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  1. #1

    Top Ten Science Fiction Books of All Time

    This is my list of the best of the best in science fiction….the top ten of all time in science fiction novels.

    This list pretty much goes with my other article about the top ten science fiction authors of all time. Many of the authors listed on that list will have a book on this list. The list is no specific order so number one does not mean the best. Here we go:

    1. The Foundation Trilogy— Isaac Asimov’s space opera about the future of civilization in pace. Considered by many to the be the best space opera ever created. Many authors claim this to be the best science fiction book ever and I would have to agree.
    2. Stranger in a Strange Land — Robert Heinlein’s novel about religion and freedom of spirit. Considered by some to be one of the most important works ever written in SF.
    3. The Time Machine & War of the Worlds — HG Wells two novels that really started the science fiction era. Radio address on War of the Worlds actually caused panic when put out on the air. One of the pioneers of science fiction.
    4. Ender’s Game — Orson Scott Card’s novel about a government run genius program. Earth is attacked by aliens and basically wiped out and it is up to Ender and his crew to right everything. Considered by some to be the best novel of all time in SF.
    5. Flowers for Algernon — Gregory Keyes novel about the dangers of messing with intelligence. Very important novel and in my opinion one of the best I ever read.
    6. Dune – Fran Herbert’s world of sand where water resources and one immortality drug are the keys to power. Very popular book still. Huge success as both book and motion picture.
    7. Fahrenheit 451 — Considered by some to be the most important work ever done in SF. Story of a government that has banned all books and every citizen has to relinquish all books to be burned. 451 symbolizes the temperature needed to burn the books. In my opinion, one of the top three SF novels ever written.
    8. 1984 – Seen my some to symbolize America. One man rises up against Big Brother government to confront a totalitarian state. Very important novel and a great read.
    9. 2001: A Space Odyssey — Arthur C. Clarke’s novel about human evolution in space. On a trip to Saturn, Hal the vast computer controlling the ship starts getting ideas of his own. Huge success as both book and motion picture.
    10. I - Robot — Isaac Asimov’s novel about the dangers of robotic artificial intelligence and whether they could ever turn against their human makers. Asimov’s famous three robotic laws are given in this story. Huge success as both a book and motion pictures.

    Honorable Mentions:

    Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

    Starship Troopers

    Brave New World

    Rendezvous With Rama

    Martian Chronicles

    Slaughterhouse Five

    Hyperion

    Nueromancer

    Left Hand of Darkness

    The Forever War

    A Clockwork Orange

    Contact

    The Andromeda Strain

    [ADMIN EDIT: Link removed to other site. Content placed here, as we prefer. Hobbit]
    Last edited by Hobbit; August 29th, 2009 at 04:43 AM.

  2. #2
    trolling > dissertation nquixote's Avatar
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    Ender's Game = overrated.

    Fahrenheit 451 = massively overrated.

    Otherwise, great list! I liked the creative reinterpretation of the spelling of "Neuromancer".

  3. #3
    A servant of Lord Arioch FitzChivalry's Avatar
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    This guy seems to have stopped reading SF around 1991, his list is pretty irrelevant.

  4. #4
    Registered User Werthead's Avatar
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    1. The Foundation Trilogy— Isaac Asimov’s space opera about the future of civilization in pace. Considered by many to the be the best space opera ever created. Many authors claim this to be the best science fiction book ever and I would have to agree.
    Foundation had a very strong formative role in the genre, but its writing and ideas have been massively supersceded by more modern and more important books. As a list of important formative books in the SF genre, Foundation needs to be on there. For readability and relevance, no.

    2. Stranger in a Strange Land — Robert Heinlein’s novel about religion and freedom of spirit. Considered by some to be one of the most important works ever written in SF.
    Severely overrated and very much of its time. Cutting-edge in the 1960s, but tame by modern standards. Starship Troops is a more essential Heinlein novel.

    3. The Time Machine & War of the Worlds — HG Wells two novels that really started the science fiction era. Radio address on War of the Worlds actually caused panic when put out on the air. One of the pioneers of science fiction.
    Important, formative and still pleasing to read today. Agreed.

    4. Ender’s Game — Orson Scott Card’s novel about a government run genius program. Earth is attacked by aliens and basically wiped out and it is up to Ender and his crew to right everything. Considered by some to be the best novel of all time in SF.
    With the exception of Hyperion, this is probably the most 'recent indisputable classic' SF has produced, which given that it's a quarter of a century old really sums up some of the problems SF has been having over the last decade or so. It's also the easily the best YA SF novel ever written. A viable entry on any list.

    5. Flowers for Algernon — Gregory Keyes novel about the dangers of messing with intelligence. Very important novel and in my opinion one of the best I ever read.
    Not read.

    6. Dune – Fran Herbert’s world of sand where water resources and one immortality drug are the keys to power. Very popular book still. Huge success as both book and motion picture.
    A no-brainer.

    7. Fahrenheit 451 — Considered by some to be the most important work ever done in SF. Story of a government that has banned all books and every citizen has to relinquish all books to be burned. 451 symbolizes the temperature needed to burn the books. In my opinion, one of the top three SF novels ever written.
    A reasonable choice.

