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25 June, 2008

SFX Top 100 Fantasy/SF Authors, pt.2

This is part 2 of the 'SFX Top 100 Fantasy/SF Authors' meme; I've already listed the 67 authors rated amongst the most popular in the UK but which are unfamiliar to me or whose 'work' I strongly dislike.  That leaves 33 authors worthy of comment, which is still quite a few; certainly more than would prove an indifference or downright dislike of the sci-fi or fantasy genres.

100. James Herbert
Meh. The few books I've read were okay, in a lightweight 'airport reading' kind of way.

94. Ken MacLeod
My favourite socialist-in-space, though if you're tempted to buy his 'The Human Front' novella as an inexpensive sample of his writing, don't.

91. Jon Courtenay Grimwood
Amongst my favourite sci-fi authors; I provided a few comments on his books whilst reviewing 'Stamping Butterflies' in 2005.

80. Joe Haldeman
It's compulsory to read 'The Forever War', right?

78. George Orwell
The name of this website is a subtle hint as to whether 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' influenced my world-view....

72. Susanna Clarke
'Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell' was excellent, not least for the conceit of setting the authorial voice in the 19th Century, but 'The Ladies of Grace Adieu' was stran... er, oddly unsatisfying.
I was surprised to see Clarke rated so strongly as a 'fantasy' novelist, though I suppose elves are a rather major aspect of her fictional world.

71. Stanisław Lem
I'm only familiar with 'Solaris', and wouldn't have managed it without the film (the other film is not bad, by the way), but it's stayed with me.

49. H.P. Lovecraft
Interesting ideas and massively influential – cyclopean, even – but very few of the individual stories are actually any good: most are turgid and formulaic, even if one credits him with defining the formula.

48. Mervyn Peake
If I hadn't lived with his granddaughter at university, I doubt I'd have attempted 'Gormenghast', and I still haven't got very far: his use of language is stunning, but that doesn't make it particularly readable.

47. Jules Verne
Wonderful stories, and surprisingly readable.

46. Alastair Reynolds
At first, I had mixed feelings about his books, even dismissing 'Revelation Space', but somehow they won me over, and I appreciate the hard sci-fi hidden inside the space opera settings. 'Chasm City' might be my favourite of the six I've read, and I'm quite pleased to have two more of his novels in my 'to read' pile.

45. Neal Stephenson
I don't consistently have a single favourite author, but Stephenson might well qualify, from the exhilarating (if overly-expositional) 'Snow Crash' to the elaborate 'Baroque Cycle'.

44. Clive Barker
I haven't read many of his stories, but the iconic puzzle box and Cenobites of 'The Hellbound Heart' are wonderful creations.

39. Michael Moorcock
Seminal, though I tend to favour such 'non-genre' novels as 'Mother London'.

37. Alan Moore
I'm only familiar with his 'The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen' graphic novels and (without knowing who'd written them), his 2000AD strips, but they're impressive.

29. Anne McCaffrey
I read a few of her books in my teens and assume I enjoyed them (though plainly not enough to remember whether I did) but, without wishing to criticise, I don't think books about dragons would grab me nowadays.

27. William Gibson
Excellent. I just wish he was more prolific! If I had to choose one favourite, it'd be 'Idoru'.

25. CS Lewis
I enjoyed his Narnia books as a child (without being aware of the christian subtext), but haven't re-read them within the past couple of decades.

23. John Wyndham
Probably my first exposure to post-apocalyptic fiction and the idea that the best sci-fi is about believable people reacting reasonably to extraordinary situations, not just cyphers inexplicably destroying shiny spaceships.
Curiously, I remember that 'The Chrysalids' was once amongst my favourite books, but now have negligible memories of the content. I'll have to dig out my copy.

20. Stephen King
I don't associate King with the sci-fi or fantasy genres, but I quite like his rambling style and characterisation. Though it's been a few years since I read any of his books, I recall 'The Stand' as a highlight.

18. Arthur C. Clarke
Again, I encountered several of Clarke's books in my teens but haven't felt a need to revisit any.

16. J.K. Rowling
Entertaining but curiously unmemorable – hardly challenging or thought-provoking.

14. Frank Herbert
'Dune' was wonderful; few authors realise a world and culture so thoroughly. The sequels were... challenging, but intermittently good.

13. Peter F. Hamilton
'Mindstar Rising' was... okay. I understand it was his first (successful) novel, so I might try something from later in his career, to see if his writing really developed.

11. Ursula K. LeGuin
I've read one of the Hainish novels, but I forget which, and didn't feel any urge to explore others.

10. Robert Rankin
I read 'The Antipope' a long time ago (1992?). I didn't rate it at all: too much like a Douglas Adams imitation, and I don't particularly like Adams' writing.

9. H.G. Wells
Another author whose writing I discovered when I was too young to appreciate it, and to which I've yet to return, but I can hardly fail to be aware of his work via its influences on others. [And that was a truly horrible sentence.]

8. Philip K. Dick
Unsurprisingly, I know his work best via numerous film adaptations, so have greater awareness of his excellent ideas than his own prose. I remember reading 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?'; I preferred 'Blade Runner', but that's hardly a fair comparison.

7. Iain M. Banks
Highly recommended. Excellent ideas, a well-rounded culture (called the Culture) and very well written.
Favourite? Probably 'Excession'.

4. Douglas Adams
I liked 'The Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy', but thought the few substantial jokes were wearing thin by 'The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe' and I haven't liked any of his other books, partly because they seemed to lack coherence and partly because they were so appallingly middle-class English.

3. Neil Gaiman
Mr. G. is everywhere (as reflected by his holding the top two places in a Google search for simply 'Neil'), but I favour his novels (especially 'American Gods' and my first ever exposure to his work, well before I knew his name, 'Neverwhere'), the 'The Sandman' graphic novel and his near-daily blog.

2. J.R.R. Tolkien
Hmm. I love the content of 'Lord Of The Rings', to the extent that I loathe the films, but on re-reading, I'm increasingly finding Tolkien's prose style rather cringeworthy.

1. Terry Pratchett
I'm very glad to see Pratchett at no.1, not only because I enjoy his writing tremendously but because his work epitomises what I want from the very best sci-fi or fantasy: realistic people acting realistically in a realistic setting. I don't particularly like the earliest Discworld books, but novels like 'The Fifth Elephant' are far more substantive and stereotype-subverting; one genuinely cares about Sam Vimes.

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