I'd like some space opera/non hard sci recommendations

moonspawn

Journeyed there and back again
#1
I'm very new to sci fi but I've greatly enjoyed the Ender Quartet and Hyperion. So far 1984, Commonwealth Saga, Forever Wars, Starship Trooper, Expanse and Old Man's War are very high up on my too read list. Is there anything else I should add? I also have zero to no interest in hard sci fi; techno babble isn't my thing.
I've also read Snow Crash, Wool, and Oryx and Crake which I didn't enjoy. Just looking for some good science fiction that's intellectual and challenging enough without being too intimidating.
 

btkong

Journeyed there and back again
Staff member
#2
Hmm, try Hamilton's The Dreaming Void series or his more romantically minded Fallen Dragon standalone. Hamilton kind of writes grand space opera with a focus on characters, kind of like the way Dan Simmons does with Hyperion. A nice entertaining popcorn read without having to mash your brain against the wall trying to understand the concepts.

Give Simmon's other sci fi a read: Olympius and the sequel if you want to read about greek heroes on mars. Sounds weird but great read.

If you want something deep and about the characters (messed up ones), try Blindsight by Peter Watts. A serious read, but wonderful if you can get into it.

For something fun, try Ian Banks (RIP) Player of Games. It's intelligent but easy to read and a great segway into the Culture series.
 

Boreas

Journeyed there and back again
Staff member
#4
I agree with btkong's recommendation of 'Player of Games' by the late Iain M. Banks. It's his second Culture book and a better and shorter introduction than his first, 'Consider Phlebas'.

The Culture books are tremendously fun, depicting an alien filled galaxy à la Star Trek or Star Wars where the Culture, a pan-human civilisation, is a major player in the galactic scene. The science is advanced enough to be magical; the Culture's mastery of field technology allows them enormous latitude in what they can and have achieved. Though the Culture is fundamentally democratic to an extent that we can't even imagine, most power is delegated to, and by, the AI 'Minds', who act like a collective of philosopher-kings as described by Plato (in contrast to the complete democracy the Culture espouses). They use subterfuge and their powerful influence to steer 'lesser civilisations' onto paths more in line with their own ideals. They do this through their own CIA/KGB/Mossad - called 'Special Circumstances'. The novels are filled with wit and I love the ironical ship/Mind names and their twisted personalities.

My personal favourite Culture novels are 'Use of Weapons', 'Excession' and 'Surface Detail'.

You should also delve into Alastair Reynolds' 'Revelation Space' universe. Much more realistic, with science kept almost wholly within the bounds of possibility, his books don't present any kind of extreme societies, neither utopias nor dystopias. His societies are realistic extensions of our own with all the vicissitudes brought about by social and technological changes in the future. Think of space opera with a darker tinge - proper baroque space opera. His 'Revelation Space' books include the trilogy (1) 'Revelation Space', (2) 'Redemption Ark' and (3) 'Absolution Gap'; and also two stand alone novels in the same universe: 'Chasm City' and 'The Prefect'. There is also a short story collection called 'Galactic North' which includes a few stories featuring a major character from his 'Revelation Space' universe and some very enlightening background information concerning two important societies in his books. AR has written many other stand alone books separate from his 'Revelation Space' universe with 'House of Suns' and 'Pushing Ice' being particularly good.

Though AR's books are space opera, there is an element of 'hard sci-fi', since he keeps his technology scientifically plausible. There is no techno-babble, though.

Other fine science fiction novels that might fit your criteria are:

'The Dispossessed' by Ursula K. Le Guin
'A Canticle for Leibowitz' by Walter M. Miller
'Perdido Street Station' by China Mieville (more a fantasy, but superbly weird and a very gratifying read)
'Courtship Rite' or 'Geta' by Donald Kingsbury
'Neverness' by David Zindell
'The Demolished Man' and 'The Stars My Destination' by Alfred Bester ('Tiger! Tiger!' was the original U.K. title to 'The Stars My Destination')
The Foundation books by Isaac Asimov
'Flowers for Algernon' by Daniel Keyes
'Boat of a Million Years' by Paul Anderson
'Man Plus' by Frederik Pohl
'A Deepness in the Sky' and 'Fire Upon the Deep' by Vernor Vinge
The Books of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe (simply brilliant prose, some of the best written books I've ever read)
'Cyteen' by C. J. Cherryh (or other books in her Alliance-Union universe)

