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Robert Altman Week

Monday
Jan182010

« In Which We Count Down The 100 Greatest Science Fiction or Fantasy Novels of All Time »

john harris The 100 Greatest SFF Novels of All Time

by ALEX CARNEVALE

What to read? It is a question asked mostly by women, who comprise the majority of America's reading public. Males make up some teensy other part. Either sex is challenged by a lack of a path through difficult material. It is difficult to know what is best. Although many have made a distinction between the fantasy and science fiction fields, I see no reason to arbitrary draw such a lien. The novels I find I most enjoy straddle the boundaries of the two, which is not to say that hard science fiction and pure fantasy don't retain their pleasures, and many books characterized at such found their way to this list.

At the nexus of the two genres is where the human imagination begins to reveal frightful and hopeful things about our own society. Sometimes I will come across someone reading what looks to me like a really boring book; e.g. anything by F. Scott Fitzgerald or James Patterson or Bill Bryson. Instead look to the vast store of cheap entertainment found in these immemorial classics of the page:

100. The Word For World Is Forest by Ursula K. LeGuin

An extraordinary powerful novel inspired by Vietnam in LeGuin's Hainish series, where one planet gives the gift of interstellar travel to the universe.

99. Sorcerer's Son by Phyllis Eisenstein

An original fantasy with the crucial grasp of how to make magic entertaining and plausible, not silly and random. Castles and sorcerers were never so deftly done.

98. Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress

Kress is in true command in her short fiction, but this was her memorable attempt to capture how our society might change and still endure.

97. The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch

One of his more well-thought out plots with interesting commentary on religion and sacrifice.

96. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

Incredibly entertaining and knowing about all sort of aspects of life, some of which I'd never even thought of before.

95. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

An out-of-nowhere smash with rich detail.

94. The Company by K.J. Parker

Parker's been one of the most exciting new writers to appear in the field. The Company is the best thing written about the meaning and import of war in two decades.

93. An Evil Guest by Gene Wolfe

Wolfe's inspired memoriam on Karl Rove, the Republican party, and the politics of the future. An insanely complex and deep science fiction story lurks below a Lovecraftian blend of Christianity and atheism. Easily the best book of 2008.

 92. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

This list is also about pure readability — these books should flow easily into your subconscious, hopefully inhabiting your dreams. Park did more than that; it inspired an entire generation of fossile hunters, and it did it with a gripping adventure story that was also a pure morality play to the very last. Every time the story is told, we ask ourselves what to do with these beasts out of time? No answer forthcomes.

91. Dhalgren by Samuel Delany

An insane narrator with a lot of time.

90. Camp Concentration by Thomas Disch

Disch killed himself, a harsh end to one of SF's great cult heroes. Camp Concentration is a novel about prisons real and imagined, and its subtlety is convincingly rewarding in comparison to other novels that approach the same. Kafka-inspired, it reminds one of the master. What greater compliment is there?

89. Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner

Sly, understated, and poignantly delivered, Kushner wrote an incredible novel near the tail end of the 1980s. I never really cared for the sequel, but the original should be paired with the protagonist's origin story that she wrote last year and rereleased as one volume.

88. Song of Kali by Dan Simmons

As horror novels go, this one's relatively simple. Like Simmons' brilliant retelling of the death of Charles Dickens in Drood, this isn't all that it appears. Simmons is a preternaturally talented genius.

87. Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

Some call Speaker a sequel to Ender's Game, but the books are vastly different. Here is larger scope, greater torment. Xenocide followed, a worthy sequel before the series grew inevitably stale without a common element or quest. Card would remedy that inefficiency with the Alvin Maker books, his shot at creating an American fantasy.

86. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller

The post-apocalyptic theme is so dumb and I never really liked it until I read Walter Miller's version.

85. Sphere by Michael Crichton

The slightly better book, Sphere had a really strange Barry Levinson movie. It's basically a sub movie recast as a alien movie recast as a psychological fantasy. I have always found its claustrophobic environment enhancing. Crichton's remaking of adventure novels with science fiction was prescient.

84. Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin

The quintessential vampire story turned on its head. GRRM sets his vampire mythos in the legends of the American South, and essentially condemns slavery and blood-drinking as different but the same. A masterful treatment of the Dracula theme.

