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Matters skiffy

Gacked from many people, primarily mr_tom, flick, daveon and drplokta.

It's an interesting list, maybe not of the "best" books (whatever that means, and however you might quantify "best"), but certainly of influential titles. I haven't given the read/not read/partly read/never heard of classification that other people have. Instead, suggested in part by missfairchild's post, I've indicated with a "*" those books which I rate especially highly, and often which I have two copies of - one for me, and one to lend. Conversely, books that I read and disliked enough to never want to read again are marked with a "-".

  1. Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke
  2. Foundation, by Isaac Asimov
  3. Dune, by Frank Herbert
  4. * Man in the High Castle, by Philip K. Dick
  5. Starship Troopers, by Robert A. Heinlein
  6. Valis, by Philip K. Dick
  7. Frankenstein, by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
  8. Gateway, by Frederick Pohl
  9. * Space Merchants, by C.M. Kornbluth & Frederick Pohl
  10. Earth Abides, by George R. Stewart
  11. Cuckoo’s Egg, by C.J. Cherryh
  12. Star Surgeon, by James White
  13. The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, by Philip K. Dick
  14. Radix, by A.A. Attanasio
  15. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke
  16. Ringworld, by Larry Niven
  17. * A Case of Conscience, by James Blish
  18. Last and First Man, by Olaf Stapledon
  19. * The Day of the Triffids, by John Wyndham
  20. Way Station, by Clifford Simak (why not "City", which I feel is a great book?)
  21. More Than Human, by Theodore Sturgeon
  22. Gray Lensman, by E.E. "Doc" Smith
  23. The Gods Themselves, by Isaac Asimov
  24. * The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin
  25. Behold the Man, by Michael Moorcock
  26. Star Maker, by Olaf Stapledon
  27. The War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells
  28. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne
  29. Heritage of Hastur, by Marion Zimmer Bradley (I have read most of the Darkover series, which rock)
  30. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells
  31. The Stars My Destination, by Alfred Bester
  32. Slan, by A.E. Van Vogt
  33. * Neuromancer, by William Gibson
  34. Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
  35. In Conquest Born, by C.S. Friedman
  36. Lord of Light, by Roger Zelazny
  37. - Eon, by Greg Bear
  38. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey
  39. Journey to the Center of the Earth, by Jules Verne
  40. Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein
  41. - Cosm, by Gregory Benford
  42. The Voyage of the Space Beagle, by A.E. Van Vogt
  43. Blood Music, by Greg Bear
  44. Beggars in Spain, by Nancy Kress
  45. Omnivore, by Piers Anthony
  46. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov
  47. Mission of Gravity, by Hal Clement
  48. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, by Philip Jose Farmer
  49. * Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
  50. The Man Who Folded Himself, by David Gerrold
  51. 1984, by George Orwell
  52. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson
  53. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
  54. Flesh, by Philip Jose Farmer
  55. Cities in Flight, by James Blish
  56. * Shadow of the Torturer, by Gene Wolfe
  57. Startide Rising, by David Brin
  58. Triton, by Samuel R. Delany
  59. * Stand on Zanzibar, by John Brunner
  60. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
  61. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
  62. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter Miller
  63. Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes
  64. No Blade of Grass, by John Christopher
  65. The Postman, by David Brin
  66. Dhalgren, by Samuel Delany
  67. Berserker, by Fred Saberhagen
  68. Flatland, by Edwin Abbot
  69. Planiverse, by A.K. Dewdney
  70. Dragon’s Egg, by Robert L. Forward
  71. Downbelow Station, by C.J. Cherryh
  72. Dawn, by Octavia E. Butler
  73. Puppet Masters, by Robert Heinlein
  74. The Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
  75. Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
  76. Deathbird Stories, by Harlan Ellison
  77. Roadside Picnic, by Boris Strugatsky & Arkady Strugatsky
  78. The Snow Queen, by Joan Vinge
  79. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury
  80. Drowned World, by J.G. Ballard
  81. Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
  82. Red Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson
  83. Upanishads, by Various
  84. Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
  85. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
  86. The Lathe of Heaven, by Ursula K. Le Guin
  87. The Midwich Cuckoos, by John Wyndham
  88. Mutant, by Henry Kuttner
  89. Solaris, by Stanislaw Lem
  90. Ralph 124C41+, by Hugo Gernsback
  91. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson
  92. Timescape, by Gregory Benford
  93. * The Demolished Man, by Alfred Bester
  94. War with the Newts, by Karl Kapek
  95. - Mars, by Ben Bova
  96. Brain Wave, by Poul Anderson
  97. Hyperion, by Dan Simmons
  98. The Andromeda Strain, by Michael Crichton
  99. Camp Concentration, by Thomas Disch
  100. A Princess of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs

