David Pringle's Best 100 Science Fiction Novels

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  1. George Orwell - Nineteen Eighty-Four
  2. George R. Stewart - Earth Abides
  3. Ray Bradbury - The Martian Chronicles
  4. Robert A. Heinlein - The Puppet Masters
  5. John Wyndham - The Day of the Triffids
  6. Bernard Wolfe - Limbo
  7. Alfred Bester - The Demolished Man
  8. Ray Bradbury - Fahrenheit 451
  9. Arthur C. Clarke - Childhood's End
  10. Charles L. Harness - The Paradox men
  11. Ward Moore - Bring the Jubilee
  12. Frederik Pohl & C.M. Kornbluth - The Space Merchants
  13. Clifford D. Simak - Ring Around the Sun
  14. Theodore Sturgeon - More than Human
  15. Hal Clement - Mission of Gravity
  16. Edgar Pangborn - A Mirror for Observers
  17. Isaac Asimov - The End of Eternity
  18. Leigh Brackett - The Long Tomorrow
  19. William Golding - The Inheritors
  20. Alfred Bester - The Stars My Destination
  21. John Christopher - The Death of Grass
  22. Arthur C. Clarke - The City and the Stars
  23. Robert A. Heinlein - The Door Into Summer
  24. John Wyndham - The Midwich cuckoos
  25. Brian W. Aldiss - Non-Stop
  26. James Blish - A Case of Conscience
  27. Robert A. Heinlein - Have Space-Suit -- Will Travel
  28. Philip K. Dick - Time Out of Joint
  29. Pat Frank - Alas, Babylon
  30. Walter M. Miller - A Canticle for Leibowitz
  31. Kurt Vonnegut - The Sirens of Titan
  32. Algis Budrys - Rogue Moon
  33. Theodore Sturgeon - Venus Plus X
  34. Brian W. Aldiss - Hothouse
  35. J.G. Ballard - The Drowned World
  36. Anthony Burgess - A Clockwork Orange
  37. Philip K. Dick - The Man in the High Castle
  38. Robert Sheckley - Journey Beyond Tomorrow
  39. Clifford D. Simak - Way Station
  40. Kurt Vonnegut - Cat's Cradle
  41. Brian W. Aldiss - Greybeard
  42. William S. Burroughs - Nova Express
  43. Philip K. Dick - Martian Time-Slip
  44. Philip K. Dick - The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch
  45. Fritz Leiber - The Wanderer
  46. Cordwainer Smith - Nostrilia
  47. Philip K. Dick - Dr Bloodmoney
  48. Frank Herbert - Dune
  49. J.G. Ballard - The Crystal World
  50. Harry Harrison - Make Room! Make Room!
  51. Daniel Keyes - Flowers for Algernon
  52. Roger Zelazny - The Dream Master
  53. John Brunner - Stand on Zanzibar
  54. Samuel R. Delany - Nova
  55. Philip K. Dick - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
  56. Thomas M. Disch - Camp Concentration
  57. Michael Moorcock - The Final Programme
  58. Keith Roberts - Pavane
  59. Angela Carter - Heroes and Villains
  60. Ursula K. Le Guin - The Left Hand of Darkness
  61. Bob Shaw - The Palace of Eternity
  62. Norman Spinrad - Bug Jack Barron
  63. Poul Anderson - Tau Zero
  64. Robert Silverberg - Downward to the Earth
  65. Wilson Tucker - The Year of the Quiet Sun
  66. Thomas M. Disch - 334
  67. Gene Wolfe - The Fifth Head of Cerberus
  68. Michael Moorcock - The Dancers at the End of Time
  69. J.G. Ballard - Crash
  70. Mack Reynolds - Looking Backward from the Year 2000
  71. Ian Watson - The Embedding
  72. Suzy McKee Charnas - Walk to the End of the World
  73. M. John Harrison - The Centauri Device
  74. Ursula K. Le Guin - The Dispossessed
  75. Christopher Priest - Inverted World
  76. J.G. Ballard - High-Rise
  77. Barry N. Malzberg - Galaxies
  78. Joanna Russ - The Female Man
  79. Bob Shaw - Orbitsville
  80. Kingsley Amis - The Alteration
  81. Marge Piercy - Woman on the Edge of Time
  82. Frederik Pohl - Man Plus
  83. Algis Budrys - Michaelmas
  84. John Varley - The Ophiuchi Hotline
  85. Ian Watson - Miracle Visitors
  86. John Crowley - Engine Summer
  87. Thomas M. Disch - On Wings of Song
  88. Brian Stableford - The Walking Shadow
  89. Kate Wilhelm - Juniper Time
  90. Gregory Benford - Timescape
  91. Damien Broderick - The Dreaming Dragons
  92. Octavia Butler - Wild Seed
  93. Russell Hoban - Riddley Walker
  94. John Sladek - Roderick and Roderick at Random
  95. Gene Wolfe - The Book of the New Sun
  96. Philip Jose Farmer - The Unreasoning Mask
  97. Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle - Oath of Fealty
  98. Michael Bishop - No Enemy but Time
  99. John Calvin Batchelor - The Birth of the People's Republic of Antarctica
  100. William Gibson - Neuromancer
Author Comments: 

I got this list from his book Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels which reviews the 100 novels he considers the best SF novels published from 1949 - 1984.

