Friday, October 23, 2015

Favorite science fiction books

Doesn't your heart beat faster to see the cover of an Iain Banks Culture novel? Well, mine does. 

Inspired by Michael Dirda's list of ten favorite science fiction books, and by Ann Leckie's interesting list, I decided to do my own "top ten" list.

What I quickly ran into was that many of the best SF books I ever read were not, in fact, novels. But that when I started including story collections, I had to bump too many novels off my list.

So what I've done is compile two lists: One of ten favorite SF novels (that's the list that "competes" with Dirda and Leckie) and one that lists collections. I've made no attempt to pick the "best" books or most influential books or whatever. There are my favorites, and in many cases are books I've read more than once. For Gene Wolfe and Dan Simmons and Philip Jose Farmer, I've picked single titles, but I'm really referring to the series as a whole (The Book of the New Sun, Hyperion-Endymion, Riverworld.)

Ten favorite novels

1. The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells.
2. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert Heinlein.
3. Tau Zero, Poul Anderson.
4. This Immortal, Roger Zelazny.
5. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick.
6.  Hyperion, Dan Simmons.
7. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer.
8. Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson.
9. Islands in the Net, Bruce Sterling.
10. Excession, Iain M. Banks.

Ten favorite SF story collections

1. Dangerous Visions, Harlan Ellison, editor.
2. I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, Harlan Ellison.
3. The Dying Earth, Jack Vance.
4. The Book of Philip Jose Farmer, Philip Jose Farmer.
5. Nine Hundred Grandmothers, R.A. Lafferty.
6. The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury.
7. Mixed Feelings, George Alec Effinger.
8. The Sentinel, Arthur C. Clarke.
9. Gene Wolfe's Book of Days, Gene Wolfe.
10. The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol. 1, Robert Silverberg, editor.


Chad N. said...

I was on a huge PKD kick over the summer and read a lot of his work. I mentioned to Tom awhile back that I went through the entire Library of America collection (except Now Wait for Last Year). PKD fast became one of my favorite authors.

If there was one novel I didn't like in the volume, it was Man in the High Castle. It really bored me and I found it a task to power through. However, I routinely see this on everyone's top five or ten SF list.

What gives? I get the novelty of the whole alternate reality thing, but it just didn't seem that interesting. He focused on what every day life was like in this alternate reality, but after awhile the novelty of that wore off for me. Did others here enjoy it immensely like Tom and Dirda? The almost exclusive focus on mundane life in the alternate reality was so dry to me.

Drew Zi said...

Excession was my introduction to Iain Banks' Sci-fi. It is one of my all time favourites, but I have to say I much prefer his Use of Weapons. One of the first things that stands out about Excession is the witty discussion among the minds of the ships and their social interaction, bitching etc etc.

Eric Wagner said...

Interesting lists. I've only read five from your novel list and two from you collection list.

My list:
1. Schroedinger's Cat, RAW
2. The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, Heinlein
3. Tie-The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldrich, Phil Dick
Stranger in Strange Land, Heinlein
Starship Troopers, Heinlein
Time Travelers Strictly Cash, Spider Robinson
4. A Mirror for Observers, Edgar Pangborn
5. Neuromancer, William Gibson
6. Venus on the Half Shell, Kilgore Trout
7. Slaughterhouse Five, Vonnegut

tony smyth said...

Have to agree with Chad - I also didnt think The Man in the High Castle was very good. Also thought it boring. Nowhere near the same league as Ubik for example.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

@Chad N. and @tony smith, Well, it did win a Hugo Award, so somebody liked it besides me!

@Eric. I liked your list. Mine was not meant as an order of ranking. Didn't care for Starship Troopers very much.

@Drew Zi, I have actually not gotten around to Use of Weapons but look forward to reading it.

Rarebit Fiend said...

Based on what I would think everyone would consider science fiction these would be my top ten in no order without repeating authors.

1. Odd John by Olaf Stapledon
2. Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
3. Light by M. John Harrison
4. A Cure for Cancer by Michael Moorcock
5. Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke
6. Ubik by Philip K. Dick
7. Ada by Vladimir Nabokov
8. The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
9. A Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay
10. Lint by Steve Aylett