Recommendations of Science Fiction Reading

I have a friend. Let’s call him Michael. Because that’s his name (haaaaa…ah). I asked him recently if he was a reader because I am an escapist always looking for a good book. Maybe others are too. He wasn’t actively a non-fiction reader but was open to some science fiction. Thinking about all the tomes of fun I’ve been reading over the past few years I thought I’d provide some thought behind what to read if you’re looking into some science fiction fun.

We’ve come a long way since Asimov and Edgar Burroughs and I often wonder what both would think of the landscapes they started. We have the full gamut of possibilities in science fiction from the bubblegum fantasy to the deeply mathematically extrapolated futures of mind-bending possibilities. It’s a great time to dive into sci-fi.

Along the way, if you see quotes, it’s me pulling from my GoodReads reviews. Great community over there and I’ve been introduced to quite a few of these titles from some brilliant individuals/authors.

Bubblegum Science Fiction

In all genres, we sometimes need a break from deep elaborate dramas to deeply hard to interpret science fictional conquests. Bubblegum is not bad in its own right but an ease of reading that has almost no challenge with a usually fun flair for adventure–at least that is how I’m approaching it.

  • Omega Force, Joshua Dalzelle puts together a human man who goes exploring and builds a ragtag team that is very reminiscent of a Guardians of the Galaxy motif. Easy reading, good laughs, and a romp amongst the stars. Not to mention it’s got 7 volumes so you can enjoy the band for some time if you interleave it between harder to chew books.
  • Old Man’s War, John Scalzi, “If you want a wild ride of the old is young again, a war amongst the stars for expansion with creatures and methodologies which all strike a remarkable cord of plausible you’ll want to check in to this series. I caught myself in a few good laugh out loud moments where I had to try to explain to my wife, who didn’t care, what I was laughing at, then I had to try and downplay moments of humor to my 4-year-old who kept asking, “Dad what’s funny?” — oh nothing, this guy just named the computer in his head Asshole, that’s all. hahah!” 6 books in this series and it rarely if ever disappoints.

Probable Science Fiction

The not so distant future. Extrapolated timelines. Alternate realities. Things that might happen, could happen, many times–I hope do not happen. I wouldn’t call these dystopian because that always makes me think of space-lord-of-the-flies or some post-apocalyptic world based drama. These also might have some deep divergences but I found it safer to put it under probable since it usually sticks with an Earth we know to begin.

  • Queen of Angels, Greg Bear, a series of stories (and books–4 of them) set in the near-future. “If you want to see a transform detective from future LA, a scientist that can delve into the human psyche–and the horrors that might lurk in a killer, a pre-sentient AI, or a strange delving into Vodoun in a new Haiti. Read.” //This is a point in time, reference in the moment book. Enjoy it without expectations or aspirations and I think you’ll enjoy it as I did.
  • The Expanse: Leviathan Wakes, James S.A. Corey delivers a story. A story of a man with integrity drawn into a solar system controversy that quickly goes further and further down a rabbit hole. The science is light and throughout this long series (which is currently at no.9) is based on humanity. How we handle stress, alienation, isolation, science, morality, distance, and more. It’s become a tv show and if you want to tune in I’d read the first handful of books first. They are doing a great job of making it a show but you’ll get so many more details from the books.

Great Reads of Science Fiction

When you need some great reads. Balanced drama, good storytelling, rich environments, sometimes a little hard to process, sometimes a little too easy, but overall a good averaging and books that should definitely be added to the “to-read” list.

