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SF Masterworks

I was browsing in a couple of bookstores today (where I went in search of Perelandra and That Hideous Strength) and kept seeing titles marketed as part of a series called "SF Masterworks." Each book is attractively packaged. The front cover features vivid artwork. The back cover is divided into four quadrants: the upper left contains a brief synopsis; the lower left, descriptive information on the series; the upper right, favorable remarks by other authors; and the lower right, a brief blurb about the author. My curiosity was piqued, and several titles tempted me.

There were several titles and authors I hadn't heard of, so I thought I'd post the list here. The majority of you are well read, several of you especially read sci-fi/fantasy voraciously, and one or two of you (hi sunstealer!) have probably read all of them. I'm hoping you guys can help me determine which of these are especially worth reading.

The list follows behind the cut. I have crossed out those I've already read and underlined those I own but have not read.

  1. Dune, Frank Herbert
  2. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
  3. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
  4. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
  5. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
  6. Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke
  7. The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, Robert A. Heinlein
  8. Ringworld, Larry Niven
  9. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
  10. The Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham
  11. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
  12. Cities in Flight, James Blish
  13. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Philip K. Dick
  14. Babel-17, Samuel R. Delany
  15. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
  16. The Fifth Head of Cerberus, Gene Wolfe
  17. Gateway, Frederik Pohl
  18. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
  19. Last and First Men, Olaf Stapledon
  20. Earth Abides, George R. Stewart
  21. Martian Time-Slip, Philip K. Dick
  22. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
  23. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
  24. The Dispossessed, Ursula K. Le Guin
  25. The Drowned World, J.G. Ballard
  26. The Sirens of Titan, Kurt Vonnegut
  27. Emphyrio, Jack Vance
  28. A Scanner Darkly, Philip K. Dick
  29. Star Maker, Olaf Stapledon
  30. Behold the Man, Michael Moorcock
  31. The Book of Skulls, Robert Silverberg
  32. The Time Machine, H.G. Wells
  33. The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells
  34. Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes
  35. Ubik, Philip K. Dick
  36. Timescape, Gregory Benford
  37. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
  38. Man Plus, Frederik Pohl
  39. A Case of Conscience, James Blish
  40. The Centauri Device, M. John Harrison
  41. Dr. Bloodmoney, Philip K. Dick
  42. Non-Stop, Brian W. Aldiss
  43. The Fountains of Paradise, Arthur C. Clarke
  44. Pavane, Keith Roberts
  45. Now Wait for Last Year, Philip K. Dick
  46. Nova, Samuel R. Delany
  47. The First Men in the Moon, H.G. Wells
  48. The City and the Stars, Arthur C. Clarke
  49. Blood Music, Greg Bear
  50. Jem, Frederik Pohl
  51. Bring the Jubilee, Ward Moore
  52. Valis, Philip K. Dick
  53. The Lathe of Heaven, Ursula K. Le Guin
  54. The Complete Roderick, John Sladek
  55. Flow, My Tears, the Policeman Said, Philip K. Dick
  56. The Invisible Man, H.G. Wells
  57. Grass, Sheri S. Tepper
  58. A Fall of Moondust, Arthur C. Clarke
  59. Eon, Greg Bear
  60. The Shrinking Man, Richard Matheson
  61. The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Philip K. Dick
  62. The Dancers at the End of Time, Michael Moorcock
  63. The Space Merchants, Frederik Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth
  64. Time Out Of Joint, Philip K. Dick
  65. Downward to the Earth, Robert Silverberg
  66. The Simulacra, Philip K. Dick
  67. The Penultimate Truth, Philip K. Dick
  68. Dying Inside, Robert Silverberg
  69. The Child Garden, Geoff Ryman
  70. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
  71. A Maze of Death, Philip K. Dick
  72. Tau Zero, Poul Anderson
  73. Rendezvous With Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
  74. Life During Wartime, Lucius Shepard
  75. Camp Concentration, Thomas M. Disch
  76. Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, Kate Wilhelm
  77. 334, Thomas M. Disch
  78. Mockingbird, Walter Tevis

