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Top 50 Gollancz Book Titles

Over at Orion Publishing Group their Gollancz imprint is celebrating 50 years of publishing SF. They’€™re having a vote to see which of their chosen titles is the best. There are two categories, one for SF, one for Fantasy.

I thought I’d do this as an Ian Sales type meme.

The ones in bold I have read.

Gollancz top 25 SF titles:-

A Case of Conscience by James Blish
Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan
Brasyl by Ian McDonald
The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
Dune by Frank Herbert

Fairyland by Paul McAuley
The Female Man by Joanna Russ
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
Flood by Stephen Baxter
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes *
Gateway by Frederik Pohl
Hyperion by Dan Simmons
Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon
More than Human by Theodore Sturgeon
Pavane by Keith Roberts
Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds
Ringworld by Larry Niven
Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner
Tau Zero by Poul Anderson
The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
The Separation by Christopher Priest
The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester

Yellow Blue Tibia by Adam Roberts

* as a short story.

As you can see I’ve read all but five of these.

Gollancz top 25 Fantasy titles:-

Beauty by Sheri S. Tepper
Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie
Book of the New Sun (Vol 1&2) (Vol 3&4) by Gene Wolfe
The Book of Skulls by Robert Silverberg

Conan Volume One by Robert E. Howard
Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
Elric by Michael Moorcock
Eric by Terry Pratchett
Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin

The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
Little, Big by John Crowley
Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees
Memoirs of a Master Forger by William Heaney
Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
The Runes of the Earth by Stephen Donaldson
Something Wicked this Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
Tales of the Dying Earth by Jack Vance
Viriconium by M. John Harrison
Wolfsangel by M. D. Lachlan

Only seven from the Fantasy list, though.

For what it’s worth I voted for Keith Roberts’s Pavane and Little, Big by John Crowley.

A List Of Science Fiction Masterworks

Over at Ian Sales’s blog he has mentioned a meme that seems to come from the SF and Fantasy Masterworks Reading Project.

There seems to be a few more books on Ian’s list than on the Reading Project’s site, in all nearly a hundred. Some appear twice because there are two lists, one in Roman numerals and the other in Arabic.

I suppose the reason that not many of these are recent publications is that it takes time for a book to be appreciated as a masterwork.

The ones in bold I have read. For those starred (*) I have read the short story from which the novel was developed. Those with double stars I believe I read many moons ago but do not now have a copy. The italicised one is in the TBR pile (and has been for donkey’s ages.)

SF Masterworks Index:-

I – Dune – Frank Herbert
II – The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K. Le Guin
III – The Man in the High Castle – Philip K. Dick
IV – The Stars My Destination – Alfred Bester
V – A Canticle for Leibowitz – Walter M. Miller, Jr.
VI – Childhood’s End – Arthur C. Clarke

VII – The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress – Robert A. Heinlein
VIII – Ringworld – Larry Niven
IX – The Forever War – Joe Haldeman
X – The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham

1 – The Forever War – Joe Haldeman
2 – I Am Legend – Richard Matheson
3 – Cities in Flight – James Blish
4 – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Philip K. Dick
5 – The Stars My Destination – Alfred Bester
6 – Babel-17 – Samuel R. Delany
7 – Lord of Light – Roger Zelazny
8 – The Fifth Head of Cerberus – Gene Wolfe

9 – Gateway – Frederik Pohl
10 – The Rediscovery of Man – Cordwainer Smith

11 – Last and First Men – Olaf Stapledon
12 – Earth Abides – George R. Stewart
13 – Martian Time-Slip – Philip K. Dick
14 – The Demolished Man – Alfred Bester
15 – Stand on Zanzibar – John Brunner
16 – The Dispossessed – Ursula K. Le Guin
17 – The Drowned World – J. G. Ballard
18 – The Sirens of Titan – Kurt Vonnegut

19 – Emphyrio – Jack Vance
20 – A Scanner Darkly – Philip K. Dick

21 – Star Maker – Olaf Stapledon
22 – Behold the Man – Michael Moorcock
23 – The Book of Skulls – Robert Silverberg
24 – The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds – H. G. Wells

25 – Flowers for Algernon* – Daniel Keyes
26 – Ubik – Philip K. Dick
27 – Timescape – Gregory Benford
28 – More Than Human – Theodore Sturgeon
29 – Man Plus – Frederik Pohl
30 – A Case of Conscience – James Blish

