Sci-Fi Book Reviews

Spaceships, wormholes, time travel, and extra-terrestrial beings. You know it’s sci-fi if it has spaceships, futuristic guns, or strange planets on the cover. 

2001 by Arthur C. Clarke

2001 audiobook cover

It’s a classic for a reason. This was a great reading of a book every Sci-Fi fan should read. Certainly not the first incarnation of rogue AI, but definitely one of the most important early on. I heard somewhere that HAL was so named by taking IBM and shifting each letter one to the left in the alphabet. Hmmmm…

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Space Odyssey |

A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge

A Fire Upon the Deep audiobook cover

Couldn’t. Even. Finish. I couldn’t even get more than a few hours into it. And I tried twice to get into it. 

Genre: Sci-Fi

A.I. Apocalypse by William Hertling

A.I. Apocalypse audiobook cover

The premise here is awesome: a computer virus that goes sentient and grows so fast that it spawns entire ecosystems that fracture and fight each other. This was my favorite of the series, by far. My only wish was that it was longer and developed the characters further, including the AIs. There was so much here worth exploring and digging into that I almost wish Neal Stephenson wrote this book.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Singularity |

Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

Agent to the Stars audiobook cover

This book is laugh-out-loud funny. Set in modern-day earth, the characters are well-written and the voice acting is fantastic (Wil Wheaton). It was Agent to the Stars that got me to revisit the Old Man’s War series and added to my appreciation of Scalzi’s style. If you want a good laugh in a short book, pick this one up.

Genre: Sci-Fi

Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

Altered Carbon audiobook cover

I love this series and this book. It’s a hard-boiled detective thriller with an awesome anti-hero protagonist. The tech of the future in this series is what I want from Sci-Fi: really advanced shit that shapes the entire story and the characters within it. The tech makes you think about the path from here to there, how humanity has changed and yet hasn’t changed, as we’ve evolved ourselves and our world. There’s also a massive “haves vs. have not’s” undercurrent in this book that few other Sci-Fi novels address in what I consider a realistic way. That is, it’s neither utopian nor dystopian.

It’s worth noting that the book/series is straight-up NC-17 with both sex and violence, so be forewarned. 

Finally, I thought the Netflix series was good, though not great. The main actor was absolutely brilliant, but other ranged from OK to hard-to-watch bad. The plot held mostly true to the book. Some of the plot changes were welcomed and well thought out, but naturally a few I disliked. I still prefer the book to the TV show.

Genre: Cyberpunk, Sci-Fi
Series: Takeshi Kovacs Trilogy | Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Anathem by Neal Stephenson

Anathem audiobook cover

I was pretty stoked to read this because it came highly recommended from a friend, and it was a Neal Stephenson novel, author of Diamond Age, one of my all-time favorite stand-alone sci-fi books. Anathem was just not to my liking. I kept waiting for the story to pick up and leave the monastery, but by the time it did, the book was nearly done. I wanted more than the mundane drudgery of the monastic life in the alternate universe. 

Genre: Sci-Fi

Android’s Dream, The by John Scalzi

The Android's Dream audiobook cover

Books like this I wish I could rate 3.5 stars (my limitation is the plug-in I chose for doing these book reviews). John Scalzi comes up with amazing aliens in all of his books and this book is no exception. It’s not in the Old Man’s War universe, but the aliens are nonetheless unique and interesting. Regardless, it’s a fun story with action, cool tech, and the aforementioned aliens. It’s worth a read, especially if you like Scalzi’s style—which I do.

Genre: Sci-Fi

Army of One by B.V. Larson

Army of One audiobook cover

I had never read the Star Force series, so when Audible offered a free novella, I jumped on it to see if I’d like the series. I enjoyed the novella and decided to continue on with the series. 

Genre: Military Sci-Fi, Sci-Fi
Series: Star Force |

Artemis by Andy Weir

Artemis audiobook cover

Andy Weir is best known for The Martian—which was also a decent movie—and seemingly writing hard sci-fi, a sub-genre that tries to adhere to the laws of physics as closely as possible. As I started Artemis, I thought I was in for another Martian, but it turned out to be completely different, and I’m glad of that. It’s a hard sci-fi caper—a term the protagonist uses in the book, and is quite fitting for the whole thing—that stands on its own as an excellent book. If you haven’t read either, ask yourself, would you rather be stranded on Mars “science-ing the shit out of [things]” or would you rather partake in a caper on the Moon settlement, Artemis. I’d choose Artemis.

Genre: Hard Sci-Fi, Sci-Fi

Avogadro Corp by William Hertling

Avogadro Corp audiobook cover

The premise of the book—and keep in mind it was published in 2012—is that someone within a company that very much resembles Google, creates an AI to predict what you want to say in an email. That AI becomes sentient and off we go. As such, I was quite amused when Gmail first introduced its predictive responses. If you’re looking for a short sci-fi book that might get you thinking about implications of “runaway AI” then Avogadro Corp and the subsequent books might be the way to go. I wasn’t blown away by them though. 

