Sun. Feb 5th, 2023

The winter holidays are coming up and many of you will soon be spending time in horrible places like airplane seats or the homes of relatives who want to lecture you about something really nasty. You must escape. Never fear – we’ve got a ton of recommendations for sci-fi novels that will fill your brain with other realities.

These are binge-reading books, so I’ve tried to include a lot of series in them (just in case you need distractions for a longer period of time). Most of these recommendations are for books that came out in 2015 or trilogies whose last book came out this year, but there are a few less recent ones to give you a head start.

I am sure there are many books you love but I have not included. Recommend them in the comments!

If you like near-future military SF, you won’t be able to put down Nagata’s thriller about an elite military team clad in clever armor. Set to be in constant contact via brain-computer interfaces, the “linked combat team” struggles to protect the innocent in an unnamed African country, while also dealing with private sector profiteers in the US who provoke wars to sell more weapons.

The technology in these novels is all based on things that are currently in development, and Nagata does a great job of imagining all the unintended consequences of deploying new machines. Like the way an implanted heads-up display could allow your commander to record everything you see – and then sell it to a reality TV producer to drum up support for the troops. What drives the series forward is sweltering action sequences and the ongoing mystery of a potential rogue AI called “the Red,” who seems to be influencing everyone and everything in the network.

This series was one of the most popular of all time in China, and Tor Books recently released superlative translations of all three books (two of which were translated by Ken Liu, himself a talented SF writer). It is the story of an immersive strategy game from space, a silent alien invasion and a communist government conspiracy, set against the backdrop of the Cultural Revolution and its traumatizing aftermath. Not only are these novels a satisfying delight for conspiracy fans, they are also mind-boggling hard SF on physics. And they provide a fascinating insider’s response to what has happened in China during recent periods of violent political transitions.

Auroraby Kim Stanley Robinson

Robinson is the celebrated author of the classic Red Mars trilogy, and this year published what may be the most realistic story ever written about a generation ship sent to colonize a moon in the nearby Tau Ceti system. . After nearly two centuries in space, the ship’s artificial ecosystems are stretched to the limit. And when the would-be settlers arrive at their destination, they discover just how strange an “earthly world” can really be.

Throughout the gripping saga, replete with meaty details about how humans could actually manage a closed ecosystem on a ship, Robinson poses a fundamental question: Is it ethical to board a generational ship knowing that you’re exposing your great-grandchildren to extreme conditions? which she never chose?

Like Robinson’s Aurorafrom Jemisin The fifth season explores the realities of life on an alien world, right down to how plate tectonics and volcanoes work. Set on a planet with one supercontinent, the novel begins with a mega-volcano whose power is so immense that it begins the process of dividing the continent in two. Due to its violent geological history, this planet has destroyed civilizations time and time again. But now, thanks to ancient technology left behind by one of these lost civilizations, a group of humans called orogenes has gained power over earthquakes. The problem is that the orogens have become scapegoats, just like the mutants of X-men. As the world literally breaks in two, we follow the action-packed, emotionally gripping story of a pair of orogens running for their lives – from the volcano and also from the non-orogenic stills that seek to control them.

Seven eveningsby Neal Stephenson

You may know Stephenson from other great novels like Snow crash, cryptonomeror Anathem. His latest is the 5,000-year story of humanity’s future after the moon mysteriously explodes, sending pulverized rocks to Earth until our planet becomes a giant blob of hellfire. All that’s left is a few hundred lucky people who were able to launch themselves into space to join the International Space Station in orbit. Written with Stephenson’s usual incredible attention to detail – yes, space nerds, the physics are great and beautiful and correct –Seven evenings is half techno-thriller about life in space, half fable about how our species might reinvent itself in the aftermath of a horrific disaster.

Additional Justice, the first novel in this trilogy, was so mind-blowingly original and powerful that it won the 2013 Science Fiction Awards, winning both the coveted Hugo Award and the Nebula Award for Best Novel. It is the story of a starship that is also an AI hive, blown up after the violent colonial occupation of a planet. All that remains of the hive mind is a single human named Breq, an “underling” who was once a sort of biological extension of the ship’s will. Now Breq lives alone to avenge the death of her most beloved officer, which means she must kill a different kind of hive mind that has gone to war with itself. The trilogy begins as an action adventure and slowly becomes a meditation on colonialism and AI awareness. Come for the gunfights and fully realized alien civilizations, and stay for Leckie’s sly observations about the nature of power.

The great Scottish writer Iain M. Banks reinvented sci-fi with his now-classic Culture series about a post-scarcity world of benevolent all-powerful AI “Minds”, sarcastic, shit-talking ships and people who die for fun because they can always transfer themselves to new bodies. Funny, thoughtful, violent and politically astute, these novels are a series of loosely connected stories about the culture, a mostly democratic band of humans who occupy a beautiful part of the galaxy with much help from the ghosts. Usually the culture is devoted to exploration and leisure. But occasionally they go to war, interfere with other civilizations, and discover massive objects in subspace that defy reason.

Many of the novels are about “special circumstances” agents, who do all the dirty work of keeping the culture safe and relatively friendly. If you want clever escapes and space travel with weird aliens and super cool starships, you can’t go wrong with virtually any novel in this series. It is somewhat helpful to read them in order, but not necessary.

Another classic sci-fi author whose work has been extremely influential is Octavia Butler, whose three short novels in the Lilith’s Brood series are among the twentieth century’s greatest (and weirdest) tales of alien civilizations. The Oankali arrive on Earth just after humanity has nearly driven itself to extinction. The aliens save a few remaining humans, bring them aboard their all-biological starship, and very gently explain that they must breed with humans to survive. The problem? The Oankali are covered in tentacles, have three sexes, and use pheromones to control their biological machines. The series follows three generations of people who eventually become absorbed in Oankali life and whose hybrid children are extremely compelling. Long after you finish reading, you will be thinking about the fate of the Oankali people.

Famous for coining the term “cyberspace” in his first novel, Neuromancer, Gibson went on to write several novels set in the present or near past, which nonetheless feel futuristic. With his latest novel The peripheralshowever, he has returned to the distant future. In fact, this novel takes us into two futures: somehow, people living a century from now have figured out how to contact people in the near future through a mysterious server somewhere in China. The only thing that separates the two futures is a horrific event whose impact we gradually merge as we come to understand the new (and old) kinds of technologies that everyone uses.

If after reading this strange and melancholic book you feel like more, try Gibson’s Blue Ant Trilogy first Pattern recognition. It’s about the military-fashion complex, a fragment of viral film footage and a marketing mogul trying to control the techno-cultural underground. It’s our world, but it feels like an alternate reality.

The Sparrowby Mary Doria Russell

Russell’s wonderful, literary novel brings up a very good point: if we were actually receiving signals from a distant alien civilization, no one would want to foot the bill to travel there and say hello. Except perhaps the Catholic Church, which has a long tradition of sending missionaries to distant lands in the hope of bringing them the Good Word. That’s exactly what happens in it The Sparrow, where a priest with a supernatural talent for learning foreign languages ​​is sent with a small crew to learn about the culture of the aliens whose terrifying music broadcasts have been picked up by SETI. When the priest and his companions are stranded for years with no hope of rescue, they discover what they should have known all along: there isn’t one “alien culture,” there are many, and they all play power games with each other. To assimilate and survive, these lonely people will have to make the same sacrifices that immigrants often make as they move between cultures on Earth, with similarly painful results.

Frame image by John Harris

By akfire1

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