Sometimes the sequel is nearly as good as the original. For all of these fun books, I recommend that you read the original first, and then lower your expectations just a wee bit for the sequel.
It’s hard to give peace a chance when the other side regards war as the necessary prelude to conquest, and a sneak attack as the best means to that end. That’s why the Kingdom of Manticore needs allies against the so-called “Republic” of Haven—and the planet Grayson is just the right strategic place to make a very good ally indeed. But Her Majesty’s Foreign Office had overlooked a “minor cultural difference” when they chose Honor Harrington to carry the flag: women on the planet Grayson are without rank or rights; Honor’s very presence is an intolerable affront to every male on the planet.
At first Honor doesn’t take it personally; where she comes from gender discrimination is barely a historical memory, right up there in significance to fear of the left-handed. But in time such treatment as she receives from the Graysonites does become wearing, and Honor would withdraw if she could, but then Grayson’s fratricidal sister planet attacks without warning and she must stay and prevail, not just for Honor’s honor, but for her sovereign’s.
First book: Ready Player One
I finished this book yesterday, and had a great time with it. If you liked Ready Player One, you should check this book out.
I’d include a description, but anything I could say would give too much away. Just start reading it without reading the inside cover: it’s more fun that way.
First book: Wild Seed
Mary is a treacherous experiment. Her creator, an immortal named Doro, has molded the human race for generations, seeking out those with unusual talents like telepathy and breeding them into a new subrace of humans who obey his every command. The result is Mary: a young black woman living on the rough outskirts of Los Angeles in the 1970s, who has no idea how much power she will soon wield.
Doro knows he must handle Mary carefully or risk her ending like his previous experiments: dead, either by her own hand or Doro’s. What he doesn’t suspect is that Mary’s maturing telepathic abilities may soon rival his own power. By linking telepaths with a viral pattern, she will create the potential to break free of his control once and for all—and shift the course of humanity.
“Butler is one of the finest voices in fiction—period… A master storyteller with a voice that cradles and captivates, Butler casts an unflinching eye on racism, sexism, poverty and ignorance, and lets the reader see the terror and beauty of human nature.”
—Washington Post Book World
First book: Rocannon’s World
The Earth colony of Landin has been stranded on Werel for ten years, and ten of Werel’s years are over 600 terrestrial years, and the lonely and dwindling human settlement is beginning to feel the strain. Every winter, a season that lasts for 15 years, the Earthmen have neighbors: the humanoid hilfs, a nomadic people who only settle down for the cruel cold spell. The hilfs fear the Earthmen, whom they think of as witches and call the farborns. But hilfs and farborns have common enemies: the hordes of ravaging barbarians called gaals and eerie preying snow ghouls. Will they join forces or be annihilated?
First book: All Systems Red
It has a dark past―one in which a number of humans were killed. A past that caused it to christen itself “Murderbot.” But it has only vague memories of the massacre that spawned that title, and it wants to know more.
Teaming up with a Research Transport vessel named ART (you don’t want to know what the “A” stands for), Murderbot heads to the mining facility where it went rogue.
What it discovers will forever change the way it thinks…
First book: Altered Carbon
Cynical, quick-on-the-trigger Takeshi Kovacs, the ex-U.N. envoy turned private eye, has changed careers, and bodies, once more… trading sleuthing for soldiering as a warrior-for-hire, and helping a far-flung planet’s government put down a bloody revolution.
But when it comes to taking sides, the only one Kovacs is ever really on is his own. So when a rogue pilot and a sleazy corporate fat cat offer him a lucrative role in a treacherous treasure hunt, he’s only too happy to go AWOL with a band of resurrected soldiers of fortune. All that stands between them and the ancient alien spacecraft they mean to salvage are a massacred city bathed in deadly radiation, unleashed nanotechnology with a million ways to kill, and whatever surprises the highly advanced Martian race may have in store. But armed with his genetically engineered instincts, and his trusty twin Kalashnikovs, Takeshi is ready to take on anything—and let the devil take whoever’s left behind.
“[B]bursts with energy and intelligence… It all adds up to a superior, satisfying cyberpunk noir adventure.”
First book: Leviathan Wakes
We are not alone.
On Ganymede, breadbasket of the outer planets, a Martian marine watches as her platoon is slaughtered by a monstrous supersoldier. On Earth, a high-level politician struggles to prevent interplanetary war from reigniting. And on Venus, an alien protomolecule has overrun the planet, wreaking massive, mysterious changes and threatening to spread out into the solar system.
In the vast wilderness of space, James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante have been keeping the peace for the Outer Planets Alliance. When they agree to help a scientist search war-torn Ganymede for a missing child, the future of humanity rests on whether a single ship can prevent an alien invasion that may have already begun…
“This breakneck tale will have readers itching for book three.”
