Science Fiction

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Science Fiction

More than just Space Cowboys!

One of the reasons I love speculative fiction is that exploring new worlds can be a great way to  get insight into our own. Here are some of my favorite science fiction books and series which use space and the future as a mechanism to tell stories about the human condition.
 

Contact by Carl Sagan

This is one of my favorite books of all time. It's about what happens with humanity receives a message that appears to be from the stars, but it's also about family, politics, math, and love. Oh yeah, and what it means to be human.
 

Old Man's War by John Scalzi

First in a series of 6 books and counting, these books are about the adventures of 75-year olds put into new bodies to help fight off the interstellar hordes. However, this book is not just about space battles and bizarre aliens; this series takes seriously the political and social consequences of such a society.

If what you like about science fiction is imagining other worlds, rather than that whole plot thing, I recommend The Long Earth, by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. If there were billions of other Earths, just a step away, what would they be like? Read and find out!
 

Miles, Mystery, and Mayhem by Lois McMater Bujold

The Miles Vorkosigan stories veer a little more to the space opera end, but are still worth reading. Miles, the physically impaired son of a powerful family, is a vibrant and captivating character, and the series delves into really interesting philosophic issues surrounding humanity settling on different planets: how would our cultures diverge? This book is a collection of three shorter stories.

Interested in more space opera? Ann Aguirre's Sirantha Jax books, starting with Grimspace, are enjoyable fluff!
 

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

This trilogy follows Breq, who is on an initially mysterious mission that takes her throughout many different planets controlled by humanity, known as the Radch.  These books bring up questions of cultural relativity, the ethics of colonialism, and gender issues, while telling a captivating story.


Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Have you ever heard that the way to become an expert at something is to dedicate 10,000 hours of practice to it? Well, in this book, humanity decides the best way to find a military genius who can defeat the alien Buggers is to start with the young. Ender, at 6, is sent to school in the sky to learn war. This book has become classic for a reason.

I must admit I'm not fond of the sequels staring Ender's friend Bean, which begin with Ender's Shadow, but I love the original three sequels: Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind. They get weirder and weirder, in the best way.
 

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Unlike the other books on this list, The Hitchhiker's Guide is humor, through and through. Arthur Dent, a regular human, gets caught up with a very bizarre group of aliens and travels throughout the galaxy, and Adams uses this story as a vehicle to tell joke after joke after joke. Still, these books deserves a place on this list because humor can sometimes be the best way to understand the world - and yes, you should read all five.