Subscribe to Literary Compass


A book is a literary compass that has the potential to direct our thoughts and actions:

"Everything we read stimulates our mind to think, and what we think determines what we desire, and desires are the seedbed of our actions. Given this iron law of human nature--from reading to thinking, to desiring, to acting--we are shaping our destiny by the ideas we choose to have enter our minds through print." - Fr. John Hardon, S.J., The Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan

Welcome to my own personal exploration of life through reading the great books of the world.

My Photo
Location: Spokane, Washington, United States

"Every soul that uplifts itself uplifts the world." --Elisabeth Leseur

Search Catholic Blogs

Powered by Blogger

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Greatest Science Fiction Novel of All Time?

I've been playing around with StumbleUpon, and I came across The Modern Library's List of 100 Best Novels. There are two lists, actually. The first was created by the Board of The Modern Library, and the second compiles the results of their readers' poll. What first struck me is how at odds the Board seems to be with the readers. Take a look at the first five positions, with the Board's choice listed first, the readers' choice second:
  1. Ulysses by James Joyce vs. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald vs. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  3. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce vs. Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard
  4. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov vs. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  5. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley vs. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Did you notice item number three on the readers' list? I had to do a double-take when I saw Battlefield Earth there. Now, I first read Battlefield Earth when it was originally published, sometime in the mid-1980s I believe, and I have to admit I loved it. At the time I was in my late teens and I knew nothing about Scientology or Dianetics. I just enjoyed the rip-roaring space-opera action. It's still a guilty pleasure of mine, but the third best novel ever written? I don't think so. It's certainly not the greatest science fiction novel ever written. It's not even the greatest space-opera science fiction novel of the last twenty-five years (Ender's Game is a greater novel, in my opinion, and there are many others.).

It looks to me like someone stuffed the ballots, especially when you consider that two more of Hubbard's books made the list. Still, for those of you who only know of Battlefield Earth from John Travolta's travesty of a movie (which I still refuse to watch--ever), give the book a chance if you're looking for a fun, action-packed sci-fi shoot-em-up for the summer. It's one of those feel-good, Rocky-type stories.

But back to the lists. One thing I've come to understand over the years is that book lists tell you a lot more about the person who made the lists than about the books on the list. I'm sure if you click around this blog and look at all of the lists I've posted you can get a pretty good idea of what kind of person I am. If we happen to have a lot in common, then my lists might be useful to you. If we don't have much in common, you probably won't find much to your liking.

Still, I do love lists. I love reading them and I love creating them. And I love arguing about other peoples' lists. :-)

Labels: ,

 Subscribe in a reader

posted by Nick Senger at 6:32 AM

Comments on "The Greatest Science Fiction Novel of All Time?"


Anonymous stefanie said ... (Tuesday, July 03, 2007 5:42:00 AM) : 

Lists are revealing aren't they? I love lists too, making them, editing them, you name it. There is something appealing about them. And of course I love other people's lists, and arguing over "official" published lists like the Moderne Library's. Hours of fun!


Blogger Divers and Sundry said ... (Wednesday, July 04, 2007 7:19:00 AM) : 

As I recall -of course it's been a while- Travolta's movie was fairly true to the book. I've only read the book and seen the movie once each, though, so my recollection may be faulty.

The most recent space opera I've enjoyed reading: Jack McDevitt's _Chindi_ and his _Omega_, part of his "Academy" series. My 16-year old son also enjoyed them.


Blogger Divers and Sundry said ... (Wednesday, July 04, 2007 3:57:00 PM) : 

Well, both sons say my memory is slipping and the Battlefield Earth movie bears very little resemblance to the book. Just thought I'd correct my last comment....


Blogger Nick Senger said ... (Thursday, July 05, 2007 5:42:00 AM) : 

Stefanie: Yes, without lists, bloggers would have much less to write about, and the watercooler would be a quieter place.

divers and sundry: Thanks for clarifying about the Battlefield Earth movie. I'll have to look for Jack McDevitt the next time I'm in a bookstore.


post a comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link