I've read the ones in bold.

Of the remaining, some are on my to-be-read pile already, many of the others I'd never heard of.

Do I ever have some reading to do: 1, 8, 17, 31, 36, 40, 48 -- or only 7% !

Of course, what's a list without quibbles. Here's mine: this list only runs from 1949-1985... What would be on an older sci-fi list?

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells, is a fun little book published in 1895 that would make it. You can read it in a few hours. Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth would be on the "old" list too.

Definitely try the Alfred Bester books. Absolutely marvelous.

I read the author's introduction to the book. I believe he picked 49 because he considered it the beginning of modern SF novel publishing (after the war) and the end of 1984 (I was off a year in my original post) because the book was published in 1985. He did of course acknowledge Wells and Verne.

Mine are 1, 7, 8, 13, 20, 30, 36, 37, 39, 40, 48, 51, 55, 60, and 100. Fifteen percent. I'd like to think I'd fare better if more modern books were included, but I'm not so sure.

Way Station is a favorite of mine, if you're looking for recommendations from the stuff you haven't read (although you have the highest percentage so far - I sense another contest coming on :).

At a guess, I probably have one of the largest stacks of books I've bought (or checked out of the library) and haven't read yet. One entire room full of bookcases is dedicated to that purpose. (And no, I'll probably never catch up, especially while still living near powells.

But the recommendation is noted. :)

I just reread Way Station; it is excellent. And a great example of "Good Sci-Fi doesn't have to be scary" (though I'm sure Hollywood could make it scary.)

I don't like to boast, but I've read 81 per cent of this list. As someone else somewhere in TL said: Life? What life?

One interesting thing about the list is that its title implies that it lists the best books of the authors concerned. But is (for example) THE PUPPET MASTERS Robert Heinlein's best book? I don't think many people would say so.

81 percent!! Daaaamn. I figured you'd win, but not by such a wide margin (I was secretly guessing you'd weigh in between 50 and 70 percent). So which ones have you not read?

Any particular suggestions?

My top ten recommendations would be: 2, 5, 23, 30, 48, 60, 64, 90, 95, 98.

I've not read 6, 13, 19, 38, 59, 70, 72, 77, 81, 86-89, 91-93, 96, 97, 99. A graph would show that I'm weakest on the most recent titles, but two things explain that effect: one, I no longer read as much sf as I once did, two, forests more sf books are being published now than when I started collecting and reading in the early 70s.

I've read an awful lot of science fiction, but most of what I've read has been stuff published after this list was pubilshed. I didn't start reading SF until college (except for a few things in high school) so never quite caught up on all of my classics.

As for the list itself, the introduction goes somewhat into why he picked the books he did, and that no other person would probably entirely agree. It also has a couple pages on each book (but I haven't read many of those yet). It's worth checking if you library has it.

This list seems heavy with the stuff that doesn't led me to create this list. I certainly wouldn't have picked Puppet Masters as Heinlein's best; I absolutely loved Have Spaceuit... and Door into Summer is probably about my favorite Heinlein (and the book that made me want to be an Electronic Engineer.)

In any case, the ones I've read are: 3, 4, 8, 13, 15, 20, 23, 27, 39, 51, and 90. (And I saw the movies for #5 and 55.) Note: I may have read others on this list, but their titles just don't stir up the memory of them.

The movie version of DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS is absolute and unmitigated crapola dipped in shit. (Am I making it plain that I didn't like it?) I know you haven't said you liked it, and I hope you didn't. Back in the 80s there was a BBC mini-series version that was quite good, but I've never seen it offered again on t.v. nor on video.

I'm completely missing the Day of the Triffids reference. I know it's on Pringle's list, but I don't see it in UncRoger's comments, nor in the list he references. Is there some kind of logical leap I failed to make?

Jim, you don't see its title in UncRoger's comment, but you do see its number: 5.

If my memory serves me correctly I've read 1, 5, 7, 20, 31, 34, 37, 40, 48, 51, 55, 75, 84, 87, 90, 97, 100...17% of this list. I'm still a little aghast at some of the books left off this list even if it was only covering 1949-1984.

By the way...who is David Pringle and why should we care what he thinks? I'm not trying to be facetious I just wondered what his credentials area...

Unfortunately I borrowed the book the list came from from the library so I can't go back and look at the author biography easily.


I found David Pringle using a search engine. He is a critic, author, and the editor of a British SF magazine called 'Interzone', but I don't recall coming across it before, and I am in England.

