Sci-Fi Works That 'Blew Your Mind'

João Ribeiro

Journeyed there and back again
#1
Picking up on @Boreas idea for Fantasy books let's discuss the topic for Sci-fi books that opened your mind to concepts that were completely... erm alien.

For me it was Songs of Different Earth from Arthur C. Clark.

I mean I was a sci-fi movie glutton and this book shown me a totally new approach to sci-fi without the lasers blasting that the movies had addicted me to. It's as much a tale of conquering space as it is a tale of society adapting and surviving. It's probably nothing ground-breaking (I haven't read a lot of sci-fi) but it's one of those books that always brings back great memories when I look at it in the bookshelf.
 

Boreas

Journeyed there and back again
Staff member
#2
Formative years:

"2001: A Space Odyssey" and "Rendezvous with Rama" by Arthur C. Clarke
Both introduced me to the eerie feelings of man's initial steps into the unknown. I think Arthur C. Clarke, possibly more than anyone else besides Asimov, really brought out the feeling of intense wonder in me for the universe. He was also very optimistic about man's potential future whilst keeping a realistic perspective.

"Dune" by Frank Herbert
Holy hell, this novel blew my mind. This was my first encounter with a novel dealing in ideas of transcendental awareness in many forms, both small and large, mystical and rational. And especially as a novel incorporating tweaks of Hindu/Yoga philosophies & the Arab/Bedouin cultural mindset. Since I was a little familiar with some of these ideas, it was even more appealing. Not to mention the idea of spice as an allegory for energy resources when it was written. It made for a great Bildungsroman.

Mid-period:

"Hyperion" and "Fall of Hyperion" by Dan Simmons
The sheer scale of the vision, the breadth that he infused into recasting the thematic story of the Olympians supplanting the Titans, is fantastic. Within this thematic struggle, he tackles Old Testament conundrums, infuses some Buddhist philosophy (The-Void-Which-Binds gives off a Bardo Plane vibe from the Tibetan Book of the Dying), explores the nature of mortality, the meaning of art and, most of all, the possibility of pain as an instrument of (semi-supernatural) salvation. Bloody weird and brilliant. Not just the original duology, but all four volumes.

Culture novels as a whole, but especially "Use of Weapons" and then "Excession" (for the immediate, 'mind blown' sensation) by Iain M. Banks
These novels keep on giving. They make me want to believe that a better future really is possible, even if it seems wishful thinking for now (even by sci fi standards).

"Last Legends of Earth" by A. A. Attanasio
I think this novel possibly beats every other in those stories playing out on a grand, grand canvas whilst still remaining intensely human.

"Fiasco" by Stanislaw Lem
I have never read a first contact novel as good as this, neither one as pessimistic as this. Deadly.

Current-period:

"Anathem" by Neal Stephenson
It caught me almost completely by surprise. I mean the direction Stephenson was aiming for, all from the investigation of some fundamental, philosophical principles concerning the nature of reality.

"Blindsight" by Peter Watts
I'm hesitant to include this book, because I was not immediately blown away by it upon finishing the read, but I kept thinking of it for days and days afterwards, like an insidious thought that I just couldn't banish. Also a first contact novel with much to offer, but doesn't quite manage to meet the bar set by Stanislaw Lem. This novel is responsible for getting me back into genre reading in a big way. Consider this an honourable mention.
 

kenubrion

Journeyed there and back again
#3
The Martian
Red Rising
Pandora's Star/Judas Unchained duology
The ongoing Koban series
The Greatship
Armor
Matter
Aldenata Series
Lucifer's Hammer
 

ofer

Journeyed there and back again
#4
As in fantasy, I'll devide it between teengaer and adult:

Books that blew my mind when I was a teenager
The Foundation series by Isaac Asimov - because of the sheer scope of it, the ambitiousness of the story. To read a series of books that span across the entire galaxy and over several centuries for the first time blew my mind.
Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke - Can't possibly think of a way to describe why this book blew my mind without giving out major spoilers, but those who read it will know what I'm talking about. Let's just say several ideas and plot twists.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams - because it was so much fun.

Books that blew my mind as an adult
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card - probably for the same reason that GRRM first 2 books of ASoIaF blew my mind. In terms of plot, characters and writing, it was like taking up sci-fi into a whole new level of reading.
Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons - I didn't know if I could describe the books without using the word "Awsome" at least 20 times. Luckily, someone has already done it for me. So this is exactly what I was going to say, word for word, with the exception that since I don't use a spellchecker, I probably would have misspelled some of the longer words ;):
The sheer scale of the vision, the breadth that he infused into recasting the thematic story of the Olympians supplanting the Titans, is fantastic. Within this thematic struggle, he tackles Old Testament conundrums, infuses some Buddhist philosophy (The-Void-Which-Binds gives off a Bardo Plane vibe from the Tibetan Book of the Dying), explores the nature of mortality, the meaning of art and, most of all, the possibility of pain as an instrument of (semi-supernatural) salvation. Bloody weird and brilliant. Not just the original duology, but all four volumes.
 

Axcellence

A farm boy with a sword
#5
Peter F Hamilton - Greg mandel series. His void series is also a flawed but great one.

Hyperion series as noted above. Great ending in book 4.

The gentleman thief/rogue series by Hannu Rajaniemei. The quantum thief was so god damned high Sci Fi, that I didn't get what actually happened for the first few chapters.

Alistair Reynolds writes excellent high Sci Fi, although with a bleak perspective. The prefect was bone chilling.
 

ralfy

Got in a fistfight with Dresden
#6
For me, it's the scene in Wells' The Time Machine of the planet millions of years in the future. Also, McCarthy's The Road.
 

João Ribeiro

Journeyed there and back again
#7
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card - probably for the same reason that GRRM first 2 books of ASoIaF blew my mind. In terms of plot, characters and writing, it was like taking up sci-fi into a whole new level of reading.
I liked the first book but really didn't like the second one at all. I never read the following entries.
 

Boreas

Journeyed there and back again
Staff member
#8
The quantum thief was so god damned high Sci Fi, that I didn't get what actually happened for the first few chapters.
I read the beginning 2-3 times, too.
Also, McCarthy's The Road.
I picked this up at an airport. I only knew the name McCarthy. My mouth felt dry when I finished the book and I had lumps in my throat at various times during the read. Beautifully written and a chilling portrayal. Kind of reminded me of Hemingway.
 

ofer

Journeyed there and back again
#9
I liked the first book but really didn't like the second one at all. I never read the following entries.
I liked the sequels but not as much as I liked the first book. I was only reffering to Ender's Game in my previous post, not the entire series.

What's really ironic is that Card never meant to write Ender's Game in the first place. He landed a deal with Tor to write Speaker for the Dead. At some point during the writing process he decided that he needed to explain in more detail how Ender got to be speaker for the dead, thought of an idea for Ender's Game, got the OK from Tor to write down the first book, at the rest, as they say, is history.