Thursday, August 11, 2011

My favorite sci-fi fantasy books

Something fun... my thoughts on the "Top 100 Sci-Fi Fantasy books": audience picks from NPR's.

Following Russel Arben Fox, I've noted which ones I've read... and I've added some notes. I have one comment in preface: it's hard to believe that all these stories get lumped together in one category; the tone and style varies so much! It's also a shame that they separated these from stories of supernatural horror.

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien

I read it once in middle school, and once when I was thirty. I appreciated it much more upon my second reading (especially the romance). I then got sucked in and read "The Children of Hurin" (powerful, though the quality of the writing might be expected given that Tolkien left it unfinished). Then read the Silmarillion(below).

2. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

Load's of fun... though I may like the Dirk Gently stories better.

3. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card

Clever story... and the series develops in an interesting direction.

6. 1984, by George Orwell

I read it more than once... then saw the movie.

7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

I heard it first on audiotape, then I read it.

8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov

I've read much of Asimov's work, and my favorite story is not on this list ("The Gods Themselves")
9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

Brilliant. Both in concept and execution. I've read it two or three times.

13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell

14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson

16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov

17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein

19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

28. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut

30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess

Read this, and think about the riots in London.

31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein

Really? Decent book, excellent movie, awesome drinking game.

32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams

Didn't think this was Sci-Fi... but a good book. I read it twice; both as child and adult.

33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey

35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller

Brilliant vision. Excellent writing... if you like dark humor. I read it two or three times.

44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven

I don't recall if I read this. I know I read a story that took place on the ringworld though. I've read so many of Niven's stories, it's hard to keep them straight. He's a great storyteller and explores a lot of interesting (speculative) social issues, but I don't find any of his stories particularly profound. The only one I read twice was "Protector".

46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien

An ambitious attempt to create a new genre of modern literature. Brilliant.

53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson

Neat idea, and amusing writing... but should have been half as long.
54. World War Z, by Max Brooks

Started off strong... but quickly turned to drivel. I don't think I actually finished it, even though I had selected it as "light" beach reading.

76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke

I read this or another book about Rama.

80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire

Fun series, good stories. I get a kick out of imagining how to resist a totalitarian regime.
84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart

This is one of the first "adult" books that I read...I didn't realize it had such a following. Maybe I should read it again.
94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov

So, that comes to 26 / 100. I'll add three more books/series to the list:

  • The Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft. This book was engrossing (though he spent too much time explaining his mythology), and got me into Lovecraft. Unfortunately, none of his other stories were as good as this one.
  • Solaris by Stanislaw Lem. This is a great work of supernatural horror (Lovecraftian)-- but it's presented as a space-exploration story.
  • The Berserker series by Fred Sabrahagen. I haven't read these since I was a kid, so they may be juvenile... but they sure made an impression on me.
I seen the movie version of many of those books, and had never even realized that there had been a book!

Phillip Dick has been on my reading list since I've seen three or four movies based on his books, and since I saw that Neuromancer won the "Phillip Dick award".

Ian Banks has also been on my reading list; the culture series sounds awesome. I looked for it at my local library, but found "Song of Stone" instead, which is itself an excellent story (though hardly Sci-Fi/Fantasy).

Update: I saw Flatland at the local bookstore in the SciFi/Fantasy section. If it belongs in that category (rather than, say, philosophy), then it belongs on this list.

1 comment:

Russell Arben Fox said...

Cool list. I completely agree that the Dirk Gentley stories are better than the Hitchhicker's Guide ones, much as I love the latter. Hitchhiker's had some mad, brilliant fun in them, but Dirk Gentley is an actual character, moving through actual plots that are genuinely funny, and that's more than you could ever really say for Arthur Dent.