88. (88)- The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, by Douglas Adams

This is a worthy sequel to the brilliant Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In fact, the idea of a Restaurant and the literal end of the universe is a pretty brilliant conceit, maybe Adams’ best. I’ll write more on Adams’ style when I get to my review of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but this novel definitely continues perfectly from where Hitchhiker’s left off.  

It’s light.  It’s a quick read and it makes me laugh throughout.  Adams so effortlessly writes a humorous romp through space and time that I’m not sure anyone could duplicate.  The entire series is worth your time.

89. (89)- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis 

This is probably the foundational book for my fantasy interests (the only other option is John Bellairs’s The Trolley to Yesterday, which is probably a book I loved more but its genre is a little harder to define).   As a child, the idea of opening a wardrobe and discovering an entirely new world was mesmerizing.  And the novel holds up so well, each scene captivating, building on the others.   The characters and their internal conflicts that define the external conflict in the story are well done and completely believable.  As a child, I didn’t notice or care about the religious allegory.  It works without it. 

90. (90) –  Endymion / The Rise of Endymion, by Dan Simmons

Another cheat as it is hard for me to differentiate between these two novels, which make up the back half of Simmions’ brilliant Hyperion Cantos.  It takes place almost three centuries after the Fall of Hyperion but follows a hunting guide name Raul Endymion and Aenea (a 12-year-old who emerges from the time tombs) as they flee the oppressive, religious galactic government.  They flee along a river through a series of portals taking them from world to world.  It’s a lot to describe and though a separate story, builds a ton on the first two novels, but it’s great Science Fiction. 

The Rise of Endymion is a direct sequel that keeps much of the feel of the previous novel.  The Pax continues to pursue Aenea and Raul as Aenea moves toward fulfilling her destiny.   There’s so much to unpack in the Hyperion Cantos as a whole, but I highly recommend these books to all Science Fiction fans. 

(Felan’s Rescue Available in all formats August 19, 2022. E-book Preorders Available now)

91. (91) – The Golden Compass, by Phillip Pullman

The His Dark Materials series came highly recommended to me as a modern YA classic.  The Golden Compass is the first and frankly my favorite of the three.  The Daemons were such an interesting magical construct and so much of the story centered around their importance.  Lyra was another in the line of come from nothing, do something great protagonists but she was very easy to root for. 

A puritanical church rules over England and Lyra must find her way while avoiding their oppressive grasp.  Sounds simple enough but the magic and characters we see along her journey paint a great picture of this alternate world. The sequels were not quite as engaging for me (though still interesting and good), but The Golden Compass still stands out as an excellent read.

(Felan’s Rescue Available in all formats August 19, 2022. E-book Preorders Available now)

93 and 92 (93 and 92), Foundation; Second Foundation, by Isaac Asimov.

The first and third novels in the foundational (pun intended) Isaac Asimov Foundation series I find relatively equal in quality, though unique in their own way.  I rank them separate because of my higher regard for Foundation and Empire, the second novel in the original trilogy.  If you are looking for a character study, Foundation isn’t going to be your cup of tea.  Foundation is about the ideas; it’s about the political structures.  Most of all it’s about human behavior on a massive, sociological scale. 

               In Foundation, Asimov introduces one of the coolest ideas in science fiction history…psychohistory.  Psychohistory is described as the quintessence of sociology.  It’s the science of human behavior reduced to mathematical equations (or in layman’s terms predicting the future with math).  A mathematician has worked out through psychohistory the galactic empire is collapsing and that with its collapse will come dark ages of human suffering.  He creates the foundation not to prevent the collapse but to minimize its impact and raise up a new empire in its place.  The original Foundation novel is basically five short stories that lay out the beginnings of those efforts to minimize the galactic collapse.

               Second Foundation is the conclusion to the original foundation trilogy.  The second book, Foundation and Earth, sees the rise of the Mule, and individual that could not be foreseen by psychohistory.  Second Foundation deals with the aftermath and Hari Seldon’s plans put in place to protect against something as unique and unforeseeable as the Mule.  The Mule and others search for a mysterious Second Foundation and later the original Foundation attempts to take down the Second Foundation.  Again, if you’re looking for amazing character development this probably isn’t your series, but the institutional ideas are fascinating, and the overall ark of the series is just unique science fiction. 

94. (94) – A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle

                The hardest part of this list for me was trying to decide what to do with a few novels that I read as a kid that would not be among my favorite 100 to read in this exact moment, but were monumental to my love of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Ultimately, I couldn’t do a top 100 list without this foundational children’s science fiction classic.  Two novels on this list stand out as novels that really pushed me into becoming an avid science fiction and fantasy reader… A Wrinkle in Time is one of them.  It doesn’t work for me as well as an adult as it did for me as a child, but the impact it had on my reading it has to matter for this list. 