They also have a list of Fantasy Masterworks, similarly listed here behind the cut:

  1. The Book of the New Sun Volume 1: Shadow and Claw, Gene Wolfe
  2. Time and the Gods, Lord Dunsany
  3. The Worm Ouroboros, E.R. Eddison
  4. Tales of the Dying Earth, Jack Vance
  5. Little, Big, John Crowley
  6. The Chronicles of Amber, Roger Zelazny
  7. Viriconium, M. John Harrison
  8. The Conan Chronicles, Volume I: The People of the Black Circle, Robert E. Howard
  9. The Land of Laughs, Jonathan Carroll
  10. The Compleat Enchanter: The Magical Misadventures of Harold Shea, L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt
  11. Lud-in-the-Mist, Hope Mirrlees
  12. The Book of the New Sun Volume 2: Sword and Citadel, Gene Wolfe
  13. Fevre Dream, George R. R. Martin
  14. Beauty, Sheri S. Tepper
  15. The King of Elfland's Daughter, Lord Dunsany
  16. The Hour of the Dragon, Robert E. Howard
  17. Elric, Michael Moorcock
  18. The First Book of Lankhmar, Fritz Leiber
  19. Riddle-Master, Patricia A. McKillip
  20. Time and Again, Jack Finney
  21. Mistress of Mistresses, E.R. Eddison
  22. Gloriana or the Unfulfill'd Queen, Michael Moorcock
  23. The Well of the Unicorn, Fletcher Pratt
  24. The Second Book of Lankhmar, Fritz Leiber
  25. Voice of Our Shadow, Jonathan Carroll
  26. The Emperor of Dreams, Clark Ashton Smith
  27. Lyonesse: Suldrun's Garden, Jack Vance
  28. Peace, Gene Wolfe
  29. The Dragon Waiting, John M. Ford
  30. The Chronicles of Corum, Michael Moorcock
  31. Black Gods and Scarlet Dreams, C.L. Moore
  32. The Broken Sword, Poul Anderson
  33. The House on the Borderland and Other Novels, William Hope Hodgson
  34. The Drawing of the Dark, Tim Powers
  35. Lyonesse II: The Green Pearl and Madouc, Jack Vance
  36. The History of Runestaff, Michael Moorcock
  37. A Voyage to Arcturus, David Lindsay
  38. The Mabinogion, Evangeline Walton (not the translated Welsh legends, which I have read)
  39. Darker Than You Think & Other Novels, Jack Williamson
  40. Three Hearts & Three Lions, Poul Anderson
  41. Grendel, John Gardner
  42. The Iron Dragon's Daughter, Michael Swanwick
  43. WAS, Geoff Ryman
  44. Song of Kali, Dan Simmons
  45. Replay, Ken Grimwood
  46. Sea Kings of Mars and Other Worldly Stories, Leigh Brackett
  47. The Anubis Gates, Tim Powers
  48. The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, Patricia A. McKillip
  49. Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury
  50. The Mark of the Beast and Other Fantastical Tales, Rudyard Kipling

There you have it. If you have thoughts on any of these novels, I'd love to hear them. Thanks!


( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 27th, 2006 10:35 pm (UTC)
We bought all the ones that were out when we were in England (through about #50 of the SF and #25 of the Fantasy) and I had the experience, after reading seven or eight of them, of remarking to J. that I shouldn't have been surprised, but they were all really good :)

Dude, you've never read Dune?! I almost envy you. It's a marvelous read. I think it's one of the few "space operas" that comes closest to not disparaging opera by the comparison.
Jun. 27th, 2006 10:41 pm (UTC)
Um, I've seen the movie? (said sheepishly)

I know, not having read Dune is one of those ommissions I must correct.
Jun. 27th, 2006 11:37 pm (UTC)
Sci-Fi Faves: you will love Dune... Alfred Bester, the Grand Master of Science Fiction, has yet to be topped with his Stars My Destination and Demolished Man... I love Flowers for Algernon, but I think I've only read the short story.

