Unless you’ve been living under a rock, the official trailer for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was released last night. Like many other Americans, my family and I gathered in front of the family television to sit through two quarters of football for teams I didn’t care for (Eli Manning can suck it!) and once halftime rolled around, we watched in awe as the trailer premiered. I don’t recall there ever being such a gathering around TVs across the US for a single commercial or movie trailer before, so I’m sure it was as historic as it felt.
The trailer was magnificent, and the film is still shrouded in mystery. I don’t mind it, though. To me, that’s how movie trailers should be: succinct, a visual stunner, and enticing. Whoever put that together deserves applause themselves.
On top of that, it’s Back to the Future Day for Oct. 21st! After tomorrow (today?), all events from the “Back to the Future” franchise will be…*gasp* in the past! I’m so excited to see all the homages and geekdom emerging for this historic day, and wax nostalgic about the films. For such a week of sci-fi wonderment, I figured it’d be appropriate to list off some science fiction books that I have loved throughout the years.
“Ender’s Shadow” by Orson Scott Card
If you haven’t read my impression of Ender’s Shadow, you can check it out here. As I said there, and I’ll say it again, I loved how this version of the events of Ender’s Game was like a behind the scenes twist of a classic. For those who don’t know, this book is a parallel novel of Ender’s Game, meaning that both books take place at the exact same time and same places, but the story is told from the point of view of Bean instead of Ender. While Bean didn’t have a large role in the original book or the recent movie adaptation, his genius is prevalent in Ender’s Shadow and proves that Ender may not have succeeded without him.
“Spinward Fringe Broadcast 0: Origins” by Randolph Lalonde
I received this as an eBook, simply because Amazon Kindle kept recommending it to me. I had the chance to snag a free version, so I thought why the hell not? I haven’t regretted my decision since! Origins is actually a prequel trilogy to the ongoing Spinward Fringe series. Spinward Fringe is the tale of the crew of the spaceship First Light/Sunspire, and Origins, as you may have guessed, is the origin story of how the ship and her first crew came to be. Origins is the tale of Jonas Valent, a down-on-his-luck officer of the Fleet who’s been relegated to administration duty. In his downtime, he and some friends engage in online strategy games, eventually hacking into the military’s simulations for more challenging scenarios. They capture the attention of their commanding officer, who hires them all on to Fleet Intelligence (think sci-fi CIA).
With the First Light ship in hand, they’re tasked with finding, stealing, or borrowing technology and allies for the benefit of their home, Freeground. It’s very Star Trek, tasking a small ship to go where no man has gone before in search of new, advantageous allies and technology. The characters have great relationships, the sci-fi tech is intriguing, and the world is very expansive with room to grow. I haven’t had the chance to venture further into Spinward Fringe (it’s a commitment!), but this first book left quite an impression on me.
“The Pendragon Adventures” by DJ MacHale
This young adult series is fantastic and makes you wish you could teleport to other worlds. Pendragon is the story of Bobby Pendragon, who discovers that his eccentric uncle is actually a Traveler: a space and time-traveling ambassador of Earth, between a series of parallel worlds called Territories, all encased within the realm called Halla. Bobby inherits this role and, together with other Travelers from the parallel worlds, is driven to stop the evil Saint Dane from changing histories and throwing Halla out of balance.
If you’re a fan of the Harry Potter series, you will LOVE Pendragon. Each book introduces a new territory to discover, rich with unique cultures and characters; from a Waterworld-inspired territory, to Matrix-like virtual reality, and a Pandora-esque world of bipedal cat people (personally, I think James Cameron ripped his movie off Pendragon: Black Water, I’m just sayin’…), I was enraptured by the entire series and the worlds it contained. Much like Harry Potter, the series also gets darker with each book, until there is truly a pitch-black ultimatum in the final sequence. I cannot recommend this enough!
“Neuromancer” by William Gibson
Neuromancer was my first college science-fiction read. It was for a class in which we analyzed science-fiction works throughout the past decades, and Neuromancer was the world’s introduction to cyber-punk. It also helps that this book won “the big three” awards in science fiction: the Nebula Award, Philip K. Dick Award, and Hugo Award. Neuromancer is the story of Case, a washed-up hacker in a dystopian future. Once upon a time, his central nervous system could access a global cyber network called the “Matrix” (sound familiar?), but he was caught doing some illegal hacking, and had his nervous system damaged as punishment. A mysterious group led by Armitage offers to repair the damage on one condition: help their shady group pull off the perfect heist-hack. It’s “Ocean’s Eleven” meets “The Matrix”, crossed with “Blade Runner”, an intriguing mix that can whet the appetite of any classic sci-fi fan. Love the classics like Ghost in the Shell and I, Robot? You’ll get a kick out of Neuromancer.
“Lilith’s Brood” by Octavia Butler
Here’s the big finale, my absolute favorite, the one I will continue to reread over and over again, from my science fiction queen, Octavia Butler. Lilith’s Brood is actually the name of collection of three of Butler’s books: Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago. In the future, nuclear war has devastated the planet, leaving very few survivors. During or after the disaster, an alien race called the Oankali saw what happened and found the remaining survivors of the human race. Lilith is one survivor, a woman who awakens centuries later aboard the Oankali ship. They explain that they are not invaders, but are explorers who span the universe searching for new genetic material to add to their growing race. With each new species they encounter, they take little traits with them in their gene pools as they travel, and now are interested in humans.
All this time, they have been nurturing the Earth back to a habitable state, but in exchange for a new world to start over, they want to work with the humans to repopulate the race with Oankali-human hybrids. While this may sound funny at first, Lilith understands that it’s in the Oankali’s nature to want to breed and strengthen their species. Lilith joins an Oankali family, and over the course of three books you see her family grow (her ‘brood’), and watch how they interact with each other, with nature, and with pro-human colonies that have rejected the Oankali. This book is utterly fascinating, presenting a believable future in which we could co-exist with an alien species for the betterment of our own. It brings up sensitive subjects without any hint of shyness, such as racism, sexuality, gender (the Oankali have three genders), and survival.
That’s all I’ll say for now, as I just realized I want to save a full analysis of this book for later. It’s simply too rich and complex to condense here.
So there you have it! Five sci-fi books (or series) that deserve a place on your shelf! Got a recommendation? Feel free to comment below or check out my recommendation page.