This article was originally a blog post, published Aug 9, 2007.
Well, the previous post (greatest science fiction movies of all time) was pretty popular, so let’s try a similar tack… how about the greatest science fiction novels of all time? Clearly, we are each entitled to our own definitions of both “science fiction” and “great”. I defined the former last time; but for the latter, I’m going to go with something incorporating a gripping narrative, good writing, a lofty and inspiring idea, and even something to do with the book’s impact on either society and/or the genre.
So here’s my top 5 list:
5. The Martian Chronicles – Technically this is not a novel, but a loosely strung together collection of short stories about the fanciful colonization of Mars, told poetically by one of the original grandmasters, Ray Bradbury. Its science is poor, but its poetry is deep.
4. Second Foundation – The third book of the original Foundation Trilogy, this one brings together all of the amazing initial threads of a grand tale lasting a thousand years. Pure, “golden age” science fiction at its best.
3. Red Mars – Really, this only works if one considers the Mars Trilogy as one great book. Robinson was created a modern, believable tale of the colonization of Mars, injecting politics, economics, human will and fragility in with a strong dose of speculative science.
2. God Emperor of Dune – An odd choice, considering the original Dune is considered to be the classic. But this, the fourth installation, is the grandest, spanning a time frame of tens of thousands of years, and embracing a truly wondrous political, scientific and emotional imagination.
1. A Deepness In The Sky – This probably doesn’t appear on anyone else’s #1, but this to me epitomizes the best of hard science fiction. In it, Vinge tells a tale of truly inspiring scientific imagination, with a gripping narrative told at various levels, any one of which would have been a satisfying novel for a lesser writer.
Did I miss any? (And no, Neuromancer, doesn’t make the cut.)