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Ten Science Fiction Novels to Challenge the Genre

I have a longstanding love of all things Science Fiction; the intricacy, complexities and literary beauty of this genre continue to captivate me. 

This is not the case for many others who label the genre as foolish and treat it with contempt. Mr Kurt Vonnegut Jr. himself recognised the stigma attached to being an occupant of the group, stating that 'it's a place many serious critics regularly mistake for a urinal.' Oh boy is he right. 

I have compiled this list of diverse, challenging and alluring novels that I hope will bring a sense of inclusiveness to the genre. Science Fiction doesn't have to be far-fetched or bewildering; it is all around us and it's time we embraced the wisdom it imparts

End of Mr. Y, The

When Ariel Manto uncovers a copy of The End of Mr. Y is a second-hand bookshop, she can't believe her eyes. She knows enough about its author, the outlandish Victorian scientist Thomas Lumas, to know that copies are exceedingly rare. And, some say, cursed. With Mr. Y under her arm, Ariel finds herself thrust into a thrilling adventure of love, sex, death and time-travel.

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Area X

Annihilation is the first volume in Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, Authority is the second, and Acceptance is the third. Area X-a remote and lush terrain-has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer. This is the twelfth expedition. Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself. They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers-they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding-but it's the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything. After the disastrous twelfth expedition chronicled in Annihilation, the Southern Reach-the secret agency that monitors these expeditions-is in disarray. In Authority, John Rodriguez, aka "Control," is the team's newly appointed head. From a series of interrogations, a cache of hidden notes, and hours of profoundly troubling video footage, the secrets of Area X begin to reveal themselves-and what they expose pushes Control to confront disturbing truths about both himself and the agency he's promised to serve. And the consequences will spread much further than that. It is winter in Area X in Acceptance. A new team embarks across the border on a mission to find a member of a previous expedition who may have been left behind. As they press deeper into the unknown-navigating new terrain and new challenges-the threat to the outside world becomes more daunting. The mysteries of Area X may have been solved, but their consequences and implications are no less profound-or terrifying.

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Hystopia

At the bitter end of the 1960s, after surviving multiple assassination attempts, President John F. Kennedy has created a vast federal agency, the Psych Corps, dedicated to maintaining the nation's mental hygiene by any means necessary. Soldiers returning from Vietnam have their battlefield traumas "enfolded"-wiped from their memories through drugs and therapy-while veterans too damaged to be enfolded roam at will in Michigan, evading the Psych Corps and reenacting atrocities on civilians. This destabilized, alternate version of American history is the vision of the twenty-two-year-old veteran Eugene Allen, who has returned from Vietnam to write the book at the center of Hystopia, the long-awaited first novel by David Means. In Hystopia, Means brings his full talent to bear on the crazy reality of trauma, both national and personal. Outlandish and tender, funny and violent, timely and historical, Hystopia invites us to consider whether our traumas can ever be truly overcome. The answers it offers are wildly inventive, deeply rooted in its characters, and wrung from the author's own heart.

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Oryx And Crake

Pigs might not fly but they are strangely altered. So, for that matter, are wolves and racoons. A man, once named Jimmy, lives in a tree, wrapped in old bedsheets, now calls himself Snowman. The voice of Oryx, the woman he loved, teasingly haunts him. And the green-eyed Children of Crake are, for some reason, his responsibility. 'In Jimmy, Atwood has created a great character: a tragic-comic artist of the future, part buffoon, part Orpheus. An adman who's a sad man; a jealous lover who's in perpetual mourning; a fantasist who can only remember the past' - Independent 'Gripping and remarkably imagined' - London Review of Books

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Cat's Cradle

Dr Felix Hoenikker, has left a deadly legacy to humanity. He is the inventor of ice-nine, a lethal chemical capable of freezing the entire planet. Writer Jonah's search for its whereabouts leads him to Hoenikker's three eccentric children, to an island republic in the Caribbean where the religion of Bokononism is practised, to love and to insanity. Told with deadpan humour and bitter irony, Kurt Vonnegut's cult tale of global destruction is a funny and frightening satire on the end of the world and the madness of mankind.

