Yet Another List

There have been a rash of lists floating around out there, each hoping to infect some unsuspecting reader. It’s the season of lists, it seems, and I keep stumbling across them. I pay particular attention to the science fiction and fantasy sort… because I have opinions.

Here’s what I think about 50 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Novels That Everyone Should Read compiled by Flavorwire

What I love:

The limitations they put on the list. One book per author, a light skew toward YA which represents only the books adults should pick up if they missed them and an airy acknowledgement that this is not The List. There is no definitive list. This is simply the one the editors of Flavorwire have put together.

Awesome inclusions:

Ubik by Philip K. Dick is on the list. As mentioned, any of Dick’s novels would qualify, but I love that they chose this one. It’s, if those who know the book will pardon my pun, an ubiquitous choice. Read this, and you’ll have read Philip K. Dick, pretty definitively.

Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delaney is on the list! This is a seriously good book. Trippy as all get out and totally obscure. More people need to read this book.

Frankenstein. Just one of those books that should be on every list. Everyone has heard of this story. Even people who have never of J.R.R. Tolkien and the pervasive influence of his little collection of books has heard of Frankenstein. It’s an important book.

Octavia Butler is represented. I’d have chosen Parable of the Sower, but only because I’ve read it. And loved it.

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin. This book is simply amazing. It’s just so bloody intelligent and insightful and interesting. And the story is good, too. Gripping.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne. Read it. In fact, go read all Verne’s books. The movies don’t do ANY of them justice.

Solaris by Stanislaw Lem. Good stuff.

The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester. I nearly squealed when I scrolled past this one. Like Dhalgren, this book is pretty obscure, but utterly fantastic. It should be on more lists. All the lists.

J.G. Ballard is on the list! Awesome inclusion. He wrote a lot of really entertaining and thoughtful speculative fiction, my favourite of which is High Rise. Spooky stuff.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I find it difficult to talk about this book without getting emotional. I see it here and I wonder why it wasn’t on my own list of top ten novels. Probably because the book was a little difficult to read. Ishiguro’s characters can be a little closed off, I find. Hard to fully empathise with. As interpreted for the screen by Alex Garland (under the direction of Mark Romanek), in the movie of the same name, this becomes one of the most emotive stories of our time, however. (In my ever humble opinion)

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. Read the book, then go rent Miyazaki’s interpretation, the film of the same name by Studio Ghibli.

The Giver by Lois Lowry. This one isn’t just for adults and it’s wonderfully representative of an entire genre of literary fiction aimed at younger readers. But, get this. It’s not full of whining females (weak or strong) or chisel-jawed love interests. It doesn’t pander to the current decade of readers, or the one before. It’s a timeless parable, a true classic.

What I didn’t like so much:

Not a lot.

There were a couple of books on the list I’d like to replace and as one commenter noted, there are a few modern oversights. Otherwise, in my opinion, this a pretty inclusive list with some lovely surprises.

In conclusion:

Although they included the usual suspects (with good reason, in most cases), Flavorwire widened the net enough to represent the many sub genres within the catch all “Science Fiction and Fantasy”. It’s not all spaceships and dragons. Primarily, it’s ideas and people, much as any other genre. The unique settings often help tell a more candid and/or ambitious story.

Compared to Your Picks: Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Books compiled by NPR, this list better represents the genre. Probably because it was put together by a smaller team who had actually read the books.  🙂

6 thoughts on “Yet Another List

  1. Joachim Boaz August 12, 2013 / 9:46 pm

    The Stars My Destination is HARDLY obscure…. NOR, is Dhalgren for anyone who semi-knows the field… Everyone reads The Stars — the publication history is incredibly extensive. Albeit, few actually read Dhalgren….

    Very happy about the Ballard inclusion — although, either The Drowned World or The Drought are superior to High-Rise. So glad The Drowned World was the one chosen.

    I also am somewhat confused why people think Russ’ The Female Man is superior to her later novel We Who Are About To…. Historically The Female Man might be more important by We Who is far better written.

    And Crowley… Beasts and The Deep are fantastic — haven’t read Little Big yet.

    So, all in all, a pretty ok list. Some dull works on there though…

    • sisimka August 12, 2013 / 9:50 pm

      Yep, definitely some predictable entries. On the whole, I think it’s a better list than the NPR one, though.

      • Joachim Boaz August 12, 2013 / 9:52 pm

        Perhaps it’s in response to the NPR ones 😉

        SF Mistressworks — a fantastic review collating website which was made as a result of the incredible anger caused by The Guardian’s horrific list than included only a few female authors…

        http://sfmistressworks.wordpress.com/

    • sisimka August 12, 2013 / 9:52 pm

      Oh, and my use of the word ‘obscure’ refers more to the text of the book, the plot, than the book, itself. I like books like that, the ones that make you think. 🙂

      • Joachim Boaz August 12, 2013 / 9:53 pm

        Ah, then Dhalgren at least fits the bill. Stars, not so much — a particularly good example of very straightforward pulp SF.

  2. Pabkins August 14, 2013 / 12:11 pm

    Now I have to check out this list – I like when its limited to one book per author – then you don’t get a dumpload of all the same.

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