfully! Ahhh...
John Carter… not naked, thankfully! Ahhh…

55 thoughts on “Transwarp Tuesday! Favourites…

  1. Okay! Out with it: Tommy or Tuppence? I know it’s a cruel question…but you made me think of it!

    And that’s not true about…oh never mind!

    Okay. I’d live in that house by all those ruins, if I lived there, I think. Definitely my house. And Taylor! Best warrior ever. But he needs a haircut.

    • *gasps* You can’t make me choose! If I chose Tuppence, Tommy’s little heart would break, and if I chose Tommy, Tuppence would kill me! Hmm… that’s your wicked plan, isn’t it? (Tuppence is a wounded warrior at the moment – she got in a fight and now she’s got a sore little face. Hopefully the other one is worse… *fierce face*)

      *laughs* It is too, and you know it!

      I love these illustrations! We must go on the sand-ship too! Hmm… I’m not sure I’ve ever looked at his hair…

      • I’m sure Tommy wouldn’t even know. *laughs* Is not! I say, then, it’s safest not to choose, then. *nods* Ooo…she was probably fighting a coon! Those are vicious beasts. I think I’d be a coon, if I was an animal.

        *holds ears* What? What?

        And he’s not even a robot. Such wickedness. He’s better in Battleship…

        • You mean… Tommy doesn’t read my blog?! Why, the little beast! I’m not totally sure we have many coons roaming Kirkintilloch… unless you sent them over. That would suit you very well – they’re soooooooo c&a!

          *laughs* It’s your eyes you should worry about…

          Oh, is he in Battleship? There’s a remote possibility I may watch it sometime then! What does he wear?

          • They are kinda cute. But mean! And feisty. They beat up cats all the time around here. They’re like bandits, in fact.

            *puts on sunglasses* We’re solid now.

            *bangs head* It’s a movie about defeating aliens! There is a sickening romance, tho. You maybe shouldn’t watch it!

            • *laughs* You’re quite jealous of them, aren’t you?

              That’s no reason why he shouldn’t have a lovely enhancing outfit, is it?! Euwww, why do they ruin perfectly good action movies with romance… *gags*

  2. ‘Twas a nice ending… (Look at you with your multi-cultural spelling sensitivity o(u)!) I think Tommy would be my favo(u)rite. Wasn’t hard for me to choose. I’m afraid Tuppence would claw my eyes out and I’m rather fond of seeing. 😉 (Me with one eye clawed.)

    • Haha! I didn’t like to actually change the spelling in the quote, but I was tempted! *gasps* Tuppence may well claw your eyes out for picking Tommy! (Poor Tuppence was at the vet yesterday – war wound! The poor vet was cowering in the corner as Tuppence expressed her views on people wielding thermometers and needles…)

  3. I agree with you, FictionFan, about Asimov’s Robot series. Really excellent quality! And yes, The Martian Chronicles is also fantastic. What I like about both is the the way the authors tell very real, very, well, human stories in different contexts. That, to me, really makes a science fiction story better. Now, let me scroll up to the end of your post again for a moment…. 😉

    • Yes, I think most of my favourites are saying as much about their own time and culture as about the future or other planets. Except maybe the Barsoom books! But while they may not be the most insightful literature in the world, there’s no doubt Woola’s gorgeous. Not to mention John… 😉

    • My pleasure – you deserve it! 😉 The movie is a lot of fun, though the plot’s a bit silly (even more than in the books!). But the various creatures are great!

      It’s brilliant, isn’t it?

  4. I don’t generally read much sci-fi, but your words here just might sway me to change that stance! Giant worms? A Woola? And spaceships? Sounds most intriguing. Thankfully, I only have one son and one dog — no difficulty choosing there!!

    • I don’t either, but I used to. Most of these are books I read way back in my teens or twenties, but they must have been good if I still remember them! I prefer old sci-fi to new stuff overall – less concentration on battles and technical stuff, and more about imagination and characters. Haha! You’re wiser than me – my cats would kill me if I picked a favourite…

  5. I remember most of those fondly, although I ‘fess I never got very far into the Gateway series, for some reason. It was probably just a matter of it being the wrong time for me, or something.

    how Wyndham used her (or him) to focus a light back on his own ’60s American culture

    Ahem. Wyndham was a Brit.

    • I don’t know how I’d feel about the Gateway ones if I re-read them now, but way back then I loved the whole idea… or hated it, but in a good way.

      *gasps in horror* Did I say American??? Ooh, the shame!!! Will you forgive me if I tell you I writing this at about 2 a.m. last night after watching all the political horrors all evening? I shall rush off and correct it – thank you! 😉

  6. Awesome post! I always had a hard time reading sci-fi. I tried The Hitchiker’s Guide series, which was kinda scifi-y, and I thought it was ok but not really a favorite. I think I would have enjoyed the genre if I had read it when I was younger, but I was too occupied with mysteries and thrillers to check out aliens, giant worms and ufos.

