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Top 20 Science Fiction Books on the Ground and not in Space

The best sci-fi novels on planets, as opposed to space. Most of these are on Earth, but in any case the planet is grounded, and very little space travel is involved. Unlike most sci-fi books, these books take you to strange and wonderful places "under" the stars, here on the ground. The Top 20 ground-level science fiction books:

1 - Dune by Frank Herbert, the Dune series. Technically there is some space flight in the Dune series, but the majority of the text takes place on a planet. These are extraordinary works written with a style that would make Dickens green with envy.

2 - Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boule. The book that spawned an entire movie franchise and a tv series, this original novel set the tone and blew our minds. When a spaceship lands on a strange planet controlled by apes, a few surprises await the visiting humans -  including the planet itself.

3 - Blade Runner by Philip K. Dick, aka Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep? In 2021 agent Deckard is assigned to hunt down rogue androids who looks just like humans. "The Man in the High Castle" is another great earth-bound novel by Philip K. Dick.

4 - I, Robot by Isaac Asimov. A sci-fi detective novel set in Earth's future, it quickly turns into a warning about technology. Asimov was ahead of his time.

5 - Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke. An alien invasion novel that goes through many years of conquest, cohabitation and the development of human life on Earth under the guidance of alien beings called the Overlords. The writing is striking and the story makes us think about things better left unsaid. If you're a sci-fi fan, this must be on your Top 20 list.

6 - Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. After being born on Mars and raised by Martians, a man goes to Earth and his visit is chronicled.

7 - The Warlord of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, although considered to be pulp fiction by some, this specific work of Burroughs carried forward some unique concepts. The Martian world of Barsoom and its strange inhabitants, their crushed religion, the over-the-top action, and many other aspects make this a must-read for true sci-fi fans.

8 - Earthweeds by Rod Little. On a post-apocalyptic Earth, most men are transformed into lizards and attack the few remaining humans. The reactions of the human survivors, some even turning on each other, wind the story forward. One boy among them has a special ability which helps them uncover the truth about the end of the world.The allegory here is fantastic.

9 - Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, here we move to a dystopian theme, ground-breaking for its time. In a grey world sexual reproduction is closely monitored and is a duty of all citizens. Genetic engineering and brainwashing topics are deftly introduced. It's amazing this book got past the censors in the sixties when it was first published.

10 - Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. A mentally slow man works in a lab where a "smart" drug is used on a mouse. When he takes the drug, he becomes smart, but finds out the drug will soon wear off. The pain of knowing he will lose his mind is heartbreaking to read.

11 - 1984 by George Orwell.  Another dystopian future, this one with Big Brother watching you. Everything you do is monitored and controlled by the government. The future was foretold, even if the year was wrong. We're heading toward the world Orwell predicted, just not as fast as he thought. Maybe by 2022.

12 - Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. A classic sci-fi novel that has influenced our culture for over a century. The angst of a creature brought to life, the way he is treated and his own actions make this a timeless sci-fi tale.

13 - Dayworld by Philp Jose Farmer. Imagine only being alone 1 day per year to be awake.

14 - Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delaney.  Mind blowing in it's ingenuity. World can drive a man crazy.

15 - The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. LeGuin.  A man can dream scenarios into reality.

16 - The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. Yes, on Mars and not Earth, but it is still well-grounded. Also by Bradbury, "Fahrenheit 451" is another top sci-fi novel on the ground.

17 - All Flesh is Grass by Clifford D. Simak. A precursor to The Dome by Stephen King, here advanced aliens (taking the form of purple flowers) wish to impose peace and harmony on a small town by imposing a barrier around it.

18 - War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. The classic tale of invasion from Mars.

19 - 20,000 Leagues under the Sea by Jules Verne. Technically we're below water, but still on planet Earth.

20 - Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. A delivery boy enters the Metaverse and takes on a computer virus. Not quite on earth or in space. It's in between, but we'll include it here.

Honorable Mention:

Contact by Carl Sagan, a great first-contact tale here on Earth.
Jurrasic Park by Michael Crichton.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle .
Neuromancer by William Gibson

As a dj man once said: Remember to keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.
These are the best science fiction books without space flight.

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