Random comments: It's good to see Steven Erikson, Stephen R. Donaldson, Roger Zelazny, and George R.R. Martin on there. It's nice that there are a few relatively new authors on there, like Patrick Rothfuss. It's refreshing to see that people still read and appreciate the classics (Fahrenheit 451, 1984, The Foundation Trilogy, Brave New World, Stranger in a Strange Land, etc.).
There are some questionable inclusions, which I won't dwell on because I've discussed them elsewhere. However, in a popularity contest, I can see how they came to be included (The Sword of Truth and The Sword of Shannara).
I gather there were a lot of Neil Gaiman fans voting; I haven't actually read any of his books but I hear very good things about them and I intend to borrow them from my boyfriend at some point in the future when I actually catch up with my reading list. There were a lot of Brandon Sanderson fans voting, as well. (I'll have more to say about Sanderson in a future post.)
What I don't get is all the Neal Stephenson on there. I am quite surprised that Anathem made the top 100 list. This book irritated me on numerous levels. It ended with a double wedding (ugh!). But mostly it was the science that bothered me. He works with this idea of different universes where the physical constants are different. Fine. But you can't just put people from four different universes on the same ship together and have them interact. Some reasons why:
- The cones in our eyes are optimized for colors we can see. Visible light, like all electromagnetic radiation, is quantized. So if Planck's constant is different in different universes, wavelengths of visible light (assuming eye evolution is anything at all alike in each universe) are going to be different, and quite possibly not visible to beings from other universes with cones that evolved under different selective pressures. Someone -- perhaps everyone -- in this combo ship isn't going to be able to see, at all, because they're traveling in a fifth universe. If you're in a universe, you have to obey its physical constants. You can't have local pockets where you bring your own little universe and its parameters along.
- The people from these different universes could breathe the same oxygen, with difficulty, but their respective foods passed right through the digestive systems of people from other universes. This reveals the author's lack of knowledge of basic biochemistry, including the citric acid cycle. If you can't digest food, you can't break down the bonds between the various atoms in the food molecules, mostly carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen. So your enzymes don't work on atoms from the other universe; maybe the active site geometry of the enzyme just isn't quite right for slightly different bond lengths. Fine. But you can't have it both ways. Either the food and the oxygen both work, or they both don't. Because an electron acceptor in cellular respiration is oxygen (remember this equation: C6H12O6 + 6 O2 → 6 CO2 + 6 H2O). You're using the oxygen to break down the food. Then plants take the CO2 back up again and make oxygen. These plants make the sugar you break down -- with oxygen -- to use as fuel. It's the same oxygen atoms, and they get shuffled around. You can either handle them always, or never. You can't pick and choose.
I've gotten so far off-topic at this point, that I think I'll abandon my attempt to discuss the list of books. But check it out if you get the chance. See what you think.