SF Masterworks

Today’s post about Larry Niven got me thinking about how, as much as I love science fiction, I’ve actually not read all that much, compared to the average fan. So, I took a look at the Gollancz Group’s SF Masterworks List to see how many I’d read. I’m going off of the original series here, not the 2010 reissued series – which is slightly different.

  • The Forever War Joe Haldeman 1974
  • I Am Legend Richard Matheson 1954
  • The Stars My Destination Alfred Bester 1956
  • The Demolished Man Alfred Bester 1953
  • A Scanner Darkly Philip K. Dick 1977
  • The Book of Skulls Robert Silverberg 1972
  • The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds H. G. Wells 1895 & 1898
  • Ubik Philip K. Dick 1969
  • Nova Samuel R. Delany 1968
  • Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said Philip K. Dick 1974
  • The Invisible Man H. G. Wells 1897
  • The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch Philip K. Dick 1965
  • Dying Inside Robert Silverberg 1972
  • Ringworld Larry Niven 1970
  • Dune Frank Herbert 1965
  • The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress Robert A. Heinlein 1966
  • The Man in the High Castle Philip K. Dick 1962

So, 17 out of 73 – just around 24%. Not good.

For the "new design" series I do even worse. Only 17 out of a longer list (132) – 13%.

  • The Forever War Joe Haldeman 1974
  • I Am Legend Richard Matheson 1954
  • The Stars My Destination Alfred Bester 1956
  • Cat’s Cradle Kurt Vonnegut 1963
  • The Time Machine H. G. Wells 1895
  • The Body Snatchers Jack Finney 1955
  • Arslan M. J. Engh 1976
  • Hyperion Dan Simmons 1989
  • R.U.R. and War with the Newts Karel Čapek 1921 and 1936
  • Dangerous Visions Harlan Ellison 1967
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams 1979
  • The War of the Worlds H. G. Wells 1898
  • Frankenstein Mary Shelley 1818
  • The Invisible Man H. G. Wells 1897
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz Walter M. Miller 1960
  • To Say Nothing of the Dog Connie Willis 1997
  • The Gods Themselves Isaac Asimov 1972

Now, are these good representations? I’m not so sure. There are a lot of dupicate authors, and Connie Willis is one of them. And, there isn’t a single book by Robert Silverberg on the updated list. Or Larry Niven. And sorry, but The Hitchhiker’s Guide series is not "Great" SF. But taken together, I think the two lists have a lot of good titles on them – so I’d rate them a good guide through the genre, as long as you don’t stop there.

I think the second list is an interesting beast, actually, in that it’s pretty clearly trying to appeal to more literary types (Christopher Priest, who didn’t make a single appearance on the first list, makes three on this one! – along with Mary Shelley and Karel Capek) – but for that it includes some that I would consider essential: Arslan, Hyperion and, ESPECIALLY, A Canticle for Leibowitz, which is a truly great book. But ultimately, I can’t consider a list complete that leaves off Ringworld, The Man in the High Castle, Rite of Passage, Startide Rising, The Martian Chronicles and Don’t Bite the Sun. Maybe they’ll get around to those?

But it’s a good place to start a reading project. Which I’d love to do, but given how little time I find for fiction these days, I probably shouldn’t.

One thought on “SF Masterworks

  1. :Ust You think too much just enjoy what you enjoy hitchiker was bad Dr who. Very few compare to Phil dicks sci fi where technology often a bad thing he is like vonnegut but less annoying. Dune to me is the pinnacle of sci fi
    Which Lucas stole so much from making those terrible movies

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