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The Speed of Dark

Elizabeth Moon

In the near future, disease will be a condition of the past. Most genetic defects will be removed at birth; the remaining during infancy. Unfortunately, there will be a generation left behind. For members of that missed generation, small advances will be made. Through various programs, they will be taught to get along in the world despite their differences. They will be made active and contributing members of society. But they will never be normal.

Lou Arrendale is a member of that lost generation, born at the wrong time to reap the awards of medical science. Part of a small group of high-functioning autistic adults, he has a steady job with a pharmaceutical company, a car, friends, and a passion for fencing. Aside from his annual visits to his counselor, he lives a low-key, independent life. He has learned to shake hands and make eye contact. He has taught himself to use "please" and "thank you" and other conventions of conversation because he knows it makes others comfortable. He does his best to be as normal as possible and not to draw attention to himself.

But then his quiet life comes under attack. It starts with an experimental treatment that will reverse the effects of autism in adults. With this treatment Lou would think and act and be just like everyone else. But if he was suddenly free of autism, would he still be himself? Would he still love the same classical music–with its complications and resolutions? Would he still see the same colors and patterns in the world–shades and hues that others cannot see? Most importantly, would he still love Marjory, a woman who may never be able to reciprocate his feelings? Would it be easier for her to return the love of a "normal"?

There are intense pressures coming from the world around him–including an angry supervisor who wants to cut costs by sacrificing the supports necessary to employ autistic workers. Perhaps even more disturbing are the barrage of questions within himself. For Lou must decide if he should submit to a surgery that might completely change the way he views the world... and the very essence of who he is.

Thoughtful, provocative, poignant, unforgettable, The Speed of Dark is a gripping exploration into the mind of an autistic person as he struggles with profound questions of humanity and matters of the heart.

The Face

Demon Princes: Book 4

Jack Vance

Kirth Gersen carries in his pocket a slip of paper with a list of five names written upon it--the names of five Demon Princes. The Demon Princes are a race of beings who disguise themselves as humans and delight in power and destruction. however, to Kirth they are merely murderers who killed his family and destroyed his home planet--and who deserves to die for those misdeeds. Three have already fallen in Kirth's hands, but there are two more names on his list, two more Princes who will live only long enough to regret their evil ways.

Bloodchild

Octavia E. Butler

Hugo, Nebula and Locus Award winning novelette.

Years ago a group known as the Terrans left Earth in search of a life free of persecution. Now they live alongside the Tlic, an alien race who face extinction; their only chance of survival is to plant their larvae inside the bodies of the humans.

When Gan, a young, boy, is chosen as a carrier of Tlic eggs, he faces an impossible dilemma: can he really help the species he has grown up with, even if it means sacrificing his own life?

Bloodchild originally appeared in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, June 1984. The story has been reprinted many times. It can be found in the anthologies:

The story is included in the collection Bloodchild and Other Stories (1995).

Read the full story for free at the Baen website.

Dying Inside

Robert Silverberg

David Selig was born with an awesome power - the ability to look deep into the human heart, to probe the darkest truths hidden in the secret recesses of the soul. With reckless abandon, he used his talent in the pursuit of pleasure. Then, one day, his power began to die...

Dying Inside is a vivid, harrowing portrait of a man who squandered a remarkable gift, of a superman who had to learn what it was to be human.

Stranger in a Strange Land

Robert A. Heinlein

Stranger in a Strange Land is the epic saga of an earthling, Valentine Michael Smith, born and educated on Mars, who arrives on our planet with psi powers - telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, telekinesis, teleportation, pyrolysis, and the ability to take control of the minds of others - and complete innocence regarding the mores of man.

After his tutelage under a surrogate-father figure, Valentine begins his transformation into a messiah figure. His introduction into Earth society, together with his exceptional abilities, lead Valentine to become many things to many people: freak, scam artist, media commodity, searcher, free-love pioneer, neon evangelist, and martyr.

Heinlein won his third Hugo award for this novel, sometimes called Heinlein's earthly "divine comedy."

A Mirror for Observers

SF Rediscovery: Book 12

Edgar Pangborn

In their attitude towards the Planet Earth, the Martians had long been divided into two camps: the Observers, benevolent 'meddlers' in human affairs; and the rebellious Abdicators, who sought the Earth's collapse.

But it wasn't until the extraordinary matter of the Earth-Boy, Angelo Pontevecchio, that the enmity between these two factions came to a definite head.

It started as a contest of wills, waged between two opposing Martians for the soul of a single human child.

And before the end, it threatened all life on both Earth and Mars.

Rite of Passage

Gregg Press Science Fiction Series: Book 27

Alexei Panshin

After the destruction of Earth, humanity has established itself precariously among a hundred planets. Between them roam the vast Ships, doling out scientific knowledge in exchange for raw materials. On one of the Ships lives Mia Havero. Belligerent soccer player, intrepid explorer of ventilation shafts, Mia tests all the boundaries of her insulated world. She will soon be tested in turn. At the age of fourteen all Ship children must endure a month unaided in the wilds of a colony world, and although Mia has learned much through formal study, about philosophy, economics, and the business of survival, she will find that her most vital lessons are the ones she must teach herself.

Published originally in 1968, Alexei Panshin's Nebula Award-winning classic has lost none of its relevance, with its keen exploration of societal stagnation and the resilience of youth.

The Persistence of Vision

John Varley

Hugo, Nebula and Locus award nominated novella. It originally appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March 1978. The story can also be found in the anthologies:

It is half of Tor Double #29: Nanowire Time / The Persistence of Vision and is included in the collections The Persistence of Vision (1979) and The John Varley Reader (2004).