On a related note, went to see I, Robot last night with Les and Dave last night. It would appear that while I overestimated the angular velocity of the esteemed Dr. A, he's probably still spinning at a steady 33 1/3 rpm. It didn't help that I managed to work out both whodunnits (who killed Alfred Lanning, and who is controlling the NS-5s) within the first fifteen minutes. Anyway, the film has some nice action sequences, and aside from some clunky exposition (Calvin: The first law says that a robot may not harm a human, or by inaction allow a human to come to harm. Detective: Yes, but the second law says that a robot must obey the orders given it by a human. Calvin: That would conflict with the first law. (etc)), the dialogue was fine. Will Smith turned in an atypically straight role - I couldn't work out if he's trying to be the new Laurence Fishburn or the new Wesley Snipes.

The film had excellent art direction (apart from the "evil robots have glowing red chest plates" schtick), so it was quite similar to Minority Report (looks right, moves right, but bears no resemblance to the story it's adapting), expect for the fact that I liked this and hated Minority Report.

Also saw the trailer for Alien vs. Predator, which really does look dire - even worse than Alien 4. Might go and see it on Friday with some colleagues, since they're quite keen on seeing it. Might still be a good popcorn film, I suppose...

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Because it would be embarrassing to do the list myself, I will declare here that, of the above books, I have read:
Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein
Neuromancer, by William Gibson
The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin
The Day of the Triffids, by John Wyndham

I spoke to my friend that I review for about I, Robot.

It turns out that someone wrote a 'robots running amok' film, took it around and was told that it had similarities to Asimov story/stories, and there would be copyright issues. So they bought the rights, changed a few names, tweaked the story to include the three laws, and went ahead with the same script expousing the Frankenstein Complex, probably without even reading the short story they named the film after.

Hence, it has nothing to do with the Asimov stories, and his estate is proved to be considerably less careful than most authors' estates.

Still haven't been to see it, however, as I don't think I can take the pain.


Nick, that's a fine list you have. Plenty of books that I need to read.

The Man in the high castle - good read, I so wanted the Jap at the end of the book to be transported in this world as he urged the macguffin to cough up its mystical secrets. It would be provided a PKD twist to it.

I've recently got more into Bruce Sterling and really enjoyed two of his books - Distraction and Schismatrix.

Stand on Zanzibar is one of those books that I have not read but everyone says is very good. I have a backlog of bokks to get through that would flummox an army of librarians. In fact a rational approach to it would be to quit my job and take up reading full time.

A case of conscience - seemed very catholic to me and I felt I was missing some of the subtlety. Odd to think of the genocide of the entire planet as a heavenly deliverance.

Shadow of the Torturer, Left hand of darkness - unknown

You haven't starred Hyperion which I've only heard rave reviews of, any reasons?

I salute the flying fish.

I must admit that I don't rate Distraction that highly, although Schismatrix is damned good. Of his more recent books, I think that Heavy Weather is the best novel, but his shorts are generally better.

Stand on Zanzibar is good, so good that you should just discard the rest of your bag-of-books-to-be-read and read it. If you haven't already done so, you should then go and read The Sheep Look Up and The Shockwave Rider (preferably while also reading Alvin Toffler's Future Shock and The Third Wave, and Rachel Carson's Silent Spring). I mean this. This is important.

Shadow of the Torturer is probably Gene Wolfe's finest work (and I thank zotz for insisting that I had to read it), and I'm a bit surprised that you've not heard of The Left Hand of Darkness, which is an excellent piece of soft SF exploring gender politics (when people ask me about feminist SF I normally tell them to avoid anything published by the Women's Press and to read this instead).

Hyperion was good, but it wasn't a book that I feel I have to evangelise about. I'd gone many years before I actually read, which I did when several of the old fogeys, principally Sue and Inigo, finally set me to rights. While I've now read and enjoyed the first two books, I don't think that they would appear in my top ten.

I guess why I like Distraction is that it sets itself in a world transformed and has the courage to keep on extending it. To my mind it was a continual act of wonder - what is he going to do next? I was also amused and slightly jealous of the central character that he managed to create so much out of effectively nothing.

I shall look out for Stand on Zanzibar.

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