My life in outer space

SF – The 101 Best Novels 1985 – 2010


I’ve only recently come across this book, having made it my mission back in the 80s to read all of the books in 100 Best SF Novels. (I still have about 5 to go.)
I am a little surprised and somewhat disappointed at some of the choices and would seriously question the selectors’ definition of the word ‘Best’. Pringle’s criteria I imagine would be that the novels would be both important in terms of influence within the SF world and also be great works of literature. Certainly that applies with a large percentage of this selection but Difillippo and Broderick were well off the mark with the remainder.
I suspect that some authors were included because of their prior reputations rather than the quality of that particular novel. Ballard and Vonnegut wrote far better years before and seem to have been included out of respect rather than merit. In some cases an arbitrary novel seems to have been picked out of a respected author’s canon where far better works could have been included. It does seem odd for instance that ‘Shadow of The Scorpion’ was the Asher choice rather than ‘Gridlinked‘ or Greg Bear’s ‘Queen of Angels‘ being the best thing he wrote in twenty five years. Louis McMaster Bujold, CJ Cherryh and Orson Scott Card write workmanlike SF novels, but they can’t surely be good enough to be listed in the best 101 since 1985. It is the omissions that are as surprising as the inclusions. Where is Dan Simmons’ ‘Hyperion‘ or Richard Paul Russo’s ‘Unto Leviathan‘, either of which would knock the Hunger Games into a cocked hat?
I’m not even going to get into the debate about whether ‘The Hunger Games’ should be on the list. That one selection undermines the validity of the entire enterprise. Where are Peter F Hamilton, Robert Reed, Ian Watson? It doesn’t strike me as a list that has been properly thought through and one which was designed to please the lowest common denominator rather than being a truly critical choice. ‘Most popular’ seldom equates with ‘Best’.

The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood (1985)
Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card (1985)
Radio Free Albemuth, Philip K Dick (1985)
Always Coming Home, Ursula K Le Guin (1985)
This Is the Way the World Ends, James Morrow (1985)
Galápagos, Kurt Vonnegut (1985)
The Falling Woman, Pat Murphy (1986)
The Shore of Women, Pamela Sargent (1986)
A Door Into Ocean, Joan Slonczewski (1986)
Soldiers of Paradise, Paul Park (1987)
Life During Wartime, Lucius Shepard (1987)
The Sea and Summer, George Turner (1987)
Cyteen, CJ Cherryh (1988)
Neverness, David Zindell (1988)
The Steerswoman, Rosemary Kirstein (1989)
Grass, Sheri S Tepper (1989)
Use of Weapons, Iain M Banks (1990)
Queen of Angels, Greg Bear (1990)
Barrayar, Lois McMaster Bujold (1991) ,
Synners , Pat Cadigan (1991)
Sarah Canary, Karen Joy Fowler (1991)
White Queen, Gwyneth Jones (1991)
Eternal Light, Paul McAuley (1991)
Stations of the Tide, Michael Swanwick (1991)
Timelike Infinity, Stephen Baxter (1992)
Dead Girls, Richard Calder (1992)
Jumper, Steven Gould (1992)
China Mountain Zhang, Maureen F McHugh (1992)
Red Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson (1992)
A Fire Upon the Deep, Vernor Vinge (1992)
Aristoi, Walter Jon Williams (1992) ,
Doomsday Book, Connie Willis (1992)
Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler (1993)
Ammonite, Nicola Griffith (1993)
Chimera, Mary Rosenblum (1993) ,
Nightside the Long Sun, Gene Wolfe (1993)
Brittle Innings, Michael Bishop (1994)
Permutation City, Greg Egan (1994)
Blood, Michael Moorcock (1994) ,
Mother of Storms, John Barnes (1995)
Sailing Bright Eternity, Gregory Benford (1995)
Galatea 2.2, Richard Powers (1995)
The Diamond Age, Neal Stephenson (1995)
The Transmigration of Souls, William Barton (1996)
The Fortunate Fall, Raphael Carter (1996)
The Sparrow/Children of God, Mary Doria Russell (1996/1998) ,
Holy Fire, Bruce Sterling (1996)
Night Lamp, Jack Vance (1996)
In the Garden of Iden, Kage Baker (1997)
Forever Peace, Joe Haldeman (1997)
Glimmering, Elizabeth Hand (1997)
As She Climbed Across the Table, Jonathan Lethem (1997)
The Cassini Division, Ken MacLeod (1998) ,
Bloom, Wil McCarthy (1998)
Vast, Linda Nagata (1998)
The Golden Globe, John Varley (1998)
Headlong, Simon Ings (1999)
Cave of Stars, George Zebrowski (1999)
Genesis, Poul Anderson (2000)
Super-Cannes, JG Ballard (2000)
Under the Skin, Michel Faber (2000)
Perdido Street Station, China Miéville (2000)
Distance Haze, Jamil Nasir (2000)
Revelation Space trilogy, Alastair Reynolds (2000)
Salt, Adam Roberts (2000)
Ventus, Karl Schroeder (2001)
The Cassandra Complex, Brian Stableford (2001) ,
Light, M John Harrison (2002) ,
Altered Carbon, Richard Morgan (2002) ,
The Separation, Christopher Priest (2002)
The Golden Age, John C Wright (2002) ,
The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger (2003)
Natural History, Justina Robson (2003)
The Labyrinth Key/Spears of God, Howard V Hendrix (2004/2006)
River of Gods, Ian McDonald (2004) ,
The Plot Against America, Philip Roth (2004)
Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro (2005) ,
The House of Storms, Ian R MacLeod (2005)
Counting Heads, David Marusek (2005)
Air (Or, Have Not Have), Geoff Ryman (2005)
Accelerando, Charles Stross (2005)
Spin, Robert Charles Wilson (2005) ,
My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time, Liz Jensen (2006)
The Road, Cormac McCarthy (2006)
Temeraire /His Majesty’s Dragon, Naomi Novik (2006)
Blindsight, Peter Watts (2006) ,
HARM, Brian Aldiss (2007)
The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Michael Chabon (2007)
The Secret City,Carol Emshwiller (2007)
In War Times, Kathleen Ann Goonan (2007)
Postsingular, Rudy Rucker (2007)
Shadow of the Scorpion, Neal Asher (2008)
The Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins (2008-2010)
Little Brother, Cory Doctorow (2008)
The Alchemy of Stone, Ekaterina Sedia (2008)
The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi (2009)
Steal Across the Sky, Nancy Kress (2009)
Boneshaker, Cherie Priest (2009)
Zoo City, Lauren Beukes (2010)
Zero History, William Gibson (2010)
The Quantum Thief, Hannu Rajaniemi (2010)