1. Dune by Frank Herbert
2.5 TIE: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
4. Foundation by Isaac Asimov
5. 1984 by George Orwell
6. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
7. Neuromancer by William Gibson
8. Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein
9. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
10. Ringworld by Larry Niven
No shockers on the list. We think Dune is the greatest science-fiction novel and a great novel, period. If it hadn’t been “tainted” with the science-fiction label it would get a lot more respect than it does today. Although one advantage of being viewed as reading matter for nerds is that if someone mentions Dune it’s usually code for “We have a common language”, especially if the speaker segues into the Bene Gesserit litany against fear. The fact that David Lynch’s film adaptation was regarded as a failure only enhances the book’s reputation: It’s Too Weird, even for David Lynch.
If you have not read Dune, do pick it up. There may be difficulties, but hang on because the payoff is worth all the trouble.
Ender’s Game has been adapted for film, and as its theatrical release approaches there have been calls for a boycott. Its author Orson Scott Card has made virulently anti-gay statements, i.e. “(gay people) cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within…society.” We don’t judge authors on the basis of their private lives or their personal beliefs, otherwise we’d have no one left to read. But Card is not helping his own case with his odious pronouncements in the wake of the US Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage: “Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.”
On one hand he’s not reversing himself to help the movie’s box-office chances; on the other hand he’s saying, “You have to show me the tolerance I’ve never shown you, because you’re supposed to be the open-minded ones.” Sets our teeth on edge.
Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein has a Filipino protagonist, Juan Rico. When the novel was adapted for film, the protagonist became Casper Van Dien. If that casting decision had been made today, we’d be blogging in outrage. Which Filipino actor would you cast as Johnny Rico?
A book we love that didn’t make it to the top ten or even the longlist: The Separation by Christopher Priest (best-known novel: The Prestige).
Something drew us to the brown cover with no title or author’s name; maybe we could smell the story. We read it that night, straight through in four or five hours—a compelling tale of doubles that keeps leaving the reader off-balance until she learns to see its fictional universe with the correctly skewed perspective. If you see this book anywhere, buy it and read it. And good luck to you because we bought all the copies we could find and forced them on friends.
Ooh, Snow Crash! One of the most fun science-fiction books we’ve ever read. So delightful, we have to read it again. Once Saffy lets go of our copy. We bought it at A Different Bookstore in Glorietta back in the 90s. We miss that place: it was small, but it had a very astute selection, and the staff—especially Tat the manager—made smart recommendations.