Hugo Humiliation

Over in LiveJournal land, nwhyte just finished reading all the Hugo-winning novels, and provides a list of them with links to reviews or at least short comments. He also gives a summary list of his take on the best and worst books of the lot.

The obvious thing to do with such a list, particularly in LiveJournal land, is to take the list and mark which ones you’ve read, and so on. In th interest of a little variety, though, let me suggest an alternate game: the academic parlor game “Humilation,” invented by David Lodge, in which literary academics admit to not reading various classic works, with the winner being the person who shares the most embarrassing gap in their reading. This seems like a natural use of the Hugo list, especially since it includes both enduring classics and works that there’s no shame in not reading– They’d Rather Be Right from 1955 is legendarily bad, for example.

So, if you’re a science fiction fan, which of the classic works on that list of Hugo winners have you not read? The definition of “classic” is of course subjective, and somewhat problematic to apply to books you haven’t read, but for the sake of the game, let’s go with “generally regarded as a good and important novel,” which is fuzzy but probably workable.

My answer:

There are several “classic” books on the list that I haven’t read, but I’ll go with Heinlein’s Starship Troopers for my answer, because Heinlein’s always good for a controversy. This is widely regarded as one of the founding works of the popular subgenre of military science fiction, but somehow I missed it back when I went through my Heinlein phase. I’m not sure how.

In the twenty-odd years since, I’ve heard so many people talk about it that I don’t feel any deep need to read it. So it remains a significant gap in my classic SF reading (and the single work I haven’t read that I’m most likely to be told I must read, given the proclivities of Heinlein fans).

So, that’s my admission. What highly regarded Hugo winner have you not read?

Comments

  1. #1 Mike Kozlowski
    April 9, 2011

    Oh, come on. Not reading Heinlein is practically BRAGGING.

    Left Hand of Darkness is unquestionably the most embarrassing one I haven’t read. Or possibly The Dispossessed. Put the two together, and it’s doubly bad.

  2. #2 Becca Stareyes
    April 9, 2011

    Let’s go with Dune — I’ve yet to read any of Frank Herbert’s works. Of the others I recognize as Classics of Science Fiction and Fantasy, A Canticle for Leibowitz, The Forever War* and Neuromancer. (I’ve read one of Gibson’s novels, The Difference Engine, and decided that I had too much else on my reading list to pick another up.)

    * Which, considering I’m a big fan of John Scalzi’s work, and he cites this one as an influence to his Old Man’s War series, is probably noteworthy.

  3. #3 John Novak
    April 9, 2011

    Would these be books that we’ve never even cracked the cover of, or books that we started, got two chapters in, and never bothered to finish?

  4. #4 Kate Nepveu
    April 9, 2011

    _The Dispossessed_ for me too; runner-up to _Dune_.

  5. #5 Will
    April 9, 2011

    Hm. There are books on this list that I didn’t read, sure, but I don’t really see any I’m ashamed not to have read; like you said, They’d Rather Be Right is something I haven’t read and am not at all upset about. I guess the closest would be that I’ve never read any Kim Stanley Robinson, and I haven’t read the Uplift books (namely Startide Rising). Also, no Michael Chabon, but I’ll get to him sooner or later.

  6. #6 Steven Colyer
    April 9, 2011

    Oh, come ON, Chad. Your question is too cheesy, too easy. I will not list the books on your list I haven’t read as you ask.

    I will instead take the more positive approach, which is to say if you don’t think Schismatrix by Bruce Sterling isn’t the best Sci-Fi novel ever, and that Asimov’s The Foundation Trilogy isn’t the best (and the first) Trilogy in Sci-Fi ever, then you really haven’t read the best.

    IMO, as always. I’m never afraid to be corrected, never afraid to be wrong. And why aren’t more people like that, hmm?

  7. #7 Sili
    April 9, 2011

    none

  8. #8 Blaise Pascal
    April 9, 2011

    I’ll see your Starship Troopers (which I’ve reread several times) and raise you with The Forever War, which I’ve never read.

    There are several on the list I’ve never heard of but feel I should read for completion (The Mule by Asimov? An Asimov novel I’ve not only never read but never heard of, and the first Hugo winner to boot?), and several I’ve heard of but haven’t read but should (I don’t remember reading Left Hand Of Darkness, for instance) but Joe Haldeman’s Forever War, often cited as a response to the influential Starship Troopers, stands out as the one I haven’t read that I’m ashamed of the most.

  9. #9 Steven Colyer
    April 9, 2011

    “If I had to pick one out of those as my all-time favourite Hugo winner, I think it would be A Canticle for Leibowitz.”

    And of the ones listed, I’m going to go with this.

    It speaks to our current War, which The War between Knowledge (us) and its (our) sworn enemy, Ignorance.

    Guess who’s winning? Dammit.

  10. #10 Sherri
    April 9, 2011

    I’ve never gotten around to A Fire Upon the Deep, or any other Vinge.

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    April 9, 2011

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  12. #12 GrayGaffer
    April 9, 2011

    The last 4 years or so I have relied entrely on SFBC monthly selections which have not had any Hugo winners. I think it is time to change that. Of the rest, all except Dreamsnake (and maybe that I read but immediately forgot). But then, SF is probably the only fiction I read. Which is my embarrassing secret.

    Not sure I could identify “The Best”, but those that had most impact?

    A Canticle for St Leibowitz. Oh my. I was 14.

    Stand on Zanzibar. Perhaps the very definition if twist at the end. The very last sentence changes the whole perspective on the book. Do not peek. And remember to start at least 4 parallel threads in your mind as you read its multi-tracked plot.

