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A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens (1843)


This ageless classic about Ebenezer Scrooge and his discovery of the meaning of Christmas is an all-time favourite. The miserly Scrooge, of course, 'bah humbugs' his way through yet another Christmas while mercilessly exploiting his employee Bob Cratchit. Worse still, he doesn't spare a thought for Cratchit's lame son Tiny Tim. After a few ghostly visitations a rethink is in order.





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Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
by Lewis Carroll (1865)


The now-familiar story of a young girl who falls into a rabbit hole and ends up in a bizarre nonsensical world inhabited by an array of talking animals and characters with warped senses of humour. The unflappable Alice handles everything in a very sensible British kind of way. Readily available as a two-fer with the equally surreal sequel 'Through the Looking-Glass' (1871).





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Flatland
by Edwin A Abbott (1884)


A mind-boggling mathematical treatise about the inhabitants of a two-dimensional world, told from the point of view of one A Square. Contact with the 3D world turns things on end in the stuffy class-conscious society of Flatland. A brilliant and wryly humorous attack on Victorian England that is enjoying a well-deserved renaissance.





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She
by H Rider Haggard (1886)


An important book in the historical development of fantasy and a runaway bestseller in its day. Three men head off to Africa in search of a lost society. There they encounter the beautiful white goddess Ayesha - "She-who-must-be-obeyed!" From there the secret of immortality becomes central to the story. Almost as good as Haggard's 'King Solomon's Mines'.





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A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
by Mark Twain (1889)


A Connecticut Yankee gets a bump on the head an wakes up in medieval England at King Arthur's court. He introduces 19th-century technology to the place and, naturally, things get a bit topsy-turvy. Twain's biting social satire remains as enjoyable and relevant as the day it was written and helped set the stage for the 'steampunks'.





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The Picture of Dorian Gray
by Oscar Wilde (1891)


Well-known story of a man who has his portrait painted and wishes that it would age while he remains young. His wish comes true and he quickly sinks into a life of debauchery. The painter, Basil Hallward tries to make sense of it all, while his friend Lord Henry Wotton gets his kicks from urging Gray further into the depths. Has some typical Wildean wit and humour, but not his best.





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The Wood Beyond the World
by William Morris (1894)


Generally regarded as the first great fantasy novel ever written, craftsman and social philosopher Morris pointed the way for all that followed. A simple romance set in a medieval never-never land, the hero flees his loveless wife and eventually ends up battling a dwarf to free the maiden he loves. Seminal groundbreaking fantasy.





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The Jungle Book
by Rudyard Kipling (1894)


Indian-born British author Rudyard Kipling returned to the land of his birth in 1882 as an assistant newspaper editor. By the end of the century he was a seasoned writer, penning the Jungle Book stories according to a tried and true formula. By giving animals human qualities he delivered lessons in morality, his most famous character being the jungle boy Mowgli who was raised by wolves.


Pioneers of Fantasy
19th century books from the pioneers of fantasy
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