Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Look Out! It's a Book Meme!

Below is Time's (EDIT: Niall points out that this is not a Time list at all, but a Science Fiction Book Club list) 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 you started but never finished and put a star next to the ones you love.

NOTE FROM ME THAT IS NOT PART OF THE MEME: It's very fashionable to diss on lists like this, sometimes for legitimate reasons (the decided lack of books by non-white males, for instance), but I actually take them kinda seriously. I mean, books are my job. For real, now. Of the books I haven't read below (only about a third if I'm counting right), I own copies of some and plan to at least attempt the rest. Also, since I can't bear to present a list without editorial comment, I am presenting the list WITH editorial comment. Lo, I am wily.

1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien* - Aside from the John Christopher books and some fairy tale books here and there, this was probably the first genre book I read. Between the ages of 12 and 14 I'm sure I read the whole thing about a dozen times.
2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov - I'm leery of Asimov, 'cause from what I've read of him is mostly distinguished by the wooden prose.
3. Dune, Frank Herbert - The mistake was in reading on. The books get steadily worse as the series continues.
4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein - Did you know that the Police did a song based on this book? It's one of Andy Summers' pieces, only released as a B-side (and in the box set). Andy sings "I likes to eat my friends, I make no bones about it." It's kind of brilliant in a deeply weird way.
5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin* - I know that people talk about these books as kids/YA books, but I'm pretty sure I didn't grok much of this trilogy when I was fourteen. I guess some kids are smarter.
6. Neuromancer, William Gibson* - I don't remember a thing about this book except that occasionally I would read a sentence and have to put the book down because I couldn't believe he used words like that. He's sort of the anti-Dick, in a way.
7. Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke - I know that I read 2001 and 2010 both, and they were two of the most forgettable books ever.
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick* - That scene where he finds the parallel police precinct? BLEW MY MIND COMPLETELY OUT OF MY HEAD.
9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley - Part of the problem with motivating myself with this one is that I've felt for a while that I never need to read or see anything about the Arthur legends again, ever.
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury - It's good. But the short stories are better.
11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe - I thought this was a really lovely and original series. In the end, though, I don't think I understood it, and emotionally there wasn't much to connect with.
12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.* - Gotta love it. Has anyone read the sequel that Terry Bisson helped polish off? I'm curious.
13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov - See #2.
14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras - Huh. I don't believe I've ever heard of this book.
15. Cities in Flight, James Blish - I have yet to read anything by Blish.
16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett - The only Pratchett I've ever read.
17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison - Not as dangerous now as it was then (I guess?), but some great stories.
18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison - Ellison is many things. Among them, occasionally, is a great writer.
19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester - It's good, but not his best. See #45.
20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany - Of the unread ones on this list, the one I'm most eager to read.
21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey - In junior high I was also a McCaffrey fanatic. Into high school, as well; I probably read all of the Pern books, and most of the others, up through Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern.
22. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card - I've talked about this elsewhere, but I found this book deeply disturbing. See also John Kessel's essay, because I agree with every word.
23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson* - Amazing, amazing books. At least, they were when I read them, which was many years hence. Depressing as all hell, but formative.
24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman - My friend Lynda has raved about this one. The only Haldeman I've read was his stories in the first Thieves' World anthology.
25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl - Pohl is another one whom I have yet to read at all.
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling - Don't listen to the haters. This first book is, in some ways, the best, it's true. But despite her debt to Roald Dahl and a slight tendency to overwrite, Rowling knows what she's doing.
27. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams* - I once had this book taken away from me because I was reading it in math class. Ah, humiliation, my old friend.
28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson - I've heard good things. My vamp fatigue is not as extreme as my Arthur fatigue, so this one will probably be sooner rather than later.
29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice - I didn't cross this one out, although I really wasn't all that impressed by it; I did like Lestat, though, so I think I've since forgiven this book.
30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin - Not my fave LeGuin, to be honest, but it's good.
31. Little, Big, John Crowley* - Required reading.
32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny - People who like Zelazny seem to REALLY like Zelazny.
33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick - Pretty tame as Dick goes.
34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement - I had Hal as an instructor at Odyssey. He talked to us about worldbuilding. That was good, but the sample short story we read before he came was . . . anyway. I'll give this one a shot.
35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon* - I hadn't read Sturgeon at all before this one. I was, I must admit, a bit shocked to discover how good he was.
36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith* - A while ago I started referring to Smith as the Lord Dunsany as SF. I'm no longer exactly sure what I mean by that, but it sounds good and he's a genius, so I'll probably keep saying it.
37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute - Another one I haven't heard of. Huh.
38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke - This one sounds pretty cool. A generation starship, right?
39. Ringworld, Larry Niven - Contains the dumbest fake swear word ever: TANJ.
40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys - For a while in the '90s the magazine I most subbed to was Tomorrow Speculative Fiction, which Budrys edited. He never bought anything of mine, but he usually had some kind of encouraging or constructive comment on his rejections.
41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien - Yeah. I know some Tolkien partisans say this is his best book, but I only made it through it once and that was because I was too young to know better. Read the Eddas instead.
42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut* - Vonnegut is one of my signposts. Love that man.
43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson* - I had a HUGE crush on Y.T. I guess I'm probably not the only one.
44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner - Another one that's somewhere on the shelves or in the boxes, waiting to be read.
45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester* - So very fitting that it won the first Hugo, except that it may have set the bar too high. Wonderful, wonderful book.
46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein - I really need to read this one, so I can participate in those interminable arguments over whether Heinlein was a fascist or not. Hm. On second thought . . .
47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock* - I don't think I really understood the whole anti-hero thing when I was reading these books. But they were awesome anyway, and I should read them again.
48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks - I know, it should be crossed out, but when I read it I really didn't know any better. I am perplexed at how some people will say that at 12 they were rejecting books because of their inelegant prose and derivative storylines. Perhaps I was a dumb twelve-year-old.
49. Timescape, Gregory Benford - Haven't read Benford. Are we seeing a trend? Not so much for the hard SF, me.
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer - Lots of naked people.

Via athene-632* and various Australians.

*Who is not an Australian.


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