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Bloodchild

A perfect introduction for new readers and a must-have for avid fans, this New York Times Notable Book includes "Bloodchild," winner of both the Hugo and the Nebula awards and "Speech Sounds," winner of the Hugo Award. Appearing in print for the first time, "Amnesty" is a story of a woman named Noah who works to negotiate the tense and co-dependent relationship between humans and a species of invaders. Also new to this collection is "The Book of Martha" which asks: What would you do if God granted you the ability—and responsibility—to save humanity from itself? Like all of Octavia Butler’s best writing, these works of the imagination are parables of the contemporary world. She proves constant in her vigil, an unblinking pessimist hoping to be proven wrong, and one of contemporary literature’s strongest voices.

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Watchers

A man and a woman are caught in a relentless storm of mankind's darkest creation in this -superior thriller-(Oakland Press) from #1 New York Times bestselling author Dean Koontz. On his thirty-sixth birthday, Travis Cornell hikes into the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains. But his path is soon blocked by a bedraggled Golden Retriever, who will let him go no further into the dark woods. That morning, Travis had been desperate to find some happiness in his lonely, seemingly cursed life. What he finds is a friend--a dog of alarming intelligence--and a threat that could only have come from the darkest corners of man's imagination...

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Akira Volume 1

Welcome to Neo-Tokyo, built on the ashes of a Tokyo annihilated by a blast of unknown origin that triggered World War III. The lives of two streetwise teenage friends, Tetsuo and Kaneda, change forever when paranormal abilities begin to waken in Tetsuo, making him a target for a shadowy agency that will stop at nothing to prevent another catastrophe like the one that leveled Tokyo. At the core of the agency’s motivation is a raw, all-consuming fear of an unthinkable, monstrous power known only as Akira. Katsuhiro Otomo’s stunning science fiction masterpiece is considered by many to be the finest work of graphic fiction ever produced, and Otomo’s brilliant animated film version is regarded worldwide as a classic. This edition includes a new foreword from the author and a postscript from Dark Horse publisher Mike Richardson!

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Who Fears Death?

The critically-acclaimed novel-now in paperback. In a far-future, post-apocalyptic Saharan Africa, genocide plagues one region. When the only surviving member of a slain village is brutally raped, she manages to escape, wandering farther into the desert. She gives birth to a baby girl with hair and skin the color of sand, and instinctively knows her daughter is different. She names her daughter Onyesonwu, which means "Who Fears Death?" in an ancient African tongue. Reared under the tutelege of a mysterious and traditional shaman, Onyesonwu discovers she possesses a remarkable and unique magic. The journey to fulfill her destiny will force her to confront nature, tradition, history, the spiritual mysteries of her culture, and eventually to learn why she was given the unusual name she bears: Who Fears Death?

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Memory of Water

With the lyricism of Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, and the world building brilliance of Atwood, Emmi Itaranta's effortless and poignant debut novel is a coming of age story full of emotional drama and wonderment. 'Where itaranta shines is in her understated but compelling characters' Red star review, Publishers Weekly. Some secrets demand betrayal. 'You're seventeen, and of age now, and therefore old enough to understand what I'm going to tell you,' my father said. 'This place doesn't exist.' 'I'll remember,' I told him, but didn't realise until later what kind of promise I had made. When Noria Kaitio reaches her seventeenth birthday, she is entrusted with the secret of a freshwater spring hidden deep within the caves near her small rural village. Its preservation has been the responsibility of her family for generations. Apprenticed to her father, one of the last true tea masters, when Noria takes possession of the knowledge, she become much more than the guardian of ancestral treasure; soon, she will hold the fate of everyone she loves in her hands.

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Keira is a UK Literature Graduate with a passion for Science Fiction, Travelling and the Animal World.