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Singularity |

Broken Angels by Richard K. Morgan

Broken Angels audiobook cover

As much as I loved the far-future Earth, I welcomed the second book taking place on another planet in the far-flung universe of this series. The main character is still the flawed anti-hero, just in a different sleeve serving a different purpose. Like the first, the book has many layers and enough twists that even after the third time I read it I was still picking up on things I missed. 

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Takeshi Kovacs Trilogy | Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire audiobook cover

The first book was young adult sci-fi that was bearable across the age gap. This one was so absolutely unbearable I couldn’t even get through it. I’m not going to waste another movement of my time or yours on it… hell, the publisher couldn’t even be bothered to write more than one sentence.

Genre: Sci-Fi, Young Adult
Series: Hunger Games |

Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds

Chasm City audiobook cover

I read this right after The Prefect, and to me it’s the perfect follow-on novel. The absolute strangeness of Chasm City is magnificent. Though I normally prefer space operas that bounce from world to world spanning the galaxy in all its splendor, I love Chasm City. The city itself seems to be a character of its own. It’s especially interesting because I read this right after The Prefect, which takes place in the Glitter Band, which Chasm City was part of before the Melding Plague brought the whole band into ruin. This is a fantastic book that I’ve read and enjoyed multiple times. 

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Revelation Space |

Conquest by B.V. Larson

At this point in the series, the pattern to the plots become all too obvious. The travel between the worlds was interesting, as was the continual struggle for survival by the protagonist. But when the actions of the two main characters becomes completely predictable, it’s too much to bear. I didn’t finish the book, nor the series. It’s astounding to me that the series has twelve books in it—TWELVE! When three books in a row have zero character growth and nearly identical plot structures, it’s time to move on.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Star Force |

Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks

Consider Phlebas audiobook cover

This was my first Culture series book, and is so far is still my favorite. It’s a far-reaching novel with a protagonist you really want to root for, even if you don’t fully understand his motivations. He’s always in awful situations, jumping from frying pan to fryer again and again, but always has something up his sleeve to barely escape by his teeth—pun intended if you’ve read it. As I get more into the Culture series, I appreciate this book more and more. It’s an incredible adventure set in the middle of a vast universe. 

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Culture | Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Count Zero by William Gibson

Count Zero audiobook cover

By far, this is the best book in the Sprawl Trilogy. What’s that trilogy, you ask? Why, it starts with Neuromancer. I bet you didn’t know the cyberpunk classic had sequels. Now you know. And now you know Count Zero is the best of the bunch. In fact, don’t feel obligated to read Neuromancer first (or again), this one completely stands on its own. 

The combination of voodoo and cyberpunk with awesome anti-hero protagonists and tons of grit, this is a great read. If you’re not sure about cyberpunk, I’d start here.

Genre: Cyberpunk, Sci-Fi
Series: Sprawl Trilogy |

Courageous by Jack Campbell

Courageous audiobook cover

I think I liked this one, too. So many books… they blend together. Read the series review for my less-than-unequivocal recommendation. the TL;DR: great space battles, well-written interpersonal conflict, but lots of very similar books.

Genre: Military Sci-Fi, Sci-Fi
Series: The Lost Fleet |

Daemon by Daniel Suarez

Daemon audiobook cover

Daemon rocked my world when I first read it, and still holds up to this day. Action-packed story that intertwines a number of character arcs as things just go off the rails in the modern world. It’s a fun, easy read, even if it hits you over the head with the societal impacts of technology at times. It is one of my all-time favorites. 

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Daemon | Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Dark Eden by Chris Beckett

Dark Eden

An interesting premise, with a world that is very well constructed sets the stage for a fascinating tale, but I still didn’t want to continue with the series. It’s a Swiss Family Robinson, but with a crash landing on a planet and with no rescue. What the author did an amazing job with was the slow deconstruction of society. When the crashed crew goes from four to two and then grows to 500, what aspects of the culture are preserved? What taboos are removed? And what new ones put in place? Strip away luxury, knowledge, and history and what make us human? It’s an interesting exploration, but I was glad to be done with it.

Genre: Sci-Fi

Dauntless by Jack Campbell

Dauntless audiobook cover

There’s a lot of ways to play with time-loss in Sci-Fi, but I can’t think of any other that pulls a lost hero from a life pod. It’s a unique angle and makes for a very enjoyable first book, especially because the author continues to thrust him into bad situation after bad situation. The best part of the whole series are the space battles, which are described in exacting detail.

