The Greatest Science Fiction Novels of the 20th Century

I have already worked out a way to define the Classics of Science Fiction by collecting lists from science fiction fans and critics, but this morning I got to wondering which science fiction books, if any, are recognized as classics by people who normally do not read science fiction.  Over the years I’ve encountered a lot of lists recommending the best novels to read, and occasionally a science fiction novel gets thrown in.

One of the most famous lists, and maybe the most authoritative in recent years, is the Modern Library List of 100 Best Novels.  On their list they had Brave New World (#3), 1984 (#13), Slaughterhouse-Five (#18), and A Clockwork Orange (#65).  These are very famous books, but I don’t consider them true science fiction, at least not in the genre sense.  They may use SF settings and techniques, but Huxley, Orwell, Vonnegut and Burgess were not SF writers.  By the way, ignore the list on the right column that does contain many genre SF novels.  That comes from imprecise fan voting and not from scholars and experts.

Recently, the Library of America published it’s first volume to contain genre science fiction, Four Novels of the 1960s by Philip K. Dick.  LOA is even more selective than Modern Library, so should we consider The Man in the High Castle, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldridge, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Ubik the stand out SF genre novels of the 20th century?  I think we need some corroboration first.

Another list to counter the Modern Library list is the Radcliffe Publishing Course’s 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century. 1984 (#9), Brave New World (#16), Slaughterhouse-Five (#29), A Clockwork Orange (#49), Cat’s Cradle (#66), The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (#72), and The War of the Worlds (#85) show up. Notice the overlap of the first four titles, but also notice the addition of four titles in the back half of the list.  Still none of these novels are what we’d consider genre classics?  No Dune or Ender’s Game.  And the H. G. Wells books was from the 19th century.

The 150 Best English Language Novels of the 20th Century compiled from several lists at the Friendswood Library finally seems to get us somewhere.  On this list we do find some familiar genre titles – Fahrenheit 451 (#28), Stranger in a Strange Land (#31), 2001 (#66), and Dune (#86).  It’s nice to see a few of our favorites listed among all the standard literary work that get mentioned so often and taught in schools.  But we’re still not seeing any overlap.  There just doesn’t seem to be any consensus, unless it’s the same four mentioned for the Modern Library list.

Time offered The Best English Language Novels from 1923 to the Present.  Their editors throw in Snowcrash, Neuromancer, and Ubik.  This is the first validation of the Library of America choosing PKD.  It also overlaps with 1984, A Clockwork Orange and Slaughterhouse-Five, and leaves off Brave New World.  Overall this list adds many newer literary favorites and dumps some of the standard heavyweights like Ulysses.  Still there is no consistent sign of a genre favorite in the minds of the world at large.

If we really broaden the search and include books like 1,001 Books to Read Before You Die we can catch a number of genre classics:  Cryptonomicon, Neuromancer, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Chocky, The Drowned World, Stranger in a Strange Land, Solaris, Foundation, and I, Robot.  Still, it’s as if the mundane world is willing to throw us a bone and include a few token SF titles.  We’re still not seeing a stand out genre novel.  Science fiction appears to be something fleeting in the peripheral vision of the literary world.

If you look at Top 100 Sci-Fi Books and my Classics of Science Fiction by Rank, you’ll see a lot of common overlap.  Both of these lists were compiled by taking many lists and cross-tabbing them.  I would guess by looking at all the lists that maybe Dune and Stranger in a Strange Land are the two titles that the general reader may know about, but I have met plenty a bookworms in my life that I have had to educate about these titles.  I would say Ender’s Game is the the most popular title that my non-science fiction reading friends have discovered.

Most people think of Star Wars and Star Trek when you ask them to define science fiction.  The world of science fiction literature is really a sub-culture that few people  know about.  However, if I had  to introduce the world at large to SF, I would recommend these titles as the most popular SF books to try:

  • Dune
  • Stranger in a Strange Land
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Bladerunner)
  • Ender’s Game
  • Neuromancer

However, from reading and studying books that talk about the best books to read, I can easily imagine that these titles will be forgotten in about another fifty years.  I think in the end, say in 2108, if you ask a bookworm about science fiction of the 20th century, they will list off:  1984, Brave New World and Slaughterhouse-Five.  I tend to think A Clockwork Orange will lose favor because its too hard to read.  In the end science fiction will be represented by books that were never from the sub-culture of science fiction writers.
On the other hand Dune, Ender’s Game and Stranger in a Stranger Land may hang in there.  Books go in and out of favor by the public.  Stephen King may turn out to be the Charles Dickens of the 20th Century.  Stranger in a Strange Land might be its Gulliver’s Travels and Ender’s Game its Alice in Wonderland.

