Top 100 sf books

As “statistically established” by Peter Sykes. As usual, have bolded the ones I’ve read (79 of 100) and linked to reviews if I’ve written one, with brief comment if I haven’t written a review elsewhere:

1 Frank Herbert, Dune 1965
2 Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game [S1] 1985
3 Isaac Asimov, Foundation 1951 – grand historical sweep
4 William Gibson, Neuromancer 1984
5 Ursula K Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness 1969
6 Robert A Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land 1961 – start of the swinging sixties
7 Larry Niven, Ringworld 1970
8 George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four 1949 – dystopian classic
9 Robert A Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress 1966 – more revolution
10 Dan Simmons, Hyperion 1989 – great stuff, Chaucer sort of retold
11 Frederik Pohl, Gateway 1977
12 Walter M Miller, A Canticle for Leibowitz 1959 – maybe the greatest sf and religion novel
13 Joe Haldeman, The Forever War 1974
14 Arthur C Clarke, Childhood’s End 1954 – the next step in human evolution
15 Ursula K Le Guin, The Dispossessed 1974
16 David Brin, Startide Rising  1983
17 Alfred Bester, The Demolished Man 1953
18 Douglas Adams, The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy 1979 – still hilarious despite my reservations about his other work
19 Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles 1950 – wonderful landscape of another planet
20 Gene Wolfe, The Shadow of the Torturer 1980 – dense and eerie
21 Ben Bova, [ed] The Best of the Nebulas 1989
22 Arthur C Clarke, Rendezvous With Rama 1973
23 Alfred Bester, The Stars My Destination 1956 – bizarre but gripping
24 John Brunner, Stand on Zanzibar 1969 – didn’t like this
25 Theodore Sturgeon, More Than Human 1953 – also next step in human evolution
26 Isaac Asimov, I, Robot 1950 – I’ve grown out of this one, I’m afraid
27 Roger Zelazny, Lord of Light 1967 – Zelazny’s best single work
28 Robert A Heinlein, Starship Troopers 1959 – not quite as fascist as it is reputed to be
29 Philip K Dick, The Man in the High Castle 1962 – alternate history without the whimsy
30 Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 1954 – another chilling dystopia
31 Orson Scott Card, Speaker for the Dead 1986
32 Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon 1966
33 H G Wells, The Time Machine 1895 – political fantasy disguised as time travel
34 Harlan Ellison, [ed] Dangerous Visions 1967 – great anthology
35 Niven & Pournelle, The Mote in God’s Eye 1975 – best from this collaboration, though over-rated here
36 Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars 1992 – first of grand political series where the planet is the story
37 Clifford Simak, Way Station 1963
38 H G Wells, The War of the Worlds 1898 – first great invasion-of-earth story
39 David Brin, The Uplift War 1987 – great world-setting in this series, though sadly later volumes have bloated rather than illuminated
40 Gregory Benford, Timescape 1980 – environmental sf disguised as time travel (paradox never quite resolved)
41 Vernor Vinge, A Fire Upon the Deep 1991 – great stuff, esp the aliens
42 Philip K Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? 1968 – the basis of Blade Runner but a great book on its own merits
43 Isaac Asimov, The Gods Themselves 1972
44 Connie Willis, Doomsday Book 1992
45 Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash 1992 – fantastic cyberpunk, still Stephenson’s best
46 Philip Jose Farmer, To Your Scattered Bodies Go 1971 – first and best of the Riverworld series
47 Aldous Huxley, Brave New World 1932 – another classic of an over-technologised and despiritualised future
48 Arthur C Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey 1968 – great book though greater film
49 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein 1818 – oddly, a really bad book, but carried along by the central idea
50 C J Cherryh, Downbelow Station 1981
51 Hal Clement, Mission of Gravity 1953 – superb extreme planetary environment
52 Gardner Dozois, [ed] The Year’s Best Science Fiction 1984 – unbolded as I’ve only got the last half dozen or so of this excellent series, and certainly haven’t read the very first
53 Robert Silverberg, Dying Inside 1972 – telepath loses his powers; heavy metaphors
54 John Wyndham, The Day of the Triffids 1951 – everyone goes blind and we are attacked by walking poisonous plants – superb
55 Greg Bear, Blood Music 1985 (earlier version)
56 Isaac Asimov, The Caves of Steel 1954
– desperate attempt to mix detective and sf genres
57 Anthony A Burgess, Clockwork Orange 1962
58 James Blish, A Case of Conscience 1958
– the other great sf and religion novel
59 Pohl & Kornbluth, The Space Merchants 1953
60 Clifford Simak, City 1952
61 Tim Powers, The Anubis Gates 1983 – great timetravel novel
62 George R Stewart, Earth Abides 1949 – death of humanity
63 Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five 1969 – time-twisted rather than time-travelling
64 Jules Verne, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea 1870 – supertechnology (ie submarine) in private hands
65 Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars 1912
66 Lois McMaster Bujold, Barrayar 1991 – the most celebrated of her Vorkosigan series but I prefer some of the later ones
67 Isaac Asimov, (et al) [eds] Hugo Winners/New Hugo Winners 1962 etc – classic collections
68 Neal Stephenson, The Diamond Age 1995 – Stephenson’s other great book, before cryptography completely went to his head
69 Arthur C Clarke, The City and the Stars 1956 – superb far future stuff
70 Philip K Dick, The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch 1964 – typically bizarre

