The Chicago Boyz like to discuss the books we read. Usually these are tomes that concern History-with-a-capital-Aitch or Literature-with-a-capital-Ell. I thought I’d do something different.
io9 is a group blog where sci-fi geeks discuss their obsession. One of the recent posts that I found interesting was entitled The Twenty Science Fiction Novels That Will Change Your Life.
These sort of “Best Of…” lists are always ultimately unsatisfying, since the author will always deviate from your own tastes sooner or later. In this case, I agreed with the list of books that had been printed prior to the mid-1990s, and then pretty much disagreed with every choice that had been printed afterwards. Even so, it was astonishing that the author of the post and I would agree even that much.
One example of divergent sensibilities is the endorsement of Cryptonomicon (2000) by Neal Stephenson. This is a rich and multilayered book, certainly a worthy addition to anyone’s collection of science fiction, but it isn’t what I would have picked. Instead I would have gone with Snow Crash (1992).
Why is that? Because Cryptonomicon concerns itself with cryptography, data havens, international finance, and the genealogy of a very strange family. The book was interesting enough, but I really don’t concern myself with any of those subjects in my everyday life. It is rare that something happens to remind me of the tome.
Snow Crash, on the other hand, dealt with massive multiplayer online entertainments, music, physical security, sword fighting, and the eternal love and loyalty of a stray dog that is shown some kindness. These are things that I do spend time on during my daily grind.
Your mileage will almost certainly vary from mine, of course.
In closing, I would like to say that the science fiction I started to read as a young child has certainly increased my appreciation for being alive in this amazing time and place. Advances in technology and culture that have appeared in my own lifetime are readily apparent due to my constant exposure to speculative fiction, and I have embraced them with a great deal of delight instead of bemoaning how things change.
My car still can’t fly, though. Someone needs to fix that.