Kim Stanley Robinson’s 10 Favorite SF Novels


From the landmark Mars trilogy to the award-winning 2312, Kim Stanley Robinson’s sci-fi novels have created a compelling, carefully considered roadmap for the future of humanity, from our first sojourns to other worlds to our exploration of the solar system’s greatest mysteries. In advance of the release of his newest work, Aurora, which joins the tail end of a deep space mission hundreds of years in the making, we asked him to tell us what books and authors inspired him on his own path.

Ever thorough, he provided us with a list of 10 SF novels he loves, and 10 runners-up.

Star Maker, by Olaf Stapledon
“This is the thematic sequel to Stapleton’s masterpiece Last and First Men, which doubles down on the earlier work by telling the story of the rest of the history of the universe in a single novel (the first volume only covered ten million years).   Every science fiction novel ever written is compressed to a sentence or two in this mind-boggling novel-as-chronicle.”

Solaris, by Stanislaw Lem
“The final word on first contact with an alien intelligence, this is a taut psychological thriller as well as a complete work-out of the scientific method when confronted with a mystery. There’s a reason it has been filmed multiple times; it succeeds on many levels.”

The Man in the High Castle, by Philip K. Dick
“Among Dick’s dozen best novels, this sticks out for its sharp and humane characterization, and is one of the most thought-provoking alternative histories ever written.”

The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin
“This is still the go-to volume when trying to show a newcomer to science fiction what this genre can do that no other genre can. A beautiful and life-altering thought experiment concerning gender and what it means to all of us.”

The Female Man, by Joanna Russ
“Joanna Russ was very angry, very funny, and a brilliant writer, and the magical combination of these attributes is the feminist classic The Female Man, which every man should read, for you seldom laugh so hard while being slapped in the face, and afterward the world ends up a bigger place. Women will enjoy it too. Modernism at its most adventurous, political, and wild.”

Dhalgren, by Samuel R. Delany
“The great New York novel, the great novel of the 1970s, this remains a masterpiece of twentieth century American literature, still completely familiar to our world today, indeed a kind of prism, mirror, and lens of our time.”

Sarah Canary, by Karen Fowler
“Did I already mention a greatest first contact novel? Well, this is the other one, but this time located on Earth. Historical novel, detective novel, science fiction novel: just a plain great novel.”

The Bridge, by Iain Banks
“I might call this one Kafkaesque, except it is so much the essence of what we now think of as Banksian. Surreal, often hilarious, this was Iain’s favorite of his own works, and a joy for every reader.”

The Book of the Long Sun, by Gene Wolfe (Nightside of the Long Sun, Lake of the Long Sun, Calde of the Long Sun, Exodus from the Long Sun)
“This long novel in four volumes is the greatest starship story ever told, a self-contained masterpiece that I prefer to Wolfe’s also-great The Book of the New Sun (Shadow & Claw, Sword & Citadel).”

The Mount, by Carol Emshwiller
“Surely the funniest alien invasion and teenager coming-of-age story ever written. A gem of wisdom and humor.”

It would be so easy to add many more, as this just dents the top end of my favorites. Just for fun, I will list 10 more that are also glorious SF:

The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells
We, by Evgeny Zamiatin
The Stars My Destination, by Alfred Bester
Camp Concentration, by Thomas M. Disch
Roadside Picnic, by the Strugatski Brothers
West of the Sun, by Edgar Pangborn
Air, by Geoff Ryman
The Dazzle of Day, by Molly Gloss
Pirates of the Universe, by Terry Bisson
Soldiers of Paradise, by Paul Park

What do you think of Stan’s choices?

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