Oscillon asked me to post a science fiction journal entry. He said he would buy my novel Null-A Continuum if I did so. I did, and he lived up to his word like a gentleman. Now, I will publish another science fiction related entry, merely in the hope that he will buy a copy of WORLD OF NULL-A or SLAN or some other Van Vogt book.
The London paper Guardian has been running a series called 1,000 Novels Everyone Must Read and has recently published their 124 science fiction and fantasy picks. I have seen this list on one or two other blogs I frequent, and so thought I would add my own comments here.
Anything in bold I read: when I put it aside unfinished is so noted. I marked with a star those novels I agreed with Guardian must go on your must-read pile. One line book-reviews or snark follow any books on the list where I was prompted by my daemon to make a comment.
(My daemon changed shape when I was younger, but upon majority, assumed the form of a Shuggoth—a terrible, indescribable thing vaster than any subway train, a shapeless congerie of protoplasmic bubbles, faintly self-luminous, and with myriads of temporary eyes forming and un-forming as pustules of greenish light. The Magesterium employs me to run over gyptian villages or sink Turkish armadas, and I am safe from the Gobblers since my ego is so large that it cannot fit into the intercission chamber.)
I am a bit embarrassed to see how many books are on the unfinished list. When I was younger I had a strict reading discipline: only one book at a time, must read to the end, and no more than three books a day.
Here is the list.
1. Douglas Adams: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979)— I am the only person in the English-speaking world who does not find Adams’ humor funny.
2. Brian W Aldiss: Non-Stop (1958)
3. Isaac Asimov: Foundation (1951)
4. Margaret Atwood: The Blind Assassin (2000) — I seriously doubt I could ever be persuaded to read anything by Mrs. Atwood.
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) — Why was this included, as opposed to, say THE STAND by Stephen King or GHOST STORY by Peter Straub?
9. Nicola Barker: Darkmans (2007)
10. Stephen Baxter: The Time Ships (1995) — Good book, but not great.
11. Greg Bear: Darwin's Radio (1999) — I might have put ANVEIL OF STARS or BLOOD MUSIC on this list.
12. *Alfred Bester: The Stars My Destination (1956) — Why is DEMOLISHED MAN absent from this list? To make room for Poppy Z Brite? This one I agree is a must-read.
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) — Saw the movie. Does that count?
18. Anthony Burgess: The End of the World News (1982)
19. *Edgar Rice Burroughs: A Princess of Mars (1912) — Bravo. A real SFF book on the list. I am a little surprised to see this bit of wholesome and old-fashioned boy’s adventure tale sandwiched between so many works of self-important antinomian nihilism. It is like finding a Norman Rockwell painting in a Picasso exhibit. A must read.
20. William Burroughs: Naked Lunch (1959)
21. Octavia Butler: Kindred (1979) — Octavia Butler is on this list, but not Ursula K. LeGuin or Anne Rice? Really? I detect an ugly whiff of tokenism here.
22. Samuel Butler: Erewhon (1872)
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)—A must-read.
31. Susanna Clarke: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (2004) — Didn’t finish. Unpleasant characters, unremarkable magic system, plot like meandering river. Don’t understand the hype that surrounded this.
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)—Delaney is not for me. I read NOVA and FALL OF THE TOWERS. Meh.
37. Philip K Dick: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)— Saw the movie.
38. Philip K Dick: The Man in the High Castle (1962) — Didn’t finish. It is an outrage that two books by Dick make this list, but nothing by A.E. van Vogt, whom Mr. Dick was clumsily copying.
39. Umberto Eco: Foucault's Pendulum (1988) — I did not hate the book, but I resent the huge waste of time the author inflicted on me. Plot, character, etc., were missing.
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)— A remarkable work, staggering in the imaginative effort that went into it.
45. Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Herland (1915)
46. William Golding: Lord of the Flies (1954) —Science Fiction? Really?
47. Joe Haldeman: The Forever War (1974) — I never understood the appeal of this book. It is not bad, but if you are not devoted to peacenik sentiments, nothing really memorable or interesting is present. I thought his WORLDS and its sequel WORLDS APART were better books on every level of writing, character, plot, etc.
48. M John Harrison: Light (2002) —On my ‘to read’ list. Someday.
49. Robert A Heinlein: Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) — Loved this book when I was a kid. Grew up. Hate it like poison now.
50. *Frank Herbert: Dune (1965) — Even after decades, this great novel is hard to surpass. A must-read.