Advertising ver­sus Lyric Poetry

Monday, 26 September 2011

“There are on­ly so many peo­ple ca­pa­ble of putting to­geth­er words that stir and move and sing. When it be­came pos­si­ble to earn a very good liv­ing in ad­ver­tis­ing by ex­er­cis­ing this ca­pa­bil­i­ty, lyric po­et­ry was left to un­tal­ent­ed screw­balls who had to shriek for at­ten­tion and com­pete by ec­cen­tric­i­ty.”

Mitchell Courtenay in Frederick Pohl & C.M. Kornbluth’s The Space Merchants

Science Fiction Book Club List: The Most Significant SF & Fantasy Books of the Last 50 Years, 1953 – 2002

Wednesday, 27 April 2005

The Most Significant SF & Fantasy Books of the Last 50 Years, 1953 – 2002

I fi­nal­ly man­aged to track down every book on the above list, many are/​were un­for­tu­nate­ly out of print. But I did it. I’ve read them all. Mini-Reviews of all 50 are in­side.

  1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. TolkienI’ve bab­bled on about this book and au­thor far too much. Many peo­ple have no de­sire to read it be­cause so many peo­ple go on and on about it. If any­thing, it be­longs at the top of this list sim­ply be­cause its suc­cess as a pub­li­ca­tion showed pub­lish­ers that mon­ey could, in fact, be made from sci­ence fic­tion and fan­ta­sy in book form. It wasn’t just for the pulps any­more.

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, Roverandom, On Fairy Stories

  2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac AsimovNearly as im­pres­sive as LotR, The Foundation Series and Asimov him­self are re­spon­si­ble for adding a new lay­er of com­plex­i­ty to sci­ence fic­tion, the gen­re ma­tured from ju­ve­nile es­capism in the pulps to com­plex po­lit­i­cal and his­tor­i­cal nar­ra­tives. The Foundation Series is a prime ex­am­ple of the ef­fec­tive use of spec­u­la­tive fic­tion as a re­flec­tion of our own so­ci­ety.

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: Caves of Steel, I, Robot

  3. Dune, Frank Herbert

    I read this book my fresh­man year of high school. I re­mem­ber not lik­ing it. I prob­a­bly missed some of the eco­nom­ic im­por­tance among all the messianic/​prophetic hul­lab­u­loo and sand­worm rid­ing and nukes mak­ing people’s eyes melt. I should prob­a­bly read it again, but I don’t par­tic­u­lar­ly have any de­sire to do so. Lots of peo­ple like it and it was made in­to an aw­ful movie, so I guess it has some worth.
  4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein

    One of the must-reads for the sex­u­al rev­o­lu­tion in the 1960s, Stranger in a Strange Land seems some­what sim­ple now that AIDS is every­where. Nevertheless, the book is still quite pow­er­ful on many dif­fer­ent lev­els, na­ture vs. nu­ture, sex­u­al pro­cliv­i­ties, can­ni­bal taboos, you name it. Throughout the book the read­er is chal­lenged to eval­u­ate each as­pect of cul­ture by see­ing it through strange but sim­i­lar eyes.

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: Starship Troopers

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

    Anything writ­ten by Ursula K. Le Guin is worth read­ing. A Wizard of Earthsea is a great, easy-to-read com­ing of age tale with a non-white pro­tag­o­nist [quite the dar­ing thing to do at the time] that del­i­cate­ly nav­i­gates the treach­er­ous wa­ters of ado­les­cence and man­ages to im­part a strong and healthy mes­sage with­out sound­ing parental.

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: The Lathe of Heaven, The Left Hand of Darkness, The Birthday of the World and Other Stories

  6. Neuromancer, William Gibson

    I’ve not read much cy­ber­punk, so I’ve not read much Gibson. This was one of the first books I read when I start­ed the list. If I re­mem­ber cor­rect­ly, this tech­no-cap­i­tal­ist so­ci­ety is alot like or­ga­nized crime, and the main char­ac­ter is a sort of junkie drug-run­ner equiv­a­lent com­put­er hack­er, lots of cool tech and cool-like an­ti­hero­ism.
  7. Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke

    Arthur C. Clarke is the go-to guy when it comes to writ­ing sto­ries that turn deep tragedy in­to bril­liant pos­si­bil­i­ty. Childhood’s End is prob­a­bly the best ex­am­ple of this. Transcendent hu­man­i­ty is mixed, in­sep­a­ra­bly with the de­struc­tion of al­most every­thing we know as hu­man. A com­pelling read.

