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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GRIMDARK FANTASY IS FUN. WAIT, WHAT? – THE BLADE ITSELF

I all but gave up on fantasy not too long ago; as little as one year ago I refused to read a fantasy novel. The reason I gave to myself is that I read too many fantasy books growing up, so many that I’ve been indoctrinated into every trope there is in the genre. What is original to someone else, is tired and worn out to me. Turns out I was being really picky and choosing the wrong books to read.

The genre of fantasy is filled with stories that use the same old tropes—good vs. evil, chosen one who happens to be a peasant and 4 years old, old gods wanting to get back into the game. However, the same goes for every genre out there, and it’s that way for a reason. Tropes are not to make a story original, rather they are used for familiarity, to increase reader enjoyment and, at the same time, sales.

So, when I gave up on fantasy because I claimed everything to read was just tired and worn out, that was just me not giving the genre a fair chance. Instead I wrote the entire genre off and ran to the sci-fi side of the fence. There I learned my reasoning for giving up an entire genre sat on thin-ice, and the tremendous value of Goodreads Groups; for I got to a point that I didn’t even like reading sci-fi.

How do Goodreads Groups and really awful picking of books figure together? If you’re a connoisseur of Goodreads, then you know the answer.

Movies. There are so many of them out there, so many painfully awful ones, that most of the time it’s better to wear an old hat than to pick out a new one. It’s one of the reasons Rotten Tomatoes was created; to help people learn which movies to stay away from and which to watch. The rating system on that site is so uncanny that if there is a green splat next to the rating, just about everyone is going to agree it’s not a good movie.

The rationale behind Rotten Tomatoes is more or less the same as the one Goodreads uses. What would happen if, in one place, anyone could rate and post a review of a book? Not only that, what would happen if people could create groups on that site, with posts that linked to the books that anyone—not just a book critic—could review and rate? You, I, get a site that is an absolute boon to your, my, book choosing needs.

Goodreads, the reviews I read there, and a Goodreads fantasy group are the sole reason I wandered back into fantasy with The Emperor’s Blades, and the only reason why I read The Blade Itself. And oh how happy I am for that.

The Blade Itself is a feat of storytelling. Joe Abercrombie somehow takes the old trope of a quest of strangers and turns it into THE MOST ENTERTAINING FANTASY NOVEL I HAVE EVER READ. If you read my thoughts on The Emperor’s Blades, you’ll know I love that book. However, The Blade Itself is in its own class.

I’ve read books that are more thought provoking; stories with sentences that are a feast for the mind; novels with plots vastly more complex, but never have I read a fantasy novel more entertaining.

It’s the little things that create the amazing entertainment value. Jezal yelling really loudly when talking to someone he thinks can’t speak his language. Glokta angry at stairs because he moves like a wizened ancient man. Logen’s practicality. Everything, and I mean everything, fits together so seamlessly that Joe Abercrombie has joined the short list of authors I will reread with glee:

  • Neil Gaiman
  • Neal Asher
  • Robert Jordan
  • Dan Simmons
  • Joe Abercrombie
  • Rachel Bach
  • Peter Watts

Should you purchase, or check out from the library, The Blade Itself? Do I really have to answer that? Yes? Well then, do yourself a favor and give in to the hype surrounding Joe Abercrombie; I did and found it to be completely justified, which is why I am so happy I stopped being a book snob and jumped back in the fantasy pool. Read The Blade Itself like I did. Read it now.

Devi is one badass merc – HONOR’S KNIGHT

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When I was a kid, around twelve, I wanted to be a mercenary. A person who got paid for fighting, gave allegiance to no one, the ultimate badass. I got older, began playing Dungeons and Dragons, and then wanted to be an assassin, but not just any assassin–a mercenary assassin; which I later found out to be redundant.

I grew older as people are wont to do. My career wishes closer aligning to that of a productive member of society. A videogame journalist was on the table, chosen after falling in love with NexGen–the premier gaming publication that unfortunately folded. I became a Marine on a whim, the journalist swallowed by bootcamp, and once again I wanted to be a badass who got paid for fighting. I wanted to be Force Recon then Delta Force then that super clan destine group that doesn’t exist but gets written about by Robert Ludlum.

