January 2 is National Science Fiction Day. (It's also Isaac Asimov's birthday.) To honor imaginary worlds rich in commentary about our planet's current circumstances, I've chosen five captivating sci-fi books that offer distinct perspectives to inspire how we live today.
Solaris, the influence for the films Solaris (1972) and Solaris (2002), is an elegant psychological thriller. A crew of astronauts are pushed to the brink of sanity while studying the scientific underpinnings of a sentient, simulacra-producing planet.
In Roadside Picnic, Earth is made strange by an alien visit. The aliens departed, leaving a big mess behind: a dangerous post-nuclear atmosphere (the "Zone") strewn with strange items to be sold for a high price on the black market. The cult classic Stalker was based on this novel.
Noted for coining the term cyberspace and envisioning the internet before it was a thing, Neuromancer hones in on the anxiety of living in a technological landscape as well as the search for identity in an industrial world.
The Children of Men, written as a series of diary entries by a history professor, reflects on how humanity might act when faced with a global infertility crisis. Watch Children of Men (2006) for the film version of this story.
Embassytown lies on a distant planet. There, language is grand and strange, functioning in delightfully incomprehensible ways. Avice, an unusual girl, is found to be bright enough in her own way to become a living simile for a mysterious alien race.