    The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. Probably why I’m in computers.

    Stranger In A Strange Land. I’m of the generation that learned “Grok” and recreational group sex from this book.

    Then there are a few that never made Hugo for some reason or other.

    The City and the Stars (A.C. Clarke) Dogs look at pointing fingers, not where they are pointing. Etc.

    The Stars My Destination (Alfred Bester). Also The Demolished Man. Maybe it’s the distance of the memory, but these two have merged in my mind. How did he get back to the wreck?

    More Than Human (Ted Sturgeon). My first glimpse of other-thinking.

    The World of Null-A (A. E. Van Vogt). I’ve been trying to improve the resolution of my imagination ever since. No TP but it has had other benefits.

    I, Robot and successors. Not a novel initially so no Hugo, but worthy none-the-less.

  13. #13 Ron
    April 9, 2011

    The Man in the High Castle. Though there are a fair number of others on the list I haven’t read, that’s the one I’ve intended to get around to reading eventually, for over three decades now.

  14. #14 HFM
    April 9, 2011

    @Blaise Pascal: You might have read The Mule; didn’t that get folded into the Foundation trilogy? (The second half of the second book.) Which…if you haven’t read Foundation, you might win the thread anyhow.

    I’ll go with A Canticle for Leibowitz.

  15. #15 DRK
    April 10, 2011

    Well, I’ve never been able to get through the Forever War, for whatever reason.

  16. #16 Left_Wing_Fox
    April 10, 2011

    Asimov’s Foundation series. I’ve only ever read his short stories.

  17. #17 Beth Mitcham
    April 10, 2011

    I’ve never read, and don’t really have the urge to try, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. I’ve heard people I respect rave about it, but all the descriptions make me go eh. I suspect I’m wrong and I’d love it, but can’t be bothered to test that theory.

    I DNF’ed The Yiddish Policemen’s Union because it was so dull. Which surprised me since it had everything I usually love in a book, but each page was just soporific.

  18. #18 Birger Johansson
    April 10, 2011

    (Yes, I know this is not a Hugo winner)
    -None of you have ever read “Solaris” in a *proper*, Polish-to English translation. The current book is a double translation from the German translation.
    And none of you have read Stanislaw Lem’s non-fiction “Summa Technologia” (Krakow, 1966) although Lem anticipates virtual reality, nanotechnology and other staples of modern SF. The Iron Curtain as well as the language barrier have conspired to make readers on both sides poorer.

  19. #19 blf
    April 10, 2011

    Off the top of my head, The Left Hand of Darkness, Stranger in a Strange Land (which is weird because I use grok), and Dune are three I’ve never read. It took me years and about three attempts, but I finally did read A Canticle for St Leibowitz. On the other hand, I’ve read and re-read Lord of Light multiple times.

  20. #20 Kate Nepveu
    April 10, 2011

    blf, “grok” is one of those words that’s made it into geek slang generally; I use it too and I couldn’t have told you which Heinlein book it came from off the top of my head.

  21. #21 Åka
    April 10, 2011

    Wow, I have read a lot of those! Makes this game difficult… Well, I guess I feel that I should have read Fountains of Paradise and A Deepness in the Sky, which I haven’t. Yet.

  22. #22 Anton P. Nym
    April 10, 2011

    I don’t know why, as I didn’t understand why when trying them aeons ago, but I bounced hard off of both the LeGuin titles on the list… got maybe a chapter in and then *thump* like a sparrow into a skyscraper. Maybe if I gave ‘em a try now I could make it further… but my initial stump’edness disinclines me from trying.

    I’d really like to read “Man in the High Castle” but I’ve just never found a copy whenever I’ve had the presence of mind to look.

    — Steve

  23. #23 John Casey
    April 11, 2011

    I too am kind of amazed at how many of these I’ve read.

    But…

    I have never read Bradley’s Fahrenheit 451.

  24. #24 Eric Lund
    April 11, 2011

    For me it would have to be Neuromancer.

    I’ve also not read Rendezvous with Rama, but I have read one of the sequels (which I acquired at a used bookstore in Boulder some years ago).

  25. #25 Clay B
    April 11, 2011

    I’ve read a lot of the stuff mentioned here but I’ve never read any Heinlein at all.

  26. #26 Moopheus
    April 11, 2011

    Almost none of them after the late 1970s. But I’ve never regarded the Hugo as a marker of any kind of actual quality. In fact, they usually just reinforce my cynicism about the sf fan world.

    I think Starship Troopers was the last Heinlein novel I read, the point at which I realized there was no point to reading him after one has reached puberty.

  27. #27 Chuk
    April 11, 2011

    I missed a few of the books from the 60s that I should probably go back and get to, but probably SF-fan-snobs would say that my most humiliating failure is a total lack of appreciation for C. J. Cherryh. (Not quite true, I did like her Lois and Clark novel and I managed to finish the Chanur trilogy, eventually.) Started and stopped Downbelow Station twice.

    (Is it bragging to say I’ve read all the other Hugo winners since I was born in 1970 except the Kate Wilhelm one? (And I like what I’ve read of hers so I am going to correct that omission soon…))

  28. #28 rob
    April 11, 2011

    i was mildly amused that i have read a whole bunch of these novels without even knowing they were Hugo Winners.

    the standout not-read for me in Left Hand of Darkness.

    Chad, you should read Starship Troopers. it is short and not some male adolescent fantasy like other of his books.

    i will go out and get a copy of Left Hand of Darkness and read it.