Panda Ray is a rare beast: a fun and weird adventure for kids where there is no Chosen One. Thank God. I’m a little tired of the Hero’s Journey.
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.
Do Not Resuscitate is a story told by the aging Jim Frost, who’s being harassed by a daughter with control issues to get his brain downloaded and backed up. As he considers what this means about the impermanence of death, and how much he doesn’t agree with it, he tells the story of his life. He’s seen a lot of the world go to pot while transporting red coolers for a mysterious boss.
Earth has received a mysterious message from space, and several thousand scientists are tasked with decoding it. They fail (this isn’t a spoiler—it’s revealed early in the book).
Spin State by Chris Moriarty is a hard sci-fi murder mystery set thousands of years in the future on an alien planet. If you can wade through the tons of jargon in the first chapter of so (I couldn’t on the first reading), it’s a fun ride.
A famous scientist is burnt to a crisp deep within a mine. Tough as hell, severely cybernetically augmented Li and her world-spanning, snarky artificial intelligence ex-lover must figure out why.
I liked the characters, the dark mines where a lot of the action takes places, and enjoyed the fast-paced plot twists, even if I did get lost a few times.
Bottom line recommendation: Buy it used or get it at the library.
The Martian is one of the most enjoyable science fiction books I’ve ever read. An astronaut is left behind on Mars, and must survive by himself for over a year, using only his wits and what was left behind by a few previous missions.
Author Weir does a masterful job in creating his highly likable, intelligent, and deeply human protagonist Mark Watney. The science in The Martian is hard and feels as real as stone.
This book is a great combination of man vs. nature à la Jack London, with the inventiveness of MacGyver, moments of laugh-out-loud humor, page-turning pacing, and plot twists that are surprising but in hindsight feel inevitable.
All in all, a good story well told.
Bottom line recommendation: buy this book and possibly frame it.
On June 13, 2014, Reddit user sudevsen posed a question to the Books subreddit: What’s the best stand-alone science-fiction book of the last 25 years?
Reddit responded generously, including some titles that were older than 25 years (science fiction readers can be passionate, and if there’s a book you should read, by god they’re going to tell you, to hell with the rules).
sudevsen ended up with over 2,000 answers.