A Time of Changes

Robert Silverberg

Three thousand years after Earth's colonization of the planet Borthan, stories of self-serving hypocrisy that occurred among the first arrivals have bred a culture that forbids emotional sharing and denies the naturally human concept of 'self.' Kinnall Darival breaks the strict code of the Covenant to record the sordid details of his rebellious life from the days of his royal youth to self-appointed prophet of love.

Wave Without a Shore

Alliance-Union: Book 2

C. J. Cherryh

Freedom was an isolated planet, off the spaceways track and rarely visited by commercial spacers. It wasn't that Freedom was inhospitable as planets go. The problem was that outsiders – tourists and traders – claimed the streets were crowded with mysterious characters in blue robes and with members of an alien species.

Native-born humans, however, said that was not the case. There were no such blue-robes and no aliens. Such was the viewpoint of both Herrin the artist and Waden the autocrat – until a crisis of planetary identity forced a life-and-death confrontation between the question of reality and the reality of the question...

Fledgling

Octavia E. Butler

Fledgling, Octavia Butler's first new novel in seven years, is the story of an apparently young, amnesiac girl whose alarmingly unhuman needs and abilities lead her to a startling conclusion: She is in fact a genetically modified, 53-year-old vampire. Forced to discover what she can about her stolen former life, she must at the same time learn who wanted-and still wants-to destroy her and those she cares for and how she can save herself. Fledgling is a captivating novel that tests the limits of "otherness" and questions what it means to be truly human.

Octavia E. Butler is the author of 11 novels, including Kindred, Dawn, and Parable of the Sower. Recipient of a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant, the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, and numerous other literary awards, she has been acclaimed for her lean prose, strong protagonists, and social observations that range from the distant past to the far future.

The Martian Way and Other Stories

Isaac Asimov

This collection of four famous science fiction tales masterfully exemplifies author Isaac Asimov's ability to create quickly a believable human milieu in the midst of alien circumstances. Each of the long stores also shows his considerable skill in fully fleshing out a speculative scientific or social possibility.

Table of Contents

  • The Martian Way - (1952) - novella by Isaac Asimov
  • Youth - (1952) - novelette by Isaac Asimov
  • The Deep - (1952) - novelette by Isaac Asimov
  • Sucker Bait - (1954) - novella by Isaac Asimov

The Doomed City

Arkady Strugatsky
Boris Strugatsky

The magnum opus of Russia's greatest science fiction novelists translated into English for the first time

Arkady and Boris Strugatsky are widely considered the greatest of Russian science fiction masters, and their most famous work, Roadside Picnic, has enjoyed great popularity worldwide. Yet the novel they worked hardest on, that was their own favorite, and that readers worldwide have acclaimed as their magnum opus, has never before been published in English. The Doomed City was so politically risky that the Strugatsky brothers kept its existence a complete secret even from their closest friends for sixteen years after its completion in 1972. It was only published in Russia during perestroika in the late 1980s, the last of their works to see publication. It was translated into a host of European languages, and now appears in English in a major new effort by acclaimed translator Andrew Bromfield.

The Doomed City is set in an experimental city whose sun gets switched on in the morning and switched off at night, bordered by an abyss on one side and an impossibly high wall on the other. Its inhabitants are people who were plucked from twentieth-century history at various times and places and left to govern themselves, advised by Mentors whose purpose seems inscrutable. Andrei Voronin, a young astronomer plucked from Leningrad in the 1950s, is a die-hard believer in the Experiment, even though his first job in the city is as a garbage collector. And as increasinbly nightmarish scenarios begin to affect the city, he rises through the political hierarchy, with devastating effect. Boris Strugatsky wrote that the task of writing The Doomed City "was genuinely delightful and fascinating work." Readers will doubtless say the same of the experience of reading it.

Atlas Shrugged

Ayn Rand

This is the story of a man who said that he would stop the motor of the world--and did. Was he a destroyer or the greatest of liberators? Why did he have to fight his battle, not against his enemies, but against those who needed him most, and his hardest battle against the woman he loved? What is the world's motor--and the motive power of every man? You will know the answer to these questions when you discover the reason behind the baffling events that play havoc with the lives of the characters in this story.

Tremendous in its scope, this novel presents an astounding panorama of human life--from the productive genius who becomes a worthless playboy--to the great steel industrialist who does not know that he is working for his own destruction--to the philosopher who becomes a pirate--to the composer who gives up his career on the night of his triumph--to the woman who runs a transcontinental railroad--to the lowest track worker in her Terminal tunnels.

You must be prepared, when you read this novel, to check every premise at the root of your convictions. This is a mystery story, not about the murder--and rebirth--of man's spirit. It is a philosophical revolution, told in the form of an action thriller of violent events, a ruthlessly brilliant plot structure and an irresistible suspense. Do you say this is impossible? Well, that is the first of your premises to check.

Miracle Visitors

Masters of Science Fiction: Book 15

Ian Watson

An unusually brilliant and mind-stretching metaphysical quest from one of the most exciting talents in science fiction.

John Deacon uses hypnosis to help his patients reach altered states of consciousness. One of his subjects, Michael Peacocke, is unusually susceptible and in their first session together, Michael recalls a "close encounter"--in both senses of the term--with an alien. Deacon, skeptical of the story, dismisses it as an adolescent sexual fantasy. But then strange things begin to happen and Deacon is forced to reconsider. Could UFOs be symbols projected from the collective unconscious? Are they messages from the biomatrix? Does the mind have the ability to project objects and people that are physically real...yet somehow illusory?

A wonderfully fascinating, mind-bending voyage.