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geek novels?

From serenejournal via supergee, someone's idea of the top 20 geek novels. I've bolded the ones I've read. I've removed the percentages and numbers 'cos I don't know what they mean.

I'm willing to listen to arguments why I should read the ones I haven't read.

1. The HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy -- Douglas Adams
Read, listened to the bbc radio show, watched some of the bbc tv show, played the adventure game, glanced at the graphic novel yesterday, haven't seen the movie yet, and will totally hold off on the stew. The radio show is the definitive version. It's brilliant.

2. Nineteen Eighty-Four -- George Orwell
3. Brave New World -- Aldous Huxley
I don't know why either of those is a "geek novel".

4. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? -- Philip Dick
Not yet, but I just bought a copy a couple of weeks ago. Incidentally, I've tried mightily to like Blade Runner but I just don't.

5. Neuromancer -- William Gibson
Liked the writing style, thought the plot was really derivative.

6. Dune -- Frank Herbert
Why is this a "geek novel"?

7. I, Robot -- Isaac Asimov

8. Foundation -- Isaac Asimov
Didn't like it as a teenager - my take on it was "Okaaay, so mankind inhabits thousands of galaxies many millennia from now - and acts just like 1950s Americans. Riiiiight." I still think that's true, and annoying, but I overlooked it the second time around and liked what else there was to like about the book.

9. The Colour of Magic -- Terry Pratchett
I just don't much like Terry Pratchett. He's funny, but I guess to me the funny overshadows what other cleverness there is to the plots and ideas. I'm willing to give him another try one of these days, because I've heard there is worthwhile plot and idea to be found.

10. Microserfs -- Douglas Coupland
Never heard of it.

11. Snow Crash -- Neal Stephenson

12. Watchmen -- Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
Why is this a "geek novel"?

13. Cryptonomicon -- Neal Stephenson

14. Consider Phlebas -- Iain M Banks
Never heard of it.

????15. Stranger in a Strange Land -- Robert Heinlein
Although I THINK I read this, I can't remember a damn thing about it. So I probably didn't read it and just glanced at my father's copy. I don't know why it's considered a "geek novel".

16. The Man in the High Castle -- Philip K Dick
I don't see why this is a "geek novel" either.

17. American Gods -- Neil Gaiman
Or this.

18. The Diamond Age -- Neal Stephenson
Loved it!

19. The Illuminatus! Trilogy -- Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson

20. Trouble with Lichen - John Wyndham
Never heard of it.

Comments

( 63 comments — Leave a comment )
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phinnia
Nov. 17th, 2005 11:27 pm (UTC)
Microserfs is wonderful. But then, I'm a big Coupland fan.
firecat
Nov. 17th, 2005 11:30 pm (UTC)
I've never heard of him, but I'm intrigued enough by the title to check it out.
(no subject) - phinnia - Nov. 17th, 2005 11:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - beaq - Nov. 17th, 2005 11:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
douglas coupland - pir_anha - Nov. 18th, 2005 01:29 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - nolly - Nov. 18th, 2005 12:11 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kightp - Nov. 18th, 2005 12:27 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - firecat - Nov. 18th, 2005 07:46 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kightp - Nov. 18th, 2005 05:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hfnuala - Nov. 19th, 2005 12:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - firecat - Nov. 19th, 2005 04:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
therealjae
Nov. 17th, 2005 11:28 pm (UTC)
Methinks that person has a very skewed idea of what 'geek' means.

-J
firecat
Nov. 17th, 2005 11:31 pm (UTC)
It's a guardian.co.uk poll, which explains it. I never agree with those polls.
starcat_jewel
Nov. 17th, 2005 11:41 pm (UTC)
I've never managed to get into Pratchett either, but my partner is a huge fan. He says that you should avoid the first 3 books, that Pratchett didn't really hit his stride until the 4th. He also recommends "Mort", "Guards! Guards!", or "Going Postal" as good places to make a second attempt if you're so minded.
firecat
Nov. 18th, 2005 02:12 am (UTC)
I don't remember which Pratchett books I've tried to read. I'll give one of those a try sometime.
(no subject) - djm4 - Nov. 18th, 2005 07:04 am (UTC) - Expand
meirion
Nov. 17th, 2005 11:44 pm (UTC)
the 3 you haven't heard of are the only 3 of that lot that i'd recommend reading! (iain m banks and john wyndham are both british authors – which if this is a grauniad.co.uk thing is unsurprising – and, although those books are good, there are better by each of those authors, IMO (for john wyndham, day of the triffids, the midwich cuckoos and chocky's children immediately spring to mind).

microserfs is very much a geeky novel, and well worth reading. as, indeed, are others of coupland's works.

