Saturday, 25 April 2009

Space Opera

It's no secret that I'm a sci-fi fan* and that very much extends to the written word. While I'm a big fan of writers who produce the more unusual works with a tinge of humour (Philip K Dick, Jeff Noon, Michael Marshall Smith**), you can't beat an honest-to-goodness space opera. Here are some of my favourites:-

The Night's Dawn trilogy by Peter F Hamilton - Very much the definition of the word epic as each book weighs in at around 1200 pages each, it's also an unusual combination of horror and sci-fi as the central conceit revolves around a one-off event causing a rip that allows the souls of the dead to possess the bodies of the living. It makes for a curious mix and allows for historical figures to be thrown into the future world, most notably Al Capone. While the overall ending may be slightly on the anti-climactic side, it's still an impressive trilogy, managing to juggle multiple plotlines and characters that you care about before bringing them all to a resolution.

Hyperion by Dan Simmons - Following a group of pilgrims on a journey to meet the near mythical killing machine the Shrike in the Time Tombs of Hyperion, this is very much a sci-fi Canterbury Tales, having characters such as the priest, the poet, the detective, the general and so on. Each pilgrim tells their own tale relating to why they have been chosen to visit the Shrike in the hopes of illuminating the reason behind their selection. It allows Simmons to tell different individual stories that all begin to weave together as they reach their destination and highly enjoyable it is, too.

Pretty much any Culture novel by Iain M Banks - Banks' science fiction novels still contain the humour combined with bleakness that you get in his "regular" novels, only this time transplanted to a detailed and fully realised future universe. There is no real first novel in the Culture series - you can read any one and it will tell you all you need to know about the universe for that particular story. It's only as you reads more of them that you begin to see the wider universe he's created. I like all the ones I've read but particular favourites are Against A Dark Background and Use Of Weapons.

Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds - Reynolds is very keen on extrapolating current scientific theory to create a technically believable future (except when he needs the story to move on, of course). Much like the others, there's a real sense of detail gone into crafting this universe and a definite epic feel to the storylines, in terms of time as well as space.

So, if you're not overly into space opera, maybe give one of those a try. My advice would be to start out with Iain M Banks as he's probably the most easily accessible of them all and then, once you're hooked, the universe is the limit...

* I mean, seriously, if you haven't picked up on that by now, this is either your first visit (hello!) or you're just not really paying attention. Try and keep up.

** Who later dropped the Marshall and went into crime fiction.


kapgaf said...

Good man.
All my faves (though I prefer Reynolds' Century Rain) plus someone I'd never heard of - Hamilton. Hooray, a new one for me to look out for.
But please can we have a special mention for Ray Bradbury in those oldies but goldies because he's my hero (Something Wicked This Way Comes) oh and Ursula (K) LeGuin for just about anything ? And also, no, ok, I'll stop now.

But P.S. the word verfi was "eingse" and I told you yesterday that I don't speak German

Sweet Cheeks said...

I have a terrible love affair with sci fi. (Which irritates my family to no end when I watch it on the weekends...but who pays the cable bill? Oh yes...I do...they can shut the hell up!)
Anyways, I've not read any of I'm off to the library. And quite possibly, the book store.

Thanks Sir Nick!

That Baldy Fella said...

kapgaf - Well, I have to confess, the only Bradbury I've read is Fahrenheit 451 and I've never read any Ursula LeGuin. I was thinking about posting a separate blog about old school sci-fi writers what I like - Arthur C Clarke, Larry Niven, Alfred Bester, Danile Keyes, Harry Harrison, etc...

Sweet Cheeks - There's nothing terrbile about a love affair with sci-fi. 'Tis a thing of beauty, I tell you. Glad to have provided some fresh reading material!

Anna Russell said...

I'm shamefully under-read when it comes to sci-fi. Only author on this list I've read is Iain M Banks (and his non-sci-fi stuff which is excellent).
Thanks for the recommendations, I'll be sure to check these out.

Ooh, weird, just got an email saying you commented on my blog at the same time as I'm commenting here!

That Baldy Fella said...

Spooky - synchronised posting!

Rachel May said...

I just had a discussion about space opera. People never believe it's a genre when I say it. Have you read John C. Wright's golden age trilogy? I loved it. I'll look up your suggestions, I haven't had much luck finding any on my own. Thanks!

That Baldy Fella said...

No, I've not heard of those ones, thanks for the tip! Always glad to help...