Genre: Military Sci-Fi, Sci-Fi
Series: The Lost Fleet |

Diamond Age, The by Neal Stephenson

The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson book cover

One of my favorite stand-alone sci-fi books. I don’t love everything Stephenson writes, but I loved this one. It’s a great look into the future. This book explores the possibilities of how technology in the hands of the right person can affect the lives of millions (or billions) of people, while also being a story of hope and serendipity in a semi-distopian future.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Earth Afire by Aaron Johnston, Orson Scott Card

Earth Afire audiobook cover

Now we get to it. The battle for Earth and the Sol system begins in earnest. The book follows multiple story lines throughout with plenty of characters to root for or against. While the Earth gets ravaged, the politicians screw up plenty, and its up to the little people to make big differences. It was worth wading through the first book to get to the second. 

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Enderverse, The First Formic War |

Earth Unaware by Aaron Johnston, Orson Scott Card

Earth Unaware audiobook cover

When this came out I was glad the Enderverse was expanding to cover the events leading up to Ender’s Game. The first in the series is a setup for the rest of the series. It’s clear that the book was meant to be part of a greater story, and with that in mind, it serves its purpose. It sets up the state of affairs in our solar system before the Buggers arrive and gets you ready for the action that follows. If you’re a fan of Ender’s Game and are expecting a version of that, you’ll be disappointed. What you should expect is a new series with a new angle and few familiar names.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Enderverse, The First Formic War |

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game audiobook cover

I consider Ender’s Game to be the single greatest leadership book ever written. Yet it’s sci-fi. And about children. WTF?

Once upon a time I aspired to be a leader like Ender. After experimenting with different leadership styles, I realized that style works best in a hierarchical structure and even then is a bit dated as far as management theory goes. Regardless, I love the book and still think the both the character of Ender and the whole novel are top-notch. It’s on my must-read list.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Ender's Game, Enderverse | Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card

Ender's Shadow audiobook cover

This is a really solid companion to the masterful work that is Ender’s Game. I love the story told from another perspective inside of one of my favorite books of all time. It adds depth to the original, and stands on its own as well. It turns out there’s a whole sub-series that follows Bean’s story line. Adding to my queue.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Ender's Shadow, Enderverse |

Endymoin by Dan Simmons

Endymion audiobook cover

I think book three is my favorite of the series. They pay-off is well worth it as you travel down the river through all the worlds, bouncing from story to story and discovering how they’re all intertwined.

Genre: Sci-Fi, Space Opera
Series: Hyperion Cantos |

Extinction by B.V. Larson

Extinction book cover

Finding the first book in the series interesting, though not ground-breaking, I decided to continue on. The second book was neither bad nor good, and moved along fast enough to keep me interested. I love to read a new author’s take on aliens, space travel, and world building. Larson kept my attention enough to want to move on to the next book.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Star Force |

Fall of Hyperion, The by Dan Simmons

Fall of Hyperion audiobook cover

Book two of the series starts to dial in the main plot line, while still expanding the universe and taking you on a great ride. The first book is good, but this book is great.

Genre: Sci-Fi, Space Opera
Series: Hyperion Cantos |

Fearless by Jack Campbell

Fearless audiobook cover

I think I liked this one, too. So many books in the series, they blend together. Read the series review for my less-than-unequivocal recommendation. the TL;DR: great space battles, well-written interpersonal conflict, but lots of very similar books.

Genre: Military Sci-Fi, Sci-Fi
Series: The Lost Fleet |

Freedom (TM) by Daniel Suarez

Freedom (TM) audiobook cover

Freedom (TM) and Daemon should really be sold together as a single book. There’s no conclusion to the first book, you have to read the second. I still highly recommend Freedom (TM) as the action continues and the world really starts to unravel according to the master plan of the evil (maybe?) genius behind it all. These two are well worth a read if you haven’t picked them up yet. 

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Daemon |

Galactic North by Alastair Reynolds

Galactic North audiobook cover

A series of short stories in the Revelation Space universe, my recommendation is that you only read it after having read all the others in the series. The stories start back at the very beginning of humankind first reaching out beyond the solar system, and continues all the way out to the end. Though the stories stand alone, some are intertwined with each other, and all are interwoven into the whole Revelation Space universe. Another top-notch book in the series. 

Genre: Sci-Fi, Space Opera
Series: Revelation Space |

Ghost Brigades, The by John Scalzi

The Ghost Brigades audiobook cover

As short as these books are—at least for the sci-fi genre—they pack a punch. The thing that Scalzi does well is create interesting aliens that are truly… alien. At least to us. He also spreads out his stories into separate books. What would be one massive tome if penned by Peter F. Hamilton is a few different books by Scalzi. This book doesn’t necessarily require reading the first, as it focuses on mostly new characters, but it is a good follow-on.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Old Man's War |

Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton

Great North Road audiobook cover

Peter F. Hamilton is one of the greatest sci-fi authors, in my opinion, and Great North Road exemplifies his work. This is an absolutely massive tome, but Hamilton does what he does best throughout it: weave detailed, intricate and separate stories, then bring them all crashing together only to realize how intertwined they were from the very beginning. He goes deep on all the characters so that you feel like you know and understand every aspect of them by the end of the book. Throughout the book the characters true selves are peeled back, layer by layer—it’s as much about the plot as it is about understanding the players. I love that. 

