Today Mr NW shows that Science Fiction can be cool (because Mrs NW has her doubts).
I know what you’re thinking – in what universe is Science Fiction actually cool? Isn’t it just green aliens, lasers and pew pew spaceships? Well… okay, some of it is that (and it’s pretty legit too). My point here is that the very best Science Fiction can be so much more.
Scientists all around the world are tinkering in labs, designing new things and being generally awesome. Some of the things they work on and create have the potential to impact our lives in a big way. Just think about the advances in biochemistry and our understanding of how cells age. What will happen if we cure ageing? The obvious answers are that the world will become overpopulated, breeding will need to be restricted, and people will need to find some seriously long term hobbies. But what would it be like to wake up tomorrow into a world like this? What thoughts and feelings would you have? What impact will this technology have on your day-to-day life and how you experience the world? Science Fiction allows us to explore life as it could be or may one day be as an actual person which is exactly the type of thing you don’t see in a scientific paper. In this way, Science Fiction is not just a fun past-time, but also an interesting look at how technology interacts with humanity at a personal level.
Here are what I think are some of the best modern Science Fiction books and authors:
1. Iain M. Banks
Iain M. Banks’ Culture series explores a number of different interesting facets of a multi-species galactic society. Much like the English and their encounters with native societies throughout history, these books center around the dominant and technologically advanced Culture and their encounters with intelligent species at different stages of their development. The Culture agents meddle with the politics of other species to prevent wars and are required to constantly consider the ethics of their actions. There is some pretty interesting and creative material in this series. One species even punishes their criminals by placing them in a kind of virtual reality which emulates hell where they will suffer excruciating pain for eternity. There are ten books in this series so there is plenty there to get stuck into if you enjoy them.
2. Alastair Reynolds
Alastair Reynolds was an astrophysicist who worked for the European Space Agency. He is also lifelong fan of Science Fiction and also just happens to be a great writer. Reynolds’ most popular work takes place in the Revelation Space universe. One aspect that makes his much-loved Revelation Space books so interesting is that he limits the technology to what could possibly function within the bounds of our current understanding of the universe. The spaceships generally travel infinitely close to the speed of light, but no faster. There are limitations on how fast your ship can accelerate without turning you into tomato soup. This may sound all a bit hardcore and geeky, but he couples this stuff with top notch writing and mysterious entities which keep you turning the pages. I am looking forward to the latest addition to the Revelation Space books, Elysium Fire, which is expected to be released in early 2018.
3. Peter F. Hamilton
Hamilton is well known for taking big ideas and blending them together to create truly epic works of Science Fiction. He is best known for the Night’s Dawn Trilogy which is an immense series totaling 1.2 million words (well over a thousand pages per tome). The series follows multiple characters through an epic interstellar adventure with mind boggling technology mixed with some horror themes. These books are space opera on a truly grand scale.
I have also read the first of Hamilton’s latest series, The Chronicle of the Fallers, and found it to be great fun. It is set on a planet stuck in the Void which is an area of the galaxy where quantum mechanics operate differently making telekinesis and telepathy possible. The story revolves around a revolution where multiple characters have different motivations for making it successful. Time travel (time loops!) and interesting twists are also thrown into the mix alongside strong character development. I am immensely excited to read the next book in this series.
So there you go, some cool Science Fiction for you to try out. If you do find yourself reading these authors, let me know what you think.
Next time, Mr NW will discuss whether fantasy writing has gotten better over the years.
What are your favorite Sci-Fi series or novels?