NPR recently compiled a reader list of the greatest sci-fi and fantasy novels of all time, and dear readers, I had never realized I was a fan of the genre until I saw the list compiled. I touched on this recently, that somehow these books have crept into my “must-read” list, but it was already shocking for me to realize I had read and enjoyed many books that fell under this category without realizing it. This post is based on that list, the books I’ve loved and the books I will be reading as a result, adding names to the ever expanding booklist.
First off, I never thought of sci-fi as being such a loose term, so I was surprised to see names like McCarthy and Pynchon on here. Aren’t some authors just unclassifiable? I expected the Vonnegut, Tolkien, Dick and Asimov (because if they aren’t sci-fi then I really have no idea what is) and was happy to know that I had made a dent in this list without even knowing it. A huzzah for required reading is in order. OK, on to the standouts:
The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
Woah. Weird place to start, am I right gang? I tell you I’m writing about sci-fi and then I come out with a book made into a movie with Rachel McAdams? I assure you, this book is science fiction, the time traveling is a very real and necessary part of the book. But it’s also a love story, albeit a strange one, wherein the time traveler knows the woman he is going to marry in his life, and meets her at different intervals as she grows to know that she loves him too. A love story within a science fiction realm. Very cool. Also, the time traveling man is a librarian. Literary points for Niffenegger.
Stephen King – The Dark Tower Series
Another no-brainer. King has proven time and again to be the ultimate writing machine. This series is his opus, and while I haven’t yet completed it (in fact I took too much time off and may have to start at the beginning), I am confident it stands at the top of all things King. When he finally completed it I believe it led to one of his many retirements, but please, we all know that this machine will never be able to stop. (And here’s the link to prove I’m right).
Patrick Rothfuss – The Kingkiller Chronicle
My dedicated followers (to which I refer to all of you, dear readers) may recall that I was planning on reading book one, The Name of the Wind, and I would be happy to let you know how it went. It went very well indeed. Rothfuss may not be a known name yet, but the world he has created is unforgettable. I ran through the first two books of the series and am now at a loss, how long must I wait for the finale? What will the next day hold for our hero, Kvothe? I haven’t enjoyed a series this much in a long time, but it does make me wonder where to go from here. Luckily, the list provides. What follows is how I will occupy my future reading.
George R.R. Martin – A Song of Ice and Fire Series
Much attention has been paid to Mr. Martin’s successful HBO series A Game of Thrones. However, Martin has had success for years forming this seven book series, of which the fifth was finally released after a lengthy wait. And I, the fool I am, have never read any of them. This has caused a stir and a shock among many of my friends, stirring a violence in them that can only be a direct influence of this book. But really, I quite like when novelists have the vision to create their own world as Martin has done. Also, I must be missing something big, when fan response is so so rabid about the book that they demand their show meets the same criteria. Also, board games.
Joe Abercrombie – The First Law Trilogy
This book seems like some good old-fashioned medieval fun. A warring book consisting of large land-massed empires attempting to conquer one another, bringing to mind the great battles of past. I’m expecting Norsemen with battle axes, inquisitors, and dark magic. I’ve heard good things from reputable sources about this series, and plus, he managed to keep it to three books. There’s something to be said for an author who can stick to limits (cough, cough, Mr. Martin and your never ending stories).
Susannah Clarke – Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
Something about this book told me it wasn’t a fantasy book either, but reading about it now tells me it deals with magic, so yeah I was wrong. This is an alternative historical novel based on the magic of the two title characters. While this has been on my list probably since it came out (I was waiting for the holds list to go down!) I have been weary because of its comparisons to the writing styles of Dickens and Austen. Classic authors, yes, but not this reader’s favorites in the least. Perhaps for Dickens 200th anniversary I can pay him a solid by reading someone like him, while not actually reading him.
That’s enough for now, dear readers, or else I may be tempted to go through the entire list with you piece by piece. Which, I may do, if you ask nicely. Anything I foolishly omitted from NPR’s list? Or, worse, was there anything their reader poll ignored? Post it to comments below for interactive fun!