Sunday, September 03, 2006

Ten Best SF Novels

I'm usually dubious of any claims about the ten best of anything but Orion Books' Ten Best SF Novels somehow lives up to that expectation. They made the bulk of my purchases at the book fair last week.

At close to P300 per copy, counting the discount, they certainly didn't come cheap. But the authors were all classic: Alfred Bester, Kurt Vonnegut, Richard Matheson, Frederick Pohl, James Blish, and a few other stellar names from yesteryear. The unusual packaging also helped a great deal: each book had a plain paper hardstock cover, dominated by a single color, offset only by a small design reflecting the story. Curiously, the corners were rounded, but it was still really classy. I just had to get them.

And I wasn't disappointed. In a span of three days, I had already consumed two novels, Alfred Bester's "The Stars My Destination" (formerly "Tiger! Tiger!") and Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend." They were that good.

Despite having been first published in the late 1950's, these two stories have lost none of their punch nor their inventiveness. Without peeking at the copyright information, you wouldn't even know they were written in another era.

"The Stars My Destination" presages the cyberpunk genre and still manages to outdo the best of the recent work. Would you believe it even incorporates the Matrix's bullet-time? It has everything: corporate chicanery, espionage, class war, teleportation, space travel, time travel, and mental telepathy all strung together in a story that's partly "Count of Monte Cristo" and partly "Crime and Punishment." A lesser writer would have collapsed under all this weight, but in Bester's hands it all comes together brilliantly.

"I Am Legend" is billed as an SF/horror story about the last remaining human survivor in a world of vampires. Yes, it sounds kitschy, but wait till you read it. It's still as gripping as ever in its exploration of human psychology. The action sequences are nothing to sneeze at, either, no doubt inspiring George Romero's zombie movies and Resident Evil.

I can't wait to get started on the other books in the series. The complete list:
  • The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin
  • The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
  • I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
  • Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
  • The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
  • Ubik by Philip K. Dick
  • Gateway by Frederick Pohl
  • Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  • Cities in Flight by James Blish

  • All the more surprising is that the books came in by way of National Bookstore and not through Powerbooks or Fully Booked. Yup, you won't find this collection elsewhere. A lot of that is thanks to the efforts of National's new purchaser Lola Tumaneng (some Filipino sci-fi fans might recognize her as the Snow Queen from the last New Worlds conference), who's a real sci-fi/fantasy buff. She's also brought in some other Hugo award winners.

    If you're into sci-fi, take a quick look at National shelves and see what new goodies you'll find. The discount sale goes on till September 16.


    1. Hm, I think the only one I read in this set was Flowers for Algernon. I think I'll hand over my geek badge now.

    2. Oh, don't be too hard on yourself. Like you, all I had read before was "Flowers for Algernon" (and I just had to buy that.) Buy or borrow the rest, have a good read.

    3. Ok, time to update my Library reservation list.. Thanks for this, Doms. I may be naysaying in my previous comment but I'm more than happy to be proved wrong! :)