-m-
firecat
Nov. 18th, 2005 02:13 am (UTC)
Thanks for the recommendations! Do you have a different recommendation for banks?
(no subject) - hfnuala - Nov. 18th, 2005 10:01 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - firecat - Nov. 18th, 2005 07:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - abostick59 - Nov. 19th, 2005 06:42 am (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - firecat - Nov. 18th, 2005 07:47 am (UTC) - Expand
janetmiles
Nov. 17th, 2005 11:46 pm (UTC)
1. The HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy -- Douglas Adams
Read, listened to the bbc radio show, watched some of the bbc tv show, played the adventure game, glanced at the graphic novel yesterday, haven't seen the movie yet, and will totally hold off on the stew. The radio show is the definitive version. It's brilliant.


Stew? *blink, blink*
pir_anha
Nov. 18th, 2005 01:44 am (UTC)
i was expecting stef to run out and buy the floorwax instead.
(no subject) - firecat - Nov. 18th, 2005 02:14 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - firecat - Nov. 18th, 2005 02:13 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
firecat
Nov. 18th, 2005 02:17 am (UTC)
I've heard they're different, yeah, and I've always wanted to read the book.

I've liked all the Neal Stephenson I've read except Quicksilver, and that I only disliked because I was under the misapprehension it was science fiction and wasn't in the mood to read non-SF at that moment. I'll probably try it again later.

Thanks for the banks rec'n.
(no subject) - leback - Nov. 18th, 2005 02:23 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - firecat - Nov. 18th, 2005 05:00 am (UTC) - Expand
opalmirror
Nov. 18th, 2005 12:14 am (UTC)
????15. Stranger in a Strange Land -- Robert Heinlein
Although I THINK I read this, I can't remember a damn thing about it. So I probably didn't read it and just glanced at my father's copy. I don't know why it's considered a "geek novel".


Surely you jest! You really should read this. Yes one must hack and chop through the dripping sexism, unbridled libertarianism and heavyhanded metaphor that characterize Heinlin. However, his counterculture ideals were fresh and imaginatively expressed when he wrote this book. It's a cranky, sarcastic, and playful social and political commentary and it sets forth a model for legal group marriage, moneyless community exchange, and makes a case for the inherent goodness of pleasure. The Church of All Worlds - arguably the first legally founded pagan church in America - founded by Otter Zell (now Oberon Zell-Ravenhart) and Morninglory Zell - was a direct adaptation of concepts set forth this book. A very close friend of mine also adopted a family view with his partners based on a lot of concepts from this book, and it's still a stable home for them many, many years later - although not for everybody. I don't think I could stand Heinlein personally but I do appreciate and enjoy thinking about the concepts he set forth in novel form. "Geek" in my definition - no - but radical and imaginative and brainy - yes.
firecat
Nov. 18th, 2005 02:19 am (UTC)
Yeah, I know much of that and I've even gone to CAW events. But I'm never opening another Heinlein book again, except perhaps Grumbles from the Grave. I've been exhorted by many people and tried several times, and I just. cannot. stomach. him.
(no subject) - opalmirror - Nov. 18th, 2005 02:40 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - firecat - Nov. 18th, 2005 05:01 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rmjwell - Dec. 7th, 2005 09:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - firecat - Dec. 7th, 2005 10:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - epi_lj - Nov. 18th, 2005 04:34 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - opalmirror - Nov. 18th, 2005 07:16 am (UTC) - Expand
pir_anha
Nov. 18th, 2005 01:59 am (UTC)
what an odd list. will clicking the link explain why the author picked these novels? suspect not, so i'll pass and guess instead; more fun anyway.

i would say watchmen is on the list because it's sort of the quintessential take on the superhero mythology, and it's pretty much on any "must read" list of comics. geeks often like comics -- there's your connection.

stranger in a strange land has "grok" in it.

consider phlebas is an odd choice; i would pick the player of games as banks' primary geek novel because it's about gaming. this is also the banks i'd recommend reading first. i am a huge fan of his writing.

androids is much different from the movie. you might like it better -- then again, you might not. dick doesn't appeal to everyone. i wonder whether there isn't some confusion between the book and the movie going on in the inclusion here.

dune is probably on the list because of its quoteworthiness in geek circles.