83. The Alteration by Kingsley Amis

Amis' disturbing vision of England without the Reformation.

82. The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey

In this distinguished and wildly successful stint at world-building, McCaffrey built a fantasy of extreme and exciting possibilities that could capably consider almost any topic.

81. The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

Time travel stories are uniformly bad except when they aren't.

80. Watership Down by Richard Adams

An astonishing novel of anecdotal ecology, the best book ever written from the perspective of the animal.

79. Griffin's Egg by Michael Swanwick

If man evolves and no longer is man, what's left? Swanwick's virtues have been praised recently in these pages.

78. Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

Supreme inheritor of the noir sensibility, Morgan's chilling novel sets a murder mystery in a near unrecognizable version of future Earth.

77. Free Live Free by Gene Wolfe

A waystation for indigents in modern-day Chicago, a time-travel story with balls and depth. Wolfe's haunting and miraculous horror novel is more unnerving that any Eli Roth movie.

76. Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke

Clarke was a decent scribe, but most of his work is a bit on the clumsy side. Not so with Rama, a scattered exploration of how space might fare put in close context with man.

75. Ringworld by Larry Niven

A wonderful out-of-the-box fantasy and introduction to Niven's Known Space universe.


74. Schismatrix by Bruce Sterling

A talented short story writer, Sterling created the perfect collection of this transcendant material with Schismatrix Plus.


73. Old Man's War by John Scalzi

The best science fiction can offer is some concrete re-imagining of what will actually become of us. In the world of Old Man's War, Scalzi consistently poses the bitter questions, and answers them with even tougher ones. By the time he's rehashing Heinlein's usual space colony plot in The Last Colony you feel more bowled over than ever.

72. Maske: Thaery by Jack Vance

Vance's flawless bildungsroman takes up eminent domain in the context of a spy story and moving clash of cultures. A phenomenal example of how to write serious but simple fantasy.


71. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

First and foremost a telling of one of the most intriguing human myths in a very fun way.

70. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

Still feels very cinematic if not very edgy. Bradbury's future history is always fun to relive.

69. Flow My Tears The Policeman Said by Philip K. Dick

Almost everything written about future America is dwarfed by Dick's dystopia. It has now become a SF cliché, but Dick remakes it with thought and verve in this book and the 15th ranked book on this list.

68. The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov

Asimov was a determined technician and an inspired historian. This is a great example of his ability to take a familiar theme and completely flip it on its head.

67. The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson

It is something extraordinary to write with real feeling about places, people and ideas when most of them are invented. Stephenson's extraordinary perceptiveness is the key to this steampunk fantasy, and the plaudits of his readers are his true reward.

66. The High Crusade by Poul Anderson

We always imagine that human cultures that preceded us wouldn't fare well against starfaring conquerors. Anderson undermines this point of view by casting the early English amongst the stars. The English villager is a hearty sort, but Anderson's grasp of what makes alien cultures 'alien' is pitch-perfect. A hilarious book.

 

65. A Song for Lya by George R.R. Martin

A beautiful story about our common empathy for others, life as a kind of parasite.

64. At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft

How to come at Lovecraft but from an angle? Here was one of predictive sensibilities and great zest for the occult. At the Mountains is among his finest work, but there is so much else to recommend.

63. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

When we imbue ourselves with recognition for nonhuman intelligences, we enrich the closeness between all peoples of difference. This message floats about in a terrific but sad novel.

62. Wildlife by James Patrick Kelly

A pitch-perfect classic of the future. Imagine Requiem of a Dream crossed with Hunter S. Thompson's most fevered imaginings. A rewardingly sad story.

61. The Book of Knights by Yves Maynard

The most time-honored standard in fantasy fiction redefined for a new era. A most moral adventure.

60. The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

No knock on Jordan. His series is long and impressive, and full of pleasant malefactions and strange echoes of America's military history. Its characters are numerous and sometimes difficult to track, but the rewards the story provides in the moments it strains to achieve make the journey worthwhile.

59. Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman

The advancement of technology will soon consume our experience of everything, especially how we act as a species. Haldeman describes this triusm and watches the inevitable new humanity emerge from the wreckage of an action story.

