SF’s Second Best Novels

I think this started as a play on words in the comments. But why not turn it into a real poll?

Here is a list of top sf and fantasy authors’ second novels. (Using the chronology in the Internet Science Fiction Database.)

Which one was the best? Leave your answer in the comments. Feel free to list any other eligible novel you like better than these.

(Authors are expected to improve with their second novels. I made note in a couple of cases where the author’s first novel is a recognized classic.)

  • Poul Anderson: The Broken Sword (1954)
  • Isaac Asimov: The Stars, Like Dust (1951)
  • Alfred Bester: The Stars My Destination (1956)  (first novel, The Demolished Man, 1952)
  • Ray Bradbury: Dandelion Wine (1957) (first novel, Fahrenheit 451, 1953)
  • John Brunner: Threshold of Eternity (1959)
  • Lois McMaster Bujold: The Warrior’s Apprentice (1986)
  • Orson Scott Card: A Planet Called Treason (1979)
  • C.J. Cherryh: Brothers of Earth (1976)
  • Arthur C. Clarke: Sands of Mars (1951)
  • Philip Jose Farmer: Flesh (1960)
  • Robert A. Heinlein: Rocket Ship Galileo (1947)
  • Frank Herbert: Dune World (1963)
  • Ursula K. Le Guin: Planet of Exile (1966)
  • Vonda N. McIntyre: Dreamsnake (1978)
  • Larry Niven: A Gift From Earth (1968)
  • Frederik Pohl: Undersea Quest (1954) with Jack Williamson
  • Joanna Russ: And Chaos Died (1970)
  • Robert Sawyer: Far-Seer (1992)
  • Robert Silverberg: Master of Life and Death (1957)
  • Clifford Simak: Time and Again (1951)
  • E. E. Smith: Skylark of Space (1946)
  • Neal Stephenson: Snow Crash (1992)
  • J. R. R. Tolkien: The Fellowship of the Ring (1954)
  • Jack Vance: Vandals of the Void (1953)
  • Joan Vinge: The Snow Queen (1980)
  • A. E. Van Vogt: The Weapon Makers (1947) (first novel, Slan, 1946)
  • Kate Wilhelm: The Nevermore Affair (1966)
  • Connie Willis: Lincoln’s Dreams (1987)
  • Gene Wolfe: The Fifth Head of Cerberus (1972)
  • Roger Zelazny: The Dream Master (1966)

14 thoughts on “SF’s Second Best Novels

  1. The Fifth Head of Cerberus isn’t a novel, it’s a collection of three linked novellas. Gene Wolfe’s second novel was Peace.

    The Stars My Destination, Dune World and The Fellowship of the Ring stand head and shoulders above the rest of the list, being three of the greatest works of SF and fantasy ever published.

  2. My own JUPITER PROJECT is a Heinlein tribute, soon to be back in print.
    I agree, “The Stars My Destination, Dune World and The Fellowship of the Ring stand head and shoulders above the rest of the list.”

  3. I agree that THE STARS MY DESTINATION and FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING deserve pride of place. Inasmuch as DUNE WORLD was apparently an alternative title early on for the book we now know as simply DUNE, I’d list it with the other two, like Greg and Mike do.

  4. Is it fair, or accurate anyway–:-)–to consider ROCKETSHIP GALILEO Heinlein’s second novel?

    (I could certainly be wrong about that thought…!)

    As to the rest, well, “Terra IS my nation.”

    (And I still regret not taking the time to see Bester speak, many years ago, at a Manhattan convention.)

  5. DUNE is complicated ….

    “Dune World” – a three part serial in Analog (Dec 63 – Feb 64) – was nominated for the 1964 Hugo Best Novel. The winner was Clifford Simak’s “Way Station”. The other nominees were “Glory Road”, “Witch World” “& “Cat’s Cradle” (not a bad list ….)

    The sequel – “The Prophet of Dune” was a five part serial in Analog (Jan-May 1985) (The March cover is, in my opinion, one of the best images of Dune … ever: http://www.isfdb.org/wiki/images/c/c3/ANLGMAR65.jpg).

    The two serials were then published in Dec 1965 together as the book “Dune” by the noted automotive publisher Chilton – who also published “The Witches of Karres” among other SF works (for the curious: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/publisher.cgi?442) – and it was the book that was nominated for a Hugo.

  6. Michael of course meant to type that “The Prophet of Dune” was serialized in Analog in 1965, not 1985.
    If I remember correctly, this was during the relatively brief period when Analog was published in large format (I’m picturing a page size around 9″ x 12″).

  7. Agree with the previous points about the great novels highlighted above.

    Looking at the list not in terms of *all sff novels ever* but *all novels by that author thus far* I would point to McIntyre, Vinge and Stephenson hitting the top of their game, or close to it, with that second novel.

    In most cases, though, it seems that the authors went on perfecting their craft for quite a ways before hitting their peaks.

  8. Morris: Right, in what some called “bedsheet” format. Which worked great for the Schoenherr covers.

  9. In doing this, one has to choose a definition of “second novel.” Some authors published novel-length serials in magazines that were later published as books.

    In Heinlein’s case, for example, Beyond This Horizon, Methuselah’s Children, Sixth Column, and the two stories that became Orphans in the Sky appeared in magazines before he published any books, emerging between hard covers only years later. And For Us, the Living was written before any of these– but not published until 16 years after the author’s death! So “second novel”

    Presumably our host has chosen a rational criterion for “second novel.” Those with quibbles are welcome to publish their own lists.

  10. Well, as I say, I went to the Internet Science Fiction Database, looked up each author, clicked on “Chronological” and whatever ISFDB displayed as the second novel is what I wrote down.

    You might also need to pick a definition of “novel.” I don’t know about Heinlein specifically, but some authors’ magazine serials later published as books were also substantially longer. Walsh has already noted the difference between the serialized Dune World and the book version of Dune.

  11. I usually like to keep my quibbles in a quasket.

    I just thought it was interesting!


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