After Hours

The most overrated and underrated sci-fi novels

Works by Robert A. Heinlein and Ayn Rand are on one geek's list for the most overrated and the most underrated science-fiction novels. Share your picks for the most overrated/underrated sci-fi book.

Science-fiction fans like to share information about good reads. It doesn't matter whether the book is about a town from West Virginia being hurtled across space and time or the murder of a royal in an alternate Victorian London, we'll spread the gospel. Unfortunately, at times passion overrides reason and some books are overrated, while other worthy stories are ignored.

For instance, while I do like most of the works by Robert A. Heinlein, I am not a fan of Stranger in a Strange Land. Sorry, but the tale of a messiah raised by aliens does nothing for me. Add the Soylent Green-esque ending to the mix, and I find myself completely turned off and somewhat revolted. If I'm going to read Heinlein, I'd rather reach for Friday, Glory Road, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, or Starship Troopers. It's almost like a group of people decided that Stranger in a Strange Land needs to be deemed a great book because of the author. Pardon the pun, but Stranger in a Strange Land leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

While many people might not consider Ayn Rand's Anthem a science-fiction novel, it is a vision of a dystopian future. It's set in a world where candles are the highest level of technology, and first person pronouns are simply not used; in fact, if the characters speak one particular word, the punishment is death. Anthem could be considered a blueprint for other works of science fiction. Jack L. Chalker's Com from his Saga of the Well World Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation's Borg are both logical descendents of this novel.

I don't expect most Geekend readers will agree with my picks for the most overrated and underrated science-fiction novel (in fact, Heinlein's novel was included in the TechRepublic gallery 75 must-read geek books) and will likely call me an idiot. If you do, just know that you won't be the first. While you're at it, share your picks for the most overrated/underrated in this genre.

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