First book: Singularity Sky
A G2 star doesn’t just explode—not without outside interference. So the survivors of the planet Moscow, which was annihilated in just such an event, have launched a counterattack against the most likely culprit: the neighboring system of New Dresden.
But New Dresden wasn’t responsible, and as the deadly missiles approach their target, Rachel Mansour, agent for the interests of Old Earth, is assigned to find out who was. Opposing her is an unknown—and unimaginable—enemy. At stake is not only the fate of New Dresden but also the very order of the universe.
And the one person who knows the identity of that enemy is a disaffected teenager who calls herself Wednesday Shadowmist. But Wednesday has no idea what she knows…
“[Stross] has the ability to superimpose an intriguing take on contemporary events over an imaginative story peopled by bizarre characters.”
—The Kansas City Star
First book: Shards of Honor
Discharged from the Barrarayan academy after flunking the physical, a discouraged Miles Vorkosigan takes possession of a jumpship and becomes the leader of a mercenary force that expands to a fleet of treasonous proportions.
If you like these first two books, there are fourteen more in the series.
“The pace is breathless, the characterization thoughtful and emotionally powerful, and the author’s narrative technique and command of language compelling. Highly recommended.”
—Booklist (on the Vorkosigan Saga)
First book: Neuromancer
A corporate mercenary wakes in a reconstructed body, a beautiful woman by his side. Then Hosaka Corporation reactivates him, for a mission more dangerous than the one he’s recovering from: to get a defecting chief of R&D—and the biochip he’s perfected—out intact. But this proves to be of supreme interest to certain other parties, some of whom aren’t remotely human.
“Suspense, action… a lively story… a sophisticated version of the sentient computer, a long way from the old models that were simply out to Rule the World.”
First book: A Fire Upon the Deep
After thousands of years searching, humans stand on the verge of first contact with an alien race. Two human groups: the Qeng Ho, a culture of free traders, and the Emergents, a ruthless society based on the technological enslavement of minds.
The group that opens trade with the aliens will reap unimaginable riches. But first, both groups must wait at the aliens’ very doorstep for their strange star to relight and for their planet to reawaken, as it does every two hundred and fifty years.
Then, following terrible treachery, the Qeng Ho must fight for their freedom and for the lives of the unsuspecting innocents on the planet below, while the aliens themselves play a role unsuspected by the Qeng Ho and Emergents alike.
“Huge, intricate, and ingenious, with superbly realized aliens: a chilling spellbinding dramatization of the horrors of slavery and mind control.”
First book: Binti
It’s been a year since Binti and Okwu enrolled at Oomza University. A year since Binti was declared a hero for uniting two warring planets. A year since she found friendship in the unlikeliest of places.
And now she must return home to her people, with her friend Okwu by her side, to face her family and face her elders.
But Okwu will be the first of his race to set foot on Earth in over a hundred years, and the first ever to come in peace.
After generations of conflict, can human and Meduse ever learn to truly live in harmony?
“Okorafor’s writing is even more beautiful than I remember it being in Binti, evocative and sharply elegant in its economy.”
First book: Revelation Space
The once-utopian Chasm City—a domed human settlement on an otherwise inhospitable planet—has been overrun by a virus known as the Melding Plague, capable of infecting any body, organic or computerized. Now, with the entire city corrupted, from the people to the very buildings they inhabit, only the most wretched sort of existence remains. For security operative Tanner Mirabel, it is the landscape of nightmares through which he searches for a lowlife postmortal killer. But the stakes are raised when his search brings him face to face with a centuries-old atrocity that history would rather forget.
“A worthy follow-up to Revelation Space. Reynolds transmutes space opera into a nourish, baroque, picaresque mystery tale. Inventiveness and tone are Reynolds’ strong points… the novel’s details are consistently startling but convincing in context. Reynolds remains one of the hottest new SF writers around.”
First book: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Facing annihilation at the hands of the warlike Vogons? Time for a cup of tea! Join the cosmically displaced Arthur Dent and his uncommon comrades in arms in their desperate search for a place to eat, as they hurtle across space powered by pure improbability.
Among Arthur’s motley shipmates are Ford Prefect, a longtime friend and expert contributor to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; Zaphod Beeblebrox, the three-armed, two-headed ex-president of the galaxy; Tricia McMillan, a fellow Earth refugee who’s gone native (her name is Trillian now); and Marvin, the moody android. Their destination? The ultimate hot spot for an evening of apocalyptic entertainment and fine dining, where the food speaks for itself (literally).
Will they make it? The answer: hard to say. But bear in mind that The Hitchhiker’s Guide deleted the term “Future Perfect” from its pages, since it was discovered not to be!
