Many early science fiction novels are incredibly imaginative and worth reading. They may seem somewhat dated given our advanced scientific knowledge, but they are still extremely interesting as an example of how the genre began. Here are some of the early science fiction novels you should read …
1. Frankenstein (Mary Shelley)
Frankenstein is one of the early science fiction novels that everyone's heard of - but have you actually read it? We're so familiar with the story now, but it must have made an extraordinary impact when it was first written nearly 200 years ago. It's also remarkable to think that Mary Shelley was just twenty years old when she wrote it. How many of us could have written such a work at that age?
2. The War of the Worlds (HG Wells)
The War of the Worlds is another extremely well known story that you may not have read. If you're only familiar with the movie versions, give the book a go. The original setting in the Victorian age makes the outcome much more dramatic - the Victorians wouldn't have had the same technology that the updated movie versions have.
3. Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea (Jules Verne)
Many well-known science fiction movies owe their origins to books. As well as Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, Jules Verne also wrote Journey to the Centre of the Earth (perhaps more fantasy than science fiction, although the two genres often cross over). The book is almost 150 years old, and shows how imaginative early writers of science fiction could be.
4. The Barsoom Series (Edgar Rice Burroughs)
This series recently made it to movie screens in the form of John Carter. There are actually eleven books in the series that are worth reading if you enjoy fantasy and adventure novels. The science in the books is quite definitely fiction, since it relates the adventures of John Carter among the civilisations of Mars, but it's still a fun, if somewhat dated set of stories. Burroughs also wrote a shorter series set on Venus.
5. The Last Man (Mary Shelley)
The Last Man is another work by Mary Shelley, yet is virtually unknown, unlike her famous Frankenstein. It's a very early example of the apocalyptic genre, which has since become immensely popular, and shows what a remarkable imagination Mary had.
6. The Mummy! a Tale of the Twenty-Second Century (Jane Webb Loudon)
Mary Shelley wasn't the only female writer of early science fiction. Like Mary, Jane Webb Loudon wrote her novel over 100 years before the term 'science fiction' was even coined. It's notable for presenting a very imaginative version of the future, and is much less frightening than Frankenstein.
7. Journey to the Moon (Cyrano De Bergerac)
It might surprise you to learn that Cyrano de Bergerac actually existed and wrote a number of books, including this early example of fantasy/science fiction. Of course we know now that life does not exist on the Moon, but over 300 years ago for all anyone knew, it did!
Check out some of these early examples of science fiction and see what you think. It may inspire you to discover other early works that you hadn't heard of. It's really interesting seeing what incredible ideas early writers came up with. Who is your favorite science fiction writer?