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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 17 October 2012
This book was conceived as a successor to David Pringle's well-known 'Science Fiction: the Best 100 Novels 1949-84', which is now approaching thirty years old and in need of supplementation. The American authors are respected figures in the field; Pringle contributes a brief foreword.

Any selection of a hundred titles from a given twenty-five years will have something of the arbitrary about it, no matter what the criteria. But here the authors have avoided the obvious traps. Some British readers will inevitably find a few of the American writers mentioned unfamiliar; but if the book is to be a basis for exploration, that is all to the good. The good big names of the genre are here as well as the less well-known, and Di Filippo and Broderick have included the most obvious examples of writers better known for literary fiction who have worked in the genre: Jonathan Lethem, Margaret Atwood, and Michael Chabon rub shoulders with Hannu Rajaniemi, Vernor Vinge and Robert Charles Wilson. This is, of course, very firmly an overview of English-language, and particularly Anglo-American SF: the enthusiast for SF in translation will have to look elsewhere.

Each book is given an average of three pages of lively, intelligent, often dense and surprisingly wide-ranging discussion that opens out into a view of the author's wider achievement. There is a lot of information here, and in that sense the book is excellent value for money and a good basis for further reading. The authors are enthusiastic without being silly. I could have spared the small black-and-white cover illustrations which head each chapter, most taken from American popular paperback editions, which simply don't work well without colour, and in general serve only to remind the reader of the low standard of commercial SF cover art.

The book lists its contents by title and in chronological order. It would have been useful if a list by author name could have been included as well: particularly as there is no index (in a book of nearly 300 pages), and this is a book that positively invites the reader to dip in and out rather than to read every entry from first to last. It does look as though the book may have been conceived with the e-book format, with its easy searchability, first in mind.

Recommended for anybody who wants to investigate science fiction from the last twenty-five years and is seeking an overview and suggestions for starting points; or who is very familiar with the field and enjoys arguing with the judgements of others. Very much a book for use rather than reference. [The keenly-priced Kindle version may make more sense for readers with less than perfect eyesight: a small font is used throughout the printed version.]
33 comments7 of 8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
This book has an unusually descriptive title. It contains 101 brief (2-5 page) reviews of the "best" 101 science fiction novels published in 1985 through 2010. It is a companion volume to David Pringle's Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels: 1949-1984. Both books guide readers through the relatively large universe of book-length science fiction. Authors Damien Broderick and Paul Di Filippo limit themselves to one entry per book author, using this entry to discuss multiple works by that author as appropriate.

The entries include reviews of five of my favorites. They provide a general sense of the way these books are reviewed and evaluated.

Ender's Game (1985) by Orson Scott Card. This novel about human cadets training to fight in an interstellar war launched Card's career. Its success is attributed to the inclusion of a dozen hot-button topics: "...an existential threat to the human race; the nature of alien intelligence and person-hood; genocide; means versus ends; the `great man' theory of history; the limits of government and the proper role of the citizen; the limits and nature of the educational system; the military ethos; the nature of sociopaths and power; family dynamics; sibling rivalry; and schoolboy rivalry."

Use of Weapons (1990) by Iain M. Banks. The review outlines the book's history of protagonist Cheradenine Zakalwe, a perpetual soldier for various armies and causes. It also overviews Banks' other novels set in the "Culture" universe and the primary themes emphasized in its post-scarcity society. There is an insightful discussion of the book's twin helix narrative structure. And there is an *unforgiveable* spoiler for one of the other Culture books.

A Fire Upon the Deep (1992) by Vernor Vinge. This story spans star systems across an entire sector of the galaxy and includes humans, an engagingly-strange collection of aliens, and strange, incomprehensible Powers with... strange, incomprehensible powers. The universe is partitioned into Zones which are concentric regions around the galaxy's center. The laws of physics differ in these Zones, with thought and spaceflight barely possible in the Unthinking Depths and artificial intelligence, faster-than light travel, and other wonders abundant in the Beyond. Bad things can happen when denizens of different Zones interact. The review discusses Vinge's the relationship between this work, its prequel A Deepness in the Sky, and the Singularity concept introduced in Marooned in Realtime.

Perdido Street Station (2000) by China Miéville. This book introduced readers to the author's Bas-Lag series and to its central city, the sprawling, overcrowded, mucusy metropolis of New Crobuzon. The book is named for its largest train station, only one of an incredible set of locations that includes an enclave of cactus-people and an embassy of Hell. The story is about a scientist who accidentally looses deadly slake-moths on the City. But the story is just an excuse to explore the people, places, and improbabilities of New Crobuzon. There is also some discussion of Miéville`s subsequent Bas-Lag books, The Scar and Iron Council.

The Time Traveler's Wife (2003) by Audrey Niffenegger. This book isn't really about time travel in the traditional sense, nor may it "really" be considered science fiction. But it is close to both. Clair and Henry are friends, lovers, spouses, parents who have a life together, but many parts of it are out of sequence. Henry is an involuntary time traveler who jumps to different points in the past and future without will or warning. He knows Clair as a little girl, a teenager, a woman. And she waits for him, never knowing how old he will be when he appears. We see the implications across the span of their lives, if span is the right word. The review gives us a bit more of the author's perspective on her unique book.

The reviews of books I am familiar with describe their characters and plots accurately and are reasonably free of spoilers--with a few exceptions. Reviews of books I have not read have convinced me to pick up some overlooked gems, including Cyteen, The Diamond Age, and The Handmaid's Tale. I recommend this book as a reference and reading guide to recent, higher-quality science fiction.
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on 25 September 2015
It is just a list with comments, but for someone like me, who's been away from scifi for some years and has recently retired, it was, in fact still is, very useful. The reviews are not in depth, despite there being only 101 of them, but for me, expecting to buy/borrow the books and read them, it had just enough information.

It's not for someone wanting in-depth knowledge about the books.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 11 May 2014
Conceived of as a sequel to David Pringle's Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels - 1949-1984, this book serves as a genre menu of some of the tastiest morsels of the last 25 years. I don't consider myself to be much of a science-fiction reader, maybe a handful of titles a year, but I was surprised to see that I have read 12 of the 101 titles in the book. As with all such "Best" lists, I'm sure there is plenty of debate to be had about those that are on the list and those that aren't -- but I have zero qualifications to weigh in on that angle.

Presented chronologically by publication date, each book is given a two or three page critical appraisal, positioning it and its author within the context of earlier writers and themes within science fiction. This can sometimes get a little highbrow, with references to Lacan, Freud, Jung, Marx, Jameson, and other thinkers and theorists (surprisingly, Barthes and Derrida are MIA). There are also plot summaries, many of which can stray deep into spoiler territory -- so beware.

I can't say that I've earmarked very many of the selections to go find and read (so far, the two I have are Richard Calder's Dead Girls, Mary Rosenblum's Chimera, and Michael Faber's Under the Skin), but it is proving to be a good way to acquaint myself with a number of books and authors I've heard of, but know nothing about. Recommended for casual science-fiction readers like myself, looking for an overview of contemporary science fiction.

Note: The book has one huge flaw, which is that the type is minuscule, either 6 or 7 point I believe. It doesn't matter how old you are or what your eyesight is, this is inexcusable design and typesetting.
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on 2 September 2014
Excellent. Useful follow on from the previous work by David Pringle. Lots of good info. on works published over the last 25 years to catch up on.
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on 9 December 2014
Some really good short stories in this collection.
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on 11 February 2013
Very good for perhaps exploring other authors in this genre. Arrived fairly quickly in very good condition. Think the reviews are a bit flowery and maybe could have included: - "If you like this then you might like this".
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