Friday, September 23, 2011

Read Alikes: Military Science-Fiction

If you're reading about the experience of a soldier in the midst of a futuristic battle, you've likely picked up a work of military science-fiction. Whether colonists battling an alien invasion, or a fleet battling space pirates, these books are characterized by protagonists with a strong sense of duty, honor, and sacrifice. It's not uncommon for a hero or heroine to be faced with impossible odds and rise beyond expectations.

While authors have been writing about future wars since before H.G. Wells, it wasn't until the 1960s that the sub-genre really took hold. Many authors of military science-fiction have military backgrounds that bring a level of realistic detail to the characters in their otherwise fantastic settings. Despite the fast-paced, action-packed adventure rides that often characterize these novels, it is the characters and the moral dilemmas and intellectual puzzles they face that bring readers back for more.

"Military SF novels aren't about the institution of warfare; they focus on the effects of war, on the soldiers, on the morality of an organization, and on what humanity will do to survive."
-Andrew Liptak, io9

We've gathered together a list of Military Science-Fiction authors available here at Carnegie-Stout:

The Honor Harrington series by David Weber is long-running, plot-driven, and peopled by engaging characters, not the least of which is Honor herself. This series is based in part on the navel adventures of the Horatio Hornblower series by C.S. Forester and the career of Admiral Nelson. The series starts with On Basilisk Station (which can be found on a CD-ROM in War of Honor) with Honor demonstrating her extraordinary skill as a tactician and leader under pressure.

David Drake uses his military background to create believable characters and detailed, fast-moving plots in fantastic settings. For his take on military science-fiction, check out With the Lightnings, the first book in his RCN series about a lieutenant unexpectedly thrust into command, and the librarian who becomes his indispensable partner.

Elizabeth Moon is a former member of the U.S. Marine Corps, and has written several series featuring military women, both science-fiction and fantasy. Her fast-paced Vatta's War series starts with heroine Ky Vatta being thrown out of the Space Academy, and so she turns to her influential family for a new career in Trading in Danger.

Laura E. Reeve was an officer in the U.S. Air Force before she was an author, which colors the richly detailed future of her Ariane Kedros series. In the first book in the series, Peacekeeper, Ariane is forced to face her past when she's called on to investigate a series of suspicious deaths. Espionage, a cold war, assassins, archaeology, alien forces, and a second murderer make for a compelling narrative.

Jack Campbell is a pseudonym used by retired U.S. Naval officer John Hemry. As Campbell, Mr. Hemry writes the fast-paced and gritty Lost Fleet series. The first book, Dauntless, starts with an important battle, but the real plot starts decades later when a military hero is reintroduced to a society changed by the endless war.

Mike Shepherd grew up in a Navy family, though he failed to survive Army boot camp, and instead made a career writing for the Federal Government. His popular Kris Longknife series follows the career of the title heroine who joined the navy to escape her powerful family, but finds her heritage is not so easy to avoid. The series starts with a bang in Kris Longknife: mutineer when Longknife's first mission is doomed to failure.

John Scalzi started his writing career as a journalist, a blogger, and an author of non-fiction before trying his hand at fiction. His unique take on military science-fiction and his witty writing style quickly made Old Man's War a popular read. The thought-provoking story of a seventy-five year old man who joins the military to protect Earth's distant colonies has recently been optioned for a potential movie adaptation.

Other authors of Military Science-Fiction include:

William Dietz, with several of his own series, as well as a title for the popular video game Halo. You can find other Halo titles by various authors in the catalog here.

Sandra McDonald, military science-fiction with an Australian twist. Check out this staff review for more.

Tanya Huff's Confederation series has the humans cast as the protectors of an alien alliance.

R.M. Meluch's series Tour of the Merrimack starts with humanity battling the alien Hive in The Myriad.

John Ringo writes action-packed and often violent novels, though not always science-fiction. His Legacy of the Aldenata series starts with A Hymn Before Battle where humanity joins the fight against the alien Posleen.

Please stop by the Recommendations Desk on the first floor, check out NoveList Plus on the library's website, or visit W. 11th & Bluff next week for more reading suggestions. Or submit a Personal Recommendations request, and we'll create a reading list just for you!

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