Science-Fiction Classics: Ten of the Best
Ridpath, John, New Statesman (1996)
Frankenstein Mary Shelley (1818) Written when the author was still in her late teens, the story of Victor Frankenstein and his monster is not only a classic work of Gothic horror, but one of the earliest examples of science fiction. The subtitle--Or, the Modern Prometheus--points to Shelley's concern with the dangers of overweening human ambition during the Industrial Revolution.
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Jules Verne (1870) Verne had an uncanny knack for anticipating real-life inventions before their time. His fictional predictions include aeroplanes, spaceships and--in the adventures of Captain Nemo-submarines. But early translators of Verne into English were not kind to the Frenchman's genius: overly technical passages were cut and anything deemed offensive to the British empire was bowdlerised.
The War of the Worlds
HC Wells (1898) With his tale of Martians landing in 19th-century Woking, Wells provoked an onslaught of fictional alien invasions. Orson Welles's 1938 radio adaptation, with its simulated news-bulletin format, caused genuine public panic. Steven Spielberg's 2005 film of the novel made much less of an impact.
I, Robot Isaac Asimov (1950) I, Robot is another science-fiction classic to receive a pallid and disappointing 21st-century cinematic adaptation, directed for the big screen by Alex Proyas and starring Will Smith. In his original stories of robot/human interaction, Asimov unwittingly coined the word "robotics", introduced the highly influential Three Laws and invented the (fictional) positronic brain.
Stanislaw Lem (1961)
This deeply philosophical work explores humanity's futile attempts to communicate with an alien being of huge intelligence on a distant planet, Solaris. Lem thought that western SF authors, with the notable exception of Philip K Dick, were about as foolish and misguided as the researchers of Solaris. …