71 Joan D Vinge, The Snow Queen 1980
72 Philip K Dick, Ubik 1969 – bizarre and sinister
73 Brian Aldiss, Helliconia Spring 1982 – first and best of the trilogy
74 James Blish, Earthman, Come Home 1955 – at least I think I’ve only read the first in this series, but it was a long time ago
75 Poul Anderson, Tau Zero 1970
76 E E ‘Doc’ Smith, Grey Lensman 1951
77 Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan 1959 – funnier than Slaughterhouse Five, perhaps better
78 Frederik Pohl, Man Plus 1976 – man gets to Mars but at what sacrifice?
79 Robert A Heinlein, The Door Into Summer 1956
80 Harlan Ellison, [ed] Again, Dangerous Visions 1972 – second volume of classic collection
81 Olaf Stapledon, Last and First Men 1930
82 Jules Verne, Journey to the Center of the Earth 1864 – actually only a few miles down, typical rollicking fun
83 Thomas M Disch, Camp Concentration 1968
84 C J Cherryh, Cyteen: The Betrayal 1988
85 Michael Bishop, No Enemy But Time 1982
86 Arthur C Clarke, The Fountains of Paradise 1979

87 Joanna Russ, The Female Man 1975
88 Robert A Heinlein, Double Star 1956
89 Vonda N McIntyre, Dreamsnake 1978
90 Robert A Heinlein, Time Enough For Love 1973 – one of the silly ones, with brain transplants
91 Robert A Heinlein, The Puppet Masters 1951 – great alien invasion story with nudity
92 Robert A Heinlein, The Past Through Tomorrow 1967 – superb future history even if dodgy politics
93 Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale 1985 – male-dominated dystopia
94 Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle 1963 – his best book, a Cold War parable
95 Robert Silverberg, [ed] Science Fiction Hall of Fame 1 1970 – stories all look familiar but they’ve all been collected many times
96 John Varley, Titan 1979 – not really so great
97 Samuel R Delany, Babel-17 1966
98 Edgar Pangborn, A Mirror for Observers 1954
99 David Brin, The Postman 1985 – not quite as bad as the film
100 Robert A Heinlein, Have Space-Suit – Will Travel 1958
– one of his best juvenile novels

Interesting to see how many Heinlein novels come up here. I was struck that Ken MacLeod, who should know, suggests in his essay in the Cambridge Science Fiction Companion that all political sf should be considered as a response to Heinlein. He has a point.

[Later edit: since making this post, I have read:
The Demolished Man
Way Station
Downbelow Station
The Door Into Summer

One thought on “Top 100 sf books

  1. I only ever count the fiction categories! (With due respect to your own past successes.)

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