For those of us that are still sad about the downgrading of Pluto’s planet status (shh, I watched Sailor Moon when I was younger and held much fondness for Sailor Pluto) and the subsequent shrinking of the solar system from nine “true” planets to eight, the news that Caltech researchers have found evidence of a ninth planet, another gas giant, lurking out there beyond Pluto is quite exciting. Rather less exciting is the name it’s been given: Planet Nine. It’s been over 150 years since we discovered Neptune and the idea that we may yet have more to find closer to home than the next star system is fantastic and mildly terrifying at the same time – what else might we have missed?
Unsurprisingly, the solar system has played a key role in many a science fiction novel. Here are some wonderfully engrossing reads that take you from our home here on Earth to the edge of the solar system and beyond!
If the Stars Are Gods by Gregory Benford and Gordon Eklund
Expanded from a Nebula Award-winning short story, If the Stars Are Gods tells the unforgettable story of the century-long search of a scientist-monk for the secret of alien intelligent life – a quest which leads him from the time-scoured deserts of Mars to the vast holes in the raging cloud-cover of Jupiter; from the radio winds of Titan to the true centre of a universe where Beings are collected like songs…
Floating Worlds by Cecelia Holland
The resourceful and unpredictable Paula Mendoza, part of Earth Committee for Revolution, is tasked with negotiating a truce between the Middle Planets and the powerful and aggressive Syth race from the Gas Planets, Uranus and Saturn. When her unconventional approach has unexpected consequences, she finds herself on those very same Gas Planets, the only tenuous link between Earth and the Syth Empire…
Imperial Earth by Arthur C. Clarke
Colonists from the entire solar system converge on the mother planet for the 2276 celebrations. Among the influx of humanity is Duncan Makenzie, scientist-administrator from the underground colony of Titan, one of the outer moons of Saturn. Makenzie is not just on Earth for the celebrations, though; he has a delicate mission to perform – for his
world, his family and himself …
Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon
Among all science fiction writers Olaf Stapledon stands alone for the sheer scope and ambition of his work. Last and First Men is one of the most extraordinary, imaginative and ambitious novels of the century: a history of the evolution of humankind over the next 2 billion years, it is full of pioneering speculations about evolution, terraforming, genetic engineering and many other subjects.
The Tenth Planet by Edmund Cooper
The Dag Hammarskjold takes off from Woomera, Australia for the new human settlement on Mars. Planet Earth is being eaten away by uncontrollable pollution, starvation and disease. Its life expectancy is nil. This is the last spaceship, its passengers the last people on Earth with any hope. But it is never to reach its objective. Five thousand years later its captain wakes up to a new world undiscovered in his time and to a bitter experience he must fight alone.
When Worlds Collide by Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer
A runaway planet hurtles toward Earth. As it draws near, massive tidal waves, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions wrack our planet, devastating continents, drowning cities, and wiping out millions. In central North America a team of scientists race to build a spacecraft powerful enough to escape the doomed earth. Their greatest threat, they soon discover, comes not from the skies but from other humans.
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
Private William Mandella is a reluctant hero in an interstellar war against an unknowable and unconquerable alien enemy. But his greatest test will be when he returns home. Relativity means that for every few months’ tour of duty centuries have passed on Earth, isolating the combatants ever more from the world for whose future they are fighting. The Forever War, winner of both the Hugh and Nebula awards, is one of the very best must-read SF novels of all time.
Cosmic Engineers by Clifford D. Simak
“Upon you and you alone must rest the fate of the universe. You are the only ones to save it.” Thus spoke the mysterious Cosmic Engineers to a small group of human beings on the rim of the solar system. Somewhere out there in the vastness of the galaxies lurked the greatest challenge they would ever face…
James Blish’s galaxy-spanning masterwork, originally published in four volumes, explores a future in which two crucial discoveries – antigravity devices which enable whole cities to be lifted from the Earth to become giant spaceships, and longevity drugs which enable their inhabitants to live for thousands of years – lead to the establishment of a unique Galactic empire.