Jim

 

 

53 Responses

  1. Very interesting thoughts. Having recently read and fell in love with the Foundation trilogy I personally would consider them great science fiction classics. They certainly held up well in my opinion since the time they were written. What makes things like this hard to rate is the fact that by reducing it to the greatest in a century, say, or the greatest ever, people often tend to want to pass over earlier works that provided the foundation other authors built upon. I certainly see the works of H.G. Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs to be early precursors for later science fiction classic as well as being classics in their own right. A science fiction afficionado would certainly argue for works of the people considered giants in the genre: Asimov, Clarke, etc. to be considered.

    It is certainly hard to get a list everyone would agree on but I like the idea of cross referencing other lists. I’m not sure though that I always trust the lists of non sci fi readers as I wonder if they only put those books on the list because they have heard of them rather than because they have read them, compared them with other science fiction offerings, and felt they set a high standard.

    I like your list. I would of course add others, most especially The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester.

  2. I was inspired to write this blog entry because so often when I’m talking to my bookworm friends they don’t have a clue about the famous books of science fiction. From my mental viewpoint I find it hard that everyone doesn’t know who Robert A. Heinlein is, but time and again I meet people, young and old, and they draw a blank when I mention his name.

    Sure, we the science fiction fans know, but the general world of readers and non-readers evidently find the world of science fiction invisible. That is book SF. I’d say most Americans have heard the term science fiction, but they don’t associate it with books, but television and movies.

    And as Steve Jobs has pointed out, half the country doesn’t read for fun anyway.

    Maybe I’m expecting too much. I doubt I could name any of the classic writers of romance fiction. I know zip about the ballet. I guess I’m just feeling a little isolated in my sub-culture.

    Jim

  3. I think it is a legitimate concern because there are so many amazing classic and contemporary science fiction and fantasy novels out there that the general public will not read simply because of ignorance in regards to the genre. And I think science fiction films actually hurt the market for the books among non-sci fi fans because most sci fi films can be broadly categorized as being cut from the same cloth that readers won’t necessarily make the leap to see that not all sf literature is Star Wars and Star Trek.

    That is why I would like to see a more comprehensive list that doesn’t just include the books most people have heard of, like The Lord of the Rings or Dune. While I hold both up as classics in their genre I tend to wonder if those voting on ‘best of’ lists pick books like that solely based on name recognition and not on their merits as literary works.

  4. Hi – I notice you list Ursula Le Guin’s “Left Hand of Darkness”. Now, I’m biased, but I think you’ve left out her great novel, “The Lathe of Heaven”. It just so happens that I’m in charge of reissuing it next month with a brand-spankin’ new cover and interior.
    I’ll be happy to send you a copy for persuasion purposes. Feel free to email me your contact info and one will be in the mail asap.
    -Anna

  5. For the Classics of Science Fiction I don’t decide what’s on the list. That was the whole purpose of creating the list. The Classics of Science Fiction was created from cross tabulating 28 lists of best science fiction books. These lists included fan polls covering four decades, lists made by critical authorities, award listings, etc. Any book on 6 of the 28 lists was included in the Classics of Science Fiction.

    The Left Hand of Darkness is a major classic – it was on 24 of the 28 lists.

    By the way, I read The Lathe of Heaven years ago and liked it a lot. There was even a TV version – that helps promote a book towards being a classic. And staying in print, like your new edition is another good sign.

    If I do an update for the future maybe Lathe will have gotten on more lists.

    Jim

  6. [...] a more general SciFi note, James Wallace Harris does a nice rundown on the greatest Science Fiction novels of the 20th century over at Auxiliary [...]

  7. While it’s true that SF isn’t going to represent the age of its composition, I do think that some works stay classics because they represent the important themes of their age rather than its exact details. I suspect several of those overlapping works fall into that category. Looking back on the 20th century to pick out its key themes is tough this close to it, but there isn’t really much doubt that Totalitarianism and Total War are going to be two of them – and those are front and center in the works you are seeing on multiple lists.

