So, yesterday I declared that Elizabeth Moon’s Speed of Dark is, in my opinion, one of the great science fiction novels of all time. Naturally I now feel I should place it in the context of a top ten list.
This is not a list of “most popular” or “most well known” or “most frequently considered great.” I’m not sure how far off the beaten track I’ll get with all these entries, but I’m pretty sure the discerning reader will notice that I admire sociological science fiction.
I’m not going to try to sort anything out within this list. All of these are great books, full stop. I don’t even care whether or not they had a marked impact on the genre; I’m judging the books solely in themselves. Also, I don’t generally like grim tragedies, so I haven’t read Hyperion or various others that often get picked out for lists of this kind. I’m sure it’s brilliant, but obviously I have to stick to books I’ve actually read. Not only that, but loved enough to read several times, so I remember them and appreciate them — unlike The Diamond Age by Stephenson, which I only read once.
In other words, like all lists of this kind, this one is a personal list, even though I’m trying to pick only objectively great books. These are also all science fiction because in this list, I’m steering clear of fantasy.
1. The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon.
2. Cyteen by CJC
3. Dune by Frank Herbert
4. The Mars trilogy by KSR
5. The Foreigner series by CJC — I know; it’s not necessarily okay to uinclude two works by the same author, but here we are.
6. A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge
7. The Gaia trilogy by John Varley
8. Imperial Radch trilogy by Ann Leckie
9. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Heinlein
10. The rest of these are novels, but for my last pick: The collected short stories by Cordwainer Smith.
I realize that Ursula K LeGuin is a glaring absence. Unfortunately, though they may be great novels, I actually did not like and did not finish either The Dispossessed or Left Hand of Darkness. Beautiful, beautiful writing. But I didn’t connect with any of the characters.
Okay! So, given these lists are inherently personal, which science fiction, not fantasy, novels would you definitely pick for inclusion on a list of top ten greatest science fiction novels ever written?