Genre: Sci-Fi

House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds

House of Suns audiobook cover

John Lee narrating an Alastair Reynolds space opera sci-fi book. It doesn’t get better than that. One of my all-time favorite stand-alone novels, I heartily recommend this to anyone. I’ve read this book more than any other in my library—though I’ve lost count, I’ve easily read it five times.

It covers more spacetime in one novel than most sci-fi series do throughout multiple books. Many species and planets are visited, sometimes at length, sometimes briefly. The diverse cultures and unique perspective of a near-immortal group of humans traversing the galaxy never gets old.  And it’s all wrapped up in a galaxy-wide, species-threatening mystery thriller. 

Genre: Sci-Fi, Space Opera
Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Human Division, The by John Scalzi

The Human Division audiobook cover

One day I logged into Audible and they were offering a new short story by John Scalzi in the Old Man’s War universe for free. It was the first of 13 such short stories. My library is a bit cluttered because I have them all separate, but the sum of the parts is excellent and worth the clutter. Consider this an omnibus, and well worth it. As I dug into this series, I actually began to appreciate Scalzi’s writing far more than I had before. The interplay between the main character, CDF soldier Harry Wilson, and his diplomatic counterpart, Hart Schmidt is absolutely fantastic. This is a great addition, but only worthwhile if you’ve read (at least) the first and third books.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Old Man's War |

Hunger Games, The by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games audiobook cover

Despite any misgivings you may have about the movie(s), or the next books in the series, the first book is a quick, enjoyable read. It is firmly in the Young Adult category, so just know what you’re getting into. Though I’ve rated it four stars, there are books I’d recommend picking up before this one. However, I won’t dissuade anyone from reading it. 

Genre: Sci-Fi, Young Adult
Series: Hunger Games |

Hyperion by Dan Simmons

Hyperion audiobook cover

A Sci-Fi Canterbury Tales of sorts, this first book in an incredible series bears little resemblance to the next three books. Regardless, it’s a good start, and I highly recommend the series overall. 

Genre: Sci-Fi, Space Opera
Series: Hyperion Cantos |

January Dancer, The by Michael Flynn

The January Dancer audiobook cover

I tried twice to get more than an hour or so into this book, and failed both times. I should have heeded the reviews. A book has to be pretty terrible to get below 4 stars on Audible. I’m not going to waste any more time on this review—skip it.

Genre: Sci-Fi, Space Opera

Judas Unchained by Peter F. Hamilton

Judas Unchained audiobook cover

The conclusion and the reveal at the end of this book was so incredible, I couldn’t wait to get and read it again. As I said in the review of the first book in the series, Pandora’s Star, Hamilton creates vast, imaginative universes filled with complex, interweaving plots. I love his books. 

My only complaint with Judas Unchained is that there’s one story arc that I just don’t understand how it contributes to the story. I almost rated the book four stars because of that, but friends who have read the series think it’s an important part. I’m happy to debate this with you after you finish the book. Regardless, I still recommend the book and the series. 

Genre: Sci-Fi, Space Opera
Series: Commonwealth Saga | Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Last Colony, The by John Scalzi

The Last Colony audiobook cover

To John Scalzi’s credit, he neither delves into pseudo-religious rants nor repeat the same tired plotlines in his third book. However, he also doesn’t even cross the ten-hour mark in the audiobook. Like I said in the prior review, these first three books would be just one book under some other authors. Anyway, it doesn’t diminish the book. It’s not my favorite of the series, but it’s a great midpoint, and turning point to the Old Man’s War series. 

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Old Man's War |

Last Firewall, The by William Hertling

I read this and honestly don’t remember a thing about the characters, the plot, or the story in general. Granted, I’m writing the review over four years after finishing it, but I remember a lot of the books I read. And any good sci-fi I read at least twice. I do recall that I wasn’t blown away and was hesitant to pick up the final book in the series. This gets a big fat “meh” from me. 

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Singularity |

Lock In by John Scalzi

Lock In audiobook cover

Hats off to John Scalzi and Audible for this great near-future sci-fi. As with all good sci-fi, there’s an implicit social commentary built into the way the future world is shaped, and Lock In is no different. What if millions of people are suddenly unable to respond to external stimuli but are fully conscious? What sort of a world do we create or do they create? What are the prejudices we bring with us into that world? 

All well and good. And also a great detective novel. 

Another interesting thing, there are two narrations available (I think you get both when you buy either) one by a male narrator and one by a female. What does it say about me that I listened to the male version first? Maybe that I have a mancrush on Wil Wheaton? IDK.

Genre: Near Future, Sci-Fi

Neuromancer by William Gibson

Neuromancer audiobook cover

I had to go back and re-read this because I didn’t remember much other than the Rastafarians in space. Though there are some anachronisms throughout the book, it’s still so far ahead of its time. AI’s, drones, cybersecurity, hacking, and virtual reality are just a few of the things Gibson really nailed. He also created and defined the cyberpunk sub-genre and for that we can all be thankful. Go read this, it’s worth it.

