We talk so much about movies and TV shows we sometimes forget about our other geek pursuits: books, gadgets, cooking utensils, etc. Today’s Threeway takes on one of those as we look at books and the three best scifi novels of all time:
3) “Hyperion” by Dan Simmons – “Hyperion” is plain awesome. Its only problem is that it is one long book that the publisher splint into two (with “Fall of Hyperion” being the second). “Hyperion” itself is “Canterbury Tales” in space as we find a group of pilgrims setting off for a distant world. Along the way, they tell each other tales of why they are on the ship and what they hope to find on the planet. Each tale is unique and memorable and awesome. Even before I became a father I was always thought “The Poet’s Tale” was best.
Strangely, none of the other books in the “Hyperion Cantos” (as the four book saga is known as) has the same structure. “Fall of Hyperion” takes place immediately after “Hyperion” ends (the book basically ends with “and then they reached the planet”). Then the next two books (“Endymion” and “Rise of Endymion”) are also like one giant novel split in half. But the short story element is gone. This is a series to read all of.
2) “Ready Player One” by Ernst Cline – I’m shocked that this didn’t make Anthony’s list. If you are reading this blog and haven’t read this book do so. NOW.
Go. GO! It is that great and engaging. The story takes its structure from the 80s ATARI game “Adventure.” In a not to distance future, the world pretty much sucks. Poverty, shanty houses, etc. The one cool thing is a giant online world treasure hunt. The Steve Jobs creator of the world has died and hidden his fortune (billions of dollars) within the game. The hook is that the guy lived and breathed 80s pop culture. Thus, everyone assumes that the key to winning the game is rooted in that knowledge. “Ready Player One” is the ultimate 80s fantasy played out in a space-age future.
1) “Ender’s Game” and “Speaker of the Dead” by Orson Scott Card – OK, this might be cheating a little but I don’t think so. Way back when, Card wanted to write “Speaker.” Before he could, however, he knew he needed to tell the story of Ender Wiggin. “Ender’s Game” started as few chapter introduction to “Speaker” that morphed into its own novel.
The two books aren’t similar in tone (“Game” is more adventure while “Speaker” more spiritual and socially conscious) but they compliment each other perfectly. Additionally, they are both great in their own way.
“Game” tells the tale of a young Ender Wiggin (6 years old) sent to Battle School to train as a solider (and possible last hope for humanity) to fight the Buggers. The story weaves in political turmoil on Eatrh, complex relationship that Ender has with other kids in the school (as well as his brother and sister) and some fantastic sci-fi concepts (the battle room portions are exhilarating and should be fantastic in the upcoming movie).
“Speaker” is nothing like “Game.” Taking place hundreds of years later on a distant planet. The story revolves around a human colony and their encounter with a new alien spices. Ultimately, the story is one of morality – as Card weaves a drama-filed tale from the human POV.
Unfortunately, the books don’t stop there. Card has milked this series for all he could. With…varying degrees of success. As a quick crib sheet:
Ender’s Game – GREAT
Speaker for the Dead – GREAT
Xenocide – Ok. The series is beginning to slow down.
Children of the Mind – Not very good. But readable.
Ender in Exile – Good, but almost great. Card makes a strange plot choice about half way through that takes away from the overall experience.
Ender’s Shadow Series:
Ender’s Shadow – Great. Takes place during “Ender’s Game” but from an alternative POV.
Shadow of the Hegemon – Ick. The series gets bad, fast.
Shadow Puppets – Double Ick.
Shadow of the Giant – At least the series is over…until.
Shadow’s In Flight – Not bad. Mostly disposable end to the series.
First Formic Wars: (A new series – will be at least three books):
Earth Unaware – A very good beginning to the series. I’m intrigued about what will happen next. Tells the story of the first encounter humanity has with the Buggers.