Aug 2, 2011

The Least Definitive "Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels" List Ever!

NPR released their list of Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels today. Or at least, sort of.

While they definitely released a list, I don't know if it represents what it claims to.

The list itself is referenced as "Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Titles" but it has some peculiar eligibility criteria. For "works that tell a more or less continuous story", the series title is used rather than an individual book. However, "in cases where connections among series members are looser" they "tended to list some of the more prominent titles in the run." All entries considered, you've probably got a list of 200 or more individual books, many of which are included under a "lifetime of work" type policy than any individual achievement. Explain to me why Ender's Game comes in as a novel and Dune comes in as a series? I've read the core of both  and there is not a pair of Dune novels that can rival the triumph that is Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead. You could make the argument that the Enderverse Sage is comprised of more self-contained novels, but I'd argue they share a similar composition, at least when comparing Dune to Ender's Game.

And that's not even the strangest aspect of the list. That honor goes to the arbitrary standards by which the judges eliminated "Young Adult" novels from the list, even ones read and loved by millions of adults. I wouldn't recommend ignoring undeniable classics popular with all ages - Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, His Dark Materials, Redwall - but if you insist upon such a ridiculous rule, at least enforce it consistently. Watership Down, Stardust, The Princess Bride, all make the list despite being widely regarded as Young Adult fiction. 

You know it's literature when the talking bunnies get divorced because her affair with a squirrel leads the former carrot detective into a vicious cycle of strawberry juice, mushrooms, and easter eggs.
The YA ban seems to be the only thing keeping Coraline and The Graveyard Book off the Gaiman heavy list. Every other one of his works made the list including the Sandman graphic novels, which while seminal, seem like a strange inclusion given such stringent guidelines. Though it's not the only graphic novel - Alan Moore's classic Watchmen also made the list. 

There's also sizable contingent of extremely modern novels, including some series which haven't even hit the 3 book mark. At a quick glance, I see at least 6 series whose stories have yet to conclude.
  • The Kingkiller Chronicles - Patrick Rothfuss
  • The Inheritance Trilogy - N.K. Jemisin
  • The Newsflesh Trilogy - Mira Grant
  • The Way of Kings - Brandon Sanderson
  • The Lies of Locke Lamora - Scott Lynch
  • The Magicians - Lev Grossman
They're good books all but I don't know if I'd go so far to include them without seeing a little bit more of the story. I certainly wouldn't go so far as to nominate an entire unfinished series.

A cover so epic, I didn't even need to read it. 5 stars! - Robert Stanek & Harriet Klausner
And then there's an arbitrary line between Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance and regular Fantasy, that I won't even begin to delve into. Suffice it to say, Jim Butcher's Dresden Files should be on any best of list before any of his Codex Alera books.

And the inclusion of Terry Goodkind's The Sword of Truth? As a series?! For shame, NPR. For shame.

So check out NPR's list of the "Top 187 or so Science Fiction and Fantasy [but not Urban Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, or Horror because vampires are scary] Novels For Self-Respecting Adults Who Won't Venture Into The Children's Section For Anything More Than A Stand Alone Novel But Who Also Aren't Too Self-Respecting to Be Seen Reading Comic Books And A Inexplicable Nod To Terry Goodkind" [#fixeditforyou] and let me them know what you think.


  1. I reject (and always have) the idea that Watership Down is somehow a "young adult" novel. I'm convinced it got the "children's literature" label back in the 1970s simply because, hey, fantasy about rabbits. It's a far more mature work than half the non-YA fantasy out there.

  2. Don't misunderstand my intent. My point is that here (as well as elsewhere) the term YA is applied inconsistently. Why isn't Watership Down considered to be YA while His Dark Materials is?

    And this is ignoring the suppossed blanket exclusion of "young adult" books in the first place. Just because a book could be considered as "young adult" doesn't mean that it lacks literary relevance.

    NPR should have included any books that were deemed good enough to be classics regardless of intended (or retroactively assigned) audience. However, if you are going to apply ridiculous eligibility criteria, at least do it consistently.

    For the most part, my use of captioned photos serves as comic relief in an otherwise serious analysis of the clusterf*** of criteria NPR has used to define the Top 100 SF&F books.

  3. stop picking on Stanek, he is my #1 all time fav

    that 100 top list is not legit, since Stanek is not on it


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...