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Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

First edition
First edition

Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels, An English-Language Selection, 1949–1984 is a nonfiction book by David Pringle, published by Xanadu in 1985[1][2] with a foreword by Michael Moorcock. Primarily, the book comprises 100 short essays on the selected works, covered in order of publication, without any ranking. It is considered an important critical summary of the science fiction field.[3][4][5]

Pringle followed Science Fiction with Modern Fantasy: The 100 Best Novels (1988).[6] Xanadu followed Science Fiction with at least three more "100 Best" books (below).


In the introduction Pringle offers the working definition, "Science fiction is a form of fantastic fiction which exploits the imaginative perspectives of modern science." In turn, modern science is the "scientific world-view ... as it has come to be accepted by the intelligent layperson", which arguably "first became common property in the mid to late 19th century."[7]

Within fiction he distinguishes science fiction from "Supernatural Horror" and "Heroic Fantasy". They may be represented by Dracula and The Lord of the Rings, featuring "the irruption of some supernatural force into the everyday world" and "set in completely imaginary worlds" respectively. He also names the subclass "Fabulations", which do not belong in this book "unless they have a significant scientific or technological content".[8][NB 1]

In contrast, science fiction has a real-world setting and "fantastic developments which are explicable in terms of the scientific world-view." World-view does not mean accepted theory or fact: "many sf writers cheat: they use sleight-of-hand rather than genuine scientific knowledge." "The skilful use of pseudo-science and gobbledygook" may be good enough to exploit the world-view.[9]

The time period covered is approximately that for science fiction as a category of book publication, although the selected books were not all published in that category.[10]

Pringle admits that fewer than thirty selections may generously be called even "masterpieces of their sort". On the whole,[11]

Some of them are old favourites of my own ... Some are other people's favourites, novels which have been outstandingly popular or influential, or which seem to be especially good representatives of their type. A small minority, perhaps as many as ten, are books for which I have little or no personal enthusiasm: they have been included for the sake of balance and variety.

The List

The 100 Best Novels
Title Author Published
Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell 1949
Earth Abides George R. Stewart 1949
The Martian Chronicles Ray Bradbury 1950
The Puppet Masters Robert A. Heinlein 1951
The Day of the Triffids John Wyndham 1951
Limbo Bernard Wolfe 1952
The Demolished Man Alfred Bester 1953
Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury 1953
Childhood's End Arthur C. Clarke 1953
The Paradox Men Charles L. Harness 1953
Bring the Jubilee Ward Moore 1953
The Space Merchants Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth 1953
Ring Around the Sun Clifford D. Simak 1953
More Than Human Theodore Sturgeon 1953
Mission of Gravity Hal Clement 1954
A Mirror for Observers Edgar Pangborn 1954
The End of Eternity Isaac Asimov 1955
The Long Tomorrow Leigh Brackett 1955
The Inheritors William Golding 1955
The Stars My Destination Alfred Bester 1956
The Death of Grass John Christopher 1956
The City and the Stars Arthur C. Clarke 1956
The Door into Summer Robert A. Heinlein 1957
The Midwich Cuckoos John Wyndham 1957
Non-Stop Brian Aldiss 1958
A Case of Conscience James Blish 1958
Have Space Suit—Will Travel Robert A. Heinlein 1958
Time Out of Joint Philip K. Dick 1959
Alas, Babylon Pat Frank 1959
A Canticle for Leibowitz Walter M. Miller Jr. 1959
The Sirens of Titan Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. 1959
Rogue Moon Algis Budrys 1960
Venus Plus X Theodore Sturgeon 1960
Hothouse Brian Aldiss 1962
The Drowned World J. G. Ballard 1962
A Clockwork Orange Anthony Burgess 1962
The Man in the High Castle Philip K. Dick 1962
Journey Beyond Tomorrow Robert Sheckley 1962
Way Station Clifford D. Simak 1963
Cat's Cradle Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. 1963
Greybeard Brian Aldiss 1964
Nova Express William S. Burroughs 1964
Martian Time-Slip Philip K. Dick 1964
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch Philip K. Dick 1965
The Wanderer Fritz Leiber 1965
Norstrilia Cordwainer Smith 1965
Dr. Bloodmoney Philip K. Dick 1965
Dune Frank Herbert 1965
The Crystal World J. G. Ballard 1966
Make Room! Make Room! Harry Harrison 1966
Flowers for Algernon Daniel Keyes 1966
The Dream Master Roger Zelazny 1966
Stand on Zanzibar John Brunner 1968
Nova Samuel R. Delany 1968
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Philip K. Dick 1968
Camp Concentration Thomas M. Disch 1968
The Final Programme Michael Moorcock 1968
Pavane Keith Roberts 1968
Heroes and Villains Angela Carter 1969
The Left Hand of Darkness Ursula K. Le Guin 1969
The Palace of Eternity Bob Shaw 1969
Bug Jack Barron Norman Spinrad 1969
Tau Zero Poul Anderson 1970
Downward to the Earth Robert Silverberg 1970
The Year of the Quiet Sun Wilson Tucker 1970
334 Thomas M. Disch 1972
The Fifth Head of Cerberus Gene Wolfe 1972
The Dancers at the End of Time Michael Moorcock 1972
Crash J. G. Ballard 1973
Looking Backward, from the Year 2000 Mack Reynolds 1973
The Embedding Ian Watson 1973
Walk to the End of the World Suzy McKee Charnas 1974
The Centauri Device M. John Harrison 1974
The Dispossessed Ursula K. Le Guin 1974
Inverted World Christopher Priest 1974
High Rise J. G. Ballard 1975
Galaxies Barry N. Malzberg 1975
The Female Man Joanna Russ 1975
Orbitsville Bob Shaw 1975
The Alteration Kingsley Amis 1976
Woman on the Edge of Time Marge Piercy 1976
Man Plus Frederik Pohl 1976
Michaelmas Algis Budrys 1977
The Ophiuchi Hotline John Varley 1977
Miracle Visitors Ian Watson 1978
Engine Summer John Crowley 1979
On Wings of Song Thomas M. Disch 1979
The Walking Shadow Brian Stableford 1979
Juniper Time Kate Wilhelm 1979
Timescape Gregory Benford 1980
The Dreaming Dragons Damien Broderick 1980
Wild Seed Octavia E. Butler 1980
Riddley Walker Russell Hoban 1980
The Complete Roderick John Sladek 1980
The Shadow of the Torturer Gene Wolfe 1980
The Unreasoning Mask Philip José Farmer 1981
Oath of Fealty Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle 1981
No Enemy But Time Michael Bishop 1982
The Birth of the People's Republic of Antarctica John Calvin Batchelor 1983
Neuromancer William Gibson 1984