If you like military science fiction, then one of my favourite series is the Childe Cycle or the Dorsai books by the late Gordon R. Dickson. Unfortunately, he was never able to finish his series, but what he wrote was fantastic and huge in scope, in my opinion. Books include 'Tactics of Mistake', 'Dorsai', 'Necromancer', 'Soldier Ask Not', 'The Chantry Guild' and 'The Final Encyclopedia'. These titles are not given in chronological order. I recommend you read 'Tactics of Mistake' and 'Dorsai' first, as these two and 'The Final Encyclopedia' are my favourites.
 
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Boreas

Journeyed there and back again
Staff member
#5
I forgot to mention 'In Conquest Born' by C. S. Friedman, another great undervalued space opera type novel. And John Steakley's 'Armor' is a fantastic stand alone military science fiction book, with much more depth to it than you would initially think.
 

Sneaky Burrito

Crazy Cat Lady
Staff member
#7
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Obscenic

Told lies with Locke
#8
I highly, strongly recommend that you stay as far away from Edgar Rice Burroughs as possible. I think his stuff is considered space opera, at least his Mars series. I read it probably 10 years ago and it was just really terrible. Paper-thin characters, fight scenes reminiscent of a 1940s swashbuckling pirate film, crappy dialogue...basically everything sucked.

I tried watching the movie and got about half an hour in before I gave up.
 

moonspawn

Journeyed there and back again
#9
I highly, strongly recommend that you stay as far away from Edgar Rice Burroughs as possible. I think his stuff is considered space opera, at least his Mars series. I read it probably 10 years ago and it was just really terrible. Paper-thin characters, fight scenes reminiscent of a 1940s swashbuckling pirate film, crappy dialogue...basically everything sucked.
Never heard of him! I guess there's not really any danger that I'll read his stuff then. :)
 

Boreas

Journeyed there and back again
Staff member
#10
Never heard of him! I guess there's not really any danger that I'll read his stuff then.
Tarzan and John Carter are his two most famous creations. He's one of the fathers of early sci fi/fantasy pulp fiction.
 

kenubrion

Journeyed there and back again
#11
The Expanse series by James S A Corey.

The Aldenata series by John Ringo.

The Koban series by Stephen Bennett.

The Heris Serrano and Vatta's War series by Elizabeth Moon.

Of course, the Honor Harrington series by David Weber (the first 5-6 books anyway).

All of Peter Hamilton's duologies and trilogies.

The Culture books by Iain M. Banks in publication order.
 

Laurentius

Super Moderator
Staff member
#12
I highly, strongly recommend that you stay as far away from Edgar Rice Burroughs as possible. I think his stuff is considered space opera, at least his Mars series. I read it probably 10 years ago and it was just really terrible. Paper-thin characters, fight scenes reminiscent of a 1940s swashbuckling pirate film, crappy dialogue...basically everything sucked.
I would actually recommend reading the first book, A Princess of Mars. It's published in 1912, and it's easy to see. The language is old school, the story is, compared to our day and time, standard fare, but I think it passes the test of time quite well.

The book is 100 years old, and you can spot how this book has affected sci fi and fantasy 50 and 90 years later easily. I see parts of Heinlein, Tolkien, Bradbury and so on in his stories. There is just so many tiny bits and pieces used in the Barsoom series that has become standard since then.

To me, it was a real eye opener. Yes, by todays standards it not very good, but writing something that complex and weird 30, 50 or 90 years ahead of our time is just a stroke of brilliance.

That is of course just my opinion and may not be true at all. I happened to like the books quite a bit.
 

Axcellence

A farm boy with a sword
#13
I would also recommend the vorkosigan saga by Lois mcmaster bujold. Excellent drama and not hard Sci Fi. A lot more subtle dialogue then "I am going to gun em down".


Just make sure to read in order.