caused some heated debate when Ian Sales posted it to Facebook. 23 men, one woman. Apparently asking for more women is unreasonable as women all write Fantasy anyway. Yeah.
Let's take a look at what I've read and what I haven't, as we all so love that game.
Frank Herbert's Dune
. It's probably illegal not to include this book--that would explain its ubiquity, anyway. Yes, I've read it. Let's move on.Ender's Game
by Orson Scott Card. Nope, haven't read this. Don't intend to, either. I read a short story that was a sequel, and it was a) without plot and b) without conflict. Pretty dull. Or dull but not even pretty.
I'm also aware of issues surrounding Card that make me reluctant to hand him my money. But if he has a story in an anthology that I want, I'm sorry, but that's not going to stop me buying it. Principle of shifting principles?
Talking of controversial authors, next we come to Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers
. I've read a lot of Heinlein, especially at the time when I was still finding my feet in the genre and looking for another book like Brunner's Telepathist
, but ST
hasn't been one of them. I think my disenchantment with Heinlein set in with Friday
. But he has written some entertaining and interesting books, so I wouldn't dismiss his work entirely.
series. I've read the original trilogy, plus a really bad book that was a prequel, and which I'm not even sure was actually written by Asimov himself. It was very bad. I can't even remember what it was called. Not that I want to, particularly. If you were after a grounding in Golden Age SF, then you could do a lot worse. But the first book is almost if not quite entirely male, iirc. Tediously so. I mean, where DO all these men come from? There must be some women in the vast Empire. Somewhere.
So far, really, so predictable. Card, Heinlein and Asimov pop up with clock-like regularity on these lists, although the named books tend to vary--except in Card's case, where it's always Ender's Game
. It's as if some readers come with presets. And The Stars My Destination
, by Alfred Bester, is another one you see again and again and again. Perhaps there's really only one list, which occasionally mutates.
The one Bester book I have read made such an impression that I can't remember which it was, but I think it was the other one that keeps being cited. Or maybe it was this one. Hard to care.
Next up is the third of the oft-named trilogy of safe white men--Arthur C. Clarke. I have read 2001: A Space Odyssey
and thought it very dull in lots of places and rather silly at the end. Clarke may have good ideas, but his execution is not of the best, especially at novel length. Still, we wouldn't want to get uppity and start demanding literary SF, or even literate SF, now would we?
by Dan Simmons I know nothing about, except that it's familiar from, well, lists like this one.
I have read William Gibson's Neuromancer
, as well as the other two books in the Sprawl series. Slick, stylish books that have been widely if not successfully imitated.
It'd be hard to claim you have a grounding in SF without having read Nineteen Eighty-Four
by George Orwell. But oh he is a tedious writer, with narrative skills just above those of Clarke. Comes from having been trained as a journalist, maybe. Scary book that is gradually coming true, more's the pity.HHGTTG
by Douglas Adams. Sure, I've read it. I'd rather listen to the radio series, though, and do--often. Fun with serious undertones. Unforgettable characters. Dating rather rapidly.
Whenever someone brings forward Ubik
as the Philip K. Dick book people should read, I cringe. But it's either that or The Man in the High Castle
. I have to wonder why. He's written far better books than either of those. I suppose TMITHC
is accessible whereas, say, Martian Time-Slip
is not, but if Ubik
was your first experience of PKD, I imagine you'd be put off the man for life. Unless you too have a surplus of dopamine and/or a fascination with all that religious stuff.
Joe Haldeman's Forever War
I picked up cheap and read. It was okay, I guess. I've read two versions--we'll call them the Hump You version and the Fuck You version. FU was more understandable than HU, which wasn't an idiom with which I was familiar. They're entertaining enough books, I guess, but do better in the combat areas than in imagining social developments.Snow Crash
by Neal Stephenson is another book that crawls towards this kind of list with astonishing regularity. It doesn't matter how you dress him up or what fancy gadgets you give him, a pizza delivery guy is not cool. End of. The book has its moments, but I could happily never read it again. And probably won't.
Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep
has never crossed my radar.
I think this list loses any credibility with Old Man's War
by John Scalzi. Old people get young, turn green, and have a lot of sex. Who cares?Altered Carbon
by Richard Morgan is a book I once glanced at in a bookshop and dismissed as old hat, based on the cover blurb. But I haven't actually read it, so shall say no more. Rule No. One: If you ain't read it you cain't discuss it.
Is Gene Wolfe the Island of Murdering Young Women to Heal Men
guy? Anyway, haven't read The Book of the New Sun
, so that's all there is to say.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Player of Games
by Iain M. Banks, although I have seen it maligned in certain quarters. Well worth a read imo.The Night's Dawn
by Peter F. Hamilton hasn't crossed my radar before, although the author's name is familiar.
It's a relief that Frederik Pohl's Gateway
has an everyman character I can relate to*. I was beginning to worry. I have a vague memory of reading some short stories about these HeeChee and enjoying them, although that may have been the BeeGees. Anyway, it's going on the wishlist.
Another book that has evaded my radar up till now is Spin
by Robert Charles Wilson. Presumably he is to be distinguished from Robert Anton Wilson. I shall bear that in mind.
Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl
? Now I know you gotta be kidding. Read some way into this and found it both pointless and offensive. Quite an achievement, but not one that's worth all those literary awards.
And another Neal Stephenson, Anathem
. At least that was published this century, which gives it an edge on just about everything else. Except the book that's a windup, I guess.
Peter Watts's Blindsight
has hovered on the edge of my awareness for a while, but I've never thought seriously about picking it up.
Finally, at the bottom, we come to the token woman: Lois McMaster Bujold. It's hard to guess who'll it be this time, so kudos if you got it right. The list cites the entirety of the Miles Vorkosigan Saga
. I've read one book in this series--The Warrior's Apprentice
--which was okay but didn't entice me to read any more.
It's impossible to total up when people insist on including series. But of the authors listed, I'm confident I've read something by sixteen of the men (out of 23) and all of the women.
* I've been distrustful of the 'everyman' character ever since it became associated for me with the protagonist in Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere
, who is a cipher.