NPR’s Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels/Series
Posted on August 11, 2011 Posted by John Scalzi 194 Comments
NPR has released its list of the top 100 science fiction and fantasy novels/series, as voted on by the public from a jury-curated list of 237 finalists, itself culled from public nominations of even more novels. Old Man’s War is on the list, which is pretty nifty. Thank you to those of you who voted for it.
By and large it’s a pretty good list of books, with some very conspicuous omissions that tell us more about the voters of the poll than the books under consideration. A list of the top 100 science fiction/fantasy novels without entries by Brin, Brunner, Butler, Cherryh, Delany or Silverberg (to name some obvious names; there are of course others) is going to have fans of various stripes shaking their heads. These sorts of lists exist as much to make people talk as much as to attempt to quantify the field. This list will certainly do that.
As a conversation starter, and to encourage others to do the same, allow me to list 10 books/series from the finalists list not on the NPR Top 100 list I’d have found room for on my personal Top 100 list. In no particular order:
The Acts of Caine series, Matthew Woodring Stover
Bridge of Birds, Barry Hughart
Grass, Sherri Tepper
Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
Lord Valentine’s Castle, Robert Silverberg
Earth, David Brin
The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi
Little Fuzzy, H. Beam Piper
The Vlad Taltos series, Steven Brust
Kindred, Octavia Butler
Your list from the finalists not in the final list? Put them in the comments.
An interesting list, appearing to cover a broad range of titles. I’m waiting for Atwood to pop up somewhere and say her book isn’t science fiction.
In addition to the authors you mentioned, it appears an entire publishing house was snubbed. I didn’t see anything from a Baen author on the list, unless I missed it. Interesting.
Well I suspect the average age of the voters probably had something to do with it – several of the folks you mentioned probably aren’t on the radar at all for people who started reading SF/F in, say, 1995 or 2000. Brin’s best stuff was basically out of print for a long time, for example. Also, books that were quite possibly required reading in school show up a lot higher than they should, for similar reasons.
But all in all a decent list – of the original 237 I’d read about 120, at least to the point at which I explicitly decided to stop reading them. In the final list I’ve read 80, with another five in the pile already, and probably five on top of that that I fully intend to read at some point. And there are some new-to-me names in there as well, which I’ll probably try to at least sample. Some of them will probably be like, say, LeGuin, who’s basically unreadable to me but I know a bunch of people love, but I may find some other new authors.
As Neil Gamin said, “don’t go by the placing….just read…”
I prefer the 237 entries as a starter list…
It’s a good list, and an interesting one in how certain novels or series placed in the final list. For instance, I would have “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” place higher then the rest of the Heinlein novels, but I guess the popularity of “Stranger in a Strange Land” and “Starship Troopers” is not to be denied. One that I felt was missing (and everyone has at least one that didn’t make it) was “Altered Carbon” by Richard K. Morgan. It was a finalist, however.
In the end, there are quite a few on the list that I’ve never read, so it’s time to add some more books to my ever-growing “Too Be Read” pile.
Re: Baen: Shards of Honor is in there.
Yeah, there does seem to be a perceptual donut in terms of SF books here — a lot of what I would consider obvious books from the 70s and 80s aren’t in that list at all.
Oh, weird I had a large portion of the 237, but only a short list of the top 100, 24?
Yeah. I’m shaking my head…There’s 3 in the top 20 that I wouldn’t have in a top 100. But, even though NPR tries to frame it as a list of the best, it’s really only a list of the most popular (and even then, some of them I just do not understand).
I love the idea of the list as suggested reading. It may have been better to break out Fantasy and Science Fiction, but as long as the list gets people reading, it is a good thing.
I would agree that The WIndup Girl should hav ebeen on there as it is one of the best sf books I’ve read in a long time. Otherwise I was quite happy with the list. Is it the be all and end all of all scifi/fantasy lists. Absolutely not, I’d have liked Steven Erikson to be higher up, for example.
But if you read everything on there, you’d be pretty well versed in the genre(s). Personally I come to about 2/3rds that I have read and find that quite acceptable.
Dream Dancer by Janet Morris. I’m surprised it wasn’t on there.
I would expect that the general NPR-listening public generates a list that’s quite different from what you’d get if you polled a set of people whose very favorite genre is SF/F and who therefore are connected with more obscure authors. It’s a little bit like when the local paper solicits “best of” restaurant recommendations, and the winner for “Best Chinese” is a local, kind-of-okay steam-table chain restaurant, even though the city is home to numerous region-specific noodle houses and critically-acclaimed Asian-fusion destinations.
What I’m getting at is that I am more the “general-public” type (“Recommend a SF Novel” will get the same response from me as “Name a SF Novel”), and it seems that almost all the SF/F I ever read and liked enough to remember is on the list. As well as many titles I don’t know that I can now add to my reading list. So, it’s good for me!
I would have to include John Steakley’s _Armor_ (and probably in the top 10, at that), and I agree that *something* by Robert Silverberg ought to be there. It’s interesting that Silverberg is missing but other “old” books (1984, Brave New World, Canticle for Leibowitz (all of whom belong), for example) are included.
Whatever its shortcomings, if the list can get some people to read anything new to them and expand their interest in the genre, well that can only be a good thing. I am going to use the finalist as suggestions to backfill my own gaps. I am always looking for suggestions of what to read next, like when an author reboots an older series and introduces me to someone I had never read before.
Odd mixture of entire series vs single novels. (All of the Hyperion “Cantos” vs just the first Hitchhiker’s, for instance). Was there some logic there in the original poll/list that I’m missing? Were both whole series and the individual novels within each series competing with each other for votes?
The City and The City was the most unique and impressive idea and book I’ve read in the last ten years. I don’t know where that would put it on a ranked list, but I think it should be there. I love the world building in Perdido Street Station, but The City and The City just takes it to another level.
Hit submit too early:/…
My list would have certainly had (in no particular order):
The Practice Effect by David Brin
A Passage at Arms by Glen Cook
The Vlad Taltos series by Steven Brust
Fire Dancer by Anne Maxwell
The Book of the Dead by Robert Silverberg
Stars in my Pocket like Grains of Sand by Chip Delany
Riverworld by Chip Delany
Crystal Singer by Anne McCaffrey (which I think is a much better book than Dragonflight, personally).
We’ve got Jordan, and Eddings, bit not Tad Williams? Williams could write circles around either Jordan or Eddings, or the two of them collaborating, with the ghost of Shakespeare advising them. Also, how does a fantasy *series* rate inclusion on top 100 of all time list when it isn’t even finished yet? The appearance of both G.R.R. Martin and Patrick Rothfuss on the list seems somewhat premature to me. I would have had at least one Guy Kay novel on there, if not all of them. He appeared on the initial list, but apparently his fan base is too small to get included here. Obviously, he should start a blog.
When I voted I realized I needed 20 votes not 10, because there were about that many “personal favorites” in the list of nominees. So after I hemmed ‘n’ hawed and flip-flopped a few times, I finally settled on 10–most of which were in the final Top 100. But Brunner’s “Stand on Zanzibar” was conspicuously absent….
As Scalzi noted, many stand-out, genre-changing novels of 40 or 50 years ago cannot be found in the Top 100. Instead, what I see are many novels that have tie-ins to visual media. I wonder if they made the Top 100 based on the quality of the written work, or the quality of the film?
I voted for OMW, but the Acts of Caine not being on the final list is downright criminal.
When is Stover going to get his due!?
Agree regarding the series. The Hyperion Cantos to me is one amazing book and three pretty good books. Hitchhiker’s may stand out as a single book because of it’s fame and place in the genre, but I really consider the other books in the series to be on the same level. The first doesn’t stand head and shoulders above the others.
Yes, it’s obviously a popularity contest. There’s also a large component of “required school reading” near the top, where you can take “required” as either something the teacher made you to read, or something (like Lord of the Rings) you were “old enough to read.”
I’ve got to admit, I’m a little surprised not to see Earthsea on there, considering how long it has stayed in print. Or the Silmarillion, but not the Hobbit.
As an interesting political aside, I find it fascinating that nothing by Ayn Rand made the list, but Robinson’s Mars Trilogy did make it.
Oh, didn’t realize Revelation Space didn’t make the cut either. I would have thought that would make it rather than all of the Neal Stephenson books… Cryptonomicon I’m looking at you.
The NPR list is pretty good, a nice mixed bunch with only two “what!?” entries (and one eye-rolling one).
The two “what!?” are the Terry Goodkind book, which is just chockablock full of poorly thought out and poorly articulated rehashed Ayn Rand tosh. I have no idea how that even got off the short list of worst books ever written, let alone onto a short list of the best. And a “what!?” in a good way as Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book gets another nod towards greatness. How that hasn’t had a BBC miniseries made of it yet I just do not know.
Amused eye-rolling at the usual inclusion of Ender’s Game though. Included due to its perennial message that awkward geeks are more special than anyone else ever. Yeah, it’s never not gonna be mentioned in great Sci-Fi lists with that message.
Wasn’t in the list, but I’ve had had Bujold’s Chalion books in there too, plus some Greg Egan (Permutation City especially) and Gaiman/Pratchett’s Good Omens.
Honestly, I’m just happy not see any Ayn Rand or L. Ron Hubbard works on the list. Their followers made a complete mess of Modern Library’s Best 100 Novels (Reader’s List).
I was disappointed to see Terry Goodkind’s crap on there.
Though, I was also disappointed when Legend of the Seeker (The TV show based off of said crap, but ended up being better) was canceled.
The list mentions many of my favorites but the order isn’t anything like I would arrange it. Speaker for the Dead and Ender’s Shadow are both better than Ender’s Game.
(See my disclaimer at #11 about not really being an authority on, or even a fan of, SF/F)
I really like Neal Stephenson, and Cryptonomicon is one of my favorite books ever and would have been the one I would have picked to join a Top 100 list, but … there’s too much Neal Stephenson on the list. Anathem is good, but it hasn’t been around long enough to see how it stands the test of time. Or am I just betraying an old-fashioned bias that you need to wait a bit to see how a book influences its successors and the wider culture, to decide whether it belongs in the canon?
I mean, _1984_ is well-known, and wins in a popularity contest like this, for good reason.
And then some of this is really genre-bending. Watership Down is one of my all-time most favorite books ever. I reread it every few years and can’t wait till my kids are old enough for me to read it to them. But how is it SF/F?
I’ve read 90 of them (counting some series that I haven’t completly read). I’ve heard of the most of the remaining 100. I do find it very strange that Terry Pratchett got on for Small Gods & Going Postal instead of Discworld. Almost everyone else had a series. I’m pretty good with the top 20, while there are some of those that I like FAR better than others, all the ones in the top 20 are very significant books.
