Friday, January 30, 2009

Guardian Science Fiction List

The Guardian is putting together a list of '1000 novels everyone must read'. This is their science fiction and fantasy list. It's a bizarre list, more odd choices than you would expect even for a list like this, but a lot of classics that don't make it here end up on some of the other supplementary lists. Susanna Clarke, for instance, has very good taste. (Michael Moorcock, unsurprisingly, has very mediocre taste. Anyone who thinks that The Handmaid's Tale is a particularly good example of a dystopia has low standards for both dystopian and feminist fiction genres. You could pick just about any other feminist dystopia at random and find one better on both accounts. If you want a truly chilling feminist dystopia, read Katharine Burdekin's Swastika Night. It does suffer from the unexpected twists of history -- it occasionally reads slightly oddly because Burdekin, of course, did not know all that we know about Nazis, having published the book in 1937, and because the feminism is not exactly what you'd expect, being one kind of feminism in the 1930s, one much more focused on consolidation than activism or critique.) Two obvious names that should be more prominent: Jules Verne and Emilio Salgari.

1. Douglas Adams: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979)
2. Brian W Aldiss: Non-Stop (1958)
3. Isaac Asimov: Foundation (1951)
4. Margaret Atwood: The Blind Assassin (2000) -- Honestly, what I've read of Atwood virtually guarantees that I'll never read her ever again. She's just a bad storyteller, and it mystifies me that people like her.
5. Paul Auster: In the Country of Last Things (1987)
6. Iain Banks: The Wasp Factory (1984)
7. Iain M Banks: Consider Phlebas (1987)
8. Clive Barker: Weaveworld (1987)
9. Nicola Barker: Darkmans (2007)
10. Stephen Baxter: The Time Ships (1995)
11. Greg Bear: Darwin's Radio (1999)
12. Alfred Bester: The Stars My Destination (1956)
13. Poppy Z Brite: Lost Souls (1992)
14. Algis Budrys: Rogue Moon (1960)
15. Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita (1966)
16. Edward Bulwer-Lytton: The Coming Race (1871)
17. Anthony Burgess: A Clockwork Orange (1960)
18. Anthony Burgess: The End of the World News (1982)
19. Edgar Rice Burroughs: A Princess of Mars (1912)
20. William Burroughs: Naked Lunch (1959)
21. Octavia Butler: Kindred (1979) --This one I haven't read; some of her others are good (e.g., Patternmaster)
22. Samuel Butler: Erewhon (1872) -- Keep meaning to get around to it
23. Italo Calvino: The Baron in the Trees (1957)
24. Ramsey Campbell: The Influence (1988)
25. Lewis Carroll: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865)
26. Lewis Carroll: Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871)
27. Angela Carter: Nights at the Circus (1984)
28. Michael Chabon: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (2000)
29. Arthur C Clarke: Childhood's End (1953)
30. GK Chesterton: The Man Who Was Thursday (1908) Must Read!
31. Susanna Clarke: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (2004) More rambling than it should have been, but all in all good; much better than most of the junk that gets served up as fantasy these days.
32. Michael G Coney: Hello Summer, Goodbye (1975)
33. Douglas Coupland: Girlfriend in a Coma (1998)
34. Mark Danielewski: House of Leaves (2000)
35. Marie Darrieussecq: Pig Tales (1996)
36. Samuel R Delaney: The Einstein Intersection (1967)
37. Philip K Dick: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)
38. Philip K Dick: The Man in the High Castle (1962)
39. Umberto Eco: Foucault's Pendulum (1988) -- Worth reading, but The Name of the Rose is better.
40. Michel Faber: Under the Skin (2000)
41. John Fowles: The Magus (1966)
42. Neil Gaiman: American Gods (2001)
43. Alan Garner: Red Shift (1973)
44. William Gibson: Neuromancer (1984) -- I think I started but never finished it (for reasons that had nothing to do with the book)
45. Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Herland (1915) -- I'm very glad someone was bright enough to put this on the list; it's actually fairly good, and is one of the great science fiction classics.
46. William Golding: Lord of the Flies (1954)
47. Joe Haldeman: The Forever War (1974)
48. M John Harrison: Light (2002)
49. Robert A Heinlein: Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) -- Not my favorite Heinlein work, by a long shot; just about any other work you can name is better.
50. Frank Herbert: Dune (1965)
51. Hermann Hesse: The Glass Bead Game (1943)
52. Russell Hoban: Riddley Walker (1980)
53. James Hogg: The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824)
