Classics Club Monthly Meme: Question #42 – Science Fiction and Mysteries

The Classics Club

On the 26th of each month the Classics Club post a question for members to answer during the following month. It’s been a while since I last participated so I’ve decided to join in with this one. The question below was contributed by club member Fariba:

“What is your favourite mystery or science fiction classic? Why do you think it is a classic? Why do you like it?”

I haven’t read a huge number of classics from either of these genres, so rather than pick favourites I’m simply going to write about a few books I’ve enjoyed which fall into each category. First, let’s look at classic mysteries…

Mysteries

And Then There Were None The first author to come to mind when I think about classic mysteries is Agatha Christie. Although I haven’t read all of her books yet (not even half of them), I’ve loved most of those that I have read, particularly And Then There Were None. It’s such a simple idea – ten strangers are cut off from the world on an isolated island and start to be killed off one by one – but the solution is fiendishly clever!

My next choice is from the Victorian period: a book which TS Eliot famously described as “the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels”. It’s The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, a novel which centres around the disappearance of a valuable Indian diamond. As anyone who has read it will know, the mystery itself is almost secondary to the wonderful array of memorable narrators, especially Gabriel Betteredge, the elderly servant.

With my interest in history, I also enjoyed The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey, in which a detective recuperating in hospital decides to amuse himself by trying to solve the mystery of Richard III and the Princes in the Tower. In 1990 this book came top of the British Crime Writers’ Association’s Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time list. I haven’t read any of Tey’s other mysteries yet, but I have A Shilling for Candles on my shelf to read soon.

Science Fiction

The Midwich Cuckoos A few years ago I read and loved The Midwich Cuckoos, a classic science fiction novel about a mysterious phenomenon which occurs in a quiet English village. I was (and still am) intending to read more of John Wyndham’s books, but haven’t got round to it yet. I know some of his other novels are regarded as being better than this one, so I’m looking forward to trying them for myself.

HG Wells is one of the most famous authors of classic science fiction and so far I have read two of his books – The Island of Doctor Moreau and The Time Machine. I enjoyed both of these novels but I didn’t find either of them entirely satisfying. In the case of The Time Machine in particular, I felt that there were a lot of ideas which could have been explored in more depth. I’m sure I’ll read more of Wells’ novels eventually.

If I can also class dystopian novels as science fiction, there are quite a few that I’ve read including, years ago, 1984 by George Orwell and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and, more recently, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Otherwise, I really haven’t read much science fiction at all and would love some recommendations!

Have you read any classic mystery or science fiction novels? Which are your favourites?

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8 thoughts on “Classics Club Monthly Meme: Question #42 – Science Fiction and Mysteries”

    1. I’ve read one or two of Dorothy L Sayers’ books, but not the ones with Harriet Vane which everyone says are the best. I’m looking forward to reading those.

  1. I have thoroughly enjoyed all of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries I have read; only one left to go! I have also enjoyed a lot of the mystery Charles Dickens puts into some of novels e.g. Bleak House. You’ve reminded me that I really need to read more Agatha Christie, as I’ve still only read Murder on the Orient Express ! And, as you’ll know from my post on this meme, I loved The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham, but that is the only novel I have read by him. I really must read more – The Midwich Cuckoos and The Chrysalids are high up on my list to try to read next.

    1. I have read A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of the Four, but I can hardly remember them so I should really re-read them at some point. The Day of the Triffids is on my Classics Club list – I’m really looking forward to it. 🙂

  2. Great choices – can’t go wrong with Agatha Christie! And I do recommend HG Wells The War of the Worlds which I prefer to either of the ones you’ve read. John Wyndham is a favourite of mine – Chocky is a bit different from normal sci-fi and I love it. Other authors -hmm. For crime, have you read any Ngaio Marsh? Or Gladys Mitchell is supposed to be good – I’m hoping to try her myself soon. And for sci-fi, Isaac Asimov is a must – The Gods Themselves would be my recommendation. And I’ve recently fallen in love with Ray Bradbury…

    1. I’m definitely planning to read more books by HG Wells and John Wyndham as I don’t think I’ve read the best of their work yet. I’ve never read anything by Asimov or Bradbury, but maybe I should. As I said, I’m not a big sci-fi reader, but when I do read it I usually enjoy it! I love vintage crime, though, and Ngaio Marsh is on my list of authors to try.

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