1984 and brave new world are read by every growing european geek in school; they're quite formative, i would guess. certainly were for me.

i don't grok (*heh*) american gods' inclusion. sandman, now, that i could see.
firecat
Nov. 18th, 2005 02:22 am (UTC)
Clicking the link will explain - it's a guardian.co.uk poll.

Thanks for the banks rec'n.

I like your speculations about why they're all on a geek books list. I agree with most of it, except for dune. We in the US also generally read 1984 and brave new world in schools. Well. We used to. I suspect these days schools aren't assigning books that tell people to think for themselves.

The only reason I can figure for American Gods is that one could play a pretty geeky game trying to figure out who all the gods are that he put in there.
(no subject) - leback - Nov. 18th, 2005 02:34 am (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - firecat - Nov. 18th, 2005 05:02 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - djm4 - Nov. 18th, 2005 06:57 am (UTC) - Expand
the player of games - pir_anha - Nov. 25th, 2005 12:59 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: the player of games - firecat - Nov. 25th, 2005 05:02 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - king_tirian - Nov. 18th, 2005 03:46 am (UTC) - Expand
epi_lj
Nov. 18th, 2005 04:31 am (UTC)
My theory on "geek novel," used in this context is that they polled a number of people identified somehow as geeks and listed their top-ranked novels.

I adored Cryptonomicon. I liked Microserfs. Neither of these is an argument in favour of you reading them, per se. *shrug* My livejournal userid comes from Cryptonomicon, via a convoluted process.
aquaeri
Nov. 18th, 2005 11:32 am (UTC)
John Wyndham I remember as being really quite fun if you can get past the 60ish cultural assumptions, or possibly enjoy them all the more for that.

I haven't read anything by Iain M Banks myself, but I have a number of friends who rave about him.

I just don't think Pratchett is for everyone, and in particular, Colour of Magic is not that good. I'd second other comments about the witches books - I think if you're going to like Pratchett, it's most likely to be them.

I read the Illuminatus! trilogy as a teenager, and I thought it was juvenile and self-indulgent, written by men who didn't know much about women, then. I'd hate to think how I'd feel about it if I read it now.
firecat
Nov. 18th, 2005 07:22 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I'm thinking I've already tried to read Wyrd Sisters, alas. But I'll give it another look one of these days.

I've always had that impression of the Illuminatus stuff, so I'm not planning to read it.
(no subject) - aquaeri - Nov. 19th, 2005 05:29 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
firecat
Nov. 18th, 2005 07:23 pm (UTC)
Oh, it sounds wonderful.

I've never really expected Stephenson's book to have an "end" as such. Nice to know he can manage it.
tedesson
Nov. 18th, 2005 05:10 pm (UTC)
Orwell and Huxley are often linked, but they really are very different.

I went on a Huxley reading marathon in University, after I heard a radio interview with a retiring politician talking about how he was influential in the introduction of socialized medicine in Canada, and the closing of the psychiatric hospitals in favor of return to their communities with help in the form of new psychotropic drugs and dropin centers.

I was quite enthralled by _Doors of Perception_ ("the dharma body of the buddha is in the bush at the bottom of the garden").

Huxley was precient about the currents pushing us towards our current society. Including things like socialized medicine, teenagers trading psychotropics among friends (from the NYTimes this weekend), the rise in importance of meditation and Buddhism in the west (_Island_), and other topics which I'm not recalling at the moment.

I'd definately call many of his works science fiction.