Extracted from a preface to the list, which helps to explain some omissions:

QUOTE: David Pringle is a master of science fiction bibliography and criticism. Some find him a bit of a Britophile . . . Here is his list of the 100 best science fiction novels of all time (through about 1984, when Everything Changed anyway). It is a strange list in many ways; there are no Van Vogt books, Asimov's Foundation isn't included, but it is a good list in most aspects. UNQUOTE

Link to his sci-fi list

This is his 100-best fantasy list


BTW, the lists are in chronological order.

Interzone is a good enough magazine (from what I've seen at least) that I've pondered getting a subscription, though they're quite expensive in the US.

I recently discovered this list myself, and I found myself humbled at fiding I have only read 10% of it, since I do read a few science fiction works now and then. Then again, I also read widely on other genres. As others have mentioned, there are many omissions on this list. At any rate, I have read 1,3,7,8,9,20,30,32,48, and 100. 32, _Rogue Moon_ I just completed. It is a nice easy read, and at first it may seem the hero is just another testosterone filled daredevil, but there is more to him. The ending I found quite neat, had to think about it a bit, and that is always a good thing in a scifi book.

Not a bad list, especially if you're a newbie to the sf genre looking for some solid novels to start with. I especially like that The Inheritors made the list since Golding isn't considered much of a sf writer. But I will have to say that I'm happy some novels didn't make the list including the dreaded and overrated Ringworld (egad!) However, I'm thoroughly dissapointed some novels didn't make this list, despite the fact that I have no clue who David Pringle is. I know you only have room for a hundred, but where is the late H.G. Wells? I don't think modern science fiction started with 1984. Wells is the godfather of modern sf, even if he wasn't the greatest writer of character. Other novels such as The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Lord of Light, This Immortal, I am Legend, and Shadrach in the Furnace all deserve a spot on this list. My last suggestion (if you're still reading this) is to take out Martian Time-Slip, and inject the far superior PKD novel, A Scanner Darkly. With 5 PKD novels on this list, how Scanner didn't make the cut is beyond me. I appreciate anybody who actually read this. Don't be afraid to respond either. :) Even if you think my opinion sucks. :(

I didn't actually put together that list, just put it up here for comment. I believe he's the editor for one of the science fiction magazines.

Six Dick novels on the list.

Of those that you haven't yet read, I can certainly recommend most highly the following.

Theodore Sturgeon - More than Human
Thomas M. Disch - Camp Concentration

They are both extraordinary and I rate them 5 out of 5 each.

I actually wasn't overwhelmed by Camp Concentration now that I finally got around to it.

I took a science fiction class in high school and my teacher constantly raved about "Bug Jack Barron" and "A Canticle for Leibowitz." Do any of you agree and could anyone post brief synopses of them?

I found this list 10 years ago and have made the effort to read every book on this list. I am about 85% of the way through and own all but 1 of the books on the list. I have enjoyed every book on the list so far and suggest this as a good primer for readers. I also have another list which goes back to the 1800's from the Science Fiction reference book which took my reading list to 630 books of which I have just under 200 left.

what about Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World"? obviously it should be very close to the top of anyone's list!

Anyone think these two should be included?

Stanislaw Lem - Solaris
Joe Haldeman - The Forever War

Pringle’s list is exquisite and very exciting; as an authority, he’s on a par with Knight, Blish, Aldiss, Boucher, Budrys, Dozois, Hartwell. So, yes, his choice is interesting, very down—to—earth, refreshing and no—nonsense. Otherwise, of course any choice, or list of choices, is debatable, etc.. His hundred is a conventional doorstep; many other books deserve attention, and ‘The Forever War’ and ‘Solaris’ are such items.
Van Vogt is present on another Pringle list—the best novels of modern fantasy, his very likable summary from ’87. (On that other list, one will be glad to meet also Williamson, Graves, Vance, Leiber, Anderson, Golding, Fowles, Pynchon, Rushdie, Yarbro, Updike, Ackroyd …).
Ballard is well represented on both lists (’62, ’66, ’73, ‘75& ’79, ’87)--which is a good amount of the output); perhaps a Pringle favorite, which is a good thing.

To me, his Asimov choice is meaningful, though coming from a reader who perhaps doesn’t like Asimov very much.

Pringle’s list deserves to be acknowledged and popular, is often quoted and referenced, and might not say much to occasional readers of SF, but its quality speaks for itself.

As to the Dick selection—pardon the pun and send the kids to the playground—‘Time …’, ‘The Man …’, ‘Martian …’, ‘Palmer Eldritch’, ‘Bloodmoney’, ‘Do Androids …’ (there are six, not five, novels on the list, ’59—’68) are all enjoyable reads.
The list covers 36 yrs. of SF output. The first 18 yrs. get 52 picks, and the next 17 yrs. (because ’67, the 1st year of the 2nd half, is skipped) get 48 picks.
The gist of such a list is that these are not merely books to read—but books to re—read.
Anyway, to me, Pringle’s picks mean more than other people’s.