Austin American-Statesman from Austin, Texas on August 12, 1986 · 58
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Austin American-Statesman from Austin, Texas · 58

Austin, Texas
Issue Date:
Tuesday, August 12, 1986
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Onward Tuesday, August 12, 1986 British editor compiles succinct list 12 of iavdntes By Michael Point David Pringle, the respected editor of two leading British science fiction publications, is the latest to undertake the thankless task of assembling a list of 100 greatest literary works. Such highly subjective lists are always inviting targets for critical sniping, but Pringle's succeeds more often than it fails and that makes it a valuable tool as well as an interesting read. Although the list raises as many questions as it answers, it is a thought-provoking and easily accessible examination of the modern science fiction novel. It should appeal to those knowledgeable about -SF and serve as a primer for those interested in exploring the genre. As such it's an endlessly entertaining and educational volume. Pringle's 100 best are drawn from the modern era of the genre, 1949-1984, so classic works by Jules Verne, Karel Capek, H.G Wells and Olaf Stapledon were not included. Pringle admits the choice of a starting date was somewhat arbitrary, arrived at partly by his contention that the modern SF boom began that year as well as his desire to begin the list with a strong and universally recognized masterwork. Thus George Orwell's classic 1984 leads the selections. William Gibson's multiaward-winning Neruoman-cer, another choice of irrefutable excellence, serves as the omega to Orwell's alpha. Pringle's succinct summaries pull no punches and that makes his mini-essays delightful to read even if you have long since formed your own opinion of the book in question. His description of the Larry Niven Jerry Pournelle writing duo "stalwarts of the New Right in American science fiction. Their SF tends to be technophilic, militaristic, and relentlessly hard-headed" is perfectly on target, if a bit belligerent. Other comments are e-qually sharp and concise, demonstrating that Pringle is a tough and usually fair judge un- p baaitffiy'--- niiTMiW aaai&-ll-. ' " :.. J And last but not least, it's time for the monthly reminder that Arma-dilloCon 8, Austin's homegrown science fiction convention, is scheduled for Oct 10-12 with William Gibson, of Neuromancer and Count Zero renown, as guest of honor. For more information on the convention call 443-3491 or write to P.O. Box 9612, Austin 78766. Michael Point is a member of the Science Fiction Writers of America. THE 100 BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVELS By David Pringle 224 pp. Carroll & Graf, $14.95 swayed by the sort of literary hero worship that often permeates such lists. The first thing American SF fans will notice is that the selections have a distinctly British angle. Authors like Ian Watson, John Christopher, Keith Roberts, J.G. Ballard, and Brian Aldiss are repeatedly mentioned, an understandable though unfortunate failing. Pringle plainly stretched his aesthetic guidelines a bit to include some authors, admitting that it is their overall body of work he's recognizing and not the particular novel listed. Several ackowledged masters of the short story form, writers like James Tiptree and Harlan Ellison are excluded by the format, and there are many curious selections that are supposedly representative of an author's style. Pringle, however, does an admirable job of drawing attention to SF written outside the genre; listing ti- Science fiction Philip K. Dick, center, is well-represented in David Pringle's list of the 100 best science fiction novels of the modern era, but both David Brin, left, and and Stanislaw Lem are left out of his list. beyond the writing of his native land, include Philip K. Dick, who leads the list with six novels. As a fellow fan of Dick's hallucinogenic prose I don't argue much with that although it seems that strict objectivity may have been put aside in this case. My list would probably fall into a similar trap, no doubt including multiple titles by one of my personal favorites, Barry Malzberg, who is represented only by a minor work. ties by authors like John Calvin Bat-chelor, Kurt Vonnegut, William S. Burroughs, William Golding, Anthony Burgess and Russell Hoban. Thus novels like A Clockwork Orange, Cat's Cradle and The Inheritors receive their just due although there are obvious omissions (Al-dous Huxley's Ape and Essence would seem deserving), nevertheless. Most, if not all, SF readers will miss titles they considered mandatory components of such a list. Without digging through my bookshelves, Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light, Robert Silverberg's Dying Inside, Stanislaw Lem's Solaris, David Brin's Startide Rising and Ursula K. Le Guinn's Lathe of Heaven come to mind as titles that would figure prominently on my list. Pringle does an adequate job of naming other worthy titles, including books like Canticle for Leibo-witz, Childhood's End, A Case of Conscience and Bug Jack Barron, whose omission would seriously injure the credibility of his list. Pringle's personal preferences, Pringle's foreword mentions that his 101st choice would be Austinite Bruce Sterling's Schismatrix, the type of adventurous writing he says he admires, a fact that his fondness for Philip K. Dick solidly reinforces. With the recent flowering of a new generation of SF adventurers it would be highly intriguing to see Pringle revise the book in a decade or so. That would give him an opportunity to jettison some of the "seminal works" that are not standing the test of time in favor of modern masterpieces like Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, Lucius She-pard's Green Eyes and Greg Bear's Blood Music. Begin a lifetime of great tasting nutrition. 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