First book: Sundiver
Brin’s tales are set in a future universe in which no species can reach sentience without being “uplifted” by a patron race. But the greatest mystery of all remains unsolved: who uplifted humankind?
The Terran exploration vessel Streaker has crashed in the uncharted water world of Kithrup, bearing one of the most important discoveries in galactic history. Below, a handful of her human and dolphin crew battles an armed rebellion and the whole hostile planet to safeguard her secret: the fate of the Progenitors, the fabled First Race who seeded wisdom throughout the stars.
Winner of both the Hugo and Nebula awards, Startide Rising is the second book in the Uplift series (there’s a total of six), but popular opinion has it that the first book, Sundiver, can be safely skipped.
First book: Red Mars
Winner of the Hugo Award for Best Novel
Nearly a generation has passed since the first pioneers landed on Mars, and its transformation to an Earthlike planet is under way. But not everyone wants to see the process through. The methods are opposed by those who are determined to preserve their home planet’s hostile, barren beauty. Led by the first generation of children born on Mars, these rebels are soon joined by a handful of the original settlers. Against this cosmic backdrop, passions, partnerships, and rivalries explode in a story as spectacular as the planet itself.
“Dense as a diamond and as sharp; it makes even most good novels seem pale and insignificant by comparison.”
—The Washington Post Book World
First book: Doomsday Book
This Hugo-winner is one of the funniest science fiction books I’ve ever read. It isn’t a silly, knee-slapping romp like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but a calmer story that relies more on character interactions than external craziness.
Time travel exists but is primarily a method for historical research. It’s also exhausting, and Ned Henry has done far too much of it. But instead of getting some much-needed rest, he’s sent to Victorian England to recover something called a bishop’s bird stump. He gets help from Verity Kindle, a fellow time-traveler who has shuffled a cat between timelines, an act that has the potential to completely upset all of history.
Ned and Verity are a great team as they try to patch everything up, and the eccentric Victorians they run across are hilarious.
“Willis effortlessly juggles comedy of manners, chaos theory and a wide range of literary allusions [with a] near flawlessness of plot, character and prose.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
First book: The Three-Body Problem
Earth is reeling from the revelation of a coming alien invasion—in just four centuries’ time. The aliens’ human collaborators may have been defeated, but the presence of the sophons, the subatomic particles that allow Trisolaris instant access to all human information, means that Earth’s defense plans are totally exposed to the enemy. Only the human mind remains a secret. This is the motivation for the Wallfacer Project, a daring plan that grants four men enormous resources to design secret strategies, hidden through deceit and misdirection from Earth and Trisolaris alike. Three of the Wallfacers are influential statesmen and scientists, but the fourth is a total unknown. Luo Ji, an unambitious Chinese astronomer and sociologist, is baffled by his new status. All he knows is that he’s the one Wallfacer that Trisolaris wants dead.
“Wildly imaginative, really interesting.”
―President Barack Obama on the Three-Body Problem trilogy
First book: 2001: A Space Odyssey
Nine years after the ill-fated Discovery One mission to Jupiter, a joint Soviet-American crew travels to the planet to investigate the mysterious monolith orbiting the planet, the cause of the earlier mission’s failure, and what became of astronaut David Bowman. The crew includes project expert Heywood Floyd, and Dr. Chandra, the creator of HAL 9000.
What they discover is an unsettling alien conspiracy tampering with the evolution of life on Jupiter’s moons as well as that of humanity itself. Meanwhile, the being that was once Dave Bowman—the only human to unlock the mystery of the monolith—streaks toward Earth on a vital mission of its own…
“Clarke deftly blends discovery, philosophy, and a newly acquired sense of play.”
First book: Consider Phlebas
The Culture—a human/machine symbiotic society—has thrown up many great Game Players, and one of the greatest is Jernau Morat Gurgeh. Master of every board, computer and strategy. Bored with success, Gurgeh travels to the Empire of Azad, cruel and incredibly wealthy, to try their fabulous game… a game so complex, so like life itself, that the winner becomes emperor. Mocked, blackmailed, almost murdered, Gurgeh accepts the game, and with it the challenge of his life—and very possibly his death.
First book: John Dies at the End
There is probably no one else on the planet who would agree with me that this book belongs on the top of this list. But it’s a great book.
My wife hates it when I read this book because there are actually spiders all over the cover.
It’s also one of the funniest books I’ve ever read, and yes, I’m including The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in that list.
Two reluctant and generally irresponsible heroes are aware of huge invisible spiders that live in people’s heads due to their earlier ingestion of a drug called Soy Sauce. While they try to stay out of trouble (the kids, not the spiders), Armageddon finds them anyway. Hilarity and horror ensue.
“[A] phantasmagoria of horror, humor–and even insight into the nature of paranoia, perception, and identity.”
―Publishers Weekly (starred review)