Happy New Year, Seekers! Jonathan here. One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Vincent Van Gogh. He said, “For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.” I have always been an ardent devotee of science fiction, and those words perfectly capture the way reading a great space opera kindles my imagination. Today, I want to share 5 of my favorite sci-fi reads that made me want to craft my own. May they be a source of inspiration to you as well!
Revelation Space, by Alastair Reynolds — This book will blow your mind with its scope and pure imagination. It’s also the first in a series set in the same universe, so if you like it, you have several sequels to enjoy. From the decaying glamour of the Glitter Band, stricken with a nanotech virus, to the mysterious alien world of Cerberus, Reynolds’ novel showcases his background as an astrophysicist by painting a haunting, believable vision of the future.
Out of the Silent Planet, by C.S. Lewis — Let me start out by saying that this book is weird. The entire Space Trilogy it belongs to is weird. I’ve never read a more jarring depiction of space travel or related experiences. But that’s part of what makes it so good. You, as the reader, will feel like you’ve been thrust into Ransom’s adventures in an alien world. And, as you near the story’s end, you just might find yourself identifying more with the sorn than with humanity.
Firebird, by Kathy Tyers — If you read our ‘Favorite Childhood Reads’ blog post, you may recognize this author’s name. Of the books on this list, this may be the hardest to come by. The original edition came out in 1986, and it has some of the best character- and relationship-building I’ve seen in sci-fi. It also is a wonderfully-crafted romance. The second edition (released in 1999 as part of a trilogy) is also good, but it has strong religious undertones that make it less appealing to me. If you can find the original, you have a gem of a novel in your hands.
The Quantum Thief, by Hannu Rajaniemi – If the title didn’t tip you off, this book is way on the high concept end of the science fiction spectrum. Every page seems to present you with a head-spinning reimagination of such tropes as uploading consciousnesses into the cloud. Be forewarned: There is little to no hand-holding in Rajaniemi’s debut. But, if you can deal with the information density and lack of explanations for a while, the payoff is a spectacular world where gamers build cities on Saturn and immortal gods rule the inner solar system from diamond globes.
Hyperion, by Dan Simmons — This book is a sucker punch to all of your hopes and dreams about writing. I can’t imagine anyone coming up with something to rival this bewildering conglomerate of literary, mythological, and scientific references. Simmons seems to know something about, well, everything, and it’s all on display here. Never in my life have I had to look up so many words. But once I got beyond my shattered delusions of grandeur, I realized that by the simple act of reading this novel, I became a better writer. Prepare to have the bar irrevocably raised.