Matt Richtel is a Pulitzer Prize-winning technology reporter for the New York Times. He is the author of A Deadly Wandering and the novels The Cloud and Devil’s Plaything.
Matt Richtel’s brand new book, The Doomsday Equation, just came out in February, and today, Matt stopped by to test your science fiction knowledge by spotlighting 12 of his favorite science fiction reads. There’s a list of authors to choose from at the bottom, and the answers are below that (you must highlight them to see, though.) Good luck!
by Matt Richtel
This is a quiz. I challenge you.
Below are the first sentences or first few sentences from twelve science fiction books that blew my mind. Many are classics. A few are on the margins of science fictions or are relatively new finds. Acts of terrific world creation or magnificent, if nuanced, exaggeration of our own. One book mine. The newer authors, rather than reminding you about, I recommend trying.
But first, take the quiz. Can you match the sentences to some of the genre’s great works? Extra credit if you can guess which books these sentences come from without first looking at the books and names listed below. No, sadly, there is no prize. Just pride. Perhaps, though, the consolation is you’ll be inspired to read on.
- The Hegemony Consul sat on the balcony of his ebony spaceship and played Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C-sharp Minor on an ancient but well-maintained Steinway while great, green, saurian things surged and bellowed in the swamps below.
- “I’ve watched through his eyes, I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one. Or at least as close as we’re going to get.”
“That’s what you said about the brother.”
- There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.
There is another which states that this has already happened.
- A merry little surge of electricity piped by automatic alarm from the mood organ beside his bed awakened Rick Deckard. Surprised – it always surprised him to find himself awake without prior notice – he rose from the bed, stood up in his multicolored pajamas, and stretched.
- All this happened, more or less. The war parts, anyway, are pretty much true. One guy I knew really was shot in Dresden for taking a teapot that wasn’t his. Another guy I really knew did threaten to have his personal enemies killed by hired gunmen after the war. And so on. I’ve changed all the names
- Nine months Landsman’s been flopping at the Hotel Zamenhof without any of his fellow residents managing to get themselves murdered. Now somebody how put a bullet in the brain of the occupant of 208, a yid, who was calling himself Emanuel Lasker.
- Everyone my age remembers where they were and what they were doing when they first heard about the contest. I was sitting in my hideout watching cartoons and the news bulletin broke in on my video feed, announcing that James Halliday had died during the night.
- The Deliverator belongs to an elite order, a hallowed subcategory. He’s got esprit up to here. Right now, he is preparing to carry out his third mission of the night.
- “Salam, your majesty.”
The woman taps on the quadruple-paned glass, thick enough to swallow her whisper and the greeting of her index finger. The beast behind the glass does not stir. It is rolled on its side, heavy eyes closed, heavy paws stretched out, lazy with confidence, even in sleep.
- “Tonight we’re going to show you eight silent ways to kill a man.” The guy who said that was a sergeant who didn’t look five years older than me. So if he’d ever killed a man in combat, silently or otherwise, he’d done it as an infant.
- The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.
“It’s not like I’m using,” Case heard someone say, as he shouldered his way through the crowd around the door of the chat. “It’s like my body’s developed this massive drug deficiency.”
- I’m staring at the insurance man and he’s staring at he me, two cold gray eyes behind old-fashioned tortoiseshell frames, and I’m having this awful and inspiring feeling, like holy moly, this is real, and I don’t know if I’m ready, I really don’t.
Let’s narrow it down for you. Here are your options:
A – Philip K. Dick; Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep
B – Ben Winters; The Last Policeman
C – Ernest Cline; Ready Player One
D – Kurt Vonnegut; slaughterhouse-five
E – Joe Haldeman; The Forever War
F – William Gibson; Neuromancer
G – Dan Simmons, Hyperion
H – Matt Richtel; Doomsday Equation
I – Michael Chabon, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union
J – Neal Stephenson; Snow Crash
K – Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
L – Douglas Adams; Restaurant At The End Of The Universe
Need to cheat a little? With your mouse, highlight the section below to see the answers: