Brief Plot Synopses of
Novels which have Won the
Hugo, Nebula and/or 1st Place Campbell awards
This list also indicates whether or not the novels have been into movies. Although the novels which have won Hugo and Nebula awards are essentially all classics and are among the favorite works of the genre, most have never been made into films. Movies and novels are two very different story-telling mediums and what works well as a novel doesn't necessarily work well as a film. Yet, the continued success of science fiction films and the popularity, along with the increasing ease of bringing high concept, fanciful visuals to the screen through advanced technology and CGI, guarantee that more of these novels will receive film treatments in the future.
In addition to films based on the full-length novels listed below, it is worth noting that some Hugo- and Nebula-winning stories and novellas have been made into films:
- "The Bicentennial Man" by Isaac Asimov (1976); film: "The Bicentennial Man" (1999), starring Robin Williams
- "Enemy Mine" by Barry B. Longyear (1980); film: "Enemy Mine" (1985), starring Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett Jr.
- "Sandkings" (1979) by George R. R. Martin; made into an episode of "The Outer Limits"
- "A Boy and His Dog" by Harlan Ellision; film: "A Boy and His Dog" (1975), starring Don Johnson, directed by L.Q. Jones
- "Animal Farm" (1946) by George Orwell; made-for-TV movie: "Animal Farm" (1999), starring Kelsey Grammer, Ian Holm, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Julia Ormond, Patrick Stewart, and Peter Ustinov
The Mule (printed in Foundation and Empire), Isaac Asimov (1946 Hugo)
An unexpected event threatens to unravel Hari Seldon's plan to restore the Galactic Empire: a powerful mutant empath named the Mule who conquers worlds by controlling emotions.
The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester (1953 Hugo)
In the future a class of telepaths has developed among humans. One of their roles is in law enforcement, where they arrest people before they commit a crime.
They'd Rather Be Right (retitled The Forever Machine), Mark Clifton and Frank Riley (1955 Hugo)
A machine the government ordered built to forsee catastrophes is able to make ordinary people telepathic--and immortal.
Double Star, Robert A. Heinlein (1956 Hugo)
A down-and-out actor is hired to replace a Martian dictator.
The Big Time, Fritz Leiber (1958 Hugo)
Amazon.com: "Doctors, entertainers, and wounded soldiers find themselves treacherously trapped with an activated atomic bomb inside the Place, a room existing outside of space-time."
A Case of Conscience, James Blish (1959 Hugo)
Jesuit priest attempts to determine the nature of an alien species which seems to lack theology, but which has ethics identical to Catholic teachings.
Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein (1960 Hugo)
Heinlein's classic and controversial novel about war features lots of ethical and philosophical examination of the topic, along with the story of a young man's training and subsequent involvement in a war against insectoid alien invaders.
Film: "Starship Troopers" (1997), directed by Paul Verhoeven
A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr. (1961 Hugo)
After a nuclear war, the eventual rebuilding of society is viewed from the vantage point of a Catholic monastery in Utah.
Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein (1962 Hugo)
New expedition to Mars brings back Michael Valentine Smith, who was raised on Mars by indigenous Martians, and is thus wise enough to start a new and improved religion: the Church of All Worlds.
Stranger in a Strange Land is widely read, yet it is potentially (and delightfully) offensive to a wide variety of people. The book ridicules (directly or through parody) astrology, Pentecostalism, atheists, scientists, Christianity, televangelists, politicians, the media, women, men, philanthropy, materialism, Hinduism and many other things. Yet the entire story is allegorically a retelling of the birth and ministry of Jesus and the formation of Christianity. The main protagonists are the founders of a new religion, the Church of All Worlds. Many aspects of religion are forcefully defended. Furthermore, the narrative explicitly describes the continued, post-mortal life in heaven of various characters. Different, separate heavens are affirmed, so that the central religious beliefs, of Christians, Muslims, Hindus and others can be simultaneously true.
The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick (1963 Hugo)
In an alternate timeline in which Germany and Japan won World War II, a man writes a book about an alternate timeline in which they did not.
Way Station, Clifford D. Simak (1964 Hugo)
War veteran has lived in the backwoods of Wisconsin where he manages an alien way station, a stopover for aliens in a galactic transport system. Only, Earth isn't part of the galactic civilization, and this man's role is kept secret.
The Wanderer, Fritz Leiber (1965 Hugo)
The world reacts as a wandering planetoid approaches Earth.
...And Call Me Conrad (re-issued as This Immortal), Roger Zelazny (1966 Hugo)
A mutant born with natural longevity is asked to be a tour guide for the generally decent aliens who occupy Earth.