58. Nightwings by Robert Silverberg

A novel in three discrete parts, Silverberg's masterpiece of science fantasy imagines a dessicated Earth vividly.

57. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

A small little tale of sheer perfection, Bilbo was such a memorable and worthy person that it felt reassuring to get to know him in such a fashion. Therefore handing off his tale to Frodo seem a difficult and preposterous transition, until you figured out it was all about man's love for man.

56. Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

The doomsday book, the one about death in every molecule of life. Vonnegut writes at his highest level here.

55. Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon

This was his best effort at describing a philosophy in terms of a world.


54. The Book of the Short Sun by Gene Wolfe

Following right after his Book of the Long Sun, this effort takes us to dual planets of Blue and Green, where inhumani stalk people and machines, and Horn tries to unite his worlds.

53. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

His reimagining of his experience in Vietnam as space conquest rendered bloody and mind-numbing. The novella inside, the tale of the soldier's return to a society he no longer recognizes, is a masterpiece in itself, but Haldeman is also interested in turning over in his mind the harshest parts of a military life.

52. Foundation by Isaac Asimov

He imagined civilizations across the stars and an Encyclopaedia Galactica.

51. The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin

A magical fantasy epic, LeGuin wrote slightly down to a younger reader, and she found a new and growing audience to appreciate her impeccable grasp of how individuals interpret and reacts to their civilizations.


50. The Wizard Knight by Gene Wolfe

Wolfe challenged himself by taking the most traditional theme and flipping it around so many times. As effortless as magic properly done.

49. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

Rand took as subject the plight of the individual in a society that attempted to squelch his purpose and initiative at every turn. Through the story of Howard Roark, we begin to appreciate and see for the first time the visible constraints on ourselves that were invisible before. Among the most widely read books ever written.

48. The Demon Princes by Jack Vance

The most entertaining discourse on the subject of revenge and justice short of Kill Bill. Relentless, interplanetary fun along the Gaean Reach with Kirth Gersen and the women he loves and doesn't love. So funny you're still laughing when you start crying, and probably vice versa. Ranks with Vance's finest cultural, social, and moral investigations.

47. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

The simplest and oldest of science fiction conceits: a boy is raised at war to save his people.

46. The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson

A marvelous explanation of world history as pieces of a larger puzzle. Incredibly erudite and incidentally educational.

45. Alastor by Jack Vance

Three vast and inspiring novels on the theme of utopia. The first has an astonishing setting and Vance's favorite invented game: hussade. The second of the two is a comedy of manners to set you up for the last, Wyst, which is every bit as moving and disturbing as the best utopian fiction, and with a more satisfying result.

44. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

Invasion is a classic human story, because of the likelihood that it will happen in our lifetime.

43. Flatland by Edwin Abbott

Math and science are close bedfellows, but it is hard to inscribe such arcane pleasures in the guise of fiction. Abbott solved that difficult riddle marvelously.

42. Farmer in the Sky by Robert Heinlein

His only novel to take place on Ganymede, Jupiter's Moon. It presents incredible understanding of every subject it approaches, first and foremost that of a child growing up into an adult.

41. A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick

The drug culture never had a better advocate and enemy than Philip K. Dick. Great movie, too.

40. Animal Farm by George Orwell

Above all, a very funny book about the intransigence of people to live correctly.

39. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

An incomparable marvel of high and low humor, left and right galaxies. The sequels didn't have as much promise, but Adams always clued you in on the joke.

38. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

His own novel about what men become in war. Very discursive for the time and full of knowing insights.

37. Lyonesse by Jack Vance

A hilarious and exciting fantasy set in the Elder Isles, which sank into the Atlantic Ocean. The series is enchanting beyond anything else in the genre. The middle of the first book provides a vicious shock unique to Vance's distinctive patterning of individuals.

36. Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein

The first military adventure to grip us by our lapels and inform on exactly what war was, why it was waged, and how to go about waging it without losing your soul. As always, the enemy must be nameless and unthinking, until the enemy is no longer as threatening as the thought of continued war.

35. True Names by Vernor Vinge

Vinge's story basically described what would happen when diverse intelligence connected with each other on the internet. He was right about almost everything, and no one had really thought of this before, so the story has retained a certain flair even though Vinge was still improving as a writer of fiction.