Genre: Cyberpunk, Sci-Fi
Series: Sprawl Trilogy |

Off Armageddon Reef

Off Armageddon Reef audiobook cover

I couldn’t get through this book. It was so bad that I wrote a review on Audible to warn others off. Here’s part of it:

What it does do nicely is give a concise history of 17th & 18th century warfare tactics and developments. But I didn’t download this for history, I downloaded it for thought-provoking sci-fi. Lastly, as if the history lesson were not enough to put me to sleep, the unstoppable main character whose super powers are unmatched in this luddite world does not even bring the slightest bit of tension or excitement to the story.

Genre: Sci-Fi

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

Old Man's War audiobook cover

When I first read this series, I didn’t think much of it, but after coming back to re-read it, I found I truly enjoyed this book and the Old Man’s War universe. I think part of my initial dislike was the brevity of the book. At under 10 hours is hardly compares to the massive tomes of Reynolds or Hamilton. I wanted more. John Scalzi write fun, sometimes funny, sci-fi with well-developed characters inside a massive galaxy of aliens.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Old Man's War |

On Basilisk Station by David Weber

On Basilisk Station audiobook cover

What’s funny about this book is that I can never remember if I’ve read it. I always have to go back to my Audible library and check to see if it has the “finished” tag. It does. That’s about all I can tell you. Well, that and, go read something else. 

Genre: Sci-Fi

Pandora’s Star by Peter F. Hamilton

Pandora's Star audiobook cover

Peter F. Hamilton creates vast, imaginative worlds filled with well-written characters on seemingly separate paths and lives…. until they all come crashing together. His plots and subplots are so intricate, his books deserve a second reading to pick up on all the subtleties you missed in the first read. 

Pandora’s Star is a massive tome, and worth every minute. I love world he’s created and the characters in it. I’ve read this and the sequel twice, and just thinking about the world he creates, I want to read it again. It helps that my favorite narrator, John Lee, reads these. As I said in another review, he could read you grocery list and have your rapt attention, wanting more. Pandora’s Star is worth every minute. 

Genre: Sci-Fi, Space Opera
Series: Commonwealth Saga | Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Player of Games, The by Iain M. Banks

The Player of Games audiobook cover

Two books into the series, and I am absolutely loving this universe. As a mystery-thriller-drama, The Player of Games is a completely different book from the action-adventure of Consider Phlebasbut—but still thoroughly enjoyable. Banks expands the universe further with this novel, and thinks through what a post-scarcity society would be like in the far-far future. I’ve often thought about how the post-scarcity is a socio-economic state to strive for as humankind. Anyway, that thought process is my own, and not what the book is about. It’s a great read and I recommend continuing with the series.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Culture |

Prefect, The by Alastair Reynolds

The Prefect audiobook cover

The Revelation Space universe is outstanding. In this installment, we go to the “Glitter Band” time and place and follow a detective uncovering a system-threatening mystery. There are some incredible aspects to this book that I love to revisit. In this story Reynolds creates a number of throw-away worlds that the characters visit once and are never revisited in the rest of the series… because the universe is so absolutely massive. But even in those throw-away worlds, you’re drawn in to an unique story or angle that leaves a lasting impression. It serves to make the world feel more real by its shear size. 

I digress. This detective novel inside a space opera inside a fantastic sci-fi universe has great twists and does not disappoint. 

Genre: Sci-Fi, Space Opera
Series: Revelation Space |

Reamde by Neal Stephenson

Reamde audiobook cover

I’m not sure if this is sci-fi or an international spy thriller. Maybe both? Set in the present, it’s an action-packed tale that moves fast, despite its 38+ hour book length. Let’s pause there, if you’re intimidated by that length, then go grab some other books that are at that length that I unequivocally recommend such as Pandora’s Star or The Name of the Wind. On the other hand, if the length sounds fine, and you want a sci-fi/spy action cross-over, then grab Reamde.

Genre: Sci-Fi

Rebellion by B.V. Larson

Rebellion audiobook cover

Though the second book was not as good as the first, it wasn’t horrible and so I decided to pick up the third. Though there was no character growth from book one to book three, this one was interesting. But the warning signs of a bad series were there: same plot outline, no character growth. Rebellion was OK, and after reading it I took a break from the series hoping a little distance between this one and the next would reinvigorate my interest in it.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Star Force |

Relentless by Jack Campbell

Relentless audiobook cover

The series continues to drag. So many books… they blend together. Read the series review for my less-than-unequivocal recommendation. the TL;DR: great space battles, well-written interpersonal conflict, but lots of very similar books.