    My longer re­viewof Childhood’s End.
    Recommended oth­er read­ing: Rendezvous with Rama, 2001: A Space Odyssey

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

    Philip K. Dick isn’t the best writer, but his cre­ativ­i­ty is so full of mind-bend­ing psy­cho-hor­ror that his sto­ries over­come their words. This book was made in­to the amaz­ing Bladerunner [lots of Dick sto­ries have been made in­to movies, Minority Report, Total Recall, Paycheck, Second Variety] and prob­lems con­cern­ing cre­ation and epis­te­mol­o­gy are ul­ti­mate­ly deemed ir­rel­e­vant in this ex­is­ten­tial mas­ter­piece.

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: Selected Stories

  9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley

    The on­ly strict­ly fem­i­nist book on this list, I didn’t like it too much. Of course, I’m not re­al­ly the au­di­ence, but I thought that the wom­en, while puis­sant-willed, ul­ti­mate­ly be­came the things MZB was op­pos­ing. To me they seemed bitchy and ma­nip­u­la­tive, and while it could be ar­gued that was their on­ly way to have pow­er, it still re­in­forces stereo­types. Nevertheless, more books with fe­male pro­tag­o­nists would be wel­come.
  10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

    This book is stan­dard high school read­ing list fare, but its worth lasts un­to adult­hood as well. The re­pres­sive so­ci­ety re­minds me quite a bit of Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron but Bradbury’s tale ends on a slight­ly more hope­ful note. I quite like Bradbury, his writ­ing style hear­kens back to sci­ence fiction’s found­ing fa­thers [Jules Verne, H.G.Wells] but he wrestles with time­less con­cerns and adds an­oth­er di­men­sion to his sto­rys by do­ing so. NB: 1984 [search­able on­line ver­sion!] didn’t make this list be­cause it was pub­lished be­fore 1953.

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: The Martian Chronicles, Dandelion Wine

  11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe [1, 2]

    I hadn’t been too in­ter­est­ed in read­ing Gene Wolfe, for no re­al rea­son. I’d been miss­ing a lot. It seems like there are a lot of Catholics writ­ing good sci­ence fic­tion and fan­ta­sy, and Gene Wolfe fits that mold. The Book of the New Sun is a four-vol­ume meta­phys­i­cal mas­ter­piece that goes al­ways in un­ex­pect­ed di­rec­tions and has a neb­u­lous sense of agen­cy. One of the best books I read on this list.

    My longer re­view of The Book of the New Sun.

  12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.

    I think Einstein said that World War IV would be fought with sticks and stones, and the post-nu­clear ar­maged­don world in which Walter M. Miller puts us is a car wreck rub­ber­neck­ing read that seems to say fear and jeal­ousy will trump good sense as long as hu­mans are hu­mans. There are sev­er­al morals here, at least one for every­body who reads it.
  13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov

    Where I, Robot main­ly fo­cused on the log­i­cal co­nun­dra of positron­ic ro­bot­ics and the Three Laws of Robotics with a sec­ondary fo­cus on in­ter­ac­tions with hu­man emo­tion, The Caves of Steel of­fers more poignant sto­ries where hu­mans at­tempt to cope with the dis­trust and fear as­so­ci­at­ed with cre­at­ing some­thing su­pe­ri­or to them in all ways.

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: The Foundation Trilogy, I, Robot

  14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras

    This book reads some­what like any oth­er mid-cen­tu­ry child­hood ad­ven­ture book. Except all the kids in this one are su­per­ge­nius­es and were os­ten­si­bly the in­spi­ra­tion for the X-Men. During the Atomic Age ra­dioac­tive ac­ci­dents didn’t al­ways end hor­ri­bly. A nice read, if a bit bland at times.

    My longer re­view of Children of the Atom.