34. Ubik by Philip K. Dick

Time travel has gotten so stale that J.J. Abrams plans to use it on all of his TV shows. Dick shows J.J. how it's really done, with plenty of personalities and jawdropping moments in time and space. He never had quite this much fun again.

33. The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons

Man's conquest of the stars is inevitable; Simmons detailed some of the potential complexities with such an arrangement. Hyperion is a wondrous and incantatory setting for some of the best words per entertainment science fiction has ever seen. A wild and amazing ride.

32. Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert Heinlein

Besides its many virtues as a narrative, it is among the finest pieces of anti-slavery prose written by a white man. Heinlein's concerns are many: the rise of poverty, the existence of nationalism and prejudice, the vagaries of wealth. He concentrates them all in this modest tale about a slave bought at an auction by a particularly free-thinking individual, and raised across the stars.

31. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

This was a book for children? I still remember the first confusing words of A Wrinkle in Time, proof that I was not alone in the universe. How they teach this book to young people is beyond me. Even now, mysteries arise and emerge out of each tesseract made real. A book still ahead of its time.

30. A Fire Upon The Deep by Vernor Vinge

Both an immensely moving epic and a hilarious commentary on the primitive stages of the Internet, Vinge created two amazing alien spieces and never lost track of the personal in a world where gods appear out of the Beyond.

29. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov

He was just never bad, and here he was at his immortal best with an examination of the interconnections between all that is and will be. A true classic with fantasy undertones. Like most masterpieces, its straddling of genre is part of the charm.

28. More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon

What happens to homo sapiens after we die on the inevitable altar of natural selection?

27. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

The idea that anyone who destroys knowledge is a sinister creature is directly related to this novel, and it has guided many estate lawyers.

26. 1984 by George Orwell

As a ripping good read, it's slow and methodical in parts. Its ideas are so clearly subsumed within our culture that it seems funny to think that really this was a utopian fantasy of serious horror. If this book didn't exist, we'd still be waiting for someone to write it.

25. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

Matheson's version of the vampire apocalypse, it is a far deeper mix in print, and funny, too.

24. The Cadwal Chronicles by Jack Vance

Like much of Vance's work, its ostensible subject is the ownership of everything. Cadwell is a secluded planet as nature observatory where a class of elites dominates the undermen Yips. In three volumes it approaches titanic questions philosophical and strategic, and dispenses with them for the fun of revenge and the purity of moral action. Wayness Tamm is among fiction's great heroines.

23. Lost Horizon by James Hilton

The gorgeous, austere fantasy classic that inspired a generation. Lost Horizon is about coming to terms with the limits of your own life.

22. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

So much of what we think is unusual flows from this book.

21. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Fantasy as a triumph granted to us upon crossing of worlds.

20. The Fifth Head of Cerebus by Gene Wolfe

The greatest novella ever written in any genre, this is Wolfe's tribute to Proust, and these two crazy planets are a lot more interesting than upper-caste France. Also one of the great mysteries written in English. Thank God for Gene Wolfe.

19. A Song of Ice And Fire by George R.R. Martin

With Martin 1100 pages into the fifth book, what better time to revisit a deep and complex epic than before its HBO premiere?

18. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein

The simplest science fiction story infused with the basic tenets of Heinlein's philosophy of free love. The best alien ever makes you want to taser E.T. until he stops his weird relationships with young boys.

17. The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay

Awe-inspiring scope that never falters or is intimidated by the wild fantasy. More real and telling about humanity than The Great Gatsby.

16. The Master and the Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

The finest non-Orwell repudation of communism packaged in a wild novel that rises above doctrine, creed, or power.

15. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

His conceptually fascinating contradiction of Triumph of the Will. Only Dick could turn something so natural and simple into the darkest of mysteries.

14. All My Sins Remembered by Joe Haldeman

Most books have some things, but this book has everything. Haldeman's underappreciated masterpiece is begging to be a big budget film, but for now it's available whenever you want to leave this world, and go beyond it. The best presentation of mystery in the genre since Edgar Allen Poe.

13. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

It has been the major influence of many horrible things, but also many wonderful things. Where it leans on frivolity and wishful thinking, it is forgiven. It's really hard to read these today with how far things have come, but an important effort at the time.