Dune, Frank Herbert (1965 Nebula; 1966 Hugo)
Epic of the far future set on Dune, where Islamic-Catholic sects battle for control of valuable, mutagentic spices mined on this planet with giant sandworms.
Film: "Dune" (1984), directed by David Lynch
Miniseries: "Dune" (2000), directed by John Harrison
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, Robert A. Heinlein (1967 Hugo)
The moon, which has been turned into a penal colony, revolts in an attempt to gain independence.
Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny (1968 Hugo)
People in a technologically advanced future have created a world based on ancient Hinduism, but a rebellious Buddhism starts to emerge.
Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner (1969 Hugo)
Set in the near future, the author is angry about lots of environmental and social problems.
The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin (1969 Nebula; 1970 Hugo)
An emmisary of an emerging galactic civilization of humans journeys to a world where people have changed so that people are without gender, or are both genders.
Ringworld, Larry Niven (1970 Nebula; 1971 Hugo)
A diverse crew of humans and aliens journeys to a newly discovered ancient alien artifact: an artificial habitable ring that completely circles a distant sun, and thus has essentially limitless space.
Planned film: produced and directed by Phil Tippett and Robert Mandel [Link]
To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer (1972 Hugo)
Sir Richard Burton finds himself, and everybody who ever lived, on an artificial world with one long river running through it. Whenever anybody dies, they wake up in a fresh new healthy body on some other part of the river.
Upcoming TV series: "Riverworld" (2001), based on Farmer's series, which began with this book
The Gods Themselves, Isaac Asimov (1972 Nebula; 1973 Hugo)
Mankind discovers a parallel dimension populated by a very alien species with three genders.
Beyond Apollo, Barry N. Malzberg (1973 Campbell)
An astronaut returns from a mission psychotic and/or wanting to write a best-seller about his experiences.
Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke (1973 Nebula; 1974 Hugo; 1974 Campbell)
Astronauts and cosmonauts journey to a strange cylindrical object which has appeared in nearby space.
Planned Film: project being developed by Revelation Entertainment, with David Fincher as director [Link]
Malevil, Robert Merle (1974 Campbell - tie)
In post-apocalyptic France, a few individuals inhabit an ancient fortress where they work out their own, new forms of society.
The Dispossessed, Ursula K. Le Guin (1974 Nebula; 1975 Hugo)
A world and its sparsely populated moon have grown far apart in the ways their two societies function.
Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said, Philip K. Dick (1975 Campbell)
A celebrity talk show host finds himself in a parallel world where he doesn't exit in this Dicksian reality bender.
The Forever War, Joe Haldeman (1975 Nebula; 1976 Hugo)
Through the effects of time dilation, a soldier lives over a thousand years of Earth's history, and witnesses massive social changes.
The Year of the Quiet Sun, Wilson Tucker (1976 Campbell)
U.S. military operatives and a irreligious biblical scholar travel 20 years into the future to a Chicago ravaged by race wars.
Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, Kate Wilhelm (1977 Hugo)
All humanity has lost the ability to have children naturally, and so must use cloning.
The Alteration, Kingsley Amis (1977 Campbell)
Story of a castrato singer in an aternate history dominated by Catholicism.
Gateway, Frederik Pohl (1977 Nebula; 1978 Hugo; 1978 Campbell)
Mankind discovers an abandoned alien gateway which can transport them to distant planets.
Dreamsnake, Vonda McIntyre (1978 Nebula; 1979 Hugo)
A young woman heals the sick with the help of an alien companion: the dreamsnake.
The Fountains of Paradise, Arthur C. Clarke (1979 Nebula; 1980 Hugo)
Scientists build an elevator to space on a site considered holy by Buddhist monks.
The Snow Queen, Joan D. Vinge (1981 Hugo)
The corrupt Snow Queen's control of the planet Tiamat is challenged by her clone.
Downbelow Station, C. J. Cherryh (1982 Hugo)
A tale of the lowerclass on a space station.
Foundation's Edge, Isaac Asimov (1983 Hugo)
Second book in the classic Foundation Trilogy, about the rise and fall of a galactic empire.
Startide Rising, David Brin (1983 Nebula; 1984 Hugo)
Advanced aliens want to bring humanity into the galactic civilization.
Neuromancer, William Gibson (1984 Nebula; 1985 Hugo)
The s.f. sub-genre of cyberpunk is born in this novel of a world where information is the currency of choice and people use full neural interfaces to jack into the Net.
Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card (1985 Nebula; 1986 Hugo)
Children are trained as combat pilots in Battle School to repel an alien invasion.