    8. 1984 – Seen my some to symbolize America. One man rises up against Big Brother government to confront a totalitarian state. Very important novel and a great read.
    A solid entry.

    9. 2001: A Space Odyssey — Arthur C. Clarke’s novel about human evolution in space. On a trip to Saturn, Hal the vast computer controlling the ship starts getting ideas of his own. Huge success as both book and motion picture.
    No. Actually one of Clarke's weaker novels, hamstrung by its interdependence on the movie. Rendezvous with Rama, Childhood's End and even 2010 are all superior, probably A Fall of Moondust and The City and the Stars as well.

    10. I - Robot — Isaac Asimov’s novel about the dangers of robotic artificial intelligence and whether they could ever turn against their human makers. Asimov’s famous three robotic laws are given in this story. Huge success as both a book and motion pictures.
    I'd go with this. I, Robot is certainly more relevant and hasn't dated as badly as the Foundation books.

    The lack of Christopher Priest, Brian Aldiss and JG Ballard from this list is disappointing, however. Also, no Philip K. Dick? Curious.

    This guy seems to have stopped reading SF around 1991, his list is pretty irrelevant.
    I think it is a viable choice to pick a date and not include anything after that, as it would likely still be 'too new' to really judge in the long run if it is going to be a classic or not. That said, I would fully expect a more recent list to incorporate Chasm City, The Reality Dysfunction, Use of Weapons, River of Gods (and/or Brasyl) and Black Man at the very least.

  5. #5
    Webmaster, Great SF&F owlcroft's Avatar
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    An idiosyncratic but, I hope, interesting list . . . .

    To expand the range, I have used the concept of "work" rather than "book", because that allows sets of books that are really one "work" in conception to be included. (The difference between a "work" and a "series" is that a "work" has a definite arc and ending, or is integral in the sense that each component alter one's perception of the other or others, as with Anima or the Instrumentality tales.)

    • Anima by M. John Harrison:
      • The Course of the Heart
      • Signs of Life

    • A Billion Days of Earth by Doris Piserchia
    • The Briah Cycle by Gene Wolfe (a work with three major subdivisions):
      • Book of the New Sun:
        • The Shadow of the Torturer
        • The Claw of the Conciliator
        • The Sword of the Lictor
        • The Citadel of the Autarch
        • The Urth of the New Sun
        • Empires of Foliage and Flower (in the collection Starwater Strains)
      • Book of the Long Sun:
        • Nightside the Long Sun
        • Lake of the Long Sun
        • Caldé of the Long Sun
        • Exodus from the Long Sun
      • Book of the Short Sun:
        • On Blue's Waters
        • In Green's Jungles
        • Return to the Whorl

    • The Demon Princes by Jack Vance:
      • The Star King
      • The Killing Machine
      • The Palace of Love
      • The Face
      • The Book of Dreams

    • Dies Irae by Brian Stableford:
      • The Days of Glory
      • In the Kingdom of the Beasts
      • Day of Wrath

    • The Fifth Head of Cerberus by Gene Wolfe
    • The Instrumentality of Man by Cordwainer Smith:
      • Norstrilia
      • The Rediscovery of Man

    • Pavane by Keith Roberts
    • Planet of Adventure by Jack Vance:
      • The Chasch
      • The Wanek
      • The Dirdir
      • The Pnume

    • Report on Probability A by Brian W. Aldiss


    Here is a supplementary list of competitive works that are borderline as between science fiction and fantasy:

    • The Deep by John Crowley
    • Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman
    • The Green Child by Herbert Read
    • Islandia by Austin Tappan Wright
    • Qfwfq by Italo Calvino (OK, I'm cheating, it's a series)
      • Cosmicomics
      • t Zero
      • Numbers in the Dark (contains a few Qfwfq tales plus other stories)

    • The Sunlight Dialogs by John Gardner
    • Viriconium by M. John Harrison:
      • The Pastel City
      • A Storm of Wings
      • In Viriconium
      • Viriconium Nights



    I concur with the earlier remark about it being a bit early to class relatively modern works as among the top few in science fiction (or any category).
    Last edited by owlcroft; April 29th, 2012 at 08:09 PM. Reason: fix absurd font sizes

  6. #6
    trolling > dissertation nquixote's Avatar
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    Wow, owlcroft, I'm going to go check out the books on your list...good stuff! The only thing I've read on there is Jack Vance, but I respect all who know and love the Vance...

  7. #7
    A servant of Lord Arioch FitzChivalry's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Werthead View Post
    I think it is a viable choice to pick a date and not include anything after that, as it would likely still be 'too new' to really judge in the long run if it is going to be a classic or not. That said, I would fully expect a more recent list to incorporate Chasm City, The Reality Dysfunction, Use of Weapons, River of Gods (and/or Brasyl) and Black Man at the very least.
    It's a viable choice, but don't call it "Top Ten Science Fiction Books of All Time " call it "Top Ten Science Fiction Books before 1991" or something, when you claim it's the best books of all time list, it better not have a date limitation.
    He also didn't call it a list of classics, which would imply taking into account, besides the quality of the book, also the impact the book had on the genre or the level of cult status the book gained through the years. If you don't call it a classic, a long perspective is not needed, when you are just talking about which book is the "best", it implies to me only judging by the quality of the book, which is of course mostly subjective, but at least you don't need the perspective of years.
    Last edited by FitzChivalry; August 30th, 2009 at 01:40 AM.

