renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)
[personal profile] renay posting in [community profile] ladybusiness
One of my 2017 book challenges: reading 15 space operas. As I searched for books I wanted to read and read some of the books I chose to prioritize last year, I realized my desire for space opera is falling along very specific lines. So far this year I've read:

  • Home by Nnedi Okorafor
  • Revenger by Alastair Reynolds
  • Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty
  • The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley
  • The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
  • Warchild by Karin Lowachee

cover for Home by Nnedi Okoraforcover for Revenger by Alastair Reynoldscover for Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty

cover for The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurleycover for The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzicover for Warchild by Karin Lowachee


Out of this list, the books that aligned most with what I wanted from space opera were Revenger, The Collapsing Empire, and Warchild. The rest aren't not space opera (they go to space! sometimes things happen!), and they're fine books (several of them made my favorites list for the quarter). But the others have the main thing I look for: different locations, lots of space hopping and chilling in the empty on cool ships, and different rules and societal norms each place the characters go. I need at least three to four space ships, space stations, or planets to really get the operatic feel that I liked from all my visual space operas back in the day.

In my very first space opera, Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer, there's Earth, Spectra, the place the Dark Princess lives, and a prison planet (which might be on the Princess's homebase, now that I think about it?). Plus, lots of travel between planets. We're ignoring that Rainbow Brite can travel through the vacuum of space on a horse that gallops on a tangible rainbow, all right? We all start somewhere. Plus, there's a robot pal, which isn't really a requirement for space opera to hit me in my feelings place, but it doesn't hurt. There are exceptions, especially when a book is set mostly in space but is dealing with external issues, but these are my macro preferences.

I also like planetary romances (pretty sure [personal profile] coffeeandink gave me that term and it has been very useful) that have some space travel and spaceships but are mostly focused on life planet-side. Some books I've read that fit that description: Jaran by Kate Elliott and Dark Orbit by Carolyn Ives Gilman.

Since my favorite type of space book is so specific (and because I often like other types, too), I wasn't restrictive about what books I would read for my challenge. I bought several last year in preparation:
  • Primary Inversion by Catherine Asaro
  • Fluency by Jennifer Foehner Wells
  • The Ship Who Sang by Anne McCaffrey
  • Planetfall by Emma Newman
  • Empress Game by Rhonda Mason
  • The Cold Between by Elizabeth Bonesteel
  • Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • The Outback Stars by Sandra McDonald
  • Behind the Throne by K.B. Wagers
  • Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi
I tried Ascension when it first came out and bounced off of it hard because of my embarrassment squick (I hate reading about/watching characters getting caught where they're not supposed to be) but I'm going to give it another shot. I also have several C.J. Cherryh omnibuses a super generous friend sent me. I've only read Downbelow Station so far, but liked it a lot (except for the super racist alien culture). I focused on buying books by women because my library's selection is atrociously dude-heavy. Like, I get it, library! Banks and Reynolds are important, but holy moly, diversify your space opera options.

I'm going to at least try the books on this list (since I bought them, ha). I'm not sure if I'll read everything to completion, because I'm getting better about stopping books I'm not enjoying after 75 pages. And so many people want me to read more Bujold finally, and I need to give them a try for the Hugos, anyway, so I'll probably hit up a few of those before year's end. But I'm always on the lookout for excellent space operas (and planetary romances) by POC, ladies, nonbinary folks, and dudes if they're not gross. Bonuses for found families and robot pals!

Date: 2017-05-08 08:03 am (UTC)
novin_ha: LoVe Lives ruined, bloodshed. Epic. ([vm] epic)
From: [personal profile] novin_ha
I can't wait to hear what you think of the Vorkosigan saga then. I started reading it on March 8th, for International Women's Day, and finished in a month and a half, with a major reading hangover/literal migraine. (That's an endorsement.)

I must admit while I rarely read SFF written by male writers, with a couple of exceptions, the hype about The Collapsing Empire is sort of getting me curious. But I just got back to the Jaran series (read book 1 a couple of years ago, then bought the omni when it was on sale but never got to reading book 2 until now) so I'm probably set for a good long while...

Date: 2017-05-08 12:32 pm (UTC)
princessofgeeks: (Default)
From: [personal profile] princessofgeeks
Yeah, Six Wakes was great but I wouldn't call it space opera at all.

Date: 2017-05-08 02:39 pm (UTC)
oracne: turtle (Default)
From: [personal profile] oracne
Groundties, Uplink, and Harmonies of the ‘Net (NetWalkers trilogy) by Jane Fancher might be of interest in that they are super-angsty, and the different planets are held together by the internet. Sort of.

