13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Overview of the past 25 years in SF
For the casual sf fan looking for a new read, or for someone like me who needs to stay abreast of the ever-sprawling world of sf, Broderick & Di Filippo have done us all a service. Concise, engaging and insightful, Science Fiction the 101 Best Novels: 1985-2010 provides an important survey of the work being done with the sf novel over the last quarter century. From...
Published on June 27, 2012 by MFPW
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but not as great as Pringle's book
I bought David Pringle's 100 Best Novels WAY back in high school when it first came out. It had a profound effect on my life because I ended up reading most of the books he reviewed- along the way, I became a PKD fan and a JG Ballard fan (authors whom I likely would not have read otherwise). Pringle's book was wonderful because it made you want to read the books. He...
Published on July 20, 2012 by rickzz
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Overview of the past 25 years in SF,
For the casual sf fan looking for a new read, or for someone like me who needs to stay abreast of the ever-sprawling world of sf, Broderick & Di Filippo have done us all a service. Concise, engaging and insightful, Science Fiction the 101 Best Novels: 1985-2010 provides an important survey of the work being done with the sf novel over the last quarter century. From seminal works like Atwood's The Handmaiden's Tale & Mieville's Perdito Street Station, onto less-discussed gems like Nagata's Vast & Jensen's My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time, Broderick & Di Filippo provide the reader with a generous offering of quality science fiction.
Will every reader agree with the selections laid out in this book? Did everyone agree with Rolling Stone's list of the 100 great rock n roll guitarists? Hell no. But that's the point. Books like 101 stir the debate and get people talking about favorite books unloved and not included, and this enthusiasm spills over and generates more conversation and ultimately more reading. Broderick & Di Filippo hipped me to at least 15 books that slipped under my radar, and their combined enthusiasm for books I have neglected like Shepard's Life During Wartime and Niffeneggar's The Time Traveler's Wife have made me reconsider both novels. And on the macro level, 101 offers the reader a solid overview of the themes, artistic movements and philosophical ideas that have guided sf from cyberpunk to singularity.
Science fiction has always been a dialogue between the past and the present. With Science Fiction the 101 Best Novels: 1985-2010, Broderick & Di Filippo keep the dialogue moving forward.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars VERY USEFUL,
I've been sampling BEST 101 & am very pleased at the summaries indeed. It's an insightful way to consider the sprawl of great work over 25 years, a huge job!
I've read the majority and agree they should be in. (There's even one of mine, an unexpected bonus. They treated my galactic series well and caught the flavor of it.) Glad to see Anderson's GENESIS, his last great work -- writ for me in a month! -- when Zelazny died and I had a slot to fill in the collection, FAR FUTURES. Anderson was a titan.
Could've used an index, but still, immensely valuable. Thanks for this very useful book--must read some of these I missed!
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 101 Bottles of SF on the Wall,
This book has an unusually descriptive title. It contains 101 brief (2-5 page) reviews of the "best" 101 science fiction novels published in 1985 through 2010. It is a companion volume to David Pringle's Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels: 1949-1984. Both books guide readers through the relatively large universe of book-length science fiction. Authors Damien Broderick and Paul Di Filippo limit themselves to one entry per book author, using this entry to discuss multiple works by that author as appropriate.
The entries include reviews of five of my favorites. They provide a general sense of the way these books are reviewed and evaluated.
Ender's Game (1985) by Orson Scott Card. This novel about human cadets training to fight in an interstellar war launched Card's career. Its success is attributed to the inclusion of a dozen hot-button topics: "...an existential threat to the human race; the nature of alien intelligence and person-hood; genocide; means versus ends; the `great man' theory of history; the limits of government and the proper role of the citizen; the limits and nature of the educational system; the military ethos; the nature of sociopaths and power; family dynamics; sibling rivalry; and schoolboy rivalry."
Use of Weapons (1990) by Iain M. Banks. The review outlines the book's history of protagonist Cheradenine Zakalwe, a perpetual soldier for various armies and causes. It also overviews Banks' other novels set in the "Culture" universe and the primary themes emphasized in its post-scarcity society. There is an insightful discussion of the book's twin helix narrative structure. And there is an *unforgiveable* spoiler for one of the other Culture books.