12. Planet of Adventure by Jack Vance

The greatest series of adventure novels ever written. Real thrills that come from Vance's immaculate ear, revolutionary style, and deftness with plot. The most fun you can have with books.

11. Dune by Frank Herbert

Why is this arcane tale of sand people such potent fodder? It is at once a brilliant retelling of the destruction of the Earth and a cipher for all our wants and deepest desires. Herbert's supreme achievement is a bit dated today, but still brilliantly structured and legendary.

10. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

We've all seen the Kubrick movie, which captures this brand of madness better than most films. The subject of violence in our culture gets short shrift because artists opine against it constantly. Thus genre can encompass what traditional fiction cannot.

9. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin

Her Hainish cycle is full of vastly different works, but the strange people of Winter are an unforgettable brew. LeGuin is the supreme master of how we belong to our cultures more than our institutions. Her descriptions of intercourse among the native peoples are among the most startling in all of history. Incredibly, she would go on to top this perfect novel.

8. The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe

Jack Vance's Dying Earth was a comedy of errors; Severian's tale is a tragedy beyond measure. Wolfe basically rewrites Earth's languages and culture until they look unrecognizably familiar. Close to perfect as a series of four can get.

7. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

The theme of utopia is never properly done for obvious reasons. Huxley built on other's shoulders to ask all the right questions. In doing so, he raised his subject matter above its usual weaknesses and infused it with a new point of view, the objective of any truly great piece of literature.

6. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

She came first, and there was no better. Even today, Frankenstein is no more than a mere afternoon's reading, but it raises questions that never stop being summoned by the recesses of the modern mind. Maybe the only myth that truly matters.

5. Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

It is the hardened tale of revolution in a strange and sacred place. As far as contemporary fantasies go, it has to look up on no other. Awesome sorcery, staggering statesmanship, perfect action and characterization. A nearly perfect novel.

4. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin

How do we live with each other without breaking our societies apart? LeGuin took the two sister planets concept to unbelievable heights. Shevek's tale is possibly the only one that matters, and I won't be shocked if it inspires a religion and saves us all at some point down the road.

3. The Dying Earth by Jack Vance

Vance picked up this world again in the early 1980s with the masterful Cugel's Saga and finished it off with Rhialto the Marvellous. Along with the original eponymous volume and quite easily the greatest fantasy sequence ever devised in The Eyes of the Overworld, these books provide everything of what we seek from literature: wry humour, great sorrow, masterful prose and dialogue, and intricately beautiful plotting.  

2. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein

Science fiction and fantasy have played roughly equal part in this list, but there is a fantasy element to Heinlein's ultimate masterpiece that rises above the rest. Heinlein imagines a world both breaktakingly real and manifestly impossible. He makes us care more deeply about unliving things that never existed than the people in our own lives. This is the import of fantasy. Then you have that the story of Mike and Wyoh and his friends builds on technology...geology...physics...politics...human rights. There is no subject that is not more enriched by this text's understanding of it.

1. The Book of the Long Sun by Gene Wolfe

Gene Wolfe wrote these four novels in one incredible gasp. The series begins with the quiescent Nightside the Long Sun, where we are brought to Viron, the place of all our deepest hopes and desires. Like any great tale, it begins in the darkest poverty and ends in it. Three more books follow, each more entrancing and mystifying than the last. The Book of the Long Sun is really one novel, Wolfe's rewriting of the generation starship theme for modern readers. Wolfe is a Catholic — he converted when he married his wife — and his convictions are colorfully borne, yielding lessons for atheist and the most indoctrinated among us. Naturally, our protagonist is a man of considerable faith. Wolfe's imaginings are more real to me now than many actual events, managing to mercilessly strip ourselves of what we believe it is to be human until all that is left is our humanity.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He is a writer living in Manhattan, and he tumbls here.

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Reader Comments (294)

You missed "The Man Who Folded Himself" by David Gerrold

January 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJack Conner

No William Gibson. Makes for a poor list.
Moon is a Harsh Mistress rated highly --- pleased to see that, doesn't get the respect it deserves. Would have liked to see the epic "Time Enough for Love" in the list too.

January 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBoomzilla

No mention of Octavia Butler, Alastair Reynolds, Harlan Ellison, Paul McCauley, Alfred Bester, Stanislav Lem or Stephen Baxter, but Ayn Rand is included. Hmm...

