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A summer of sci-fi
I enjoy books all year around, but I seem to chew through more during the summer than any other time of year. Maybe it’s being able to sit outside; maybe it’s the abundance of natural light streaming through the windows; or maybe I just need to start reading more during the rest of the year. Regardless, with the summer coming to a close, I thought I’d make some quick recommendations on a couple awesome sci-fi novels I’ve read over the past few months.
First up, I finished the final book in The Expanse trilogy by James S.A. Corey (a pseudonym for the writing duo of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck). This is a heavy duty, sci-fi series set in the future among humankind that have expanded throughout the solar system. People travel between planets, and live on large asteroids, but haven’t expanded beyond the limits of the outer planets. Earth and Mars are the major superpowers — analogous to large nations in today’s world – and the outer planets and asteroids are on the verge of forming their own alliance.
The series starts with Leviathan Wakes and introduces us to James Holden and some of his crewmates thrust almost immediately into action. There’s a hint of something dangerous and alien, and it appears someone is willing to kill for the secrets. Elsewhere in the solar system, Detective Joe Miller embarks on a routine missing persons case that quickly becomes anything but normal. The series continues through Caliban’s War and this summer’s conclusion of the trilogy in Abbadon’s Gate. Recently, the publisher announced plans to order another three books set in The Expanse, and I can’t wait.
My second recommendation is another trilogy — the Wool series by Hugh Howey. This one began its life as a series of short novels self-published on Amazon, and later expanded to a full set of three novel-length collections. The first is Wool, which collects the first five short novels. It’s followed by Shift, which is a prequel of sorts, and concludes in Dust. This series is a little closer to home than The Expanse — the world in Wool is merely post-apocalyptic Earth. Something has happened (what, exactly, comes to light as the series progresses) and it’s no longer safe for people to go outside in the toxic air.
The story opens and follows the lives of people living in a massive silo extending more than 100 stories underground. We get a real sense for the world these people live in, and experience through their eyes that something just isn’t quite right around the place. Talk of the outside is taboo, and the price for breaking taboo is to be sent outside to ‘clean’ — a death sentence that does little more than renew the view of the barren wasteland outside the silo.
Both series are engrossing and fast-paced. The authors do a fantastic job of building a living and breathing world, and the characters have depth that really makes them feel real. Too often, we’re exposed to cookie cutter situations and cardboard characters, but even The Expanse with its high flying sci-fi action manages to avoid tired tropes (and, in particular, pokes fun at some of the sci-fi clichés). Wool avoids many of the tired apocalypse scenarios and gives refreshingly well-paced resolutions to its own mysteries and suspenseful moments. If you’re looking to lose yourself in two awesome sci-fi series and read six books faster than you could possibly imagine, take a look at The Expanse and Wool.