Overall it is a not bad list, biased towards recent publications a bit & required reading books, but all such lists are biased.
My top 10 not in the top 100.
I agree with our host about
Bridge of Birds Barry Hughart
Vlad Taltos Steven Brust
I would give Brin with
The Uplift Saga which I personally prefered to Earth.
The Black Company series by Glen Cook
The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny
The Lensman series by E.E. (Doc) Smith (a little dated, but still fun)
Norstrilia by Cordwainer Smith
Ringworld by Larry Niven [A good choice for NOT voting for the entire series]
The Liaden Universe Series by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
The Grey Mouser Series by Frietz Leiber
Having expressed my intense dislike of Windup Girl I can’t say I’m surprised that it’s not included. It’s a shame Grass didn’t make it – that was a darned good novel.
I have to say that the list bears a stricking resemblance to what you’d get if you asked for a “top 100 songs of the century.” The list is full of comfortable old favorites with a certain wide appeal. “Quirky” or “challenging” didn’t make the cut.
I still think the “Shadow War of the Night Dragons” series should have been preemptively included in the list as it will be, once written, the greatest set of fantasy novels evar.
I was surprised that several of the books I voted for in the poll made the list at all: chiefly among them ‘Flowers for Algernon’ which was on a reading list in high school and the only book on said list that I actually read. It was also the first time I remember crying because of a book.
I will concur that some of the books that ended up on this list are there chiefly because of a popularity factor. Not that they are bad, in fact most are regarded as quite excellent and I wouldn’t argue that fact, but they benefit from a) a seriously devoted fan base and b) recent and pervasive publicity. (‘Song of Ice and Fire’ and ‘American Gods’ specifically.)
The titles that I was a bit disappointed not to see (but I honestly can’t remember at this point if they were among the 237 in the first place) were Alfred Bester’s ‘The Demolished Man’ and Kazuo Ishiguro’s ‘Never Let Me Go’. Both books are really fantastic work that I can’t gush about enough, given the chance. But, I think I’ll digress before I start squee-ing like the fan girl I am.
A top fantasy list without Robert Howard or Lord Dunsany?
It’s criminal how many of these lists pass Greg Egan by. One can only hope that at some point he’s recognized as one of the most innovative writers in the genre.
Going meta for a moment, I’d love to see a list of the top 100 put together by the members of the SFWA. (Granted, one can approximate it by checking out the Nebula nominations list over the years.)
Hmm, no Harlan Ellison either.
It will take me some time to figure out the list of worthy finalists. All I wanted to say is that the Book of the New Sun is on there and that makes me very happy.
Harlan’s written novels but is really best known for his short work, so it’s not too surprising regarding his absence on this particular list. I doubt he would be absent from a list of Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Short Stories.
Stand on Zanzibar and Shockwave Rider by John Brunner. Talk about foresight!
Paratime Series by H. Beam Piper. He really laid out alternate realities and his Walked Around the Horses story is beautiful.
Ilium and Olympos by Dan Simmons. As much as I liked his Hyperion series, these are even better. I say this as a fan of the Iliad. Especially the Robert Fitzgerald translation.
Was surprised to see some of the lighter weight stuff on the list, like Xanth series. Sure, I liked it, but what about Robert Asprin’s Myth series or Pollotta and Foglio’s Illegal Aliens? Much funnier and better written than Xanth. For Piers Anthony, I’d have gone with Macroscope or On a Pale Horse.
I’ll back Scalzi up on Bridge of Birds and Lord Valentine’s Castle, and add:
Masks of the Illuminati, Robert Anton Wilson (his best, sharpest focused novel)
The Anubis Gates, Tim Powers (alternate: The Stress of Her Regard)
Lincoln’s Dreams, Connie Willis
When Gravity Fails, George Alec Effinger (and sequels)
I’m suspect of any SF “best of” list that doesn’t include “Alas Babylon” by P. Frank. Dated, but very influential I would think
I’m disappointed that Octavia Butler didn’t make it into the finals. Either the Parable series or the Xenogenesis series.
I wish science fiction and fantasy would be separated. I know there would be some crossover, but I personally much prefer sci-fi to fantasy, and don’t really consider the two genres one-in-the-same.
John: you’re absolutely right. I guess I was just concentrating on the fact that someone who has done so much as Ellison wasn’t on a “best of…” list in general without thinking of the novels vs. short stories thing.
I can’t believe there’s nothing by Sheckley, Vance, or Stross even in the 237.
Well, actually I can; but damn it, they ought to be there.
Terry Goodkind’s Wizard First Rule was excellent, and parts of the second and third books are pretty damn good as well. I stopped reading after a while, so I think I’ve been spared his Objectivist preaching that I understand happens in the later books.
I’ll have to come up with a list when I have more time, but for now I will mention 2 books that REALLY need a new edition:
“A Reader’s Guide to Science Fiction” and “A Reader’s Guide to Fantasy”.
(authors Baird Searles, Martin Last, Beth Meacham, Michael Franklin)
I’m nearly 47, and when those books came out in the early 1980s, they helped me find many new authors and series that I was not aware of before.
John, you would be an excellent co-author for a new edition!
I wonder how many books were chosen because the author has a good internet presence. Butcher doesn’t, and he didn’t make it. If an author has a good presence, he can mention the list and his fan base will go over to look. A decent percent of those who click over will probably vote for the author because he is already one of their favorites, or they wouldn’t be following. I follow several authors who did mention the list.
I discount these sorts of lists unless they are made up by experts, and not a vote by the public. In this case experts would be people who had read at least 500 (maybe even 1000) SF books and were in a good position to do a compare and contrast. The likely percentage of people who did that and voted, is fairly low. Most were people like me, who have read less than 50 SF books, mostly contemporary ones. I wouldn’t qualify myself as someone who should vote on it. But I did.
Throwing in the jury curated culling in the middle doesn’t count enough.
It would be interesting to create a top 100 list of the best hard sci-fi titles. It seems like hard science fiction is drowning in a sea of swords, dragons, and incantations. I’m probably just getting old and crotchety.
and in 10 years…the list will mean squat. Under the helm of the SFWA we’ll have even more great sci fi stories.
Joshua @ #27 —
I agree with you on “Speaker for the Dead” vs. “Ender’s Game”. I would have put “Speaker for the Dead” in my list of Top 10 Best SF Novels in the history of ever.
Dave @ 20 & 22 —
Agree with you on Hyperion Cantos (loved the first book and it’s on my list of Top 10 Bests), and with your take on “Cryptonomicon” (though I love other works by the same author). I threw it against the wall on page 750, and never picked it up again. (Though my wife did. She put it away in a box in the garage)
Jon Lundy @ 29 —
Agee with you on Brin’s Uplift Saga (all 7 books). Can’t say enough good things about that series. We need more Uplift books!
How sad for David, how sad for Mike,
for Allen, John and Charlie
Their list contains no Brin, no Flynn,
no Steele nor Stross nor Varley. 
Egads, that’s quite the – green? – ah, youthful roster, innit? Seems a bit heavy in the “written written the last two decades” category, a bit sparse on older vintages… 
I shall console myself by re-reading Marissa Lingen’s excellent advice.
 Also missing: “no wife, no horse, no moustache.”
 Either that, or my membership as a Yoof of Our Time has inexplicably lapsed.
Must have a word with the Secretary, get the renewal sorted posthaste.
I love Neal Stephenson and I liked Anathem, but Anathem does not belong in the top 100.
Others that didn’t belong:
41. The Belgariad
54. World War Z
58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant The Unbeliever
62. The Sword Of Truth Series
73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series
99. The Xanth Series
Ones that did:
Bridge of Birds Barry Hughart
Vlad Taltos Steven Brust
Sundiver and Startide Rising instead of Earth (David Brin)
The Black Company series by Glen Cook
The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny
Wow. No Frederik Pohl? The Gateway series was wonderful.
I’m interested in fan reactions to this poll. People who consider themselves genre fans, of any genre, are rarely happy with any voted list, and most unhappy when the list produced is voted on by the general public. Which is fine, and entertaining, and normal, and all.
Although, I would like to nudge a misconception or two that I noticed in a couple of comments: 1. this was never intended to be a “best” list, just a popularity list, and 2. all of the books, at all stages, were popularly nominated and selected. There was no panel of judges.
Some background, if you don’t mind: NPR Books has been struggling to connect with listeners for a few years. About 2 years ago, NPR decided to use some of a windfall to fix that. They opened up a few new positions, sent out calls for applicants, and did some rather stealthy recruiting. The new folks were hired to help make the division more relevant, and one of the ideas they came up with was to ask listeners what they like. This kills two birds w/ one stunt: get listeners invested in the division reality-tv style, by voting for their faves; as well as find out what listeners actually like, as opposed to what critics, pundits, and experts think people like. And, like reality-tv, it’s a cheap way to accomplish those goals, in these cash-strapped days.
So far, it seems to be working out. The internet buzz was good, it drove some new traffic NPR’s way, and it gives them a year or two of possible programming ideas. It’s not the first poll to come out of NPR books, but it got the most attention, by far. The response was described as “overwhelming.” Frankly, the fact that their SFF poll got such a huge turnout compared to other polls they’ve done says good things about the place of SFF in U.S. culture. Expect to see more NPR coverage of the genre over the next two years. Happy listening!
The finalists that I felt really really ought to have made it onto the final list regardless are Denaly’s Dhalgren, Peake’s Gormenghast, Sturgeon’s More than Human, and Crowley’s Little, Big.
I will probably be E-Pelted for this but Brave New World? Really? I wouldn’t put it in the top 1000 let alone top ten.
Hmm.. I’d have put Lord of Light above Amber in the list, but that’s getting into “important vs. fun” territory.
My picks from the finalists but not in the top 100:
Guy Gavriel Kay, both Fionavar and Tigana. Put that far far ahead of Terry Brooks or Robert Jordan in a heartbeat. Not nearly enough people read GGK.
Fritz Leiber, Fafhrd & The Gray Mouser series.
David Brin. Maybe not Earth or the entire Uplift trilogy, but Startide Rising, certainly.
E.E. “Doc” Smith, Lensmen Series.
I have a soft spot in my heart for Julian May’s Pliocene Exile Saga, which is a delightful time-travel mash-up of Celtic mythology, aliens, and psionic mind powers, but I don’t think I’ve ever met another person who’s actually read it.
And just to show that I have, in fact, read a book published after 1990…:
Alistair Reynolds, Revelation Space
And where the hell is Charles Stross? Naomi Novik makes the short list but not Charles Stross?
