Written by Dan Abnett
Made on a shoestring, but endlessly inventive, exhilarating and down right funny. An early work by the gifted Dan O’Bannon, and probably the first thing that showed an impressionable young me that SF could be funny without being an outright comedy (a notion that undoubtedly served me well later on Guardians of the Galaxy). File under ‘often overlooked’ cult gem.
Star King by Jack Vance
An author who should need no introduction to serious fans of SF or Fantasy here managing to blend the two into a spare, short and very direct revenge tale that creates a totally credible and exotic SF universe. The richness is probably even more powerful because the book doesn’t wallow in it and turn the prose purple. It just IS, and is vivid as a result. Better still, it’s the first of a five book sequence, the ‘Demon Prince’ series.
The Many-Coloured Land by Julian May
The first of the ‘Saga of the Exiles’ and a massive hit in the (oh god, was it?) eighties. Massive, multi-character narrative of huge scope about human exiles wishing to escape the miseries of the ‘present day’ by taking a one way trip to prehistoric Earth… only to find that someone has got their first. Great characters, wonderful ‘location’ buildings, and some of the best realized psionic powers I’ve ever read. An SFF epic series that deserves a greater and enduring reputation.
I love and often rewatch the beloved giants of TV SF like Doctor Who and Star Trek, but this mid-seventies series holds a very dear place in my heart. Despite some odd and ungainly storytelling and ideas, some wooden turns, and some cheesy alien beings (though, on re-watch, no more cheesy than anything else in that halcyon era), the show was made with movie-level budgets it looks, to this day, amazing. The sets, the costumes, the FX… it may be a lo-fi future to us now, but it was breathtaking at the time. And the Eagle is the all time best space ship EVER (sorry Millennium Falcon, Enterprise etc).
Like a Metal Hurlant strip come to life, this film was one of those key movies (along with Star Wars, Mad Max 2 and The Matrix) that changed the way we imagined the future. It’s such a classic it hardly needs me to tell you it’s good, but the ‘Blade Runner’ future has had the most lasting influence of all in the minds of writers and artists…. in fact, to such an extent it’s almost TOO good, an influence we can’t shake off. PLEASE let the sequel be okay…
Dune by Frank Herbert
Like Blade Runner, I don’t have to tell you how good this is, or how influential. It amazed me the first time I read it, and every time since, and still amazes me that it holds up so brilliantly after so long.
Mariners of Space by Erroll Collins
Very Flash Gordon and very very Dan Dare, this mid-last-century space opera was written by Eileen Redknap under a pen name that would help her sell to a predominately male market. She and it are largely forgotten now, but I’ve had a battered copy since I was a small kid, and to me it’s the epitome of fast-paced, simple, thrilling space opera. Is it a great book? No. Is it a good book? Probably not by most standards of measurement, but it’s definitely the book that made me an SF fan. Creaky, clicheed and undoubtedly politically incorrect by now, it remains my all time favourite just because of the way it opened my eyes to the possibilities of the imagination.