The Race (2014) A fragmentary scifi look at the germination of stories. Unique and bottomless.
The Demolished Man (1953) Quintessentially fifties, with stilted, yet dynamic style.
Brittle Innings (1994) Humanity and its monsters, with Southern flair and a baseball backdrop.
The Long Tomorrow (1955) The best of pastoral post-WWII post-apocalyptic fiction.
Stand on Zanzibar (1968) A dystopian collage of media overstimulation and neocolonial globalization.
Bloodchild and Other Stories (1995) The best of Butler’s short fiction, and one of the few short fiction collections I love.
The Girl in the Road (2014) Hypnotic and intense trek across continents, pontoons, and psychological landscapes.
Clarke, Arthur C.
Childhood’s End (1953) Alien invasion story told with humanism and optimism.
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (2004) In-depth, tongue-in-cheek alternate history of the restoration of English magic during the Napoleonic Wars.
Compton, D. G.
The Unsleeping Eye/The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe (1974) Post-modern speculation on death and disease as entertainment in decaying near future.
Delany, Samuel R.
Babel-17 (1966) Dark space adventure with light characters. Plus, space ghosts!
Dark Universe (1961) Subversive religious criticism that mimics Plato’s cave allegory better than Plato did.
García Márquez, Gabriel
Cien anos de soledad (1967) The mellifluous meanderings of magic realism in the form of a strange family in a strange town in Colombia.
The Man Who Folded Himself (1973) Short but wild time-travel tale with a complex protagonist and LGBTQ themes.
Neuromancer (1984) Murky but influential cyberpunk.
Virtual Light (1993) Dry humor, delicious dialogue, cyberlight.
The Peripheral (2014) Gibsonian style, with future visions of 3-D printing and economic collapse.
The Kappa Child (2001) Fresh, invigorating tale about family and friendship. Weird-realism.
Harrison, M. John
The Viriconium sequence (1971-1984) Hallucinatory deconstruction of Arthurian myth on a decaying landscape.
Europe in Autumn (2014) Spy thriller full of sardonics and European sight-seeing. The most relevant geopolitical series of our time.
Europe at Midnight (2015) Multiverse allegory about political isolation and strict borders.
Wolves (2014) Augmented Reality overcasts millennial adaptation to the threat of rising waters. Ballardian jadedness.
Kornbluth, Cyril M. and Frederik Pohl
The Space Merchants (1953) Sophisticated satire about advertising, eerily accurate.
Beggars in Spain (1993) Atypical female protagonist, concerned with ideas not relationships.
The Big Time (1958) Surreal and strange one-room tale about a bar in the Void during the Time War.
Destiny Times Three (1945) Alternate worlds allegory about the failures of global conflict. Probably my favorite of Leiber’s.
MacAvoy, R. A.
Tea with the Black Dragon (1983) Mature adult romance/mystery with a fun dialogue style.
River of Gods (2004) Near-future India, with speculations on artificial intelligence, gender, sexuality, and polytheism. Biblio-tourism.
The Dervish House (2010) Near-future tech, modern fears and ancient myths set in beautiful Istanbul. More biblio-tourism.
Perdido Street Station (Bas-Lag #1) (2000) Squishy and slimy secondary world urban fantasy. Utterly unique.
The Scar (Bas-Lag #2) (2002) Captivating swashbuckling fantasy with atypical female protagonist.
The City & The City (2009) Mind-bendy urban fantasy, hard-boiled.
Memoirs of a Spacewoman (1962) A tour of the galaxy’s most imaginative planets and beings, mirrored with interpersonal tension.
Towing Jehovah (1994) Sacrilegious satire about the death of God. Offensive to all.
His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire) (2005) Man-and-his-dragon romance during the Napoleonic War, filled with 19th century prose.
Lagoon (2014) A modern and realistic update to the alien invasion scenarios of Wells and Clarke.
Emergence (1984) Thoroughly fun YA post-apocalyptic tale. Heinlein-flavor without the bad aftertaste.
The Gormenghast trilogy (1946, 1950, 1959) The place to start for rich and textured fantasy. A true masterpiece.
Robinson, Kim Stanley
The Mars trilogy (Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars) (1993, 1994, 1996) Extreme world-building with psychological character exploration.
The Years of Rice and Salt (2002) An alternate imagining of world history if Europe had not survived the Black Death.
Aurora (2015) An examination of the generation starship concept and the answers it doesn’t hold.
The Female Man (1975) Speaking truth to status quo in experimental narrative form.
A Time of Changes (1971) Far future alien story with criticism of empty social humility.
Simak, Clifford D.
Way Station (Here Gather the Stars) (1963) Pastoral optimism with country flavor.
Odd John: A Story between Jest and Earnest (1935) Cynical tale about humanity’s next step.
More Than Human (1953) Humanistic tale about humanity’s next step.
Tales of the Dying Earth (1950-1984) Best when antihero Cugel appears on the scene.
Cat’s Cradle (1963) The ultimate Vonnegut: Dry, funny, sardonic.
Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang (1974) Bittersweet tale about cloning in a post-apocalyptic society.