But as these things go, it’s a pretty good list, overall. I’ve read over half of the 100, and fully intend to get to at least another dozen.
75 read, 4 on the to be read pile, 21 to be collected & read at a later date…
I guess Guy Gavriel Kay’s finalists all split the vote. I’d have gone with the Sarantine Mosaic or The Lions of Al-Rassan. All of his historical fantasy is set in the same world, so combined it’s really one item.
I think people have ID’d many of the books I’d leave out (particularly the Jordon/Goodkind/Donaldson stuff- cannot stand them) but I’m surprised that no one has mentioned C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series as a possible inclusion.
Hear me out– I’m not defending the crappy, anvilicious allegory. Rather, the power derives from the sense of excitement and wonder that the books elicited from me as a nine or ten year old kid. They really started me down the path of reading speculative fiction, and I imagine they’ve done that for countless others. As one of the principal “gateways,” I think they deserve special mention on a list of important sf/f.
I read the Pliocene Exile books when they first came out. I recently tried a re-read, but the Suck Fairy had apparently been at them in the intervening years.
…and I just realized that my suggestion @62 is not on the expanded list.
75 reads also, the 25 missed were mostly fantasy, personally would have included Steakley’s Armor. I read somewhere that Steakley had outlined a sequel and it is now in the possession of a close friend of his family.
Would love to see Scalzi get his hands on that outline and do a number on it like he did Fuzzy Nation!
“We’ve got Jordan, and Eddings, bit not Tad Williams? Williams could write circles around either Jordan or Eddings, or the two of them collaborating, with the ghost of Shakespeare advising them.”
Quoted for truth.
Although, given my druthers, I prefer Eddings over Goodkind or Donaldson.
I see what you mean about a skewed list. I read Ender’s Game when I was already in my 30’s. I could see how it would appeal to a teen, especially a geeky one; but as an adult I found very uncompelling and deeply flawed. So I wonder with it hanging there at #3 if my tastes are that divergent, or if a lot of the voters are voting from memory of stories they read years if not decades ago.
As for your own entry, even though Starship Troopers started the trend, and I really enjoyed, The Forever War, I really think Old Man’s War take was by far the best. I would have easily ranked it above the other two.
I also think LoTR #1 and H2G2 #2 is simpy awesome!
I believe they deliberately but inconsistently left out young adult and chilldren’s books; hence the no Earthsea either, and no Harry Potter.
Like Nick @ 18 I wonder how much of a role filmed versions of any of the works played in the voting… I can envision many people thinking of the films as essentially “counting” as having read the book. Much like many people probably “count” an audiobook as being the same as having read a book. The audiobook is much closer to the reading experience than any film adaptation (imo, of course), but neither is it quite the same as reading the material yourself (again, imo).
Myself, I’m a hard SF guy and have never really cared for traditional fantasy. Got wizards, witches/warlocks, trolls, swords, knights, dungeons, and all that mystical magic stuff???? Eh, not for me. That’s why I’ve never read Tolkien. (Well, I seem to recall being compelled to read The Hobbit in a HS English class way back when before time began, but didn’t care for it and remember nothing of it now.) Despite that, but in deference to the hard-to-ignore influence and reputation the works have, I very seriously considered putting The LotR Trilogy in my top 10. That would have been my only nod to “something I hadn’t actually read,” but in the end I just couldn’t bring myself to do that and thereby knock out anything I actually HAD read and loved. (BTW, I only saw the first of the LotR films, didn’t care for that either, and passed on the rest.)
So on to the topic at hand, sort of… I don’t know that I could really complain about what didn’t make the final list nor the pool of nominees. For the most part I thought it was a reasonably good list as such things go, with only a relative few obvious “Huh?” headscratchers included. I didn’t really stop to think about what might NOT have been represented—I felt the absolute biggies were there. If Little Fuzzy was not there, then yes, that was a significant omission imo, but again I didn’t really take any time to note or look for such omissions to complain about.
I carefully scanned the list of available titles for the poll and noted any I’d read that I wanted to at least consider. Then on second scan of those I picked out, I deliberately decided to include only one book per “Obvious Giant of the Field” author (your definition of OGotF may vary, of course, but I pretty much mean Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, Bradbury).
Just missing my top ten (with no particular ranking order) were:
Way Station (Might have preferred City for a Simak entry, but pretty sure it wasn’t there, so there’s another “omission complaint” I guess)
Brave New World
Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
My actual top ten I voted for were (again, with no particular ranking order):
More Than Human
Stranger In a Strange Land
A Canticle For Leibowitz
The Time Machine
Flowers For Algernon
Re The Hyperion Cantos I was under the impression that term referred to only the first two books, of which the initial one was the obvious best book (according to me). The later Endymion books were completely forgettable (since I’ve forgotten them) and had I thought they were included in the nominated item, the Cantos may not have made my list. Wikipedia seems to indicate that the term “Cantos” initially referred to just the first two books, then later came to include the Endymions. So apparently there may have been some evolution and felxibility to the “Cantos” term. So at least I can somwhat justify my confusion, I guess. Yeah, I’ll go with that.
The hail of bullets:
-Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos is sitting at #51. At least it’s on there, but to me these are worthy of top-10 for sci-fi, and top-20 for a sci-fi/fantasy list. These books aren’t discussed nearly enough.
-I also think Watership Down is pretty low at #32. That book had a magic that few others have ever managed to capture (including Richard Adams himself, who never wrote anything half so good again). It’s well deserving of being in the top 10 for this list… it’s one of only two books (Ender’s Game is the other) which I buy random used copies of just to give out to friends.
-Several people have mentioned Eddings, both favorably and unfavorably. My own view is that Eddings’ books were always very good light and silly reading. They don’t ever take themselves too seriously, and sometimes that’s the kind of book you want. If nothing else, you have to hand it to him that his characters and dialogue are monstrously entertaining, even if the underlying stories is a million kinds of silly. I think the Belgariad belongs on this list, although where it should be exactly is up for grabs.
-Personally, I don’t miss Cook on this list. I never could stand that guy’s writing style.
–Sword of Truth was good before Goodkind lost it around book 6 or 7 and made no further attempts to disguise his political allegory. I wouldn’t have liked them even if I had agreed with his political agenda, which I don’t.
I’ve read a lot more on this list than on the nominee list, which is good and bad I suppose, as I always like using these things to build up my to-read list. I agree with a lot of the comments listed by the Monkey See blogger linked in the first paragraph, though: separating out YA was problematic, and I’d have liked to see separate Sci-Fi and Fantasy polls.
There’s also an interesting point there that removing YA probably reduced the number of women on the list by a fair bit. I hadn’t expressly made that connection before, but it is notable how so much of the good and/or popular YA is written by women: Rowlings, Collins, Meyer (and the majority of the paranormal romance subgenre that is not personally to my tastes but whatever), McKinley, Wrede, Yolan, Cashore, Pierce, Cooper, Lowry and so on. Certainly you have C.S. Lewis, Gaiman, Heinlein, Pullman, Snicket, Westerfield, Pratchett, Nix, Paolini and Riordan (among others of course) rounding out the dudes-writing-YA category, but I think the observation still holds water.
John, have you actually read Dhalgren? I thought that the claims of people finishing it were just rumors.
I note that I continue to be the only person in the entire world who didn’t really like American Gods. Love me some Stardust, though.
Patrick Rothfuss is awesome, but I don’t think that he’s been around long enough to merit so high a spot and the trilogy isn’t finished yet. He could still introduce Jar Jar Binks and screw it all up.
The Belgariad. Boo. The Mistborn Trilogy. Yay. The Shannara Series. Okay, now I know you are just messing with us.
I’d stretch a point and call The Cyberiad a novel. And demand that it be on the list. With rude gestures and shouting if necessary.
The juggling in Lord Valentines Castle is not described particularly realistically (and the picture on the cover defies gravity, physics, and several other things that I will recall at a later date). That’s not a comment on the merits of the book as a whole (I read it twenty years ago and don’t remember it), but I wanted to get it out there.
What about On The Beach? It’s as science-fictiony as The Road, but Nevil Shute does not suck and Cormac McCarthy does.
If I remember correctly they diqualified Urban Fantasy completely at the nomination stage, saying it was all too Twilighty. Which is in and of itself ridiculous. Butcher’s Codex Alera is on the list, just not the Dresden Files, which might be the most glaring example of a flawed poll there is. Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed the heck out of Codex Alera, I just like Dresden more. But this kind of thing is silly anyway. Everybody has their own brain, tastes, and opinions, so I don’t think any kind of definitive list is possible.
Definitely some age-skewing and some current-day-fandom skewing as well.
I mean, Neil Gaiman definitely belongs on there, possibly more than once, but four times?
Also, why no paranormal or urban fantasy? One might argue whether some paranormal romance belongs in the Fantasy or Romance bucket, and lots of it might also be YA, but it seemed strange to have Jim Butcher’s fantasy series in there and not his Dresden Files books.
“Also, why no paranormal or urban fantasy?”
It was noted from the outset that paranormal/urban fantasy would be excluded because it would likely be up for its own list in the future.
I love these lists – it’s like John says, they get people talking.
For example, “gary” up above says that Anathem shouldn’t be in the top 100. However, I think it should not only be there, but should be rated much higher than #85.
Even with a panel of experts, the picks would be incredibly subjective to a large degree. Rather than a ranking, I see it as a list of books – many of which I’ve never heard of – that might be worth reading. To me, that is the best kind of list of all!
@56 Crowley’s Little, Big would have been on my 100 Best. Now that I really think about it, ’twas a crying shame that neither Alfred Bester book (Demolished Man, Stars My Destination) didn’t make it. Oh well, at least he got a B5 shoutout.
The Listeners by James Gunn
The Eden series by Harry Harrison
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton or anything by Crichton…
In a perfect world, we’d have a Scalzi-penned sequel to Armor.
One big omission is Philip Jose Farmer. I’d also add the Brust series and The Bridge of Birds to the list. For sword and sorcery style fantasy, I’d elevate Lieber’s Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser series over some of the ones that made the final cut.
And this is one of the rare times someone published a best of list where I actually read a bunch of the entries already. of the top 20 on the list I have read 15.
Though I dont get the deal about Enders Game. It never pulled me in as I read it. I wonder sometimes if maybe I missed something in there. it actually annoyed me a number of.times.
otherwise, I would say the other top 14 that I did read were really good books.
I had forgotten about the Eden series. They were a great read.
I also see looking at the list again that a couple of the Discworld books made it individually. I would have thought the series as a whole would’ve made it? Though I’m only just starting it so I could well be missing something, too.