Steel Helix by Ann Zeddies - I know the author but I swear it is a terrific book. Space warriors!

I think C.S. Friedman's The Madness Season might be applicable here with the various aliens and their povs.

An Exchange of Hostages by Susan R. Matthews is first in a series that I have a weird relationship with, in that the series is about a torturer for an Evil Empire, and there's all kinds of problematic stuff happening, but I read a whole bunch of the series anyway. And it would likely yield some interesting essays!

Date: 2017-05-08 06:09 pm (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
If you haven't yet read The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, it will definitely scratch that itch for you. As a bonus, it (and the sequel A Closed and Common Orbit, which is not space opera but I'll recommend it anyhow) is the least human-centric story I've ever read in which the protagonist is a human. (The Chanur books, which I also recommend highly, don't count here because Tully isn't the viewpoint character.)

Date: 2017-05-08 07:28 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
You might like Rachel Bach's trilogy. I'm enjoying working my way through Elizabeth Moon's books.
I loved the Outback Stars a lot, think it meets your requirements nicely.

Date: 2017-05-08 09:33 pm (UTC)
novin_ha: Cristina & Meredith forever ([ga] cristina and meredith)
From: [personal profile] novin_ha
Thanks for the warning! Considering how long my to-read list is, I might not get to it until there's three volumes out... But also I frankly don't know if I have a preference re: characterisation/narrative/description/dialogue... I should start paying attention or something. ;)

I first read Shards in high school, but as I've said elsewhere, at the time I was doing a monthly book-a-day challenge and as a result I remembered VERY little of it. I remember where I read it, and the weather. I didn't remember the plot (though I know I did like it then, though not enough to get ahold of the second volume).

This time I started reading and I think I was hooked by the end of the second chapter (the first joke Aral makes, I guess, was where it got me), but it gets so much better from there. I can't wait to see what you think.

Date: 2017-05-08 09:49 pm (UTC)
bookgazing: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookgazing
Planetfall is great (very much planetary romance as you'd guess from the name) and I am enjoying the follow up right now.

Date: 2017-05-09 12:09 am (UTC)
3rdragon: (Default)
From: [personal profile] 3rdragon
Not that The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet isn't worth a re-read, but A Closed and Common Orbit very much stands alone. Though I will mention that while she's trying, the biological determinism (gender-wise) came through more strongly than in the first book. Not badly enough that I'm giving up on Chambers, but I do hope that she figures things out a little more about sex != gender.

Date: 2017-05-09 12:17 am (UTC)
3rdragon: (Default)
From: [personal profile] 3rdragon
I enjoyed Elizabeth Moon's Vatta's War series right up until I lost patience with them (maybe around the point where it was declared that even though it was fine to be gay, all the characters were genetically engineered to be straight because what if there was an apocalypse and everyone needed to make babies the old-fashioned way).

But that part early in the series with the hot-air-balloon rescue from the nursing home? That was AMAZING.

Edited (Edited to fix my HTML.) Date: 2017-05-09 12:18 am (UTC)

Date: 2017-05-09 12:20 am (UTC)
3rdragon: (Default)
From: [personal profile] 3rdragon
I'm not always super-observant, either, and the first one didn't bother me, but there were a few moments in the second where even I noticed and was not completely comfortable with her treatment, and I was not surprised when nonbinary friends complained of her handling of gender in both books.

Date: 2017-05-09 12:24 am (UTC)
3rdragon: (Default)
From: [personal profile] 3rdragon
I know that we're talking books here, but if you're a podcast sort of person (or an audiobook person), I highly recommend The Strange Case of the Starship Iris. It's compelling and well-done and has a diverse lineup of characters and every time I think that I can't possibly like it more than I do, they come out with something that makes me like it even more.

Caveat: it's not done yet.

Date: 2017-05-09 12:31 am (UTC)
princessofgeeks: (Default)
From: [personal profile] princessofgeeks
EXACTLY.

I felt Leckie's trilogy, and of course Bujold and Cherryh, were way more Space Opera, for example.

I like all those genres myself.

Date: 2017-05-09 12:31 am (UTC)
3rdragon: (Default)
From: [personal profile] 3rdragon
Oh! You've read the Ancillary books by Ann Leckie, right? The second two are more settled, but the first one hits up a number of different planets, and I really loved how subtly layered the story is.

Date: 2017-05-09 03:52 pm (UTC)
oracne: turtle (Default)
From: [personal profile] oracne
I read THE OUTBACK STARS back when it came out and loved all the gritty day-do-day details of the supply/logistics workers, more than anything else about it. But I only just remembered there are two more books, so thanks!

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