Monday, May 26, 2008

Top Ten Revolution Stories

OK, as Rebellion month draws to a close, I am bringing a list of stories and series that salute the process and concept of the revolution. Whether social, governmental, or technological, these revolutionary stories are great examples of the ways in which civilization can change, in some cases over night.

10 - Singularity Sky by Charles Stross - What happens when a planet with anarcho-communist leans that has been under the thumb of a brutally repressive regime suddenly has access to everything that they could ever need? Overnight revolt, massive upheaval, and disintegration of the social contract for starters. This is a story where we learn the perils of massive changes that happen too quickly (especially when aided by alien influences). The story is brilliant, and Charles Stross is one of the best writers of modern SF there is. It is also the story which gives us the phrase "the sporks of freedom!"

9 - The Man Who Never Missed by Steve Perry - Can one man really make a difference? He can when he is pretending to be an entire rebel army. On the planet Greaves, Emile Khadaji is doing just that. Instead of killing enemy soldiers of the occupying forces, though, he is using a powerful nerve agent that causes a 6-month coma. Immobilizing hundreds of enemy combatants, Khadaji knows that he has a strict time limit before the coma patients start to awaken and compare notes, realizing that the 'Shamba Freedom Fighters' are really just one guy with a nifty gun. This starts of a series of amazing stories that are all part of the Matador series, which explores the concept of a non-lethal rebellion.

8 - Way of the Pilgrim by Gordon R. Dickson - In the furure, Earth is an occupied planet, with a race of strict aliens ruling the world. The aliens are attempting to force humans to fit into their mold of what is believed to be a proper culture in order to support the aliens, called Aalaag, in their efforts to survive a pursuing alien force which has no name. The idea is that the aliens are warriors, and all others are required to support those warriors in their efforts. Shane Evert, one of the few humans who can understand the aliens language begins to understand the differences between humans and the outwardly similar Aalaag, and develops a plan to overthrow the oppressive regime using grafiti. This is a brilliantly done story with an eye towards anthropology instead of technology as a cure for the injustice of oppression.

7 - The Flying Sorcerers by David Gerrold and Larry Niven - When a scientist crash-lands on a strange planet, it is up to him to teach the aliens how technology works. The aliens, on the other hand, are quite content to use their 'magic' to get rid of Purple the Sorcerer until they discover that Purple can teach them how to fly with his new magic. This is a great story of cross-cultural contamination as 'Purple' slowly changes the aliens' society by showing them the concept of labor for hire, assembly lines, and (gasp) denomination monetary units. To make matter even more interesting, the entire story is told from the point of view of the alien Sorcerer, who sees these changes as the death of his dominance over his people.

6 - Runner/Logos Run by William C. Dietz - Contemplating one's navel is all well and good, but Jak Rebo is not a religious man. In the first book, Jak has to help get a young religious prophet to his destination to prevent a massive shift in the normally peaceful religion if it was determined that the young prophet was the wrong choice. In the second, Jak has to revitalize technology that caused the downfall of the human races by getting the AI called Logos to the central hub where it can turn on the interstellar network of gates that will allow humanity to restore connections across the cosmos and revitalize the species. Set in a luddite future with limited access to technology, these stories of a crumbling interstellar infrastructure are a joy to read.

5 - Stardoc by S. L. Viehl - Healthcare can be a wonderful thing, unless you are the object of the experiments. Dr. Chorijo Grey Veil is running away from her father, a mad scientist who created her in an effort to make himself immortal. As she wanders the stars with her adoptive clan and husband, Duncan Reaver, she causes disruption, change, and chaos. Life and death are important to this doctor, but even more so are compassion and honor.

4 - Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. LeGuin - How do you have a revolution without having to do anything? Dream it and hope that it happens. In this classic story a young man can change the world through his dreams, and is forced to work his magic on the world, even if it doesn't want his help. The problem is that the dreams lead to an ever changing, ever more bizarre vision of the future.

3 - Insurrection by David Weber and Steve White - Colonies always suffer from the oppression of their founding cultures, we saw it in the Americas, China, Africa, and India, and in the far future, it is happening all over again. Unfortunately, this revolutionary war will be even more destructive than any of the revoloutions in history. Set against the backdrop of a humanity divided by issues of colonial rights and taxation issues, this story weaves war and strife into an amazing narrative with larger than life heroes and many shades of gray.

2 - Santiago by Mike Resnick - Though more famous for his some of his other Birthright Universe series like the Widowmaker, Mike Resnick sets a tone for a future rebellion that is far more than it seems. The outlaw Santiago is larger than life, striking everywhere and everything. The stories of Santiago are complex and strange, and it is only through the hunt for the man himself that we learn the truth of this outlaw rebel, and the facts behind this extraordinary man.

1 - The Star Fraction by Ken MacLeod - Anarchy reigns in this alternate future London, and the new UK is divided into a sort of Balkanized version of itself, with warring factions vying for prominence. In this dystopian future, various heroes attempt various means of overthrowing the current social order with limited success. Politics, religion, technology, and economy war back and forth in the bizarre microcosm of the new UK, and as tensions ratchet upwards, the world spirals further out of control and revolution is the only way to settle things into a better future.

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