At one time, Science Fiction was my go-to genre, making up about half of all of my reading. In the past few years, Science Fiction has been pushed aside by Urban Fantasy, Crime and Horror books while my Science Fiction books sat on my shelves, unread. So, as I’m spending the first three months of 2022 mining my TBR pile, I’ve decided to drill down into the rich Science Fiction deposits and see what’s there.
I’m starting with two very different books. One is the first book of a Nebula Award-winning series. The second is a less well-known ‘First Contact’ novel by an author who normally writes thrillers.
‘The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet‘ by Becky Chambers (2014)
Becky Chambers’ four-book ‘Wayfarer’ series has caught the imagination and the hearts of huge numbers of readers. I’ve had ‘The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet’ on my shelves since 2018 but I’ve always been put off by its length (15+ hours / 500+ pages). I even included it in a couple of reading challenges but I still didn’t get to it.
Anyway, I’ve finally started it and now I know what the fuss was about. People fall in love with the crew of the Wayfarer, a patched-together but lovingly maintained and endlessly modified civilian ship that ‘punches’ tunnels through space that other ships can then navigate through. The crew is multi-species – five humans and three crew members who are each from different species, and a sentient AI. The setting is a well-established mostly-peaceful sometimes still war-torn galaxy-spanning Galactic Commons, in which humans are the johnny-come-latelys.
I’d expected something like Banks or Reynolds – complex world-building, competing cultures, hard-edged conflicts fought by the cynical and the desperate. It’s not like that. Think Star Trek TNG only friendlier and without all that thinly-disguised military discipline. Becky Chamber delivers complex worlds and well-rounded people but her aim isn’t to thrill but to fascinate, to make us think about how alien species might be able to live together if they opened themselves up a bit.
‘Damocles by S. G. Redling (2013)
‘Damocles’ is a shot in the dark for me. S. G. Redling is best known as a thriller writer. ‘Damocles’ is her only Science Fiction story.
Two things about it call to me. Firstly, I’m a sucker for ‘first contact’ stories because they usually try to tackle what ‘Alien’ really means, which is a neat way of considering what ‘Human’ really means. It looks as though ‘Damocles’ doubles down on this by having the humans be the ones who come knocking at someone else’s planet. Secondly, when an author decides to step outside their genre and write in a different one, it’s often because they are passionate about what they have to say and or about the new genre that they’re stepping into.
I’m hoping for an original passion-filled read.