  15. Cities in Flight, James Blish

    This thick book is more a com­bined se­ries of novel­las than any­thing else. Early on it of­fers al­ter­na­tives to the sci­en­tific method but as time pass­es, the mas­tery of an­ti-gravitic spin­dizzies turn hu­man­i­ty in­to the pro­tec­tors of the galaxy, even­tu­al­ly even un­to sac­ri­ficing them­selves as new gods. A Magnum Opus in­deed.
  16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett

    Finally, a bit of hu­mor­ous fan­ta­sy! Terry Pratchett takes the typ­i­cal ab­sur­di­ties of life, mix­es in heavy dos­es of hu­mor and en­light­en­ing satire and pours this sauce over in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ters of myr­i­ad va­ri­eties. The re­sult: Tasty treats of books that en­ter­tain and il­lu­mi­nate with­out and sense of heavy­hand­ed­ness. There is al­ways some­thing to laugh about.
  17. Dangerous Visions, edit­ed by Harlan Ellison

    One of the most am­bi­tious an­tholo­gies of all time, this book con­tains pow­er­ful sto­ry af­ter pow­er­ful sto­ry, on all kinds of bizarre and chal­leng­ing top­ics. 35 years lat­er the sto­ries might not seem quite so dan­ger­ous, but the writ­ing and con­tent still sur­prise and af­fect. Ellison in­tro­duces each au­thor and each au­thor has a bit of a foot­note about the sto­ry at the end of each. A must read.
  18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison

    While Dangerous Visions was a mas­ter­piece, this col­lec­tion of short sto­ries by Ellison didn’t do much for me. Each is con­cerned with humanity’s new gods, dark gods for the most part. I didn’t en­joy this book near­ly as much as I en­joyed Ellison’s Strange Wine [and I on­ly en­joyed half of that]. I think Ellison is just too brash for my taste.

    My longer re­viewof Deathbird Stories.
    Recommended oth­er read­ing: Strange Wine

  19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester

    This is a thriller, a jour­ney in­to the pur­ga­to­ry of the mind and a thought­ful ex­plo­ration of what telepa­thy might be ca­pa­ble of. A man with every­thing de­ter­mi­nes to com­mit mur­der and get away with it. If he does not suc­ceed he will be Demolished. That is, have his per­son­al­i­ty ut­ter­ly shat­tered. Will he suc­ceed? Read the book to find out!

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: The Stars My Destination

  20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany

    In post­mod­ern sci­ence fic­tion with a han­ker­ing to­ward shock and awe through sex­u­al pro­cliv­i­ties, dis­cus­sions on the na­ture of art in a world of warp­ing re­al­i­ties, in a city where build­ings burn and are not con­sumed, and pro­ject­ed im­ages seem more re­al that the gangs who con­trol them, who bet­ter to guide you through this than a filthy am­ne­si­ac mad­man who writes po­et­ry in the cor­ners of a found note­book?

    An ex­cerpt from my fa­vorite part of Dhalgren.

  21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey

    Anne McCaffrey has pro­duced near­ly in­nu­mer­able nov­els about Pern. Dragonflight is the first one, and the on­ly one I’ve read. As books go this one has some cool time and space warp­ing drag­ons an in­ter­est­ing ex­am­ple of cul­tur­al evo­lu­tion and a pret­ty be­liev­able fe­male pro­tag­o­nist. It def­i­nite­ly blurs the lines be­tween sci­ence fic­tion and fan­ta­sy and is def­i­nite­ly orig­i­nal in idea, if not ex­act­ly in style.
  22. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card

    This is more mil­i­tary sci­ence fic­tion, but when it comes to think­ing around things Orson Scott Card man­ages time and again in this book. Ender Wiggin, a ge­net­i­cal­ly bred boy ge­nius is trained to ex­haus­tion in or­der to save hu­mankind from an in­com­ing alien in­va­sion and cer­tain an­ni­hi­la­tion. Another clas­sic must read.
  23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson [1, 2, 3]

    When it comes to atyp­i­cal pro­tag­o­nists, the lep­rous and cow­ard­ly Thomas Covenant takes the cake. While this book could have dealt quite stun­ning­ly with the na­ture of mad­ness and psy­chic trau­ma, it takes a dif­fer­ent path and spends three books wal­low­ing in its own mis­tery. Meh.

    My longer re­view of The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever.

  24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman

    In a sense this is more mil­i­tary sci­ence fic­tion, but it is al­so hard sci-fi, tem­po­ral rel­a­tiv­i­ty is the prime mover and cause of more men­tal an­guish [kind of a trend here isn’t there? I won­der if it has to do with the time pe­ri­od the­se books were writ­ten in…] as a space sol­dier spends sev­er­al years sub­jec­tive time fight­ing in dif­fer­ent parts of space, while thou­sands of years pass ob­jec­tive­ly. Haldeman is ex­cel­lent.

