It being National Book Lover’s day it seemed like a good time to pick back up my iO9 challenge and see how I rank on their top ten list of must-read sci-fi books that no one has actually read. Sadly I’ve started off a little rough having only managed 1/5 books from the bottom of the list. Unfortunately this streak continues with their addition of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. Set in nineteenth century England during the Napoleonic Wars the book is an alternate history about the return of magic visited upon the aforementioned men in the book’s title, and by all accounts rather smartly written in its treatment of the Industrial Revolution the country was undergoing at the time while it draws upon many of the literary traditions synonymous with this period. All in all something that’s definitely going on my list to read. Thankfully I don’t have to travel much further down iO9’s list until I encounter another title; which again I can thank my father for introducing me to.
This was actually another title that I was surprised to see end up on their list, as I’ve always felt it one of those quintessential series that any sci-fi fan worth their salt has encountered if not sought out. Especially when you consider that the Foundation by Isaac Asimov was written back in 1951 and has seen wide circulation. Published as a serial of short stories, the book tells the story of the rise and fall of a galactic empire much like that of the Roman empire by a historian living in its collapse and seemingly the only one willing to acknowledge it occurring. Hari Seldon sets out to save what knowledge he can, and possibly even shorten the coming dark age he’s predicted before the cycle continues before the next empire can rise in the current one’s place. To do this he establishes two “Foundations” at the ends of the galaxy to act as repositories while attempting to set a series of “domino” events into motion and hopefully nudge the course of history in a more positive direction. Interestingly as I went back and looked this over, I can now see how much of an impact it had on me, and while Asimov’s writing style leaves a little to be desired – having been one of his earliest collections of work – Foundation is truly a seminal part of the genre.