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Masterpieces: The Best Science Fiction of the 20th Century Paperback – March 2, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Masterpieces: The Best Science Fiction of the Century may not include every reader's choices for the top science fiction of the 20th century, but it lives up to its title. Editor Orson Scott Card has assembled 27 standout stories by the biggest names and best writers in the genre. Not surprisingly, most of these stories have been anthologized or collected elsewhere, and some (like Arthur C. Clarke's "Nine Billion Names of God," Harlan Ellison's "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman," and Robert A. Heinlein's "All You Zombies--") have been reprinted innumerable times. In addition, Card has previously placed some of these selections in his retrospective 1980s anthology Future on Ice.

While some stories in Masterpieces lack fine prose and well-rounded characters, they are solid and engrossing entertainments. Other selections combine literary and science fiction virtues to produce a superior blend, and some of these stories--"Bears Discover Fire" by Terry Bisson, "Snow" by John Crowley, "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman" by Harlan Ellison, "Face Value" by Karen Joy Fowler, "Tourists" by Lisa Goldstein, and "The Ones Who Walked Away from Omelas" by Ursula K. Le Guin--are art.

Masterpieces isn't an anthology for the well-read fan. However, it is a great book for the new or intermediate science fiction reader. --Cynthia Ward --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The 29 classic stories in this anthology are as well chosen as you might expect, given editor Card's formidable knowledge of the field and his fellow writers, knowledge that makes his introductory comments on each story very good, further enhancing the book's considerable value for the classroom and as an introduction to major stories and writers for nonstudents. Card's selections span the period from 1936 to 1995, and from Edmond Hamilton's "Devolution" through Lisa Goldstein's "Tourist," they are outstanding. The authors represented constitute an sf hall of fame: Heinlein, Bradbury, Asimov, Clarke, Pohl, Ellison, Le Guin, and others as famous and beloved. Toward the end of the collection, a few stories, like so much current sf, blur the lines between sf and fantasy, which makes one hope that Card, a man of mighty prowess in both genres, will compile a companion volume of fantasy stories. Should he, buy that book, too. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Ace (March 2, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0441011330
  • ISBN-13: 978-0441011339
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,471 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

96 of 102 people found the following review helpful By jrmspnc on June 26, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a much better than average Ace anthology. Typically Ace, it doesn't quite live up to its hype. The twenty six stories collected here are not the "Best Science Fiction of the Century" by anybody's count, even Orson Scott Card's own. Card himself describes his selection process in the Introduction: these are stories he loved at the first reading, enjoys on repeat readings, and "[a]bove all, these are stories that I cannot forget."
I, however, *can* forget several of these stories - and already have, a mere few days after reading them. Most of the forgettable stories are the more recent ones, which is probably not a coincidence. Early science fiction (pre-1960s, let's say) is almost inherently more worthwhile than most later science fiction, and the stories selected here are cases in point. Terry Bisson's "Bears Discover Fire" is a meandering inanity. "Dog Fight" by William Gibson and Michael Swanwick is a drugs and sex tale, "appealing" only in the way that Trainspotting was "appealing." "Rat" by James Patrick Kelly is similar.
There are, however, some truly, truly great stories here, which more than merit four stars. "The Tunnel Under the World" by Frederick Pohl, for example, ends with a revelation worth the price of admission. "Inconstant Moon" by Larry Niven is full of emotional impact as two individuals adjust to the thought of the sun going nova. George R. R. Martin's "Sandkings", despite being relatively recent, is a story that would might expect from Stephen King at the top of his game. Heinlein's "All You Zombies-" is a time-travel story to make the head spin. James Blish's "A Work of Art" puts Richard Strauss into the 22d century. Perhaps the most enjoyable of all is "Tunesmith" by Lloyd Biggle, Jr.
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69 of 85 people found the following review helpful By Glenn McDorman on January 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Don't be fooled by the title. There are very few "masterpieces" in this book. Even the stories by "masterpiece" authors are not their best (Asimov, Heinlein, Silverberg, Ellison, and Aldiss, for example). Where are Bester, Wolfe, Zelazny, and and Robert Reed? -- writers whose genius was at its best in shorter venues. Almost half of this book (which is "The Best Science Fiction of the Century") is from the 80s and 90s, much by unheard of authors. On top of that Card's introductions are very sloppy. In one he uses the phrase "science fiction" three times in one sentence. Quite frankly, I'm not sure that Card actually edited the book. It looks like Ace decided to put together an anthology to boost residual sales, putting the focus on more contemporary work and getting a popular author to put his name on the cover.
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24 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on November 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This latest "best ... of the century" actually consists of twenty-six tales from the second half of the twentieth century and one story from the 1940s. Either that means science fiction matured considerably after World War II, the editor is too young to appreciate the early years, or the anthology should be labeled differently. In either case, the contributions are all aces and represent the wide gamut of the genre divided into three classifications: "The Golden Age, "The New Wave", and "The Media Generation". Though I enjoyed the other two periods, my favorite stories are from "The New Wave" because I cut my molars on several of these including having read some while working on a masters thesis involving science fiction. Regardless of nostalgia or other reasons for personal taste, each entry is powerful and shows how enlightening the genre can be when written by masters like those who rendered entries to MASTERPIECES: THE BEST SCIENCE FICTION OF THE CENTURY.

Harriet Klausner
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Joanna Poppink on June 17, 2013
Format: Paperback
Thank you, Orson Scott Card. Each story is a unique, often startling, mind ensnaring tale that captures your imagination and provokes your mind and spirit to move in new or deeper directions or both.

I see some of the negative reviews here and wonder if the reviewers are conditioned to current levels of superficial reading material and media presentations that hit you hard with sensation but lack depth.

These stories grab your mind and if you hold on for the ride, the stories will take you to new experiences, perspectives and understanding of the human condition (and your own condition.)

Card gives us an introduction to each story like I have never seen in an anthology. He describes the author's work briefly. He describes the themes and style of the writing. He sums up metaphors, plots, character development and conflict developed without giving away the story. His introductions set the reader up to more fully appreciate the story. And, those introductions are even more valuable when you read them after you've read the story.

I highly recommend this book to reader and writers. The stories are sparkling jewels. Scott places them in an exquisite setting.

I'm including in this review my response to a reviewer who thought some of the stories, and particularly, "One," were too sorrowful and focused on despair. I disagree.

I just finished reading, "One," the Effinger story and the last story in Card's Masterpieces. I was left uplifted and moved and with a greater sense of my position in the universe. It was a gentle and startling story that brought me to a gentle and startling revelation.
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