A nerd’s litany.

Who can resist a list? NPR has come out with a list of the best sf/fantasy books of all time:

What do you think? What’s missing that deserves to be on there? Which of the listed items suck?

Here are some comments, though given the size of the list I’ll probably have to do more than one entry:

1 The Lord Of The Rings
by J.R.R. Tolkien

You know this one already–FWIW, Tolkien really was a distinguished medievalist, and you can get a lot of insight into his fiction by reading his influential article “Beowulf: the Monsters and the Critics.”  Also, I gather that he and CS Lewis were often at odds, which wins him points in my book.  But I confess I would be more likely to return to the LOTR movies than the books.

2 The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy
Douglas Adams

I know I’m supposed to have read this, and that’s probably what keeps me from reading it.  Much beloved (by nerds, but on this list the “by nerds” goes without saying).

Weird to see this one so high, but we met a dog named Ender the other day, so clearly it has a following.  An engaging story, a video-game player’s dream of power, though the author’s Mormonism seeps in at the edges in a way that unsettles me.

by Frank Herbert

I got through a couple of these, so they must have piqued my interest; the stuff with the desert and worms and spice is pretty cool, but my overall memory is of a certain pomposity and self-importance, and characters who become less interesting as you get to know them.

by George R.R. Martin

I just whipped through four volumes of this series, which means over 3000 pages.  I would compare Martin to Stephen King in his craftsmanship, his ability to keep you interested in what will happen next to the characters.  He’s definitely less self-indulgent than King became in his Dark Tower books, with all that silly stuff about the galactic turtle.  For the most part, Martin does a good job of using point of view (the limited knowledge of each character) to create suspense, rather than lazy theatrical tricks. 

He began to slip in the fourth volume, and also spent a lot of time on characters nobody cares about; I think he enjoys beginnings more than endings, and can’t come to grips with the need to start moving toward a climax.  A definite P.

6 1984

by George Orwell

Embarrassed not to have read this one.  I admire Orwell a lot as someone who tried to live honestly according to his ideas and, unlike so many lefties in those days, saw Stalin for the murderous cretin that he was.

to be continued…I’ll leave you with this song, whose refrain, “If you walk without rhythm, you won’t attract the worm,” is I think a Dune reference:

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