                I loved reading about Meg Murry, and her quest to find her father.  I remember the feelings of wonder when Mrs. Who, Which and Whatsit explained the concept of tesseract, the folding of the fabric of space and time (or wrinkle).  Charles Wallace was immediately my favorite character of any character at that time.  As far as faults, even as a child I found the end odd and a bit of a mess, but I loved the story nonetheless.  I also enjoyed the first 3 sequels, one of which will make an appearance on this list. 

95. (95) – Olympos, by Dan Simmons

Olympos is the conclusion to the Illium / Olympos duology and a book that generates a lot of mixed feelings from readers.  Honestly, it’s not an entirely satisfying conclusion, and certainly weaker than Illium which I thought was spectacular, but there is still a ton to enjoy.  While much of Illium’s narrative thrust is tied to this futuristic retelling of Homer’s Iliad, Olympos sends us in a variety of different directions with uniquely Simmons narrative threads coming together.   

               The narrative thrust of Olympos eventually invokes Shakespeare’s The Tempest, with prominent appearances from futuristic Prospero and Caliban.  If it seems like a lot, it really is, but ultimately, it’s brilliantly executed and though not perfect, it works well.  Olympos blends science fiction and classic literature in a way that nobody does better than Dan Simmons.  It’s one of those novels where the incredible highs and the uniquely brilliant style, are worth its narrative flaws. There will be more Simmons to come on this list.

96.  (96) – Pandora’s Star / Judas Unchained, by Peter F. Hamilton

                My first real cheat on the list as I review two novels together (and too incredibly long ones at that).  My criteria for putting novels together on this list are they 1. Tell one complete story between them and 2. Are nearly identical in quality so as one does not deserve a spot far above or below the other.  The Commonwealth duology certainly fits those criteria fit perfectly. 

                Pandora’s Star is an incredibly ambitious book. There are a ton of characters and there is a ton of story to tell. Hamilton creates a uniquely developed universe and does a great job of setting up what is ultimately a very interesting plot. The mystery surrounding the barrier is unique and fascinating. The alien races he develops are completely original and in the case of the Primes one of the cooler, well thought out alien races I have ever read.

My biggest complaint about this book are the large stretches of time he takes on set up and mundane things. We follow Paula Mao (who is an excellent character) through multiple investigations which help set up a bunch but ultimately too much time is spent where the plot goes forward very little. One chapter on the political maneuvering of several major families is a downright bore. That said there were large stretches of this book that were excellent. I just wish Hamilton would have been a bit more selective in what he included in the novel.

Judas Unchained is the conclusion to the Commonwealth Duology.   Like Pandora’s Star, Judas Unchained is a dense book with a ton of characters pulling in different directions and a bunch going on. I thought, however, that the focus in Judas Unchained was better than Pandora’s Star. The Primes remain one of the more intriguing alien races in science fiction, and the starflyer was tied into the story wonderfully. Ozzie, Orion, and Toshe’s journey was probably the slowest part of the novel for me, but the payoff was also quite good. The action sequences were incredibly well written, and I thought the characters were all well developed this time around.  In totality, the Commonwealth Duology was a really fun journey and a very interesting read.

97. (97) – The Stars My Destination, by Alfred Bester

My top 100 list probably underrepresents what many would view as the science fiction classics and over represents my favorite authors, most of who wrote prominently in the last few decades.  This Alfred Bester classic is one of the notable exceptions.  I judge classic science fiction on how well it holds up and this one holds up very well.

The story introduces a very cool scientific concept called “jaunting.” (personal teleportation) The concept of jaunting is interesting, and the single-minded pursuit of revenge by the main character was fresh even considering the story is 50+ years old and the concept of revenge has been explored time and time again in literature. This story went in many directions I did not expect and yet I never felt cheated.  It creates real stakes that hold up even now and the resolutions are well earned. 

98. (98) – A Gathering of Shadows, by V.E. Schwab

The middle book in the Shades of Magic trilogy, A Gathering of Shadows is a worthy sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic. A Gathering of Shadows moves quickly and is fun throughout. It’s a universe built on an interesting magic system but a story that works largely because of the characters. The stakes often feel lower than they did in A Darker Shade of Magic, focusing largely on a magical competition in Red London.

The events of the first novel loom large throughout as Lila, one of the two main protagonists, refocuses her life in her new world and works to learn the magic she had so recently discovered while Kell, the other main protagonist, must deal with the consequences of how he saved his brother Rhy’s life. All the while a threat is looming in White London (one of the three versions of London that are the main settings for the series), a threat that is building on what happened in the previous novel.

It’s hard to find a central conflict of the novel, it’s mostly the characters dealing with their own issues with this magical contest as a backdrop and a larger threat looming on the periphery. However, getting to be in Lila Bard’s head again is well worth the read. Like many middle trilogy novels, the end left me longing to read more as the looming White London threat begins to unfold.

(Felan’s Rescue Available in all formats August 19, 2022. E-book Preorders Available now)