Dune was about how people shouldn't let supermen lead. it was complex. it was an ecological novel. they had quotable quotes like "thou shall not make a machine in the likeness of the human mind". people say it's the lord of the rings of science fiction. the characters are rich, the plot thick. i highly recommend Dune.
I prefer Herbert's other novels like Whipping Star/The Dosadi Experiment
By the way, don't expect the prequels and sequels have even half the quality of original Herbert works.
I'm a big fan of the book 1984, along with the full length works of Asimov.
I had first read TLQ many years ago, and had recently tried to find the story online, only to come across TLA. As hard as I tried, I couldn't come across the original story about the Multi-Vac (which, of course, is TLQ). I became briefly convinced that I had never actually read TLQ, but had made the story up in my head... until I read this post. Turns out I'm not actually genius. Kudos!
(For some reason, I had thought this was one of Asimov's as well...)
I read this book in the eighth grade. I was fascinated by the classes the society was divided into. In the book you were born into a certain class, and I saw many similarities to today's world. It was not the most inspiring, but definitely it was the most interesting.
Slan by A.E. Van Vogt
More Than Human by Theodore STurgeon
Odd John by Olaf Stapledon
The Day of The Triffids by John Whyndham
Earth Abides by George R. Stewart
A Canticle for Lebowitz by...don't remember
any of The Culture novels by Iain M. Banks
The Reality Dysfunction series by ...don't remember
Hyperion series by Dan Simmons
To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmer
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin <---highly overlooked, predates 1984 and Brave New World
But the Absolute Best would be anything by:
Stanislaw Lem (Cyberiad, Futurological Congress, Solaris)
Alfred Bester (The STars my Destination, The Demolished Man)
or Samuel R. Delany (Babel-17, Dhalgren, Trtion, Nova)
oh and Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light and This Immortal are both great.
Some of Philip K. Dick's stuff is great, but everyone recommends him. :)
almost forgot John Brunner, check out Steel Beach, The Sheep Look Up, and Stand on Zanzibar.
Hyperion is basically just a brilliant story, very enjoyable to read.
That said, if I was to criticise Hyperion, it would be that it doesn't fulfill very well one of the important functions of science fiction - the examination of the impact of technology on society.
Which leads to my second recommendation - The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula Le Guin. Le Guin in general is excellent for examining in depth the effects that small changes in technology may have on human society - it follows naturally I guess from the fact that her father was an anthropologist...
Reading Permutation City left me in a dazzled state for days because of the sheer number of reality-altering concepts it throws at you in such a short span.
If by inspiring, you mean something that will give even the most ardent SF addict future shock, then his books are absolutely what you're looking for. His BS in Math and background in programming give him a great perspective on some of the most challenging mysteries of the universe -- and his work still manages to be the hardest SF I've read.
Check out Diaspora if you like what you see in Permutation City.
Permutation city (or any of the Egan's short stories such as 'Closer') is probably the one of the most intense mind blowing experiences I ever had (at least regarding books), it shouldn't even be called "SciFi" it is... something else
BTW: Diaspora is the next book in my list.... I hope not to be dissapointed.
Also, Greg Bear's 'Blood Music' inspired me both with its vision and its jumbling of genres, especially given its publication date (1985).
That being said, I always liked the epics in the style of Poul Anderson, Robert Heinlein, and the like.
What the trilogy has in common with inspiring sci-fi is that it changes the way I look at the present - drastically. His characters are present for the beginnings of what we call science, the current economy and also on slave and pirate ships. He has brilliant physicists who are also alchemists and at war with themselves over not being able to resolve their own contradictions. (Newton) It's fiction about the history of science - and it's weirder and whackier and grander than anything else I've ever read. (Take THAT Tolstoy!( (you hack!)
Of course, I'll also second Snowcrash as a must-read. Same with Cryptonomicon.
Excellent story, well-developed characters. I think what makes this novel so popular is because all of us can related to the main character, Ender, on some level. Highly recommended if you haven't read it. It's too bad the sequels aren't nearly as good.
A programmer on a road trip through Siberia picks up two hitchhikers, who recruit him for the ideal job: to take over the computation center at the research institute of enchantment and applied magic. Fantasy sets the mood, but the book is really about people who love what they do because it's challenging and meaningful and fun.
