Looking for a summer reading list of substance? Try A List Beyond Words: The JOM Top Ten Greatest Works of Materials Fiction Revealed, by The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (TMS) in their July 2015 issue.
The list is a result of a reader nomination and voting process conducted by JOM to select great fictional works that celebrate the impact of minerals, metals, and materials science and engineering on the world.
The July 2015 JOM article, “A List Beyond Words,” details each selection in the top ten. Here’s the countdown:
10. Days of Future Past
by Chris Claremont and John Byrne
Published in 1981, this X-men graphic novel paints a bleak portrait of the year 2013, in which cruel repression against humans with mutant superpowers is enforced by the Sentinels. Many of the X-men in this story line have materials-enabled superpowers, including Wolverine, Colossus, and Magneto.
9. The Mysterious Island
by Jules Verne
Five prisoners of war escape captivity during the American Civil War in a hot air balloon, only to crash on an uncharted island. The brilliant engineer, Cyrus Smith, is the hero of the book as he cleverly deploys the materials available to him to ensure that the group not only survives, but thrives.
by Carl Sagan
An extraterrestrial civilization from the Vega star system embeds instructions and blueprints in a radio transmission to Earth for a machine designed to transport five people to an unknown location. A significant plot point is the process of extracting erbium from ore for a critical component of the machine.
7. A Song of Ice and Fire (series)
by George R.R. Martin
Warring dynasties try to lay claim to the ultimate seat of power, the Iron Throne—just one of the many references to the practical and symbolic importance of metalworking in the medieval society of Westeros.
6. Atlas Shrugged
by Ayn Rand
In a dystopian future, Dagny Taggart, vice president of operations for Taggart Transcontinental, sets out to repair her railroad’s deteriorating Rio Norte Line. She turns to Hank Rearden and his Rearden Metal, a revolutionary alloy, to save her business, despite government interference and conspiracy against industrial progress.
5. Foundation (trilogy)
by Isaac Asimov
Having mathematically predicted the downfall of civilization, Hari Seldon establishes two Foundations to preserve humanity’s collective knowledge, using access to materials as a means to keep the spark of scientific ingenuity alive.
4. The Iliad
Metal defines many of the key plot points of this touchstone epic poem, set in the latter days of the Trojan War.
3. Cat’s Cradle
by Kurt Vonnegut
Felix Hoenikker, an eccentric scientist, secretly invents ice-nine, a substance with the potential of solidifying all the water on earth. As the story unfolds, it demonstrates how profoundly materials science can change the world and how abuse of that power can have disastrous, unintended consequences.
2. Lord of the Rings (trilogy)
by J.R.R. Tolkien
In the fictional realm of Middle Earth, Frodo Baggins, a Hobbit, embarks on a treacherous quest to destroy the One Ring, an ancient weapon forged by the Dark Lord Sauron to conquer the world. The One Ring is just one example of how magical metal and metalworking in Lord of the Rings play a key role in advancing the action of the story.
1. The Kalevala
by Elias Lönnrot
The national epic poem of Finland, The Kalevala elevates iron to the same stature as the four classical elements of earth, air, fire, and water as a reflection of its importance to Finnish history and culture.
The quest to identify the Top Ten Greatest Works of Materials Fiction began in September 2014, when JOM readers were asked to nominate works of fiction with strong connections to minerals, metals, and materials science and engineering. The resulting initial list of 62 nominees was then whittled down to a roster of the 25 strongest candidates, as determined by an ad hoc committee appointed by the TMS Board of Directors. Voting on the final top ten by the minerals, metals, and materials science and engineering community opened on February 1 and closed March 20, 2015.
“Compiling any ‘greatest of’ list is always a challenge. However, I believe that the high level of engagement of JOM readers makes the Top Ten Greatest Works of Materials Fiction very representative of their professional pride and personal interests,” said James. J. Robinson, TMS Executive Director. “Some of the works that made the top ten are a little surprising, and like all such lists, I’m sure this one will be open to friendly debate. But, that’s part of the fun and another example of how TMS advances and builds a sense of community among the professionals that it serves.”