Discovering a new book series is a fantastic feeling. Here’s hoping you find something new below.
If none of these is enough for you, look into the Perry Rhodan series. A new novella has been published weekly since 1961, and there are currently over 2700 stories. If that’s still not enough of a challenge for you, they’re also in German.
The 2001: A Space Odyssey screenplay was written by Clarke and filmmaker Stanley Kubrick jointly, based on the seed idea in Clarke’s story “The Sentinel,” where an alien civilization has left an object on the Moon to alert them (the aliens) to mankind’s attainment of space travel.
Clarke wrote the book in parallel with the screenplay, and there’s a distinct difference: in the novel, the voyage was to the planet Saturn. During production of the film, it was decided that the special effects for Saturn’s rings would be too expensive, so the voyage in the film is to Jupiter instead. The second book, 2010, alters the storyline of the first book to make the destination Jupiter as seen in the film.
Thousands of years from now, a mind’s potential is determined by its location in space—from superintelligent entities in the Transcend, to the limited minds of the Unthinking Depths, where only simple creatures and technology can function. Nobody knows what strange force partitioned space into these “regions of thought,” but when the warring Straumli realm use an ancient Transcendent artifact as a weapon, they unwittingly unleash an awesome power that destroys thousands of worlds and enslaves all natural and artificial intelligence.
Brutal and noir, Alerted Carbon is generally considered the best of this brutal cyberpunk series, but I also loved Broken Angels, which is a little more space-y.
Lately, author Morgan has turned his hand to fantasy in The Steel Remains, which, if reviews are true, is at least as gruesome as his SF.
I first learned about Iain M. Banks from a drunken swing dancer whom I had just done a “Death Drop” to, amazingly without injury. I’ve been a huge fan of the Culture books ever since, up until Banks’s untimely death from gallbladder cancer in 2013 (he lived only two months after his diagnosis, poor guy).
The Culture books take place in a post-scarcity future (i.e., no one needs to have a job) where a happy, semi-anarchist humanity is benignly managed by wildly advanced artificial intelligences.
Author Connie Willis can be a polarizing figure. Some readers cannot get enough of her beautiful, gripping gems and count her as their favorite author, while others can’t stomach the stories. Note that these books involve a fair amount of time travel to the past, so you’ll be learning more about gritty human history than warp drives.
Dune is the best-selling science fiction novel of all time, and has spawned a huge franchise (I think we’re past “series” at this point). Oddly enough, no one’s been able to tell Dune visually (no, I’m not counting Lynch’s Dune. He tried, but it wasn’t good).
Whoever can crack the Dune visuals and create a film or show that fans embrace will make shocking amounts of money. In the meantime, enjoy Dune and God Emperor of Dune (the others are iffy). The other books by Frank’s son Brian and Kevin J. Anderson lack the depth of the original Dune, but are all entertaining reads.
For nearly thirty years, this series was a trilogy: Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation. It won the one-time Hugo Award for “Best All-Time Series” in 1966. Asimov began adding to the series in 1981, with two sequels: Foundation’s Edge and Foundation and Earth, and two prequels: Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation.
The Heechee are portrayed as an exceedingly advanced star-travelling race that explored Earth’s solar system millennia ago and then disappeared without a trace before humankind began space exploration. When we found their technology, we acted like humans: not having any idea how it worked, we started pressing buttons and yanking levers.
The Hyperion universe originated when author Dan Simmons, an elementary school teacher at the time, told an extended tale at intervals to his young students.
Those of you who have read Hyperion and know what a nasty piece of work the Shrike is cannot help but wonder what kind of emotional troubles those young students ended up with.
This series contains a mixture of elements of science fiction and fantasy and takes place on the planet Majipoor, where all manner of alien species have been settling for thousands of years. There are remnants of advanced technology, but not much is still useful—most denizens are essentially agricultural peasants.
With Neuromancer, author William Gibson made cyberpunk grow up. The trilogy takes place in a world controlled by corporations and infused with computers at every point. The unintended consequences of so much technology is examined in all the books.
