Masterpieces: The Best Science Fiction of the 20th Century

An overview of the best science fiction short stories of the 20th century as selected and evaluated by critically-acclaimed author Orson Scott Card.

Featuring stories from the genre’s greatest authors:

Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert A. Heinlein, Ursula K. Le Guin, Ray Bradbury, Frederik Pohl, Harlan Ellison, George Alec Effinger, Brian W. Aldiss, William Gibson & Michael Swanwick, Theodore Sturgeon, Larry Niven, Robert Silverberg, Harry Turtledove, James Blish, George R. R. Martin, James Patrick Kelly, Karen Joy Fowler, Lloyd Biggle, Jr., Terry Bisson, Poul Anderson, John Kessel, R.A. Lafferty, C.J. Cherryh, Lisa Goldstein, and Edmond HamiltonMasterpieces: The Best Science Fiction of the Century may not include every reader’s choices for the top science fiction of the 20th century, but it lives up to its title. Editor Orson Scott Card has assembled 27 standout stories by the biggest names and best writers in the genre. Not surprisingly, most of these stories have been anthologized or collected elsewhere, and some (like Arthur C. Clarke’s “Nine Billion Names of God,” Harlan Ellison’s “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman,” and Robert A. Heinlein’s “All You Zombies–“) have been reprinted innumerable times. In addition, Card has previously placed some of these selections in his retrospective 1980s anthology Future on Ice.

While some stories in Masterpieces lack fine prose and well-rounded characters, they are solid and engrossing entertainments. Other selections combine literary and science fiction virtues to produce a superior blend, and some of these stories–“Bears Discover Fire” by Terry Bisson, “Snow” by John Crowley, “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman” by Harlan Ellison, “Face Value” by Karen Joy Fowler, “Tourists” by Lisa Goldstein, and “The Ones Who Walked Away from Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin–are art.

Masterpieces isn’t an anthology for the well-read fan. However, it is a great book for the new or intermediate science fiction reader. –Cynthia Ward

Nanci Arvizu, Writing and Reviews Editor

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  1. Perhaps “Fine Pieces” Rather Than “Masterpieces” This is a much better than average Ace anthology. Typically Ace, it doesn’t quite live up to its hype. The twenty six stories collected here are not the “Best Science Fiction of the Century” by anybody’s count, even Orson Scott Card’s own. Card himself describes his selection process in the Introduction: these are stories he loved at the first reading, enjoys on repeat readings, and “[a]bove all, these are stories that I cannot forget.” 

  2. Masterpieces??????????? Don’t be fooled by the title. There are very few “masterpieces” in this book. Even the stories by “masterpiece” authors are not their best (Asimov, Heinlein, Silverberg, Ellison, and Aldiss, for example). Where are Bester, Wolfe, Zelazny, and and Robert Reed? — writers whose genius was at its best in shorter venues. Almost half of this book (which is “The Best Science Fiction of the Century”) is from the 80s and 90s, much by unheard of authors. On top of that…

  3. Sparkling jewels in an exquisite setting Thank you, Orson Scott Card. Each story is a unique, often startling, mind ensnaring tale that captures your imagination and provokes your mind and spirit to move in new or deeper directions or both. 

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