54. Michel Houellebecq: Atomised (1998)
55. Aldous Huxley: Brave New World (1932) -- I read this in high school, and still vividly remember scenes from it
56. Kazuo Ishiguro: The Unconsoled (1995)
57. Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House (1959)
58. Henry James: The Turn of the Screw (1898)
59. PD James: The Children of Men (1992)
60. Richard Jefferies: After London; Or, Wild England (1885)
61. Gwyneth Jones: Bold as Love (2001)
62. Franz Kafka: The Trial (1925)
63. Daniel Keyes: Flowers for Algernon (1966)
64. Stephen King: The Shining (1977)
65. Marghanita Laski: The Victorian Chaise-longue (1953)
66. Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu: Uncle Silas (1864)
67. Stanislaw Lem: Solaris (1961) -- This is one of those strange cases where the movies are much better than the book, and probably inevitably so. Tarkovsky's version in particular takes a bland and unoriginal plot and makes it shine. It's a slow, complex movie, but is one of the great masterpieces of science fiction cinema. So (and I rarely say this) don't bother with the book; just watch the movie -- Tarkovsky is better than Soderbergh.
68. Doris Lessing: Memoirs of a Survivor (1974)
69. David Lindsay: A Voyage to Arcturus (1920)
70. Ken MacLeod: The Night Sessions (2008)
71. Hilary Mantel: Beyond Black (2005)
72. Michael Marshall Smith: Only Forward (1994)
73. Richard Matheson: I Am Legend (1954)
74. Charles Maturin: Melmoth the Wanderer (1820)
75. Patrick McCabe: The Butcher Boy (1992)
76. Cormac McCarthy: The Road (2006)
77. Jed Mercurio: Ascent (2007)
78. China Miéville: The Scar (2002) -- Miéville is good, but The Scar is easily his worst book. If you don't mind sordid and grotesque (and a world in which those are really the only two shades of evil that are recognized), Perdido Street Station is good, as is Iron Council.
79. Andrew Miller: Ingenious Pain (1997)
80. Walter M Miller Jr: A Canticle for Leibowitz (1960) Must Read!
81. David Mitchell: Cloud Atlas (2004)
82. Michael Moorcock: Mother London (1988)
83. William Morris: News From Nowhere (1890)
84. Toni Morrison: Beloved (1987)
85. Haruki Murakami: The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (1995)
86. Vladimir Nabokov: Ada or Ardor (1969)
87. Audrey Niffenegger: The Time Traveler's Wife (2003)
88. Larry Niven: Ringworld (1970)
89. Jeff Noon: Vurt (1993)
90. Flann O'Brien: The Third Policeman (1967) -- This book takes a certain taste, but I have absolutely loved it from the very first time I ever read it. Highly recommended.
91. Ben Okri: The Famished Road (1991)
92. Chuck Palahniuk: Fight Club (1996)
93. Thomas Love Peacock: Nightmare Abbey (1818)
94. Mervyn Peake: Titus Groan (1946)
95. John Cowper Powys: A Glastonbury Romance (1932)
96. Christopher Priest: The Prestige (1995)
97. François Rabelais: Gargantua and Pantagruel (1532-34)
98. Ann Radcliffe: The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794)
99. Alastair Reynolds: Revelation Space (2000)
100. Kim Stanley Robinson: The Years of Rice and Salt (2002)
101. JK Rowling: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (1997)
102. Salman Rushdie: The Satanic Verses (1988)
103. Antoine de Sainte-Exupéry: The Little Prince (1943) -- A lovely book everyone should read and take to heart.
104. José Saramago: Blindness (1995)
105. Will Self: How the Dead Live (2000)
106. Mary Shelley: Frankenstein (1818) Must Read!
107. Dan Simmons: Hyperion (1989) -- It has some good points, but is bloated and overrated. He gets points for ambition, though.
108. Olaf Stapledon: Star Maker (1937) Quite striking. This is a surprisingly beautiful book, which takes the whole of history in its sweep.
109. Neal Stephenson: Snow Crash (1992)
110. Robert Louis Stevenson: The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886)
111. Bram Stoker: Dracula (1897)
112. Rupert Thomson: The Insult (1996)
113. Mark Twain: A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court (1889)
114. Kurt Vonnegut: Sirens of Titan (1959)
115. Robert Walser: Institute Benjamenta (1909)
116. Sylvia Townsend Warner: Lolly Willowes (1926)
117. Sarah Waters: Affinity (1999)
118. HG Wells: The Time Machine (1895)
119. HG Wells: The War of the Worlds (1898)
120. TH White: The Sword in the Stone (1938)
121. Gene Wolfe: The Book of the New Sun (1980-83) -- I keep trying to get into Gene Wolfe, since everyone seems to like him; but so far, he hasn't kept my interest.
122. John Wyndham: Day of the Triffids (1951)
123. John Wyndham: The Midwich Cuckoos (1957)
124. Yevgeny Zamyatin: We (1924)

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