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Young Geoffrey

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Book Meme, Pre-1984 Version (You've Been Warned) [Jul. 13th, 2008|12:17 am]
Young Geoffrey
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Time to procrastinate with a bloody book-meme. Feel free to skip ahead to the next entry on your list. For the record, this was yoinked from coffeeandink, on whose journal I've been lurking for a week or three.

Apparently the list is from David Pringle's Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels, which was released in 1984 or thereabouts, thus explaining the preponderance of relatively Ancient Books.

Oh yeah. Those I've read are bolded, comments will be random and sporadic. Those with an asterix are books I think I've read but about which I remember absolutely nothing at all.

1. George Orwell - Nineteen Eighty-Four. I haven't read it in years (decades! egads), but remember it as a poor sister of Koestler's Darkness At Noon. But as someone once pointed out, Orwell was dying when he wrote it.

2. George R. Stewart - Earth Abides.

3. Ray Bradbury - The Martian Chronicles. A childhood and teenage favourite, one I am afraid to re-read lest the Magic Goes Away.

*4. Robert A. Heinlein - The Puppet Masters.

5. John Wyndham - The Day of the Triffids. Read it a number of times. Good stuff, if not quite the satirical heights of The Kraken Wakes or The Trouble With Lichen. Funny, with the latter, I read it once in my teens and didn't get it at all really; but three or four years ago it was a minor Delight.

6. Bernard Wolfe - Limbo.

7. Alfred Bester - The Demolished Man. I've read it but I don't remember a damned thing about it, other than it is supposed to be A Classic.

8. Ray Bradbury - Fahrenheit 451. Haven't read it since my teens. As I recall, it didn't hold a candle to The Martian Chronicles or Something Wicked This Way Comes, but those have been mostly unread on my shelf for a long time also.

9. Arthur C. Clarke - Childhood's End. I thought this was powerful stuff indeed when I was 10 or 11; the final image resonates still. But I suspect it would leave me cold if I read it now.

10. Charles L. Harness - The Paradox men.

11. Ward Moore - Bring the Jubilee.

12. Frederik Pohl & C.M. Kornbluth - The Space Merchants.

13. Clifford D. Simak - Ring Around the Sun.

14. Theodore Sturgeon - More than Human. Good, but Sturgeon was best at his best with stand-alone short stories and novellas.

15. Hal Clement - Mission of Gravity. Quite a few years ago. As best I remember, it was mildly interesting conceptually, but there wasn't a character - as Shakespeare, or even Sturgeon - would recognize same in sight. Classically Astounding in all senses of the name.

16. Edgar Pangborn - A Mirror for Observers. I forget if it was Spider Robinson or Sturgeon (again with the fish!) who waxed rhapsodic about Pangborn, but he left me cold; possibly, I was too young for it.

17. Isaac Asimov - The End of Eternity.

18. Leigh Brackett - The Long Tomorrow.

19. William Golding - The Inheritors.

20. Alfred Bester - The Stars My Destination. Like The Demolished Man this too has vanished into the forgotten past of my literary education. But at least in this case, I remember a bit of the opening line: "My name is Gully Foyle, I [riffs on Joyce's Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man] and the stars' my destination." Or something like that.

21. John Christopher - The Death of Grass.

22. Arthur C. Clarke - The City and the Stars.

*23. Robert A. Heinlein - The Door Into Summer.

24. John Wyndham - The Midwich Cuckoos. Good Wyndham. Lovely portrait of a small-town England and with a strangely slannish political subtext.

25. Brian W. Aldiss - Non-Stop.

26. James Blish - A Case of Conscience. Another Classic lost to the vagaries of time. I think I liked it, though.

27. Robert A. Heinlein - Have Space-Suit -- Will Travel.

*28. Philip K. Dick - Time Out of Joint.

29. Pat Frank - Alas, Babylon.

*30. Walter M. Miller - A Canticle for Leibowitz. It's been on my shelf for literally decades and I know I've taken it down a number of times. Have I read it? I know it's got that monk treasuring a pre-apocalypse shopping list, but I'm damned if I know whether I've read the book or just became familiar with it through osmosis.

31. Kurt Vonnegut - The Sirens of Titan.

32. Algis Budrys - Rogue Moon. Yeah, a few times. Budrys must have seemed awfully damned sophisticated for American SF back in the 50s. Now I know where the concept for Doctor Who/Torchwood's Captain Jack came from!

33. Theodore Sturgeon - Venus Plus X. Sturgeon was (almost) never bad, but ... well, his short fiction is where you should go.

34. Brian W. Aldiss - Hothouse.

35. J.G. Ballard - The Drowned World.

36. Anthony Burgess - A Clockwork Orange. Hard to believe, but no, I haven't.

37. Philip K. Dick - The Man in the High Castle. Oh yes. Back when I was 16, if memory serves. I haven't read it since, but it holds up very well in my memory's eye.

38. Robert Sheckley - Journey Beyond Tomorrow.

39. Clifford D. Simak - Way Station. And another one bites the memorial dust. But I'm almost certain that I did.

*40. Kurt Vonnegut - Cat's Cradle.

