Sunday, December 03, 2006

50 Most Significant Sci-Fi Novels Meme

Via Cap'n Oblivious:

Below is Time's most significant SF novels between 1953-2006.

The meme part of this works like so: Bold the ones you have read, strike through the ones you read and hated, italicize those that are seriously overrated, and put a star next to the ones you love.

Dust Forms Words note: The original meme used italics for "started but never finished", but because I don't do that with books ever I've replaced it with something more relevant.

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 Trooper, 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

33 out of 50. I don't do too badly, there. Actually, it's entirely possible I've read Childhood's End and/or Caves of Steel and completely forgotten it. For some reason a lot of Asimov and Clarke just goes in one eyeball and out the other. I think it's something about those horrible 70s pulp covers that so many editions of their work are saddleed with. And I've read one-third of the first Foundation trilogy, so do I get a third of a point there?

I have to say I can't completely agree with a list that includes Lord of Light and The Silmarillion and leaves out The Shining, I Robot and Flowers for Algernon, but I guess that's not the point of the meme.

Next post will be actual content, I promise.


Chris said...

I heartily recommend the Michael Moorcock Eternal Champion sequence - although it's an extremely large collection of books... That said, they're all extremely short books! They're available in big compilations these days, making them very good 'value per word'. :D

If you like anti-heroes, start with the Elric sequence (Stormbringer, mentioned here, is the last). It's shocking that this is rated below the Simarilian - and unlike you, I rate the Simarilian higher than Lord of the Rings. (At least it's short!) ;) I do love the BBC Radio Play version of LotR, though. Nice production.

Also, Moorcock's award winning The Warhound and the World's Pain is considerably more significant than the bottom quarter of this list, with the exception of Tiger, Tiger (The Stars my Destination) and Slaughterhouse 5.

My wife rates Mists of Avalon very highly.

I haven't read Timescape, but I recommend Greg Benfords Galactic Centre sequence. Start with Great Sky River, although the best in my opinion is Furious Gulf, but you just can't break sequence on this one. Maybe it's sci fi for physicists, though...

Neuromancer at 6??? I guess this is about significance, and this is the book that destroyed the cyberpunk movement and replaced it with omnipresent dark future chaff - that's pretty significant, I suppose. If we're looking for good stories, though, Gibson's collection of shorts (Burning Chrome) is better than any of his novels in my opinion, although the sequels to Neuromancer are all better than the first one in their own ways.

Not on the list but worth checking out is Walter Jon Williams - his Aristoi is well worth a read, and Angel Station is my personal favourite of the now unpopular "Elite-style" sci fi stories. Not very influential, though, to be sure.

Best wishes!

GregT said...

I have a friend who regularly pimps Moorcock at me. I'll get there some day, I promise.

I met Greg Benford at a convention a ways back, and read Timescape as preparation for said convention, and I have to say I was not particuclarly impressed with either book or man.

I haven't read Warhound and the World's Pain but I'd have a hard time accepting it's more significant than Snow Crash. It's the book that redefined cyberpunk!

Neuromancer's the book that everything between it and Snow Crash are just copies of. Definitely rates highly. Probably should be above Earthsea.

I don't think the list is about good so much as it is about well known and influential.

Xantar said...

You know, seeing Lord of the Rings on that list has left me wondering what this genre is all about nowadays. I mean, is that really a "sci-fi" novel?

And yes, the exclusion of Flowers for Algernon is a tragedy. I read that in my 5th grade class (in Yankee schools, that's around 11 years old) and everybody was bawling in tears by the end.

GregT said...

When they say "sci-fi" novels, I think what they mean is "non-Western genre novels". Note Interview With The Vampire is there too (and deservedly - it's a crap novel, but it's boy-howdy influential).

I've been wondering what the significance of the 1953 start date is. What particular novel were they trying to exclude?