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HAULING OUT THE BIG GUNS: HARD-HITTING SF

I received a request in last month's comments for some reading suggestions in military science fiction.  As I was putting a list together, I thought it likely that more than one person would be interested in this subgenre, and that it would be a shame to bury my answer in the depths of the archives.  So without further ado, here's the question and my response....

Need a New Space Opera

Hi Karen,
I was looking for some new Space Opera to read.  I was wondering if you had read any that you thought was really good or wowed you.  Looking for good space battles with lots of stuff happening & no politics.  Just carnage.  Wondering if you could help me?

Yay, comments!  First, a caveat: I think you're going to have a hard time getting away from politics entirely in military SF.  As the military theorist Clausewitz wrote, "War is not an independent phenomenon, but the continuation of politics by different means."  Political intrigue seems to go hand-in-hand with a lot of space opera and military SF, just as it does in regular military fiction (think Tom Clancy).  That said, I've put together a list of what I would consider consistently "hard-hitting," action-oriented authors in the military SF / space opera genre.  The guns are big, the body counts are high, and I can pretty well guarantee that something will get blown up in spectacular fashion at least once per book.  (The language can be pretty explosive, too-- be warned.)

With a few notable exceptions (like John Steakley's Armor and Neal Asher's Agent Cormac series), I've leaned more towards large-scale space battles than lone warriors since, to me, "space opera" implies grand, sweeping plotlines and adventure on a galactic scale.  (My favorite definition of the term "space opera" comes from Eric Raymond's Glossary of SF Jargon: "a subgenre of adventure SF in which the men are heroic, the women beautiful, the monsters monstrous, and the spaceships make whooshing sounds in hard vacuum.")  Star Wars is classic space opera-- you'll note that I've included a couple of their grittier series in the list.

Since any book you haven't read yet is technically new to *you,* I've included titles that run the gamut from classics to newer writers.   I've put the list into the format of Author, First Book (Series) (Shelf Label).  In cases where a series has multiple authors (like Halo), I've listed the entire series.  These are all titles that New City owns.  I hope you find something you like!

Asher, Neal L.  Gridlinked (Agent Cormac) (SF Asher)
Buettner, Robert.  Orphanage (Orphanage) (SF Buettner)
Bunch, Chris.  The Dog from Hell (StarRisk, Ltd.) (Pbk-SF Bunch)
Campbell, Jack.  Dauntless (The Lost Fleet) (Pbk-SF Campbell)
Dietz, William C.  For More than Glory (Legion of the Damned) (SF Dietz)
Drake, David.  With the Lightnings  (RCN/Leary/Mundy) (SF Drake)
    The Complete Hammer's Slammers (Hammer's Slammers) (SF Drake)
Gerrold, David.  Tales of the Star Wolf (Star Wolf) (SF Gerrold)
Gunn, David.  Death's Head (Death's Head) (SF Gunn)
Haldeman, Joe.  The Forever War (Forever War) (SF Haldeman)
Halo series:
    Nylund, Eric S. The Fall of Reach; First Strike; Ghosts of Onyx (SF Nylund)
    Dietz, William C.  The Flood (SF Dietz)
    Staten, Joseph.  Contact Harvest (YA Staten)
    Buckell, Tobias S.  The Cole Protocol (SF Buckell)
    O'Connor, Frank.  Halo: Evolutions (SF Evolutions)
McCaffrey, Anne and Elizabeth Moon. Sassinak (Planet Pirates) (SF McCaffrey)
Meluch, R. M.  The Myriad (Tour of the Merrimack) (SF Meluch)
Moon, Elizabeth.  Once A Hero (Serrano Legacy: Esmay Suiza) (SF Moon)
    Trading in Danger (Vatta's War) (SF Moon)
Remic, Andy. War Machine (Combat-K) (SF Remic)
Resnick, Mike.  Starship: Mutiny (Starship) (SF Resnick)
Ringo, John.  A Hymn before Battle (Posleen War) (SF Ringo)
    Live Free or Die (Troy Rising) (Express SF Ringo)
Saberhagen, Fred.  Berserker Kill (Berserker) (SF Saberhagen)
Scalzi, John.  Old Man's War (The Colonial Union) (SF Scalzi)
Sherman, David and Dan Cragg.  Backshot (Starfist: Force Recon) (SF Sherman)
Star Wars series:
    Jeter, K. W. The Mandalorian Armor (Bounty Hunter Wars) (SF Jeter)
    Traviss, Karen.  Republic Commando (Republic Commando) (SF Traviss)
Steakley, John.  Armor (SF Steakley)
Taylor, Travis S. One Day on Mars (Tau Ceti Universe) (Pbk-SF Taylor) (COMING SOON)
Traviss, Karen.  Aspho Fields (Gears of War) (SF Traviss)
Turtledove, Harry, ed.  The Best Military Science Fiction of the 20th Century (SF Best)
Warhammer 40,000 series:
    Abnett, Dan.  Blood Pact (Gaunt's Ghosts) (SF Abnett)
    Goto, C. S.  Blood Ravens (Dawn of War) (SF Goto)
    Mitchell, Sandy.  Caves of Ice (Ciaphas Cain) (Pbk-SF Mitchell)
Weber, David.  In Fury Born (SF Weber)
    Bolo! (Bolo) (SF Weber)
    Empire from the Ashes (Dahak) (SF Weber)
Zahn, Timothy. The Cobra Trilogy (Cobra War) (SF Zahn)

 

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Hauling Out the Big Guns: Hard-Hitting SF

Many thanks for the list. I see some familiar and favorite names, like Zahn, Gerrold and Haldeman, as well as some I am less familiar with or who are wholly unknown to me. I'm always happy to come across some likely suspects!

I would add to this "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card, and after that, "Ender's Shadow," not only two of the best books I have read in this subgenre but two of my all-time favorites in the universe!