101. JK Rowling: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (1997) — Charming concept, charmingly executed.
102. Salman Rushdie: The Satanic Verses (1988) (didn’t finish) — Confusing and pointless. If you are going to be threatened with death for writing a book, at least you could write a good one.
103. Antoine de Sainte-Exupéry: The Little Prince (1943) — Trivial. You can die without reading this one with no regrets.
104. José Saramago: Blindness (1995)
105. Will Self: How the Dead Live (2000)
106. Mary Shelley: Frankenstein (1818)
107. Dan Simmons: Hyperion (1989) — Wonderful book. Mr. Simmons is a treasure.
108. *Olaf Stapledon: Star Maker (1937) — Wonderful book, despite the author’s weird socialist-Darwinist Gnosticism.
109. Neal Stephenson: Snow Crash (1992) — Wonderful book.
110. Robert Louis Stevenson: The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) — I’ve read TREASURE ISLAND. Does that count?
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) — what a load of crap.
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) — This is a seminal work of Science Fiction, the very book to hand to your muggle friends to explain why you like this stuff.
119. *HG Wells: The War of the Worlds (1898) — See above.
120. TH White: The Sword in the Stone (1938) (didn’t finish) — It was not bad, but it did not hold my interest. I read all of Mallory’s MORTE D’ARTHUR, Tennyson’s IDYLLS OF THE KING, not to mention various Gests and Romances that summer, and this seemed a trifle lighthearted for the subject matter. It was one of those books I wished had held my interest.
121. *Gene Wolfe: The Book of the New Sun (1980-83) —Best book on this list. I salute the Guardian for its ability to overcome its socialist-nihilist prejudices to reward a laurel to a read literary masterwork.
122. John Wyndham: Day of the Triffids (1951)
123. John Wyndham: The Midwich Cuckoos (1957)
124. Yevgeny Zamyatin: We (1924) (didn’t finish) — Could have been the translation, or my inability to sympathize with the basic theme. Having never been tempted by collectivism or socialism in any form, to me, dystopia novels have interest only as horror stories. Zamyatin did not develop the basic idea in the fashion that, say Orwell or Huxley did so masterfully: the dentist-drill-sharp gallows humor of Orwell has no counterpart in Zamyatin. The glass walled city and numbered citizens are symbolic, not realistic.
I confess that I have never read, or even heard of, one third of the authors on the Guardian list. I consider myself rather well read when it comes to real science fiction. Sorry to brag, but honestly, I have never met anyone aside from an editor or agent who has read as much as I have: there is no major author in our small field I have not at least seen reviewed or heard discussed. When I see one or two names I’ve never heard before for books I have heard of which I have no rumor, I assume I merely missed it. It could be someone as deserving of fame as Robert Louis Stevenson or H.G. Wells or George Orwell, John Wyndham or Margaret Atwood, or Michael Moorcock, and I just never heard of him. It’s possible. I mean, after all, one of my favorite books on this list is VOYAGE TO ARCTURUS by David Lindsay, and no one has ever heard of Lindsay, aside from me, C.S. Lewis, and Harold Bloom.
But when I see 34 of the authors on a list 124 line items long—roughly one third— I stop assuming these are big names of great writers I somehow missed. I begin to think the Guardian is pushing some sort of agenda.
You see, there are writers who refer to their work as work; and there are writers who refer to their work as Art. The first group, by and large, produce workmanlike stories fit for consumption. The second group produces gas. I notice the majority of works on the Guardian list are from the group that gives me gas.
Gas indeed! The flatulence of elitism hangs about the list as sulfurous smog hangs about the Dark Tower, looming, proud and terrible in its strength, to overlook a burnt, wasted and waterless land where no bird sings, no starlight shines, and no thorn grows.
I note with a lofty lift of a supercilious eyebrow how few of the books occupy the intersection of my list and the Guardian’s.
I would certainly add Against the Fall of Night by Arthur C. Clarke, Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke, Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis, Slan by A.E. van Vogt, World of Null-A by A.E. van Vogt (with its sequel Pawns of Null-A), Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein, Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert Heinlein, Harvest of Stars by Poul Anderson, The Mote in God’s Eye by Niven and Pournelle, Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin, A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle, Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny, Courtship Rite by Donald Kingsbury (if you look up this book and read it, you will thank me), Emphyrio by Jack Vance, The Dying Earth by Jack Vance, The Languages of Pao by Jack Vance, Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath by H.P. Lovecraft, The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle, The Night Land by William Hope Hodgeson, Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott, More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon, Way Station by Clifford Simak, Norstilla by Cordwainer Smith, Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner, Little, Big by John Crowley, Nightwings by Robert Silverberg, The Worm Oroboros by E.R. Eddison.
Honorable mention: The City of Singing Flame by Clark Ashton Smith, the King of Elfland’s Daughter by Lord Dunsany, Anubis Gates by Tim Powers, Enders Game by Orson Scott Card, Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress, A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge, To Crush the Moon by Wil McCarthy.
And then I would add The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle to the list a second time, in case you missed it the first time.