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Still Looking for a Good Space Opera Series

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15 hours ago, Gorn said:

Try The Player of Games instead. The Culture series can be read in any order, and Consider Phlebas is one of the weaker books in the series. Use of Weapons is probably the best book in the series and has one of the best endings I've ever read, period (it literally left me stunned for several minutes on my first read), but it doesn't focus much on the Culture itself.

Use of Weapons  is a great start to Banks, which is how I found him. Surface Detail and Matter are ones I would read next, and the maybe Look to Windward and finish with The Hydrogen Sonata. 

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11 minutes ago, maarsen said:

Use of Weapons  is a great start to Banks, which is how I found him. Surface Detail and Matter are ones I would read next, and the maybe Look to Windward and finish with The Hydrogen Sonata. 

By leaving out Excession you paint yourself as a heretic!

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10 hours ago, Darth Richard II said:

By leaving out Excession you paint yourself as a heretic!

:devil:

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There are of course the Vorkosigan Saga works by Louis McMaster Bujold. Which apparently manage to include many other stiles within the space opera framework.

Another established writer is Elizabeth Moon, for example her Vatta's War series.

Created from novellas and short stories, so ideal if you just want to explore quickly, there is the Xuya universe by Aliette de Bodard.

Recent series starts that were promising are The Wrong Stars by Tim Pratt, Embers of War by Gareth L Powell, and the aforementioned Children of Time.

For the weird maths and physic side there is The Quantum Thief  and its series by Hannu Rajaniemi. In addition to the books by Yoon Ha Lee mentioned before. Greg Egan is another option if that is your thing.

There is the Xenowealth series by Tobias S Buckell.

And for mindless explody niceness there is always Neal Asher, for example Gridlinked.

 

ps I'd swear I've written a very similar post recently.

 

On 9/25/2018 at 6:36 AM, unJon said:

Sorry for the double post but it was worth it:

Armor by Stakely. It crushes Starship Troopers.

 

I liked the first bit, but was slightly bored with the second larger part. Like a great novella milked out too long.

 

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I do think that part of your problem might be that if you're considering many of the books you originally listed as markers for space opera, your disappointment in certain books and series could possibly be based in unmet expectations since quite a lot of them aren't. Clarke definitely didn't write space opera for example, and neither does Kim Stanley Robinson generally speaking. If that kind of harder, more conscious, SF is what draws you to the genre, some space opera might just feel too silly if you come at them expecting it.

That said, there isn't a total lack of crossover. Reynolds definitely writes space opera (though not all his books are) but is also definitely a true heir to Arthur C. Clarke, and the same is true of Stephen Baxter (although he might take a little getting into - I've only read his Xeelee books, so far, and not all of them but in those it's remarkable how much better he becomes as a writer as he goes along, and the earlier ones you might find too focused on big idea over character. The scope and scale of those books is utterly insane, though, and they're not very long).



On the rest, given that you've already comitted to my first choice, Banks, I'll throw in a second rec for the Machineries of Empire and Imeprial Radch, probably the best new space operas in recent years.

Three Body Problem I enjoyed well enough as a read, but was repeatedly aggravated by the way it presents like a hard SF book (or like a Neal Stephenson journey of adventure into knowledge) but is actual complete and utter scientific guff (

it doesn't even contain a three body problem, and the book never acknowledges this

) and was also genuinely quite offended by certain aspects of the ending which proved that not only does Liu not really understand science but also doesn't understand scientists.

 

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There isn't really a huge reading order controversy to Reynolds, other than Revelation Space being a little rough. I'd start with Chasm City: it was written first, it's a stand-alone, it's a stronger story, it's got a much better protagonist (who crops up in Revelation Space which you completely miss if you read it first) and overall it's just a superior novel. Revelation Space is good but it's the first in a direct trilogy (continued in Redemption Ark and Absolution Gap) and the main story - weirdly - finishes in a following short story collection, Galactic North, which explains a lot of WTF is going on.

