David Pringle’s “Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels”

Did some sci-fi research today and realized I had not endorsed my first-grab book of criticism: David Pringle’s Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels

These one-or-two page evaluations are far from all raves, which I consider a plus.

They have a blended British and American perspective, which I consider a very fine thing. (I loathe this business of trying to make sci-fi an America-first genre, down to the ugly suggestion that H.G. Wells did not write “science fiction” because the term hadn’t been invented yet!)

It covers books published from 1949 (1984) to hawhaw 1984 (Neuromancer). Sure it wants an update, but you could make a persuasive case that the rocket started to run outta gas around the time it closes the curtain.

Anyway, here’s the list itself.

I cannot recommend this enough to sci-fi fans. Those who are uncertain should try to find an excerpt or two to see if you match up well enough with Pringle’s outlooks. I agree with him about, oh, 70% of the time. But I understand and respect every one of his arguments.


Of the books on the list I have read here’s my selection of the Top 12 Most Unjustly Neglected:

Earth Abides by George R. Stewart
The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester
The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl
A Mirror for Observers by Edgar Pangborn
The Door into Summer by Robert A. Heinlein (his one great, halfway tolerable even, work)
Norstrilia by Cordwainer Smith
Camp Concentration by Thomas M. Disch
Bug Jack Barron by Norman Spinrad
Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy
Engine Summer by John Crowley
On Wings of Song by Thomas M. Disch
Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban

3 thoughts on “David Pringle’s “Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels”

  1. There was a semi follow-up book by Paul di Filippo and Damien Broderick with a forward by Pringle called “Science Fiction: The 101 Best Novels 1985 – 2010”.

    Also – a shout out for Pringle’s “”Modern Fantasy: the 100 Best Novels”, which sorts through that usually-disparaged genre and comes up with a lot of good stuff – much like the Science Fiction book does.

    • Yowsah! I did not know Pringle also did a Fantasy book — the one I have from the old series is by James Cawthorn and Michael Moorcock. It’s more of an all-over-the-place operation — “Moby Dick” is a fantasy novel? — but it did introduce me to William Sloane, who deserves his own Halloween-reading blog post.

  2. I highly recommend his Fantasy book – as you said, it’s the fact they’re not just raves that makes you sit up and take notice. Also turned me on to Lisa Goldstein’s THE DREAM YEARS, which I’m always surprised to NOT find references to in punk histories that take a Situationalist slant on things.

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