A Fire Upon the Deep (1992) by Vernor Vinge. This story spans star systems across an entire sector of the galaxy and includes humans, an engagingly-strange collection of aliens, and strange, incomprehensible Powers with... strange, incomprehensible powers. The universe is partitioned into Zones which are concentric regions around the galaxy's center. The laws of physics differ in these Zones, with thought and spaceflight barely possible in the Unthinking Depths and artificial intelligence, faster-than light travel, and other wonders abundant in the Beyond. Bad things can happen when denizens of different Zones interact. The review discusses Vinge's the relationship between this work, its prequel A Deepness in the Sky, and the Singularity concept introduced in Marooned in Realtime.
Perdido Street Station (2000) by China Miéville. This book introduced readers to the author's Bas-Lag series and to its central city, the sprawling, overcrowded, mucusy metropolis of New Crobuzon. The book is named for its largest train station, only one of an incredible set of locations that includes an enclave of cactus-people and an embassy of Hell. The story is about a scientist who accidentally looses deadly slake-moths on the City. But the story is just an excuse to explore the people, places, and improbabilities of New Crobuzon. There is also some discussion of Miéville`s subsequent Bas-Lag books, The Scar and Iron Council.
The Time Traveler's Wife (2003) by Audrey Niffenegger. This book isn't really about time travel in the traditional sense, nor may it "really" be considered science fiction. But it is close to both. Clair and Henry are friends, lovers, spouses, parents who have a life together, but many parts of it are out of sequence. Henry is an involuntary time traveler who jumps to different points in the past and future without will or warning. He knows Clair as a little girl, a teenager, a woman. And she waits for him, never knowing how old he will be when he appears. We see the implications across the span of their lives, if span is the right word. The review gives us a bit more of the author's perspective on her unique book.
The reviews of books I am familiar with describe their characters and plots accurately and are reasonably free of spoilers--with a few exceptions. Reviews of books I have not read have convinced me to pick up some overlooked gems, including Cyteen, The Diamond Age, and The Handmaid's Tale. I recommend this book as a reference and reading guide to recent, higher-quality science fiction.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From Handmaid's Tale to Quantum Thief,
In the interests of full disclosure, I have to admit that I am a big fan of book lists. I have used the Modern Library fiction and non-fiction lists to find referrals and lists by Pringle and Moorcock to locate works of fantasy. The CWA British and US lists have suggested a number of mystery gems I would not likely have found on my own. For science fiction ideas, I have utilized a list of the 100 best novels from 1949 to 1984 by David Pringle.
Broderick and Di Filippo have updated Pringle's work by compiling a new list of SF novels from 1985 through 2010. A foreward by David Pringle provides continuity with the earlier list.
The new collection resembles the earlier one in that it is chronological rather than providing a countdown to the best novel of the period. It covers a shorter time by ten years and includes a much larger selection of female writers than the earlier book given the work produced in the period from which selections were made. I find this new list to be better written and to have more value than the prior one. Broderick and Di Filippo spend far less space than did Pringle on plot summary and provide more context regarding the subject matter in each book. For example, the plot of Handmaid's Tale is compared to 1984 as well as to the way power relationships in society actually developed. There is also more discussion of how some volumes came to be written. The authors explain that Orson Scott Card expanded Ender's Game from a short story by changing the narrative viewpoint to that of an adult telling his story in retrospect. The authors also take the time to think through where each work and author rests in SF history. Ender's Game is compared to Starship Troopers, A Case of Conscience and The Female Man while China Meiville is expansively mentioned in the same breath as Mervyn Peake.
The authors demonstrate their considerable genre knowledge by recounting the literary history of certain tropes in the works represented. In discussing Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, they talk about the development of stories dealing with black market body parts from Niven's Known Space in the sixties to current works. Broderick and Di Filippo also show some courage in evaluating the overall output of some of the authors contained in their list as when they suggest that Card would be regarded as "a minor, respectable, forgotten craftsman" if not for the Ender series.