Some stories that had a profound affect on me as a child:
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Tripod Trilogy by John Christopher
and of course, the already noted Hitchhiker’s Guide
I would have included in my top 100: The Otherland series by Tad Williams, The Faded Sun series by C.J. Cherryh, Lord Valentine’s Castle, The Snow Queen by Joan Vinge, and The Windup Girl. I don’t see John Carter of Mars anywhere on either list, which I think is a real shame. Burrough’s stuff is one of the first things that turned me on to SF and Fantasy. Oh well.
My god, I just noticed that The Sparrow isn’t on the list (and apparently hasn’t been mentioned here either). I absolutely adore The Sparrow. Alas. Well, there’s always going to be something to disagree with. I do think the list did Terry Pratchett a disservice by not listing his books as a series. If Xanth gets listed as a series, Discworld absolutely should be.
It’s hard to come up with my list of books that should have been included without listing young adult, since that’s a pretty big part of what I read. Does Tooth and Claw count as YA or just too obscure? I’ll add to the voices saying that something from Butler should have been included. Alas, Babylon is also up there with the foundational but still enjoyable to read picks.
Wow. Either this really did turn into a popularity contest, or people have a different idea of what “best” means than I do, I guess. Which is both fair, and kind of the point of a poll like this.
You know, though I didn’t vote for it, I’m kind of glad to see The Princess Bride up there for some reason.
The biggest “missing” book here for me is Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, which is a solid top 10 for me. Others from my vote which didn’t make it are Lev Grossman’s The Magicians and Sturgeon’s More Than Human. (Here’s what I voted for, so that I may be mocked for my missteps, from the 200+ list: American Gods, Anathem, A Canticle for Leibowitz, The Diamond Age, The Dispossessed, The Magicians, More Than Human, Neuromancer, The Parable of the Sower, and Perdido Street Station.)
That first list was missing, among others, Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which I would have in my top 100 quite comfortably. I’m not sure yet where I would put William Gibson’s Spook Country (the best of his Bigend books, imho) or (even better) Jeff VanderMeer’s Finch, but I’d put them well ahead of an awful lot on this final top 100 list. (Sorry, the McCaffrey Dragonflight book is not readable.) Lewis Shiner’s Glimpses would definitely be in my top 100/50/… probably top 20 even.
I’m a little less certain about R. Scott Bakker’s The Darkness That Comes Before (top 50? dunno. top 100? probably), or Larry Niven and Brenda Coopers Building Harlequin’s Moon (ditto), but again I would have them above many on *this* final top 100 list. Still very much too recent for me to have perspective on Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death and Charles Yu’s How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, but again, I’d be tempted.
Lastly, if “book” is defined to include graphic novels, I don’t know why it couldn’t include short story collections or foundational anthologies, several of which are better than some of the books on this list, let alone the larger 200+ list. So if we’re talking “books” being bound stories beyond prose novels, Terry Bisson’s collection Bears Discover Fire and Other Stories would be in my top 100 easily.
Oh, yes, Meg, definitely The Sparrow. I can’t find my original nominations comment from which the first 200+ book list sprang, but I would be pretty surprised if that wasn’t one of the ones I nominated, too.
I’m a little surprised that Alan Dean Foster didn’t even make the first cut on the list. Reading the comments is definitely helping increase my reading list. There are a couple of common threads that really stand out to me – Windup Girl should be on the list and Terry Goodkind should not.
While you can certainly see Connie Willis’ two time travel books, Doomsday & Dog, as great stand-alone works…I think the entire series, including the short Fire Watch and the two recent books, should cosolidate into a group…they really do hang together better than they hang apart.
I also noted a number of graphic novels were included…call me a purist, but I think a novel should have more words than pictures.
I am glad to see ‘The Stand’ and ‘The Handmaiden’s Tale” included, but I agree ‘Kindred’ by Octavia Butler should have also made the list.
Neal Stephenson has taken a bashing in a few posts on this thread. I’m a huge fan, so I wanted to step in to the defense. I really am not sure Cryptonomicon deserves to be on the list because I don’t know if it is sci-fi/fantasy. Doesn’t really seem to be for me. Enoch Root is alluded to be a fantastical figure, but he isn’t an important part of the story. The rest of it seems to be based on straight-forward science and history. But if it is sci-fi, it makes the list just based on being a great book.
I adored Anathem; it blew my mind. Snow Crash was the first (and in my mind only) worthy successor to Neuromancer. Both of those are top 20 books to me, let alone top 100. Diamond Age was a little more uneven; I could have accepted it not making the top 100.
Dhalgren has the dubious honor of being the only book I read part of, furrowed my brow, and marched right back into the bookstore to exchange for something readable. (I believe I exchanged it for Dragon’s Egg, a novel about life on a neutron star.) That they would leave out all the works of Brin, Cherryh and Silverberg and put that book, of all of Delaney’s wonderful works, in the top ten simply astounds me.
As a side note, I see that Piers Anthony’s Xanth squeezed onto the list. I read those books back in middle/high school and I always assumed they were meant to be YA. I see that NPR made a decision to not put YA on the list, so was I wrong in thinking that Xanth was targeted toward the YA audience? Or is YA really just something from the last couple decades and anything 1980’s and early is automatically not YA?
@gws, #33, “A top fantasy list without Robert Howard or Lord Dunsany?”
Howard is on the list for Conan, at #68 in the NPR list.
@zakur, #25, “Honestly, I’m just happy not see any Ayn Rand or L. Ron Hubbard works on the list. Their followers made a complete mess of Modern Library’s Best 100 Novels (Reader’s List).”
Wow. That is some serious ballot stuffing. I mean, if you’re going to do it, be a little more subtle than an earthmover at Pottery Barn.
Too bad Austin Grossman’s “Soon I will be Invincible” didn’t get mentioned at all. I loved that book.
Xanth as YA? Huh. I never really viewed it as such, especially with all the sexual themes. It was never explicitly marketed as such, though it’s often found it’s way into YA lists, in part because of the accusation that Anthony wrote down to his audience.
A little sad that the Continuing Time series by Daniel Keys Moran didn’t even make the first cut. That trilogy was amazing.
And seriously? nothing by Neal Asher?
Lists like these are always divisive, subjective as tastes are. Best to many readers here clearly meant ‘enjoyable’. The Belgariad is not a great series and it’s writing is nothing to be astounded by….but when I was in high school, I loved that series unabashedly. Many entries on this list clearly fall into that mold. Smarter works may not be here perhaps, nor “Great Works”….but a lot of this list is ‘rubber meets the road’, IMHO. Does it cluster around recent works and giants of the genre? Of course it does. Why wouldn’t it?
Is Brust’s “Taltos” books or Cook’s “Black Company” series High Art? Likely not. But I’ve read those books multiple times, whereas I haven’t been able to finish Dune at least twice. I can understand if someone finds this list totally inaccurate or even insulting, but I don’t. I see it as a real reflection of what some people are reading, not what some people wished people were reading. If Robert Jordan has been able to get me to read 10,000 pages of text, doesn’t that suggest some level of accomplishment? I think it probably does. And with the term ‘best’ being somewhat nebulous itself (“best written”? “best story”? “best use of language”?), I think variance should be expected.
…all that said, not a single Fred Saberhagen work? Not one? Darn.
Bridge of Birds
When Gravity Fails
Any Octavia Butler
Yeah, they should have separated SF and fantasy.
I printed out the original list and crossed out all the books I’ve read… so now I have a (much smaller) list of books to read soon.
My Missing 10 (in alphabetical order):
The Demolished Man-Alfred Bester
The Stars My Destination-Alfred Bester
The Land of Laughs-Jonnathan Carroll
The Einstein Intersection-Samuel R. Delany
The Beggars in Spain trilogy-Nancy Kress
The Armageddon Rag-Geoge R. R. Martin
More Than Human-Theodore Sturgeon
The Humanoids-Jack Williamson
I agree that the list is more of a starting point, rather than a definitive “best of”. Some of you are reminding me of old favorites long forgotten, along with newer, overlooked choices. I’d like to throw in Zilpha Keatly Snyder for her stories of The People, interstellar refugees who landed on Civil War-era Earth and are desperately trying to assimilate before they get lynched for their outlandish talents.
I’m surprised no one has mentioned Gordon R. Dickson’s Childe Cycle (Dorsai!, Solder, Ask Not, Final Encyclopedia, etc) I always assumed everyone read him.
Three series I really enjoyed that didn’t make it and I would seem to think they should. Two that others mentioned:
The Dresden files
I also would have thought something By Peter F. Hamilton, the The Void Trilogy was pretty good IMO.
Yeah, I have heard very, very nice things about Ryman’s “Was” (John Kessel called it one of the most moving novels he’s ever read) and do want to pick up a Ballard book one of these days as well. For some reason they never quite get off the wish list before something newer and shinier comes along, and then the wish list (of some ridiculous size) gets buried and buried. Not enough hours in a life to read it all.
Crowley’s Little, Big would have been on my 100 Best.
Little, Big would be on my list of 100 Best American Novels, full stop. Period. Many exclamation marks. :) But I can understand why it isn’t because (and this is going to sound really pretentious and snobby) because I think it’s too “literary” for a mainstream SF/F audience, and way too geeky for literary snobs. You’ve really got to invest time and attention into reading Crowley and (like Gene Wolfe’s 12 ‘Sun’ novels), and I can understand why a lot of people just don’t.
To me, the exclusion of Young Adult from the list was more problematical than lumping SF and Fantasy together. Sure, I can see that they didn’t want the top 10 dominated by J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer, but the exclusion left out much that, for my generation at least, defined both SF and Fantasy: The Hobbit, the Narnia series (I suspect that C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy made it into the top 100 on the strength of votes from Narnia fans who couldn’t vote for Narnia), the Heinlein “juveniles,” and A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle. Yes, Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game somehow snuck past the guardians of this poll, but Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy didn’t. Which shows how much the YA category itself is defined by marketing decisions made by publishers.
On a different note, I feel that for a series to be included in a poll such as this, it should be complete, either by finishing the story, or by the death of the author. (I’ll give Dune a pass; it appears that people were voting on the Frank Herbert books and not the Brian Herbert/Kevin J. Anderson series of books. Same, I suppose, for Robert Jordan and The Wheel of TIme) I’m not trying to pick on George R.R. Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire) here, I’m looking at Patrick Rothfuss (The Kingkiller Chronicles) and Brandon Sanderson (The Way of Kings) as well. As great as these series may be, they are still incomplete.
