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Young Geoffrey

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Science Fiction Meme! (9 Out of 10 of You - Avert Your Delicate Eyes!) [Nov. 22nd, 2006|09:42 pm]
Young Geoffrey
I am a little surprised at how many of the books below I have read; it makes me think whoever put the list together is probably my age or a little older. (I think I stole this version of the meme from .

Bold the ones you've read.

Strike-out the ones you hated

Italicize those you started but never finished

Underline those on bookshelf in the nearish future piles

**and put an asterisk beside the ones you loved.

Comments will be italicized in square brackets.

**1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien [After far more than 20 readings, this novel still makes me cry. This book is both a marvellous adventure and a profound mediation on the human condition. Fiction doesn't get much better.]

2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov [Big concepts, bold ideas, no sex - let alone love. The classic geek novel. Which is a good thing.]

3. Dune, Frank Herbert [I loved it when I was 14, but by the time I was 15 the arch language and ridiculous feudalism-in-stars plot-line made it pretty much unreadable to me.]

4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein [Heinlein at the turning point. One minute, he's the old old pulp-meister giving you value while competing for your "beer money", the next he is portentiously Explaining It All To You. It was just about all downhill from here.]

5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin

6. Neuromancer, William Gibson [Kudos for conceptualizing cyberspace, but this is nothing but a film-noire typed up on paper.]

7. Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke [To my mind, Clarke's best novel. The scientist gives way, a little (as in "The Nine Billion Names of God), to the mystic and in the final scene sends a shiver down the reader's spine.]

8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick

**9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley [No contradiction here. I loved and hated this novel. Bradley was a terrible writer, but a good story-teller, and her take on the King Arthur legend reduced me to tears even on my second go-through.]

**10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury [I haven't read this since my teens; I wonder if I would still give it those asterisks.]

**11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe [I haven't read this series in many years, but I remember it as being one of the richest, most subtle pieces of fiction I have ever come across. Why are so many of my favourite writers Catholics?]

12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr. [I've read it, but I don't remember a damned thing, beyond the basic conceipt, that monks following an atomic war, would in ignorance preserve a shopping list as a holy relic.]

13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov

14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras [I feel as if I've read this, but I am so unsure it remains un-bolded.

15. Cities in Flight, James Blish [Classic Astounding SF. Still readable, but probably won't be in another 20 years.]

16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett [I have somehow managed to never read any of Pratchett's novels.]

**17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison [This is both a brilliant collection of short fiction - well, fiction; it includes at least one short novel - and a fascinating snap-shot of an important moment in the history of science fiction. Old pros spreading their creative wings alongside (then) young Turks starting to strut their stuff. And, Again, Dangerous Visions is not only bigger, but better. I still think it is a pity that The Last Dangerous Visions, now nearly 35 years overdue, is still ... overdue.]

18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison [One of Ellison's better collections.]

19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester [All I remember is the opening lines ripped-off/paid homage to Joyce's Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man. Does that make it Art? Well, I've read Bester more recently than Joyce, but I remember Joyce better, even if I hated his novel.]

**20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany [This novel, along with The Lord of the Rings (on this list), with which it shares just about nothing in common, is one of the best works of literature I have ever read. Most of the people I know who have tried it have thought me idiotic to believe this but I remain unrepentant.]

21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey

**22. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card [This is marvellous stuff. If it were shorter, it would probably be marketed as "young adult" fiction, but it is very well-written, with a strong narrative drive and a superb sense of what it is about. Card is a marvellous writer.]

23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson ["The Whinings of Thomas Covenant the Boring Asshole" would have been a better title. Or so I recall from when I tried it at the age of 13.]

24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman [An important book for its time, I suspect it - and Haldeman - will will be forgotten before long.]

**25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl [Old-style SF as it was meant to be. Galaxy-spanning action; sympathetic and believable characters - with sex! with emotions! - mind-blowing cosmological speculations; and an exciting plot. This book (and its sequels) is high-quality candy with a vitamin heart.]

**26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling [Whee! Well, not so much the first book, but I can't wait for the 7th.]

**27. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams [Adams was a visionary. Outside of Catch-22, fiction doesn't get much funnier than this - though I remember the original radio series being even better.]

28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson

29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice [This was like Chinese food, but with extra rice. I was hungry again 45 minutes later, rather than 30. But it tasted great going down.]