    • Thank you! 😀 I was never as keen on Hitchhiker’s Guide as lots of other people were – it didn’t work with my sense of humour somehow. I do prefer more science-based sci-fi on the whole, though I see at least half my favourites have almost nothing scienc-y about them! I went through a big sci-fi phase in my teens and twenties and then stopped for years until fairly recently. I’ve been enjoying re-reading some old favourites and trying out some I missed first time round.

      • hahaha Yeah, Scifi might as well be a fantasy novel at times. I think I only managed to finish Hitchiker is because my brother read the whole series and I thought if he could do it, then so could I. As for science in scifi, I probably won’t stay awake long when it comes to that. :p

        I’ve been seeing Dune for quite some time, so it’s one of my scifi TBRs. Now that I mention it, I don’t have a lot of scifi in my TBR list =\

        • I know – I think the term ‘speculative fiction’ works better really, but it’s not so widely used yet so can be confusing. Haha! I have problems with siblings forcing me to read stuff too! But I’m getting tougher… 😉

          Dune does have some science, but I’d say it’s probably more fantasy too – one of the first world-building books in fact. I don’t read a lot of it either – I used to though, and am trying to get back into it.

      • Yes, and it’s another that’s really got no ‘sci’ in the sci-fi. In fact, I think it has to go under ‘humorous’ rather than any kind of fantasy or speculative fiction heading. Genres are a nightmare!

  7. I love all of your choices, but I would add in CJ. Cherryh’s Chanur series ( or anything else of hers, really.) When I tell you that the non-human protagonists are cat-descended, even T&T might approve. Sorry about Tuppence – isn’t she getting a little too o… er, “mature” to be out fighting? Hope she’s ok.

    • I really must try CJ Cherryh some time – you’ve recommended her before. I shall stick the Chanur series on my ever-growing wishlist. Oh, she’s fine – a bit sorry for herself, but getting back to normal. She just got a scratch on her cheek but for some reason it abscessed, so she ended up like a wee hamster, and not happy. But the vet gave her long-acting antibiotics and she’s being sensible and staying in, so maybe she is finally maturing!

  8. Ooh, you missed Wells, H.G. The Time Machine and the War of The Worlds probably scared me more than anything in my early/mid teens, The Times Machine particularly, with descriptions of our sorry end and beyond. Powerful, chilling writing. Perhaps not quite the escapist reading I might need at this point.

    • You’re right – he should have been there, especially for The War of the Worlds. However I out this post together at 2 a.m last night when I suddenly realised I hadn’t done one, so I can’t pretend a lot of thought or preparation went into it. My main criterion was whether I already had an appropriate image! 😉

      • Well Woolas might be marginally more arresting than Morlocks, and possibly , if no one has produced illustrated WOTWs, there may not even be Morlocks or Elois to be found. I kind of prefer my shadowy imagined versions anyway. I’m wondering if it is a good, or a very bad time to be re-reading WOTW. It could just finish me off, retreating to a sobbing under the duvet position for a very long time indeed

        • Woolas certainly have more legs! And blue tongues – very cute! I’ve pretty much given up reading altogether – no fiction could possibly compete with current fact. And history is too depressing when we’re in the midst of repeating it. And meantime the Labour party continues to self-destruct…

  9. I always find the favourite question hard too and appreciate that you have broken the entire genre down into more specific parts – but sadly this post goes over my head a little although I give my full endorsement to the man at the end! Maybe he’s the fellow that can lure me into sci-fi?

    • Thanks! I put off joining for ages, but I do like these occasional prompts. I’m no expert either, but – haha – I fear when I first read these books many of them still counted as ‘new’. I’m thinking of describing myself as ‘classic’ these days too. 😉 The Martian Chronicles really blew me away when I read it last year – I hope you enjoy it! And the first couple of Dune books are really great, and lots of people like the later ones too, but they got too weird for me.

  10. Great mixture of choices 🙂 I am particularly pleased to see Ray Bradbury as I have loved many of his books but I haven’t read The Martian Chronicles; sounds like I need to rectify this quickly 😀

    • Thank you! 🙂 I’m the other way round – The Martian Chronicles is nearly the only Ray Bradbury I’ve read, but it blew me away! Definitely one for your TBR… 😀

        • Ah, of course! I’ve read Fahrenheit 451 too, but for some reason I keep forgetting it was Bradbury. To be honest, I didn’t think it was nearly as good as The Martian Chronicles, but it may have been because I listened to the audio version and found the narrator’s voice a bit annoying. I have From the Dust Returned on my 20 books of summer list. 🙂

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