As for the recent works factoring heavily, this is understandable. Recent works are fresher in people’s minds, and often have a lot of current publicity associated with them. But I can understand the argument for excluding them. An all-time list should be a list of books that stand the test of time. The Windup Girl, and yes, Old Man’s War have not yet done so. Will people be reading them thirty years from now? Possibly, maybe even probably. But we have no way of knowing, because, for all of many SF readers expectations, we can’t predict the future.
I just came back from the public library. I hope it’s not piling on to mention that the library has at least a dozen R. A. Salvatore novels and not one Scalzi novel. I checked out the first The Legend Of Drizzt book. To make it up to you, I’ll download Old Man’s War from audible.com.
The list does have a few cringers. I was very sad to see that Doris Lessing’s Canopus in Argos got no love, along with Little, Big by the amazing John Crowley. Canopus, especially, is one of the best SF series ever in terms of psychological depth and audacity of form, though I’m sure others would disagree.
:-( No Alfred Bester. Damn. One of the very best SF writers in the classic era, IMO. And no Cherryh. No Cordwainer Smith. No Charlie Stross. No Richard Morgan. No Revelation Space. No Hamilton. No Guy Gavriel Kay. No Patricia McKilip.
Oh, well. It’s a topic of conversation on my Facebook and Google+ streams, too.
I’d have included:
“The Stars My Destination” and “The Demolished Man” by Bester
“Norstrilia” by Cordwainer Smith
The Faded Sun trilogy or Cyteen by Cherryh…Probably Cyteen
The Fionovar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay
Some of my votes made it into the list…The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Ender’s Game (hey, I know many don’t like it, but it’s seminal), Lord of the Rings, Dune, Foundation Trilogy, and Snow Crash. It was very, very, very hard to come up with a top ten.
But, sheesh, XANTH?! Shannara?!?! Ugh.
I don’t get too spun up over such lists. I would never put any of the Dune books where someone might read them, but I acknowledge they are otherwise widely held in high regard.
However, this synopsis of the Niven/Pournelle classic, The Mote in God’s Eye, “The accidental killing of a group of emissaries to Earth threatens man’s survival,” is hilariously, absurdly, off. So simplistic, describing a minor part of a far reaching book, does the book a serious injustice.
Looking at the other omissions from the list, I’m not too surprised that Poul Anderson isn’t on it. What I do find difficult to believe is that no-one else on this site has mentioned him! – Three hearts and three lions ? (seminal – even Moorcock gives him a nod); the van Rijn novels?
The Crystal Singer series by C.J. Cherryh. Love it
and oh yeah…
I LOVE IT.
The Silmarillion must have made it to the top 100 on authorship, cause it certainly isn’t one of the top 100 IMO.
I was disappointed in the top 237, which was missing works by such authors as Andre Norton, Barbara Hambly, Sharon Shinn, Kate Elliott, P C Hodgell, Jane Lindskold, Steven Gould, Jay Lake, or James Alan Gardner, so probably it makes sense that the remaining 100 should also disappoint.
I was disappointed that Octavia Butler, so well represented in the top 237, had no books make the top 100. I also voted for the Temeraire series and the Liaden series and Grass, to no avail.
Laura @ 114: I’ve been thinking about this and I think Butler’s problem might have been that, with only ten votes, a lot of people only wanted to vote for a particular author once. Looking at the (obviously totally unscientific) review patterns on Goodreads, Kindred is the only one of her books that stands out as “most popular” but even though a lot more people reviewed Kindred, its actual rating is about the same as her other books. Her books are just so consistently good that I suspect there may have been some vote splitting going on with four books nominated and she probably would have gotten on the top 100 if only one had been nominated. I know that personally I like Lilith’s Brood best of her books, I’d have voted for any of the other nominated ones if it had been the only one listed.
The Company series by Kage Baker. I only found out about her work due to her recent death (thanks to a post here on Whatever, actually), but she left a hell of a legacy in that series.
I was surprised by the omission of Jack Vance. He was the first person I looked for when voting, and he didn’t even make that list.
I tend to read a lot and move on. CJ Cherryh’s four Chanur books are pretty much the only sci-fi series I return to and re-read every couple of years. It’s just sad that she isn’t on there somewhere, for any one of her great books. Downbelow Station? The Foreigner series? Nothing? Argh.
I’m glad Terry Pratchett is on the list a couple times, but Going Postal is one of his less interesting works. Surprised that one showed up over, say, Reaper Man or Feet of Clay.
As for hard science fiction, I’m amazed that Stanislaw Lem didn’t make the list, I would have also liked to see Rudy Rucker’s Ware series. And for other genres: Thomas Disch, James Tiptree Jr., and Shirley Jackson.
Huh. That was interesting. Stuff I would NOT have put on the list –
ANYTHING by Piers Anthony. I read a lot of his stuff in junior high and high school and enjoyed him at the time, but he made me increasingly uncomfortable as his, um, issues soaked more thoroughly into his narratives and when I tried to re-read some of his work post-college I just couldn’t get through it.
The Space Trilogy by C. S. Lewis. Ye dogs, what a bunch of gibbering anti-science lunacy.
The Thrawn Trilogy. Star Wars novels? Really? I think Timothy Zahn is an underappreciated author, and the Thrawn Trilogy was a fun and smart piece of fan service for people who never got the sour taste of Return Of The Jedi out of their mouths, but Zahn has produced works that are much better on their own terms. I highly recommend his Cobra series and Deadman Switch, and A Coming Of Age is a solid YA entry.
The Sword Of Shannara. Yes, they’re fun, and I devoured them in high school when they first appeared along with everyone else. But they really are little more than “Lord of the Rings”-lite.
World War Z. I liked it a lot. It’s very clever. But a top 100?
The Belgariad. Another series I adored in high school, but just doesn’t have the weight of the better works it follows, nor does it hold up as well over time.
The Stand. King’s greatest strength is in short fiction, and though the mileage of others will obviously vary I found The Stand to be an appalling anti-reason missive.
The Wheel Of Time. Yes, Jordan has his fans and his detractors; I… am not a fan (and was clearly outvoted).
About the Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, I have… mixed feelings. There’s a real brilliance and power to it, but, yikes. I highly recommend his other fantasy series, Mordant’s Need (and, yes; I get that Mordant’s Need is both an inversion and a subversion of the themes and characters in Thomas Covenant, and that that, too, is part of Donaldson’s brilliance. But, like I said; yikes. And don’t even get me started on the Gap series (shudder)).
I could quibble about some of the others (can’t we all?). I’ve never read any Brandon Sanderson, Susanna Clark or Robin Hobb; I haven’t read The Time Traveler’s Wife; Patrick Rothfuss and Steven Erikson are on my “To Do” list so I’m going to start reading them Real Soon Now; and I’ve avoided Terry Goodkind on the “It’s-Atlas-Shrugged-With-A-Sword” advice from other readers and so can’t venture an experienced opinion on his work.
Unfortunate omissions from the final list are CJ Cherryh, Philip Jose Farmer, Joanna Russ, Greg Bear, David Brin, John Varley, Robert J. Sawyer, Alistair Reynolds, Charles Stross, Alfred Bester and Sherri S. Tepper.
Maybe what’s needed is a Top 500 list. There’s so much good solid work out there that too much gets inevitably thrown to the side for a Top 100.
Some additions – Elizabeth Moon, Frederik Pohl, and Nancy Kress belong in a “Top” list for sure. Hell, I’ll think of even more on the drive home…
I’m disappointed that Patricia McKillip wasn’t represented on the list. Or The Dresden Files which has at least maintained its quality across the series (I think it’s gotten better, myself). Too many series begin to disappoint about the 4th or 5th book or so, in my experience. And West’s Sun Sword series is astounding in its depth and scope.
A few books also surprised me for being on the list, but I’ll not name titles. lol
I also included More Than Human on my short list, BUT…I’d say that the middle novella, “Baby Is Three,” is perceptibly better than its book ends. Which is not to say that the bookends bad or even mediocre, just that “Baby,” is incredible writing.
Also Vlad Taltos, Startide Rising, The Forever War (the Author’s preferred version) were one’s I picked but didn’t see.
One I picked and was surprised to see in the final list was The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde. I think that I’ve never read a series of books (Thursday Next) that spent more time playing with the language for the sheer unholy joy of playing with it. The discussion in one of the sequels about the way phrases like “had had” and “that that” take the reader away from the book where a character produces a summary of the problem that was a veritable wall of hads and thats (for example, “…that that ‘that that’ had had a problematic effect on the reader…”) and when you went back and picked it apart it all made sense. A personal favorite I never suspected could make the list.
At the end of the day, I suggest that we all agree the More Than Human is the number one “Book That Really Should Have Been On The List.”
It does seem to me that the fact that a lot of excellent books and authors were left out just means that their fans didn’t get out there and vote (I know I didn’t know about this contest). Doesn’t mean they aren’t really great books.
That said, I was surprised to not see Jack Vance, Richard Morgan, George Alec Effenger, Cordwainer Smith and a few others. “Grass”, should have been on the list.
I would have included “Steel Beach”–John Varley, “The Last Coin”-James Blaylock, Edgar Rice Burroughs “John Carter” series and Zelazny’s “Lord of Light.” My favorite Terry Pratchett is “The Night Watch.” But then, I love everything by Pratchett.
A novel I enjoyed immensely in its day (has always stuck in my mind as a “loved book” though I think I only re-read it once, and not recently) was Gregory Benford’s Timescape. With Brin and Bear getting the occasional mention here, just thought I’d toss in the other “killer B” of that era.
Queen of Angels would probably be my top Bear choice.
And while I’ve read a lot of Benford & Bear, I never got into Brin for some reason. I did read Earth and The Postman at the time, but can’t say I remember anything of either so I certainly wasn’t wowed by them. Whether that says more about the author, the stories, or me, I have no idea…
A couple thoughts.
No Spider Robinson (I think)
Only one Orson Scott Card – No Alvin Templeman Series
Other Thank Tolkien I am not much of a fantasy fan and I think it would have been better served to have the genres split.
The China Mieville should be City in the The City
Also no Bible, Koran or Book of Mormon
Grab your Towels.
I know that I mentioned (#107) that recent works shouldn’t be given as much weight, but given that they are, I was disappointed that Allen Steele’s Coyote series, didn’t make the cut.
Bob Sassone @ #44: Deathbird Stories made it to the finalist’s list but not the “final” top 100.
JoelZ @ #101: Beggars in Spain is a trilogy?? Off to my Amazon Wish List…
OmegaMom @ #110: The first three Xanth novels are actually pretty decent (A Spell For Chameleon won a World Fantasy Award, if I’m not mistaken). But yeah, with ya on Shannara…
Books I voted for in the finalist poll that didn’t make it to the Top 100 (almost all of them previously mentioned by others here):
Little, Big by John Crowley
More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon
Deathbird Stories by Harlan Ellison
Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress
The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers
(I agree that Silverberg was a rather glaring omission, and I would have liked to have seen at least one Poul Anderson or Robert Sheckley in there somewhere. But then again, I’m an old fart.)