    Guessing at the themes of the great classics of the 20th century, I’d bet on the cult of progress (early in the century), progress as evil (later), feminism, abstract art (I expect anything from the 60s counterculture that’s at all lasting will touch this, through surrealism), totalitarianism, total war, genocide, decolonization, nuclear anihilation and the computer revolution. I think 20th century science fiction has a decent chance at having something survive in the feminism, surrealist, totalitarian and nuclear destruction slots.

  8. [...] the world did I grow up thinking science fiction paved the way for exciting futures?  The most famous science fiction novels of the 20th century to the world at large are Brave New World, 1984, A Clockwork Orange and Slaughterhouse Five.  [...]

  9. It would seem fair to me that books from all languages, particularly if they have been translated into English, be considered. Here a few titles that should be included in the Top 10:

    Gerard Klein — The Worlords of War
    Herbert Franke — Zone Null
    Stanislaw Lem — Solaris
    Arkady and Boris Strugatski — Roadside Picnic
    Roger Zelazny — Lord of Light

  10. Troodon, the science fiction novels I covered were not ones I selected, but the ones I found in articles about the best novels of any kind from the 20th century, and some of those lists did include books from outside of the English speaking world. I was just trying to find which science fiction novels get mentioned when authoritative lists of the best novels in general are made. And the trouble is, few SF novels ever get mentioned.

    If you were going to draw up a list of the top 100 novels from the 20th century, regardless of the original language, would you really list any of the five novels you listed? I’m not sure I would put all of them into a list of the top 100 science fiction novels.

    I looked at many lists to get the widest cross experience of readers and I think the results was fair. SF does not compete well with all of literature, and to get even a few titles on the all-time best list is doing pretty good. If you look at the Classics of Science fiction list, three of your books did make it there.

  11. Interestingly enough, Le Guin is also anthologized by Norton in their American Literature anthology (an excellent set of books).

    I was thinking that Rossum’s Universal Robots by the Capek brothers would make an interesting edition to your list.

  12. [...] I found something that people want to read about.  My most successful essay has been “The Greatest Science Fiction Novels of the 20th Century.”  My stats tell me that 8,505 people have loaded that essay into their browser for [...]

  13. [...] what people want to read will be my second lesson from blogging.  My most popular essay is, “The Greatest Science Fiction Novels of the 20th Century,” with over 10,000 hits total, and getting 30-60 more each day.  In other words, I’ve [...]

  14. Vonnegut at the very least considered himself a science fiction writer, rather than some kind of pure literary novelist. He in fact found it distasteful that his novels were placed in the fiction section of bookstores, rather than the science fiction section. It is one thing for the popular media to no longer consider novels to be science fiction once they are accepted as literature, but it seems wrong to me for SF fans to do the same. Slaughterhouse Five is definitely an SF novel, even if it skipped over being confined to the SF marketing ghetto.

  15. Jim,

    I found this post while Google searching for sci-fi top 100 book lists.

    Thanks for the post.

    I’m in the process of putting together a top 100 novel list for my own reading, and I’d like to include some good sci-fi reading in that list. Can you help me out? What are your top 5 must read sci-fi books of all time? And why do you select the these books? (E.g., quality of the literature, originality, cultural insight, etc.)

  16. Erdman,

    You might like to look at my Classics of SF site:

    http://classics.jameswallaceharris.com/

    Plus, there are some other great sites that try to create the ultimate SF reading list:

    http://classics.jameswallaceharris.com/Lists/OtherLists.html

    Also, on my site is an essay about just how hard it is to make such a list.

    Jim

  17. Hey, that’s great.

    Thanks Jim!

  18. By far the most concise and up to date information I found on this topic. Sure glad that I navigated to your page by accident. I’ll be subscribing to your feed so that I can get the latest updates. Appreciate all the information here

  19. I am a retired lawyer who has been reading science fiction (off and on) for nearly 50 years. I could not begin to count the hundreds of sci-fi books I have read in that time. I have read many, perhaps most, of the titles that have high ranking on this list or on others, and have found them boring or unmemorable. [My personal pet peeve is to be halfway through a "classic" of sci-fi and realize that I have read it before, but it is so unmemorable that it took me that long to realize that I had indeed read it before). I do not understand what basis many use to compile their lists. For example, Ender's Game is #1 on one list and #94 on another. I suppose it gets points for just being on someone's list. If it is truly great I would expect it to be more uniformly regarded. The only conclusion I can come up with to reconcile such contradictory rating is that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder". In that regard, I must have a jaundiced eye because one of my favorites of all time is seldom mentioned in any list - Niven & Pournelle's "The Mote in God's Eye" (although I have seen other of their novels on such lists [which novels I have read and found inferior]). The reason I was going over YOUR list is that I want to read more interesting sci-fi. At its best reading should be entertaining, stimulating and thought provoking. At its worst it can be boring, mind numbing and a waste of time. I would like to read the former rather than the latter, but have trouble finding a list written with a jaundiced eye.