On my personal SF to-read list: The Man in the High Castle, I am Legend, The Dispossessed.

Fantasy Faves: The Chronicles of Amber are phenomenal... the full title of the McKillip is "The Riddle-Master of Hed," right? Oh -- it's an omnibus version of the three books, that makes sense. They're good... I absolutely adore everything by Tim Powers that's on that list (though not everything he's written)... I read Walton's books about the Mabinogion when I was on a Mabiongion kick, but I've forgotten them, though I think they were good...

On my personal SF to-read list: Little, Big, and like half the rest of the list.
Jun. 28th, 2006 12:19 am (UTC)
Thanks! :) I also read the Keyes short story, but never the novel. I would like to. And I think the next time I return to Boston (may happen in a couple of weeks) I'll bring Dune back with me.

I almost bought The Stars, My Destination today. It looked so interesting, but I didn't want to put money on something I knew so little about. But I think I will definitely pick it up at some point.

Others on the SF list that particularly interest me, after reading online reviews, are The Forever War, The Fifth Head of Cerberus, Gateway, Star Maker, Behold the Man, The Book of Skulls, and Timescape (plus the ones I already own, of course).

My good friend JC read The Man in the High Castle a couple of years ago and said he was disappointed. His perspective is that of a history major, politics afficionado, and fan of revisionist history. He was going to give up on Dick until I persuaded him to read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?.

If you don't mind waiting a few months, you can have my copy of Dispossessed when I'm done.
Jun. 28th, 2006 01:17 am (UTC)
I think I do still have The Dispossessed somewhere... not sure if that was my copy or if I borrowed it from my parents.

Gully Foyle is my name,
Terra is my nation.
Deep space is my dwelling place
And death my destination.

Lord I love that book!!!
Jun. 28th, 2006 03:36 am (UTC)
Do buy The Stars My Destination. It's one of the books I make sure to get extra copies of to lend to people. It's overwhelmingly good, in that it'll pick you up and smack you around and rifle through your pockets while you're still reeling, metaphorically speaking.
Jun. 28th, 2006 03:32 am (UTC)
Of the ones you haven't marked, my strongest recommendations are for The Stars My Destination, The Forever War, Babel-17, Gateway, The Demolished Man and Blood Music. All of them are short (by current standards), engaging, and blend good characterization with a flood of ideas. My next rank includes Three Hearts and Three Lions, The Chronicles of Amber, The Space Merchants, Tau Zero, Eon, Nova, The Fountains of Paradise, and Ringworld, which are all good but aren't quite as tight and punchy.

Olaf Stapledon is a fascinating writer in terms of the history of science fiction, with interesting imagery and a huge canvas, but I can't say that anything I've read by him had anything approaching a characterization of an individual. I've read a few of the short stories in The Rediscovery of Man by Smith and I'll bet the rest are very good as well. And I'm feeling a little embarrassed at the number of these books I haven't actually read, starting with The Day of the Triffids and all that Philip K. Dick.
Jul. 3rd, 2006 10:19 pm (UTC)
Some of these I haven't looked at since I was a kid!

I've never been much of a fan of Philip K. Dick, convinced he wrote better titles than stories. I only vaguely recall that I liked Alfred Bester. Theodore Sturgeon (Sturgeon's Law: 99% of anything is crap), Frederik Pohl and Samuel R. Delany were always among my favorites though I could probably not name many of their stories now, or tell you what they were about. Arthur C. Clarke is still considered a deity among authors.

A9. The Forever War was remarkable when it was introduced because it gave a feeling to what happens, what consequences you face, when you move at relativistic speeds. His The Forever Peace is nearly as remarkable in a grim way, very downbeat.

A12. I remember Cities, with its spindizzies. Very minor, but fun.

A32. One of the most immitated of his books, made into several movies, and so on ... rather tedious and pedestrian now.

