The best science fiction novels able to stand toe to toe with novels from any genre ever

Brent Hayward Author Of Filaria
By Brent Hayward

Who am I?

I’m a Canadian science fiction writer who writes very, very slowly. I’m interested in experimental fiction and books that are unique, both thematically and stylistically. I’d like to think my books fall into this category, or at least that’s what I aspire to. I used to read science fiction exclusively, and the five books I’ve listed here were all read during those formative years; they were fundamental stepping-stones for me, as a writer, and each of them left a profound mark on my idea of how good, or effective, novels can be.


I wrote...

Filaria

By Brent Hayward,

Book cover of Filaria

What is my book about?

I wanted to write a novel that took place in an odd, run-down setting, with relatable characters put into bizarre situations. A structure of rules, like those of the Oulipo books, was added as a challenge to me. I decided that four main characters would occupy separate chapters and never actually meet, yet each would have significant influence on the story of the others; each chapter would take place in a location that’s never repeated; each character would have a different spin on the setting, so that the reader, ultimately, when they get all the perspectives, could interpret it for themselves. To me, there was something about real life in this process, collecting and processing parts with our subjective take on the world to try to form a coherent whole.

The books I picked & why

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Dhalgren

By Samuel R. Delany,

Book cover of Dhalgren

Why this book?

I’ve always liked fat paperbacks, and this is maybe the best fat book ever. I picked up a copy randomly at a used bookstore, when I was a teenager, and Dhalgren ended up changing the direction of my life. Even then I had wanted to write a book but had no real idea what a novel could do, and how good they could be. Dhalgren changed that. It’s evocative and haunting, like a dream. The ultimate unreliable narrator enters and is lost in a shifting, urban setting. Familiar characters, dialogue that rings true, and an off-kilter, detailed, yet almost plotless story (like life!), all of it written in an exquisite style that only Delany could pull off. Poetry: a high point to set any writer’s bar.  

Dhalgren

By Samuel R. Delany,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Dhalgren as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Nebula Award Finalist: Reality unravels in a Midwestern town in this sci-fi epic by the acclaimed author of Babel-17. Includes a foreword by William Gibson.

A young half–Native American known as the Kid has hitchhiked from Mexico to the midwestern city Bellona—only something is wrong there . . . In Bellona, the shattered city, a nameless cataclysm has left reality unhinged. Into this desperate metropolis steps the Kid, his fist wrapped in razor-sharp knives, to write, to love, to wound.
 
So begins Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany’s masterwork, which in 1975 opened a new door for what science fiction could mean.…


Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said

By Philip K. Dick,

Book cover of Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said

Why this book?

Dick's style is more subtle. He wrote stories that made you accept the doubts you have about existence, and about being human. He made you question what you perceive as reality. He was also very funny. Flow My Tears is, in my opinion, his best book. The trope he uses here is a character waking up one day to find that the world has changed, and that his place in it has gone. Dick’s results are unsettling and engaging, always surprising. 

Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said

By Philip K. Dick,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Jason Taverner has a glittering TV career, millions of fans, great wealth and something close to eternal youth. He is one of a handful of brilliant, beautiful people, the product of top-secret government experiments forty years earlier. But suddenly, all records of him vanish. He becomes a man with no identity, in a police state where everyone us closely monitored. Can he ever be rich and famous again? Or was that life just an illusion?


The Shadow of the Torturer

By Gene Wolfe,

Book cover of The Shadow of the Torturer

Why this book?

A fantasy like no other. Smart and dark. There are four books in the series, but this one establishes the tone of a baroque quest across a world that might have once been our own. Wolfe writes stories that we need to keep up with, stay focused on. There are a lot of inferences to consider, nothing is entirely clear, yet the journey is awesome and provocative. 

The Shadow of the Torturer

By Gene Wolfe,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Shadow of the Torturer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In a thoroughly decadent world of the future, Severian the torturer is cast out from the torturer's guild when he falls in love with one of his victims and allows her to die


Winterlong

By Elizabeth Hand,

Book cover of Winterlong

Why this book?

Hand’s sentences are always beautiful, and this novel, her first, is dense with new ideas and original imagery. She evokes a bizarre future in a post-apocalyptic city where twins go on a hallucinogenic quest. Reads like a somewhat disturbing mythology. Gods and talking animals, autistic prophets, feral children, and death is personified. Unforgettable.

Winterlong

By Elizabeth Hand,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Winterlong as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The “sensuous and evocative” debut of the Nebula Award–winning author of Waking the Moon: A dystopian journey through a world unburdened by moral taboos (Library Journal).
 Set in the surreal, post-apocalyptic City of Trees, Winterlong centers on Wendy Wanders, a girl who can tap into the dreams and emotions of the people around her, and her long-lost twin brother, Raphael, a seductive, sacred courtesan to the City’s decadent elite. During their voyage, they encounter man-made and godlike monstrosities—both hideous and gorgeous—in their effort to stop an ancient power from consuming all. Blending science fiction and fantasy, Winterlong is a dark…


The Last Legends of Earth

By A.A. Attanasio,

Book cover of The Last Legends of Earth

Why this book?

Attanasio can run hot and cold, but when he’s hot he’s on fire! This book may have the most ambitious plot of any novel I’ve ever read and is almost impossible to describe. It spans galaxies, has a truly bizarre vibe, and yet rings true, with a love story thrown in.  

The Last Legends of Earth

By A.A. Attanasio,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Last Legends of Earth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Seven billion years from now, long after the Sun has died and human life has become extinct, alien beings reconstruct homo sapiens from our fossilized DNA drifting as debris in deep space. We are reborn to serve as bait in a battle to the death between the Rimstalker, humankind's re-animator, and the zōtl, horrific creatures who feed vampire-like on the suffering of intelligent lifeforms.

The resurrected children of Earth are told: "You owe no debt to the being that roused you to this second life. Neither must you expect it to guide you or benefit you in any way." Yet,…


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