The most recognizable opening lines in literature

So, I was reading through this list from Entertainment Weekly, feeling chuffed that I instantly recognised about half of them (I haven’t read Harry Potter, but I guessed it from what I’d seen of the movies) and reflected on number 15:

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”
NEUROMANCER (1984), William Gibson

Gibson meant the sky was grey and cloudy, but for the kids growing up today and reading this book they’ll interpret it to mean that it was clear and dark blue. D-oh!

Whenever I tell people about why I read Gibson, that’s the line I always use as an example. It manages to combine a great visual, the voice of the author and the protagonist, while at the same time giving you a fair idea of what the rest of the story will be about. His new stuff is good, but nothing beats the Sprawl stories. Nothing.

My own list would have had more Sci-Fi:

  • No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own.
  • Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.
  • I always get the shakes before a drop.
  • Everything starts somewhere, although many physicists disagree.
  • His name was Gaal Dornick and he was just a country boy who had never seen Trantor before.
  • I looked at my notes and I didn’t like them. I’d spent three days at U.S. Robots and might as well have spent them at home with the Encyclopedia Tellurica.
  • Behind every man now alive stand thirty ghosts, for that is the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living.
  • When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton

To these you could also add:

  • In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth
  • I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents