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CUSFS Recommendations List (2014)

Requests for recommendations come up often in CUSFS discussions. In order to save ourselves the trouble of repeating the same things ad nauseum, we sacrificed several hours of our life and put together this list (or rather, this list of lists) to serve as a first reference. The books are grouped by genre, though quite often the lines are blurred.

I've attempted to include descriptions where I could, but obviously I've not read all the books on this list. If there are any gaps you can fill in, do e-mail me (fhd21). You can also get in touch if you feel very strongly about adding something (or removing something), though I can't guarantee anything will come of it.

Without further ado, here is the list of CUSFS recommendation lists:

  1. Classic Science Fiction
  2. Hard Science Fiction
  3. *topias
  4. Space Opera
  5. Punk Punk
  6. Classic Fantasy
  7. Epic Fantasy
  8. Real/Parallel Worlds
  9. Institutional Magic
  10. Horror
  11. Miscellaneous

Classic Science Fiction

These books could probably have gone under one of the other science fiction categories but are included here because they're particularly important in the development of the genre. They include 19th century precursors to science fiction as well as representative books by the great writers of the 20th century.

Hard Science Fiction

Hard science fiction tends to focus more on the "science" than the "fiction". As a general rule of thumb, it avoids relying too much on things beyond the possible, and often explores the ramifications of a single development (often some sort of faster-than-light capabilities) on the future of human society.


A selection of utopian and dystopian fiction. A distinction can be made between those books (such as Nineteen Eighty-Four) where the dystopia is the story, and those which merely use utopian or dystopian settings to tell a story. Both are included here.

Space Opera

"Spaaaaaaaaace." -- Binney

Space opera is the science fiction equivalent of epic fantasy. Quintessentially represented by Star Wars, space operas tend to be very large in scale and feature typically monomythic plots.

Punk Punk

What on Earth does the -punk suffix mean? No one really knows. From steampunk to cyberpunk via salvagepunk, though, these novels are influenced by a particular aesthetic in their settings which is somehow instantly recognisable.

Classic Fantasy

Like the classic SF list, these are major books which have informed the development of the fantasy genre in the last century and a half or so.

Epic Fantasy

To avoid getting bogged down in the debate of what precisely we mean by epic fantasy, let's just say that it includes at least some of these elements: a large cast with multiple point-of-view characters, some sort of good-vs-evil plot, large geographical scale (often with the associated geopolitics), extreme length, and dragons. As a general rule, the bigger the scale the more epic the fantasy.

Real/Alternate Worlds

Books set in the real world or some approximation of it. Genres like urban fantasy and alternate history fall under this heading, as do some things slightly further afield.

Institutional Magic

This list covers books featuring magical instutitions (often schools or universities) and also those which treat magic itself as an instition within, for example, the confines of government.


It's scary.


Does what it says on the tin.