Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Famous novels face off

Via File 770, a series of contests apparently ran through 2015 (I missed all of this), in which one well known and much loved book went head-to-head against another.

Novels on her community-sourced lists would be paired against each other — how did the dice know which pairings could produce the maximum angst, forcing fans to pick between two favorites? The winners advanced through the brackets, the results of each heat delivered with Kyra’s humorous commentary, until we knew which work had been crowned The Best by File 770 commenters.

Or, as is noted later in the post:

And there you have it. Once again, a double digit number of people on the internet has registered its clearly immutable judgment!

Here are some of the results:

For 20th century SF:

◾WINNER: Ursula K. Le Guin: The Left Hand of Darkness – 31 votes
◾Mary Shelley: Frankenstein – 15 votes

I’m pretty sure I’d agree with that, though actually it’s been a VERY long time since I read either work, so I can’t guarantee it. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have picked Frankenstein to head off against Left Hand, though. Why not Dune? Or Cyteen?

For 20th century fantasy:

The Lord of the Rings defeated everything, but sometimes by a tiny margin:

◾WINNER: The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien – 38
◾The Tombs of Atuan, Ursula K. Le Guin – 36

◾WINNER: The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien – 36
◾Small Gods, Terry Pratchett – 35

◾WINNER: The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien – 37
◾The Last Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle – 34

◾WINNER: The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien – 44
◾Nine Princes in Amber, Roger Zelazny – 27

Wow, some tough choices there. I mean, I personally didn’t care much for Small Gods, but I’d have had a tough time with The Last Unicornpairing. And Tombs is my favorite by LeGuin. Nine Princes was fun, but I can’t see it winning this kind of contest.

21st century fantasy:

◾WINNER: The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison – 28 votes
◾Paladin of Souls, Lois McMaster Bujold – 23 votes

Wow, what a tough choice! Though am I alone in preferring The Curse of Chalion to Paladin? Despite a) the fact that Bujold cheated a bit with her prophecy in Curse, and b) the understanding that there is a truly sublime moment in Paladin.

21st century SF

◾WINNER: Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie – 32 votes
◾Anathem, Neal Stephenson – 8 votes
◾Diplomatic Immunity, Lois McMaster Bujold – 3 votes

I would never have picked Diplomatic Immunity to pair against anything. Not that I disliked it, but why not A Civil Campaign? Or which Vorkosigan book do you all think is actually the best?

When Ancillary Justice was removed, btw, the other two swapped places. I’ve never read Anathem, so I can’t really comment, but Stephenson has in the past not really worked for me as a reader.

I’m not sure what I would have headed against Ancillary Justice, but I feel there are better choices — I mean of course choices that would make this head-to-head contest more difficult for me personally. I’ll have to think about it. Possibilities that occur to me right off include A Darkling Sea by Cambias and 2313 by Kim Stanley Robinson — even though I believe I would go, in the end, for Ancillary Justice before either of those.

Anyway, fun set of contests, and I see from File 770’s post that various other people have done similar head-to-head cage matches between SF and fantasy movies, too, which I gather will be appearing in File 770 posts shortly.

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7 Comments Famous novels face off

  1. Craig

    The most successful 21st century SF novel so far is clearly THE MARTIAN, although it’s tough to compare it with ANCILLARY JUSTICE because their ambitions are so different.

    I’d feel better about DUNE as best 20th century SF than anything else I can think of.

    (And FRANKENSTEIN obviously shouldn’t be on the list, because it was published in 1818. I mean, seriously, what were they thinking?)

  2. Elaine T

    I prefer both CURSE and HUNT to PALADIN. There’s nothing wrong with paladin’s story, it just doesn’t catch me the way the other two do.

    The best Vorkorsiverse story is usually the one I read most recently (except for the Ivan story). Let me see if I can do italics… A Civil Campaign was published in 1999 so it didn’t fit the criteria.

  3. pete mack

    Left Hand isn’t even LeGuin’s best, IMO. On a different note, your books page has Fall 2015 as publication date.

  4. Rachel

    Elaine, you prefer The Hallowed Hunt, really? That’s one I really wouldn’t put in my top ten Bujold novels.

    Also, humph. I don’t care whether A Civil Campaign was published a year too early. I hereby declare it’s the one I would use to represent Bujold’s Vorkosigan books. Though I grant, readers already familiar with the Vorkosigan universe are almost certain to like A Civil Campaign better than those who don’t.

  5. Elaine t

    As a novel it has problems, but I like Ingrey and his Lord, and Biast and Hallana, and Horseriver and the ghosts, and the haunted wood…
    I barely remember the characters of Paladin . shrug.. I have no idea why, really, though I’ve reread Paladin trying to figure it out. But it just doesn’t work for me.

  6. Mary Anne

    I like Curse the best of the Five Gods books, because….Caz. One of my favorite characters ever. For pure fun, and because it is so hugely satisfying at so many different moments, A Civil Campaign is on my Vorkosigan pinnacle – but it shares space with (depending on mood) Memory, Warrior’s Apprentice and Mirror Dance.

  7. Rachel

    I find the beginning of Mirror Dance almost unbearable and almost always start it when Mark first meets Cordelia. So there’s that. Warrior’s Apprentice is definitely one of my favorites.

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