Good Space Opera?

Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by Boreas, Aug 6, 2015.

  1. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Depends on what you're looking for @Alicia. Do you want something action packed or something more thoughtful? Big concepts with an emphasis on 'hard science' or something with more drama? Something with a military emphasis?

    Extreme Action

    - the 5 volume, main-sequence Polity works by Neal Asher featuring his saboteur-cum-tactician Ian Cormac. First book is Gridlinked. These need to be read in order. They feature a mix of science fiction tropes that were pretty much perfected (in their unique presentation) with Iain Banks' Culture novels, but Asher really excels in the action department and handles the tropes very well. Asher's society of the Polity is very much the opposite of Banks' Culture in mindset.

    - the 2 part Sucession duology by Scott Westerfeld: The Risen Empire and The Killing of Worlds. Very easy to read, a frenetic pace from the get go and in the classic space opera vein, albeit updated for more modern sensibilities. When it comes purely to fun-factor in space opera, this one is hard to beat.

    Both of these are more militarily inclined.


    - The Player of Games by Iain Banks, his second published Culture novel. The Culture books can be read in any order and this one is the most introductory friendly of the lot and gives you a good, mainstream impression of Culture society from within (most of the Culture novels offer fringe perspectives). Don't be deceived by the 'thoughtful' moniker - it is an intense story.

    - Neverness by David Zindell. Very much a planetary romance like Dune with space opera elements. Excellent world-building. Zindell can wax quite philosophical but his science fiction works are grand in scope and damn worthwhile. Neverness and its sequel trilogy is every much as epic in scope as Dune and its sequels.

    Both of these focus more on characters.

    Big Concepts

    - the Revelation Space trilogy by Alastair Reynolds starting with Revelation Space (or perhaps the collection Galactic North). Baroque, Gothic, dense and with an emphasis on science. It is required reading in contemporary science fiction. If you'd rather read a single novel, then pick up House of Suns, which is one of his best and unrelated to the Revelation Space books.

    - Marrow by Robert Reed. You can also start with his collection of short stories The Greatship as @kenubrion mentions.

    - A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge. Two independent instalments in a related setting. Both are excellent but Deepness, the second published, is my particular favourite and I think superior to the first. Many of Vinge's works deal with the concept of the singularity, though not with much emphasis in these two.

    In Vogue

    - The Expanse series by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, writing as James S. A. Corey. Through support and endorsement by the likes of George R. R. Martin and the fact that's it's being adapted for TV to be aired at the end of the year, this is currently one of the most popular 'space operas' that takes place within the solar system. I've read the first volume, Leviathan Wakes, and it was a fun romp. The Expanse also tries to get the science right.

    And since you mentioned temporal non-fiction works, you might want to check out Charles Stross' space opera Singularity Sky, which features a great take on time travel, though somewhat confusing to understand (for me) because of the physics. There's also some crazy magic-realism and slipstream aspects to the work. Overall, very interesting. The opening was fantastic.

    Essential are Iain M. Banks and Alastair Reynolds.
    kenubrion likes this.
  2. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    I'm repeating myself but here goes: if anyone still hasn't read Scott Westerfeld's Succession duology that is The Risen Empire and The Killing of Worlds, then you're missing out. Some of the most action-packed and plain fun space opera written post-2000. It's not going to push boundaries, but aside from a small romantic sub-plot which isn't exactly cheesy, it does pretty much everything right from beginning to end. Plays with all the tropes excellently and still manages a few great surprises. It's difficult for me to think of anything more fun and with a pace that just doesn't let up. It's high-tech, but not at all difficult to understand. Just writing this has gotten me psyched to read it again.
    jo zebedee likes this.
  3. georgehudson

    georgehudson New Member

    Ill sure read "The Risen Empire " and "The Killing OF Worlds" . :)
  4. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Anybody else have good recs for space opera novels?
  5. jo zebedee

    jo zebedee Well-Known Member

    I like Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan books very, very much. I've also really enjoyed Ian McDonald's Luna this year which might just about fit the space opera bill? (And I've heard a fantastic excerpt of book 2 this week, very, very funny. About cake. It made me hungry.)
  6. kenubrion

    kenubrion Well-Known Member

    For a long serial-like space opera with unending action, Ryk Brown's Frontiers Saga is excellent. btkong also enjoyed it.

    Dread Empire's Fall by Walter Jon Williams is very good space opera. Three books starting with The Praxis.

    Edit to mention that I was surprised to get the new book in the Dread Empire's Fall series delivered to my Kindle yesterday. I had pre-ordered Impersonations when it was first announced back in July, and I read the whole thing yesterday instead of eating, sleeping or chasing squirrels, it was so good.

