Fulfilling reader requests, or What You Should Get at the Bookstore

Book Staircase A couple of posts ago I asked for reader requests concerning what I should post about. Well, only one of you asked for something so that’s what today will concern. (The offer still stands, it helps to know what people actually want to read.)

As of late, I’ve been reading a lot of Sci-Fi. Luckily for those of you who tend to stay away from it, my tastes tend to be very specific. I don’t really gravitate towards the type of fantasy sci-fi that so many people see in that section and think “who reads this stuff?” Don’t as me, I don’t know either. I prefer Science Fiction that exists purely as an extension of our world, or that is at least grounded in it.

So, while today’s list may look like “The best sci-fi I’m reading,” it’s not. It’s more that I’m just reading a lot sci-fi right now. Most of these books I’ve finished, some I’m reading right now. Actually, in terms of the ones I’ve finished, you’re really getting the cream of the crop, this being the first post of its kind and all. So let’s get started! Please, if you think Sci-Fi is lame, please stick with me on this. I promise to not disappoint.

forever warFirst up is Joe Haldeman’s sci-fi epic, and perhaps one of the greatest war novels of all time, “The Forever War.” This book kick-started my recent gluttony of all things SF and for good reason, it’s amazing. From what I understand, Haldeman wrote this as a means of writing about his Vietnam experience without having to make it a Vietnam book. It also acts as a critique of the gonzo right-wing space-politics that Heinlein put forth in Starship Troopers. Trust me, it all works. Even when people say “So good I couldn’t put it down!” I still pretty often find times to put a book down. That couldn’t be said for this book. I’m fairly certain I read this in a couple days which, for someone who gets as distracted as me, is a blazing speed.

One of the great things about this book, besides the analogous story-line, is the fact that most of the space stuff is based in real-deal science. I don’t want to ruin a lot of it, but it’s pretty amazing. A major part of the story is that the soldiers are fighting a war in space and have to travel at light speed to reach the front. With my rudimentary understanding of physics, this means that while the time for them may be a few months, that decades have gone by on earth. Every time the main character returns home, his home is no longer the place he left. How it’s not, I won’t ruin, but believe you me this book is an amazing read for anyone, not just nerds. I even was wary of science fiction before this one. READ IT! The Forever War

Ender\'s GameThe next book on the list is Orson Scott Card’s totally awesome “Ender’s Game.” It’s a classic and totally the type of book you want to be reading during the summer. I actually finished this one about a month ago and I kinda want to read it again. The book is about a war in the future except, here’s the kicker, all the soldiers begin training as children. We’re talking six-year-olds. So, basically, imagine Harry Potter in space, except super dark, more violent, and just as awesome. This book is the first in a series, and the only one I’ve gotten around to. It’s an amazingly entertaining book. Think about it this way, did you read any fantasy books before Harry Potter? Well, replace wizards with space-pilots, and you’re all set to read “Ender’s Game.” Ender’s Game

the sparrow

Boy, where to start on this one. Screw “amazingly effective sci-fi” try “amazingly incredible book.” Sure the story is an SF one, but the book is written so well you forget that this kind of thing hasn’t ever happened. Mary Doria Russell’s “The Sparrow” centers around, and stick with me here, a group of Jesuits and a couple academics heading into space to make contact with some aliens who have been broadcasting somewhere in the galaxy. We’ve all read or watched something dealing with first-contact, but this book throws it all out the window. I’m really going to just leave it there, spilling too many of its beans will lessen its effect. This is a book that actually had huge impact on my entire life. Its really an incredible book. I can’t stress it enough, READ THIS BOOK! NOW! The Sparrow

As for what I’m slogging through right now, I’ve got a couple. First up is one that is taking me a while, but that doesn’t mean its not awesome. China Mieville’s “Perdido Street Station” is one of the first fantasy books I’ve read in a long time, and it really is pretty fantastic. Most of the time, the worlds fantasy writers create are just too silly for me. Such is not the case with this book. The city of New Crobuzon is so fully realized it’s hard to believe that it doesn’t exist. Also, a bizarrely beautiful as the world is, what with strange creatures and a city seemingly built atop the skeletal ribcage of a long-dead giant animal, the story and world seems completely grounded. I had read a lot about this book, but stayed away for a while considering it was billed as Fantasy. Then one day somebody posted a picture that made me go out and buy the book. Here it is, maybe you’ll feel the same way:

New Crobuzon

AWESOME

The second book I’m reading is one that I’d been wanting to read for a while. Austin Grossman’s “Soon I Will be Invincible” is a book about superheroes and supervillains. Now, I love comic books, but being able to read a really long book based on them, and one that has no previous source material is pretty awesome. Grossman takes a lot of the cliches he clearly loves and plays with them oh-so-skillfully. So far, I’m not that far into it, but I love it. Here’s its cover, just try to deny it!

invincible

AWESOME! AGAIN!

I was also going to talk about the comic books I’ve been reading, but I have a few things to do today, so maybe another time. Hopefully this little book club list will help ease the confusion during your next trip to the bookstore.

Seriously though, read “The Sparrow.”

Love,

John

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