January 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick

Any list of "the best SF/F books" that includes something written by Ayn Rand, who wrote neither SF nor Fantasy but psuedo-literary philosophy (psuedo-philosophy?) becomes quite clearly just a list of books that you like.

January 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel

I would never attempt a list like this.
The genre is so vast. I read shitloads of sci-fi and have for years but could barely scratch the surface.
The only thing about reading these books is that the lesser ones fade into the background as time passes. There are books on my shelf I read 6 months ago and don't remember. But I'll always remember the first time I read certain ones. Some of my fave scifi authors only wrote 2 books.
Names have already been mentioned but I agree there are a lot of glaring omissions on this list. That probably means you havent got around to reading those yet. Just like I haven't got to a lot of the books that did make this list. I have taken note though and will def look for some of these at the used book shops which I usually get my best stuff at.

January 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphonecard

Maybe it's just me, but I was looking for the Dark Tower series to appear at some point. I found it to be a very compelling mix of scifi and fantasy. One of Stephen Kings best works IMO.

January 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterinferno

Hyperion, one of the two best science-fiction series of all time, yes. Saw it.

The other, The Saga of Pliocene Exile, wasn't there.

January 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdmarks

Someone said

"However, it is generally agreed that the first Tacoma Narrows bridge fell because the engineers did not get the math right, not because of a typo in some warlock's spell. "

Thanks for an excellent short story idea.

January 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdmarks

Gene Wolfe has more imagination on one page that most authors have in an entire novel. His flair for the use of the word is unrivaled.

Also, I agree that Calvino's Baron in the Trees and Invisible Cities belongs there as well. Even after being translated from Italian to English the prose remains crisp and beautiful.

Great list. More brainfodder for me

January 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterUncasone

Octavia E. Butler's Parable of the Sower changed my complete outlook on the way I live my life. She is probably one of the best American writers to come out of the 20th Century and more than mops the floor with the Ayn Rand tripe pedaled here. Her book, Kindred, is a brilliant re-imagining of the traditional vampire world.
No Neil Gaiman, but yes to Jurassic Park?
Where is the Charles de Lint? Yet another genre straddling author who manages to modernize the fantasy genre without sacrificing what makes fantasy writing beautiful. I recommend Dreams Underfoot as a starting point.
No Islandia?!!? One of the original whole world/ realm conflict stories?
Island of Dr. Moreau?
HG Wells? Jules Verne? Come on! I know they are obvious, but they are classics for a reason. 20,000 leagues is still terrifying in its exploration of the darkness of humanity and our inability to comprehend one another.
I could go on. As said before, the author needs to edit. Other than the PKD and le Guin, most of the authors should have made 1, maybe 2 appearances tops. Also, where do time travel books fit in? Jack Finney's Time and Again is very well researched and engrossing but not a traditional Sci-fi. Same goes for the Outlander Series.

January 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCharlotte

oh!
Space Trilogy by CS Lewis. Despite the obvious biblical overtones a very strong story of what humanity means and society's ability to ignore the humanity in themselves and others.

January 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCharlotte

I love Moon i s a harsh mistress for the storytelling - but the premise is absurd - you would just grow the grain in caves on earth

January 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commentered_finnerty

Slaughterhouse-Five wasn't fiction, which is why it got banned. It shouldn't be on this list. The book exposed war crimes committed by the allies and its inclusion is a disservice.

January 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSypc

I can't believe you didn't rate "A hitchiker's Guide..." number 42.

January 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commentertwwren

Many of the comments have suggested deserving authors who weren't on the list.
Am I the only one who feels Cordwainer Smith requires representation? The Instrumentality, Game of Rat and Dragon, Ballad of Lost C'Mell, etc? Pick one, if you would.

January 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermike

Robert Zelazny - Lord of Light is missing

January 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

The Peace War by Vernor Vinge must be on the list.

January 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFabster44

The best you've never heard of: The Ler Trilogy by MA Foster.

I was happy to see Vance. My favorite of his: Emphyrio.

Glad to see Mieville: be sure to read The City & the City.

Zelazny, Dickson, Lem, Octavia Buler, Edgar Pangborn, Glen Cook, all deserved a spot in place of some duplicates you have there.

