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Recently I finished reading The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, a mainstream novel with a decidedly science fictional premise. First and foremost this book is a romance, but the relationship between the two protagonists Henry and Clare is complicated by the fact that Henry suffers from a genetic condition that causes him to slip back in time at random, unexpected moments.

Books that might have an appeal to readers outside the genre

The book has got me thinking about the idea of “literary science fiction,” or books that might have an appeal to readers outside of the genre. A Google search on the subject led me to this excellent post by David Louis Edelman from June of last year. He recommends a list of books that fit this bill, and also suggests some classics of the genre that might be off-putting to the casual reader of speculative fiction. Both of his lists are excellent, as are the comments that follow. Here’s a short list of some of the books mentioned in the comments.

  • Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx & Crake
  • Greg Bear, Darwin’s Radio & Darwin’s Children, Blood Music
  • Alfred Bester, The Stars My Destination
  • John Brunner, The Sheep Look Up
  • Octavia Butler, Kindred
  • John Crowley, Little, Big
  • Samuel R. Delany, Dhalgren, Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand
  • Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle
  • Stephen Donaldson, The Gap series
  • The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

    The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

  • Karen Joy Fowler, Sarah Canary
  • William Gibson, Virtual Light
  • William Gibson & Bruce Sterling, The Difference Engine
  • Ken Grimwood, Replay
  • Joe Haldeman, The Forever War
  • M. John Harrison, Nova Swing, Light
  • Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon
  • Stanislaw Lem, Solaris
  • Jonathan Lethem, Gun With Occasional Music
  • Kelly Link, Magic For Beginners
  • Michael Moorcock, Behold the Man
  • Mary Doria Russell, The Sparrow
  • Kim Stanley Robinson, The Years of Rice & Salt
  • Geoff Ryman, Air
  • Dan Simmons, The Hyperion series
  • Bruce Sterling, Holy Fire
  • Sherri S. Tepper, Grass
  • Joan Vinge, The Snow Queen
  • Gene Wolfe, The Book of the New Sun series, The Fifth Head of Cerebus
  • David Zindell, Neverness

If you’re looking looking for suggestions on what to read next, any of the books listed here would be great. I have read many, but certainly not all of them. It’s worth noting that The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell was mentioned more frequently that any other title in the comment thread. Dan Simmons’s Hyperion books seemed to be next.

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Manxom Vroom is the internet alias of Jeffrey Valka, a writer who lives in the metro Detroit area. His own blog can be found at the following address: . In addition to blogging, he also writes genre fiction..

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3 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. When The Sparrow was published, I´ve read rave reviews but never got to read it. Just the other day, I was trying to remember the author´s name (and the book´s title) but the information just slipped out ouf my mind. Thank you for bringing it up to the forefront again.

    Of the books abovementioned, I´ve read most of them and couldn´t agree more. I would also add to the list Mark Danielewski´s House of Leaves, and William Burroughs´s Naked Lunch, The Ticket That Exploded, and Nova Express.

    There are others, but, alas, as Jorge Luis Borges (of whom I would choose Ficciones) would say, there´s no such end to those things. ;-)

  2. horseloverfat

    Years of Rice and Salt was so unreadable I ditched it 25% in.

    If you want literary, The Book of The New Sun Opus, is a sure bet.

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