Soon you'll venture back into the bosom of your family — who may not have heard of any science-fiction books you've read lately. Fear not: Here are five books with science-fiction influences you can talk to your Uncle Clarence about.

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Not Now but Now by MFK Fisher
Food writer MFK Fisher's only novel follows a spoiled, beautiful, wealthy young woman named Jennie who is somehow able to jump from one decade to another, as each time period proves to end badly for the willful girl. A morality tale with a time trick (and trains! lots of awesome trains!), Not Now but Now is a little known scifi-ish gem from an unexpected source.

Empire of the Sun by JG Ballard
Ballard's autobiographical tale of surviving the Japanese occupation of China as a young boy during WWII was seen as a major departure from the new wave of science fiction he pioneered in Crash and Memories of the Space Age. Upon closer inspection, however, Empire exhibits all the tell tale signs of a "Ballardian" novel. According to the Collins English Dictionary "Ballardian" is defined as "resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in J. G. Ballard's novels and stories, especially dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments." A 10 year old British aristo separated from his parents in a hostile, war ravaged environment? Yeah, I'd say that definition is pretty spot on.

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Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
Inhospitable atmosphere? Check. Expensive as hell expedition? Check. Terrifying yet incomprehensibly beautiful landscape? Check. Imminent death from the elements a very, very real possibility? OMG CHECK. Into Thin Air may ostensibly be about mountain climbing, but any sci fi fan worth their salt recognizes a book about space exploration when they see one.

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Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome
Possibly the funniest book ever written about the Thames, Three Men in a Boat and Three Men on the Bummel served as the inspiration for Connie Willis' witty time travel/alternate history novel To Say Nothing of the Dog. Fans of Douglas Adams, Caroline Stevermere, and Agatha Christie will giggle themselves anglo reading this book.

Diamond As Big As the Ritz by F Scott Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald's only foray into the fantastic, Diamond As Big As the Ritz is a morality tale of perpetual slavery, a James Bond-ian villain cloistered inside a mountain stronghold, said Bond-ian villain's God complex, and laser shooting planes. This ain't no Bernice Bobs her Hair, son. This is some serious Outer Limits business.

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