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So you just got a new ebook reader for the holidays this year. Nice! Now, it’s time to find books to load it up with, which should give you plenty to read on your trip home, or if you need an excuse to avoid relatives for a couple of hours.
Here’s 13 science-fiction books that kick off a series for you to break your new e-reader in, whether it’s a Kindle, Kobo, Nook, or other tablet.
If there’s one series to pick up and obsess over, it’s Iain M. Banks’ fantastic Culture series. This loosely connected series of books is about an interstellar, post-scarcity society called The Culture. You can read them in any order, but the first published book is Consider Phlebas, in which The Culture and the Idiran Empire are at war. During a battle, a Culture Mind (a hyper-intelligent AI) flees to a forbidden planet, while the Idirans dispatch a mercenary after the Mind with instructions to retrieve it.
Followed by Player of Games, Use of Weapons, Excession, Look to Windward, Matter, Surface Detail, and The Hydrogen Sonata.
In The Cold Between, Elizabeth Bonesteel creates a compelling space opera that brings together a deep-seated conspiracy within the interstellar Central Gov and a murder mystery. A Central Corps crewman is found murdered, and the blame falls on a former captain from the PSI, a breakaway faction. Commander Elena Shaw knows that he’s innocent and begins to work out how to clear his name and who really killed her shipmate. The answer ties in with the destruction of a Central Corps ship two-and-a-half decades earlier, and a conspiracy that threatens to shake the government to its core.
Followed by Remnants of Trust and Breach of Containment.
C.J. Cherryh has written dozens of installments in her Alliance-Union series, but a good place to start is the Company Wars subseries, which begins with 1981’s Downbelow Station. Set toward the end of a war between Earth’s fleets and the breakaway Union, a captain brings her ship and the refugees it carries to the planet Pell, and accidentally turns the planet into a focal point in the war between the two sides.
Followed by Merchanter’s Luck, Rimrunners, Heavy Time, Hellburner, Tripoint, Finity’s End, and Alliance Rising.
The first entry in James S.A. Corey’s Expanse series has since been adapted into a TV show on Syfy, but if you can’t wait for the next season, it’s a good time to dive into the books. Leviathan Wakes introduces readers to James Holden, an ice hauler who stumbles onto an interplanetary conspiracy, and Detective Miller, who’s hired to search for a missing woman. It’s the start to a solar-system-wide war, and a much larger adventure that will completely reshape humanity. The pair just published the latest novel, Persepolis Rising, and the next two installments are expected in the next couple of years.
Followed by Caliban’s War, Abbadon’s Gate, Cibola Burn, Nemisis Games, Babylon’s Ashes, and Persepolis Rising.
In the distant future, a scientist named Althea serves aboard an experimental military spaceship and begins to form a bond with the ship and its systems. When a pair of terrorists board the ship with the intention of destroying it, Althea must protect the ship, even as its systems begin to malfunction and grow into something extraordinary.
Followed by Supernova and Radiate.
I gushed a bit about N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy earlier this year. Simply put, this is one of the best speculative-fiction novels recently published, and it’s a fantastic blend of fantasy set on a distantly futuristic Earth. This first novel follows three characters on a post-apocalyptic world: a woman searching for her daughter, another escaping from her family, and a third working to tame her powers.
Followed by The Obelisk Gate and The Stone Sky
Marko Kloos initially self-published his debut novel Terms of Enlistment, but after it was picked up by Amazon’s 47 North imprint, he’s continued the adventures of Andrew Grayson, who joins the military in 2108 to escape a desperate existence in the North American Commonwealth. As he goes to war against the Sino-Russian Bloc, a new, alien threat emerges that threatens humanity’s entire existence.
Followed by Lines of Departure, Angles of Attack, Chains of Command, Fields of Fire, and Points of Impact (coming in 2018).
The Justice of Toren was a massive spaceship in service to the Radchaai Empire, using reanimated soldiers — called ancillaries — to carry out its orders. The ship experiences a sudden betrayal and is left in the body of a single ancillary, and sets out to exact revenge.
Followed by Ancillary Sword, Ancillary Mercy, and Provenance.
Chinese author Cixin Liu’s novel has earned rave reviews from the likes of President Barack Obama and science-fiction fans alike. Set during China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project makes contact with an alien race, which is bent on taking over the planet for itself. The book and its successors follow the efforts of two discrete groups: those who will welcome the aliens, and those who will oppose them.
Followed by The Dark Forest and Death’s End.
Earlier this summer, I really enjoyed Linda Nagata’s novel The Last Good Man, but I was already a fan of her fantastic trilogy, The Red. The Red: First Light introduces readers to a soldier named James Shelley, who has the uncanny ability to detect danger. It turns out that ability is linked to the possible emergence of a globe-spanning AI, and he and his soldiers are recruited into an effort to help protect humanity from itself.
Followed by The Trials, and Going Dark.
Kim Stanley Robinson’s classic science fiction novel earned the praise of such authors as Arthur C. Clarke, and follows the progress of a project designed to terraform Mars. A hundred colonists land on the planet to start work that will take generations, while there are some who will fight to preserve the planet as it is.
Followed by Green Mars and Blue Mars.
In John Scalzi’s debut novel Old Man’s War, it’s not young adults who go to war, it’s the elderly. As humanity expands into deep space, Earth’s aging population has a new chance at life thanks to cloning. In return, they help wage a brutal war with other alien civilizations for habitable planets.
Followed by The Ghost Brigades, The Last Colony, Zoe’s Tale, The Human Division, and The End of All Things