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August 21st, 2014, 11:54 PM #1
My (a) Year of the Monkey Reading Challenge
Not sure if this post will be of much interest to anyone, but what the hell. Iíve decided to set myself a fun little reading challenge Ė read five prominent SF books published in the year of my birth; that is 1980. Why? Firstly, to give me some vague perspective on the evolution of the genre over my lifetime. Secondly, it seems to be an interesting and fun way to delve into the back history of the field and try some new authors (or in one case revisit a favourite). Lastly, Iím just nerdy that way.
ĎProminentí is subjective and Iíve made a call on the five books that stand out to me in terms of reputation within the field and continuing relevance. In researching the list I referred to shortlists for major genre awards, and the ISFDB and Locus websites. I also applied a couple of other Ďguidelinesí in addition to the 1980 publication year requirement: no sequels to books not previously read and no coming into a series partway through; a mix of female and male authors; and authors from different nationalities and ethnicities (though I have failed with the last one; the list is US-centric, but even the UK genre awards in 1980 were dominated by US writers. One African-American writer has been included, however.)
Anyway, based on these criteria my reading list for the next little while is as follows:
1. Wild Seed by Octavia Butler
2. Timescape by Gregory Benford
3. The Snow Queen by Joan Vinge
4. The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe
5. Lord Valentineís Castle by Robert Silverberg
The Wolfe is a reread Iím quite excited about as that series is one of my favourites. Other books considered for inclusion were Molly Zero by Keith Roberts, Mockingbird by Walter Tevis, The Dreaming Dragons by Damien Broderick and Serpentís Reach by C.J. Cherryh, but I had to be ruthless to narrow it down to five. Feel free to chime in with comments about my selection. Or set yourself the challenge based on your own year of birth, if youíre not concerned about giving away your age (or some other year if you are).
August 22nd, 2014, 12:15 AM #2
Good idea and great list (I read Vinge and part of the Wolfe).
I\ll go check what good titles were published in 64 that I didn't already read
August 22nd, 2014, 09:26 AM #3
- Join Date
- Sep 2001
I recently realized I had never read a Butler book, so I read Wild Seed. It was fairly deep in content for a short book. In one sense, it was 'a bunch of stuff that happened' without a real story arc, but she is such a good writer she pulled it off and I really enjoyed it.
August 22nd, 2014, 10:00 AM #4
Read #1 and #3. Wild Seed is the best book by Butler that I have read. But I would say it is more fantasy than science fiction.
I remember liking The Snow Queen but not the story. I started Summer Queen but never finished. Like it ran out of being interesting.
August 22nd, 2014, 11:17 AM #5
According to this list:
the defining SF books of the year 1980 are (in alphabetical order):
Beyond the Blue Event Horizon by Frederik Pohl
Dragonís Egg by Robert L. Forward
Lord Valentineís Castle by Robert Silverberg
Mockingbird by Walter Tevis
Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban
Roderick by John T. Sladek
Sundiver by David Brin
The Arbor House Treasury of Great Science Fiction Short Novels edited by Robert Silverberg
The Garden of Delight by Ian Watson
The Number of the Beast by Robert A. Heinlein
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams
The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe
The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge
The Visitors by Clifford D. Simak
Timescape by Gregory Benford
Wild Seed by Octavia Butler
Wizard by John Varley
Here are the defining SF books for different decades, according to that site. It's a good resource when one wants to read books from a certain year or decade:
August 22nd, 2014, 02:26 PM #6
- Join Date
- Jul 2001
- Hobbit Towers, England
- Blog Entries
Great idea, Luke: though you have made me feel a little old by saying 1980. (I would've been 16.)
