The Martian by Andy Weir
The Martian is the type of science fiction that depicts events which just a hundred years ago would have been absolutely unrealistic and would have seemed like a fairy tale. Nowadays, the book seems conceivable, as if everything in it had happened in real life. This effect is achieved by a realistic setting where everything conforms to the laws of the Universe, which the author never stops reminding the reader, using physics, chemistry, and biology as the basis of the plot.
This is a fictional story about an astronaut called Mark Watney, who finds himself stranded alone on Mars without the means of communicating with his base on Earth. Moreover, nobody knows that he is alive. He has got a month’s worth of supplies, and it will be four years before another NASA expedition arrives. The situation reminds readers of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe or episodes from Mark Twain's Adventures of Tom Sawyer, where both authors devote much attention to the survival of their characters in the wilderness.
The plot, though simple, is still fascinating and intriguing, focusing on the main protagonist’s amazing will to live, as well as the possibility of overcoming desperation and frustration, but impressing the reader with creative and smart solutions at the same time. It takes a miracle to pull this off, but Andy Weir manages to do both in his debut novel. Another advantage of the novel is the author's constant play with the style of the text. At one point, we are reading Mark’s diary (by the way, Mark is incredibly smart and sophisticated), and at the next moment we are on Earth, allowed to observe the routine and daily problems of NASA workers or Mark’s former team members, read family letters or even conversations (practically scientific texts) describing professional issues or objects. The wonderful plot intersections, easy-to-read language, good humor, and perfect timing make it nearly impossible to take even a short break from reading this book.
As if this were not enough, the author heats up the atmosphere in certain episodes to the point where the book starts to feel like a psychological thriller that makes your spine shiver. But the main thing is that this isn’t just a story about survival in harsh conditions – it’s a story about people, humanity, self-sacrifice, and helping each other out. Andy Weir directs our dreamy gaze less to the stars far away and more to those who live on the same planet with us – the people all around us.
Hyperion by Dan Simmons
The Galactic Hegemony, the planets of which are inhabited by descendants of Old Earth, is preparing for a final war with the Ousters, "interstellar barbarians." An old prophecy states that in these last days several chosen ones are to be sent to Hyperion, where they will solve a mystery, connected with the Time Tombs, and meet a horrifying creature – the Shrike.
Hyperion is a book that binds together several different plots, gently knitted together by the author. The unhurried, epic scale of the novel, based on realistic and thorough details of the world and its characters, keeps you from closing the book and setting it aside. The themes of Hyperion reach almost anything that fantasy authors of the twentieth century have written about: here you will find cosmic voyages, planet colonization, contact with extraterrestrial civilizations, time traveling, genetic-, biologic- and nano-engineering, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality… The book also has serious philosophical notions combined with a powerful text composition, and strong, dark symbols. The main characters are both charismatic and interesting. Hyperion is more than just a book in the fantasy section – it is worthy of a place among the great fiction literature of the twentieth century.
Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein
The book Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein is yet another masterpiece in the sci-fi genre. The author is famous for writing books that can reach beyond the borders of any mind. People who are capable of creating such masterpieces – whole worlds and planets, inhabited by fantastic creatures – deserve nothing but unconditional admiration. At the same time, the plot is intriguing, and elaborated to the smallest details. Starship Troopers tells the reader about a figment of Heinlein’s imagination, a boundless galaxy where there is a war between humans and insects, the evolution of bugs and the struggle of a man to become a real “citizen”. Juan “Johnny” Rico is a young man from a middle-class family, living in the Terran Federation of Earth. When war breaks out between mankind and the Arachnids of Klendahu, he decides to join the ranks of the mobile infantry. The “bugs” are getting smarter and more cunning, wiping out entire cities, luring the human troops into traps, and killing them mercilessly. The book holds you intrigued and fascinated up to the last page; you won't be able to stop reading until you find out who won this vicious war - the war of development and progress.