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: All My Sins Remembered

  25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl

    Space trav­el, ex­plo­ration and mis­un­der­stood alien tech are the heart­wood of this be­gin­ning to Pohl’s tales of hu­man­i­ty and the Heechee. This is a dan­ger-filled ad­ven­ture tale like a walk through dark and strange wood­land.
  26. Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone, J.K. Rowling

    Despite its al­most clichéd sta­tus in pop­u­lar cul­ture, the first book in the Harry Potter se­ries was an un­ex­pect­ed de­light for folks of all ages. Just enough hu­mor, just the right mix of fa­mil­iar­i­ty and strange­ness and a very British feel to it make this book a quick and en­joy­able read.
  27. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

    Everybody should read the Hitchhiker’s Guide. Don’t Panic, it is more com­e­dy than sci­ence fic­tion, so even if you typ­i­cal­ly as­so­ciate sci-fi with Vogon po­et­ry this book is fun­ny enough for you to for­give it for be­ing out of this world.

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide

  28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson

    Richard Matheson wrote lots of stuff for The Twilight Zone, so if you ex­pect I Am Legend to be like that rock­in’ se­ries you’re both right and wrong. This book was made in­to a few movies The Omega Man is the one I’ve seen. Look, it is about the last man on earth when every­one else is a vam­pire. A great book.
  29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice

    Most folks have prob­a­bly seen the movie. This is one of the rare cas­es where I like the movie and the book equal­ly. Anne Rice does an ex­cel­lent job show­ing us what life is like when you are a re­gret­ful he­do­nis­tic vam­pire.
  30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin

    The on­ly rea­son I can think of that this book is so far down on the list is that Mrs. Le Guin al­ready has a book in the top five. She seems to chan­nel her an­thro­pol­o­gist fa­ther Al Kroeber in this par­tic­i­pant-ob­server tale of po­lit­i­cal in­trigue in a land where the an­drog­y­ne in­hab­i­tants can take on ei­ther male or fe­male sex­u­al char­ac­ter­is­tics de­pend­ing on their en­vi­ron­ment. Like I said, any­thing she writes is worth a read.

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: Wizard of Earthsea, The Birthday of the World and Other Stories

  31. Little, Big, John Crowley

    One of the big sur­pris­es on this list is Little, Big. It is an ethe­re­al, me­an­der­ing, mys­te­ri­ous and quite po­tent med­i­ta­tion on re­la­tions be­tween our world and Faery. You can al­most pick it up at any place and start read­ing with­out miss­ing much. A book to read more than on­ce, for sure.
  32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny

    On a plan­et where an im­mor­tal oli­garchy pre­tends to be the Hindu Pantheon, one god, the Lord of Light is con­stant­ly offed and re­born to op­pose them. Should we be sur­prised that he is the Buddha? Not re­al­ly. I don’t think I quite got this book. It was weird. I think I missed the point.
  33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick

    The weakest thing I’ve read by Dick, lots of peo­ple say this is his finest work. It is re­vi­sion­ist his­to­ry as on­ly sci-fi can do it. What if Japan and Germany had won World War II? That is a pret­ty cool idea but Phil spends too much time dick­ing around in mun­dane events and wor­ries for my taste.

    My longer re­view of The Man in the High Castle.
    Recommended oth­er read­ing: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Selected Stories

  34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement

    This is hard sci­ence fic­tion with a main char­ac­ter who is ba­si­cal­ly a big olé cen­tipede. It is al­so a sea ad­ven­ture, al­beit on an ovoid plan­et with the strangest grav­i­ty imag­in­able. All the char­ac­ters are out for their own best in­ter­ests which makes for some in­ter­est­ing hag­gling and in­ter­ac­tion.
  35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon

    I re­al­ly like Theodore Sturgeon. His sto­ries are de­cep­tive­ly sim­ple. He hints at things that you on­ly re­al­ize af­ter you put the book down. More than Human is a sto­ry about half-wits and half-hu­mans be­com­ing greater than the sum of their parts, ul­ti­mate­ly ex­ceed­ing their hu­man­i­ty, de­spite or per­haps be­cause of their in­no­cence.