    • Well Mike, you might like to join our reading group on Yahoo devoted to the Classics of Science Fiction. Most of the members prefer stuff written before 1970, and there’s quite a few fans of Pournelle and Niven books. You can find the group at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ClassicScienceFiction/

      I didn’t make my list, but assembled it. I hoped if I could find enough lists of best SF books the overlap of recommended title would reveal the wisdom of crowds.

      The Mote in God’s Eye recently came out on audiobook and I hope to listen to it soon.

      • Thank you for your prompt reply, although truthfully I didn’t expect one at all. I was primarily venting my frustration at the challenge of locating worthwhile sci-fi reading material. I am not particularly interested in limiting my reading to “classic” sci-fi, although most of my volume reading days did precede 1975. Now that I have the time, I am once again immersing myself in the genre and just don’t want to waste time wading through junk. Having tried recommendations from other readers, I found that sometimes our opinions of what constitutes worthwhile reading might differ. [For example, I am not nearly as impressed with John Varley as was the person who recommended him.] I have visited the yahoo sci-fi group you suggested and have made a list of this year’s titles which I have not yet read – and will attack them as soon as I can.

      • I’m constantly looking for good SF to read, and I’m often disappointed too. I’ve spent the last several years rereading the older stuff and for the most part I’m not sure it was worth the time. I’m now back to mostly looking for new SF books. However, I have my best luck finding great books outside of the genre, either in contemporary novels or general classics. I kinda of liked Flood by Stephen Baxter, from 2009. And I liked Spin by Robert Charles Wilson from a few years ago.

  20. I’m a huge science fiction fan and I absolutely love the stuff you have on this site. Please keep up the good work and I’ll keep checking back. If you get more information on The Event I would love to read it. Thanks

  21. I think I’ve found the right place to ask this question, since I share your opinion of the first 4 of your 5 top books (and merely haven’t ever got around to Neuromancer)…

    * Dune
    * Stranger in a Strange Land
    * Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
    * Ender’s Game
    * Neuromancer

    Jim, can you or one of your group direct me to the title or author of a story I’ve lost, but would like to read again?

    On the moon… an environment artist, who programs storms and symphonies of weather, keeps getting murdered, but (as she has insurance) keeps getting reincarnated.
    She’s getting annoyed, since of course her backup is never quite current. Somehow or other, her killer turns out to be another edition of herself.

    I always half-recollect this story when listening to Bruckner’s 8th, if that’s any help.

    • Are you thinking of “The Phantom of Kansas” by John Varley.

      • Can’t quite tell from the bits I can find online… seems possible. I’ll order it, and find out! Thanks!

    • That was it! Thanks! I’m delighted to have another look at it. All I had recalled was the general theme; but what I see now that’s surprisingly effective is the “flat” tone of the narration, which seems to take the invented technologies and settings for granted, as in a noir detective story… or Ender’s Game, or Heinlein, for that matter. Also like the wry remarks in passing about the literary critics, who found the environment artist’s works “too romantic”. Extremely grateful for your help… I’ve been trying to find it for years.

  22. I really thin it needs to be broken into categories:

    Best Apocalypse Book: The Stand by Stephen King

    Best Book About Robots: (Also about apocalypse or shortly thereafter): Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

    Best Book about Time Travel: Slaughter House Five by Kurt Vonnegut

    Funniest Science Fiction: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

    Best Evolution Book: Evolution by Stephen Baxter

    Best about outer-space: Space: Manifold by Stephen Baxter

    • I’d say, the best science fiction book about robots is “The Cyberiad” by Stanislaw Lem (translated by Michael Kandel).

      Excerpt from the book from the story ‘The Electronic Bard’:

      Love And Tensor Algebra

      Come, let us hasten to a higher plane,
      Where dyads tread the fairy fields of Venn,
      Their indices bedecked from one to n,
      Commingled in an endless Markov chain!

