The best science fiction books that use an invented drug

Who am I?

When I wrote The Mirror Man, I found that I needed a “tool” that would allow me to work within the world I had created. Specifically, I needed a way for a person’s consciousness to be transferred into the empty mind of a clone. I created Meld (a nod to the Vulcan Mind Meld in Star Trek). The drug took on a life of its own. I devised different ways to use it, touched on illegal street use, and it grew to a larger societal presence in the novel. Meld also encapsulates the essence of what I was exploring: What would it feel like to see yourself exactly as others see you? 


I wrote...

The Mirror Man

By Jane Gilmartin,

Book cover of The Mirror Man

What is my book about?

The offer is too tempting: be part of a scientific breakthrough, step out of his life for a year, and be paid hugely for it. When ViMed Pharmaceutical asks Jeremiah to be part of an illegal cloning experiment, he sees it as a break from an existence he feels disconnected from. No one will know he’s been replaced.

From a luxurious apartment, he watches the clone navigate his day-to-day life. But soon Jeremiah discovers that examining himself from an outsider’s perspective isn’t what he thought it would be, and he watches in horror as “his” life spirals out of control. ViMed needs the experiment to succeed—they won’t call it off and are prepared to remove any obstacle. With his family in danger, Jeremiah needs to find the courage to face himself head-on.

The books I picked & why

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Dune

By Frank Herbert,

Book cover of Dune

Why this book?

Dune is one of my all-time favorite imagined worlds – a complex and intricate interstellar society set in the far future. The story centers on the character of Paul Atreides, born into a powerful family and tasked with overseeing the inhospitable and dangerous planet Arrakis – the only planet that produces a drug called melange or “spice.” The drug, which has the capacity to extend life and heighten mental abilities, is not only coveted, but is the basis for a whole host of social, economic, and political feuds. Control of Arrakis and the drug itself is considered the pinnacle of power throughout the planets. It is a world, essentially, that is powered by a drug that everyone wants.

Dune

By Frank Herbert,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Before The Matrix, before Star Wars, before Ender's Game and Neuromancer, there was Dune: winner of the prestigious Hugo and Nebula awards, and widely considered one of the greatest science fiction novels ever written.

Melange, or 'spice', is the most valuable - and rarest - element in the universe; a drug that does everything from increasing a person's lifespan to making interstellar travel possible. And it can only be found on a single planet: the inhospitable desert world of Arrakis.

Whoever controls Arrakis controls the spice. And whoever controls the spice controls the universe.

When the Emperor transfers stewardship of…


A Clockwork Orange

By Anthony Burgess,

Book cover of A Clockwork Orange

Why this book?

This is the book that got me into Science Fiction in the first place and it remains, perhaps, my favorite novel. The setting is a near-future dystopian society where a subculture of young, roving gangs control the streets through extraordinarily violent antics (ultra-violence). This violent behavior is enhanced by “milk plus,” a drink laced with synthetic drugs available at the Korova Milk Bar, which is where we first encounter our main character, Alex, a 15-year-old gang leader.

When Alex is arrested for murder, he is selected to undergo an experimental therapy (The Ludovico Technique) designed to wean him off violent behavior forever, after which his sentence will be commuted. During these treatments, he is injected with (yet another) drug called Serum 114. This drug induces extreme nausea while he is made to watch horribly violent films. Utterly changed, Alex is released back onto the streets to a world in which he can no longer safely take part. To me, the book poses thoughtful questions about the dangers of interfering with natural human development and what can happen if our nature is too radically altered – either for good, or for evil.

A Clockwork Orange

By Anthony Burgess,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked A Clockwork Orange as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Anthony Burgess's influential nightmare vision of the future, where the criminals take over after dark, the story is told by the central character, Alex, a teen who talks in a fantastically inventive slang that evocatively renders his and his friends' intense reaction against their society. Dazzling and transgressive, A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil and the meaning of human freedom. This edition includes the controversial last chapter not published in the first edition, and Burgess's introduction, "A Clockwork Orange Resucked."


A Scanner Darkly

By Philip K. Dick,

Book cover of A Scanner Darkly

Why this book?

This book, said to be at least partly an autobiographical account of Dick’s own experience with drug culture in the 1970s, centers on protagonist Bob Arctor, an undercover narcotics agent spying on the household of drug users with which he’s associated himself. The novel deals with a drug called Substance D which makes the two hemispheres of the brain work independently, effectively splitting the user almost into two distinct individuals. As a result of his eventual addiction to Substance D, Arctor does not even realize he is both people and acts independently as a narcotics agent and drug user. It’s definitely one of the most fascinating invented drugs in all of science fiction and makes for a uniquely schizophrenic adventure.

A Scanner Darkly

By Philip K. Dick,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A brilliant sci-fi novel from one of the last century's most influential pop culture figures

Substance D - otherwise known as Death - is the most dangerous drug ever to find its way on to the black market. It destroys the links between the brain's two hemispheres, leading first to disorentation and then to complete and irreversible brain damage. Bob Arctor, undercover narcotics agent, is trying to find a lead to the source of supply, but to pass as an addict he must become a user, and soon, without knowing what is happening to him, he is as dependent as…


Brave New World

By Aldous Huxley,

Book cover of Brave New World

Why this book?

Another favorite novel of mine, Brave New World takes place in a near-future dystopian society where an authoritative government uses a drug called Soma to induce feelings of calm contentment in its own citizens. The highly addictive (and readily available) drug is meant to keep the populace happy and also to keep them from rebellion against a regime that dictates almost every aspect of daily life. When the main character, Bernard, takes a trip to a far-off “savage” village, he witnesses what people are like living entirely free from the constructs of “civilized” society – and from Soma. Loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Brave New World questions the role of both government and of society on the natural human state. This is a book I’ve gone back to many times.

Brave New World

By Aldous Huxley,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked Brave New World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

**One of the BBC's 100 Novels That Shaped Our World**

EVERYONE BELONGS TO EVERYONE ELSE. Read the dystopian classic that inspired the hit Sky TV series.

'A masterpiece of speculation... As vibrant, fresh, and somehow shocking as it was when I first read it' Margaret Atwood, bestselling author of The Handmaid's Tale.

Welcome to New London. Everybody is happy here. Our perfect society achieved peace and stability through the prohibition of monogamy, privacy, money, family and history itself. Now everyone belongs.

You can be happy too. All you need to do is take your Soma pills.

Discover the brave new…


The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

By Robert Louis Stevenson,

Book cover of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Why this book?

I know plenty of people have seen film adaptations of this story, but in Stevenson’s novel, the drug takes on a larger, more sinister role. In the story, Dr. Jekyll – a respected and well-meaning scientist – creates a drug that can alter his personality to allow his baser, more evil elements to come to the surface. It essentially summons his “alter-ego” Mr. Hyde. As the good doctor becomes more and more dependent on the drug, his evil counterpart becomes more and more the prominent personality. At its surface, the novel is a classic exploration of good vs. evil, but a careful reading also illuminates the real dangers of substance abuse and what that can do to a personality.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

By Robert Louis Stevenson,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Dr. Henry Jekyll is a well-liked and respected physician. When he calls upon his lawyer, Mr. Utterson, to draw up a new will to include a strange new beneficiary, Mr. Utterson takes it upon himself to investigate the identity of this strange man. But nothing sufficiently prepares him for the truth he will uncover! Classics Illustrated tells this wonderful tale in colourful comic strip form, offering an excellent introduction for younger readers. This edition also includes theme discussions and study questions, which can be used both in the classroom or at home to further engage the reader in the work…


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