Faulty Futures
Books depicting futures near and far


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Last and First Men
by Olaf Stapledon (1930)


The two billion year history of the 18 races of humanity as told by one of the Last (18th) Men. The First Men (us) hit high points while Socrates and Jesus were around. Subsequent races terraform Venus and develop genetic engineering. Lacks conventional narrative style, but philosophically brilliant nonetheless. Worth seeking out.





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Fahrenheit 451
by Ray Bradbury (1954)


Near-future 'firemen' are charged with the responsibility of burning all books in order to wipe out dangerous and subversive ideas. Wall-to-wall TV satiates the masses, while fireman hero Montag secretly reads books. He finally flees the city and takes refuge with a group of 'memorisers' - quite literally people who memorise books. Timeless classic.





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I Am Legend
by Richard Matheson (1954)


Classic horror story with a sprinkling of sci-fi credentials. Robert Neville finds himself as the last man on Earth, with everyone else having turned into vampires as the result of a devastating plague. Neville is the hunter by day and at night becomes the hunted, living only for the next sunrise. Trendsetting use of modern urban settings as a backdrop for a vampire story.





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Planet of the Apes [aka Monkey Planet]
by Pierre Boulle (1963)


Boulle's original novel gave rise to a series of feature films. A couple of interstellar tourists find a story floating in a bottle. It tells of three French astronauts who find an Earth-like planet where apes dominate human beings. A literate and compelling story of human rights and social justice, ending with a twist that is somewhat different to the one presented in the first feature film.





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The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
by Robert A Heinlein (1966)


Heinlein's last great novel is choc-full of the libertarian ideals that saw him fall from favour with sci-fi's mainstream. It is essentially the re-telling of the American Revolution in RAH terms - with an open Lunar penal colony the setting for the plotted overthrow of authority. Very chatty, but Mycroft the talking computer is a load of fun.





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The Long Walk
by Richard Bachman (1979)


Stephen King reportedly wanted to up his output while at the same time testing the waters - adopting the pseudonym Richard Bachman for a string of four sci-fi books from 1977-82. The Long Walk is the best of them, depicting an annual 'sporting' event in a near-future totalitarian America. One-hundred randomly selected teenage boys compete, with soldiers standing by to issue the penalties.





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World War Z
by Max Brooks (2006)


Sub-titled 'An Oral History of the Zombie War', an agent of the United Nations Postwar Commission travels the globe collecting individual survival experiences of the pandemic. Set in a near-future devastated by the conflict, much of the tension revolves around the cooperation necessary between various nations in order to counteract the plague. Surprisingly strong sci-fi credentials.





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Ready Player One
by Ernest Cline (2011)


Self-professed geek and popular spoken word artist Ernest Cline hit paydirt with this award-winning dystopian young-adult novel. Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be. The search for the ultimate lottery ticket comes fraught with danger in the face of reality.


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