I read hundreds of science fiction books during my teenage years growing up in the 1960s. Adolescence, rock music and science fiction came together in a perfect storm during that epic time. What’s even more far out is how much fun I’m having rereading those books again in my fifties, but this time around I’m listening to them as audio books. I’ve discovered that you really don’t love a book unless you read it several times over a lifetime, and I can’t emphasize this enough, you can’t really appreciate a book until you’ve both read and listened to it. Inputting words through the eyes and ears are completely different ways to boot your brain into experiencing the full potential of fiction.
Many people have told me they can’t listen to audio books. Well, audio book listening takes practice, just like reading. And if you are like me, getting too comfortable with eyeball reading can be dangerous because it’s all too easy to get into eye track ruts.
It’s taken many years for publishers to start cranking out science fiction on audio. Steve Feldberg over at Audible.com has been doing a bang up job of getting new audio book science fiction titles for his company. I look at Audible’s new releases every day anxiously awaiting to see what new titles will show up, especially books from the Classics of Science Fiction list.
Recently More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon hit the New Releases page and I’m listening to it now. It’s nothing like what I remember reading 40+ years ago. I now feel like Sturgeon is the Faulkner of science fiction. I just finished The Naked Sun by Isaac Asimov that I considered a mildly fun, but mostly boring robot novel as a teen. This time around I’m stunned by how good it is. Time travel has always been a staple of science fiction, but time traveling backwards through my reading life is almost as much fun as having a real time machine, I kid you not.
On the Classics of Science Fiction list, three books tie for the #1 spot, by being on 25 out of 28 recommended lists:
- The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester
- Dune by Frank Herbert
- More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon
I’ll put the titles available on Audible.com in bold. Dune is now out in its second audio book edition, so I’m mighty glad to see More Than Human, but I’m wondering when The Demolished Man will show up.
Four books share the #2 spot by being on 24 out of 28 lists.
- The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov
- Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner
- The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin
- A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller
Sadly, Audible only offers an old abridged version of Foundation, but I know that Books on Tape has all three books of the trilogy plus Prelude to Foundation and their titles do show up on Audible eventually. The book I want to see most here is The Left Hand of Darkness, but Stand on Zanzibar and A Canticle for Leibowitz are books I’d buy immediately too.
There are three books tied for third (23 lists):
- Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke
- The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
- The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
Audible streaks through here. I profoundly enjoyed listening Childhood’s End recently.
Only one title holds the 4th place (on 22 lists):
- The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
At 5th place on 21 lists are:
- The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
- The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
- Ringworld by Larry Niven
- The Space Merchants by Pohl & Kornbluth
I’m most anxious hear the Bester and Le Guin. I read The Space Merchants last year and I was rather disappointed with it, so I’m not sure if it would sell well with an audio edition, although with the right reader, the satire and humor might jump out and make it more appealing. Audible has 19 Le Guin audio books, just not her two most famous.
In 6th place on 20 lists are:
- Mission of Gravity by Hal Clement
- The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
- 1984 by George Orwell
- City by Clifford Simak
I can vouch for the Dick and Simak, both authors really shine through on audio. In fact, listening to PKD’s weird imaginary worlds is the best way to do get PKDicked. I can’t believe Hal Clement isn’t on audio.
Lucky seventh place brings in seven titles (19 lists):
- The City and the Stars by Arthur C. Clarke
- Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
- To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmer
- The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
- Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
- Gateway by Frederik Pohl
I’m hoping to listen to Rama and Scattered Bodies soon. And I hope Steve Feldberg finds Gateway because it was the novel that brought me back to science fiction after I gafiated for a decade.
Coming in 8th place are three novels (18 lists):
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
- Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon
- The World of Null-A by A. E. Van Vogt
Fahrenheit 451 is a beautiful novel for bookworms to read and it’s especially appropriate to listen to because it lets you imagine trying to memorize it. I don’t have much hope for the other two books getting on audio because they have a reputation for being hard to get into, but audio book editions might make them more accessible.
In ninth place we get five more titles (17 lists):
- The Long Afternoon of Earth by Brian Aldiss
- A Case of Conscience by James Blish
- The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein
- Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
- Dying Inside by Robert Silverberg
Of these, I’m most looking forward to the Aldiss. That’s one trippy novel. I listened to A Case of Conscience over the Christmas holidays and enjoyed it. It makes a great companion book to Childhood’s End, because they both deal with religion.
Rounding out 10th place with seven books bringing the grand total to the Top 40 (16 lists):
- Timescape by Gregory Benford
- A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
- Camp Concentration by Thomas Disch
- Way Station by Clifford Simak
- Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon
- Slan by A. E. Van Vogt
- The Humanoids by Jack Vance
Timescape is an elegant quiet novel that works very well on audio. Way Station’s moody pastoral setting also works well on audio. Again, I’ll be surprised to ever hear an audio edition of Stapledon. I’m looking forward to Slan, which I’ll probably listen to soon, it should be a nice companion listen to More Than Human. I listened to The Humanoids years ago and was impressed. Now that I’m on a robot kick I should relisten to it. Both Clockwork and Concentration are bleak novels that I might not get into the mood to hear for years. I think I prefer the positive sense of wonder SF of the 1950s and 1960s right now.
There are 153 more books on the Classics of SF list, many of which are on audio. There are four Samuel R. Delany novels, none of which have had audio editions that I’d love to hear. I’m reading Babel-17 for the fourth time and I really ache to hear it, and it’s companion short novel, Empire Star, but I’m also very anxious to hear Nova, The Einstein Intersection and Dhalgren.
Other books from Audible that’s on the Classics of Science Fiction list:
- Lord of Light
- A Princess of Mars
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
- Out of the Silent Planet
- I, Robot
- Starship Troopers
- Sirens of Titan
- Slaughterhouse Five
- Startide Rising
- Hyperion/The Fall of Hyperion
- The Caves of Steal
- Journey to the Center of the Earth
- Double Star
- Blood Music
- Gray Lensmen
- Ender’s Game
- The Big Time
- The Illustrated Man
- Red Mars
- Doomsday Book
And many many more.
Probably everyone has a favorite science fiction novel they’d love to hear on audio. Be sure and join Audible and go to their Contact Us page and click on the content request link. I put in 7 books in 2003 and just notice that I got 5 of my wishes over the years.
JWH – 3/10/9