31 – The Centauri Device – M. John Harrison
32 – Dr. Bloodmoney – Philip K. Dick
33 – Non-Stop – Brian Aldiss
34 – The Fountains of Paradise – Arthur C. Clarke
35 – Pavane – Keith Roberts
36 – Now Wait for Last Year – Philip K. Dick
37 – Nova – Samuel R. Delany
38 – The First Men in the Moon – H. G. Wells
39 – The City and the Stars – Arthur C. Clarke
40 – Blood Music – Greg Bear

41 – Jem – Frederik Pohl
42 – Bring the Jubilee – Ward Moore
43 – VALIS – Philip K. Dick
44 – The Lathe of Heaven – Ursula K. Le Guin
45 – The Complete Roderick – John Sladek
46 – Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said – Philip K. Dick
47 – The Invisible Man – H. G. Wells
48 – Grass – Sheri S. Tepper
49 – A Fall of Moondust – Arthur C. Clarke

50 – Eon – Greg Bear

51 – The Shrinking Man – Richard Matheson
52 – The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch – Philip K. Dick
53 – The Dancers at the End of Time – Michael Moorcock
54 – The Space Merchants** – Frederik Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth
55 – Time Out of Joint – Philip K. Dick
56 – Downward to the Earth – Robert Silverberg
57 – The Simulacra – Philip K. Dick
58 – The Penultimate Truth – Philip K. Dick
59 – Dying Inside – Robert Silverberg
60 – Ringworld – Larry Niven

61 – The Child Garden* – Geoff Ryman
62 – Mission of Gravity – Hal Clement
63 – A Maze of Death – Philip K. Dick

64 – Tau Zero** – Poul Anderson
65 – Rendezvous with Rama – Arthur C. Clarke
66 – Life During Wartime – Lucius Shepard

67 – Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang – Kate Wilhelm
68 – Roadside Picnic – Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
69 – Dark Benediction – Walter M. Miller, Jr.
70 – Mockingbird – Walter Tevis

71 – Dune – Frank Herbert
72 – The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress – Robert A. Heinlein
73 – The Man in the High Castle – Philip K. Dick
74 – Inverted World, Christopher Priest
75 – Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut
76 – The Island of Dr Moreau, HG Wells
77 – Childhood’s End, Arthur C Clarke
78 – The Time Machine, HG Wells
79 – Dhalgren, Samuel R Delany
80 – Helliconia, Brian Aldiss
81 – Food of the Gods, HG Wells

82 – The Body Snatchers, Jack Finney
83 – The Female Man*, Joanna Russ
84 – Arslan, MJ Engh

Kaeti On Tour by Keith Roberts

Sirius, 1992, 320 p

Kaeti On Tour

The same conceit as in Kaeti And Company (see my review here) runs through this collection. In each of the nine stories in the book we have the same repertory company of names for the actors but they “play” different characters in the different tales. An addition to the ensemble seems to be Tennoch, a Glaswegian woman, who pops up in “The Green Place” and subsequently. Some of the stories are fine, if inconsequential, but they are all let down by this extremely irritating framing device. There is, too, within every story a quite prodigious use of the words “leastways” or “least” to start either a sentence or a subordinate clause, which does not just happen in Kaeti’s “voice;” others join in with this annoying practice. Thankfully, this time the linking pages between the stories do not feature any dialogue between “the author” and Kaeti but instead feature only the actors.

The two most successful stories, to my mind, were “Kaeti And The Village” – set in somewhere like Oradour-Sur-Glane – and Londinium, in Roman London just as Boudicca’s hordes are about to sack the city. Both would have benefited from being lifted out of the context of this book.

In some of the other tales the characters too often drifted without explanation between different realities and/or times, lending the whole an insubstantial air. Had the characters been separately defined this might have been less of a drawback.

Roberts was a fine writer. It’s a pity his obsession with his creation “Kaeti” blinded him to the faults inherent in this repertory company concept.

Not Fifteen Books

Ian Sales on his blog mentioned a while back a meme that is going about, where you list the fifteen books that influenced or affected you most and have stayed with you. I don’t know if I can come up with fifteen off the top of my head but here are some.

Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert
The Man In The Maze by Robert Silverberg
The Left Hand Of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin
Winter’s Children and Hello Summer Goodbye both by Michael G Coney
Lanark by Alasdair Gray
The Private Memoirs And Confessions Of A Justified Sinner by James Hogg
2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C Clarke
Pavane by Keith Roberts

The Herbert is there because it was the first Dune book I read (out of the local Public Library, when I devoured any yellow jacketed book in the SF section.) I didn’t know when I picked it up it was a sequel. It still made sense, and is a better novel than Dune anyway. So is Children Of Dune; but the later ones are increasingly forgettable.
The Man In The Maze made me realise what SF could be and do. Silverberg has written books even more impressive but I was on the verge of stopping reading SF till I read this. So Robert Silverberg is to blame for my continuing involvement with the genre.
The Left Hand Of Darkness just blew me away.
All the Michael G Coneys from around that part of his career are superb as I remember. Lump in Mirror Image, Syzygy, Charisma, The Girl With A Symphony In Her Fingers* (aka The Jaws That Bite, The Claws That Catch) and Brontomek! to that list.
Lanark, while being a masterpiece by anyone’s definition also let me know it was actually possible to be Scottish and still get literature of a speculative bent into print.
Confessions Of A Justified Sinner is the prototypic Scottish novel. Jekyll and Hyde, your inspiration was surely here – also, in many senses, my story “Dusk,” despite the fact that stylistically I was more attempting to echo Silverberg. But if you live in Scotland that streak of fatalistic, Calvinistic gloom just gets to you.
2001. Amazingly, I read this before I saw the film. Sense of wonder plus. (At the time.)
Pavane opened up for me the delights of Altered History.

*This, I read only a few years ago, though.

I see the total comes to eight; fourteen if you count all the Coneys. But then I haven’t enumerated all the Silverbergs, nor the Le Guins. And now I think about it there ought to be a Roger Zelazny in there somewhere; any from He Who Shapes, This Immortal, Isle Of The Dead or Doorways In The Sand.

Now, if there were a meme for books that stayed with you for all the wrong reasons…..

Kaeti And Company by Keith Roberts

Kerosina, 1986

Keith Roberts wrote some of the best British (for which read English, because that’s all there was) SF of the era in which he was active in the field. Indeed, his was some of the best SF of his time full stop. His well regarded (and I recommend them without reserve) novels included Pavane, Kiteworld and the tour de force that was Molly Zero – a whole novel written in the second person. A historical novel, The Boat Of Fate, which was set in Roman Britain was also well received and well worth reading. Several of his longer works were built from shorter pieces, though. Roberts always had a deft touch and his concentration on character helped to set him apart from the majority of SF practitioners. He did seem to have a thing about betrayal, however, especially of a man by a woman. Sadly he died in 2000.

Kaeti and Company contains ten stories some of which have elements of fantasy, others being more realistic in tone. On its own (save for one and that only at its end) each story paints a credible and detailed picture of the lives it portrays. Roberts certainly knew how to create atmosphere. But there is something about this collection which sits awkwardly.

The framing device for the book as a whole, where before each story Roberts apparently addresses Kaeti directly as if casting her as an actress in the “part” she will take but wherein her name (along with those of some other characters) is retained from story to story – thereby providing a rationale for the book’s title – is clever but ultimately unsatisfactory. Others of these “actors” include Kerry, who nearly always wears yellow, Rodney, Bill and Pete. But precisely why is this necessary? Why not just people the stories with the characters and name them in the usual way? We are clearly not meant to find the similarly named characters the same from story to story despite their nomenclature, Kaeti varies in age for example and variously inhabits the present and the past, and yet Bill and Pete always “play” Kaeti’s mum and dad where they appear. It is, I feel, an unnecessary complication.

Again, the best tale might have been Kaeti And The Hangman, an interesting study of a condemned woman in an alternative reality, or possible future reminiscent of that in Molly Zero – except it turns out in its last paragraph to have been describing the shooting of a film script. I felt cheated by this revelation. It does beat, “I woke up and it was a dream,” but not by much; and the framing device, which presumably encouraged this choice, most certainly does not rescue it. This leaves the Clocktower Girl and Kaeti And The Zep as the most satisfying stories.

The last piece, The Dream Machine, about a movie, of which Kaeti is the star, being filmed in the narrator’s street (we are invited to believe this narrator is Roberts himself, but I resist the temptation) makes an explicit point about multiple realities existing within the same milieu but this seems to be elaborating for the sake of it.

Given the second sentence in this review you can imagine my disappointment, here; amplified all the more as I recall the Kaeti stories being lauded when they first appeared. I still have Roberts’s other Kaeti collection, Kaeti On Tour, to be read. I hope the “actress” fixation does not appear there, but I fear it will.

(I couldn’t find an embeddable picture of the Kerosina cover so the above is the Wildside Press one from 2000.)

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