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Breaking down the science of the perfect gift

by Nicholas Mazur - Campus Talk Editor
Wed, Dec 6th 2017 11:00 am

It's the holiday season and it’s time to buy something for your special someones. It can be hard to find that perfect gift for the occasion, however, fear not! If your mother, brother, sister, father or other branch of kin is a lover of science fiction, I’ve got just the list for you:


10. The Time Machine (H.G. Wells): This is a tale that simply screams science fiction. After all, who doesn't love a little time travel, even if it is to the terrifying world of 802,701? This is a great novel for anyone who wants a good old fashioned start into the world of science fiction, by one of it’s most important authors. The story is one of humanity split in two, one above ground and one below, one as prey and one as predator.


9. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Jules Verne):  This novel is one of my personal favorites. It is a story of Captain Nemo, an Indian prince wronged greatly by british imperialism, who sets out to make war on imperial powers with his nuclear submarine, The Nautilus. Nemo is one of my favorite anti-heroes and one of my favorite characters ever. This story is another great launching point for anyone who is just dipping their feet into the world of science fiction. It has just the right amount of complicated, compelling characters, as well as fantastical circumstances. Though today a nuclear submarine doesn’t sound too futuristic by our standards, reading this story will no doubt have you feeling mobilis in mobili.


8. Stranger in a Strange Land (Robert Heinlein): There is no way I could have this list without putting a little bit of Martian in it. This novel explores what it means to be human as Martians raise a human boy, then send him to live amongst humans for the first time.


7.Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams): Who ever said science fiction can’t be funny? This book has got plenty of laughs and even the answer to life, the universe and everything, though I dare not spoil it for you. In a galaxy where earth is destroyed for a galactic bypass, android's can be paranoid and depressed and awkward Englishmen are the sole survivors of Earth. There’s plenty to experience and nothing logical to expect.


6.Brave New World (Aldous Huxley): This novel is another long time classic, but one that I cannot help but recommend. The way in which it presents its functional dystopia is downright chilling, as the inhabitants seem unable and unwilling to challenge the evil of their lives. It is sure to send a shiver down your spine as you wonder what dark twisted parts of our society we are refusing to acknowledge as such. Though is was written in 1932, it certainly stands the test of time and gives you that “face yourself in the mirror” horror that only science fiction can.


5. It Devours (Joseph Fink): This novel is the second book in the universe of Welcome to Nightvale, which originally started as a podcast. This universe will satisfy the lovecraft craving part of your reader’s soul. It has plenty of bizarre borderline science, other planes of existence and scientist heroes. However, like all good science fiction, it is not afraid to delve into other aspects, like religion and love. All in all, an utter triumph from the creators of this dark, bizarre universe.


4.Micro (Michael Crichton): This is a fantastic story by my favorite author. Though his best known work is probably Jurassic Park, this story is nonetheless another jewel in his science fiction crown. The story is one of his last, and was completed by a friend after Crichton’s death in 2008. The story is that of a group of grad students, who, after getting caught up in some unsavory criminal plans, get shrunk down to ant size by powerful magnets, and are forced to work together in order to get back to the lab in order to return to their original size. Along the way they battle ants, bees, water and even micro killer robots.  It is a great adventure with enough interesting science about the idea of shrinking a human with magnets as well as natural sciences to keep a good balance of science and fiction.


3. The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories (Tom Shippey): Science fiction is a medium which thrives in the short story stadium. It would be idiotic to not include at least one anthology. I recently had the pleasure of sampling a host of stories from this particular work, and found it to be a fantastic splay of science fiction subgenre. It also includes a popular author's foray into the genre, one George R.R. Martin.


2. Saga (Brian K. Vaughan): “Saga” is the kind of story that blends both science fiction and fantasy in a truly magnificent and beautiful way. It is a story of assassins, war, love, family, racism, class and all the other deep, juicy themes of science fiction. Though it is a graphic novel, that doesn't mean you should take any of the themes, characters or ideas in it less seriously.


1. Jurassic Park/The Lost World (Michael Crichton): Once again, I cannot help myself but to recommend Michael Crichton. These two novels will be best suited for any lover of the genre, but particularly anyone you know who is a lover of hard science fiction. Crichton is methodical and unstoppable as he delves into the ethics of ecology, genetic manipulation, corporate rights and even the mathematics of Chaos theory. Filtered through the adventures of avoiding the dangers of hungry, territorial dinosaurs, you cannot avoid thinking that this sort of technology must be just within our reach today. Yet in classical Crichton style, you will leave Isla Nublar with a feeling that science is owed your respect, as is nature.

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