Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Don't Pretend, Actually Read Them

An interesting list from io9, listing '10 Science Fiction novels you pretend to read, and why you should actually read them'.  The idea is that these are books that people have and talk about but haven't actually read through.  Here is the list, with my comments:
  • Cryptonomicon, Stephenson - A very long book with lots of interesting stuff.  A bit weak on the ending.  I've read it twice and almost certainly will again at some point.  
  • Dune, Herbert - I'm surprised that this is on the list as plenty have people 'actually' read it.  It didn't tickle me but I've read it.  From what I understand the sequels aren't nearly as good and I've avoided them.
  • Gravity's Rainbow, Pynchon - I've tried one of Pynchon's books, 'V'.  Got about sixty pages in and put it down, maybe forever.  'Rainbow' has a reputation for being impossible to finish.  I would need some major convincing before I'd even pick this up.
  • Foundation, Asimov - Another one that I'm surprised to see on the list.  I've read the three original Foundation books and I'd certainly recommend them.  The writing is strong without being overwhelming.  The books are really collections of short stories so pacing is no problem.
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Clarke - This is a big book that won the Hugo award in the mid 00's.  I've got it on my shelf and will absolutely get to it at some time.  The story is about rediscovering magic in England and it looks very good.
  • 1984, Orwell - This is one of the most talked about books of the 20th century and I don't really have a feel for how many of those talkers have actually read it.  I haven't done so in at least ten years.  Probably time to do so again.
  • First and Last Men; Starmaker, Stapledon - These are a pair of important early sci-fi books from the 30's.  I've never read them and frankly, haven't heard much discussion of them.  I'm sure they're worth it.
  • The Long Tomorrow, Brackett - A post nuclear war novel from the 50's.  I've never heard of this before so I'm wildly unable to comment on it.  
  • Dhalgren, Delaney - This one I've heard of but haven't read.  I think I'll put it on my 'look for' list.  Samuel Delaney is one of those authors that I should probably read more of.
  • Infinite Jest, Wallace - Another huge book.  I've got it on my shelf but haven't read it (yet).  I hear glowing reviews from those who have.  
These books fall pretty heavily into two categories: old and/or long.  It's not hard to see why a more casual fan hasn't read them.  Or has started them but never finished.  The thing about a long book is that at some point it has to justify its length.  I'll fight through the first fifty or a hundred pages of a difficult book but after that there simply must be some payoff or I'll move on.  Life is too short and there are too many other books that I want to get to.

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