The weekly list: Top 5 SF books we never want to read again

October 9, 2008

5. The “Foundation” trilogy by Isaac Asimov   nominated by harrysaxon

“Okay, don’t shoot me for this. I have some intellectual understanding of the path Asimov was carving with the original trilogy, but still hated it. I’m a great lover of character – part of the reason I’ve always been such a Stephen King fan, he has a gift for creating deep and unique characters – and the book had none; even characters I may have found intriguing with time never got a chance to establish themselves.”

4. The “Gormenghast” trilogy by Mervyn Peake   nominated by bloginhood

“This novel was so savagely depressing and slow I couldn’t get past the first hundred pages of the first book. That says a lot, because I pride myself on finishing a story, no matter how bad (usually), and it pained me to toss this heap aside in surrender. Of course, the portrait of utter inanimate despair of the book was probably the point: to put the reader into the mindset of the characters of this world, but it could have been done just as effectively in a quarter of the time/pages – or less – if Peake had had any skill. If the vast castle Gormenghast is a corpse and the intrigue of its inhabitants the rot within, best leave this body to lie in an undisturbed and unmarked grave.”

3. “The Chrysalids” by John Wyndham  nominated by harrysaxon

“Of all the sci-fi books the public school system could choose to force me to read, why this forgettable and poorly plotted exercise gets picked is beyond me. The deus ex machina at the end is one of the more embarrassing in the history of so-called ‘classic’ fiction.”

2. “The Divorce of Buddy Figaro – A Taoist Comedy Novel” by David Silverberg  nominated by bloginhood

“This novel is what happens when a terrible idea is shat forth upon the universe and the paper it gets wiped/written upon doesn’t get flushed. Terrible excuses for characterization, an idiotic plot, and endless repetition. This book is so completely bad that (and I have to thank reader witchblade37 for pointing this one out) although the author puts significant weight on the poem ‘The Tyger’ he credits it to Kipling. In fact, the poem was written by Blake 71 years before Kipling was born. This pathetic excuse for a yarn was so awful that I regret nominating it for this list simply because in doing so I am required to remember having read it in the first place.”

1.  Almost anything written by Piers Anthony nominated by both

Anthony comes out on top in this lineup of the inept for proving that you can have negligible talent and yet still manage to publish tons of garbage year after year. While harrysaxon admits a soft spot for the “Incarnations of Immortality” and “Split Infinity” series, and bloginhood confesses to enjoying the first of the Incarnations books as a teen, we’re both united in saying that Anthony has committed unrelenting and unrepentant crimes against SF literature.

Now it’s your turn. What SF books – and let’s allow short stories too – do you never want to read again?


  1. Foundation? WTF, harrysaxon?! True, some of the characters were weak, but Asimov’s breadth of vision should at least have earned it a little more respect.

  2. Don’t get me wrong; I respect it. I could have given up after the first, but I slogged through books two and three just because I felt I owed it to Asimov. I just never would want to read it again.

    Also don’t think I’m not an Asimov fan; I enjoy many of the Robot stories and think “9 Tomorrows” is maybe the greatest sci-fi short story collection from the golden age. But… won’t be reading Foundation again.

  3. […] weekly series of lists over at NAPA, as they seem to be so popular on the interwebs. This week; our top 5 scifi novels we’d never read again. Head on over to the list to check it […]

  4. Actually, I have to say, in regards to Piers Anthony; Bio of a Space Tyrant was kind of interesting as an idea. Analogizing current Earth countries and cultures to the solar system several hundred years in the future, with effort to suitably locate those cultures to the planets and moons they occupy in the framework of the series was rather cool and well thought-out. Too bad so much weird sexual fantasy and mediocre prose screws up a good idea.

    That’s true of Incarnations of Immortality and Split Infinity too – good ideas realized with bad writing – but thought that Bio of a Space Tyrant deserved special mention here because of its more hard sci-fi roots.

  5. I have to agree, especially the Piers Anthony citation. If you blur your eyes a bit , ALL of his series from Xanth to Bio to Split to incarnations to…(you get the idea) follow almost exactly the same formula. That’s ok from year 5-late puberty. After that, not so much.