Orwell, I would have to say was also writing science fiction, and would, in my opinion, fit right in with the current crop of scottish socialist science fiction writers, even though he wasn't scottish. Even his reporting (_Down and Out in Paris and London_) was so far removed from what the ordinary literate person was likely to have experienced at that time (or in our time), it had the same deep questioning of premises that the best science fiction has.

Stylistically, I'd have to say that A.Huxley was a better writer than Orwell. I just loved the shape of his languange a lot more. That may be related to their personal styles. They were both interested in experiencing all of life first hand, but I believe that Huxley was more likely to step over the bounds of convention at any moment than Orwell.

Sad, sort of, that they are lumped in our minds together, though it is a wonderful thing that both _Animal Farm_ and _Brave New World_ made the list.
firecat
Nov. 18th, 2005 07:27 pm (UTC)
Thanks, really good analysis! I have only read Brave New World by Huxley but I was impressed by the "prescient about current trends" more than anything. Maybe I'll try some more of his stuff.
tedesson
Nov. 18th, 2005 05:19 pm (UTC)
Iain M. Banks
I haven't read _Consider Phlebas_, but I have read 3 other novels by Banks. I can think of no other author capable of writing with such extraordinary range. He never, ever repeats himself. I'm sure it must be frustrating to his publishers, and to those readers who are looking for "more like that one, please!".

So, I can't say what _Consider Phlebas_ would be like, or even if you'd like it. I can say I've enjoyed the books of his I've read, and I am looking forward to reading his other works. And, considering he publishes a book a year, there's a lot to look forward to.

He splits out his work by science fiction (Iain M. Banks) and non-science fiction (Iain Banks), a habit which he dislikes now.

The last book of his I read, _Inversions_ is almost a fantasy novel. And, one could read it quite successfully as straight fantasy. But, if you've read anything else in his Culture series, you'll pick up on the tiny clues suggesting something quite different is going on.

My favorite so far has been _Excession_, though _Look to Windward_ was also quite good. I have _The Player of Games_ in my queue.

First rate writing.
tedesson
Nov. 18th, 2005 05:22 pm (UTC)
Stranger in a Strange Land
I think this is an extremely geeky novel, if for no other reason than it's the novel which cracked open the possibility of poly among science fiction geeks. That, and 'grok', of course, which has got to be the definition of geek. "A geek is one who groks'.

I reread this a couple of years ago, thinking it wouldn't hold up, but it's still a good read, and moving in all the right ways. Not a great novel, but a strong, worthy, influential novel.
abostick59
Nov. 19th, 2005 06:34 am (UTC)
"It's Only Until We Get a Real Geek"
That, and 'grok', of course, which has got to be the definition of geek. "A geek is one who groks'.

A geek is a circus or carnival performer whose act is to bites the heads off of live chickens. In the carny hierarchy, geeks are the lowest of the low.

Robertson Davies' World of Wonders is a geek novel. The ultimate geek novel would have to be Katherine Dunn's Geek Love.

I don't like the way "geek" has overtaken "nerd". It's a terrible slur.
Re: "It's Only Until We Get a Real Geek" - firecat - Nov. 19th, 2005 06:43 am (UTC) - Expand
tedesson
Nov. 18th, 2005 05:33 pm (UTC)
And, if you're not tired of me yet..
The one author I've enjoyed quite a bit lately, who's not on that list is Richard K. Morgen. His Takeshi Kovacs series is shocking in the way that all great science fiction is, plus being a fast moving action adventure.

The politics of it is plausable, the technology much more of a stretch.

Extremely gory and violent, but that's because that's the sort of person the main character is. You're not supposed to just like the main character, he's someone who's broken in some pretty severe ways. I like that about the books, if only because of the tension between wanting to like him because his is the point of view through which we experience the story, therefore he's my proxy, and in the interests of self-liking, I want to like him; and between hating him and hating him as my proxy.

I tried Morgen's other book. Hated it. Too close to things I've actually expereienced, and therefore no opportunity for the ironic distance necessary to enjoy reading.
firecat
Nov. 18th, 2005 07:30 pm (UTC)
Re: And, if you're not tired of me yet..
Based on your description of Morgen - have you read John M. Harrisson's Light?
Re: And, if you're not tired of me yet.. - tedesson - Nov. 19th, 2005 04:24 am (UTC) - Expand
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