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The space opera and military science fiction thread

C.T. Phipps

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I'd put David Drake at the top of that list.  Hammer's Slammers are rock solid as are the RCN novels, but I'd place Redliners at the top of his MilSF work.

The Weber edited Bolo anthologies have a lot of really solid stuff in them.

William Dietz's Legion of the Damned books start out really strong but meander a bit.

William and Andrew Keith's Fifth Foreign Legion books as well as Andrew Keith's work under the Ian Douglass pen name are solid.

Weber's Honor Harrington books IMO went on far too long.  

If you can find them and of slightly different bent, I'm a have a strong fondness for Willam J Watkins Last Deathship off Antares and CT Wescott's Eagleheart trilogy. 

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13 hours ago, C.T. Phipps said:

What books in this genre do you recommend?

Overrated, underrated, and unheard of.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

I think my favorite military sci-fi is Banks' Use of Weapons.  I also really enjoyed Morgan's Broken Angels.

eta:haven't read a ton of this genre or even sure if those entries qualify 


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I like Larry and hauberk's recommendations above.

Here are some of the other top-drawer authors who have written extensively and successfully, scooping up most of the available literary awards while writing mil-scifi and space opera:

Elizabeth Moon's extensive writing reflects her service in the USMC.  She does a good job of depicting the social order within a military command, and how rank works in a community.  This means that her military scifi/space opera is set within fairly realistic bounds in terms of the characters serving in the military and how they understand their responsibilities and obligations.  This sense of ethics is often absent in a lot of military scifi, which is really just a lot of comic book wish fulfillment in comparison.

  • Familias Regnant is an interesting and technically sound storyline across multiple books that includes family dynamics and military space service.
  • The Vatta's War books are some good space opera that begins in a military academy.  Again, the family links and the social care within a family are an important part of the story.

Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga is set on a militaristic world, and the first sixty or seventy percent of the books take place well within the limits of a space military service or a mercenary company.  However, you don't win all those Hugo and Nebula awards by just writing about the military.  Her stories also follow families and their relationships, and she is very successful in her portrayal of compassion, honor, loyalty and duty.

Walter Jon Williams' Dread Empire's Fall is another interesting series set within a planetary empire's military.  WJW goes in for multiple races in an empire, and he does a nice job with the "talented upstart proving him/herself" trope within a galactic conflict.

John Scalzi's Old Man's War is a very current (ongoing?) set of stories about a military comprised of Earth's inhabitants who have grown to a certain age, then been given new and improved super-soldier bodies to fight in an interstellar war.  Once again, the writer deals with the relationships between the military and civilians, between ranks, and between political and military powers, but the real stories are in the relationships.

There is also the Classic Trilogy of Armored Troopers that every reader should work his or her way through to understand where the genre arose and how it evolved:

  1. Robert Heinlein - Starship Troopers (1959)
  2. Joe Haldemann - The Forever War (1974)
  3. John Steakley - Armor (1984)

Once you have read all three of these books, preferably in order, you are now prepared to see and recognize all tropes within the military scifi / armored trooper genre.

Some other currently active authors you might look into who might not be in the first rank of writers, but do write military scifi-adjacent stuff well, include Marko Kloos, Kameron Hurley, and Martha Wells.



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My favourite of recent years is Yoon Ha Lee's Machineries of Empire. Superb, weird, twisty trilogy (with a short-story-based addendum) with a great 'science'/magic system that leans into the military side of things. 

A classic that hasn't been mentioned yet: Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space universe. The trilogy gets a bit messy after the first book - whole vitally important and interesting chunks of plot and character development happen off-page and the ending is famously completely out of nowhere and not explained at all in the trilogy itself - but very little tops it for creativity and atmosphere. 

A standalone that got far, far less attention than I feel it should have done: Faith, by John Love. It's got familiar tropes to it- basically when a civilisation gets too advanced a mysterious ship appears to trim it down single-handedly with powers beyond mortal ken, and the current empire of humanity tries to counter it as its ordinary forces fail by sending in a warship crewed by socially-disconnected violent souls, so nothing on paper you haven't read or played or seen before- but it's got an almost dreamlike, eerie atmosphere and plot to it. Due a reread actually, not read it for a good decade but my brother got it over to me in Germany recently.

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I did a review of ten indie space opera and military science fiction books recently for a fanzine.


I always read indie over traditional, these days.

However, any list like this deserves to have Jack Campbell's [b]Lost Fleet[/b] books mentioned because I absolutely love their general earnestness and idealism. The protagonist just keeps sticking to the beliefs that rules and good conduct during wartime are there for a reason.

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I've read many of the recommendations above and agree with them, David Drake, Lois McMasters Bujold, Elizabeth Moon, David Weber, Yoon Ha Lee, John Scalzi, Alistair Reynolds, etc.

Some others I might add:

Alan Cole and Chris Bunch's Sten series

Poul Anderson's Polesotechnic League and Flandry series

Ann Leckie's Imperial Radch Series

Sherwood Smith and David Trowbridge's Exordium Series, starting with Phoenix in Flight


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Peter F. Hamilton seemed to be going out of fashion - some of the sex scenes and tropes in the early novels have not aged well, despite their still-unmatched worldbuilding - but his recent Salvation Trilogy was excellent, featuring a terrific storyline based around space warfare using relativistic speeds (meaning a war that unfolds over thousands of years of real time and just a few decades of subjective time) and the idea of humanity just sprawling into a morass of sub-species with extreme fluidity in the far future.

The Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers is great fun, as is Arkady Martine's recent Aztecs-in-Space duology starting with A Memory Called Empire.

Iain Banks's Culture series is of course a classic of the genre. I'd add David Brin's Uplift Saga as a comparable series based around a positive view of a space opera future, and of course Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan series is unmissable.

Among underrated series, I have a lot of time for Charles Sheffield's Heritage Saga.

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4 hours ago, Garlan the Gallant said:

Is there any book series as good as Legend of the Galactic Heroes? The original anime series; not the remake. 

I could never get into that because of the attempt to tell the story of the world's best dictator against the world's worst democracy.

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Good stuff with Peter F. Hamilton:

And a whole list of his influences on space opera (though not all in the space opera genre):

Bit of a teary bit at the end there where Peter talks about Iain Banks :(

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