Over on his blog a week or so ago Ian Sales has with some help come up with a list of fifty British SF Masterworks.
The list is below. It has only one book (or series) per author and a “completely arbitrary cut off date of 1995” I suppose on the grounds that anything younger can not yet be called a masterwork.
It’s an interesting set of choices.
The ones in bold I have read.
1 â Frankenstein , Mary Shelley (1818)
2 â The War of the Worlds , HG Wells (1897)
3 â Last And First Men , Olaf Stapledon (1930)
4 â Brave New World , Aldous Huxley (1932)
5 â Nineteen Eighty-four , George Orwell (1949)
6 â The Day of the Triffids , John Wyndham (1951)
7 â The Death of Grass , John Christopher (1956)
8 â No Man Friday , Rex Gordon (1956)
9 â On The Beach , Nevil Shute (1957)
10 â A Clockwork Orange , Anthony Burgess (1962)
11 â The Drowned World , JG Ballard (1962)
12 â Memoirs of a Spacewoman , Naomi Mitchison (1962)
13 â A Man of Double Deed , Leonard Daventry (1965)
14 â The Time Before This , Nicholas Monsarrat (1966)
15 â A Far Sunset , Edmund Cooper (1967)
16 â The Revolt of Aphrodite [Tunc and Nunquam ], Lawrence Durrell (1968 â 1970)
17 â Pavane , Keith Roberts (1968)
18 â Stand On Zanzibar , John Brunner (1968)
19 â Behold The Man , Michael Moorcock (1969)
20 â Ninety-Eight Point Four , Christopher Hodder-Williams (1969)
21 â Junk Day , Arthur Sellings (1970)
22 â The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe , DG Compton (1973)
23 â Rendezvous With Rama , Arthur C Clarke (1973)
24 â Collision with Chronos , Barrington Bayley (1973)
25 â Inverted World , Christopher Priest (1974)
26 â The Centauri Device , M John Harrison (1974)
27 â The Memoirs of a Survivor , Doris Lessing (1974)
28 â Hello Summer, Goodbye , Michael G Coney (1975)
29 â Orbitsville [Orbitsville , Orbitsville Departure , Orbitsville Judgement ], Bob Shaw (1975 â 1990)
30 â The Alteration , Kingsley Amis (1976)
31 â The White Bird of Kinship [The Road to Corlay , A Dream of Kinship , A Tapestry of Time ], Richard Cowper (1978 â 1982)
32 â SS-GB , Len Deighton (1978)
33 â Where Time Winds Blow , Robert Holdstock (1981)
34 â The Silver Metal Lover , Tanith Lee (1981)
35 â Helliconia , Brian W Aldiss (1982 â 1985)
35 â Orthe , Mary Gentle (1983 â 1987)
36 â Chekhovâs Journey , Ian Watson (1983)
37 â A Maggot , John Fowles (1985)
38 â Queen of the States , Josephine Saxton (1986)
39 â Wraeththu Chronicles [The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit , The Bewitchments of Love and Hate , The Fulfilments of Fate and Desire ], Storm Constantine (1987 â 1989)
40 â Kairos , Gwyneth Jones (1988)
41 â The Empire of Fear , Brian Stableford (1988)
42 â Desolation Road , Ian McDonald (1988)
43 â Take Back Plenty , Colin Greenland (1990)
44 â Wulfsyarn , Phillip Mann (1990)
47 â Use of Weapons , Iain M Banks (1990)
48 â Vurt , Jeff Noon (1993)
49 â Ammonite , Nicola Griffith (1993)
50 â The Time Ships , Stephen Baxter (1995)
I’m sure I haven’t read Frankenstein in the original. I have however read Brian Aldiss’s Frankenstein Unbound but of course he’s in the list for the Helliconia trilogy.
I read Doris Lessing’s Shikasta soon after publication and could not get to grips with it at all. It seemed to me like the classic case of a mainstream writer attempting SF and not bringing it off. Among other things it was too didactic, too preachy, totally unengaging. As a consequence I did not persevere with her SF output; nor indeed the remainder of her oeuvre.
I’m not sure of A Man of Double Deed at no 13 nor A Far Sunset (15). I may have read these out of the library when I was a young thing.
One point of interest. The only two Scottish writers in the list seem to be Naomi Mitchison, for a book published in 1962, and Iain M Banks, 1990. (See my post on the dearth of Scottish SF till extremely recently.) Mitchison was of course more renowned for her non-SF.