Except for the connoisseurs, not many people think of science fiction as an important part of French literature. Yet, in the footsteps of Jules Verne, a precursor of modern science fiction, French literature is a den for science fiction.
Hundreds of space operas, stories of time travelers and post-apocalyptic worlds hide behind the pen of great French science writers.
Here are five highly recommended authors you should try to read.
This list is entirely subjective and based on personal preferences:
Born in 1828 in Nantes (Loire-Atlantique), Jules Verne was heavily influenced by the belief in scientific progress that shaped the European 19th century. The Extraordinary Journeys, a series of 68 novels set to carry the reader around the world while exploring exotic lands in Africa, Bermuda or the seas is the consecrated work Verne is remembered for.
Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea (1870) is his most famous adventure novel in which readers meet and explore Captain Nemo’s Nautilus submarine. Recurring themes in Verne’s books are oceanography and maritime exploration certainly inspired by the author’s childhood spent on the Nantes seaports but also biology, astronomy or geography.
Boulle’s Planet of the Apes (1963) is a successful science fiction novel set on an Earth-like planet where apes are the most evolved species and mankind remained primitive.
The story, heavily influenced by evolution (Darwinism) and the theme of human/animal relationship, tells the story of Earth explorers discovering this planet mastered by the ape society. The success of Planet of the Apes lead to several movies based on Boulle’s novel, including the recent Planet of the Apes (Rise, Dawn, War) franchise.
Pierre Boulle also wrote non-science fiction books such as The Bridge over the River Kwai (1952).
Bordage is a critically acclaimed science fiction writer famous for the space-opera trilogy Les Guerriers du Silence (1993) in which the corrupt interplanetary Naflin Confederacy is threatened to be turned into an authoritarian empire.
The author was praised for creating complex characters with deep personalities. Bordage also wrote the two books series Wang (1996) set as 23rd-century Earth split between for hostile factions: the Sino-Russian Popular Republic, the European Occident, the Sudam and the Great Nation of Islam.
Journalist, science fiction and social science fiction writer among other fields, René Barjavel wrote extensively on what he considered the dangers of war or the mishandling of science for mankind. The Immortals (1973) is an alternate history novel set in our world where world leaders created a secret island to confine and hide people contaminated by a virus which can give immortality to those inflicted by it.
The Ice People (1968) is another successful Barjavel’s novel. In the story, a French scientific expedition in Antarctica reveals the remains of a 900,000 years old civilization which was destroyed by an apocalyptic war.
René Barjavel also wrote several essays on metaphysics as well as dialogues for the cinema industry (for example, Little World of Don Camillo in 1952).
Beauverger’s Le Déchronologue has been praised for its innovating historical setting (Award for Imagination 2010). In the 17th century, French Protestant corsair Captain Henri Villon is hunting European ships in the Carribean Sea looking for strange objects coming from the future.
The Captain’s ship, the Déchronologue is armed with cannons firing time, seconds, minutes and hours risking to alter history. The author decided to write this temporal science fiction story in disorder with chapters not following a chronological order.
Beauverger is also a scenarist, including for video games and the upcoming 2018 Vampyr title published by Focus Home Interactive.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and