The true value of the list, of course, is not in the reading pleasure it delivers but in leading the discerning user to new books and authors. Even though I thought I had consumed modestly in the SF field in recent years, I still found 87 books I had not read, many of which I had not come across in any other forum. There are actually far more than 101 books considered as the authors list all 3 of Meiville's Bas-lag books when discussing Perdido Street Station and 4 of Gene Wolfe's series in the entry for Nightside the Long Sun.
In using lists as sources for reading referral, not only have I located hidden classics but I have found that virtually all recommended books reach at least an acceptable level of literary merit. In a genre such as SF, where there is a very large range of quality exhibited in what is published, lists like those of Pringle and Broderick/Di Filippo can improve and enrich the reading selection process.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but not as great as Pringle's book,
I bought David Pringle's 100 Best Novels WAY back in high school when it first came out. It had a profound effect on my life because I ended up reading most of the books he reviewed- along the way, I became a PKD fan and a JG Ballard fan (authors whom I likely would not have read otherwise). Pringle's book was wonderful because it made you want to read the books. He described the books in CLEAR concise terms with a plot summary and gave you some context of the book's historical mileu.
101 Novels is a worthy sucessor. The problem is the writing (while stylish) is too "post-modernish" for me. In some cases, it's hard to even tell what the book is about. Also, unfortunately, the font size is very small. Overall, this book is well worth getting (and there are many excellent picks). But it doesn't live up to Pringle's masterpiece.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good a Pringle's,
Without getting into a pissing contest about the actual choices, I found this book to be irritating for the following reasons:
1. The table of contents lists book titles but not the authors. Why? This makes the book a pain while researching the titles online or in stores. I would have liked to copy the contents and keep it with me when I travel.
2. There isn't an index. Pringle's book provides one and is very useful.
3. The writers give too much away--many plot spoilers. Whereas some readers won't read a book unless they know the plot before hand, I would like to have the experience of discovery preserved.
For the most part, the choices are worth consideration, even though I find some of them rather weak. The contents seem rather ad hoc, though.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Useful Update,
This book follows David Pringle's "Science Fiction: the 100 Best Novels 1949-1985 (ISBN 088184-259-1),which back in 1985 served as a pleasant reminder of my reading from when I first discovered SF in 1953. This latest piqued my curiosity regarding many of the books published post-1985 that have landed outside of my available reading time. As with the previous book, this sequel is a subjective selection, but a selection the quality of which is culled from years of experience by two professionals in the genre whose years of reading, writing, editing, and reviewing are validated by the synopses and comment here. While a selection that is definitive may be elusive, a Venn diagram of the selections here and of the potential selections of any other compilers will still very likely produce a lot of overlap and common ground. Some of the selections flirt with mainstream but are not likely to be as controversial as some of the choices of short story that Judith Merrill was making back in the 50s and 60s for her "Year's Best" series.
A picture of the book cover accompanies each review, helpful if one wants to actually find a copy on-line or in stores. Only the title of each book appears in the TOC, perhaps an artifact of the emphasis on ' book first ' over author identification first - the title is, after all, ' Best Novels" and not the " Best Authors ". Be prepared to squint when you dive in as the font size seems a bit smaller than usual, this limitation probably occasioned by the need to get as much print as possible within the bounds of each 2-3 page entry.
This is a reference book and not your beach-read door-stopper. It justifiably goes on the shelf next to Pringle's book for the same purpose -research and reference. If it seems spartan in construct, it is still in character for its purpose and well worth the price
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good material, bad writing,
The authors really know their stuff, but the writing is just atrocious. A good edit would have made this book readable, but right now it's just one tortured, incomprehensible run-on sentence after another, which diminishes the pleasure of discovering new SF novels.
4.0 out of 5 stars good read,
A great collection of critical essays showing the vast range of odeon science fiction. A whole new list of must reads.
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful collection for any library.,
Wonderful collection of stories by the masters in the field, assembled in a handy volume. Nice to revisit old favorites and to find some great tales previously missed. Highly recommended.
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Science Fiction: The 101 Best Novels 1985-2010 by Damien Broderick (Paperback - June 1, 2012)
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