  8. #8
    Member of the Month™ Ropie's Avatar
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    My pointless response to the original list:

    1. The Foundation Trilogy — Haven't read all of it but plan to.
    2. Stranger in a Strange Land — Haven't read it but don't like Heinlein much.
    3. The Time Machine & War of the Worlds — Haven't read it, don't plan to.
    4. Ender’s Game — Quite enjoyed this but it is vastly overrated
    5. Flowers for Algernon — Haven't read this but would very much like to.
    6. Dune – The most overrated book in SF: I found it slow, horribly written and dated.
    7. Fahrenheit 451 — Haven't read this but Bradbury is a genius.
    8. 1984 – Still a great read but a bit of a pat choice.
    9. 2001: A Space Odyssey — Haven't read this one but anything by ACC is great.
    10. I - Robot — Enjoyably precise tales but dated.

    It's a rather standard list. Owl's list is much more invigorating.

  9. #9
    Registered User JML's Avatar
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    Otherwise OK list, but I'd ditch Dune and replace it with Solaris. Also, replace Fahrenheit with Brave New World.

  10. #10
    Heh. surely you know you are likely to get taken to task for this sort of thing. What is the juvenile compulsion to make a top 10 of this sort of thing. Also, what is this "considered by some" and "considered by many" and "many authors claim"? Hearsay will not win many arguments.

    So, some good books, some not so good IMHO.

    Dune. Good book. Rubbish film, so why mention that?

    2001. Good book. Fantastic film.

    War of The Worlds. Fantastic Book. The radio broadcast you mention was an adaptation by Orson Welles and not a reading of the book itself.

    where is Alfred Bester?

    Owlcroft's list is interesting. Really like Gene Wolfe and have read all of the books mentioned. Got a bit frustrated with parts of The Book of the Short Sun, but would thoroughly recommend it. I also like his fantasy The Knight.

    Have not read any John Crowley apart from Little Big. Must look out The Deep.

    Have read the first 3 Viriconium novels, and must confess I find Harrison irritating at times. Quite liked his novel about rock climbers.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Hitmouse View Post
    Heh. surely you know you are likely to get taken to task for this sort of thing. What is the juvenile compulsion to make a top 10 of this sort of thing. Also, what is this "considered by some" and "considered by many" and "many authors claim"? Hearsay will not win many arguments.

    So, some good books, some not so good IMHO.

    Dune. Good book. Rubbish film, so why mention that?

    2001. Good book. Fantastic film.

    War of The Worlds. Fantastic Book. The radio broadcast you mention was an adaptation by Orson Welles and not a reading of the book itself.

    where is Alfred Bester?

    Owlcroft's list is interesting. Really like Gene Wolfe and have read all of the books mentioned. Got a bit frustrated with parts of The Book of the Short Sun, but would thoroughly recommend it. I also like his fantasy The Knight.

    Have not read any John Crowley apart from Little Big. Must look out The Deep.

    Have read the first 3 Viriconium novels, and must confess I find Harrison irritating at times. Quite liked his novel about rock climbers.
    War of the worlds? Did you mean the original written in like 1930?

    I tried reading this and it was the most boring book i have EVER read. I just figured it was famous because the radio guy who pulled the hoax on everyone.

    Alfred Bester's "Demolished Man" was a good one.

  12. #12
    I always liked...

    The Dreaming Jewels by Theodore Sturgeon

  13. #13
    HG Wells was not just a hack who was lucky enough to get a radio play. He was a major (and controversial) figure in late 19th and early 20th century letters, who also wrote some seminal science fiction.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._G._Wells

    Completely disagree about War of the Worlds being boring. Short, exciting, very accessible.

  14. #14
    A man under the Oak Tree. bio's Avatar
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    Very funfy topic. Howg !

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    Statistician Luonas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FitzChivalry View Post
    It's a viable choice, but don't call it "Top Ten Science Fiction Books of All Time " call it "Top Ten Science Fiction Books before 1991" or something, when you claim it's the best books of all time list, it better not have a date limitation.
    He also didn't call it a list of classics, which would imply taking into account, besides the quality of the book, also the impact the book had on the genre or the level of cult status the book gained through the years. If you don't call it a classic, a long perspective is not needed, when you are just talking about which book is the "best", it implies to me only judging by the quality of the book, which is of course mostly subjective, but at least you don't need the perspective of years.
    Well, it usually takes time for one to see if new works are ready to be put on that kind of list, I wouldn't put any film after the eighties on my top ten list through all the times just because overall there are very few that has even a chance that I have seen. With time though, word might spread and the good might come through the debris.

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