Shards of Earth hits everything I love about space opera. Great characters, a grand scale, interesting technology, aliens that are actually alien, Big Mysterious Things, and general fast-paced awesomeness.
The Architects are moon-sized aliens that, inexplicably and unstoppably, tear inhabited planets apart and turn them into flower-like structures, killing everything on the planet. This has already happened to Earth. However, a ragtag group of scavengers stumbles upon a floating, wrecked spaceship that may have an answer to stopping the Architects. If they can survive long enough to attempt to stop them, that is.
Recommendation: Read it, if space opera is your thing. Author Adrian Tchaikovsky is fantastic.
The Risen Empire has some interesting ideas about the far future. Humanity has split into several factions, one of the largest is the Risen Empire, ruled by a single, immortal emperor for sixteen hundred years. This emperor has the sole power to bestow immortality on any of his subjects. When the emperor’s home planet is attacked and his sister held hostage, military and political gears start turning.
Author Alastair Reynolds isn’t afraid of big, strange ideas, and he puts on a parade of them in House of Suns.
A while ago I had surgery. Nothing really major, but enough to put me in bed for several days. During this time, I read Abaddon’s Gate and loved it.
The Justice of Toren was a colossal starship run by an artificial intelligence. That intelligence also linked thousands of human soldiers, each soldier’s mind completely run by the AI. These AI-run soldiers are known as ancillaries.
In an act of treachery, the Justice of Toren is destroyed, and the AI—now going by the name of Breq—is a single human body filled with unanswered questions and a burning desire for vengeance.
Revelation Space is a sprawling, hard-SF tale with enough original ideas for three thick novels. Seriously, it’s overflowing with the stuff. And it’s written by a guy with a PhD in astronomy, so all the science feels solid.
It’s got aliens, artificial intelligence, megastructures, colonized planets, ancient mysteries, cyborgs, big-ass spaceships, intrigue, betrayal, and murder. Reads don’t get much more satisfying than this.
Recommendation: Buy it or get it at the library. Then read the other four Revelation Space books and buy the box set when it comes out (this is my current plan).
I learned about author Iain M. Banks when I was in San Francisco, swing dancing with a woman, who recommended him to me during a twirl. I paid her back by executing a successful “death drop” dance move on her. Amazingly, she did not end up with a cracked skull.
The Algebraist is not one of Banks’ popular Culture stories, taking place only a couple thousand years in the future instead of ten thousand, but it’s still fun.
Like many popular terms, “space opera” was coined as an insult. It’s based on “soap opera” (nothing to do with music) and its original meaning was a “hacky, grinding, stinking, outworn, spaceship yarn.”