Unlike the Fantasy genre (covered in part 1) Science Fiction is not overly burdened with trilogies and longer series. They are present, but do not dominate the genre, which is all for the good. You can pick up a science fiction novel and be sure of a complete story in 300-400 pages. If all you?ve ever read in your life is fantasy, you might not think that was possible, but it is. There are a lot of good science fiction authors around, and since most books out there are stand-alone novels, it?s pretty easy to just pick one up and give it a try. Below here are a few of the stand-outs.
Orson Scott Card?s book about Battle School and the twisted games that are played there is simply excellent. A bunch of kids wired to computer games, fighting for the future of humanity, or are they? The end of the book is quite moving, with Ender becoming both a hero and a mass murderer. Card has written quite a few sequels, but none touch the first book for sheer storytelling power.
The Forever War
Joe Haldeman?s book details just what Einstein?s Relativity theory means for a soldier locked in a futuristic war between humanity and the only intelligent race humans have contacted. Each trip home brings our hero face to face with a society that changes out of all recognition. By the time of his final mission, it?s over 1000 years since the war began, and he has no more in common with human society than the aliens he is fighting. My write up can?t do this story justice, but if I had only one science fiction novel to recommend, this would be it.
Well there had to be one, didn?t there? Science Fiction isn?t entirely free of trilogies and other series of books. Kim Stanley Robinson gives us one here, the story of humanity?s colonisation of Mars. Or is that Mars? colonisation of humanity? While Ender?s Game can be read as a story entire to itself, Red Mars sits up and begs you to buy the next book. I often think of this as a two-book series, with a third book tacked on the end. The story pretty much ends with Green Mars, and Blue Mars is part story, and part future history of humanity?s colonisation of the solar system and even beyond. There?s only so much story to tell of Mars, and a large part of Blue Mars is set away from that planet. It shows the reader what is going on elsewhere in the solar system, but loses the character-driven focus of the first two. Still, the first two books are great, and the third is still good, if flawed. If you are determined to stick to single-book science fiction stories, then Antarctica by the same author would get the nod here.
I could have named Peter F. Hamilton?s Night?s Dawn trilogy instead of this stand-alone book. But since I?ve just finished saying how trilogies don?t dominate sci-fi like they do fantasy that would make me look silly. Fallen Dragon gives us a nicely bleak picture of humanity utterly in thrall to capitalism gone mad. Corporations act as interplanetary pirates, making their money through piracy, in the name of collecting interest on bills no one ever signed for. In the midst of this is our hero, a man who made a terrible mistake in his youth, but is given a chance to redeem himself, and also discover the secrets of the galaxy, through the creature known as the fallen dragon.
Time to Speculate
Part 3 of this series is going to look at the nebulous genre of Speculative Fiction. What is it? Well, if a book is not quite fantasy, or not quite science fiction, then the chances are that it falls into this genre. If you?re expecting me to list a bunch of ?what if?? books, you?re very much mistaken. Join me next time!
I?ve received a lot of feedback to Part 1, and I?ll follow Part 4 with a few words about your own recommendations, and let you all know what people are telling me.
The Ninth Circle was written from 2002-2006, by David Kay, and with 58 installments it was the longest running column in Diabloii.net’s history. The Ninth Circle covered computer gaming, RPGs, fantasy novels, the gamer’s life, and other related issues. Opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Diii.net.