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on 29 November 2009
Physically the book is underwhelming being quite small. After a short intro from Christopher Priest there is longer intro by the authors who tell us their intentions. The main body of the book is like "David Pringle's Best 100 Science Fiction Novels" in that it purports to choose 100 novels. They are "must-read" rather than "best" in this case. There is an article about each of the 100 novels.
I own a previous version called Bloomsbury Good Reading Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy by M. H. Zool. It was published in 1989. The format is similar except it was by author instead of a by book. The two books are quite different in content to it is worth owning both. When done by different authors it gives another slant and many of the selections in the must-read 100 are not found in the other books I've referred to. It is also up to date, for example the 'read on' suggestions by Zool for A. C. Clarke include Greg Bear, Charles Sheffield, Robert Forward and Kim Stanley Robinson whereas the new version recommends Stephen Baxter, Jack McDevitt, Frederik Pohl, Olaf Stapledon and David Zindell.
Each must read gets an article which is about 300 words (roughly a page). The format is two paragraphs, the firstly to describe the plot (without too many spoilers, the authors say) , the second which typically gives value judgements on the author's style, the quality of prose, their importance in the field, etc.
I think it is a another worthwhile reference work and quite up to date. So while there are some of the usual classics by H. G. Wells, Asimov, Heinlein, etc, there are also modern books like "Altered Carbon" by Richard Morgan.
I always worry about reading plot summaries because I prefer to know as little as possible of the plot just in case it spoils the story. The important thing is to know it is a recommended read and what are the characteristics of the author. So I have been tending to read the complete article for books I have already read but only the second half for books I haven't yet read.