A34. You don't remember the little mouse, Algernon? It's best not to try the serum that makes you a genius until you see what it does to the mouse.

A39. This one might appeal to you because of its moral analysis.

A57. Grass might be a tough go if you haven't read any previous Tepper stories, as she doesn't always explore the assumptions she carries from one story to another. You would do better to start with a list of her stories, reading those that go together in roughly the sequence she wrote them.

A70. I've recommended this one to you previously: very hard science, by a local San Diegan.

A73. Be sure to read all the sequels, too.

B1 & B12. Gene Wolfe could write about toilet paper and still be interesting, partly because of the way he turns prose about so it seems poetical. Many of the words you'll find here, while seeming invented, are real words this master of the language has ferreted out.

B6 we've discussed.

B8. There were many Conan books, some left unfinished when Robert E. Howard committed suicide relatively young. Many were finished or polished by L. Sprague de Camp before being published.

B10. Despite its title, The Compleat Enchanter is incomplete, containing only three of the original four stories because the fourth was released by a different publisher. The first story is the most enchanting.

B18 & B24. Tales of the Gray Mouser and his sidekick. This is what sword and sorcery is all about.

B40. A pleasing tale of adventure and derring-do.

Some of the oldest stories have spiderwebs on them, compared to what's being produced now. Almost everything on both lists is worth reading, although I'll differ with hotpoint concerning Blood Music which, while readable, threw me off with its many errors.

Several authors not on the list deserve to be read, such as Ray Bradbury, as has been mentioned. Several of the works included are not necessarily the best by particular authors. Still, as a collection, the Masterworks holds up pretty well.
Jul. 3rd, 2006 10:38 pm (UTC)
Re: Booklist
Several authors not on the list deserve to be read, such as Ray Bradbury, as has been mentioned. Several of the works included are not necessarily the best by particular authors.

Yeah, I was a bit surprised by some of the omissions and inclusions. No Asimov? No Tolkien or Lewis? All that Dick? (I've read one Dick novel and enjoyed it thoroughly, but I can't imagine that many of his titles deserving to be on the list.) Where's Stranger in a Strange Land? Ender's Game. But I agree that it seems to be an impressive list. If there's any you feel I should read, feel free to use amazon.co.uk to send me a gift. ;)

As for Algernon, I do remember the short story quite well, but I have not read the novel, seen the movie, seen/read the play, nor seen the musical!
Jul. 3rd, 2006 11:02 pm (UTC)
Re: Booklist
Do they have this collection? Or do you have a wish list there?
Jul. 3rd, 2006 11:12 pm (UTC)
Re: Booklist
I can create a wishlist there. Probably not a bad idea anyway, even if you can't get any of the books.
Jul. 4th, 2006 06:46 am (UTC)
Re: Booklist
I'll have to see what I already have on my bookshelves here before I do anything. Delia has been organizing the garage lately, so I may be able to find stuff again.
Jul. 4th, 2006 09:23 am (UTC)
Re: Booklist
I've created a wishlist on Amazon that I'll be posting soon. In the meantime, feel free to send stuff along with Cathy when she comes to Boston.
Jul. 4th, 2006 10:08 pm (UTC)
Re: Booklist
I wasn't aware Cathy was going to Boston. She may have told me without it registering. Neither she nor Delia seem to hear when I tell them anything. I wonder how she thinks she can afford it. Since she didn't inform me of the trip, I doubt she'll be willing to do me any favors.
Jul. 4th, 2006 10:22 pm (UTC)
Re: Booklist
She doesn't know when she's going yet. If she wants her Italian citizenship, she has to submit her application at the same time I submit mine, since I have the originals. Once I have all the paperwork, I will inform her when I will be there so that she can buy her ticket.
Jul. 6th, 2006 01:49 am (UTC)
Re: Booklist
I'm searching for books. I think some of them may be in the area above my closet, which Delia has blocked by piles of ... stuff. Others are probably in the garage.
Jul. 6th, 2006 01:53 am (UTC)
Re: Booklist
Cool. Thanks.
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )

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