I heartily disagree with a couple of choices, and haven’t seen one or two. What I do think is interesting is that she has outlined right at the start how she went about choosing her list – by number of personal viewings. This, while flawed, is a lot more honest than a lot of compilers of such lists tend to be.
And, while you’re here, tell me: what did you think of Fifth Element?
Yesterday I blogged about this list of 32 recommended SF novels. I mentioned at the time I wasn’t sure how much store to set by the compiler. Last night, as I considered the list further, I realised there are some serious flaws.
Firstly, the things I think are good about the list:
- There were a few books, and some authors, I hadn’t heard of. They might actually be crap, but it’s cool to have new people suggested – and not to have lists dominated by the same old people. Now, perhaps I’m just not entirely up with my SF classics, and these are all people I ‘should’ have heard of – but I don’t, so it works for me.
- It covers a good range of time – from Mary Shelley through Jules Verne and HG Wells, up to Cory Doctorow and Richard Morgan. It’s useful to see the history of SF reflected in a list like this, and presumably shows the compiler has a good understanding of the range of SF over time.
- There’s a variety in types of SF. That is, you’ve got your loony Douglas Adams, the slightly farcical Michael Crichton’s Timeline, through to the more serious, epic-like works such as those of Frank Herbert and Robert Heinlein, as well the cyperpunk of William Gibson. It’s good to see this range reflected, too – because SF is no monolithic structure.
However, there are obviously some problems with the list. Now, this just may reflect the compiler’s reading taste, but it’s still interesting – I hope – to offer a critique.
- Firstly, I’m not sure all of the works mentioned count as SF. Animal Farm, basically. Not convinced.
- By my count, only Lois Lowry and Mary Shelley rate a mention to represent female publishing. What happened to Ursula le Guin, and Left Hand of Darkness? Perhaps the compiler hasn’t read it, but if they claim to be making a somewhat-authoritative list, she’s a fairly glaring omission. Octavia Butler (of whom I’ve only read short stories), Nancy Kress… I could go on. It’s the main thing I’ve got a beef about, actually.
- One, by my count, young-adult book (the Lowry, which again I haven’t read). Now, perhaps again this reflects the compiler’s reading habits – came to SF as an adult? – but there are some truly awesome YA scifi books out there. Madeline l’Engels’ Wrinkle in Time, for starters… and a lot more I won’t bother to list.
- Clarke’s 2001 only rates a little mention at the end??
- There shouldn’t be more than one book by any one author, I think. Fair enough to say “this is representative of the author, see also…” but I think that padding the list with multiple entires from one author is laziness, or the compiler isn’t as well-read as it might seem… or they really wanted it to be 32 books in the list and didn’t think anything else rated.
- Finally, as a list of recommendations, it bugs me a little that it’s got only quotes from Amazon (and Wikipedia). Does this mean the compiler hasn’t actually read them, or doesn’t trust their writing/reviewing skills, or thinks people want something more ‘objective’ than a more personal opinion would seem?
Anyway, those are my thoughts. I will still try to read some of the things of the list, despite my reservations about the list as a whole – because even given those, there are still some books that I know are good and interesting, and this has in some ways simply jogged my memory, as well as giving me some others to consider.
This is the list. I actually don’t know the blog, so I don’t know if I have to beat myself up over having only read 10 of them… at least a number of the others are on my list!! And that’s one reason why I’ve got the link here, to be honest – to keep it in my head.
Lists are interesting things. Very interesting. Cos… 32? Really? I wonder why the author didn’t just make it 38 and add the honorable mentions? Anyway. Yet more books to add to the list.
So I decided to become a casual subscriber to the Interenet Review of Science Fiction. I am increasingly becoming interested in reading scifi crit and essays, so it will be interesting to see if this fulfills its task in my life.
If it does, I fully intend to become a paying subscriber. Heck, they promise public recognition – and goodies! I wonder if that applies to non-US residents…
List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring summer. Post these instructions in your blog along with your seven songs. Then tag seven other people to see what they’re listening to.
Oh Sailor – Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine
Hot to Deff – Lyrics Born, Everywhere at Once
Great DJ – Ting Tings, We Started Nothing
Ruby Blue – Roisin Murphy, Ruby Blue
Buddy Holly – Weezer, Weezer
A&E – Goldfrapp, Seventh Tree
Creepin’ up the Backstairs – Fratellis (can’t remember the album)
I won’t tag anyone specific, but if you take up the challenge drop me a comment so I can read it!