But find the Ler Trilogy; you'll be glad you did.

January 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChasM

Nice list. The Master and the Margarita and Flatland are inspired choices.

On the other hand, I agree with most of the omissions mentioned, especially Stapledon, Lem, Bester, & Gibson.

Some other that come to mind: James Blish's Cities in Flight, Frederik Pohl & Cyril M. Kornbluth's The Space Merchants, Gateway (better IMHO than Beyond the Blue Event Horizon), E. E. Smith's Lensman series, Benford's Timescape.

How about Borges, Swift, Voltaire?

January 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFred

Another for Riddley Walker.

January 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGuther

No Homer, Swift, Dafoe?

January 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDave

A good collection although a bit too much PKD.
Also where is Fafhrd & The Gray Mouser?

January 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLamont Cranston

Any purported list of the Top 100 SFF that does not include Alfred Bester's "The Demolished Man" or Clarke's "Childhood's End" anywhere in it -- I won't even mention the lack of an entry for the admittedly-dated-but- still-excellent-and-historically-important-stories-because-he-was-among-the-First-and-the-Best Jules Verne -- while including such works as Crichton's "Sphere" (and I do like Crichton, but come on, "Sphere"?) instantly reveals the limited experience, or lack of discerning talent, or bias -- or all three -- of the list preparer.

But thanks for the recommended reading list.

January 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLTCUSARet

I think this would have been better suited if it had separated the two categories. My first thought was that it's so slanted towards sci-fi, and the comments on the fantasy. The Lord of the Rings an important effort? To hard to read now? That sounds more like personal opinion then anything else.

Nice try, but I think this list isn't that good.

January 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTim

First, many of these are series and not novels, so you lose points right off the bat.

Second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth:

Baroque Cycle but you leave out Cryptonomicon?

No Bujold? Seriously?

Sphere and Rendezvous with Rama? Both mediocre attempts at familiar themes.

No Zelazny?

Wheel of Time?

January 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDrewdad

A lot of great books on the list, must have been hard to keep it to just 100. I'm surprised that there is no Iain M. Banks.

January 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFelonious Monk

Where is PJ Farmer? China Mieville? Fritz Leiber? Greg Bear? Andre Norton?

January 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercarmie

When was this list compiled? Nothing from this century? How about "Spin" by Robert Charles WIlson, or any of the Pandora's Star/Commonwealth Trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton

sorry this list lacks

January 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSteve L

There's a lot to disagree with here and a lot I haven't read but that's part of the fun of lists. I agree with the above suggestions of Prachett, Gibson, Riddley Walker, Verne, and especially Lem. Some others:

Fritz Leiber
We - Zemayatin
The Phantom Tollbooth rather than Danny Champion of the World
Out of the Silent Planet / Perelandra - Lewis

Two I haven't read but might fit:
A Voyage to Arcturus
The Worm Ouroboros

January 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy

Sorry, I somehow missed the 100 of the prior comments... didn't mean to rehash what's been said. I still strongly recommend Zemayatin - pre-revolutionary Russian dystopia.

January 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy

I think there should be a Terry Pratchett amongst those. He is after all amazing & Discworld books are unique.

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterVal

Forgot to say, deffinately Anne McCaffrey's Dragon books. Great you included her.

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterVal

Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials"?????????
Certainly we sci-fi buffs have the good sense to ignore the 'teen novel' label and see these books for the masterpieces of our time.

January 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLelabear

I scrolled down to see if you did list 100, and you did! Bookmarking for reference/later reading. I'm pretty new to the sci-fi genre, so I need all the help I can get.

February 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarina

I have read most of these books. But I really love to read "The Dying Eearth". It is the best book I have ever read.

February 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterImran Maqbool

No Alfred Bester (The Stars My Destination or The Demolished Man)?

No Eric Frank Russell (Three to Conquer, Sentinels of Space)?

No "Doc" Smith? (Gharlane of Eddore will be miffed...)

No A.E. van Vogt (Weapon Shops of Isher)

Some of us used to read science fiction for fun.

February 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFred Pruitt

No Stephen Baxter novel? Are you kidding me?

Fail!

