James Smythe

James Smythe


50 Essential SF Novels Part 1

A few weeks back, AbeBooks published their 50 Essential SF Novels. This made Jared at Pornokitsch, Ian Sales and myself decide to post our 50 favourites, to compare. Here's the first 25 of mine, along with weak justification comments.

Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, (1818) Blah blah blah but really it's so, so good.

Flatland, Edwin Abbot  (1884) All I know is this: I cannot fathom how mind-blowing this must have been when it was first released. It's still that now.

The Purple Cloud, M P Shiel (1901) The most overwritten book I have ever read. Somehow, what with all the city-burning and madness, I don't really mind.

Iron Heel, Jack London (1908) The Brotherhood Of Man.

Fury, Henry Kuttner (1947) It's your classic underwater Venusian revenge story: thanks to a childhood of saturdays in a library for discovering this.

1984George Orwell (1949) Room 101 for me: I nearly forgot this. No idea how.

The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury (1950) I loved this style of SF when I was younger: where the science meant nothing, fucked-around with for the sake of the narrative.

Foundation, Isaac Asimov (1951) I want an Apple-branded Prime Radiant for teaching purposes please.

The Space Merchants, Frederik Pohl & Cyril M Cornbluth (1952) It's completely insane. (I am reliably informed that I will adore Gateway, incidentally, though I haven't read it yet.)

Childhood's End, Arthur C Clarke (1953) First alien invasion book I ever read. 

The Paradox Men, Charles Harness (1953) An idiotic amount of fun. And they visit the sun! 

The Chrysalids, John Wyndham (1955) Religion and the apocalypse: what's not to love?

The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester (1956) Gully Foyle is directly responsible for The Explorer.

A Case Of Conscience, James Blish (1958) I love the bridge between religion and alien life: the questions it raises, about both faith and morality.

A Canticle For Leibowitz, Walter Miller (1959) Because I love a good post-apocalyptic monk.

The Sirens Of Titan, Kurt Vonnegut (1959) So it goes: I didn't choose S5.

Solaris, Stanislaw Lem (1961) I won't lie: I read this because I loved the Tarkovsky film. But the book is just as good, or better. It's philosophical in a way that I can't be; and the concept of communication being different with different races is one that I adore to this day. (See also: Embassytown.)

The Drowned World, J G Ballard (1962) Because Kerans' journey is one of my favourites in literature.

The Black Cloud, Fred Hoyle (1964) I have only very recently read this. I adored it, and found it very relevant to my current interests.

Ubik, Philip K Dick (1969) It was this or Flow My Tears, but I thought I'd have a (tiny, insignificant) riot if I went with that.

The Ship Who Sang, Anne McCaffrey (1969) Oh my god I want a brainship.

The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, Douglas Adams (1979) I read this because everybody in school did. Didn't mean I loved it any less for the hype.

The Forever War, Joe Haldeman (1979) A proper library find: one of those books I took out because it had amazing spaceships on the cover, and was blown away by how powerful the story was to my teenage mind.

Riddley Walker, Russel Hoban (1980) The woal thing fealt jus that littl bit genius.

Lanark, Alasdair Grey (1981) Unthank remains my favourite alt-city I've ever read.

And here is Jared's list.

And here is Ian's list.

The second half of this tomorrow!