Friday, March 10, 2006

Sci-fi's great books

The NY Times Book Review has a new science fiction column. Its writer, David Itzkoff, got a rare chance to list his favorite books in the Times--how many people have done that? Everything on his list that I've read (um, three books) I absolutely agree with.

From his column last Sunday:

...what truly shames me is that I cannot turn to any [fellow subway riders], or to my friends, or to you, and say: Whether you read books because you have a genuine, lifelong passion for literature or because a feisty woman in Chicago tells you to — you should pick up this new work of science fiction I just finished reading, because you will enjoy it as much as I did.
Some of the less likely choices on his all-time best list:

  • The Crying of Lot 49 (1965) By THOMAS PYNCHON
    Itzkoff says it's sci-fi.
  • Looking for Jake (2005) By CHINA MIÉVILLE
    Hot young socialist author.
  • Gun, With Occasional Music: A Novel (1994) By JONATHAN LETHEM
    It seems he's quite the sci-fi dork.
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz (1959) By WALTER M. MILLER JR.
    Perhaps the worst title ever.
Blogger Anna on Sat Mar 11, 05:05:00 PM:
Hey, what about Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card? Though the prose lacks polish, I still think it beats out, say, The Crying of Lot 49, if only because its protagonist is not named Oedipa. I admit I don't have that wide a frame of reference with regard to sci-fi, though. I only read Ender's Game because I had become embroiled in a debate over whether sci-fi had anything to contribute to literature, and my oponent finally mailed me his copy in defense of the genre. Having read it, I conceded the argument.
Blogger Ben on Sat Mar 11, 05:56:00 PM:
Ender's Game confused me because I didn't like it until after the first 100 pages. Even after that, Card still inserts frequent chapters that are all-italics and all-exposition. I love the tactics and video game substories, but the treatment of masculinity and confidence seem to me too carefully orchestrated. I've recommended it to people, but it's not the book I'd mail to demonstrate that literature needs sci-fi. Instead I'd send Snow Crash, or VALIS, or the young adult book House of Stairs.