February 3, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermario

Okay, it's a list. Lists never please anybody (except maybe the list-maker) and there's few things that can ever be expected to please everybody. So it's necessary to take such things with a grain of salt.

That said, I was a bit confused to see Crichton, Shelley, and Rand here. If the intent was to include readable authors who have been influential or widely read, then the list is still lacking quite a bit of Verne, Wells, Lewis and Robert E. Howard. Also, the typos are inexcusable.

But I do appreciate the attention you give to Vance and Wolfe; they're two of my favorites, although it may border on the excessive (An Evil Guest didn't do it for me either). Wasn't expecting Nabokov. No Calvino, though?

The list works better if you ignore the ranking and read it simply as a list of good books that fit into the SF/F category.

February 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGoldenPigsy

How is neuromancer not on this list? it is a pioneering cyberpunk novel and it is william gibson at his best. i also am disappointed that roger zelazny's works are not on this list. surely lord of light and the chronicles of amber are better reads than some of your later choices. while i do agree with much of your list, you seem to have a slight bias with jack vance and gene wolf. don't get me wrong; wolf is a fantastic writer. but he doesn't have the same substance that heinlein, assimov, and clark do. these authors, may not be as well written or possess wolf's talented way with words, but they do weave deep, complex themes that we can relate to in the past, present, and future in great works of science fiction. lastly, i will probably be flamed for this, but i think spin robert charles wilson is a better read than the novels from 80-100.

all in all decent list.

February 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCase

Although the first 150 or so pages of Tad Williams book City of Golden Shadow is slow, the reamaining 2850 pages of the Otherland Series are phenomenal. Williams' detailed development of multiple fantastical virtual worlds by itself is reason enough to read this series. Add-in the awesome storyline and this series is at least as "wild and amazing" as Dan Simmons' Hyperion series.

February 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGary

Wow, the comments provide as a good a list as the original list
Keep Posting!

Radix - A. A. Attanasio

February 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRiver Rat

WHAT? HOLD THE PHONE, NO 2001: A Space Odyssey??!!?!?!?
WORST LIST EVER!!!!

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlittle biirdy

I really can't understand how the LOTR is hard to read "with how far things have come." I don't think the genre has really advanced much and beyond a few examples doesn't really try. Overall its placement is fine, there are many better books, but the description is retarded. Its like some idiot complaining because someone uses big words. Then failing to mention how hard dune is to read and follow after complaining about LOTR is weird.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commentergrundler

Good list. I'm a huge Wolfe fan. Can't imagine anyone thinking Long Sun is his best, but to each his own. Gave me some ideas about what to read next, though. Other books you might consider are The Well at the World's End, Shriek, Veniss Underground, Midnight's Children, Wolfe's Soldier Series. Once and Future King,

February 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commenternamewithheld

Not sure why everyone is picking on Rand...
A major part of science fiction and fantasy writing has always been political commentary. Did not any of you pick up your copy of 1984 when the year rolled by?
I was saddened to see Stanislaw Lem missing in this list, though. Then again, you people are talking about "Solaris", his garbage...
Where is Harlan Ellison? Did the bad boy of science fiction also lose his luster?
All the great shorts are not represented -- only one
"Flowers for Algernon"
Wonderful. great story, worth it's word length in gold... but it isn't a novel... it really is not even a "novelette"
it is a short story.
Many many many short stories top anything on this list, even by the same authors.
And then again I must remember... we all have an opinion.
Sometimes the worst in science fiction and fantasy have something to say - -
"Don't Bite the Sun"
find it and read it, you might be surprised.

February 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKiergi

No Philip Jose Farmer? Riverworld was an amazing series. At the very least, To Your Scattered Bodies Go deserves a mention.

March 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

Woohoo! even though the list may not be complete the people commenting make it complete. Maybe there should come a new science fiction list where people can add their own in? life is short, and still so much interesting to read =)

March 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChristiaan

Arthur C. Clarke is not given his due on this list. Childhood's End is one of the greatest books ever. And leaving the Gateway series out (Pohl) is similiarly foolish. Not as bad list though. I guess I will have to read some of this Wolfe guy.

March 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTony

decent list, but you should definitely get rid of tinypic urls and get better scans for the covers. too many are missing!

March 3, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkaf

Um...is that what UBIK is really about?

March 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBoxofwar

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