Significant Science Fiction/Fantasy Novels 1953-2002

This is a list of the 50 most significant science fiction/fantasy novels, 1953-2002, according to the Science Fiction Book Club.
Bold the ones you’ve read, strike-out the ones you hated, italicize those you started but never finished and put an asterisk beside the ones you loved.

I’ve also added commentary, at no extra charge.

1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
Liked it.  Read it twice.  Maybe again before I die.  Maybe not.
2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
It was okay, but I got bored part-way through.
3. Dune, Frank Herbert
Started it a second time, and just couldn’t do it.  Most complex storyline I can remember.
4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
Seriously over-rated. 
5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Leguin
6. Neuromancer, William Gibson
7. Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke
Read to the end of the first section.  Felt betrayed.  Never went back.  Don’t plan to.  Clarke’s not my guy.
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
Dick’s not my guy either.
9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury*
Love my Bradbury. 
11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
One of my history teachers LOVES this one.  I thought it was okay.  Might be more offended if I was Catholic.
13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov*
Most of my favorite fiction work by Asimov is his robot series, including the Lije Bailey and R. Daneel Olivaw series.
14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
15. Cities in Flight, James Blish
Didn’t hate it.  Won’t ever read it again.  Blish really isn’t my guy.
16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
Not sure I finished it.  Don’t get the big deal about Ellison. 
19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey*
Loved these at the time.  Don’t think I could do it again. 
22. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card*
Loved this, and the rest of the Enderverse stories. 
23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
Dear, God, this was the reading equivalent of crawling over broken glass.  I tried, but I hated the character’s voice.  Never.
24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling*
On my third (fourth) time through the earlier books in the series. 
27. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams*
Liked this much more the first time than later.  Have I mentioned I got an email from DA after his daughter’s birth?
28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
Waited to stop hating the characters.  Didn’t.  Quit.
30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
31. Little, Big, John Crowley
32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
39. Ringworld, Larry Niven
40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
Might have finished it.  Didn’t care about it. 
45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein*
One of his better works.  Possibly the best.
47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
I like my Tolkein rip-offs a little less flagrant.
49. Timescape, Gregory Benford
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer

My honorable mention (use or ignore as you wish, all count as read and loved):
Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, Robert A. Heinlein (My first of his.  Teaches the value of a good education.)
Earth Abides, George R. Stewart (One of the best after-the-disaster novels ever.)
Maps in a Mirror, Orson Scott Card (OSC’s short fiction is amazing.  And, increasingly, rare.  I like almost everything he’s written.)
Alas, Babylon, Pat Frank (Another of the best after-the-nukes novels ever.)
The Illustrated Man, Ray Bradbury (Bradbury’s short fiction is amazing also, and the connective tissue of the Illustrated Man was the coolest.)
The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury (More Bradbury shorts.)
The Golden Apples of the Sun, Ray Bradbury (Still more Bradbury shorts.)
Tunnel in the Sky, Robert A. Heinlein (Beware the stobor!)
The Cold Equations, Tom Godwin (Hard, hard, hard, powerful story.)
The Puppet Masters, Robert A. Heinlein (early-adult Heinlein, before he got smutty — one of his strongest periods.)
Moscow 2042, Vladimir Voinovich  (not really science fiction, any more than 1984 was, but an excellent satire.)

I’m sure I’m forgetting something important.

16 thoughts on “Significant Science Fiction/Fantasy Novels 1953-2002

  1. 6. Neuromancer, William Gibson
    16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
    43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson

    You assignment is to read these and write a book report on them, due on my desk as soon as possible!
    /stern Professor gaze

  2. It was with a bit of trepidation that I started reading this because I was scared of what you might say about #22. I’m so relieved – we can be friends after all! Which is good since I’m moving back to the area and need RL friends. And RL Sci-Fi friends can be hard to find!

  3. Probably not. I don’t often add new authors to my repertoire, and I’m just not ready to start with any of these guys right now.

    But thanks for the suggestions.

  4. /agree
    Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow were my favourites.
    I hear they are once again attempting to push an Ender’s Game movie, which I am sure they will ruin, but one can dream.

  5. Yay! Can we be friends now too???

    I would go see the movie. Even if it was panned mercilessly, there’s no way I could just not go. I’d probably regret it after. But I’d still have to go.

  6. Yeah, I have to agree.
    I would be there on opening day, expecting the worst but praying for the best.
    And if Cthulhu is listening to my prayers that day, if it is terrible, the people responsible will be eaten.

  7. So, do I get extra points for having been at EnderCon in 2002 when “Polish Boy” was read aloud by the author shortly after he finished writing it? Or for having a sporadic e-mail relationship with the author (we did a link-exchange between one of his columns and my response here in my LJ)? Part of liking almost everything he’s written is that I’ve read almost everything he’s written. And I met him online on AOL back before they had a Windows client.

    Some other SF that I enjoyed, but didn’t consider necessarily for the Significant SF/F are many of the books by John Ringo, David Weber, Eric Flint, David Drake that I found through Baen Books online presence. I like tight military SF, and also good alternate histories, and these are some of the best. In fact, I just went back to Baen’s Webscriptions, logged back into my account and bought 1634 — The Baltic War by Weber and Flint (it’s downloading right now). And I do recommend the Baen Free Library as a good place to get to know some of these authors. If you don’t mind not killing trees to read your books, this is a good place to be. Since OSC’s publisher stopped him from making his pre-release manuscripts available for download and review, it’s the best source I know for e-books (no DRM, lots of formats, including HTML, and a good interface).

    BTW, I should introduce you to Blacky. He’s a Seattle-ite, and a FoAF of yours by way of LadyE and Be4u. Never feed him after midnight unless you have Rockstars.

  8. Silly. Buggers and piggies don’t eat people. They just vivisect them.

    And, since I watched both Puppet Masters and Starship Troopers, I will watch Enders Game, which will be a merging of stories between Enders Game and Enders Shadow. And Scott’s alive and ornery enough to see to it that they won’t make the movie if it’s going to suck. He’s already said that, if it can’t be as well-made as Serenity, he won’t let them make it.

    Would have been nice if Wolfgang Peterson had gotten around to doing it, though.

  9. That’s an affirmative on the bonus points question!

    How about Stirling? I love his “Islands in the Sea of Time” trilogy. I met him at a book conference a few years back. The man has a seriously warped view of sex, but other than that, I like his stuff.

  10. It did. It would have been better to keep the series going, but that’s long since a done deal. Same with the movie — just not quite enough box office to make a sequel. But there are still the comics if that’s what you want. And Dollhouse is coming if you want more Whedon TV.

  11. Never heard of him. Not particularly drawn to twisted sex things, and I just started hooking up with the Ring of Fire series (the book I mentioned before is from that series, and I just bought two more), and I will hopefully be starting school and losing all my recreational reading time in the next month.

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