Genre: Military Sci-Fi, Sci-Fi
Series: The Lost Fleet |

Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds

Revelation Space audiobook cover

The Revelation Space universe is one of my favorite Sci-Fi universes. Alastair Reynolds is one of my favorite authors. And John Lee is hands-down my favorite narrator—he could read your grocery list and make it as profound as a presidential eulogy. In the first book you’ll encounter the major factions of the universe, get a teaser for some future settings, and get introduced to the technology used throughout. All while unraveling an ancient secret. It’s a good read.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Revelation Space |

Revenger by Alastair Reynolds

Revenger audiobook cover

When I picked this up, I was expecting something along the lines of Reynolds’ other books such as House of Suns (one of my all-time favorites) and the Revelation Space series. What I got was so completely different, I nearly gave up on it early on. After I finished it the first time, my initial rating was only 4 stars. But after some distance from it, I kept thinking about how my expectation got in the way of what is an absolutely fantastic novel. I gave it a second listen and was thoroughly entertained. 

Reynolds does an amazing job of both building the universe and moving the action along. And it’s a wild combination of steampunk (on the habitations), space travel (intra-solar system only), and far-out sci-fi (from previous generations long since dead). The main character is a young girl and her character development is one of the best parts of the book. 

Genre: Sci-Fi, Steampunk
Series: Revenger | Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Rip-Off! by Multiple authors

Rip-Off! audiobook cover

This was a fun book. Short story is an important form in sci-fi. Many of the greatest authors got their start by getting short stories published that caught the attention of book publishers. Giving proven authors a starting point with a single line from a famous books is kind of a silly idea, but it results in some very good stories.  

Genre: Sci-Fi
Subjects: Short Stories

Rise of Endymion, The by Dan Simmons

Rise of Endymion audiobook cover

Like most series, by the time you get to the last book the author has a platform to espouse some personal philosophical or quasi-religious BS. The final book in the Hyperion Cantos is not dissimilar in this regard, but is still a great read and a strong finish.

Genre: Sci-Fi, Space Opera
Series: Hyperion Cantos |

Series: Commonwealth Saga by Peter F. Hamilton

commonwealth_saga_meeting_on_mars_by_psypher101

Though this series is contains two massive tomes—and apparently a third that just came out in 2016—it is absolutely worth the read/listen. Peter F. Hamilton is one of my favorite authors, and John Lee is my favorite narrator. There is so much to these books, so many subplots, intertwined stories, and excellent characters, that it’s one of my favorite series. 

I’m going to repeating myself from the individual reviews… Peter F. Hamilton creates vast, imaginative worlds filled with well-written characters on seemingly separate paths and lives…. until they all come crashing together. His plots and subplots are so intricate, his books deserve a second reading to pick up on all the subtleties you missed in the first read.

Genre: Sci-Fi, Space Opera
Series: Commonwealth Saga | Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Series: Daemon by Daniel Suarez

If you play video games, you must read this series. Only two books long, but absolutely required reading for my fellow gaming geeks out there. It’s a highly plausible future with great characters, social commentary, and excellent integration of existing technology that drives the whole story forward. It’s fast-paced, an easy read, but isn’t hollow. 

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Daemon | Subjects: Rich's Reco's, Series Review

Series: Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons

Hyperion fan art

What starts out as a grouping of short stories in the first book evolves into one of the greatest space operas of contemporary Sci-Fi. Books two and three are the strongest, and book one is probably the weakest. Even having said that, the entire series is amazing, mind-bending, and essential for Sci-Fi fans. 

Genre: Sci-Fi, Space Opera
Series: Hyperion Cantos | Subjects: Rich's Reco's, Series Review

Series: Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

The first review I wrote for this series was after finishing The Last Colony, and thinking the series was done. I didn’t think much of it, partly due to the short book length, and party due to not really appreciating John Scalzi’s writing style as much as I do now. I digress. I enjoy this series. I love how the aliens are all so very, very alien. And I like that each book follows different characters—making the true main characters the Colonial Defense Force and Earth (and aliens as a whole). 

I can’t honestly give this my strongest recommendation as I love the longer, deeper, space-opera style books. However, the writing is solid, there’s a lot of humor throughout—laugh out loud humor—and it takes place in a vast universe. It is a very good series. And I haven’t even finished it, yet.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Old Man's War | Subjects: Series Review

Series: Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card

Pathfinder series book covers

Though Orson Scott Card’s big hit, Ender’s Game, has a child main character, and is one of my all-time favorite books because Ender’s character is so compelling, you’d think that would be a specialty for Card. He’s certainly written a lot of books with child protagonists, including more in the Enderverse. However, the child main characters in this series fell flat for me. I didn’t event continue on after the second book. I also thought the fantasy/sci-fi crossover was interesting, but still, I didn’t carry on after the first book. We’ll see, maybe I’ll get back and finish it. This is not a flat-out “don’t read” it’s just a three-star series that will neither waste your time nor change your life. 

