It took all damn day to decide this week's topic, but now that I have :-)
Man has been obsessed with the future and space for... well forever. I could go in to the Hindu and South American references to flying ships, Greek and Middle Eastern references to grander civilizations... Nope. I'm gonna go with what I consider that standard of science fiction excellence.
Dune by Frank Herbert. You don't have to read any of the rest of the books- it can be read as a stand-alone. Paul Atreides follows the path of A Hero With A Thousand Faces... he is hero, leader, and prophet. And Herbert mixed various aspects of mankind's motivations to create an epic of biblical proportion.
As a stand-alone it's an epic. As a launching pad, it's a bulwark that book after book were thrown against and it's stood beautifully.
This is what every sci fi book should judge itself against regardless of what "genre" it's in.
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
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