30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin [I remember enjoying and admiring this, and other Le Guin novels, but her stuff usually leaves me cold. I'm not sure why. She is probably one of the best 5 writers on this list.]

**31. Little, Big, John Crowley [A fantasy (hey! what's it doing on a science fiction list? Well, whatever) like none other, it does not really merit comparison to other fantasies. It is what it is; you like it or you don't, and it can't be legitimately compared against other fantasies, but only against other literature. I didn't like it the last time I tried it, but I suspect I will think it wonderful the next time I do.]

32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny [I read this in my high school "Science Fiction Literature" class back when I was 15 or 16. I thought then that it was pretentious nonsense, a DC super-hero comic fancy-dressed in mythological costume; I now wonder, a little, if I was simply missing something.]

33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick

34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement

35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon [I enjoyed this a lot, when I read it. I remember almost nothing about it. The curse of the pulp-writer. Mind you, Sturgeon's strengths lay in short fiction, a number of which are more than fresh in my mind.]

36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith [I've liked Cordwainer Smith - and I've never heard of this novel. I want to read it!]

37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute

38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke [If you like Clarke's geeky-neat fiction, this one is a classic.]

39. Ringworld, Larry Niven [Epic fantasy in science fiction guise. I much preferred Titan trilogy (and he's written better stuff than that).]

40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys [Sophisticated stuff for its time. But when Budrys dies, it will be forgotten, I am sad to say; he was my favourite critic/reviewer for many years.]

41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien [Yes, I really did. Twice. If you've read the Old Testament for pleasure, this is the book for you!]

42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut [I read it, but mostly I remember being 10 or 11 and seing Valerie Perrines bare breasts in a late-night telecast of the movie.]

**43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson [It's marvellous. And Stephenson has only gotten better since.]

44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner [One of the most over-rated - though, does anyone bother with it now? - books in the SF Great Books pantheon. 30 years from now, it will be utterly forgotten.]

45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester [SF begins to refer to literature outside of genre. Historically interesting and a decent read.]

46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein [As always, before he became nothing but a blow-hard, Heinlein tells a good story. And plays with some interesting libertarian ideas about the nature of citizenship, among other things.]

47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock

48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks

49. Timescape, Gregory Benford [A good read, but not a significant novel in the grand scheme of things.]

50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer [Ornate, pretentious tripe. If you like your epics dressed up in fancy language, go nuts.]

Well, I am nothing if not judgemental, am I?

[User Picture]From: colinmarshall
2006-11-23 07:35 am (UTC)
Brunner's stuff holds up. Kinda. Not so much for its content -- most of his famous novels were driven by the sort of 1970s environmentalism that bordered on eschatology -- but its presentation. I'd have chosen The Shockwave Rider instead.

Odd that Ben Bova is absent from the list.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-11-23 04:35 pm (UTC)

Bova and Brunner

I guess it was about 10 years ago that I read Shockwave Rider. Bought it on the ferry from Vancouver Island, read it on the plane from Vancouver to Toronto - maybe not the best situation in which to judge a novel. But at the time, I really wondered what all the fuss was about. Sure, there was some science fiction prescience that remains fairly impressive, but wasn't it essentially just another thriller?

As for Bova, I don't think it's strange he's not there. You could say he's the quintessential Analog-style SF writer - libertarian ideas, basic heroic plots and not much in the way of characterization or "literary" craft. I enjoy his stuff (he's often published in Analog, but I can never really suspend my disbelief when it comes to his characters or plots.
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[User Picture]From: colinmarshall
2006-11-27 12:49 am (UTC)

Re: Bova and Brunner

It's just that he's a name I usually see on these "bold if you made sweet love to this book" sci-fi livejournal memes. My own SF-reading career was brief, occuring entirely between the ages of 11 and 14. For good or ill, I decided I'd never make anything of myself if I sat around reading that sort if thing all day. Thus, I've got a lot of missed books still to enjoy.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-11-28 02:50 am (UTC)

Re: Bova and Brunner

he's a name I usually see on these...sci-fi livejournal memes.

That surprises me. But I doubt there's much cross-over between your friends' list and mine.

I hope you do pick up SF again. There really are some very good and even important books in the field.
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[User Picture]From: miyyu
2006-11-23 01:48 pm (UTC)
Thanks for posting this. It made me remember A Canticle for Leibowitz, which I read years ago and really enjoyed. Now I have to go and get it and read it again.
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