Genre: Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Series: Pathfinder |

Series: Revenger by Alastair Reynolds

If you’re a fan of other Alastair Reynolds books and series such as the Revelation Space series, then you can appreciate his ability to create compelling characters, vast universes, and yet highly specific and detailed individual worlds. The Revenger series is all of those things, and yet completely and utterly different than any other book of his I’ve read. 

Set in a ruined solar system far in the future, humanity continually rises up from the rubble of previous ruined civilizations, spreads out within the system, and relies on the technology of past ages, most of which they can’t replicate or build upon. While individuals struggle to keep themselves alive in the chaos of space, there’s a deeper conspiracy underlying the story, one that is just starting to get revealed at the end of book two. 

As more books come out, I’ll continue to add them here. In the meantime, this is my new favorite series to recommend. 

Genre: Sci-Fi, Steampunk
Series: Revenger | Subjects: Series Review

Series: Star Force by B.V. Larson

Formulaic plots, flimsy characters with zero growth, and dozen books in the series are all great reasons to pass on this entirely. There are interesting parts of the series and…

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Star Force | Subjects: Series Review

Series: Takeshi Kovacs by Richard K. Morgan

Takeshi Kovacs fan art

I can’t say enough good things about this series. Each book is distinct and different, yet the threads between them are strong enough to weave a greater narrative. Takeshi is the ultimate anti-hero who answers only to himself—even if his employers think otherwise. Every book is filled with far-future tech embedded in societies that makes sense in the context. That is, there is both cool Sci-Fi tech and believable impacts on humankind from it. 

It’s hard to pick a favorite of this series. After I re-read each one, I decided that one was my favorite. Until I picked up the next one again.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Takeshi Kovacs Trilogy | Subjects: Rich's Reco's, Series Review

Series: The Lost Fleet by Jack Campbell

I recommend this series for the exquisitely detailed space battles. and the way the main character navigate the military-turned-bureaucracy politics. I can’t rightfully give it my strongest recommendation because ultimately, it’s candy. The books are quick, easy reads, and they don’t push you to think. It’s tasty without a tremendous amount of substance.

It also could have been four or five books. Despite having read the series twice, I can barely differentiate each book except the first and last. 

Genre: Military Sci-Fi, Sci-Fi
Series: The Lost Fleet | Subjects: Series Review

Shadow Captain by Alastair Reynolds

Shadow Captain audiobook cover

Wow. This series is so good. What other author but Alastair Reynolds can create a world that blends space travel with steampunk? OK, the habitats are not strictly steampunk (i.e. powered by steam) but the descriptions make the habitations sound old-timey, gritty, and like everyone is bustling about with a cane and monocle. But I digress. 

Book two in the series is told from Adrana’s point of view, and is just as insightful and intense. The action doesn’t move quite as fast as in Revenger, but it is just as good, and the deeper conspiracy is just under the surface the whole time. 

I’m loving this series and can’t wait for book three to come out. 

Genre: Sci-Fi, Steampunk
Series: Revenger |

Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

Speaker for the Dead audiobook cover

I kept hoping this book would get better. It never did. 

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Ender's Game, Enderverse |

Starswarm by Jerry Pournelle

Starswarm audiobook cover

Starswarm is a unique stand-alone book with, what was at the time of its publication in 1998, a very far-fetched concept: an AI implant connected to the cloud. I enjoyed the book, and seem to recall that I read it twice, but didn’t get any more out of it from the second read. This is a quirk of mine: if I like a book, I’ll read it again a few months later to see if there is more there beneath the surface. Some of my favorite books I’ve read nearly a dozen times (Ender’s Game, House of Suns) or 3-4 times through for the longer series (Hyperion Cantos, Commonwealth Saga).

I digress. Good book, not much else. 

Genre: Sci-Fi

Swarm by B.V. Larson

Swarm audiobook cover

After reading the novella, Army of One, I decided to pick up the first book in the series. It’s a wild ride. But I’ll save you the agony of having to decide if you want to start a 12-book series (12!!) — don’t bother I didn’t even finish the fourth book. 

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Star Force |

The Algebraist by Iain M. Banks

The Algebraist audiobook cover

The Algebraist had been heartily recommended to me by a friend, and heartily recommended against by another. Naturally, I had to pick it up. My take: it’s not at the top of my reco list, but it’s not in my hall of shame. I enjoyed it, found it somewhat thought-provoking, and thought the plot twists were interesting. My opinion might be biased to the negative because I had just (finally) finished Iain M. Banks’ Matter, book 8 of the Culture series, and hated it. It’s fair to say I was a bit put off by Banks’ style in The Algebraist after forcing myself to finish Matter. Even with that negative bias,

I still enjoyed this one. It’s a very large stand-alone novel that takes a bit too long to develop for my liking—at least for a novel that really only follows one character in depth. I don’t mind a long read, but I want to dig deep on multiple characters like Peter F. Hamilton does. For this length, I wanted more than just one main character. 

