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When today’s top science fiction and fantasy authors were looking for inspiration, they turned to the classics. And we continue reading those same books (year after year) because they stand the test of time.
Every month, we’re bringing you a selection of must-read, sci-fi and fantasy classics that you can download for free. In addition to these classics, we’ll update this article with other free sci-fi and fantasy books by up-and-coming authors throughout the month. You can also check back next month for a new list of out-of-this-world free ebooks.
In Flatland, the more sides a man has, the more powerful he is. Triangles are laborers and soldiers. Squares and pentagons are middle-class doctors and lawyers. Hexagons are nobility. Women, however, are straight lines, incapable of advancement in a two-dimensional world. Everything in Flatland is clear-cut and orderly, until the day an average citizen—a Square—dreams of a land of three dimensions. If three dimensions are possible, why not four? Or one? Soon, the Square’s provocative imagination and corresponding adventures threaten to turn the whole of Flatland against him.
First published in 1884, two decades before Einstein’s theory of relativity defined time as the fourth dimension, Edwin Abbott’s Flatland is both a prescient exploration of the unseen and a delightful skewering of Victorian social strictures.
The Big Time
Fritz Leiber (1910–1992) may be best known as a fantasy writer, but he published widely and successfully in the horror and science fiction fields. One of his major SF creations is the Change War, a series of stories and short novels about rival time-traveling forces locked in a bitter, ages-long struggle for control of the human universe where battles alter history and then change it again until there is no certainty about what might once have happened. The most notable work of the series is the Hugo Award–winning novel The Big Time, in which doctors, entertainers, and wounded soldiers find themselves treacherously trapped with an activated atomic bomb inside the Place, a room existing outside of space-time. Leiber creates a tense, claustrophobic SF mystery, and a brilliant, unique locked-room whodunit.
The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth
It begins as a boon for mankind—the creation of the substance Herakleophorbia IV. When fed to farm animals, it causes them to grow to enormous size. But when it is accidentally allowed to enter the local food chain, the consequences prove monstrous: Human children exposed to it grow into giants, reaching forty feet in height.
At first, these giants are tolerated. Then, as they mature, they are scorned. And as they slowly begin to realize their own power and right to exist, they are feared. Humanity must face the dawn of a new era of manmade evolution—while grappling to comprehend the possibility of its own ultimate demise.
Generations after landing on the planet Astra, humankind is still working alongside the friendly aquatic native merpeople to survive and thrive. But young Dalgard Nordis is yearning to see more.
Taking his man-journey, he sets out to find and explore the ruins of a city rumored to have belonged to the Others—the mysterious beings whom the merpeople despise and fear. With this feat of bravery he hopes to prove his worth to the Council of Free Men. But instead his courage will prove costly, as the long-unknown Others are on their way back to the city.
Even more daunting is the news that a starship has just arrived on Astra, carrying those who forced the colonists to flee centuries ago: the people of Earth.
The Battle of Dorking
It is the late nineteenth century, and a country much like Germany is on the move in Europe. It has already beaten its rivals on the continent and mobilized to the Netherlands, provoking the fear of British citizens. Then the nation strikes. Its powerful weapons destroy the Royal Navy, and invasion cannot be far behind.
Written as a hypothetical exercise to raise awareness among average British citizens about the potential danger that a resurgent Germany could pose, The Battle of Dorking earned its place in literary history as the forerunner to the invasion-novel genre, predating The War of the Worlds by almost twenty years. The novel’s drama, which culminates in a fight that will change the course of history forever, thrilled audiences when it was originally released as a serial, and it maintains its power today.
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