What Books Do You Think Were Ahead Of Their Time And Why?
Posted on 3rd of August, 2018


This is an easy answer; any book written by a woman before the turn of the century was ahead of its time. Just the fact that women had the bravery and determination to put pen to paper in a society where men were calling all the shots and oppressing them shows how far ahead of their time they were. I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that without these brave women who risked everything to tell their stories, literature as we know it today would not have existed. If you are looking for specific examples, how about Maya Angelou, one of the greatest African American memoir writers of her time. Or how about Mary Shelley, the woman who at the tender age of eighteen practically invented the whole science fiction genre with her book, Frankenstein? The list goes on and on with names like Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, Harper Lee, and many others. For the past few years now I have challenged myself to only purchase and read books written by women and it has been a great experience. One of my favorite discoveries has been The Book of the City of Ladies and The Treasure of the City of Ladies, both written by Christine de Pizan, an author who was far ahead of her time.
If you think that it was amazing for Verne to write about submarines in 1870, then prepare to have your mind blown because not only was he not the first to incorporate something like this in his books, but a woman did it back in 1666 already! The woman in question was Margaret Cavendish, the Duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and the book was "The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World." It was a science fiction style book that explored all kinds of issues that wasn't commonly addressed at the time, especially from the perspective of a woman. The author even included herself in the story, which I believe is another novel concept for the time. Most importantly, is the inclusion of a submarine that is used by the protagonist to travel with underwater, something that is sure to surprise a lot of readers; provided that they can find this book.
There are a couple of authors in my opinion who wrote books that were ahead of their time.

1. War of the Worlds by HG Wells - The whole alien invasion thing is a trope at this point and the basis for a multitude of books, television shows and movies, but as far as I know, Wells was the first person to come up with the concept. There have been plenty of other "invasion" stories before Wells, but he was the one that had the foresight to come up with the invaders being from another planet. I only hope that he wasn't "too" visionary and we do actually get invaded!

2. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov - Asimov wasn't just a visionary when it came to the field of robotics, but he was also a source of inspiration for many in the industry. Long before it became a reality, Asimov was already envisioning a future where humanity used robots for the betterment of society. This is quite a contrast to many of the other authors in his field who could only imagine that robots would be evil and end up enslaving humanity. I use I, Robot as an example, but really you could take any of Asimov's books and find something that was startlingly ahead of its time. Even the use of artificial limbs that is a groundbreaking new endeavor was already described in one of his books, Bicentennial Man.

3. Neuromancer by William Gibson - As far as I know, the Internet only became a thing in 1994, but William Gibson already predicted it in his 1984 book, Neuromancer. There may have been some basic form of Internet before that, but nothing like what Gibson describes in the book and what is fast becoming a reality today. If things continue the way they are now, then the Internet of Gibson, which he termed the "Matrix" will eventually be a reality too.

4. Earth by David Brin - Now, this is a bit of a strange one as a lot of people think that this book is just about the author predicting the future. What is freaky, however, is just how many of his predictions actually came true already. I'm not talking general stuff that anyone could have gotten with a lucky guess either. Some of the things he describes in the book really happened, like the nuclear disaster that happened in Japan. The book was written back in 1989 and the setting of the book is 2038, so there is still plenty of time for some of the other predictions in the book to become a reality too. Don't let the fact that Brin also wrote The Postman, which has been forever tainted by that Kevin Costner movie, deter you from reading this book.

5. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein - This one might not seem like a big deal, but Robert Heinlein wrote Stranger in a Strange Land back in 1961. In the book, he mentions water-beds, which is an invention that is very common today, but in reality these types of beds were only patented ten years after Heinlein published his book. I don't know whether the idea was already common back then or if whoever patented the beds got the idea from the book, but I think it still counts as being pretty visionary.
What has always fascinated me is whether a lot of these books that are touted as visionary or ahead of their time were really just luck? No author has a crystal ball or magic ability to see into the future, so the books they wrote were all based on speculation and guesswork. For all the books that we now see as ahead of their time, there are millions of others that missed the mark by miles or are simply forgotten. No offense to all the authors that are heralded for being ahead of their time, but I would love to know how many of them actually anticipated that happening or would they be just as surprised to discover the legacy of their work.

To answer your question, I would say that Arthur C. Clarke was quite visionary, especially his book "2001: A Space Odyssey." He wrote this back in a time when man hasn't even managed to reach the moon yet, although it could be said that the idea of exploring the stars is something that is inevitable, not visionary. I know that a lot of people also consider "Snow Crash" to be a book that was ahead of its time as it deals with online worlds, something which is common now, but unheard of back when the book was published.
Some other genres probably had their fair share of visionaries too, but I read mostly science fiction and there are no shortage of authors who wrote stories that feel like they were way ahead of their time. If I had to pick one I would say Jules Verne, who wrote books like Around The World In Eighty Days, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea and Journey To The Center of The Earth. I mean Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea was written in 1870 and yet Verne based it around a submarine that runs on electricity, which was a concept that was way ahead of its time. Another thing that Verne wrote about that became a reality is lunar modules along with a weapon he describes that sounds remarkably like a taser. It would obviously be folly to assume that Verne had any special powers or insights about the future, but it is very clear that he paid a lot of attention to where technology was heading and must have done a lot of research for his books to come up with these concepts that were far-reaching for his time, but commonplace now.
I think the most obvious answer would be Ulysses (1922) by James Joyce. It would not be an inaccurate assessment to assert that no other book was written in quite the same style as Ulysses back when it was first published. Joyce undoubtedly inspired plenty of authors afterwards, but Ulysses was groundbreaking for its time period.

Another book that was far ahead of its time is Nineteen Eighty-Four. It was written in 1949 by George Orwell and its story, which deals with public manipulation, constant surveillance by the government and continual war, is one that is starting to look more and more visionary by the day. One only has to look at the amount of words from this book that has seeped into the public vocabulary over the years to realize how groundbreaking it was.

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