One of the Gen Con panels was about great first lines. The panelists were, me (Paul Genesse), Patrick Rothfuss, Gregory A. Wilson, and Brad Beaulieu. Here is the list of great first lines that I read from during the panel.
Great First Lines:
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.
--The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien 1937
I always get the shakes before a drop.
--Robert. A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers, 1959
Sleeth’s great yellow eyes slid open; behind crystalline membranes, long slitted pupils expanded wide in the ebon darkness.
Dennis L. McKiernan, Dragondoom, 1990
The day they gave me my mask was the first day I felt truly alive.
--Michael A. Stackpole, Dark Glory War, 2000
“I’ve watched through his eyes, I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one. Or at least as close as we’re going to get.”
--Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game, 1985
“We should start back,” Gared urged as the woods began to grow dark around them. “The wildlings are dead.”
--George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones 1996
I am not, as they say, human.
--Brad Beaulieu, A Girl Named Rose
Prince Raoden of Arelon awoke early that morning, completely unaware that he had been damned for all eternity.
--Brandon Sanderson, Elantris 2005
I did two things on my seventy-fifth birthday. I visited my wife’s grave. Then I joined the army.
--John Scalzi, Old Man’s War 2005
It was night again. The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts.
--Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind, 2007
On one otherwise normal Tuesday evening I had the chance to live the American Dream. I was able to throw my incompetent jackass of a boss from a fourteenth story window.
--Larry Correia, Monster Hunter International 2009
In the week before their departure to Arrakis, when all the final scurrying about had reached a nearly unbearable frenzy, an old crone came to visit the mother of the boy, Paul.
--Frank Herbet, Dune 1965