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2015 in Books: Fantasy and Sci-Fi

I’m a sucker for Fantasy and Sci-Fi. Fantasy lets me travel to imaginary worlds of extreme beauty or horror and experience the adventures and intrigues of heros and anti-heros alike. It lets me admire (and learn) the creativity of fantasy authors who build worlds from nothingness and their craftiness in knitting infinitely intricate plots. Where Fantasy has no boundaries, Sci-Fi has that more grounded quality that makes you think: this actually could happen or this is how our future could look like. Both genres are awesome!

Do you like Fantasy and Science Fiction? Then perhaps you’ll find some of these books interesting…

The Man in the High Castle

Ever wonder what would have happened if the Axis had won the Second World War and Germany, Japan and Italy had divided the spoils? About an United States divided between Japan and the Nazi Germany? That’s the premise of The Man in the High Castle yet another awesome short novel by sci-fi legend Philip K. Dick.

Great book, I really enjoyed following the what if? scenario. I just wish the book would have been longer. I think that Amazon has made a TV-show based on the book so that’s definitely in my To-Watch list.

Half the World and Half a War

Joe Abercrombie has become one of my favorite fantasy authors, author of the amazing first law trilogy, best served cold, the heroes and red country I think he is the best representative of modern fantasy, raw, real, full of greys and anti-heroes.

Last year I read Half a King a super fast paced fantasy novel full of surprises and unexpected twists and turns. Great book. He continued the trilogy this year with Half the World and Half a War. Both worthy continuations of the first book with more characters, faraway lands and twisted plots. I think that I enjoyed Half the World more than Half a War and particularly the strong female character of Thorn Bathu which kicks ass.

Snowcrash

Snowcrash is a classic of science fiction. It portrays a very pinturesque future ruled by mega corporations and hackers. It popularized the term avatar that we use so commonly today although in the novel it was applied to a person’s representation in the metaverse a 3D virtual construct that you could theoretically connect to and live in through VR technology. Here’s the book description:

In reality, Hiro Protagonist delivers pizza for Uncle Enzo’s CosaNostra Pizza, Inc., but in the Metaverse he’s a warrior prince.

Plunging headlong into the enigma of a new computer virus that’s striking down hackers everywhere, he races along the neon-lit streets on a search-and-destroy mission for the shadowy virtual villain threatening to bring about infocalypse.

Snow Crash is a mind-altering romp through a future America so bizarre, so outrageous… you’ll recognize it immediately.

Do you feel like starting reading it right now or what? :)

The Left Hand Of God Series

Another fantasy trilogy that I enjoyed a lot this year was The Left Hand Of God. The first book of the series was particularly good (I think I devoured it on a single day), the second and third books were a little bit worse.

Listen. The Sanctuary of the Redeemers is named after a damned lie for there is no redemption that goes on there and less sanctuary.’

The Sanctuary of the Redeemers: vast, desolate, hopeless. Where children endure brutal cruelty and violence in the name of the One True Faith.

Lost in the Sanctuary’s huge maze of corridors is a boy: his age uncertain, his real name unknown. They call him Cale. He is strange and secretive, witty and charming - and violent. But when he opens the wrong door at the wrong time he witnesses an act so horrible he must flee, or die.

The Redeemers will go to any lengths to get Cale back. Not because of the secret he has discovered. But because of a more terrifying secret that lies undiscovered in himself.

Solaris

I have a friend at work that loves Sci-Fi just as much or even more than I do. He recommened me Solaris by Stanislaw Lem and therefore I had to oblige. This was a very interesting book. Some Sci-Fi books have a dreamy, ominent quality that you cannot find often in Fantasy. The awe of a human being visiting distant planets very different from Earth. The extreme feeling of solitude of a teeny tiny human that clashes with the complete unknown of a new world inhabited by another life form completely different and unrelatable from us human beings. The horror of that same life form attempting to communicate with us in very unsettling ways (Cannot say more! Spoilers!).

Excellent book. Must read.

John Carter Series

In a completely different and diametrically opposed tradition of science fiction we have the John Carter series. It was an easy, simple, entertaining read. Books of daring adventures, war, swordplay, swashbuckling and romance of an earthman in Mars.

One thing that was very unsettling about these books is that they are written in first person. I have never ever seen that before in science fiction. The whole book is narrated by John Carter talking in first person. Very weird but you get used to it.

Endymion

Endymion is the third novel in the Hyperion Cantos. It was nice to come back to the universe of Hyperion but it was a little bitter sweet with the change of characters. I think I enjoyed the first two books much more. Endymion, although interesting in the sense of seeing how a religion evolves from the cruciform, felt like a preparation for the awesome stuff that is going to happen in the last book of the series which I haven’t read yet. Something like The Empire Strikes Back in Star Wars.

Firefight, The Reckoners Series

Firefight is the continuation to The Reckoners’ series and its first book Steelheart:

Ten years ago, Calamity came.

It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary people extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. Epics are no friends of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man, you must crush his will.

Now, in what was once Chicago, an astonishingly powerful Epic named Steelheart has installed himself as emperor. Steelheart possesses the strength of ten men and can control the elements. It is said that no bullet can harm him, no sword can split his skin, and no fire can burn him. He is invincible. Nobody fights back … nobody but the Reckoners.

A shadowy group of ordinary humans, the Reckoners spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them. And David wants in. When Steelheart came to Chicago, he killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David has been studying, and planning, and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience. He has seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.

The second book is just as good as the first and it gives you a lot more clues about epics and the source of their powers. Read it if you enjoyed the first one.

Shadows of Self, Mistborn meets SteamPunk

During 2015 I read another of Brandon Sanderson books Shadows of Self, the continuation (sort-of) to The Alloy of Law. It is the mistborn universe brought to the future into something like a steam punk society.

Mistborn. Good. Allomancy. Good. Ferrochemy. Good. Steampunk. Good. What’s there not to like :) Extremely recommended. You’ll enjoy it more if you’ve read Mistborn. Brandon Sanderson is god.

A Space Odissey

In 2015 I caught up with a lot of classics in Science Fiction. I thoroughly enjoyed reading 2001 Space Odyssey and 2010: Odyssey Two. I think that Arthur C. Clarke masterfully achieved making me feel and understand how it would be like to travel through space. Hopefully Elon Musk can build me a spaceship soon so I can verify it xD.

I really enjoyed Arthur C. Clarke style of writing and particularly this passage:

Behind every man now alive stand thirty ghosts, for that is the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living. Since the dawn of time, roughly a hundred billion human beings have walked the planet Earth.

Now this is an interesting number, for by a curious coincidence there are approximately a hundred billion stars in our local universe, the Milky Way.

So for every man who has ever lived, in this Universe there shines a star. But every one of those stars is a sun, often far more brilliant and glorious than the small, nearby star we call the Sun. And many perhaps most of those alien suns have planets circling them. So almost certainly there is enough land in the sky to give every member of the human species, back to the first ape-man, his own private, world-size heaven or hell.

I Robot

Another classic I, Robot and its short stories that describe a possible future history (wooo) of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics.

Super interesting in two ways: first in how humanity and humans relate mentally and emotionally to ever more sophisticated, intelligent and conscious machines, and two, the behavior and developemnt of the robots and AIs themselves. Also interesting are the three laws of robotics that have influenced many of other works of science fiction:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

Very recommended book as well. It’s also pretty short so you’ve got no excuse.

The Martian

Yet another book that I thoroughly enjoyed last year was The Martian. Very interesting, very hilarious book of human exploration, daring, optimism and empowerment. Loved this part:

Hey,” Watney said over the radio, “I’ve got an idea.”

“Of course you do,” Lewis said. “What do you got?”

“I could find something sharp in here and poke a hole in the glove of my EVA suit. I could use the escaping air as a thruster and fly my way to you. The source of thrust would be on my arm, so I’d be able to direct it pretty easily.”

“How does he come up with this shit?” Martinez interjected.

“Hmm,” Lewis said. “Could you get forty-two meters per second that way?”

“No idea,” Watney said.

“I can’t see you having any control if you did that,” Lewis said. “You’d be eyeballing the intercept and using a thrust vector you can barely control.”

“I admit it’s fatally dangerous,” Watney said. “But consider this: I’d get to fly around like Iron Man.” “We’ll keep working on ideas,” Lewis said.

“Iron Man, Commander. Iron Man.

And even more this one reminding us that humans are good by nature.

The cost for my survival must have been hundreds of millions of dollars. All to save one dorky botanist. Why bother? Well, okay. I know the answer to that.

Part of it might be what I represent: progress, science, and the interplanetary future we’ve dreamed of for centuries. But really, they did it because every human being has a basic instinct to help each other out. It might not seem that way sometimes, but it’s true.

If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it’s found in every culture without exception.

Yes, there are assholes who just don’t care, but they’re massively outnumbered by the people who do. And because of that, I had billions of people on my side. Pretty cool, eh?

The Dungeoneers

Another example of fresh modern fantasy is The Dungeoneers. More in the humor category of fantasy with a little taste to Terry Pratchet and a very ingenious way to crawl dungeons. Enjoyed it a lot as well.

And my Favorites Series of All Times: The Aubrey and Maturin Series

One of my favorite authors of all times is Patrick O’Brian author of my beloved Aubrey and Maturin Series. I don’t know how but I found time to squeeze in a re-read of the first book of the series Master and Commander. This was the 6th time I read that book. Awesome book :)

1800s. Britain’s Nelson leads Navy against Napoleon’s France.

Captain Jack Aubrey, newly promoted to old, slow HMS Sophie, is a brave and gifted seaman, his thirst for adventure and victory immense. Aided by friend and skilled ship surgeon Stephen Maturin, Aubrey and crew win clashes, finally hopelessly outmatched by a mighty Spanish frigate.

And that ended up being a pretty long post indeed. I really need to write these book reviews as I go reading books and not leave everything for the end of the year. Have a great day! :)


Jaime González García

Written by Jaime González García , Dad, Husband, Front-end software engineer, UX designer, amateur pixel artist, tinkerer and master of the arcane arts. You should follow him on Twitter where he shares useful stuff! (and is funny too).Jaime González García