One of my unfinished projects is translating it to English.
Childhood's End by Clarke: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Childhood%27s_End
Foundation series by Asimov: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Foundation_Series
City by Simak: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_(Clifford_D._Simak_novel)
You've probably seen movies based on his stories, including: the Minority Report, Total Recall, Blade Runner, Screamers, A scanner Darkly and a few others.
While I have a long list of favorites, I can't readily think of one that would stand out as inspiring. Virtually any good sci-fi book is impressive as it's a result of imagination at work, but this does not equate to be motivating.
So in this light the question is not that simple at all. I'm very curious to see if there's an answer to it :)
Got it ! Jules Verne, The Mysterious Island. I read when I was 14-15 years old and the amount, details and clarity of science exposure in the book was really astounding. In a very positive, inspiring way.
I've never read 1984 (I hope to when I make time), but I understand that they are similar. In fact, I heard that "We" was the inspiration for 1984.
Brave New World
I love dystopias, and these four have always seemed to work together, to me.
Personally the one that inspired me the most was the Foundation trilogy, with its nerd-propelled universe.
Dune is also astoundingly good, though after the first three, the quality goes downhill (slowly, but surely). Definitely lots to think about.
Rendezvous with Rama left me breathless...and I could not put it down until I'd read the last page. I've returned to it a couple of times, and loved it every single time. The later Rama books are deeply flawed, and should have never happened (they were not written by Clarke, and it shows), as they make Rama seem...hmmm, I can't really think of the right word that expresses it. Cheap, dinky, small, something bad. But Rendezvous is a must read for everyone.
Douglas Adams, of course. The whole Hitchhikers' series is a must, while the Dirk Gently stuff is also funny, but not sci-fi and not mandatory.
I mentioned in another thread my love of dystopias, and one of the best ever is The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. She's one of the best sci-fi writers alive (she doesn't exclusively write sci-fi, however). Oryx and Crake is also fascinating.
Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. I enjoy all of Vonnegut's work, but Cat's Cradle is a magical perfect novel.
I don't know if everyone would agree that it's sci-fi, but Mark Twain's Letters from the Earth was an eye opener for me when I was a kid (I went on a Mark Twain kick when I was in elementary school...no one ever told me that all of his books weren't kids books, so I read everything I could get my hands on after being hooked by Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn). Turns out Mark Twain was seditious, heretical, and quite the troublemaker all around.
Hmmm. My favs seem to all start with "The."
Inspired my company: www.endergen.com. Who's goal it is make systems of play that augment intelligence as well as hopefully laterally solve world problems as you use them.
For the morality that you must take responsibility for the consequences of your inventions.
Inspired most of the work on endergen(See Ender's Game Above). Introduced me to the concepts of privacy/security implemented in technical form and the conflict between the two.
Simply the most idea-packed book I've ever read that was actually entertaining. It also has some interesting discussions about meaningful post-singularity life (which are at least partially applicable to our lives today).
But seriously, how has no one mentioned Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy?!
It's a great book with a surprising amount of actual theoretical science (you know, stuff that could technically work). Douglas Adams writes the way I think. I wish I could do that :(
I still believe that a radical (slightly mad) scientist tucked away in his garage lab will come up with the Inertialess Drive and we will all be off the planet at will.
More pragmatically I doubt I could get through this book now and it would be just old hat to anyone post Star Wars.
I Robot: The 3 laws of robotics, robbie, positronic brains, susan calvin. Got the lot ~ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I,_Robot
Still, I think the best SF I've read was Feersum Endjinn by Iain M. Banks.
HHGTTG: Insipired me to keep the relative unimportance of most things in perspective
I kind of wonder about the people who are claiming books like "1984" are inspirational.
Click on your name then click on the number next to "saved:"
For many years I always looked at the animation when I was defragging my windows disk and thinking about the end of Black Cloud. (Hint. The janitor looking at the screen)
"October the first is too late" is another Hoyle classic.
The book will put the timeline of your life into context, outline your limitations, and provide a grandiose example on the importance of communication.
("Ender's Game" and "Stranger in a Stranger Land" are among my top 5, but I thought the gem described above deserves attention.)