41. Brian W. Aldiss - Greybeard

*42. William S. Burroughs - Nova Express

43. Philip K. Dick - Martian Time-Slip. Before high school, I think. I either didn't get it or it's weak Dick.

44. Philip K. Dick - The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch.

45. Fritz Leiber - The Wanderer.

*46. Cordwainer Smith - Nostrilia.

47. Philip K. Dick - Dr Bloodmoney.

48. Frank Herbert - Dune. One of the most over-rated novels in the history of the field. While I retain a certain fondness for The Good Doctor Asimov's Foundation books, what in the world is SF's apparently immortal mania for far futures whose society's bear not just a passing resemblance to medieval or Roman imperial societies? I mean, Jesus God but I hope a galactic civilization is at least a little more interesting than feudalism on a cosmic scale!

Ahem.

49. J.G. Ballard - The Crystal World. High school again. Remember it being very well - almost poetically - written, but utter hopelessness, along with the arbitrary end of the world depressed me without convincing me. Quite possibly I missed a lot of the subtext.

*50. Harry Harrison - Make Room! Make Room!

51. Daniel Keyes - Flowers for Algernon. Is there any who doesn't think the original short story was better?

A propos of nothing, a friend once told me about a time in grade 8 or 9, when her teacher had decided to take some time off and instead of teaching, show a movie. Charlie, it was called, but it turned out to be anything but the film version of Keys' novel. Within minutes of my friend wondering what was up with the cheesy music and bad lighting, the exposed breasts and pudenda quickly proved that some pornographer had stolen the title.

Whether or not it was a pastiche of the original my friend never discovered, as the teacher was paying enough attention to quickly hit the Stop button.

52. Roger Zelazny - The Dream Master

53. John Brunner - Stand on Zanzibar. Another grossly over-rated "classic". Obvious in its politics, ludicrous in its SF elements and about as politically sophisticated as a 16 year-old anarchist - or Steven Harper.

54. Samuel R. Delany - Nova. Oh yes. Delany's first Major Novel and not his first attempt to resurrect what had been the rotting corpus of "space opera". But Dhalgren sure as hell be somewhere on this list below!

55. Philip K. Dick - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

56. Thomas M. Disch - Camp Concentration. Remember that I liked it quite a lot, but nothing else.

57. Michael Moorcock - The Final Programme

58. Keith Roberts - Pavane

59. Angela Carter - Heroes and Villains

60. Ursula K. Le Guin - The Left Hand of Darkness. What's this? Two Women on this list? Isn't SF supposed to be a Boy's Club? Bracket is one thing, but le Guin was an avowed feminist! I object, brothers! I object!

More seriously, le Guin was one of those writers, who helped bring literary sensibilities and something at least close to serious political thought to the field in the late 60s (though she herself has written elsewhere of the only halting feminist sensibilities of the novel. It's still a work well-worth reading, though.

61. Bob Shaw - The Palace of Eternity.

62. Norman Spinrad - Bug Jack Barron.

*63. Poul Anderson - Tau Zero.

64. Robert Silverberg - Downward to the Earth. Don't remember a damned thing about it, though.

*65. Wilson Tucker - The Year of the Quiet Sun.

*66. Thomas M. Disch - 334.

67. Gene Wolfe - The Fifth Head of Cerberus.. Another that I've read but forgotten. Damned sure warn't no Book of the New Sun, that's for sure - but few books are.

68. Michael Moorcock - The Dancers at the End of Time.

69. J.G. Ballard - Crash.

70. Mack Reynolds - Looking Backward from the Year 2000.

71. Ian Watson - The Embedding.

72. Suzy McKee Charnas - Walk to the End of the World. Good grief: three women! Will wonders never cease! I actually had this on my shelf for years and years but for some reason never did read it.

73. M. John Harrison - The Centauri Device.

74. Ursula K. Le Guin - The Dispossessed. Yes, but remember very little.

75. Christopher Priest - Inverted World.

76. J.G. Ballard - High-Rise.

77. Barry N. Malzberg - Galaxies.

78. Joanna Russ - The Female Man. And after le Guin poked an overt feminist hole in SF's masculinist curtain, Russ came and tore the thing to shreds. It's been a long time, but I remember The Female Man being a body-blow to my idea of SF. Excellent writing, subversive play with the field's tropes and an overt feminist analysis that never came across as shrill or even pedantic. Russ's rage was a deliberate and powerful weapon, even as she told great stories. What more can one ask of revolutionary literature?

79. Bob Shaw - Orbitsville.

80. Kingsley Amis - The Alteration.

81. Marge Piercy - Woman on the Edge of Time. Whoa. I remember this one surprisingly well. Another overtly feminist novel, this one had dual story-lines, one in the present, one in the (distant?) future. As I recall, the present-day story-line was quite powerful, the SF elements derivative and weak. I suspect reading it now might be interesting from a historical point-of-view but not as a novel.

82. Frederik Pohl - Man Plus. After Gateway, Pohl decided to show the field how hard SF should be written in the late 1970s. Not my cup of tea, but good work if you like an updated version of Hal Clement.