    My nomination for worst read is Head Xenuphobe L. Ron Hubbard’s Battlefield Earth. From Barbarian to Galactic Overlord in >1000 pages. ACK! That’s 2 days of my life I’ll never get back. The only good thing about it is that it warned me off his other Space Opera series which went on for more than 10 books..so it’s got that going for it.

  6. I have no doubt that if I’d ever decided to slog my way through any of Hubbard’s books, that one especially, I’d never want to re-read it. I can certainly tell you I’d never re-watch the movie, which is exquisitely bad in such an unpleasant way that it’s not even fun to give MST3K treatment to.

  7. I’ve never inflicted any Hubbard damage on myself either. His stuff has never been mentioned in any of the many, many volumes of anthologies I’ve read that have featured authors who best represent their eras or showcasing the best stories of whatever year or sub-genre. Never been much inclined to pick up any of his novels.

    And if I can add another honourary mention to the list, I’d have to include, collectively, all of the role-playing game media tie-in novels I read as a teen – the “Dragonlance” books, etc. Which is not to say that they were “Buddy Figaro” bad, merely that they were forgettable and a waste of time and I wouldn’t pick them up again. Ah, the mistakes of youth.

  8. I can’t speak ill of the original Dragonlance trilogy. It was the book that got me away from Hardy Boys and Judy Blume books and into the fantasy world, and for that I’ll always have a fondness for them, though I doubt I could re-read them.

    I was trying to stick to sci-fi instead of the general speculative fiction realm, but “Sword of Shannara” would be very high on my list. Awful, awful book that pretty much outright plagarizes LotR.

    And if you want to talk REALLY awful, we could start talking about Dan Brown.

  9. Funny how multiple people pick Hubbard as the writer they dont want to read again, even though they’ve never read him. Hubbard was a con artist who inevnted a religion, but (in a purely fun space opera sense) he was a hell of a sci-fi author. Battlefield Earth, the book, is hella-fun and cool and if thats not enough to make a book readable then what’s the point? Ive never made it past book 5 in Mission Earth, cause ten is a ton of books, but I enjoyed the hell out of all five of the ones I read.

  10. If the movie was even remotely faithful, I could never swallow the book. “Hey, check it out, people who use wood spears can learn to pilot a Harrier jet in a couple weeks in the 1000-year disused but still fully powered and functional air force base!” I mean, come on, I can suspend disbelief, but it has its limits.

  11. @ jamisonspencer:

    Let’s be fair here.

    You said “Funny how multiple people pick Hubbard as the writer they dont want to read again, even though they’ve never read him.”

    You’re implying individuals in this discussion picked Hubbard as an author they wouldn’t want to read again without having read him in the first place. This has not been said at all.

    Neither harrysaxon nor I have said we would not re-read a Hubbard book. We have both both confessed to not having read any Hubbard at all (though harrysaxon did note that he had seen a movie based on a Hubbard book).

    Both of us made an entirely separate point that we have no interest in reading Hubbard. While our reasons for not being interested have implied assumptions about the quality of Hubbard’s writing, each of us has come to this conclusion for valid reasons which we have stated.

    You may disagree with our reasons, but you need to be clear that there are two distinct points afoot. To say one has no interest in reading Hubbard (for whatever reason) is not remotely the same thing as saying one would not read Hubbard again.

    QBall is the one who made the point that he would not re-read Hubbard. However, as you can see from his comment, QBall has said that he has, in fact, read Battlefield Earth (which you seem to have enjoyed). Having read it in the first place, QBall is well within his rights to say that he wouldn’t want to reread it. That makes it fair game for this discussion about books/authors we wouldn’t reread.

    You enjoyed BE. Fine. QBall didn’t. Fine. You’re entitled to disagree with QBall and tell us why (which you did), and he, or anyone else, can respond in kind. You too are more than welcome to nominate books that you would never read again.

    But don’t imply that some of us may be putting Hubbard (or any other author/book) on this list when we haven’t.

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