Novels & Novellas

Select New Wave Science Fiction Novels and Novellas: 

For those who are interested in reading some of the fiction which was made during the New Wave, looking at the authors and texts which made the movement popular can also be useful. A few novels are listed below which have been identified by other sources as exemplifying the New Wave’s themes, with synopses*. By exploring these sources, it may be possible to learn more about the styles and techniques utilized by science fiction authors who were a part of the movement.

For more recommendations, HiLoBrow’s 75 Best New Wave Novels provides a more comprehensive list.

*Spoilers for these novels will not be included in the synopses on this list.


Behold the Man by Michael Moorcock, 1969

It makes sense that Michael Moorcock would head this list, since he has been credited with starting the New Wave movement with his editorial heading on New Worlds magazine in 1963 (Greenland, 1983). This novel, published in 1969, exemplifies many themes which the New Wave was known for, including religion and controversial messages (Greenland, 1983). Behold the Man focuses on Karl, a young man who is transported back in time to the first century to meet Jesus Christ, and, as one critic summarizes, what follows is “pretty heavy stuff” (Rogers, 2007, p. 125).


Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny, 1968

The Atrocity Exhibition by JG Ballard, 1970

The Atrocity Exhibition is not a single novel, but an amalgamation of multiple stories into a Frankenstein’s monster of a novel, culminating in what has been described as “Ballard’s most intriguing and infuriating work” (Morrison, 1999, p. 242). With a focus on sexual motifs, death, and assassination, this book exemplifies the more intense, avant-garde works being written during the New Wave.

Dhalgren by Samuel R Delany, 1975

Dhalgren is perhaps the most conventional science fiction novel on this list, a story about the exploration of a mysterious place by a nondescript main character in a setting which happens to have two moons. However, the story itself is more of an exploration of “inner space,” especially concerning memory, since the protagonist begins his story with amnesia (Paddy, 1997). Filled with complex ideas about gender and sexual relations, this book is an interesting look into the kinds of dystopian works which were becoming common in the New Wave.

The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K Le Guin, 1971

The Lathe of Heaven focuses on a man named George whose dreams can literally change the world around him. This power is exploited by a doctor who convinces George to continually change the world in new ways. Race is particularly important in the novel, and the main character participates in an interracial relationship, an act which was still quite frowned upon in 1971 (Johnston, 1999). Exploring themes of control, race, government, and drug abuse, The Lathe of Heaven has been compared to another dystopian novel which contains these themes, George Orwell’s classic, Nineteen Eighty-Four (Johnston, 1999).

Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said by Philip K Dick, 1974

Philip K Dick is perhaps best-known for his novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which would later be adapted for film as the movie Bladerunner. His other works were also interesting contributions to the New Wave, however, and Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, about a television celebrity whose identity is erased mysteriously, is no exception. This novel would be a great introduction for newcomers to Philip K Dick, though its ending has been criticized for being underwhelming (Flow my tears, the policeman said, 1993).


Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner, 1968

Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar is a wholly unique book, a “sneak peek” into a future in which the socioeconomic and industrial pressures of the 20th century have created an overpopulated society, with all of the issues which might follow that kind of change (Bukeavich, 2002). The book’s plot is interspersed with entire sections devoted to world-building, and its inclusion of difficult topics like eugenic legislation and the public denial of any ecological downturn makes it an important piece for science fiction fans and activists alike (Bukeavich, 2002).

References

Bukeavich, N. (2002). Are we adopting the right measures to cope?: Ecocrisis in John Brunner’s “Stand on Zanzibar.” Science Fiction Studies, 29(1), 53-70.

Flow my tears, the policeman said. (1993). Publishers Weekly, 240(20): 76.

Greenland, C. (1983). The entropy exhibition: Michael Moorcock and the British “new wave” in science fiction. Boston, MA: Routledge.

Johnston, L. (1999). “Orr” and “Orwell”: Le Guin’s The lathe of heaven and Orwell’s nineteen eighty four. Extrapolation, 40(4): 351.

List, J. (2009). “Call me a Protestant”: Liberal Christianity, individualism, and the Messiah in “Stranger in a Strange Land,” Dune,” and “Lord of Light.” Science Fiction Studies, 36(1): 21-47.

Morrison, M.A. (1999). “The angle between two walls”: The fiction of J.G. Ballard. Utopian Studies, 10(1): 242.

Paddy, D.I. (1997). Dhalgren. The Review of Contemporary Fiction, 17(1): 181.

Rogers, M. (2007).Moorcock, Michael. Behold the man. Library Journal, 132(4): 125.

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