Top 5 Must Read Vintage Sci-Fi Novels

Although some people consider science fiction novels to be a literary realm where only nerds dare to tread, savvy readers realize that there is more to this genre than spaceships and robots. Set amid the trappings of futuristic technology and otherworldly locales, science fiction has the power to raise thematic questions about very human issues, such as race, foreign policy, ethics, and human rights, through the fantastic filter of the future.The following vintage science fiction novels were ahead of their time, but not for the reasons you might expect.

The Martian Chronicles (1950) by Ray Bradbury

Despite the title and the subject matter, The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury is not really about Mars. Bradbury is less concerned with the logistics of the journey to Mars, like how the astronauts breathe or what technology they use, than he is with the implications presented by colonizing an already inhabited planet. When humans arrive on a planet already cultivated by the complex and mysterious Martian civilization, their interactions mirror those of early settlers coming to the Americas. Themes of immigration, colonization and war run throughout this poetic novel presented as a collection of short stories starring the romance between the third planet and its nearest planetary neighbor.

A Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864) by Jules Verne

In this lesser known Jules Verne gem, a driven scientist and his cowardly nephew follow a medieval map into a crater that leads them to a dangerous and fantastic subterranean world. Verne took his scientific inspiration from geological texts of the time that were some of the earliest representations of the origins of man. In many ways, this inventive novel was ahead of its time, exploring geological, environmental, and anthropological concepts that were cutting edge when it was written. That having been said, some of the passages tend to be densely scientific, discussing concerns about the interior of the earth and environmental concerns. Even though it was written in the mid-nineteenth century, Verne's ideas are largely consistent with modern day environmental concerns. When you consider the lengths energy companies still have to go to today today, vying to offer affordable, cleaner energy to the general public, consider how reluctant the public must've been to embrace Verne's ideas 151 years ago. In addition, Verne explores prehistoric creatures and literal cave people, displaying the impatience of ambition and the limits of hubris as the main character continues to challenge life threatening circumstances in the name of science.

Foundation (1951) by Isaac Asimov

The Foundation Trilogy, as Asimov's famous series of short stories came to be known, focuses on the complex themes that surround the building of a new empire. It takes place in a future where a highly specialized branch of mathematics allows a mathematician, Hari Seldon, to predict the future in broad strokes. Faced with two potential futures, one infinitely more favorable for the entire galaxy, Seldon sets about the monumental task of laying the foundations for a new galactic empire that will seal the fate of the Milky Way. The galactic implications in the book are based on the principles explored in Edward Gibbon's History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

The War of the Worlds (1898) by H.G. Wells

The War of the Worlds is a unique and futuristic novel, and not just because it features extraterrestrials and advanced spacecraft. The premise of this novel unites all of humankind on the losing end of a war when Martians invade the planet, intent on stealing Earth's natural resources. While this may seem a little unfair and one sided, it's only what humans have been doing to each other for centuries, as the unusual narrator of this grim story is quick to point out.

1984 (1949) by George Orwell

While many of the books in this list feature more flamboyant aspects of the genre like space travel and artificial intelligence, 1984 by George Orwell uses its bleak futuristic vision to hit home. In the grim dystopian future 1984 of the novel, the totalitarian government uses video cameras, hidden microphones and other monitoring technology to completely control the population. The main character of this striking and satirical novel works for a government agent as an editor of history, literally rewriting events in a government sanctioned effort to control all thought. The heavy hitting social concepts outlined in this novel make it one of the most important works of fiction written in the 20th century.