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The Best Hard Science Fiction Books of all Time

• Stephen Cass via

As we announced earlier, Technology Review will publish TR:SF, a collection of original science fiction stories, in the fall. The stories will all be near-future, hard science fiction, inspired by the kinds of emerging technologies we see in our coverage at Technology Review.

While we're not adverse to, say, a good bit of space opera or New Wave, we're focusing on hard science fiction in TR:SF, because these types of tales, grounded in the cutting edge of science and technology (albeit with varying degrees of artistic license), are the ones most cited by scientists and engineers as the inspiration for embarking on particular projects, or indeed, entire careers

Even if history later proves it utterly off base, a good hard science fiction story makes you think "That could actually happen!" That's certainly the case for each of our ten favorite hard science fiction books, listed in chronological order. Do you think we got any wrong? What are your favorites? Tells us in the comments below.
 Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea (Jules Verne, 1870) Verne wrote some of the earliest works recognizable as science fiction (even though the term "science fiction" wouldn't enter popular culture for another 60 years.) Twenty Thousand Leagues is probably his most prescient work, anticipating submarine warfare (not for nothing was the first nuclear submarine called Nautilus) , scuba diving, and even the taser.
The Time Machine (H.G. Wells, 1895) There's a little bit of self-plagarism in this book, as the operating principles of the eponymous machine are pretty much directly lifted from an earlier short story written by Wells, called The Chronic Argonauts, published in 1888, seven years before The Time Machine. Still, the 1895 book deserves credit for popularizing the idea that time travel might be done using scientific and technological methods, rather than the magical means used in earlier time travel stories. Its description of time travel in a four-dimensional universe presaged the cottage industry in theoretical space-time machines that has sprung up among physicists in recent decades.
I, Robot (Isaac Asimov, 1950) Asimov actually invented the word "robotics," in 1941, and this collection of short stories canonized his most famous literary creation, the Three Laws of Robotics ("A robot may not harm a human being, or through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the first or second laws.") Although Asimov was very hazy on how the "positronic brains" of his robots actually worked, the idea of a machine operating perfectly, but behaving strangely because of unexpected interactions between its instructions, would become all too familiar to later generations of computer programmers battling subtle software bugs.
The Shockwave Rider (John Brunner, 1975) The original cyberpunk novel, predating Gibson' Neuromancer by nine years (and even the word "cyberpunk" by five.) Admittedly, it doesn't feature a neon-lit virtual reality cyberspace, but it does have a hacker who unleashes a little doozey on the global computer network—a self replicating program that Brunner dubbed a "worm." In 1982 researchers at Xerox PARC noticed the real work they were on distributed computation doing bore a striking resemblance to Brunner's fictional creation, and by 1988 the first worm to be released into the wild was happily munching through thousands of computers on the early Internet.

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