Well, that’s the most terrifying sentence I’ve read today.
The best ever are missing: The Liaden Universe series by Lee & Miller and the Foreigner series by Cherryh.
I’m not even going to try and criticize either list, I can see “Huh?s” and “But!s” already, and that’s before reading the comments here or there. There were titles and authors on both lists I haven’t read, so that a win, as far as I’m concerned. In a week or three, someone should collect a list of those mentioned that missed the lists as a third list, but it won’t be me.
The first thing I looked for on the list was Dhalgren, a book I can’t imagine not appearing on a “best of” list. Some other omissions:
The Stars My Destination – Alfred Bester
The Demolished Man – Alfred Bester
More Than Human – Ted Sturgeon
Mission of Gravity – Hal Clement
Revelation Space Trilogy – Alastair Reynolds
Altered Carbon – Richard K. Morgan
Stand on Zanzibar – John Brunner
Way Station – Clifford D. Simak
Slan – A.E. Van Vogt
Glimpses – Lewis Shiner
Millennium– John Varley
Gaia Trilogy – John Varley
(Re Dhalgren: I’ve discovered that Dhalgren is one of the love it or hate it books, with no middle ground. I’m firmly in the love camp. I’m in my early forites, and I first read Dhalgren last year after many years of having in in my “to read” pile. There are probably five books that I’ve read in my life that I wanted to start reading again the moment I finished them, and Dhalgren was one of them. I have it out on my desk and dip into it and read a few pages on a regular basis. I’ll probably read it in full again in the next year or two. I haven’t had a book speak to me in the way Dhalgren did in many years. One reviewer opined that to get Dhalgren, you had to be in a particular place in your life, a time of upheaval and transition. I was in that place last year, so maybe that’s why Dhalgren captured my imagination the way that it did.)
It’s interesting to compare the NPR list to James Wallace Harris’s classics of science fiction list. Harris compiled the list using critics’ lists, fan polls, and awards. Many of the top ranking books on his list are ones that commenters here have mentioned as well.
definitely some weird entries on the final list. Kind of mind-boggling that The Uplift Saga, by David Brin didnt’ make it.
If “Frankenstein” and “I am Legend” make the list I find it interesting that HP Lovecraft seems to be left out as not in genre enough. As with any “all time” list it does skew towards the present. CS Lewis Space Trilogy instead of Narnia? No Wizard of Oz but Wicked makes the list? I am Legend makes the list but no Dracula? No Alice in Wonderland? No Gulliver’s Travels. No Utopia by Thomas More? No Jekyll and Hyde? Also the American and English language-centic nature of it is interesting. The only author who wrote in another language who made it on to the list is Jules Verne. No Stanislaw Lem, No Yvegeny Zamyatin, Kafka. Let alone anyone working in the past ten years outside the Anglophone world.
I agree that this list says more about the people who voted than anything else. I have enjoyed many of the books on this list but if I were going to give someone a list of the best of all time, of all of sci/fi and fantasy this would not be it. It might start a conversation, but more because of its limitations than its value.
These lists are a very personal choice and there is no “right or wrong” about it.
For me the missing include:
Day of the Triffids
The Wreck of the River of Stars
Ghost Brigades (A better book than OMW, IMHO)
No AE Van Vogt?
I always thought of myself as a ‘hard SF’ guy but now that I am finding myself more (ahem!) mature (read ‘coot;-) I discover that my go-to authors are Guy Gavriel Kay and Charles De Lint. (If I’m not re-reading Patrick O’Brian for the umpteenth time) So I’d like to have seen some mention of them. That being said, there are at least 4 of JS’s list that I would have to agree are mandatory reading.
Someone questioned if Piers Anthony was considered YA. My mom handed me those books in middle school, but I don’t think of them as “kid” books. In fact I read a significant amount of the “classic” fantasy in Middle school and then stopped all together until about 4 years ago. I think there are lots of books that appeal to kids but are not necessarily YA. Tolkien is read by kids all the time, but I wouldn’t call it YA. Whenever someone tells me that their kid just doesn’t read, I tell them to give them some sci-fi/fantasy. Its hard for a kid not love it.
Anthony @ 103 — perhaps The Childe Cycle books didn’t make the list because the major conflict was never resolved?
Pucca the Rabbit @ 113 — I also loved The Crystal Singer trilogy but I thought it was written by a different author (Anne McCaffrey). Oh well, perhaps one of us lives in an alternate history where C.J. Cherryh penned it and McCaffrey wrote Cyteen.
The Riverworld Series isn’t on the top 100 list and nothing from Spider Robinson. Yet some of the ones that are on the list I don’t even really consider SF (like the Outlander series). Funny what makes it and what doesn’t when there is an online vote.
Isn’t this basically a popularity contest (albeit probably with a little fan campaigning and repeat voting)?
Eddings, Goodkind, Feist, Salvatore, Zahn, Brooks (Terry & Max) – not high art but definitely popular, bestselling authors.
@59 Stephen McNeil: Hi. My name is YodasEars. Now we’ve met, I can confirm that I too love the Pliocene Exiles saga. That said, we have v different experiences with it – I find that it’s a series where, every time I (or any of my friends) is reading it, we get accosted by random strangers doing the whole “I remember that book! I love that book! Must read it again!” About the only other book I’ve experienced this with was American Gods by Gaiman.
But yes, excluding Stross is v close to saying that modern SF doesn’t exist…
I’m always amused when these sorts of lists come out and the comments on them from Hard Sf fans complaining that they have to share elbow room with novels about Dragons and Wizards and icky fantasy stuff. As if they’re worried that being exposed to a novel with magic in it will somehow make their super high tech and very plausible toys (usually of limited military application) not work. Which of course is missing the point of these lists, which is to showcase and celebrate the variety of fantastical literature out there.
You don’t hear the urban fantasy fans griping about the military SF on the list or the alt history fans bemoaning the presence of cyberpunk novels. In the genre ghetto, it’s always the Hard SF purists vs everyone else.
Overall, it’s an interesting list. I prefer the 237 nominees better, as they had room for some of the weirder stuff that inevitably gets culled in order to reach the arbitrary round number demanded by fans of the common denominator. Illuminatus! was on that list and should have been on the 100 but it has a decidedly pro-hippies and pro-drug plot, and so is just a little too weird for the squares at NPR.
I was surprised that Michael Marshall Smith didn’t make it with “Spares”, a great read (also liked “Only Forward” and One of Us”). Zelazny’s “My Name is Legion” was a great read — especially the dialog. Eric Frank Russel’s “Men, Martians and Machines”, showing how world-weary even explorers (or seargent-at-arms) can become (and yes, I read that somewhere around 4th or 5th grade. I still go back and re-read it, it’s almost “comfort food” by now!). The aforementioned Brunner. “Daybreak: 2250 AD” by Andre Norton. Even “Resurrection Day” by Brendan DuBois (more alternate history, but the “universe” created by DuBrois really sucks you iin).
But the best things about lists is that I now have new books to sample — and new writers to experience!
@129: Well, that’s the most terrifying sentence I’ve read today.
atlas shrugged requires an industrialized society to even have capitalists and a government with a regulated market to even have anything for the capitalists to rebel against.
in medieval times, every king was their own John Galt.
I cant even imagine how someone could twist medieval divine rule of kings into a screed for going Galt. boggles the mind it does.
‘The Windup Girl’ was a good book.
I know I’ll offend someone by saying this, but I’ve always found Ender’s Game to be highly overrated and the Belgariad to be a poorly written series filled with fantasy tropes and stereotypical characters.
I didn’t notice any Liz Williams or Martha Wells.
Agreed, I’m shocked that nothing by Andre Norton made it, unless she has been relegated to the YA ghetto. Frankly, a lot of sci-fi winds up in YA because of the age of the protagonists, not because of lack of literary merit.
I also missed Robert Forward, Scott Westerfeld and Kenneth Oppel, two of whom might have fallen into the aforementioned YA abyss.
p.s. I read both fantasy and hard sci-fi, and many flavors in between, and mock anyone who thinks there must be a dichotomy.
The one book I really loved but never see on these lists is the Initiate Brother by Sean Russell and it’s sequel Gatherer of Clouds. While it has light fantasy elements the books are just phenomenal reading all around, and deserve a far greater recommendation than my humble words could give them.
No Tiptree, S. Jackson, Russ, or C. S. Friedman, but yknow, it was a “popular vote” thing so I’m not surprised. I echo the ones calling for Bester, Butler and Delany… and it’d probably be very useful to start including books like Sultana’s Dream by Roquia Sakhawat Hussain.
Hrrrrrr. . ..no Witch World. I grow weary of the continued snubbing of the Grande Dame . . .
My first thoughts on reading the final 100 were, “What? No Tim Powers and no Harlan Ellison?” While I agree with you, John, that Ellison is most known for his short stoires, I did see that two of Ray Bradbury’s collections, The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man, both made the final 100. As for Tim Powers, his Last Call made the list of 237 but not the final 100, but I would have included the whole trilogy of Last Call, Expiration Date, and Earthquake Weather. They don’t look like a trilogy until you get to the final book, but the do make up a trilogy and, for my money, one of the best.
Also missing, even from the list of 237, is Kage Baker’s Company novels, which are brilliant. My favorite of the series is Mendoza in Hollywood, but they are all very, very good.
Damn it. “are”….”…are Kage Baker’s Company novels…” I really do have a college education, not that you can tell sometimes.
I’m very dissapointed that Legend wasn’t on the list. Being a huge Gemmell fan, to the point where my boss sent me home I was so distressed the day I read David Gemmell had died at his desk on the BBC news.
Given Gemmell probably has more fans across the pond in the UK and Australia than he has in the US is it possible he got missed out on by a predominantly US group of voters being an NPR website? is David Gemmell that well known in the US?
I’m disappointed that Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is on the list of 100, but not The Man in the High Castle; likewise for 2001 getting the votes that The City and the Stars should have received. In both cases I presume this was because voters know Androids and 2001 from the movie versions – not really a good reason for voting for (imho) the inferior novel in each case.
The absence of The Stars My Destination is a real shame. Likewise, it’s a shame that Benford’s Timescape wasn’t even a finalist – I’d hate for that one to become obscure; it’s only 31 years old…
If it were a popularity contest, wouldn’t “Harry Potter” be at the top of the list?
