Most of us would instantly recognize the famous first words of classic novels like Gone with the Wind (“Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful…”) and A Tale of Two Cities (“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”), but how many of us can correctly identify the first sentences from science fiction classics?
This is a tough challenge. The publication dates on the titles in this test range from 2011 all the way back to 1925! A few first lines are relatively easy but some are impossibly hard – if you can properly identify more than five titles from the list below, you most definitely have my respect. Your science fiction intelligence quotient is most definitely genius level.
Good luck – and let me know how you did!
1. “No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own…”
2. “Before the sun burned, before the planets formed, there were chaos and the comets.”
3. “In the week before their departure to Arrakis, when all the final scurrying about had reached a nearly unbearable frenzy, an old crone came to visit the mother of the boy, Paul.”
4. “Once a guy stood all day shaking bugs from his hair.”
5. “I see in Lunaya Pravda that Luna City Council has passed on first reading a bill to examine, license, inspect – and tax – public food vendors operating inside municipal pressure.”
6. “His name was Gaal Dornick and he was just a country boy who had never seen Trantor before.”
7. “Brother Francis Gerard of Utah might never have discovered the blessed documents, had it not been for the pilgrim with girded loins who appeared during that young novice’s Lenten fast in the desert.”
8. “Sooner or later, it was bound to happen.”
9. “Rocky, can you take a look at this?”
10. “No! I don’t want the mangosteen.”
11. “As the vibrations died down in the laboratory the big man arose from the glass chair and viewed the complicated apparatus on the table.”
12. “Everyone my age remembers where they were and what they were doing when they first heard about the contest.”
13. “The manhunt extended across more than one hundred light-years and eight centuries.”
Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for the last two decades and has written thousands of reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, and BarnesandNoble.com. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. You can follow him on Twitter at @paulgoatallen and get all the latest Barnes & Noble book news from @BNBuzz.