The best…?

by stephenpalmersf

A post following Gary Dalkin’s recent one about great genre novels, in parallel with it…

20th Century SF novel
Gene Wolfe, The Book Of The New Sun
Brian Aldiss, Helliconia Trilogy
Frank Herbert, Dune
John Wyndham, The Day Of The Triffids
Olaf Stapledon, Sirius
M. John Harrison, The Pastel City
Alastair Reynolds, Revelation Space
William Gibson, Neuromancer
Jack Vance, The Dying Earth
Brian Stableford, The Empire Of Fear

Those of you who know a little about me will know my regard for the top three books on this list. Day Of The Triffids was an important one for me, I do love a good apocalypse set in Britain. I read it in my teens, alongside Sirius, The Dying Earth and The Pastel City. Alastair Reynolds’ Revelation Space series was a recent discovery for me, and they’re the best SF I’ve read for a while. Brian Stableford’s The Empire Of Fear is I think his finest novel, and a superb vampire story, set in part in Africa. Neuromancer was also influential on my own work – Memory Seed was described as ‘greenpunk’…

21st Century SF novel
China Mieville, Perdido Street Station
Ian MacLeod, The Light Ages
Jeff Vandermeer, Veniss Underground

I originally picked up Perdido Street Station because of the cover, and I’m glad I did. Mieville was the outstanding genre author of the first decade of this century, though recently I’ve not enjoyed his work.

20th Century Fantasy novel
JRR Tolkien, The Lord Of The Rings
Richard Adams, Watership Down
Jack Vance, Lyonesse Trilogy
Philip Pullman, His Dark Materials
Jorge Luis Borges, Labyrinths
Mervyn Peake, Gormenghast Trilogy
Peter Dickinson, The Weathermonger
Michael DeLarrabeiti, The Borribles Trilogy
Robert Holdstock, Mythago Wood
John Crowley, Little Big

These are mostly unsurprising choices perhaps. The Weathermonger is a YA novel, and was Peter Dickinson’s first published book. Like Day Of The Triffids it is a bit of a disaster novel set in a Britain where technology is removed. It has held a peculiar fascination for me over the decades, and is one of very few books that I regularly re-read. The Borribles Trilogy is another fantastic work, and I well remember Dave Langford’s review of the original book when it first came out. Lyonesse is perhaps Vance’s finest work; for me it is as good as Lord Of The Rings.

21st Century Fantasy novel
Steve Cockayne, Legends Of The Lands Trilogy
Ann Halam, Siberia
Sally Gardner, I Coriander
Jan Mark, Useful Idiots

Ann Halam is better known as Gwyneth Jones – Siberia is a superb novel. I Coriander and Useful Idiots are YA books, though aimed at the upper end of that readership – both exceptional novels. Steve Cockayne’s trilogy has a curious dreamlike atmosphere and a plot that twists and turns in on itself – another outstanding work.