Monday, January 28, 2008

Top Ten Space Operas

OK, well I am back, finally. For those who were wondering where I had gone, it is a combination of work, moving, and my father being in and out of the hospital. Now that life has stabilized, I can get back to the important stuff, like updating this blog on a regular basis.

Today is Monday, and that means that is time for a Todd's Top Ten list. This week, as the SFSNNJ's Multi-media month draws to a close, we turn our attention to the exciting realm of Space Operas. Whether in print or on screen, the Space Opera is a staple of the genre. Let us look at the best of the best...

10) John Grimes: These venerable stories by A. Bertram Chandler are a load of fun, and the future life of John Grimes, and his career in the galaxy at large, are a joy for readers of all ages. When reading these great works, it is very apparent that many of the great explorer characters of the genre owe a great deal to John Grimes, and that this prototype of the Hornblower in Space concept still stands on his own after all this time.

9) McCade for Hire: Bounty hunter Sam McCade is a mercenary bringing law to a lawless universe in this fantastic far future realm by William C. Dietz. McCade is quite possibly the most intelligent and fantastic character to grace the lower levels of society. Brilliantly written, and with a framework that makes sense for the inclusion of a bounty hunter, the McCade series stands out as one of the best thought out space operas in the genre.

8) The Pride of Chanur: It is very hard to write realistic aliens, but CJ Cherryh has made her career on the backs of the truly alien. The Pride of Chanur series follows the crew of a Hani (feline aliens) merchant ship in a region known as Compact Space. The neat thing is that this is a first contact story from the aliens' point of view, and the narrative is not told from the perspective of the only human character (Tully) but rather from the view of Pyanfar Chanur, captain of the ship. The aliens are very well drawn and the action is fantastic.

7) The Lensmen Series: E.E. "Doc" Smith is widely recognized as one of the founding fathers of modern Science Fiction and the Space Opera, and the Lensmen series remains a beloved classic for many reasons. High adventure and great characters are the hallmarks of this sweeping series, and those who have not read the books, should add them to their must read lists.

6) Sten: From the death of his family in the first book to his rebellion at the end of the series, the Mantis Team leader Sten has been a fantastic example of Space Opera if ever there was one. Chris Bunch and Alan Cole brought us this magnificent series (which was recently republished, by the way), and the amazing stories of Sten and his companions would make Ethan Hunt and James Bond turn green with envy.

5) The Prince: The planet Sparta may be the one hope for a renewed humanity as the current interstellar government collapses. The Prince follows a mercenary company hired by some very smart people to protect the world of Sparta and ensure that they will be able to pick up the pieces when the government finally does collapse. Jerry Pournelle and S.M. Stirling collaborate for a great storyline.

4) Night's Dawn/Confederacy: Peter Hamilton tells a Space Opera like no other. This one includes possession by the souls of the dead in a far future universe, and the scale of the story is nothing short of epic. It is really quite amazing what you can do with all the dead men of history to work with.

3) Honor Harrington: David Weber's iconic Captain Honor Harrington is one of the most widely read characters in the SF Genre. The Honor-verse (Harrington fan slang for the universe that the stories take place in) has been written about by many authors in the various short story collections, and in 10 novels by Mr. Weber himself. If you go to any bookstore you are likely to see 2-3 shelves of Weber's books, and much of that will be Honor Harrington's stories.

2) The Uplift Series: David Brin's seminal works on the life of humanity in a great, ancient intergalactic civilization features Earth in the role of minor backwater in the seas of galactic politicking. Startide Rising is one of the greatest works of SF ever produced, and the whole series rides a wave of excitement and exploration from beginning to end. Highly recommended.

1) Deathstalker: Simon R. Green is probably the best writer out there, and the strange far future of the Empire of Humanity showcases the best of his talent. Majestic prose and sparkling dialog bring this story to life as we follow the exploits of Owne Deathstalker and a rag-tag band of rebels and super-humans in their bid to overthrow the Empress Lionstone XIV. Wonderful is the only way I can describe this series, and there is not enough praise in the universe to lavish on it. Read these!


Jeff Tranter said...

I'm a big an of the Lensmen series too. But what about Edgar Rice Burroughs? He wrote over 30 science fiction novels including the John Carter of Mars series.

I recently posted my top 10 list of Science Fiction Authors on my blog at

Todd said...

Hi Jeff,

I was not really looking specifically at SF writers in general, but at Space Opera in specific (which Burroughs did not really write). I love John Carter as much as the next man, but it is not really a space opera in the classic sense.

David said...

I gotta say, I love the deathstalker series. But come on, first place?