Reading Through the [Alleged] Top 100 Science Fiction Novels- #76-80

I’m a huge science fiction fan, but realized I haven’t read a lot of those works considered classics or greats. I decided to remedy that, and found a list online of the Top 100 Science Fiction Books. The list is determined by vote from sci-fi fans online, so it may change over time. I am going off the order of the list as it was when I first saw it. Each book will receive a grade between F and A+ as well as very brief comments. I’m interested to read what you think about these books as well. There will be very minor spoilers in some of these.

76. The Fifth Head of Cerberus by Gene Wolfe Grade: B-
“As I read this, I understood how beautiful it was, and how it could easily be among others’ favorites. I’m not sure if it’s just the mood I was in, or what, but I could not get into it. The style seemed much more interested in prose than in telling the story, and that made it difficult to get into. Of the three novellas included here, I enjoyed the third the most, with its tie-ins to the previous ones. I suspect on a re-read I might enjoy it more, so I should get back around to it someday.”

77. Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis Grade: B+
“Several parts of it seem dated–particularly the narration style, which draws heavily from H.G. Wells. Many good ideas are here, however, which make up for a somewhat disappointing lack of characterization given Lewis’ immense success at the same task in his Chronicles of Narnia. I enjoyed the different types of aliens, as well as the adventuresome plot. It’s a good, but not superb book.”

78. Ilium by Dan Simmons Grade: A
“A futuristic-ish reinvisioning of Homer’s epic with robots, insane technology, aliens, and more? Yeah, only Simmons could pull this off and not utterly destroy the source material. It’s not quite at the transcendent level of Hyperion, but it is simply phenomenal nonetheless. The different strands of the story get pulled together in surprising and satisfying ways, and it sets up for a sequel in a perfect fashion. I’m hoping the sequel will be just as good.”

79. The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick Grade: C-
“The later in Dick’s career I get on this list, the less I like his novels. Thankfully, he actually constructed an attempt at a story with characters for this one. The problem is that the characters and plot aren’t very compelling. It’s one of those books you finish and you think: ‘Well, that was okay, I guess.’ And really, that’s all this book was. Okay.”

80. Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan Grade: A
“It’s a sci-fi noir novel. Does there need to be any other reason to read it? Oh, yeah, and it’s a satisfying mystery, too. I forgot to mention that the science fiction aspects of it actually lend themselves to the mystery without feeling like they were invented merely to make the mystery easier to solve or make sense. It’s pretty fantastic. The reason I marked it down is because I think the sheer amount of explicit sex and extreme violence was overdone. Unlike many books, both make sense for the sake of the plot, but that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy reading them. Apart from those aspects, this novel was superb, and I think most readers would agree.”


J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

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Reading through the [Alleged] Best 100 Science Fiction Books– Check out more posts in this series as I continue.


Fiction can change your life. Also, answer me this.

matildaFiction can change your life.  Here, I’m specifically talking about books. It’s actually very easy: you read a book and you yourself are an open book, ready to ingest what the book tells you. You may not do it uncritically, but fiction has a way of catching you unawares.

I also know that fiction can change your life because it has done so for me. It has done so at least three times in major ways. The first was the book Matilda by Roald Dahl, which I consider one of the greatest masterpieces of children’s literature. The way that it changed my life was by opening my mind to a new understanding of the power of books to bring about emotions and love. Matilda was, for me,  almost an avatar of myself in literature. Her love of books mirrored my own. Did I have special powers? No. Was I in a horrible family situation? Absolutely not, my family is and was amazing. What Matilda did for me was to make me realize that the love of books was something almost necessary to my existence. It created in me a desire for fiction that still cannot be satiated. I admit that I have read this book more than any other. I think I have read it easily over 100 times. I used to grab it and a cup of tea (just like Matilda did!) when I was young and sit in my mom’s office at school and read the whole thing.

Another  book that changed my life was C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. I read this when I first began thinking very seriously about faith and Christianity in particular. I remember seeing this book in my dad’s collection and on others’ shelves, but always thought that it was just some boring old book about religion. Who cared? I read the book and realized that religion touches on every aspect of life. Lewis, for me, awakened a love of reading books about Christianity and religion, and he opened the doors for philosophy of religion as well. This fictional book has very much shaped my life in many ways over the past several years. Were it not for this book I probably would not be writing on Christian philosophy and apologetics at my other site.

ben hur bookFinally, the masterful Ben-Hur by Lew Wallace, a book which continues to inspire my vision of life.  Ben Hur is my favorite movie of all time, but I had never read the book. I mean the thing was written in 1880, so I figured that it didn’t really have any relevance today. How wrong I was. The book is simply astonishing in its scope. The tumultuous action, the beauty of romance, the bitterness of revenge, and the trials of faith are all portrayed vividly by Wallace throughout. However, it wasn’t so much the story itself that inspired me, but the fact that it opened my mind up to a whole new reality: books that weren’t written during my lifetime are relevant and awesome. I know, this seems absurd to deny, but it is easy to fall into this feeling that only those things written now are good. The things written in the past are just old fashioned and out of date. Ben-Hur changed that for me. It gripped me throughout and delighted me. I now often read “old” books and find I enjoy them greatly–often more than modern works of fiction and non-fiction.

Now, answer me this: have you ever read a book that has changed your life? If so, which book was it? How did it change your life. Leave me a comment to let me know. I want to know!