Reading Through the [Alleged] Top 100 Science Fiction Novels- #81-85

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.

81. Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle Grade: C-
“The premise is pretty neat: scattershot a bunch of characters as they face the possibility of a major asteroid strike, then follow those who survive after the strike. The buildup isn’t bad either. It’s interesting to see how the varied characters who are either ‘in the know’ or not deal with the possibility, whether they immediately start stocking up stores or wait till the last day. But there’s something just ‘off’ about a lot of the novel–and part of it is how it treats women. There’s a very dated view of women, as if they automatically need to be protected when society collapses because they’re helpless. Sure, not all of them are portrayed as helpless, but men take charge anyway. I also thought the creepy storyline with the voyeur man was unnecessary and, again, degraded women by effectively treating women as sex objects exclusively. The other problem is that the last third of the book is kind of ho-hum. It’s like a survival novel but there’s not much in the way of environmental hazards after the initial disaster strikes. I felt there should be a lot more tension and chaos, but there wasn’t. Merely okay.”

82. The Chrysalids by John Wyndham Grade: A
“A haunting sense of foreboding similar to that of The Giver fills the first several chapters, followed up with a riveting story of flight from pursuers. The action is good, not great, but the central message: that we should not denigrate/hate/fear those who are different from ourselves is beautifully and subtly conveyed. For that message alone, it was getting high marks, but the intensity of the whole work–the feeling it gives that somehow, something is quite wrong about everything–pushes it even higher. An excellent, pithy read.”

83. Have Space-Suit – Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein Grade: C-
“The beginning of this book excited me. Yes, it was cheesy and very 1950s, but it was also sort of delightful: a young boy wants to go to the moon so he spends a bunch of time composing jingles for a soap company contest. Nice. I also thought the descriptions of ‘dad’ were great–he’s crazy, but not bad crazy. Just peculiar. But then aliens and weirdness and the book went off the rails of what I expected to happen entirely. Sometimes that’s good. Here it just seemed sort of silly. Great first 80 pages or so. After that, it just goes downhill.”

84. Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott Grade: B+
“It’s fascinating as a work of conceptualizing worlds starkly different from our own. Moreover, it pushes readers to think about our own assumptions about reality and how they might constrain our vision both literally and figuratively. It lacks much by way of character development, but makes up for it by being so unique that I didn’t mind. A fascinating, surprising read.”

85. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins Grade: A
“There’s a reason so many people are cashing in on YA Dystopic novels. Collins created a surprising, but familiar world that forces readers to question everything. More importantly, she made endearing and enduring characters with realistic motivations and heart-capturing moments. It’s full of action, strife, and big ideas, just like the best science fiction. What’s more, Katniss Everdeen feels as real as the people you talk to every day. She is fully fleshed out in a manner not typical for some science fiction. Really, this is a superb book.”

Links

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!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

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

SDG.

Finished the Hunger Games

Everyone’s been talking about it. The Hunger Games. My wife and a friend read them all about a month ago and once I finished the latest sci-fi book I had been working on I picked up the first one. I couldn’t put it down and spent a day and a half finishing them all (with some time in-between for homework). I can’t wait for the movie.

Now I’ve reflected with spoilers in another post (see my “Christian Reflection on the Hunger Games Trilogy“), but for now I want to have a brief spoiler-free discussion. I want to provide a quick bit of overview for readers interested in the books or wondering about getting them for their children.

I think the books are fantastic. They’re well-written and engaging. Readers will be instantly sucked in to the plot and won’t be able to stop until they’ve gone through them all. I do recommend them. Are they the next Harry Potter? In some ways, yes. The books are just as easy to get sucked in to, just as memorable, and have a long term impact. But in some ways, no. First, they’ve all been written, so [speaking for myself and, I suspect, many others] it’s not going to be year after year waiting for each one to come out, anticipating them as they come. They aren’t as long as the Harry Potter books, either, and can be finished even more quickly.

What Suzanne Collins does well, however, is spin a suspenseful tale. The books are written in first person, from the perspective of Katniss Everdeen. The Hunger Games is an annual tournament in which the Capitol collects 2 children from the 12 districts of Panem (the mini-country that has risen from the dust of several wars) and makes them battle to the death. Why? Because about 74 years ago, the districts revolted against the Capitol. The Capitol won and the Hunger Games serve as an annual reminder of the Capitol’s might.  Katniss is, herself, very likable. One can’t help but relate to her as the story continues. The plot of the trilogy follows this story to an epic conclusion, and all I can say is that it is definitely worth readers’ time to pick them up. I have a few concerns, but I don’t want to spoil anything. I’ll link to my spoileriffic reflections when they go live.

I would caution readers who are thinking about getting the books for their kids. They are very, very violent. Children are killed. And it’s never explicit, but some sexual exploitation is acknowledged. These are not books to go and get for your 7-year-old. I do think they might become a new mainstay for high school reading. They are books that will encourage people to read, just as Harry Potter did. And regardless of one’s perspective, I think that getting people reading is always a good thing.

Those are my initial thoughts on the series. Check out my expanded and spoiler-filled reflection here.