*83. Algis Budrys - Michaelmas.

84. John Varley - The Ophiuchi Hotline. Varley's first and weakest novel, but still kind of fun.

85. Ian Watson - Miracle Visitors.

86. John Crowley - Engine Summer. Another post-apocalypse novel. Good pun in the title, but not nearly as good (in my vague memory) as the reviews at the time would have had it.

87. Thomas M. Disch - On Wings of Song. I thought this was brilliant when I read it at the age of 14 or 15. And now? I don't remember anything but the fact that I did love it. Nothing but my reaction to it.

88. Brian Stableford - The Walking Shadow.

*89. Kate Wilhelm - Juniper Time.

90. Gregory Benford - Timescape. This seemed shockingly good when it came out - what, around 1980? I suspect it's still a good read, along the lines of late-period James Michener or something.

91. Damien Broderick - The Dreaming Dragons.

92. Octavia Butler - Wild Seed.

93. Russell Hoban - Riddley Walker.

94. John Sladek - Roderick and Roderick at Random.

95. Gene Wolfe - The Book of the New Sun. I think this is one of those books (well, five volume series) that will stand the test of time. Wolfe is notoriously a "writer's writer" - subtle, deliberate and complex. I've only read the series once - again, in my late teens - but this one has remained powerfully lodged in my memory. I somehow lost my copy of the first volume and have been meaning to pick it up again, as I am convinced I will find it even better now than I did way back when.

96. Philip Jose Farmer - The Unreasoning Mask. The silliness of the Riverworld books was enough to turn me off Farmer for good, kind of like Lords of Light put a permanent stop to my possible exploration of Zelazny.

97. Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle - Oath of Fealty.

98. Michael Bishop - No Enemy but Time.

99. John Calvin Batchelor - The Birth of the People's Republic of Antarctica.

100. William Gibson - Neuromancer. Grossly over-rated. A noire crime novel with a futuristic setting. Never did understand what all the fuss was about.

I'm still a little stunned by the paucity of women on that list. Can it be the field was really so bereft of female novelists prior to 1984? Looking back on it, maybe it was, maybe it was ...

In any case, when I first saw this meme, I would have thought that I had read a good deal more than 37 out of 100 of the titles - I think I was fooled by the number of which I had heard of.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: onefixedstar
2008-07-13 05:07 pm (UTC)
I've read about nineteen or twenty of these, which I suppose isn't too bad given that I was seven when the list came out, but it's still fewer than I expected. What really surprises, me, though, is how many of the authors I haven't heard of: Harness, Moore, Clement, Pangporn, Brunner, Disch...it's a very long list. Kind of humbling.

So what didn't you like about Lord of Light?
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2008-07-13 06:14 pm (UTC)

Lord of Superheroes

As I recall - and remember, I'm going to something like 1982, here, so my memory may be faulty, or I might have missed the point - Lord of Light was little more than a super-hero story dressed up in Hindu mythology instead of capes and leotards. Essentially, I saw it as typical power-fantasy SF made lit'ry by alludions to the Mysterious East.

Was I, in fact, missing the point?

As for the names you didn't recognize, I was familiar with most of them, but I read fanzines and SF magazines as well as books that came across my path, which included quite a few of the anthologies that came out in the 40s, 50s and 60s. I sometimes felt as if I knew the Futurians, kind of the way I sometimes felt I remembered vaudeville.

Where was I?

Of the names you listed, the only ones I think you really owe it to yourself to check out are Disch and C.L. Moore. The latter, writing with her husband Henry Kuttner as Lewis Padget wrote a couple of stories I still remember as wonderful, including the haunting "Vintage Season" and "Mimsy Were the Borogoves" (yes, the recent movie, The Last Mimsy, was based on that, but all reports said it was an absolute travesty. (By the way, I believe the story is still under copyright, so the above link will probably be removed sooner than later.)

The latter, on one re-reading, so blew my mind that for a period of some 5 to 15 minutes afterwards, I quite literally felt as if I had gone insane, the concepts so made my question the nature of reality.

Unfortunately, like all such experiences, once done, it faded like a dream, so I can't tell you much more about it than that.

Anyway. I babble and so must away.
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[User Picture]From: jade_noir
2008-07-16 04:52 pm (UTC)

4/100

and soon to be 5... maybe. I own a copy of Cat's Cradle but I'm reading some other books right now.
I'm not old enough to have read something and forgot what it was about. When does that happen?
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2008-07-16 10:14 pm (UTC)

Re: 4/100

I'm not old enough to have read something and forgot what it was about. When does that happen?

I don't think it's entirely a result of age - sheer volume helps, as does reading without paying attention (kind of the way most people watch television - or did, back before the internet came along). But yeah, age helps.

I honestly can't tell you the first time I'd read a full novel that I could no longer remember at all, but almost certainly early in my twenties. And I read a monthly (SF magazine from something like the age of 11 until I was pushing 30 and I'm pretty sure that I would forget some of the stories within months.

Kind of a strange phenomena, now that you've got me thinking about it; I'm not sure that I like what it implies about me.
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