Planned Film: script being developed; optioned by Fresco Pictures [Link]
The Postman, David Brin (1986 Campbell)
In post-apocalyptic America, a wanderer unwittingly rekindles hope by re-establishing the postal service.
Film: "The Postman" (1997), directed by Kevin Costner
Speaker for the Dead, Orson Scott Card (1986 Nebula; 1987 Hugo)
The galactic civilization of humanity doesn't realize that Ender Wiggins, reviled as the Xenocide who destroyed a sentient species, is also the "Speaker for the Dead," the author revered for telling of that species' worth. Now a third sentient species has been discovered on the Portuguese Catholic planet of Lusitania. But this seemingly peaceful species has apparently murdered human scientists for no apparent reason.
The Uplift War, David Brin (1988 Hugo)
Aliens help mankind "uplift" chimps and dolphins to fully sentient status.
Cyteen, C. J. Cherryh (1989 Hugo)
Political and technological intrigue in a world of cybernetics.
Hyperion, Dan Simmons (1990 Hugo)
A Canterbury-esque novel in which a handful of people with very different backgrounds (including a Jew and a Catholic priest), journey to lair of the Shrike, the enigmatic and powerful alien creature worshipped by a new religion.
The Vor Game, Lois McMaster Bujold (1991 Hugo)
Vorksogian series. Set in a chivalrous future human society.
Barrayar, Lois McMaster Bujold (1992 Hugo)
Vorksogian series. Chivalrous political and cultural intrigue on the planet Barrayar.
A Fire Upon the Deep, Vernor Vinge (1993 Hugo)
Two human children lost on a primitive planet are of major importance to all civilization in this galaxy-spanning epic.
Doomsday Book, Connie Willis (1992 Nebula; 1993 Hugo)
Woman travels back in time to Europe's Black Plague.
Green Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson (1994 Hugo)
An epic novel about the colonization of Mars.
Mirror Dance, Lois McMaster Bujold (1995 Hugo)
Vorksogian series. Miles and his clone.
The Diamond Age, Neal Stephenson (1996 Hugo)
Earth is divided among global tribes, such as Chinese, Zoroastrians, Latter-day Saints, etc.
Blue Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson (1997 Hugo)
Sequel in series about the colonization of Mars.
Forever Peace, Joe Haldeman (1997 Nebula; 1998 Hugo; 1998 Campbell)
People of wealthy First World nations operate mechanical soldiers remotely to prevent uprisings in the Third World. NOT a sequel to Forever War.
To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis (1999 Hugo)
Time travelers visit 19th century England to gain details for a 21st century project: the reconstruction of a magnificent cathedral.
Babel-17, Samuel R. Delany (1966)
A novel about the influence of language on thought.
Flowers For Algernon, Daniel Keyes (1966)
Experiments gradually increase a nearly-retarded janitor's intelligence, eventually giving him vast intellect, which he then loses.
Film: "Charly" (1968), directed by Ralph Nelson
TV Movie: "Flowers for Algernon" (2000), directed by Jeff Bleckner
The Einstein Intersection, Samuel R. Delany (1967)
Ancient mythologies, from Orpheus to the Beetles, are replayed by the aliens who have inherited a long-abandoned earth.
Rite of Passage, Alexei Panshin (1968)
Story of the education of a young woman who lives in a space-faring Earth-descended culture, and her rite of passage into adulthood at the age of fourteen: surviving for a few weeks on a primitive colony world.
A Time of Changes, Robert Silverberg (1971)
Examines life on a planet where society has abolished selfhood, and everybody speaks in third person and is radically focused on societal needs rather than individualism.
Man Plus, Frederik Pohl (1976)
An astronaut's body and mind are remade to prepare him to live on Mars.
Timescape, Gregory Benford (1980; 1981 Campbell)
Scientists from 1998 travel back in time to 1962 to prevent earlier scientists from triggering a devastating environmental disaster.
The Claw of the Conciliator, Gene Wolfe (1981)
Set in the far, far future, Earth society is feudal and primitive, with no memory of its technological past.
No Enemy But Time, Michael Bishop (1982)
Scientist travels back in time to prehistoric Africa to discover an emerging proto-human race.
The Years of the City, Frederik Pohl (1985 Campbell)
Atlanta, Georgia in the future, when most people live in congested, self-contained mega-cities, sealed off from the rest of the world by giant domes.
The Falling Woman, Pat Murphy (1987)
Archeaologist Liz Butler gains the ability to link to and experience the lives of people of the ancient Mayan civilization she studies.
Falling Free, Lois McMaster Bujold (1988)
On a space station, children revolt against the corporation which holds them in essential slavery.
The Healer's War, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough (1989)
A nurse gains the ability heal people with her touch during the Vietnam War.
Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin (1990)
Sequel to the Earthsea trilogy: in a world of magic, a widowed witch visits her dying mentor.
Stations of the Tide, Michael Swanwick (1991)
A government agent investigates a powerful being who has gained control of a bizarre oceanic colony world.
Red Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson (1993)
Sequel in series about the colonization of Mars.
Moving Mars, Greg Bear (1994)
The life story of a woman born on the colonies of Mars who eventually helps lead the planet to independence.
The Terminal Experiment, Robert J. Sawyer (1995)
A scientist discovers the "soulwave" a detectable energy signature that enters the body of a sentient being at quickening, and departs at death. The discovery has widespread ramifications. Also, this scientist's consciousness is duplicated in three different forms inside a computer, but they escape into the worldwide Net, and one of these computer consciousnesses is a killer.
Slow River, Nicola Griffith (1996)
A woman from a wealthy family is kidnapped, but her family doesn't want to pay the ransom. She is rescued by a street-wise person named Spanner, and then converts to lesbianism.
The Moon and the Sun, Vonda McIntyre (1997)
Mariners bring a captured alien to the court of the king of France in the 18th century. The Pope and Catholic advisors consider the nature and status o the visitor.
Parable of the Talents, Octavia Butler (1999)
A small new religious group known as Earthseed struggles to emerge while a fundamentalist Baptist preacher and his new "Christian America" denomination wage a violent wave of assaults against other religious groups.
Observations about novels which have won the Hugo or Nebula awards
There is no implied purpose or utility to the following section. It is the result of some odd reflections generated during a research project involving every novel that has ever won a Hugo or Nebula award. The only "candidates" for the "awards" (observations, really) given below were the 66 novels which have won a Hugo or Nebula award up through 1999.
Slightly Inane Observations Regarding the Content of Nebula/Hugo-Winning Novels
Most imaginative setting: Ringworld
Best artificial intelligence: Jane in Speaker for the Dead
Scariest villain: The Shrike in Hyperion
Least speculative: Slow River
Most pastoral: Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang and Way Station; runner-up: Rite of Passage
Hardest to find: ...And Call Me Conrad
Best nurse: The Healer's War; runner-up: Stranger in a Strange Land
Most active dead people: To Your Scattered Bodies Go; Stranger in a Strange Land and The Terminal Experiment
Most Nazis: To Your Scattered Bodies Go and The Man in the High Castle
Most little kids: Ender's Game and Falling Free
Best exploration of ventilation ducts by kids: Rite of Passage
Most Christian: A Canticle for Leibowitz; A Case of Conscience; Speaker for the Dead and Doomsday Book
Most Hindu: Lord of Light
Most Buddhist: The Fountains of Paradise
Best Jewish character: Hyperion
Best Latter-day Saint character: Moving Mars
Best Muslim character: The Terminal Experiment
Best performances by the Pope: The Moon and the Sun; A Canticle for Leibowitz and Way Station
Most references to Amish people: Foundation's Edge and Moving Mars
Main characters whose wives are ceramics sculptors: Man Plus and The Terminal Experiment
L.R. Hubbard Award for starting a new religion: Stranger in a Strange Land
Kama Sutra Award: Stations of the Tide
Blair Witch Award - Cheapest story to make into a movie: Flowers for Algernon; runner-up: Timescape
Rather Inane Observations Regarding Titles of Nebula/Hugo-Winning Novels
Nebula/Hugo-winning novel with the SHORTEST title: Dune
Nebula/Hugo-winning novel with the LONGEST title: The Diamond Age, or A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer
Nebula/Hugo-winning novel with the WORST title: Barrayar
Title least indicative of plot: Flowers For Algernon
No, this isn't a trilogy: Way Station; Stations of the Tide and Downbelow Station
Also not a trilogy: Timescape; A Time of Changes and No Enemy But Time
Still not a trilogy: The Forever War; The Healer's War and The Uplift War
Definitely not a trilogy: The Demolished Man; Man Plus; The Man in the High Castle; Neuromancer and The Falling Woman
YES, this IS a REAL trilogy: Red Mars; Blue Mars; Green Mars
That's an actual place: Stand on Zanzibar
That's an actual guy: The Einstein Intersection
At the pet store: The Mule; Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang; Dreamsnake and To Say Nothing of the Dog
The moon: The Moon and the Sun and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
And the stars: Startide Rising; Starship Troopers and Double Star
Fun and...: The Vor Game and Ender's Game
Page created 7 April 2000. Added plot synopses 11 August 2000. Movie information added 9 January 2001. Last modified 18 January 2001.
Research supported by East Haven University.
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