I. 1984  by George Orwell
Orwell’s 1984 will forever remain the dystopian novel to read. In the story, we meet Winston Smith who rewrites historical records for the Ministry of Truth in Airstrip One (formerly the UK), one of the future totalitarian states. The future world of surveillance, propaganda and brainwashing that the author imagines is a powerful reminder of the importance to stick to the truth and freedom of thought anywhere in the real world. Moreover, the novel has a particular relevance to modern times because there is a global concern now about data protection, fake news and privacy when browsing online.
II. Brave New World  by Aldous Huxley
Huxley presents an unforgettable world and vision in his novel. The year is circa 2540, and the humanity made unbelievable advances in genetics, sexual reproduction and sleep-learning. Presented as utopia, the world is actually a well-ordered totalitarian state where there are certain classes of people who should know their societal positions, and where happiness is achieved through a particular drug. The novel is as thought-provoking as it is enjoyable.
III. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  by Philip K. Dick
I had the most fun reading this novel by Philip K. Dick. There is a movie Blade Runner  that is based on the novel, but, in terms of the plot, it does not do justice to the brilliant novel. Set in post-apocalyptic San Francisco, the story follows Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter, who is tasked with “retiring” a number of criminally-minded androids. Deeply philosophical and clever, the book introduces new technologies and “religions”, as well as emphasises the future obsession with nature-preservation. For example, live animals are prized above anything else in the story. The book is also full of irony and humour with some instances of suspense.
IV. The Handmaid’s Tale  by Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid’s Tale is a powerful account of the future whereby women are forced to live in a completely patriarchal society, and the state insists that many women should have only one purpose – to reproduce. We follow Offred, who works as a handmaid in the house of a powerful official of the Republic of Gilead. Offred must have one wish in mind – to get pregnant and produce a healthy child from the master of the house. Atwood’s convincing writing style and the horrific vision of the future presented guarantee that this book is memorable. The sequel The Testaments is due to be released in 2019.
V. The Children of Men  by P. D. James
The story is set in the future UK when there is mass depopulation and infertility. The country is in the state of chaos and there are various groups who fight for power. We follow Dr. Theodore Faron who gets involved in the activities of one group that tries to establish democracy and justice in the country. The novel starts with despair, but it ends hinting on hope. If you like the book, it is worth checking out the excellent film of the same name by Alfonso Cuarón.
VI. Never Let Me Go  by Kazuo Ishiguro
“At that stage in our lives, any place beyond Hailsham was like a fantasy land; we had only the haziest notions of the world outside and about what was and wasn’t possible there” [Ishiguro, 2005: 66]. That sentence just conveys the claustrophobic existence of pupils of the Hailsham School, some of whom, while focusing on love and friendship, start to realise later the futility of their personal concerns and joys given their predetermined life purposes. Moving, poetic, interesting-to-read, Ishiguro’s novel is not only an atmospheric story with an unforgettable futuristic vision, but a work with intense character development, focusing on love, loss and ultimate hopelessness.
VII. Fahrenheit 451  by Ray Bradbury
What it would be like to live in the world where books are torched, burned and otherwise destroyed? This is the question that poses Bradbury in his novel Fahrenheit 451. The title refers to the exact temperature at which a book catches fire. One of the great things about this book is that it demonstrates the importance of books and free knowledge in a society, something which should resonate now since modern society is being increasingly digitalised and there are social media monopolies emerging. Only now there is no need to destroy any books since many are collecting their dust on shelves as people are glued to televisions, computers and smartphones. Because of its powerful message, the book is memorable, and the writing – persuasive.
VIII. The Road  by Cormac McCarthy
This Pulitzer Prize winner is McCarthy’s ten’s novel. It is set in apocalyptic future of great cataclysms, and tells of a father and his son who journey across lands in order to survive the winter. It is a rather grim and depressing read, but the beauty of the language and instances of hope in the story make the novel more than a worthwhile read. The book can be misunderstood, but it presents the world and the relationship which are convincing enough.
IX. V for Vendetta [1982/89] by Alan Moore and David Lloyd
This is not a book, but rather a graphic novel, but I could not have omitted it since I love it so much. Alan Moore brings his powerful vision as he describes the future totalitarian UK and one masked man with anarchistic ideas who is set on both personal and general revenge. That man, identified only as V, meets a girl named Evey, and their strange friendship provides an emotional fuel to the story. Although the film of 2005 is very good, the comics actually has more interesting and deeper character development and the comics’s plot is also more eventful and thought-provoking.
X. Flowers for Algernon  by Daniel Keyes
Conceived in 1958 as a short story, the author then published a book of the same name in 1966. Flowers for Algernon tells of Charlie Gordon who undergoes a procedure to enhance his mental capabilities since his IQ is only 68. The experiment was performed on him because the previous test subject – a mouse called Algernon – responded successfully to the procedure. The book is an emotionally powerful and heart-breaking account, which also incorporates such themes as discrimination against people with mental illness and the elusive aspects of memory.
This list was in no particular order, and it excluded references to the works of H. G. Wells and Isaac Asimov to focus on other authors and books. Do you like the books listed? Do you have a favourite science-fiction novel?