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon [10 vol­umes]

  36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith

    This book should be much high­er on the list. It is a col­lec­tion of all of Cordwainer Smith’s short sto­ries. Mr. Smith is re­spon­si­ble for start­ing the sci­ence fic­tion ca­reers of more than a few peo­ple on this list and his 30,000 year chron­i­cle of humanity’s con­stant strug­gle to­ward even it doesn’t know what is orig­i­nal from the first page to the last one. A bit more from me on Cordwainer Smith and a re­view of Norstrilia.

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: Norstrilia

  37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute

    This book was per­haps the most sur­pris­ing one that I read on this list. I think it should be much high­er. It prob­a­bly isn’t on­ly be­cause it isn’t quite as sci­ence fic­tiony as the oth­ers. It is a heartwrench­ing­ly bru­tal con­tem­po­rary mid-20th cen­tu­ry sto­ry of post-nu­clear an­ni­hi­la­tion in Australia. Australia hasn’t been hit, but the jet stream is slow­ly bring­ing the ra­di­a­tion to the con­ti­nent. Everyone knows they are un­der a death sen­tence. It is an amaz­ing and thought-pro­vok­ing an­ti-war sto­ry that is quite ef­fec­tive at deeply per­son­al lev­el. I need to scrounge up one of the movies [1, 2].
  38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke

    This is more space ex­plo­ration in­volv­ing alien tech­nol­o­gy, on­ly this time the hu­mans are in­sidea mys­te­ri­ous and vast alien craft that con­founds al­most all of their at­tempts to ex­plore it. How do you ex­plore the in­side of a sphere? of a cylin­der?

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: Childhood’s End, 2001: A Space Odyssey

  39. Ringworld, Larry Niven

    To quote Niven:

    “I my­self have dreamed up an in­ter­me­di­ate step be­tween Dyson Spheres and plan­ets. Build a ring nine­ty three mil­lion miles in ra­dius — one Earth or­bit — which would make it six hun­dred mil­lion miles long. If we make it a mil­lion mies wide, we get a thick­ness of about a thou­sand me­ters. The Ringworld would thus be much stur­dier than a Dyson sphere.

    “There are oth­er ad­van­tages. We can spin it for grav­i­ty. A ro­ta­tion on its ax­is of sev­en hun­dred sev­en­ty miles per sec­ond would give the Ringworld one grav­i­ty out­ward. We wouldn’t even have to have a roof over it. Put walls a thou­sand miles high at each rim, aim it at the sun, and very lit­tle air will leak over the edges.

    “The thing is roomy enough: three mil­lion times the area of the Earth. It will be some time be­fore any­one com­plains of the crowd­ing.

  40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys

    A sto­ry of ma­nip­u­la­tion on mul­ti­ple lev­els and in mul­ti­ple places, Rogue Moon is the sto­ry of an ex­plor­er who must, by tri­al and er­ror, find his way through an alien con­struct. The on­ly prob­lem is, each time he er­rors, he dies, and the psy­cho­log­i­cal ef­fects of this are just as un­known and in­cal­cu­la­ble.
  41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien

    The Silmarillion is my fa­vorite work of Tolkien’s. It is grand mythopo­et­ic sub­cre­ation, with in­cred­i­bly rich and some­what ar­chaic lan­guage. It is easy to see why this was his life’s work and it would be quite in­ter­est­ing to see what it would have even­tu­al­ly be­come had he not died be­fore com­plet­ing it.

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Roverandom, On Fairy Stories

  42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut

    Even peo­ple who hate sci­ence fic­tion seem to like Vonnegut. Deeply satir­i­cal and si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly sen­ti­men­tal time-trav­el must have atavis­tic ap­peal to most hu­mans. As an­ti-war books go, this one is prob­a­bly one of the top five.

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: Cat’s Cradle, Welcome to the Monkey House

  43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson

    Snow Crash is a cy­ber­punk nov­el filled with ar­che­typ­al char­ac­ters with de­lib­er­ate­ly odd lives. Contemporary life is ex­trap­o­lat­ed in­to a fu­ture where sexy 16 year old sk8r gr­rls wear nar­cotic vagi­na den­tata, piz­za de­liv­ery guys who live in U-Stor-Its are gods of the in­ter­nets, and large Aleutians with glass ra­zors kill peo­ple like noth­ing. It was a good read, but a bit over the top.
  44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner

    This is a deeply per­son­al book, you can re­al­ly feel John Brunner’s soul be­ing poured in­to it. Concerned with over­pop­u­la­tion, first world com­pla­cen­cy, vic­ar­i­ous life through tele­vi­sion, and a chron­ic andacute ex­is­ten­tial anomie, it ul­ti­mate­ly ad­mits its love for all of us, de­spite our im­per­fec­tions.

