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November 25, 2006

SF Book Club 50

Via Ian McDonald: "This is the Science Fiction Book Club's list of the fifty most significant science fiction/fantasy novels published between 1953 and 2002. Bold the ones you've read, strike-out the ones you hated, italicise those you started but never finished and put an asterisk beside the ones you loved."  And per Ian's suggestion, <bracketing out> the ones I have no intention ever of reading. 

1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
3. Dune, Frank Herbert
4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
6. Neuromancer, William Gibson
7. Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick*
9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe*
12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
15. Cities in Flight, James Blish
16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
22. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson*
24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling
27. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
<29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice>
30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
31. Little, Big, John Crowley*
32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith*
37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
39. Ringworld, Larry Niven
40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
<48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks>
<49. Timescape, Gregory Benford>
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer

I'm not sure if some of the "loves" would still be there if I were to have reread the book since adolescence.  I'm looking at you, Stephen R Donaldson.

November 25, 2006 in Books | Permalink


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What have you got against Benford? It is probably a little dated and there is an inexplicable reference to the protagonist's large penis, but I thought it was a fine book at the time.

Posted by: Celestial M. Weasel at Nov 26, 2006 5:20:02 AM

Benford's style of "the subatomic particle as hero... and the hero as a large piece of wood" hard sf (or "the inverse square law as hero," "the differential equation as hero," etc. depending on which physical principle happens to be the maguffin of the particular book at hand) doesn't do anything for me. See also the entire works of Greg Bear, Charles Sheffield, etc. I mean, he's not actually *repellent* the way say Heinlein is; it's just I can't see myself ever bothering.

Posted by: Ivan at Nov 26, 2006 7:19:02 AM

I've never met anyone before who hated Ender's Game, or at least admitted to it. So many people rave about it, I thought it was ok. Or is it because Orson Scott Card is a raving loony?

Posted by: house monkey at Nov 26, 2006 8:13:41 PM

I've said it before, but I still think you should give Bear's Queen of Angels a go.

I can't quite fathom The Sword of Shannara being in there. Don't get me wrong, I read it when I was fourteen, right after Lord of the Rings, and I remember loving it. But I probably loved it mainly because it was derivative and far easier to read. Not sure about The Colour of Magic, either - I gave up on it first time round and only went back because I read some extracts of The Light Fantastic in White Dwarf.

Another useful category would be books you finished, didn't hate, but found a bit boring. I'd have to put Ringworld on that list.

Anyway, I imagine (as I'm sure you do, too) this fifty might have something to do with making space in the warehouse.

Posted by: Robin at Nov 27, 2006 8:04:25 AM

I didn't think Timescape was any more character and prose challenged than, say, 50% or more of the books on the list. I have read one or two of this other books which were as-crap-as-most-unremarkable-SF but Timescape was better, I thought.

I am with you on Ender's Game. It was moderately diverting but deeply odious - Heinlein without the self-doubt and soul-searching :-)

Posted by: Celestial M. Weasel at Nov 27, 2006 10:23:53 AM

housemonkey: The Weasel hath said it. Actually, I probably wouldn't have been so irritated by it if people hadn't been praising it to the skies telling me to read it.

Robin: "Books you finished, didn't hate, but found a bit boring" would cover a heck of a lot of that list! (Though, on re-examination, not as many as my first reaction.) Some of the oddities are probably due to "significance" as much as warehouse-clearing: e.g. "Shannara" might be considered "significant" because of its role in establishing the now vast market for doorstopping Tolkien derivatives. But it is bizarre to see things like "A Fire Upon the Deep," the book which almost singlehandedly reinvented space opera, omitted in its favour.

Celestial M Weasel: True, but there are a fair few books on the list I would also mark as "no intention to read" if I hadn't already read them. "Mission of Gravity," for example, whose content can be pretty much summed up as, "Gosh, weird shaped planets would have weird gravitation. How about that."

Posted by: Ivan at Nov 27, 2006 6:04:01 PM