We have various ways of deciding what are the best science fiction novels. We can look at sales figures, at the frequency with which titles are reprinted, at the recommendations of widely read and knowledgeable readers (see our main site); or we can turn to the awards.
There are an awful lot of awards these days (there seem to be more every year), some of which are popular vote awards, some are juried awards, all at one time or another have been controversial. But let us, but let us, for the sake of argument and just to be controversial, say that the main Anglo-American awards are, in order of their foundation: the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, the BSFA Award, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award and the Arthur C. Clarke Award.
Add them up, and that gives us a grand total (to date) of 234 winners. (With the exception of the Clarke award, in each case there has been at least one year in which there have been joint winners, sometimes several years.) Of these, there are 38 titles that have won more than one of the awards.
No title has won all 5 awards, but two books have won four of them in the same year, and another five have won three of them. So, purely in terms of counting the awards on the mantlepieces, which are the most honoured titles in science fiction? Let’s remember that before 1970 no book could win more than three of the awards, and before 1965 they couldn’t win more than one award, so this list is inevitably skewed to more recent titles. Nevertheless, you may be a little surprised at the results.
Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Gateway by Frederik Pohl
Timescape by Gregory Benford
Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman
The City and the City by China Mieville
The Windup Girl by Paulo Bacigalupi
Some of the most acclaimed titles in the history of the genre fall into this category, and it’s not just because they were published before all the awards were founded. After all, The Forever War by Joe Haldeman, for instance, would have been eligible for any of four awards, so it is strange that it doesn’t rate as high as Forever Peace which is, to my mind, a weaker book. Anyway, in roughly chronological order, these are the remaining 31 multiple award winners:
Dune by Frank Herbert
Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
Ringworld by Larry Niven
The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov
The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke
Helliconia Spring by Brian Aldiss
Startide Rising by David Brin
Neuromancer by William Gibson
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
The Child Garden by Geoff Ryman
Take Back Plenty by Colin Greenland
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter
Fairyland by Paul McAuley
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
The Separation by Christopher Priest
Air by Geoff Ryman
The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon
Song of Time by Iain MacLeod
Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis
The Dervish House by Ian McDonald
The Islanders by Christopher Priest
Among Others by Jo Walton
Jack Glass by Adam Roberts
There are some surprising omissions from this list, and one or two surprising inclusions. But starting next year I’m planning to read or re-read all of these titles and post reviews of them all here on the blog.
From Nebula and Hugo Award–nominated Carolyn Ives Gilman comes Dark Orbit, a compelling novel featuring alien contact, mystery, and murder.
Reports of a strange, new habitable planet have reached the Twenty Planets of human civilization. When a team of scientists is assembled to investigate this world, exoethnologist Sara Callicot is recruited to keep an eye on an unstable crewmate.