While the 2014 Worldcon is still lingering in our thoughts, we turn our attention back to the task of identifying the greatest science fiction novels of all time. We have selected the books on our list using the objective criteria of how many awards it has received and how much commercial success it has achieved.
Each entry on the list so far has won multiple best novel awards. Each of our current entries has survived the test of time, surviving close scrutiny today as well as they did when they were first written.
The authors that created the novels on our list are each considered masters of the craft. They have shown through the years that they didn’t stumble onto success; they earned it.
In setting the rules for our list of the greatest science fiction novels of all time, we did not set a waiting period. That is to say that many achievement awards or halls of fame require that the person or work must wait some number of years before it can be recognized for its greatness.
Some require a person to be retired five years before becoming eligible for the hall of fame. Other rules might demand a creation to have been in existence for twenty-five years before it is considered a classic.
Our list will remain free of such limiting rules. We will not discriminate against novels just because the ink is still drying on the pages.
With this idea in mind, our latest entry pushes our list into new territory. The pattern of well-seasoned novels written by established masters is finally broken. Before we get on with this week’s entry, let us revisit the list so far.
The Greatest Science Fiction Novels of All Time
- Rendezvous on Rama by Arthur C. Clarke (Best Novel Awards: Hugo 1974, Nebula 1973, Locus 1974, Campbell 1974, British Science Fiction Association 1973, Jupiter 1974, Seiun 1980)
- Gateway by Frederik Pohl (Best Novel Awards: Hugo 1978, Nebula 1977, Locus 1978, Campbell 1978)
- The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin (Best Novel Awards: Hugo 1975, Nebula 1975, Locus 1975, Jupiter 1975; Nominations: Campbell 1975)
- Dune by Frank Herbert (Best Novel Awards: Hugo 1966, Nebula 1966; Nominations: Hugo 1964 for Dune World)
- Neuromancer by William Gibson (Best Novel Awards: Hugo 1985, Nebula 1985, Philip K. Dick 1984; Nominations: Campbell 1985, British Science Fiction 1984)
- Startide Rising by David Brin (Best Novel Awards: Hugo 1984, Nebula 1984, Locus 1984)
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Title: Ancillary Justice
Author: Ann Leckie
First Year Published: 2013
- Nebula Award for Best Novel 2014
- Hugo Award for Best Novel 2014
- Locus Award for Best First Novel 2014
- British Science Fiction Award for Best Novel 2013
- Arthur C. Clarke Award 2014
- Kitschies Golden Tentacle for Best Debut novel 2013
- Philip K. Dick Award 2013
- James Tiptree, Jr. Award 2013
- Compton Crook Award 2014
- John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel 2014
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie has barely removed the diaper from its newfound life, and already the recognition it has received places it amongst the greatest science fiction novels of all time.
As of the writing of this article, Ancillary Justice has already received six awards for best novel and has been nominated for four others. We are left looking around to figure out if there are any more awards left.
Subjectively we look at Ann Leckie’s masterpiece and wonder, “How can this make it onto the list?” It was just published. Will it still be as good ten years from now?
I would argue that the great list of awards predicts her novel will have staying power.
Ann is not a new author, but this is her first novel. I would suggest that she has figured out this novel writing thing.
Ancillary Justice provides readers with amazing ideas, social importance, stellar action, precise pacing, sophisticated plotting, and a non-stop parade of entertainment.
Through the character Breq, the novel explores the concept of artificial consciousness, gender identity and roles, and the political machinations of a galactic empire.
Ann is writing two sequels that promise to deliver modern space opera on the grandest scale.
Haven’t read Ancillary Justice yet? Time to go pick up a copy.