      Come, every frustum longs to be a cone,
      And every vector dreams of matrices.
      Hark to the gentle gradient of the breeze:
      It whispers of a more ergodic zone.

      In Riemann, Hilbert or in Banach space
      Let superscripts and subscripts go their ways.
      Our asymptotes no longer out of phase,
      We shall encounter, counting, face to face.

      I’ll grant thee random access to my heart,
      Thou’lt tell me all the constants of thy love;
      And so we two shall all love’s lemmas prove,
      And in our bound partition never part.

      For what did Cauchy know, or Christoffel,
      Or Fourier, or any Boole or Euler,
      Wielding their compasses, their pens and rulers,
      Of thy supernal sinusoidal spell?

      Cancel me not — for what then shall remain?
      Abscissas, some mantissas, modules, modes,
      A root or two, a torus and a node:
      The inverse of my verse, a null domain.

      Ellipse of bliss, converse, O lips divine!
      The product of our scalars is defined!
      Cyberiad draws nigh, and the skew mind
      cuts capers like a happy haversine.

      I see the eigenvalue in thine eye,
      I hear the tender tensor in thy sigh.
      Bernoulli would have been content to die,
      Had he but known such a squared cosine 2 phi!

  23. I really think it needs to be broken into categories:

    Best Apocalypse Book: The Stand by Stephen King

    Best Book About Robots: (Also about apocalypse or shortly thereafter): Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

    Best Book about Time Travel: Slaughter House Five by Kurt Vonnegut

    Funniest Science Fiction: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

    Best Evolution Book: Evolution by Stephen Baxter

    Best about outer-space: Space: Manifold by Stephen Baxter

    • I would pick Earth Abides as the Best Apocalypse Book. And I still think The Time Machine is the best time travel book. I guess I need to read more Stephen Baxter before I decide on the others.

  24. Hi,Good morning,i am Rahul ,from INDIA, i Like science Fiction.i Believe Aliens.
    i Believe our Rebirth is also on other planets as Aliens; in that planets Aliens Life span is 1,000years,or 10,000years,or 100,000years; in that planets Aliens Live without polution(They use solar energy,not use petrol,diesel Like us);They are Looking so Beautiful compare to us(not Like as Hollywood film Aliens);God created Not only our Dirty planet,he also created,good world’s,for who people did good Things,in their past Life;if God is not Here,Then all planets,stars(suns),Asteroids,Black Holes are collapsed (crushed by Accident);
    i Think There is No Hell and No Heaven; God created only Hell Type of planets(Like our planet)& Heaven Type of planets;
    i Think There is No Ghost. if There is Ghost, Then God Didn’t created our planets&universe; Because,Ghost Destroy our planets & universe; only ourr past Life karma is Deside our Luck or Bad Luck; But suicide is Not Death,it is Against to GOD.
    Note:There are 9 planets,100 moons in our solar system,There are 10,000crores (100 Billions)above solar systems in our Galaxy,There are above 10,000crores (100 Billions)Galaxies in our Universe; There are Lot of universes in space;

    • Reincarnation is such a beautiful idea and it would be wonderful to live lives on all the many worlds. Sadly, I don’t think it will happen. I believe different from you Rahul, that we only come here once. But if I’m wrong maybe we’ll meet someday on another world.

  25. I would put Dahlgren in the Best Apocalypse category, just off top of my head that always gets my vote as most disturbing novel ever.

    • I would rank Dhalgren high too, but when I wrote the article I was visiting non-SF sites to see what SF books they recommended. I was trying to find out which SF novels stood out to non-SF readers and critics. Sadly, not many did.

  26. [...] these lists is how passionate people are about their favorites.  They take assembling the top 100 very seriously.   And while there are disagreements on the margins, a good number of novels show up on all the [...]

  27. I came across this thread when looking for science fiction books to take with me on an upcoming vacation. It brought to mind the classics I read that made me fall in love with the science fiction genre. I first wanted to say I loved every Asimov book but realized later that the “Robot” and “Foundation” series in particular were my favorites when I was a kid. I read “Dune” in a single sitting when I was 20 years old then devoured the rest as they came out (but only those written by Frank, not his son); I then read “Dune” out loud to my son when he was 10. Then revelation hit me with how much almost everything written by Dick has affected not only what science fiction (literature and other media) was two decades ago but is today. On top of that I was compelled to add Gibson’s cyberpunk writings, but more his ideas as set forth in the compilation of short stories in “Burning Chrome” rather than his subsequent novels (like “Neuromancer” and “The Sprawl” books) that built upon it. Finally, I had to add Stephen King’s original “Gunslinger” book because it was just so amazingly written (and I really don’t like King).