I graduated college with a Bachelors in Marketing–funny how life always follows a straight path from A to B–and one thing that never left me throughout the years was that twelve year old who wanted to get paid fighting for a living. It’s little like looking at a Lamborghini and thinking it’s an amazing car and I should have three of them. The practical and rational side of me sees how impractical the car is, how much it would cost to insure, and how very silly it would be to own even one of them. Same goes for wanting to be a mercenary, but that little boy’s desire still burns. That’s where HONOR’S KNIGHT comes in.

Rachel Bach has created a mercenary I can live vicariously through. That, said mercenary, Devi Morris, is a woman and I’m a man is moot as Devi is bar-none the coolest, most kickass, most badass character I have ever read about or seen in a movie. I’m not going to add “for a girl” as a disclaimer.

No.

Put simply. Devi Morris is the biggest and best badass ever to be created.

Devi is smart. Awesome in a fight–be it with guns, knives, swords, hand to hand, or fist to armor. And an in your face, don’t take shit attitude, with a gentle side that actually shows empathy rounds her out. And she’s a mercenary.

Unfortunately I can’t accurately describe how awesome of a character Devi Morris is without reading the books to you; and I wish I could accurately describe how goddamn fun HONOR’S KNIGHT is, though I’ll give it the old college try. Reading HONOR’S KNIGHT, reading about Devi, is just…it’s fun. A better word to describe reading FORTUNE’S PAWN and HONOR’S KNIGHT I cannot find.

I can honestly say, I have never had as much fun reading a book (or series) as I have reading the PARADOX series, which HONOR’S KNIGHT is Book 2 of.

To me, Rachel Bach has created something special with the PARADOX series; more importantly, Devi Morris. As now I can do three things simultaneously while reading the PARADOX series–read because I love to read; have fun doing what I love to do; vicariously live my twelve year old dream of becoming a mercenary.

Should you purchase or do a library check-out of HONOR’S KNIGHT? The answer to that in unequivocal: YES. However, you should read FORTUNE’S PAWN first so you know what’s going on.

 

Fortune’s Pawn

The Pinellas County Public Library system has an Android app that is pretty cool. You can search for books, see locations and time, and even put books on hold. What does it have to do with Fortune’s Pawn? Well, I almost never read the book because of that app. When I searched for it, no results were given, but when I was at the library looking for a new book to read, Fortune’s Pawn was lying there on the shelf. Thank God too.

I read this book in one day. I should have cleaned more that day, or wrote something on The Corli Saga Book 2. I actually told myself, probably a dozen times that day, “okay, the end of this chapter, get up and clean”. I would get to the end of the chapter, look at the time, and tell myself it was okay, I could finish one more chapter then clean.

Fortune’s Pawn has to be the most page-turny (I’m claiming that word now. It’s gonna be big one day) book I have ever read. It’s exciting, it’s in-depth, and the characters are believable. The secondary characters stay secondary, they don’t take over the spotlight, and they fade away into the background at the appropriate times.

While the writing is top-notch, it’s the story that shines here. Rachel Bach lays this trail of breadcrumbs laced with coke, so after you taste that first breadcrumb, you’re hooked and won’t stop eating them until you get to the end of the trail.

At the end of the book I got this Star Wars vibe, but the type of Star Wars I’ve always wanted. One with a mysterious force thing, but with lots of in-your-face killing and big explosions.

If you like Star Wars or Star Trek, you will LOVE Fortune’s Pawn. Hell, I’m pretty sure you don’t even have to like sci-fi much to enjoy Fortune’s Pawn. It’s one of those books, that if it’s the first sci-fi book you’ve ever read, you will be hooked on the genre.

I can’t recommend this book enough. Go to your local library to check it out, buy it from your local bookstore, buy it online, steal it from a friend, just get this book and read it!