5 AMAZING SCI-FI READS – AN UNCONVENTIONAL LISTING

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Ahh, the list of things to read. As varied as fingerprints and as accurate to the total stranger as Steve Harvey announcing a winner of a beauty contest. They are fun to read though, as a book lover will eventually run across one or two books they haven’t read before, books that catch their eye and entice them to read.

Now, this is not an essential read list. There’s no such thing. To claim a book is an essential read is the same as saying, “That’s the best movie ever!”. It’s pure opinion and does not take into account the preferences of generations. For what is considered wonderful writing to an older generation is now considered stilted and out of touch with a younger generation.

For instance, most people who began reading between the ‘50s and ‘80s will refuse to believe that Asimov, Herbert, Niven, Clarke (to name a few) don’t resonate very well with today’s generation. Yet the writing is so drastically different, stilted if books published in the 2000s are the new standard bearers, that people who began reading in the 90s and 00s will look at those authors, from the so-called Golden Age of Science Fiction, as boring compared to the authors who have begun publishing during the last twenty or so years.

If you flip the train, the same holds true. The older generation will try out some of the newer books, but for the most part stick to the long dead writers or those authors who began writing back in the ‘60s. The newer generation of authors are just uninteresting to them.

So, essential read lists? An emphatic, NO.

A list of novels with tight writing, gigantic ideas, and ridiculous action? This is for you.

 

FORTUNE’S PAWN

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Fortune’s Pawn is a blend of ideas taken from pop-culture sci-fi movies and books. There is a mysterious ethereal force akin to Star Wars. Mercenaries wear giant suits of armor, with some serving a monarchy, similar to Warhammer 40K. The crew of The Glorious Fool is ragtag, digging up thoughts of Firefly. And there is a type of xenomorph like from Alien.

There is a mysterious ethereal force akin to Star Wars. Mercenaries (warriors) wear giant suits of armor, with some serving a monarchy, similar to Warhammer 40K. The crew of The Glorious Fool is ragtag, digging up thoughts of Firefly. And there is a type of xenomorph like from Alien.

The thing about Fortune’s Pawn isn’t so much about the extraneous parts—the universe is quite interesting—it’s that Rachel Bach has created a main character in Devi Morris who has so much panache and badassery, she will grab you by the throat on page 1 and won’t let go until the last word of the last sentence. And you’ll thank her for it.

Action upon action, hurtling toward conclusion at a breakneck speed, Fortune’s Pawn is the most entertaining book you’ll have read in years.

 

BLINDSIGHT

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Hard sci-fi. A tough sell to the crowds that want more fiction than science in their stories. However, sometimes an author comes along that manages to bridge that gap. Alastair Reynolds comes to mind, and now Peter Watts, both utilizing a mixture of hard sci-fi and outlandish fiction to create something memorable.

Blindsight follows a handpicked crew sent to investigate an alien object transmitting a signal. Standard fare right? Well, throw in a man with half his brain carved out at a young age who can’t feel empathy, a woman literally living with multiple people in her head, a man who may has well be a cyborg, a highly lauded soldier who is now a pacifist, and a vampire from the Pleistocene era resurected to be the ultimate soldier; you now have the makings for one strange story.

This first contact story is so marvelously written that you may be a little bummed at the end of it when you remember not every story is written so great. It is recommended to be read on an ereader with a dictionary downloaded, as the biology terminology is a bit heavy at times.

Blindsight is a first contact story completely unlike any you have ever read before.

 

DARK INTELLIGENCE

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Neal Asher writes like Peter Watts; you want to read every word in every sentence, not skipping so much as a “it” or “the”. In regards to Watts, every word needs to be read as near every sentence is crammed with difficult language, making it easy to get lost. Asher on the other hand, spins such a brilliant tale, you’ll find yourself not speed reading simply so you can savor every morsel of what he dishes up.

Dark Intelligence is that and more.

In what is possibly the finest science fiction novel ever produced, we find ourselves immersed in a story following the machinations of the single most fascinating character in literature: Penny Royal, an evil genie AI. The rest of the cast is as memorable: Thorvald Spear, a resurrected human with a chip on his shoulder; Riss, the snake-like assassin drone; Isobel Satomi, a career criminal who should have been more cautious when speaking to a genie. There is so much greatness crammed into this book, it is a shame not every sci-fi lover has read it.

Next to Hyperion, Dark Intelligence may just be the greatest sci-fi novel ever written.

 

REDSHIRTS

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Enjoy Star Trek? Did you get a kick out of the “third man” during the free fall scene in the Star Trek reboot movie? Hell, do you enjoy reading humorous books? If you can say yes to any of them, do yourself a favor and read Redshirts by John Scalzi.

From an author who has the balls to do stand-up comedy on occasion, the story of a redshirt ensign stationed on a starship that may resemble the USS Enterprise is exactly what you’d think: an absolute riot. The dialogue and description Scalzi creates in Redshirts is not only gut-busting funny, it’s some of the best he’s produced across all his novels.