The full chronological order of the universe is as follows if you want to go really crazy:

'Great Wall of Mars' *
'Glacial' *
'A Spy in Europa' *
'Weather' *
The Prefect (aka Aurora Rising)

Elysium Fire
'Diamond Dogs' **

'Monkey Suit'***

'Dilation Sleep' *

Chasm City
'Grafenwalder's Bestiary' *
'Turquoise Days' **
Revelation Space

'Nightingale' *

Redemption Ark
Absolution Gap
'Galactic North' *

* Story in Galactic North
** Novella in Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days

*** Story in Deep Navigation

 

Quote

I should note I've read a decent amount of Kim Stanley Robinson's books and enjoyed most (thought not all) of his works, Clarke's 2001 collection which was not my favorite series I've ever read, but I appreciated it and Dune which greatly underwhelmed me- I have to think my experience was similar to the user who started the Tolkien threat. I currently have Altered Carbon by Morgan, Eon by Bear, Revelation Space by Reynolds and Annihilation by VanderMeer on my To Read list, but am ready for people to encourage or dissuade me from reading them. Any suggestions are most welcome. Let's bring some more sci-fi representation to this forum!

The Mars Trilogy by KSR is definitely required reading in the field. Altered Carbon is good, although Morgan is a little overrated (especially here); his new novel, Thin Air, is disappointing, but the original Kovacs trilogy and Black Man are decent. Eon is pretty good but the sequels are poor. 

The Gap series by Donaldson is outstanding, but the first book is pretty unpleasant. Very tough to get through. If you can survive that (and it's very short) you should be good for the rest of the series, which is more straightforward.

I would say try Hamilton. He's a bit marmitey but those who rate him really rate him: The Night's Dawn Trilogy may be the most impressive space opera trilogy ever written (in terms of scope, worldbuilding and scale; his prose is never more than adequate). His later Commonwealth Saga starts off brilliantly (Pandora's Star is an exceptionally good novel) but becomes increasingly tiresome over the course of seven novels and three sub-series.

GRRM's Tuf Voyaging is very good. I second the recommendation for Bujold and Banks. Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice is excellent (the sequels somewhat less so). Asher is very MOR and can be a bit variable in quality. I'd pass as there's tons of superior authors in the genre (plus he's a climate-denialist fruitcake, which rubs me up the wrong way in a science fiction author).

Colin Greenland's Plenty trilogy is older (1990s) but a lot of fun. Vernor Vinge's A Deepness in the Sky is perhaps a tad overrated but intriguing.

A big recommendation would have to be for David Brin's Uplift Saga, which is a very well-written, intelligent space opera saga. I'd skip the first book, Sundiver, as it's fairly weak and also has nothing to do with the rest of the series, and start with the second book, Startide Rising, which is exceptional.

Edited by Werthead

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And if you choose Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga as your Space Opera du Jour, TOR.com is doing a re-read with discussion from the author right now.

https://www.tor.com/series/rereading-the-vorkosigan-saga/

And hey, no one has mentioned Jack Vance yet!  Let's not forget to include some style in our diet of Space Opera.

Old Fashioned Space Opera like John W. Campbell meant you to read:  The Demon Princes - murdered families, revenge, sexy ladies, planetary reconfigurations, space cops, planet-hopping prototype of James Bond!

  • The Star King (1964)
  • The Killing Machine (1964)
  • The Palace of Love (1967)
  • The Face (1979)
  • The Book of Dreams (1981)

Super-80s Space Opera, aka P.G. Wodehouse in Space:  Cadwal Chronicles - environmental conservatism, murdered relatives, usurped birthrights, South Sea Islander villains, busty ladies with wigs, space ships, janitors who are legatees, mysterious conspiracies, plucky young women investigators, alien creatures hungry for human snacks, missing cash, gun battles, jokes!

  • Araminta Station (1987)
  • Ecce and Old Earth (1991)
  • Throy (1992)

The meme of Space Opera with the most satisfying ending of any series I have ever read:  Planet of Adventure - crash-landing space explorers, ancient civilizations, hot ladies, treasure-hunting, wild-ass alien races that make Barsoom look sensible, laconic humor, sardonic side-kicks, enslaved humans rebelling against their alien masters, illicit construction of spaceships without a proper license, sea voyages, kidnapping, space voyages, sword-, gun-, spear-, and laser-fights, romance, cannibalism, epic greed, incredible hats, and redemption!

  • City of the Chasch (also published as The Chasch, 1968)
  • Servants of the Wankh (also published as The Wannek, 1969)
  • The Dirdir (1969)
  • The Pnume (1970)

An Actual Space Opera, because Jack Vance:  Space Opera (1965) - do I need to write anything about this, given the title?

The added bonus, beyond the stylistic excellence inherent to almost everything Vance ever read, is that the folks who put together the VIE also helped build his widow's website, and you can buy almost everything he ever wrote in ebook form.  https://www.jackvance.com/ebooks/shop/  Go buy one now, you won't regret it.