Vorkogisan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold, in particular Cordelia’s Honor & Memory
Chalion Series, in particular Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls, Lois McMaster Bujold
The only other sf/fantasy I have reread as often as Bujold are shorts.
“Re: Baen: Shards of Honor is in there.”
Really that’s just tokenism. Baen is known as a publisher who publishes Conservative and Libertarian authors (who find few ports in an industry increasingly dominated by so-called “progressives”), so of course the far-left NPR wouldn’t want to put up any of the many quality novels in Baen’s portfolio.
Well, since you asked …
Here are some that should have been on the list IMHO.
Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
Lord Valentine’s Castle, Robert Silverberg
The Uplift Series, David Brin (especially Startide Rising and The Uplift War)
Grass, Sherri Tepper (her best work)
Kerrion Empire Trilogy, Janet Morris (little known it seems, but quite good)
The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
Chanur Series (Compact Space), C.J. Cherryh (love them Hani cat folk)
The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell
The Long Run, Daniel Keys Moran
Honor Harrington Series, David Weber (at least through Echoes of Honor, starts getting sucky after that)
Steel Beach, John Varley
Iron Sunrise, Charlie Stross
Vatta’s War Series, Elizabeth Moon
And there are some that shouldn’t have made the top 100.
Ender’s Game (OK. But top 100? Nah.)
The Wheel Of Time Series (Ugh. Not that masochistic. I choked through three books and gave up.)
Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? (Not really his best work.)
The Stand (Again, not his best work.)
The Silmarillion (Give me a break.)
Cryptonomicon (This book isn’t SF. I would accept The Diamond Age.)
World War Z (meh)
The Last Unicorn (double meh)
The Legend Of Drizzt Series
Wicked (Why is this even in the to 250?)
I haven’t read nineteen books/series on the list and have no opinion. Some look interesting
Ursula K. Le Guin has two books in the list — The Disposessed and The Left Hand of Darkness. Lots of folks rate them highly, but I found them both stilted and rather boring. Just me, I suppose. I prefer her Earthsea books.
Books that are desperately missing, in order of the egregiousness of their omission:
Lord of Light
Blindsight (and shame on the Comment Section for having to go 160 comments without a mention)
The Scar (with or separate from Perdido Street Station, which should be much higher in any case)
The Dream of Perpetual Motion (Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person who actually likes this book)
Discworld as a series (or at least Reaper Man)
Stories of Your Life: And Others/The Best of Gene Wolfe- If Asimov gets a book of short stories in (I, Robot and Foundation, more or less) then these too should be eligible
I’m really not up on the various distinctions between the publishing houses, so I won’t disagree with your assessment of Baen.
I’m curious though if your comment is only for the top 100 or if it includes the finalists as well. These look to have been picked by a 3 member panel. Do you see the bias in both of these as well?
I also did note that both Heinlein’s Staship Troopers and Stranger in a Strange Land made the Top 100, and I found both to have strong Libertarian views.
The point being, is it perhaps not NPR, but maybe those who would vote on the NPR site that are skewing things?
Just a thought.
Ah the joy of a group populace vote for books. . . by law no one is going to be entirely happy and many will vent their nerdrage.
Frankly when and if I do read these I only do so to find new books I may like, never to really be excited a book I like is there or upset when one isn’t. What’s the point.
Taste is so subjective, and that’s a beautiful thing. I know my tastes are not the same as others (I love Covenant for example, and really enjoy Dragonlance sometimes)
And that’s ok.
Because no one’s taste is wrong. . . unless they like Twilight.
I don’t know if I agree with you on the Drizzt Series, there are some good books in that series. The series pretty much falls into the alternatingly mediocre/good, for adolescents or adolescents-at-heart category that Star Wars Novels and Scalzi’s own work does.
The ones that bother me most for not being on the list are the Earthsea series, the Deryni Chronicles, and the Thieves World series. And what’s with Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser not making the top echelon?
Oh, and it’s just plain silly how low Conan is.
“Really that’s just tokenism.”
Meh. I suspect that it’s more an indication that an author who has won the best novel Hugo multiple times might deserve to be on the list for her own merits.
That said, while I often think you oversalt everything with a political perspective, Scorpius, I think you are correct that the typical Baen audience and the typical NPR audience don’t overlap all that much, and that possibly does have some influence on things here, both in the initial set of nominations (from which the jury then culled to the finalists) and in the final voting. I would also agree that if the same sort of poll were run by, say, Fox News, the composition of the Top 100 would be somewhat different (I suspect more SF than F, and Heinlein in the top ten).
That’s rather significantly tempered, however, by the fact that the poll was open to anyone who chose to participate, even during the nomination phase, so even Baen-focused readers could have easily participated — there was no liberal forcefield preventing them from doing so, and there were other Baen authors (Weber and Flint, most notably) on the finalist list. The poll was heavily promoted in science fiction online circles, which are largely separate from politics. And Lord knows there’s certainly enough stuff on the list that’s popular more than critically well-regarded, and enough whose content (or authors) are regarded as being on the conservative-to-libertarian spectrum. Add it up and it’s difficult to assert that it’s just a liberal plot.
So rather than lay this all on the door of the NPR, allow me to suggest another contributing factor I’ve noticed, which is that in the context of the larger SF community many Baen enthusiasts simply seem to keep to themselves and don’t choose to participate in stuff like this. Whether that’s entirely related to politics is up to debate, as the SF community in general shows a broad spectrum of political views. I suspect (and I genuinely mean this without snark) it’s that in general Baen readers prefer each others’ company; the company has been very good in building its own community.
Pratchett’s Small Gods is neither here nor there, but I don’t know why they chose Going Postal
over The Truth, one of the best satires of any genre – it compares well with Waugh’s Scoop,
probably because Terry started life as a journalist on a local paper. (There’s a quote somewhere,
describing his early life “and on my first day I saw a corpse for the first time, work experience
_meaning something_ in those days”).
The one problem I have with lists like this is that I don’t have enough time to read all the books. First World Problems indeed.
Here are some that I would have chosen although there were some that were left out that are on my to-read pile already but I couldn’t pick them since I haven’t actually read them.
On Basilisk Station by David Weber
1632 by Eric Flint
The Day of Triffids by John Wyndham
The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
The Tales of Alvin Maker by Orson Scott Card
The Incarnations Of Immortality Series by Piers Anthony
Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan
Lord Valentine’s Castle by Robert Silverberg
The Change Series by S.M. Stirling
I’m pleastantly surprised to see others mentioning George Alec Effinger. I though of him immediately, but discarded him as being too obscure. Although his most popular books were the wonderful Marid Auduran series (_When Gravity Fails_ and its sequels), if you were to include him, his more ambitious (and critically-acclaimed) books such as _Wolves of Memory_ (one of my personal top-5 books of all time) and _What Enthropy Means To Me_ would have to be my choices. Again, though, he is not super well-known, and unfortunately passed away several years ago now, so I understand that he would not garner enough votes to make the list.
Missing in the top 100 from my list was:
Grass, Sherri Tepper
More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
Xenogenesis/Lilith’s Brood Series/Kindred, Octavia Butler
Deathbird Stories, by Harlan Ellison
The Female Man, by Joanna Russ
Revelation Space, by Alastair Reynolds
And missing from the finalists:
Air, The Child’s Garden, by Geoff Ryman
Slow River, by Nicola Griffith
Woman on the Edge of Time, by Marge Piercy
I certainly feel that the top 100 list fails as an SF/F reading list without Ellison/Sturgeon/Butler/Delany/Farmer/Bester/Vance
I second #47 that “A Reader’s Guide…” should be updated, even with so many lists available on the internet. I found it very helpful.
Also quite astute is Brenden’s statement #161.
Jeff Burton-#128-“Beggars in Spain”/”Beggars and Choosers”/”Beggars Ride”-While the first was my favorite, I enjoyed all three.
Kenneth B-#132-I like your list (if fact, “Glimpses” was one I considered to put as one of my 10).
At Confusion this past January, I was on a panel on the “10 Books every SF/Fantasy Fan Should Read.” I approached it as being “should read” and not necessarily best, and my most controversial pick was, of course, “Dhalgren.” It took me a while to get into it but, once I got to about page 125, I was hooked, and I think it is one of Delaney’s best (though I would probably rank “Einstein Intersection” or “Triton” higher) I think, love it or hate it, it is a book everyone should attempt to read.
I’m happy to see Brust’s Taltos series and Hughart’s Bridge of Birds and Bester and Zelazny and Sturgeon and Gordon R. Dickson getting their due.
I have to admit I’ve tried Silverberg and Williams and LeGuin and Farmer and Brin and McCaffrey and Norton and even George R.R. Martin and they all bore me silly, but they’re not bad writers, just not my style.
Neil Gaiman simply rules.
It really surprises me that Poul Anderson didn’t even make the list of 237 finalists. I’ve always thought that Boat of a Million years is one of the most unique SF books around. It is a great example of character development in a SF setting without following the Heinlein archetype. Did anybody with more Hugo/Nebula nominations for novels (Anderson has 7/5) get left off of the selection list?
I love Neil Gaiman but to put 5 of his books on the 237 nominees seems a bit excessive. To suggest that Gaiman is responsible for 2% of the best SF/F ever written seems a little crazy. In my opinion Stardust and Anansi Boys, while both good books, don’t merit this level of accord.
I plead guilty to not having actually seen either the list of nominees or that of the finalists, so these might have made it. But in all of this huge thread of comments, no mention at all of Zenna Henderson and her marvelous books about the People??
Steve @173: With respect to Silverberg, I don’t think you would find most of his late 1960s-early 1970s novels boring. My favorites among this period (others might have different preferences) are, in rough chronological order, The Masks of Time, Up the Line, The World Inside (a fixup novel consisting of stories first published separately), Dying Inside, and The Book of Skulls. There are also stories (such as “The Reality Trip”) and novellas (“In Entropy’s Jaws,” “Hawksbill Station”) from this period that are well worth tracking down if you haven’t read them. (The latter was extended into a novel, but the novella’s better.) I certainly prefer any of this work above Lord Valentine’s Castle and what followed.
Regarding your list, I agree with most, especially ‘The Windup Girl”‘ – that year was an especially good year for sci-fi as well, and so I would definitely swap oyt Miéville’s “Perdido Street Station” for his much more thought-provoking “The City and the City”, which I just can’t get out of my head to this date.
The poll makes some good picks but suffers from short attention span the way most polls of this ilk do: If the book hasn’t been in print over the past couple of years, it takes some major name recognition to get on the list. So you get the best-sellers, and the books in university and high school reading lists, rather than the best.
