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top 50 SF books

This is a list of the 50 most significant science fiction/fantasynovels, 1953-2002, according to the Science Fiction Book Club. Bold the ones you've read, strike-out the ones you hated, italicize those you started but never finished and put an asterisk beside the ones you loved.

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 (Can I pre-hate this one? No? Fine.)
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 (I swear, I have tried many times. I don't know what's wrong with me.)
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury (I read this when I was like 12 and have no memory of it whatsoever.)
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 (I intend to read this.)
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 (Have a copy, intend to read it.)
29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice* (Loved it at the time of reading.)
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 (Intend to read if for no other reason than to understand all the fuss.)
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 (Seriously? Isn't this considered a sad Tolkein ripoff?)
49. Timescape, Gregory Benford
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer


Sad for my performance on this list, I just don't like science fiction that much. I like science, and I like ficiton, but I don't like science fiction.

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( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
jwiv
Nov. 15th, 2006 03:06 pm (UTC)
Digging around, it seems that the reason Shannara may be on the list is that epic fantasy had fallen out of favor in the late 70's. Shannara is credited as having reintroduced it into the public mainstream.

tzel
Nov. 15th, 2006 03:08 pm (UTC)
The Sword of Shannara? I mean, the only good thing about that is that there's a big sacrifice in the end and the hero doesn't get the girl.
snidegrrl
Nov. 15th, 2006 03:55 pm (UTC)
I can't remember thing one about it. I also read that when I was like 10.
mountainwitch
Nov. 16th, 2006 02:03 am (UTC)
I thought that was The Elfstones of Shannara . . . The one where the girl becomes a giant tree??

Sword, I always thought, was practically unreadable. I remember at one point thinking JESUS GOD! Not the giant killer spiders again! Can writers just leave the giant killer spiders ALONE?!

If I ever write anything about ginormous killer spiders, please, please kill me.
tzel
Nov. 16th, 2006 01:07 pm (UTC)
Crap, you're right. Ok, Sword of Shannara blew, it was Elfstones I almost liked.
salami_salome
Nov. 15th, 2006 03:26 pm (UTC)
I like a few books that happen to be sci-fi, but I don't seek it out as a genre.
Moreover, why is A Handmaid's Tale not on this list? Granted, it's more dystopian that straight sci-fi, but as this list includes Anne Rice and J.K. Rowling, I don't think it's using such strict criteria.
snidegrrl
Nov. 15th, 2006 03:56 pm (UTC)
Apparently it may not be significant.

HA!!
traceracer
Nov. 15th, 2006 07:35 pm (UTC)
I am totally with you on this one. Though you knew that already.
mountainwitch
Nov. 16th, 2006 02:06 am (UTC)
Yeah! And I'd add Joanna Russ' The Female Man as well. And Octavia Butler . . . Where the hell is Octavia Butler?!
lilmymble
Nov. 15th, 2006 03:33 pm (UTC)
I was about to complain about the quality of the list, but then I realized they are only supposed to be "significant" and not necessarily "Good".
maroonmd
Nov. 15th, 2006 03:51 pm (UTC)
I'm also not a fan... very surprised I've read so many!

5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling
27. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice (Anne Rice is Sci-Fi??? Also, I hate her writing style, even when I like the story.)
30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
31. Little, Big, John Crowley
46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein (not good!)
(Also, I've liked Isaac Asimov in the past, I just haven't read any of these)
angela_la_la
Nov. 15th, 2006 04:10 pm (UTC)
Out of curiosity, may I ask why you pre-hate the Gibson?
snidegrrl
Nov. 15th, 2006 04:28 pm (UTC)
I hate cyber-whatever-bullshit. I suppose by calling it bullshit I am showing my bias. I loathe, personally, plots or concepts that revolve around technology taking over people, or people inserting themseleves into computers, or computers being inserted into people, or people jacking in, or... I hope that sort of explains it. From what I understand that's what that book is about. Add to that that I hate dystopian books/movies most of the time, and you have a recipe for disaster. I already agreed to read John Steakley's Armor someday, as well as Snow Crash, but this one I feel confident I won't be proven wrong about.

As to why I hate that stuff? Or should I say have a distinct distaste for? I think that's a much longer, meandering comment. Maybe a post.
angela_la_la
Nov. 15th, 2006 04:35 pm (UTC)
I would be very interested in reading proposed post!

I would also like to sit down and have a nice long discussion with you about feminism and SF. You know, since I took that class and all. :)
rakin
Nov. 15th, 2006 05:01 pm (UTC)
I think that's a much longer, meandering comment. Maybe a post.