Edited by Wilbur
Added the VIE site

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9 hours ago, polishgenius said:

I do think that part of your problem might be that if you're considering many of the books you originally listed as markers for space opera, your disappointment in certain books and series could possibly be based in unmet expectations since quite a lot of them aren't. Clarke definitely didn't write space opera for example, and neither does Kim Stanley Robinson generally speaking. If that kind of harder, more conscious, SF is what draws you to the genre, some space opera might just feel too silly if you come at them expecting it.

That said, there isn't a total lack of crossover. Reynolds definitely writes space opera (though not all his books are) but is also definitely a true heir to Arthur C. Clarke, and the same is true of Stephen Baxter (although he might take a little getting into - I've only read his Xeelee books, so far, and not all of them but in those it's remarkable how much better he becomes as a writer as he goes along, and the earlier ones you might find too focused on big idea over character. The scope and scale of those books is utterly insane, though, and they're not very long).



On the rest, given that you've already comitted to my first choice, Banks, I'll throw in a second rec for the Machineries of Empire and Imeprial Radch, probably the best new space operas in recent years.

Three Body Problem I enjoyed well enough as a read, but was repeatedly aggravated by the way it presents like a hard SF book (or like a Neal Stephenson journey of adventure into knowledge) but is actual complete and utter scientific guff (

  Reveal hidden contents

it doesn't even contain a three body problem, and the book never acknowledges this

) and was also genuinely quite offended by certain aspects of the ending which proved that not only does Liu not really understand science but also doesn't understand scientists.

 

I should have been more clear about what I was seeking. I moreso wanted to show what sci-fi I've read recently, regardless of its sub-genre.

I was hoping The Expanse would be a good space opera series, but I was sadly dissapointed. That being said, I'm not against hard sci-fi at all provided there's a decent plot.

9 hours ago, Werthead said:

There isn't really a huge reading order controversy to Reynolds, other than Revelation Space being a little rough. I'd start with Chasm City: it was written first, it's a stand-alone, it's a stronger story, it's got a much better protagonist (who crops up in Revelation Space which you completely miss if you read it first) and overall it's just a superior novel. Revelation Space is good but it's the first in a direct trilogy (continued in Redemption Ark and Absolution Gap) and the main story - weirdly - finishes in a following short story collection, Galactic North, which explains a lot of WTF is going on.

The full chronological order of the universe is as follows if you want to go really crazy:

'Great Wall of Mars' *
'Glacial' *
'A Spy in Europa' *
'Weather' *
The Prefect (aka Aurora Rising)

Elysium Fire
'Diamond Dogs' **

'Monkey Suit'***

'Dilation Sleep' *

Chasm City
'Grafenwalder's Bestiary' *
'Turquoise Days' **
Revelation Space

'Nightingale' *

Redemption Ark
Absolution Gap
'Galactic North' *

* Story in Galactic North
** Novella in Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days

*** Story in Deep Navigation

 

The Mars Trilogy by KSR is definitely required reading in the field. Altered Carbon is good, although Morgan is a little overrated (especially here); his new novel, Thin Air, is disappointing, but the original Kovacs trilogy and Black Man are decent. Eon is pretty good but the sequels are poor. 

The Gap series by Donaldson is outstanding, but the first book is pretty unpleasant. Very tough to get through. If you can survive that (and it's very short) you should be good for the rest of the series, which is more straightforward.

I would say try Hamilton. He's a bit marmitey but those who rate him really rate him: The Night's Dawn Trilogy may be the most impressive space opera trilogy ever written (in terms of scope, worldbuilding and scale; his prose is never more than adequate). His later Commonwealth Saga starts off brilliantly (Pandora's Star is an exceptionally good novel) but becomes increasingly tiresome over the course of seven novels and three sub-series.

GRRM's Tuf Voyaging is very good. I second the recommendation for Bujold and Banks. Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice is excellent (the sequels somewhat less so). Asher is very MOR and can be a bit variable in quality. I'd pass as there's tons of superior authors in the genre (plus he's a climate-denialist fruitcake, which rubs me up the wrong way in a science fiction author).

Colin Greenland's Plenty trilogy is older (1990s) but a lot of fun. Vernor Vinge's A Deepness in the Sky is perhaps a tad overrated but intriguing.

