The Golden Age
I may not have gone where I intended to go, but...


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Galactic Patrol [S3]
by E.E. 'Doc' Smith (1937)


'Doc' Smith's early space operas are legendary for popularising the sub-genre that would dominate sci-fi in the '50s and '60s. The Galactic Patrol's Lensmen are the most feared peacekeepers in the Galaxy. The 'Lens', a telepathic jewel matched to the ego of its wearer, is the ultimate weapon in the war against the merciless pirate Boskone and his forces of lawlessness. How cool is that?





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The Day of the Triffids
by John Wyndham (1951)


The best of UK writer Wyndham's 'cosy catastrophe' books. Orbiting explosions blind almost everyone and then, to make matters worse, large mobile stinging plants start devouring the survivors. Resistance is haphazard, with some managing to conduct themselves in a civilised middle-class manner despite their dire circumstances. Arthur C. Clarke called the novel an "immortal story".





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The Demolished Man
by Alfred Bester (1953)


At first glance The Demolished Man comes across as a run-of-the-mill detective story with a few nifty sci-fi trimmings. But Bester's attention to humanitarian issues surrounding the lot of the 'peepers' sparks some intriguing ethical dilemmas. A gorgeous woman and some good old-fashioned corporate crime top off a perfect mix. The book was the first Hugo Award winner in 1953.





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Theodore Sturgeon
by Theodore Sturgeon (1953)


Six psionically gifted social misfits wander the backwoods of America and eventually morph into a single being... a symbiotic Homo gestalt superman. This proves to be an effective cure for loneliness and the need for love, although the creature's road to maturity contains its fair share of stuggles. Beautifully written book with unsurpassed sensitivity and compassion.





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The Stars My Destination
by Alfred Bester (1955)


Energetic 24th century tale of the motivational power of revenge, loosely based on The Count of Monte Cristo. Central character Gully Foyle is left to die in space when a passing ship refuses to render aid. He taps the under-utilised resources of his mind to wreak revenge - becoming a psionic superman in the process. A classic of technological prophecy and timeless narrative enchantment.





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Starship Troopers
by Robert A. Heinlein (1959)


A pivotal book in the history of militaristic sci-fi. After some seriously gung-ho training, a space-marine is thrown into a war against some really nasty and violent alien bugs. Duty and country (i.e. America) are of paramount importance. A popular 1997 feature film was roundly criticised by RAH supporters for its depiction of society as a fascist state rather than a libertarian democracy.





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The Stainless Steel Rat [S1]
by Harry Harrison (1961)


The first of a much-loved sequence, Slippery Jim diGriz is the Galaxy's smoothest con-man... until he gets caught. The obvious thing to do with a man of such immense talent is to make him a cop. He goes about conning humans, aliens and mechs, while taking on a sinister woman who is building the ultimate battleship. Not exactly intellectual fare, but absolutely loads of fun.





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Way Station
by Clifford D. Simak (1963)


Simak is famous for espousing gentle pastoral values. This is the story of a Civil War veteran whose farmhouse is an Earthly 'way station' for alien visitors. While in the farmhouse he does not age. When the local folk get suspicious the authorities close in, potentially threatening galactic peace. The book addresses the Cold War and basic human drives towards violence and peace.


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