    After these thoughts ran their course, I realized that I was caught in a circular bubble. Almost all of my favorites were over 20 years old and some much older than that.

    I, like Mike above, don’t want to read and re-read the same books. I want to expand my reading of science fiction from the classics of decades past to the cutting edge musings of recent decades, the present and the soon to be classics of the future.

    Any suggestions?? I’d really appreciate the help.

    Thanks

  28. [...] is one of the few validations that the world at large uses to remember a writer.  In The Greatest Science Fiction Novels of the 20th Century, my most popular blog essay (50k hits), I show how very few science fiction genre novels are [...]

  29. Does anyone remember a book called “The Death of Metal” I cannot remember the author’s name. I would really like to read it again as it had such an impact on me when I was 14. Thanks.

    • I check ISFDB and it had no listing of The Death of Metal. It did have The Death of Grass. Go there and search on Fiction Titles for “The Death of” and it has many others, but not metal.

    • I remember it! It was the first sci if book I ever read (in grade 5) and it got me hooked! I found it at my school but unfortunately it was removed shortly after that. I have been looking for it for years

  30. Nice review. Thanks for stopping by my blog! http://www.segmation.wordpress.com

  31. Personally I’d passionately disagree with any recommendation of Orson Scott Card, as I think he demonstrates the negative aspects of speculative fiction. He tends to create what seem to me to be untenable worlds. The adults in the Ender series, in particular, seem to me to be unusually blasé about their mistreatment of children.

    As to the rest of your post, nice synthesis. I’m tempted to disagree with your prediction about Clockwork Orange. It is difficult to read and had even become (debatably, I don’t really think this) a little dated. However, the ideas it sets forth are so universal, so essential to understanding the modern world, that I doubt it will become irrelevant before a major shift in modern culture.

    • The books I profiled were not my selections, but ones I found in sources that weren’t part of the SF community. I wanted to get some idea of what SF books were admired by non-SF fans.

  32. [...] Back in the mid-90s I created The Classics of Science Fiction website.  Then I wrote The Greatest Science Fiction Novels of the 20th Century about the science fiction books that people who don’t read science fiction might know.  [...]

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  34. […] that are most remembered and read by non-SF fans.  I wrote a whole essay on this topic:  The Greatest Science Fiction Novels of the 20th Century.  It’s been the most popular essay I’ve written – at least in terms of hits, but not […]

  35. Have thoroughly enjoyed your essay jameswharris and the comments. If you look at the best sellers lists (which do not include the NYTimes “Best Sellers”, by the way, as– oddly– their list is not necessarily made up of actual best sellers), and carefully scrutinize the nobels to see if they qualify as fiction that is dependent on possible science, you could probably make a list by decades that would include many books that would appeal to SF fans that may otherwise not show up. Today, I just finished reading for the first time Michael Creighton’s “The Andromeda Strain”, published in 1969, and while I have read most of his other novels and they can easily qualify as SF, this highly popular best seller impressed me no end. It is not without flaws, but even so it is more impressive than many non-SF books on the Modern Library’s 100 greatest, and it is one of the most impressive SF novels I have ever read. Also, I am getting the impression from many of the books that appear on these lists that having a movie made of a book is necessary for many of them to get listed and that some of these are not as good as some books from which no movie has been adapted.

    • The Andromeda Strain has been made into a movie and mini-series. I have only a vague memory of reading the book, but the story was a favorite kind of mind. Have you read Earth Abides by George Stewart? It’s also about a plague that kills most people, but a few survive.

      • I know about the movie Andromeda Strain but have not seen it, and I did not know about the mini-series. You may enjoy reading the book again. I have no particular fondness for the theme of mass epidemics wiping out most of mankind, which by the way fails to occur in the Andromeda Strain, but I have just now finished reading the in-depth Wikipedia article on Stewart’s Earth Abides and seems like it would be a good read. Thank you.

  36. […] focus on science fiction.  The world outside the genre seldom thinks of science fiction, but when it does, it’s notable.  The second idea is to search the web for syllabi for books taught in high schools and […]

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