Neal Stephenson, as much as I admire his work, is over-represented. I suspect the same of Neil Gaiman, but I actually haven’t read enough of the referenced books to judge.
There’s also a lot of genre fantasy that I could do without. The _entire_ Wheel of Time series? The Sword of Truth? Fun reads, but no depth to speak of.
Since there’s been a lot of coverage about the missing SF authors from the 60s to the 80s in this thread, I’ll talk about missing fantasy authors. Where’s Pat Hodgell and Sean Russell? They didn’t even make the 237. No “Paladin of Souls” for Ms. Bujold? I’ll gladly trade in Anathem for that.
About the only other item of note for me is that “The Handmaid’s Tale” seems to have withstood the test of time better than the reviewers thought it would when it first came out. The reception back then was decidedly luke-warm.
JoelZ @ #172: Thanks for the information! I think I was peripherally aware of this, but for some reason (probably awareness that Spain was an expansion of a novella) connected the other two works with the sections of Kress’s original novel. Anyway, more good reading (which is the best thing about these lists and these discussions)!
By my quick count 10 by women, with the highest at #20.
Is that a higher or lower proportion than the nominations list?
“Use of Weapons” by Ian Banks. Not on the list and no Culture novels were mentioned in any comments. Huge oversight.
I was glad to see Bester, Stross, and Sturgeon mentioned.
Nobody mentioned Harry Potter at all? Really?
Brian Jacques’ Redwall Series.
Tim Maddux # 181-Banks’ Culture series was Number 83 on NPR’s list.
I was disappointed The Windup Girl wasn’t there, but there were two bones I wanted to pick in particular. Namely, that there were so few women authors, and quite honestly, I was shocked not to see any Richard Morgan. Thirteen/Black Man, Market Forces, the Takeshi Kovacs’ novels? REALLY?
I have to admit that I’m surprised to see so much dislike for the Sword of Truth books, I’ve always really liked them (save for the 7th and 8th books). I guess this probably has more to due with the fact that ‘Wizard’s First Rule’ was the first “adult” fantasy book I read when I was about twelve and much of the subtext of the series was probably way over my head at the time. I think I might have to reread them sometime soon.
Notable omissions from my personal favourites were
The Virtu by: Sarah Monette
Idlewild by: Nick Sagan
The Rai-kirah Series by: Carol Berg
Id have to add Glen Cooks Black Company to the list also. I remeber it as being a huge influence as well as a reliable re read. Before I bought that paperback the bookstore fantasy section was Tolkien, Howard, and fairy tales. Now when I read Ericson’s work (and many others) I hear the clatter of the Black Company marching past. It really changed how fantasy books where written to the point Im not sure anyone who wasnt a reader back then can realize. It wasnt his first nor was he the only writer to influence the style but the Black Company is probably definitive imo.
Five Philip K Dick books in the long-list, and not one gets picked? Any ideas as to why this happened? Is he out of print, or just out of fashion? The other glaring omission seemed to me to be James Blish – either for ‘Earthman come home’ or the full ‘Cities in flight’ series. Again, is this an out of print effect?
And from the other side of the Atlantic, it’s interesting to see how British SF is perceived in the US. Others have commented on Iain M Banks and John Wyndham, but it’s equally odd to see Ken MacLeod and JG Ballard missing – and how Michael Moorcock is perceived.
It would be good to have a similar exercise for short stories, or short story writers, though. Back in the day, you could buy short story compilations (whether by author or thematic) for very little, and it was a different way of looking at sf. None of them ever wrote a great novel, but my library would be a lot poorer without Algys Budrys, Robert Silverberg or James Tiptree, to name just three.
You know, something has been bothering me about this “top 100” list. The term “fluffy” even came to mind, but I really couldn’t say why.
Then Daniel Keys Moran’s comment crystalized my thoughts.
“Maybe the dumbest “best SF and Fantasy” list I’ve ever seen. No Bear, Brin, Benford, Bester, Barnes (Steve or John, take your pick) … no Baxter or Blish, no Fredric Brown or Marion Zimmer Bradley, no Brunner, Burroughs, or Butler….
And that’s just the B’s they visibly fucked up.”
I think a lot of the voters don’t really know much about SF&F; and it shows.
They’ve been mentioned, but both deserve spots near the top: Alfred Bester’s two masterpieces, “The Demolished Man” and “The Stars My Destination.”
And the granddadddy of Sword & Sorcery, E.R. Eddison’s “The Worm Ouroboros,” which has an awkward framing sequence, but then becomes a great adventure story with more than a touch of political intrigue, and a cast of fascinating characters. And in the long-gone pulp-magazine days of Amazing Stories and Fanstastic Adventures I also loved Edmond Hamilton’s “The Star Kings.”
#187 – d’oh – for Robert Silverberg, read Robert Sheckley.
Hope it’s not too late to get in a word or two. I was very lucky in my voting–nine of my ten choices made the top 100, the sole exception being Stand on Zanzibar, probably because it’s been out of print for a while (though due to be reissued soon by Tor). Other titles I seriously considered for my top 10 that didn’t make the final cut were Bridge of Birds (I’m also fond of both sequels), the “Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser” series, The Man in the High Castle, More Than Human, the “Stainless Steel Rat” series and The Stars My Destination.
10 titles I like a lot that weren’t among the 237 nominations:
334, Thomas M. Disch
The Adventures of Doctor Eszterhazy, Avram Davidson
Death Qualified, Kate Wilhelm
The “Dominic Flandry” series, Poul Anderson
Fourth Mansions, R. A. Lafferty
Halting State, Charles Stross
The “Ijon Tichy” series, Stanislaw Lem
Passage, Connie Willis (I like her other novels too, but for me this is the book she was put on Earth to write)
Timescape, Gregory Benford
Who?, Algis Budrys
I’ve been interested in the comments on the Discworld books. To my eye Discworld is more of a venue than a series as such–sort of like Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County but on a considerably larger scale–with several ongoing multi-volume narratives taking place there at once. Small Gods is probably the best stand-alone Discworld book, but I’d argue for the volumes with Granny Weatherwax or Sam Vimes as viewpoint characters as constituting two distinct series in their own right.
Finally, I’d like to second the suggestion of Bearpaw @35 that the SFWA should put together their own list of 100 great genre novels. What I’d really love to see is something like what the Crime Writers Association (of Britain) and the Mystery Writers of America did back in the 1990’s: solicit votes from their members for best genre novels within various subcategories (e.g. “police procedurals”, “hard-boiled detective”, “cozy/traditional”), then put the whole thing together in a top 100 list while also publishing top 10’s for the subcategories. If SFWA goes for subcategory voting, it would probably be best to create two separate lists of 100 book for sf and fantasy (not that I necessarily object to mixed lists such as NPR’s).
If I were running this, the ten subcategories I’d use for sf would be “classics/out-of-genre” (sf before there was sf, or sf in the mainstream), “Golden Age” (anything from John Campbell’s early years as Astounding, or writers associated with Campbell during that period), “space opera/adventure sf”, “hard sf”, “New Wave/Cyberpunk” (a catchall for sf produced as part of a more-or-less self-consciously progressive literary movement), “near future/social sf” (could also include social sf from farther in the future as long as it involved a recognizably human society), “alien/post-human/far future sf”, “time travel/alternate history”, “humorous sf”, and “genre-benders” (hybrids with non-sf genres, or anything difficult to fit in the other subcategories).
I’m having a tough time coming up with ten subcategories for fantasy, but I’d at least consider the following eight (and I won’t try to define these): “classics/out-of-genre”, “high fantasy”, “sword & sorcery/adventure fantasy”, “historical fantasy”, “contemporary/urban fantasy”, “supernatural horror/dark fantasy”, “humorous fantasy” and “genre-benders”. Fantasy mavens could probably come up with even better ones.
Obviously some books could garner votes in more than one subcategory, and that’s OK since all votes would count toward the top 100, but no writer should be permitted to list the same book in more than one subcategory.
If the SFWA decides to do something like this, I will be one of the first people to buy the resulting books!
Also yes to [i]Lord Valentine’s Castle[/i]; I think the Majipoor books are the most entertaining thing that Silverberg has ever written, and he’s written a lot of very entertaining books.
It’s hard to understand the absence of Harlan Ellison, when I’d argue that both Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man and Asimov’s I, Robot are both more short story collections tied by some hook (the tattooed man, the Laws of Robotics) than true novels or series (though I’d be happy to put Asimov’s Robot series of novels and short stories as a whole in there). Why they qualify and Deathbird Stories does not seems a bit odd to me.
While I won’t begrudge the inclusion of any of the books on the list, it does feel like the majority of voting may have been by readers perhaps not around to discover some of the best science fiction and fantasy of the 60s and 70s – the absence – as others have noted – of Samuel R. Delaney, Robert Silverberg, Alfred Bester, Philip Jose Farmer, and Theodore Sturgeon feel like enormous gaps to me. And although I love Philip K. Dick, I wonder if the inclusion of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep beat out other, better (to my mind) novels like Ubik, The Man in the High Castle, Flow My Tears, the Policemen Said, or The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldrich because of the whole BLADE RUNNER connection.
So without saying what I’d get rid of, I’d love to include:
Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
Dhalgren, Babel-17, Samuel R. Delaney
Thorns, The Majipoor Chronicles, Robert Silverberg
The Demolished Man, The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
The Riverworld Saga, Philip Jose Farmer
More Human Than Human, Thoedore Sturgeon
To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis
Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, Kate Wilhelm
The Uplift Trilogy, David Brin
To Say Nothing of the Dog
Yes, I was disappointed at some of the omissions, especially of historically important literature (A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, The Midwitch Cuckoos, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, even the Chronicles of Narnia), but I can forgive such gaps when there is limited space. My larger problem with the list is that such great works are squeezed out by mediocre fare. I can’t see why Piers Anthony, Terry Brooks, David Eddings and Robert Jordan should squeeze out giants like Mark Twain, Franz Kafka and Lewis Carroll.
The Guardian list (http://bit.ly/pF246j) seems much more aware of the history of SF/F and doesn’t have quite so many gaps in foundational books. I’m going to tackle it, next. Several listings (such as Fight Club, Beloved and Naked Lunch) really stretch the definition of SF/F, but I’m starting to think that the exclusions of such literature from SF/F hurts us fans more than it does those authors. It seems to me that I’m forever defending SF/F against detractors who cherry-pick great novels and declare that they are not SF/F. 1984, Brave New World, and Flowers for Algernon are just three examples of books that get classified under “fiction” in bookstores, while being excluded from the science fiction shelf where they belong. This NPR list simply reinforces this bias, and it’s not good for the genres. I expected better from public radio.