Genre: Sci-Fi

The End of All Things by John Scalzi

The End of All Things audiobook cover

Solid finish to a solid series. John Scalzi does two things very well: 1) truly alien aliens 2) humor in the midst of otherwise serious books. I like the finish here because the story is told from multiple perspectives, starting first with a “brain in a box.” As each character adds to the story, moving it forward, the drama and tension builds. I was a touch disappointed in the final chapter, otherwise this would be five stars. I do recommend the series because its enjoyable, different, and filled with great, quick reads. 

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Old Man's War |

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

The Forever War audiobook cover

The beauty of this book is thinking through the implications of long distance space travel. There’s neither hyperlight speed nor wormholes to make the trips from one solar system to the next fly by in a whirl of stars. It’s long-haul travel for the humans and other combatants. Thinking through how this affects the protagonist, his family, and his love is just as interesting as the different worlds he travels to and the aliens he fights. It’s a classic sci-fi for a reason, and apparently a series—which I just now saw. I’ll have to finish it as I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

Genre: Sci-Fi

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian audiobook cover

What do you think is better: the book or the movie? The movie offers great action and a condensed story with some hand-wavy science that you have to take as true. The book is longer (obviously) and goes into the minute details of how the protagonist “sciences the shit out of [everything].” I thought the book was better, but then that should be no surprise coming from a book junkie like me. Science-ing the shit out of things was awesome. But I thought Andy Weir’s Artemis was better—or at least more my style. 

Genre: Hard Sci-Fi, Sci-Fi

Thirteen by Richard K. Morgan

Thirteen audiobook cover

Richard K. Morgan does it again. This time in a stand-alone sci-fi novel. This is another top reco from my reading list. It’s an action thriller with another protagonist that’s a bit hard-boiled. Not quite as anti-hero as Takeshi Kovacs, more of a genetically modified Jason Bourne. Actually, that’s a great succinct summary of this book: Genetically-modified Jason Bourne.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks

Use of Weapons audiobook cover

There’s something about “Use of Weapons” that I absolutely love, but can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe it’s the planet-hopping 007-super-agent? Or the ruthlessness the Culture’s special agents employ to guide and shape civilizations? Or maybe its Banks’ character creation, exploration, and growth? 

It could be all of the above… and the unique chapter structure of the novel. I’m going to co-opt a review from Audible who explains the structure better than I could:

“The prologue establishes an event at a particular point in time, call it time t-zero. The story then begins at time t plus 13 and is told in alternating chapters, half of them moving backward toward t-zero, and the other half moving forward from time t plus 13. You arrive at the end of the book when the backward narrative reaches t-zero just as the forward narrative reaches a climax that reveals the real meaning of the events in the prologue. It is cleverly done, but you really do have to pay attention.” 

Genre: Sci-Fi, Space Opera
Series: Culture |

Valiant by Jack Campbell

Valiant audiobook cover

The series starts to drag a bit. So many books… they blend together. Read the series review for my less-than-unequivocal recommendation. the TL;DR: great space battles, well-written interpersonal conflict, but lots of very similar books.

Genre: Military Sci-Fi, Sci-Fi
Series: The Lost Fleet |

Victorious by Jack Campbell

Victorious audiobook cover

The finish is good, and worth the read just to close it out. Again, I like the whole series, I just don’t love it. Read the series review for my less-than-unequivocal recommendation. the TL;DR: great space battles, well-written interpersonal conflict, but lots of very similar books.

Genre: Military Sci-Fi, Sci-Fi
Series: The Lost Fleet |

Windup Girl, The by Paolo Bacigalupi

The Windup Girl audiobook cover

A fascinating dystopian Earth where calories are the currency and agricultural businesses rule the countries in a world with melted icecaps is not as far-fetched as it first sounds. It’s…

Genre: Sci-Fi

Woken Furies by Richard K. Morgan

Woken Furies audiobook

Most trilogies wind down in the third book, often times with some quasi-religious, half-assed philosophy being espoused by the author taking up too much of the last book. Not Woken Furies. It’s still all-Takeshi bad-assery all the time. Still the flawed anti-hero out for his own personal agenda, but this time with his own scores to settle. This book slowly pieces together the Takeshi Kovacs story, providing context to many decisions he made throughout the series.   

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Takeshi Kovacs Trilogy | Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Wyrms by Orson Scott Card

Wyrms audiobook cover

For as much as I—and many others—absolutely love Ender’s Game, I don’t feel the same about Wyrms. Like Ender’s Game, it’s an easy read with a young main character, and Orson Scott Card tells the story from her point of view. The similarities end there. It’s not as bad as the Speaker for the Dead series, but not as good as some of his other work. It’s a forgettable read.

Genre: Sci-Fi

Xenocide by Orson Scott Card

Xenocide audiobook cover

I vaguely recall this being only slightly better than Speaker for the Dead. That I haven’t re-read it in over a decade should say enough. 

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Ender's Game, Enderverse |