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Worst SF/F Book Ever

This article on the worst songs ever made me wonder what were some of the worst sf/f books people ever read. The only requirement is that it you had to actually finish the book. Otherwise, slam away.

For me, I would say that Battlefield Earth is the worst book I’ve ever finished. I though the first half was good. But then, at the halfway point, the main bad guy (Terl) gets killed off. The last half of the book details the efforts of Earth’s survivors to wrestle control of the planet from…shark bankers. Lame. Every page was a tough decision to persevere or give up. Unfortunately, I continued. After the read, I had no inkling to see the Travolta movie (although I did catch part of that train wreck on SciFi).

About John DeNardo (13013 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

6 Comments on Worst SF/F Book Ever

  1. Hands down, for me its Dhalgren. I know a lot people like this book, but I found it dense, impenetrable, confusing and boring. I tried to read it 3 times before I was able to read stright through. Delany seemed more interested in how ‘literary’ he could write then in actually writing a decent story. Admittedly, I was 16 or so when I read it and at that time I was more interested in reading ‘big’ novels than in what was inside them so it might be better now (as I discovered The Difference Engine is/was (choose your own verb tense)). I read Battlefield Earth as a freshman in high school and remember it being light mentally (certainly not physically!) and a quick read. But it isn’t great. And the reviews on the cover seem to have been literally ghost written by L. Ron himself…

  2. Worst book I’ve ever finished? Hmm, that’s tough really because the worst books I usually quit reading. Dune maybe for me – a book about religeon and politics hiding as sci-fi. Of course, I was 15 or so.

    Really the worst is probably some book that my wife bought that I read on vacation because I ran out of books of my own. I can’t even remember the titles though – I’ve tried so hard to block them out.

  3. Scott, what about Silverberg’s The Alien Years? I seem to remember you saying something about it being a good book except for the lame ending. Does that fall under your 90/10 rule?

  4. Probably not for The Alien Years because the book was fine other than the ending which wasn’t so much bad as just uninspired.

    The worst part was that he actually had a character predict the ending (‘foreshadowing’, a sign of quality literature, I know) and, I thought, toss it away as lame. Then to have that be the ending, wow, super lame.

  5. Books I could not finish:

    • The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursual K. LeGuin
    • The Merchant War by Frederik Pohl
    • Little, Big by John Crowley
    • Vortex by Chrish Bunch & Allan Cole
    • The Breeds of Man by F.M. Busby
    • The Fabulous Riverboat and The Dark Design by P.J. Farmer
    • The Forest House and Lady of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley – I liked Mists of Avalon so much, I thought I’d like the sequels. Wrong!
    • Back Into The Time Trap by Keith Laumer – Another case of “liked the first one, hated the sequel”
    • The Big Time by Fritz Leiber – Too lyrical for a good time travel book
    • That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis
    • Last Call by Tim Powers
    • The Adolescence of P1 by Thomas P. Ryan – The source of why reading books recommended by Garly sucks.
    • A Door into Ocean by Joan Slonczewski
    • Dracula by Bram Stoker
    • December by Phil Rickman
    • Boy’s Life by Robert R. McGammon
    • Imajica by Clive Barker
  6. That’s it? Only 4 posts about the worst SF you’ve ever read? How about opening it up to books you couldn’t finish they were so bad. For me that would be the huge deca-ology, Mission Earth from Hubbard. The first book was so lame, so horrible that I couldn’t finish it. And to think there are 9 more books in the series!

    I have to toss in the Robert Jordan snore-fest, The Wheel of Time series as well. Although I read the first one, it made me realize CSPAN really isn’t that boring.

    Its amazing to compare Hubbard against Iain Banks (with or without the M.) or Jordan against George R.R. Martin. Quality always wins…

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