Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Books: NPR's Top 100 Science-Fiction and Fantasy Survey Results

More than 60,000 people voted for the 100 best sci-fi and fantasy books at NPR.org, and bloggers around the Web are commenting on the list. Like a whole bunch of other people, I've reproduced the list below and bolded the works I've read all the way through (partial reads don't count - I've read a bunch of the Robert E. Howard Conan stories, for instance, but I've never gotten close to reading all of them). Not surprisingly, many of the works have been featured here at Shangrila Towers...

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien

Nearly all of the conventions of epic fantasy, good and bad, can be traced to Tolkien. Expansive casts of characters? Self-indulgent digressions in the form of poetry or song? Side volumes that have nothing to do with the main story? Writing a mythos that is so lengthy and complex that you die before finishing it? It's all here, baby.

2. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

The last entry in the series, "Mostly Harmless," is one of the rare instances when a writer visits a long-dormant work and successfully concludes it, albeit in the bleakest fashion imaginable. Really, you could read the first and last book and ignore the stuff published in-between...and afterwards.

3. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card

Since it stars precocious kids, this is a perennial favorite of introverted, bookish youngsters.

4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert

I've read "Dune," of course, but never completed the rest of the series. Despite having authored plenty of other fine works (I liked "The Jesus Incident"), the Dune series came to define Herbert.

5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin

I should really start into this one, but I'm not even finished with #12 on this list...

6. 1984, by George Orwell

I'm not sure what's scarier - that Orwell could write such a prescient book, or that such a book could exist and everyone would ignore it during the long, slow slide to dystopia.

7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

A booklover's sci-fi novel, for obvious reasons. The movie, directed by Fran├žois Truffaut, is a classic, too:



8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov

It's a little choppy in the beginning (having been originally serialized in "Astounding Magazine"), but this is one of my favorite sci-fi series. The second and third books, "Foundation and Empire" and "Second Foundation," feature one of Asimov's coolest characters: the Mule, a mutant with the power to change the emotions of other people.

9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan

A series so long the author died before he could complete it. I first started reading the WoT in elementary school. The 14th and final volume, co-written by Brandon Sanderson from the notes and outlines of Robert Jordan, is due next year.

13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson
15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore
16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov

17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein
18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss
19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick

Every work by Philip K. Dick will eventually get made into a movie, and this one turned into "Blade Runner." Like all PKD adaptations, the movie is better (or at least more accessible) than the book.

22. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King

I'll get around to reading the post-"Wizard and Glass" volumes eventually. King keeps adding more to it, though.

24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke
25. The Stand, by Stephen King

The middle two or three hundred pages in this one are pretty slow, depending on your tolerance for the post-apocalyptic milieu. The beginning and end have a feverish intensity, though, with the epilogue being one of my favorite King endings.

26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury
28. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut

29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman
30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein
32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams

33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey
34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein
35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller
36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells

Truly visionary science-fiction. I mean, think about it - this novel coined the very word "time machine." Most people remember the Eloi and the Morlocks, but I like the trippy ending sequence where the Time Traveller goes even further into the future.

37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne

One of the first science fiction novels I ever read. Even though it was written more than a hundred years ago in another language, it still spoke to me as a kid.

38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys

We were assigned both the short story and the novel-length version of this one in school. Not a bad book, but it doesn't really withstand multiple readings.

39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells
40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny
41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings
42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson
44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven
45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin
46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien
47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White
48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
49. Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke

"2001" gets all the attention, but this is probably my favorite Arthur C. Clarke book. Like many of Clarke's books, it's a rather nuanced take on the concept of alien arrival - the one in this story is neither "good" nor "bad."

50. Contact, by Carl Sagan
51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons
52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
54. World War Z, by Max Brooks
55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle

I've seen the movie and read the comic, but never read the book.

56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman

It's been called the anti-"Starship Troopers," though both Heinlein and Haldeman reportedly enjoyed each other's work. I like the part where the soldier protagonist (who has lived through several hundred years of human history, thanks to time dilation) has to contend with recruits who are from a future human society that is nearly unrecognizable; they speak an incomprehensible language and are uniformly homosexual.

57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett
58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson
59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold
60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett
61. The Mote In God's Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind
63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson
66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist
67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks
68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard
69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb
70. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne
73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore

A friend gave this to me as a box set for Christmas. Say what you want about Salvatore - the man can write a pulpy yarn. I read the entire series before the new year had come.

74. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi
75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson

Halfway through this one. Not as rollicking as "Snow Crash."

76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke
77. The Kushiel's Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey
78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin
79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire
81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson
82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks
84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart
85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher
87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe
88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn
89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan
90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock
91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury
92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge
94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov
95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson

I'm sure there's a lot to like about this series, but I only got about a 100 pages into "Red Mars" before quitting. Who knew a Martian revolution could be so...boring?

96. Lucifer's Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville
99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony
100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis

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