100 Best series

Xanadu Publications of London published at least four "100 Best" books. Transatlantic editions or simply jacket and cover designs may variably use "the" and "hundred" in the subtitles. Carroll & Graf published the books in the U.S.

Xanadu commissioned Moorcock to write Fantasy. When it became "clear that I would not be able to deliver it for a long time, the publishers and I agreed that James Cawthorn was the person to take it over." Cawthorn was the primary author of the selections "mainly", according to Cawthorn, and of the text "by far", according to Moorcock. (Fantasy, "Introduction", p. 9. The introduction, pp. 8–10, comprises a long section signed by Cawthorn, a short one signed by Moorcock, and joint unsigned "Notes and Acknowledgments".)

Science Fiction is a collection of 100 reviews, nearly uniform in length (all one to two pages), with a moderately long introduction by the author.[12]

Horror comprises essays on 100 different books by 100(?) horror writers, apparently more-than-one- to less-than-six pages in length.[13]

Fantasy is a collection of 100 reviews, nearly uniform in length (little short of two pages), with a short introduction by the authors separately and jointly.[14]


Dave Langford reviewed Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels for White Dwarf #73, and stated that "Most of my favourites are there, and only a scattering of dodgy selections - like Mack Reynolds, an 'ideas and concepts' man whose writing makes my teeth hurt."[15]



  1. ^ Example fabulations are Brian Aldiss, The Malacia Tapestry (1976) and John Crowley, Little, Big (1981). Pringle's subsequent book Modern Fantasy: The 100 Best Novels (1988) covers both of those works and its introduction adds the "Fabulation" category more formally. Briefly, in a fabulation the real-world setting is distorted "in ways other than the supernaturally horrific" (Modern Fantasy, 19).


  1. ^ Pringle, David (1985). Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels, An English-Language Selection, 1949–1984 (UK ed.). Xanadu Publications. ISBN 0-947761-11-X.
  2. ^ Pringle, David (1987). Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels, An English-Language Selection, 1949–1984 (US ed.). Carroll & Graf. ISBN 0-88184-259-1.
  3. ^ "Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Lists". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2011-08-07.
  4. ^ Pringle, David (1985). Science Fiction ...: Editorial Reviews: From Library Journal. ISBN 0881842591.
  5. ^ David Auerbach (2010-04-02). "The Prescient Science Fiction of Thomas M. Disch". Retrieved 2011-08-07.
  6. ^ Pringle, David (1988). Modern Fantasy: The 100 Best Novels. Grafton Books.
  7. ^ Science Fiction, 9.
  8. ^ Science Fiction, 11, 16.
  9. ^ Science Fiction, 11–12.
  10. ^ Science Fiction, 14.
  11. ^ Science Fiction, 15.
  12. ^ Science Fiction. First edition contents at ISFDB.
  13. ^ Horror. First edition contents at ISFDB.
  14. ^ Fantasy. Carroll & Graf, 1991, contents at ISFDB. Pagination matches the 1st Carroll & Graf edition; page-counts match the Xanadu editions.
  15. ^ Langford, Dave (January 1986). "Critical Mass". White Dwarf. No. 73. Games Workshop. p. 9.
  16. ^ "Title: Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels".

External links

This page was last edited on 2 June 2022, at 02:43
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