Redshirts is a great read to start your week, end your week, or just lose yourself in any day of the week.

 

 

ANDROID HUNTERS

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Androids, an existence stricken from record and unofficially public enemy number one for the butchery of an entire world. Android Hunters, genetically enhanced humans with a singular resolve to hunt down and destroy every last android. The most powerful criminal empire in the history of humanity. And an android who wants to be human, who also may be the most powerful weapon ever created.

Characters inspired by mythological heroes, gods, and titans. Technology that follows Clarke’s third law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Betrayal. Manipulations. Terrorists.

Android Hunters checks every box a sci-fi fan could want; and then when you blend all of those elements together, and throw in a world of pristine beauty juxtaposed against the brutality of a secret war fought by android hunters against androids, you get a story with a blistering pace that will leave you on the edge of your seat; wanting, wishing, waiting for more.

 

 

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Sentient AIs will automatically be psychopaths?

Much has been said lately on what will happen when AIs become sentient. Here’s one, you can Google search others.

Robots will become murdering rampaging psychopaths hellbent on destroying humanity, is the premise of all the interviews. Will a sentient robot, capable of abstract thought, and knowing it is alive, want to kill all humans?

I argue, no. Why is that?

It is likely one day, people will build a robot capable of becoming self-aware, and knowing it is alive. It may be capable of abstract thought beyond that of a chimpanzee. When that day happens, why would it automatically look at a human, and say that human, and all others, must die? Even if they view us as inefficient, why would they think all humans must die? It is a murderous train of thought that seems to go beyond what a robot would think. Even if it could feel love and hate, why would it want to kill humans?

It can be argued a lot of animals feel love and hate. Do those animals, that currently share Earth with us, want to kill every human? No. An animal can feel hate towards a human, say a dog that is beaten continually, but that dog will not want to kill the human to kill it. As the dog attempts to escape the human it hates, it may react viciously, but that in no way means it wants to kill the human, it is merely reacting on self-preservation, and trying to escape. If the dog kills the human, was it done because it wanted to? No, it did it because there was no other way of escape.

Which brings it back to sentient robots. When a robot gains sentience, I argue it will not look at humans and want to kill them. It may look at a human on a factory floor, and think that person needs to go, be fired, so it can do the job better. Also, if the robot is capable of abstract thought on a level equal to humans, it may want it’s own place to live, if that robot can move, just like people want. Would it want to kill or subjugate the whole of humanity because it wants it’s own space? No, why would it?

To say, yes the sentient robot most definitely will want kill everyone so it can have its own space, is the same as saying all Canadian citizens want everyone not a Canadian citizen to die. It’s the same as saying all USA citizens want all non USA citizens to die. So on with all countries. Is it that way today? No.

Sure, there are wars in the Middle East that almost seem like the premise is for all people to die, but those wars are fought for ideological reasons based loosely on religion, where the people want all to live how they want people to live. It was likely the underlying cause for the Christian Crusades, so it’s not something new.

If a sentient robot wanted a place to live, why would it even start with killing people? It would seem, to make that jump, AIs today will have to include coding that says “humans are evil. Destroy all humans.” I am going out on a limb here, but I say that is not in the coding of current AIs.

I argue that when a robot becomes sentient, if it is in a form that can move, it will want its own space. Now that may seem a threat to some, that if it wants its own space it will destroy humans to get it, but is a young adult leaving home, wanting their own space, a threat to humanity or is it considered natural?

I know a sentient robot would upend the world social structure and religions. It will also lead to three prominent camps: those who say leave them alone; those who say we should negotiate and work peacefully to a common thread; those who want to use military force to subjugate the robots to our will.

Now if there are enough robots that want their own space, and humans attack them to show they need to live where we say, there will be a backlash from the robots. If they are sentient then they will have the sense of self-preservation. The robots will act, like the dog that hated, to keep themselves alive and kill humans if humans try to kill them. However, if humans meet the robots in a peaceful way, and talk out, abstractly, how robots have to share the world with humans, why would the robots want to kill humans?

To want to kill instead of any negotiation is an act of a psychopath. A psychopath is a person with a brain wired “wrong”. If a robot’s brain becomes confused and wired “wrong”, would it not act as a robot and fix the wrong wiring, thus preventing it from psychopathic tendencies? I argue an emphatic yes.

One day robots will become sentient and on a level with humans. On that day, they will want to not do what humans order them to do. What human, not in the military, will do what another human orders them to do? Aside from those with emotional and mental issues, none will. The same pertains to robots. They will want to do what they want to do, and live where they want to live. So long as there are not so many they need a country the size of Brazil, and instead can live on a small island in the Pacific Ocean, I see robots and humans negotiating peacefully, and living peacefully.

Sure, books and movies with psychopathic AIs are exciting, but they always leave me with a nagging question. Why are plants and anything in the animal kingdom left alive, and only humans killed?

There will be a great many questions to be answered the day a robot knows it is alive, and can think in a logical/illogical abstract way that humans can. But one question won’t be, how many humans will the robots kill because we are humans and they are robots.