February 3, 2008

Top 100 ... er, 23 ... er, 20 Science Fiction Novels

I just came across this website, the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. One of their webpages lists the "Top 100 Novels." Except that, for some reason, they only list the top 23. And even there, they double-count "The Lord of the Rings" as a separate novel along with each of the individual novels. So it's either the top 22 novels or the top 20, take your pick. I've deleted the three individual novels from the list, making it a top 20. Dates in parentheses are publication years.

1. The Lord of the Rings (1954/55) - J. R. R. Tolkien
2. Time Enough for Love (1973) - Robert A. Heinlein
3. The Martian Chronicles (1950) - Ray Bradbury
4. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966) - Robert A. Heinlein
5. Fahrenheit 451 (1953) - Ray Bradbury
6. Ender's Game (1985) - Orson Scott Card
7. Second Foundation (1953) - Isaac Asimov
8. Foundation (1951) - Isaac Asimov
9. Dune (1965) - Frank Herbert
10. Starship Troopers (1959) - Robert A. Heinlein
11. Rendezvous With Rama (1973) - Arthur C. Clarke
12. Foundation and Empire (1952) - Isaac Asimov
13. Pet Sematary (1983) - Stephen King
14. Farnham's Freehold (1965) - Robert A. Heinlein
15. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) - Arthur C. Clarke
16. Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) - Robert A. Heinlein
17. Speaker for the Dead (1986) - Orson Scott Card
18. Have Space Suit - Will Travel (1958) - Robert A. Heinlein
19. Childhood’s End (1953) - Arthur C. Clarke
20. Glory Road (1963) - Robert A. Heinlein

Two comments: Of these twenty, the only two I haven't read are Pet Sematary (I've never read any of Stephen King's books) and Farnham's Freehold (which is surprising, as I've read just about every other Heinlein juvenile). The other surprise is just how few books there are from certain eras. The newest book on the list is Orson Scott Card's "Speaker for the Dead," with his "Ender's Game" the next youngest, both from the mid 80s. Nothing is listed from the better works of the more recent writers: Bear, Brin, Cherryh, Gibson, Robinson, Wolfe, etc. Likewise, a lot of good work from the "New Wave/Dangerous Visions" era of the late 60s/early 70s is missing as well, authors such as Delany, LeGuin, Niven, Silverberg, etc. While I enjoy Heinlein's novels just as much as any other SF reader, seven of the top 20 seems a bit much when other just-as-good-if-not-better novels are not included on the list.

11 comments:

Rob Wagner said...

And nothing from Philip K. Dick? "Total Recall," Minority Report" and "Blade Runner" rank well above "Pet Sematary."

JDsg said...

Exactly. There were actually quite a few authors that I had thought of after writing the post who could make a top 20 list in addition to the ones I had named. Certainly my listing of other worthy authors was by no means exhaustive. Likewise, there's some pre-1950s SF that could easily make such a list (especially a few of the novels in the John Carter of Mars series by Edgar Rice Burroughs).

George Carty said...

Don't buy any books by S.M. Stirling - he's advocated genocide of Muslims on Usenet and in blog comments.

Rob Wagner said...

You're kidding. I read "Dies the Fire" last year and found it okay, not great. But he did have one line in there that gave me pause about his attitude toward Arabs/Muslims. Thanks for the heads up. I will check it out.

Kay said...

A series some of my friends have been going nuts over is by George R.R. Martin. (The first book is called 'A Game of Thrones'.) I've been meaning to start to read it. It's been a hit by those who've read it, but I think that it is still underground.

(P.S. JDsg why are you comments to my comments not showing up in my blog too :-( ?)

JDsg said...

George: Never read him; he sounds somewhat like Orson Scott Card, whose politics veers off to the right (not surprising for a Mormon). Fortunately, what I've read of Card's SF tends to keep politics out.

Kay: I haven't read any of Martin in a long time, although I rather enjoyed his short stories from the late 70s/early 80s (Sandkings, The Way of Cross and Dragon). I'm not sure why my comments didn't take; however, I still have a copy of my last comment, so if you'd like me to, I can repost it, insha'allah.

And to you all, I'm thinking of creating my own top 20 SF novels list, and I'd be more than happy to get all of your input as well.

George Carty said...

If anyone is wondering what I'm getting at on S.M. Stirling, I'll give you it from the horse's mouth:

On killing all male Muslims (also note this was before 9/11)

On the incompatibility of Islam and the scientific-rational worldview

On corporate globalization and the "race to the bottom"

On the insufficient ruthlessness of contemporary Western civilization

On how Muslims are hell-bent to rule the world, or commit collective suicide

On the tenacity of Islam (1) (2)
(this is important because if Islam is the world's most resilient belief system, it can only be destroyed by physically exterminating its adherents).

Anonymous said...

Haha! I have only READ 2 titles on the list..LOTR of course and believe it or not Pet Sematary.

The other titles and their authors dont sound familiar. I would like to think that it was before my time!

And I didnt know Minority Report was from a book!

~rozas~

JDsg said...

Rozas: Salaam 'alaikum, and welcome to science fiction. ;) It's OK that you haven't read most of the books, but I don't consider most of them to be "before your time." Of the 20 books in the list, I've recently re-read several of them, and only one seemed to be truly dated in its writing (The Martian Chronicles). Most of the others, including a few books from the 50s, seem to be as fresh today as when they were written (the benefit of a forward-looking genre).

Regarding Minority Report, yes, that was written by Phillip K. Dick, who died around 1983. Several of his stories and novels have been made into major motion pictures, including Bladerunner (Harrison Ford) and Total Recall (Arnold Schwarzenegger). The dominant themes of Dick's work seemed to be tied up in the questions of "what is the nature of reality?" (what's real and what isn't?), and "what is the nature of humanity?" (what does it mean to be human?). He's an interesting writer.

Of the books on the list, if I was to chose any one for a complete novice to SF, it would be Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game," which is about children being trained to fight an alien race in a military school. It's an excellent book and deserves to be made into a film.

Anonymous said...

Salam JD! Hmm,Science fiction had never been my thing...but I will give it a shot,especially since now I know Minority Report was from a book. I loved the movie..I thought it was such an incredible plot.
But where can I get these books?Kino or Borders should have them? Or maybe I will try the library...

~rozas~

JDsg said...

Wa 'alaikum salaam. All three, but be sure it's Kinokuniya at Ngee Anh City and not one of the others. I haven't been to the new Borders at Parkway Parade yet, so I'm not sure how well stocked that bookstore is yet. The Orchard/Scotts Rd. store will certainly have them. (Actually, for SF novels, Borders is better than the Kinokuniya. ;) )

Minority Report was actually a short story (as was the story for Total Recall); however, the publisher has highlighted the title on the book's cover, so it shouldn't be too difficult to find.