    My longer re­view of Stand on Zanzibar.

  45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester

    Alfred Bester has two books on this list for a rea­son, his sci­ence fic­tion is un­like any­thing you’ll ever read. He sort of prog­nos­ti­cates the cy­ber­punk gen­re, es­pe­cial­ly in this work, where a thug named Gully Foyle jaunts around seek­ing re­venge for be­ing aban­doned in a dere­lict space­craft.

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: The Demolished Man

  46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein

    I’ve read this book prob­a­bly eight or nine times since I first nabbed it on this lit­tle quest of mine. It is said to be a rather con­ser­v­a­tive out­look on a mil­i­tary so­ci­ety, but I think it mix­es just the right amount of piz­zazz with quite thought-pro­vok­ing civics lessons to come up with the best use of na­tion­al­ism pos­si­ble. This nov­el is ap­prox­i­mate­ly in­finite­ly bet­ter than the bat­shit crazy movie adap­ta­tion.

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: Stranger in a Strange Land

  47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock

    This dark fan­ta­sy is dri­ven by a pro­tag­o­nist who is in­her­ent­ly evil, an alien be­ing who is mo­ti­vat­ed and wracked by shad­owy emo­tions. It is vi­o­lent, es­cha­to­log­i­cal, and quite short. I didn’t par­tic­u­lar­ly en­joy this book be­cause Moorcock is so ef­fec­tive at cre­at­ing twist­ed be­hav­ior, strange emo­tion and alien­ation that I had noth­ing to hold on to. Just be­cause I didn’t en­joy it doesn’t mean it sucked though. Moorcock wrote many oth­er books in the Stormbringer se­ries.
  48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks

    This book should not be on the list. It is ter­ri­ble. The on­ly book I didn’t fin­ish on this list. It is so un­abashed­ly a cheap and lame and crum­my Tolkien rip-off that I got 200 pages in, re­al­ized that plot point for plot point the nov­el was copy­ing Tolkien and stopped read­ing. A large num­ber of oth­er sci­ence fic­tion and fan­ta­sy books could re­place this one. I think it on­ly made it be­cause of its pop­u­lar­i­ty. Even Terry Goodkind would have been a bet­ter choice.
  49. Timescape, Gregory Benford

    Hard sci­ence fic­tion with deeply per­son­al char­ac­ters, this nov­el deals with the in­her­ent dan­gers of time trav­el, but on­ly time trav­el com­mu­ni­ca­tion, not phys­i­cal time trav­el. There is a lot of physics in this book, but Benford makes it rel­a­tive­ly easy to un­der­stand. The world is be­ing de­stroyed due to pol­lu­tion and a few sci­en­tists are try­ing to speak to the past in or­der to change the fu­ture. The ef­fi­ca­cy and af­ter ef­fects of this are some­what am­bigu­ous, and Benford, like a good sci­en­tist, lays out the prob­lem as he sees it, and lets the read­er de­cide.
  50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip José Farmer

    Everyone who is dead wakes up on this Riverworld. No one knows why, or how. The main char­ac­ter seeks to find out why and how. He ends up get­ting killed, but then dis­cov­ers that he just wakes up the next day some­where else on the river. So, play­ing the odds, he los­es any re­straint on keep­ing him­self in­tact and hops from death to death hop­ing even­tu­al­ly he’ll come to the end of the river. Along the way he runs in­to all kinds of fa­mous peo­ple, Nazis, Neanderthals, you name it. A re­al­ly fun book.

Ten Books I rec­om­mend you read from this list [in no par­tic­u­lar or­der]:

  • The Rediscovery of Man
  • Dangerous Visions
  • The Silmarillion
  • Little, Big
  • The Foundation Trilogy
  • Starship Troopers
  • On the Beach
  • The Left Hand of Darkness
  • Dhalgren
  • The Book of the New Sun