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.: March 2006 --> Science Fiction Reading List

Science Fiction Reading List

» The NYTimes Book Review is offering up a new column on science fiction, and its author has compiled his personal list of the 10 Best Science Fiction novels. I consider myself a casual science fiction reader, which means I've read more than most people, I guess. Clearly I'm not a very serious reader, though, because I've only read one of these — and my husband had to explain it to me. (And doggone it, I would call it Alternate History or speculative fiction, not science fiction.) What do you think of this list? What extraordinary work of science fiction did the writer fail to mention? Post your suggestions in comments. (thanks, jjg!)
 [ 03.06.06 ]


The list seems decidedly male, disappointing but expected. Where's LeGuin's Left Hand of Darkness? Or anything by Octavia Butler?

Not very good, not unbiased, it seems to me. Of the 10, I've read 5.

There is this striking absence of books dealing with high technology. I'll limit my comments to 'non-technological' SF. Ursula LeGuin gives just passing mention of technology, but she's completely absent. Dick's Ubik is usually seen as better than Man in the High Castle (the latter is also increasingly less compelling due to its theme). I'm from eastern Europe and can read Clockwork Orange, but how many westerners can understand the jargon in which it is written? A Canticle for Leibowitz is all right.

The author of the list seems to have been defiantly extrapersonal.

I've read six of these but it is still a very odd list. Here is another list of 15 (from Business Week of all places):

I've not come across numbers 13 to 15 and I don't recall ever reading number 10. The others are all good stuff though and good examples of the genre. I'm not sure how many of them would be in my list - probably Stand on Zanzibar and certainly something by Wells although probably not the one here.

My favorite science fiction book this last year was Life by Gwyneth Jones. Posed some interesting questions about gender and the scientific community as well as the larger world.

Did anyone else see Octavia Butler's obituary last weekend?


Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Octavia Butler, 1947-2006: Sci-fi writer a gifted pioneer in white, male domain.

Now you've got me interested in her work. What book of hers do you especially suggest?

it may not be literally true, but i always tell people Samuel R Delany's Nova is the greatest scifi novel ever written.


My favorite Octavia Butler books are Parable of the Sower & Parable of the Talents, because the setting is now, and the situation is (in my opinion) uncomfortably close to reality. If you want to read just one, try Parable of the Sower since it's first in the series.

I also like the Xenogenesis series, also known as Lilith's brood (Dawn, Adulthood Rites, Imago). An interesting twist on the end of the world as we know it examining issues of xenophobia and adaptation.

Other comments are dead on, but I want to add that this is a list heavy on the "Don't call it science fiction" SF -- authors who aren't usually identified as genre writers, or who hate to be called science fiction writers. Doesn't make the books bad, but it makes for a list that looks weird to people who consider themselves SF readers.

I always like to recommend Gardner Dozois' annual "Year's Best" short story collection.

Hi all,
Showing age and predispostion:

Not really in order, but...
1. Moon is a Harsh Mistress (Heinlein)
2. Mote in God's Eye (Niven/Pournelle)
3. Dune (Herbert)
4. Ender's Game (Card)
5. Uplift War (Brin)
6. The Dispossessed (LeGuin)
7. Hour of the Horde (Dickson)
8. Star Guard (ok, for teens) (Norton)
9. Tunnel in the Sky (ok, also for teens) (Heinlein)
10. Caves of Steel (Asimov)

The article has a very strange list for someone who is really into science fiction. What I would expect from an old stuffy English professor who doesn't really get science.

No cyberpunk, for example. No assimov, clark, heinlein, ellison, card.

But, then again, these are his favorites, not his submission for 10 best science fiction books (I hope). There is a big difference. For example, one of my favorites is Childhood's End. It's ending impacted me tremendously at the time in my life that I read it. But it is hardly a work worthy of overall 10 best. Same with EE "Doc" Smith's Lensmen series.

Man in the high Castle could easily be a favorite of someone who digs Dick's twisted realities, but can't handle the intensity of his other (and, in my opinion superior) twisted reality novels.

So, a useful insight into his personal tastes and experiences, but hardly a good example of the genre's best works.



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