    And so I'm reminded why I thought Dread Empire's Fall was the best military space opera I've read and I've read them all. The backstory, which infuses this new book's story, is the best and most unique. Truly great writing by a master.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2016
  7. Royce Sears

    Royce Sears Well-Known Member

    I definitely concur with the recommendations for Peter F. Hamilton, and James S.A. Corey. If you enjoy Military Science Fiction, I enjoyed Leviathian by Jack Campbell (the space battles were done really well) and the Star Carrier Series by Ian Douglas.
  8. TomTB

    TomTB Administrator Staff Member

    Hooray .. someone else who likes Jack Campbell :) I enjoyed the whole Lost Fleet series, and will probably pick up his Jag books at some point.
    Royce Sears and Boreas like this.
  9. TomTB

    TomTB Administrator Staff Member

    .. although I did find the space battles to get a tad repetitive .. I did tend to gloss over them after a while ..
  10. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    See, I'm the opposite. The only reason I managed to read two books of the Lost Fleet series was because I found those battles that incorporated relativistic effects to be interesting. But even that wasn't enough to keep me from reading further!
  11. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    I enjoyed Koban by S W Bennet recommended by @kenubrion. I have bought and want to pick up soon The Mark of Koban, that is, as long as I can avoid other distractions in the recommendation department, such as:
  12. Royce Sears

    Royce Sears Well-Known Member

    I enjoyed Jack Campbell's space battles because of the realism. Jack is a former Navy Officer and Naval Academy Graduate who, from my perspective as a Navy Veteran, wrote about space combat in terms of fleet strategy. When you have to command a large number of vessels on the X, Y, Z, and T axes while reacting to another commander's movements within that framework at the speeds these ships were capable of attaining, space combat becomes a very real nightmare to describe and write about. The ONLY thing that I didn't appreciate about the ship movements was the lack of real accelerative forces and gravity when changing direction and accelerating or decelerating. He did mention that these were factors in plotting ship movements, but there were no real observable effects upon the main characters or the crew. The gravitational forces these ships would have been dealing with would have been crushing, or a the very least uncomfortable, without some form of inertial compensators that were never mentioned. But oh well, still good books nonetheless!
    Boreas likes this.
  13. TomTB

    TomTB Administrator Staff Member

    Completely agree, the space battles were excellently done, and it was obvious he'd put a lot of thought into them. By the time of the 45th space battles though, I must say it had gotten a touch repetitive, hence my previous comment. Still, great books, and absolute bargains as I picked up each one for just 99p.
    Royce Sears likes this.
  14. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Another often recommended space opera would be Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos, which consists of four novels in two story arcs: Hyperion and Endymion. Lots of people love these and some don't. I've also come across a couple of people who despised the first novel, Hyperion. Many say that only the first novel is good and then the quality falls, but I think the quality is strong all the way through. The Endymion arc is a different kind of tale from the Hyperion arc, even though they share the same setting, some recurring characters, and similar motifs.
    Kanly and Royce Sears like this.
  15. Royce Sears

    Royce Sears Well-Known Member

    These are on my TBR list... Looking forward to checking them out!
  16. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    Completely forgot about Endymion! I've got them in my kindle and meant to complete the tetralogy this summer.
    I getting all muddled up about my TBR list. I was planning to continue with Attanasio's Last Legend of Earth as I'm loving so much his Hunting the Ghost Dancer. Now you've got me distracted, again...
  17. jo zebedee

    jo zebedee Well-Known Member

    he didn't do it for me - not deep enough characterisation, I'm guessing. That's usually the deal breaker for me.
    Royce Sears likes this.
  18. MorteTorment

    MorteTorment Regular Member

    There's my personal favorite dark futuristic space opera known as Rogue Hunter, by Kevis Hendrickson. First of all, full dislclosure. The author offered me book 4 and 5 after I gave a bad review to book 3, and I've only read the first 2 books in the series.

    Regardless, it's been the best space opera series I've ever read so far. It's about Zyra, a famous bounty hunter who, when she can put her emotions aside, is quite an intelligent character. The first book is where she's given an assignment to rescue a man on a planet where his crime is being on a planet of all females, and being male is punishable by death. She's going to do this so he can stand trial for murdering Zyra's girlfriend. So yeah, if that kind of story interests you, I can recommend the first 2 books, and to avoid the third. Can't tell you how the rest of the series is though. Oh, and it's very very episodic.

    Another series I'd recommend is the Thrawn Trilogy. but...I think Timothy Zahn. It's sorta the author's vision for star wars episode 7-9, and was made in...I wanna say the mid 90's.
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2016
  19. Christophe

    Christophe Full Member

    I would also add Startide Rising by David Brin. Maybe not 100% space opera but still a fun read.
    Boreas likes this.
  20. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Great book. Did you also like his Sundiver?

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