  • Hyperion Cantos: Hyperion, Dan Simmons, for this I really have to just quote the authors synopsis, “On the world called Hyperion, beyond the law of the Hegemony of Man, there waits the creature called the Shrike. There are those who worship it. There are those who fear it. And there are those who have vowed to destroy it. In the Valley of the Time Tombs, where huge, brooding structures move backward through time, the Shrike waits for them all. On the eve of Armageddon, with the entire galaxy at war, seven pilgrims set forth on a final voyage to Hyperion seeking the answers to the unsolved riddles of their lives.” This story is far-reaching and takes you on some very crazy pathways. A 5 part series with a lot of intelligence.
  • Children of Time, Adrian Tchaikovsky, what happens when you accidentally deliver a biological tool that raises up the most intelligent life on a planet–and that planet is..arachnids. Along with a slice of far-out Earth travelers who are on an Ark towards this place and the strange things that happen on a generation ship that can’t find a home. Good luck, gods speed.
  • Culture: The Player of Games, Iain M. Banks, this is a long-running series universe. I started with the second volume for a reason I don’t quite know anymore. Recommendation? Maybe. After I write this and finish the 10th of the series I’m going back to the first. This series is great. Set in a universe that may or may not have Earth origins we have crossed millennia of time. Each of these books has commonalities, a cannon. Without writing a dissertation on the Culture society we have larger than life AIs that run in everything from planet size ships to little millimeter long knife missiles. A population that lives so long a person can change sexes when it suits them, and have modded their limbic system to give them drugs for the moment–maybe a bit of calm at the end of a day, or some extra focus when times need it. It’s never tech-heavy but it can get hip deep more often than not.”What I do highly enjoy //from the 5th book Excession// was the drama of the AI Minds, their deep thought, ponderings, escapism, and more. To be able to shunt off elements of a mind to interact with people, think on multiple courses of actions, sit in a universe of their own creation, and perhaps stage elaborate art pieces with sleeping humans. All within pico-seconds? LoL! Awesome. // As it’s also been mentioned by reviewers greater than I. Ship names. They are glorious. To read a complete list here. For a sampling: Unacceptable Behavior, Ethics Gradient, Honest Mistake, Quietly Confident, Jaundiced Outlook, The Anticipation of a New Lover’s Arrival, Yawning Angel, and so many more. The AI’s get to name them, and I will never think in simple terms when I name gaming elements again. Too much fun!

Um, What?! Science Fiction

These titles are high fiber, hard to read, but rewarding. They make you squeeze every dram of intelligence one might have to comprehend and once through the gauntlet of mind-bending forays deliver something amazing.

  • Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie “Well written, well read, but complex. The idea of gender neutrality even when there were genders that did exist caused me some grief. Not too bad but when you make an assumption on who or what character you are reading, then hear its a different gender you have to re-role the character and ask a lot of questions from bias to motives. Neat twist though, but beware on some of the difficult tracking it.” This is one of three in the Imperial Radch series.
  • Remberence of Earths Past: The Three Body Problem, Cixin Liu is a Chinese author who takes us through China’s cultural revolution and some very interesting concepts of technology and what might be on the way (literally coming at us.) Many footnotes abound which helps quite a bit. “A little bit of a challenge but a good amount of enjoyment reading this. The author has a good pulse on some of the psychosis of human nature.” Followup book bowties the mini-series quite well and it’s great to read from a different cultural perspective.
  • The Machineries of Empire: Ninefox Gambit, Yoon Ha Lee produces a work that definitely makes you go.. WHAT?! “I don’t think I’ve ever read such a work that I felt nearly overwhelmed by. It was like waking up in the ocean with a storm about you. Where am I? What happened? What’s going on? How do I survive? Are all thoughts which flitted across my head. I took deliberate time reading; any little bit that might help me understand the puzzle I didn’t want whizzing by me.” […] “This was an intense book both in technology and philosophy. Foreign lands with a lot of exotic things going on. At least being human or human-like lent itself to some baseline to work from. In the end, though I enjoyed the challenge and like any rolling stone I eagerly picked up speed until…..Currently two books into a three-part series. The first is the most difficult, the second had a far easier read–that or you evolve during reading this. If you are up for a challenge, take hold traveler.
  • Jean le Flambeur: The Quantum Thief, Hannu Rajaniemi, “What do you get when you cross an epic space opera, high-end maths, realities, Sherlock Holmes, game theory, Inception, and a bunch of other viral memes? The Quantum Thief.This is a great series that has a lot of unseen twists and science that’s so far out there it’ll boggle the mind. A 3 parter and enjoyable throughout.

Anything Else?

This just scratches the surface but covers a lot of bases. I didn’t include the entirety of the Dune series even though it is also a fantastic space opera from the past. From these springboard into others and keep a watch on whats coming out next. We live in a time of great authors that are thinking on levels far beyond contemporary science which always leads to a fantasy of what might or could be.

I hope Michael gets some use out of this and anyone else who stumbles upon my rantings. If you have more recommendations let me know. I’m always eager to delve into something new!