Post post! Your fans call for it.
mikailborg
Nov. 15th, 2006 06:17 pm (UTC)
Most cyberpunk books do suck, and are excuses for people who can't write to publish books full of uninteresting, unsympathetic characters and meandering, pointless plots.

Perhaps because it was the first, IMHO Neuromancer does rise above all that to produce likeable characters (despite the fact that they are certainly anti-heroes), interesting mysteries, and a satisfying finale. (Gibson has proved much less successful at this task in recent books).

Having said that, you still might not like it much. It's not a happy book by any means.

Snow Crash, OTOH, isn't really all that dystopian. It assumes society will get crazier but still function in its weird way, and is stuffed pretty full of both weirdness and thought-provoking ideas. I'd certainly say it's the superior of the two.

I do have to disagree with another poster about Ringworld - I loved it. But then, when we listened to the audiobook on a car trip, Rain wasn't very impressed, so it's clearly a matter of taste. :)
judithiscariot
Nov. 15th, 2006 06:29 pm (UTC)
snowcrash is the best of the stephenson books because it falls apart only 50 pages from the end. the diamond age, for example, and the big u don't make it that far. i think i may have thrown the former across the room in disgust.

re: ringworld. please, tell me, what was the POINT of that book?
mikailborg
Nov. 15th, 2006 06:42 pm (UTC)
Two thigs, I think: Niven wanted to play with the new toy he'd invented, the ringworld construct; and he wanted to experiment with a character who could quite openly and blatantly control the plot (if unintentionally).

I found it interesting for the glimpses we get into Puppeteer and Kzinti socities and for the look at ridiculously huge engineering problems. I'll be the first to admit that plot-wise, it's a bit of a letdown. I'd have preferred meeting the civilization that built the Ringworld over their savage descedents.

Niven likes to wreck civilizations to see what kind of debris they produce. In this, of course, he's not alone. I'm pretty sick by now of visiting the myriad ruins of ancient dwarven / elven cultures produced by modern fantasy authors.
mikailborg
Nov. 15th, 2006 06:45 pm (UTC)
Oh, and I'm with you on Diamond Age. Snow Crash and Cryptonomicon I have found re-readable, but Diamond Age was a chore.
angela_la_la
Nov. 15th, 2006 07:02 pm (UTC)
Heretical thought of the day: it took me literally four tries to get through Diamond Age, but now I kind of love it. The slow START was actually the hardest part for me to get through. Stephenson's books always go one for too many pages, and that gets worse with each one. I just find the actual world of Diamond Age more interesting than any of his other books. Guess I'm a sucker for nanotech?

I agree with Judy that The Big U was unreadable. I lost interest and gave up about 2/3 of the way through, about the same progress I made with The Confusion.
rshackleford
Nov. 15th, 2006 07:15 pm (UTC)
Diamond Age made me SO ANGRY the first time I read it. I reread (audiobooked, really) it recently, and I actually really liked it.

I think Mr. Stephenson needs a better editor. He tries to do too much and it ends up being messy (and often unsatisfying), instead of the "sprawling" I assume he's going for.

That said, Snow Crash is worth the read. Very dry humor.
leenacia
Nov. 15th, 2006 06:36 pm (UTC)
I hate Neuromancer, but like Snow Crash.
(Deleted comment)
snidegrrl
Nov. 17th, 2006 07:25 pm (UTC)
i have heard from many snow crash fans that this one will be the exception... i am willing to give it a shot, perhaps fooslishly. :)
schpahky
Nov. 15th, 2006 04:18 pm (UTC)
I too have attempted Mists of Avalon several times to no avail. I only keep it out of guilt.
snidegrrl
Nov. 15th, 2006 04:28 pm (UTC)
Same here!!! I have a copy on my shelves right now.
angela_la_la
Nov. 15th, 2006 07:05 pm (UTC)
Is there some particular reason everyone should (or wants to) read that? I couldn't even make it past the artwork and back cover blurb to take it out of the library. I don't mean this in a snarky way, just like, should I look past that? Is it really good or just something a lot of people grew up on?
judithiscariot
Nov. 15th, 2006 04:29 pm (UTC)
oh my god Ringworld was a piece of crap
judithiscariot
Nov. 15th, 2006 04:32 pm (UTC)
also, amusing: i've read the first six but it goes downhill from there. let me state for the record that i also hated stranger in a strange land.

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
13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
22. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling
27. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
39. Ringworld, Larry Niven
42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
rshackleford
Nov. 15th, 2006 07:19 pm (UTC)
Childhood's End, over 2001? What the hey, Science Fiction Book Club.
y2kdragon
Nov. 15th, 2006 08:11 pm (UTC)
And Harry Potter over Hitchhikers? Must have been put together by people who didn't graduate college until after 1997.
( 30 comments — Leave a comment )

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