A big recommendation would have to be for David Brin's Uplift Saga, which is a very well-written, intelligent space opera saga. I'd skip the first book, Sundiver, as it's fairly weak and also has nothing to do with the rest of the series, and start with the second book, Startide Rising, which is exceptional.

That is interesting, I didn't know the universe was so large. (Heh heh "universe" get it...) When I get there I think I'll stick to the main storyline/trilogy plus Chasm City. Is Galactic North really that central to the main story that it's mandatory reading; if so do I read it after the main trilogy or commit to chronological order?

I read Red Mars which was fun, but my interest petered out after Green Mars and I havent bothered to pick up Blue Mars. My favorite KSR book so far is Aurora which I thought was tremendous fun.

I follow this YouTuber who's gone through a lot of GRRM's sci-fi as a way to analyze aSoIaF. Tuf Voyaging was a fun read, but I've enjoyed his other sci-fi short stories more.

Sounds like The Gap is cropping up a few times so that will have to be on my list. I might take on Hamilton if I'm in the mood, but no promises. The Uplift Saga sounds like a good time.

 

I was also thinking I'll keep this thread running as a way to document my sci-fi experiences and reviews since there seems to be a dearth of sci-fi on this forum. I'll be slow going, but better than starting a new thread every few months.

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19 hours ago, Darth Richard II said:

Oh yeah, Asher is a nutjob.

Sadly, very much so.

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15 hours ago, Wilbur said:

Servants of the Wankh

That's an unfortunate choice for a title. :lol:

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2 hours ago, ljkeane said:

That's an unfortunate choice for a title. :lol:

He also wrote Three-Legged Joe and The Augmented Agent, in case you were wondering.

For a guy as well-traveled and earthy a sailor as Jack Vance was, neither he nor his editor were on the cutting edge of the British slang and double-entendre game.

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14 hours ago, Ghjhero said:

I should have been more clear about what I was seeking. I moreso wanted to show what sci-fi I've read recently, regardless of its sub-genre.

I was hoping The Expanse would be a good space opera series, but I was sadly dissapointed. That being said, I'm not against hard sci-fi at all provided there's a decent plot.

That is interesting, I didn't know the universe was so large. (Heh heh "universe" get it...) When I get there I think I'll stick to the main storyline/trilogy plus Chasm City. Is Galactic North really that central to the main story that it's mandatory reading; if so do I read it after the main trilogy or commit to chronological order?

Sounds like The Gap is cropping up a few times so that will have to be on my list. I might take on Hamilton if I'm in the mood, but no promises. The Uplift Saga sounds like a good time.

I'd say read Chasm City, the main trilogy and Galactic North, and yes it is pretty important. The short stories better explain several moments in the novels which are left completely unexplained otherwise and also provide the series with an ending which is much less out of left field than the main series.

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Going to throw in a little recommendation for The Wayfarer series by Becky Chambers. It has great interplanetary wars, warp holes, majestic craft travelling faster than light, fantastic alien races locked in battle against each other, a fading empire of galactic conquerors, desperate diplomacy, shady Martian arms dealers, and a mysterious race of hyper-advanced aliens that have begun to stir in uncharted corners of the galaxy.

...all of which, by the way, happens to somebody else. The series, starting with The long way to a small, angry planet, is about those living their day-to-day lives in this grand setting, with little to no influence on anything larger than their own lives and those of the people they interact with. The books take the fantastical space setting down to a very human scale, presenting it through the eyes of the folks on the street, those who aren't smack in the middle of the action or experiencing the great events of history unfold. That's not to say their lives are boring, or uneventful, the stuff they experience is still the exciting far-future life we readers can only dream about. It's the kind of book that helps calm you down if you ever find yourself too upset about every important, plot-driving character in Star Wars either being a Skywalker or has a close, personal connection to one.

Edited by Kyll.Ing.

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You could always try Star Smashers Of The Galaxy Rangers by Harry Harrison. 

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21 hours ago, Darth Richard II said:

You know, I never read Galactic North. I should do that soon. The end of eh, Absolution Gap? The third one, is pretty bonkers and out of left field,

You should. It’s still bonkers but less out of left field. That said, the decision to have all the explanation in a novella is sort of bonkers in itself. 

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19 minutes ago, unJon said:

You should. It’s still bonkers but less out of left field. That said, the decision to have all the explanation in a novella is sort of bonkers in itself. 

I am very very behind on my Reynolds. I got almost all of them sitting here though.

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