The one I know least about myself is the Butler, and that's because it can be a little hard to get here in the UK. (Mind you, I've not looked at ebooks for it recently, I must admit.) For what its worth, I liked Timescape for being that hard-scientists-at-work style so beloved of Arthur C Clarke & such like David Brin or even Larry Niven. I loved The Snow Queen - one of my favourite Space Operas, with an intelligent plot (or at least it seemed so when I read it.) The Gene Wolfe is just classy and clever, if not a little frustrating at times, because of the gaps it leaves in that unreliable narrator stuff. And I love Lord Valentine's Castle, which is very Jack Vance-like, and I couldn't read enough of when it first came out. (And I'm still getting over the fact that I met Robert last week at WorldCon. )
So: good criteria, good choices - be interested in what you have to say on them when you've finished.
August 22nd, 2014, 10:59 PM #7
- Join Date
- May 2014
Thanks, farseer2, that's a good site.
Interestingly, I happen to have read all of the ones from my year of birth apart from the Sturgeon:
A Case of Conscience by James Blish
Have Space Suit-Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein
Methuselahís Children by Robert A. Heinlein
Non-Stop by Brian W. Aldiss
The Cosmic Rape by Theodore Sturgeon
The Languages of Pao by Jack Vance
The Lincoln Hunters by Wilson Tucker
The Time Traders by Andre Norton
Who? by Algis Budrys
August 23rd, 2014, 01:59 AM #8
- Join Date
- Apr 2012
- Bellingham, WA
I'm tempted to accept the challenge. Looking at the lists, I'm not sure there's a single prominent SF book from 1987 that I've already read. However, in an extremely fortuitous coincidence, I just started Consider Phlebas yesterday afternoon so I suppose that's my first choice. I'm thinking these five:
1. Consider Phlebas - Iain M. Banks
2. Dawn - Octavia Butler (Locus nomination)
3. The Uplift War - David Brin (Hugo & Locus win, Nebula shortlist) Does this stand alone??? If not, I'll need to pick something else.
4. The Forge of God - Greg Bear (Nebula, Hugo, Locus shortlists)
5. The Urth of the New Sun - Gene Wolfe (All of the shortlists). Same question here... can this one be read without the rest of the New Sun series?
The first installment of Bujold's Falling Free came in 1987 also, so that could jump in there.
This thread is a fantastic idea, and in theory I'd love to follow through with it. But in the back of my head I know that what's going to actually happen is I'm going to finish Consider Phlebas and immediately read the next two Culture books. Then Ancillary Sword is going come out, and I know I won't be able to ignore it. Then I'm gonna say, well if I'm going to read a Greg Bear novel, I'd really rather start with Eon (which I've been thinking about reading for ages). Then I'll probably look at the "to-read" stack sitting on my desk, shrug, and pick one of those
Last edited by Jussslic; August 23rd, 2014 at 02:25 AM.
August 23rd, 2014, 06:35 AM #9
September 8th, 2014, 06:18 PM #10
Thanks everybody for your replies. I finished Wild Seed a little while ago but havenít posted about it yet, because Iím finding it a difficult book to describe and equally difficult to describe my reaction to it. It is the story of two immortal archetypes pulled from African mythology Ė a soul stealer named Doro, who possesses the bodies of others and kills them in the process, and a shape shifter named Anyanwu who can take to form of any animal after tasting its flesh. The story starts in 17th Century West Africa and spans a few hundred years, basically showing how these two characters interact and relate to the mortals around them. Doro bends others to his will and treats them like playthings to relieve his centuries of boredom and loneliness. Anyanwu, on the other hand, nurtures those around her, and tries to help them live good and happy lives. What makes it science fiction in my mind is the psychological credibility that Butler gives these characters. Their motivations are logical and clear to the reader and through their conflict with each other Butler explores with intelligence and empathy a range of resonant themes, such as slavery, race, gender and power relations. Iíve seen some criticism that the narrative is aimless, which I didnít find, but it is episodic and in some ways reads like a family saga told through the magical realist mode. I came away from the novel with a deep respect for it on many levels, but I also found it a disturbing and disaffecting experience, I think because it so effectively put me in an alien headspace and sustained it so well for the length of the novel.
Last edited by Luke_B; September 8th, 2014 at 06:20 PM.