Like much of author Stephen Baxter’s work, the Xeelee Sequence is hard SF space opera. The novels span several billions of years, describing the future expansion of humanity, its war with its nemesis, an alien race called the Xeelee, and the Xeelee’s own war with dark matter entities called Photino Birds.
(Two famous alien series in this list, and they’re “Heechee” and “Xeelee”? What are the odds?)
The Mars Trilogy follows the settlement and terraforming of Mars by following the personal tribulations of a wide number of characters over a couple centuries. There’s some really excellent hard SF here, plenty of believable characters, and perhaps a little too much talking at the end of the third book, but it’s still immensely satisfying to follow the colonization of Mars for such a long period of time.
The Revelation Space universe is set in a future version of our world, with the addition of a number of extraterrestrial species and advanced technologies that are not necessarily grounded in current science. Nonetheless, it is somewhat “harder” than most examples of space opera, relying to a considerable extent on science Reynolds believes to be possible; in particular, faster-than-light travel is absent.
While a great deal of science fiction reflects either very optimistic or dystopian visions of the human future, the Revelation Space universe is notable in that human societies have not departed to either positive or negative extremes, but instead are similar to those of today in terms of moral ambiguity and a mixture of cruelty and decency, corruption and opportunity, despite their technology being dramatically advanced.
This series revolves around the Ringworld, a megastructure artifact 600 million miles in circumference around a sun.
Readers are encouraging to read these books in order—they depend on each other.
The Hainish Cycle is set in an alternate history/future history in which civilizations of human beings on a number of nearby stars, including Terra (Earth), are contacting each other for the first time, establishing diplomatic relations, and setting up a confederacy under the guidance of the oldest of the human worlds, peaceful Hain.
In this history, human beings did not evolve on Earth but were the result of interstellar colonies planted by Hain long ago, which was followed by a long period when interstellar travel ceased. Some of the races have new genetic traits, a result of ancient Hainish experiments in genetic engineering, including a people who can dream while awake, and a world of androgynous people who only come into active sexuality once a month, and can choose their gender.
In keeping with Le Guin’s soft science fiction style, the setting is used primarily to explore anthropological and sociological ideas.
All the novels in the Vorkosigan Saga include humor and comedy, though sometimes quite dark and juxtaposed with tragic deaths or losses. Author Bujold mixes military adventure, political thriller, romance, and the whodunit in various proportions.
I couldn’t get into Shards of Honor, but the series has a huge number of devoted fans, so it’s probably worth a shot.
In the Uplift universe, an intergalactic civilization called the Five Galaxies, comprising a multitude of sentient races, has existed for billions of years. This civilization is perpetuated by the act of Uplift, in which a “patron” species genetically modifies a Pre-sapient “client” species until it is sapient. The client species is typically indentured to its patron species for 100,000 years. A patron species gains considerable status, and patrons and clients often unite into powerful clans. Patron status can be lost due to extermination, or gross crimes against the galactic civilization.
When humans get involved with Uplift, do we screw things up? Yes. Yes, we do.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the funniest book written in the English language. The sequels are not quite as good, but they’re still pretty fantastic.
The Gap Cycle is an series set in a future where humans have pushed far out into space in the name of commerce.
Like his earlier Chronicles of Thomas Convenant the Unbeliever, the Gap Cycle is dominated by a dark and bleak atmosphere. It’s not for kiddies.
This series details a secret history continuing from the Ancient Egyptian period to the far future that involves telepathic mind control and an extraterrestrial plague.
The Lensman Series was a runner-up for the Hugo award for Best All-Time Series, and was beaten by some nobody named Isaac Asimov who wrote something called Foundation, which is possibly about concrete.
In the not too distance future, while fleets of commercial space ships travel between the planets of numerous solar systems, a traveler named Virgil Samms visits the planet Arisia. There he becomes the first wearer of the Lens, the almost-living symbol of the forces of law and order. As the first
Green Lantern Corps Lensman, Samms helps to form the Galactic Patrol, a battalion of Lensmen who are larger than life heroes. These solders are the best of the best, with incredible skills, stealth, and drive. They are dedicated and incorruptible fighters who are willing to die to protect the universe from the most horrific threat it has ever known.