Friday, May 18, 2012

Top 5 Best Military Science Fiction Novels Of Ever

Why wait? Let's jump right in.

5. Old Man's War - John Scalzi

First Contact has been made, humans are no longer alone in the universe. The Colonial Defense Force has been tasked with taking humanity to the stars. Setting up human colonies and defending them from attack by hostile aliens. The Colonial Defense Force army is an elite group that is different from other army's. For starters you can't join until you turn 75 years old.

To be honest I've never actually read this book. I listened to the unabridged audio book narrated by William Dufris, and it was Awesome! Audio books are tricky, I've listened to fantastic books turned to hash by an uninspired narrator, and I've listened to mediocre books over and over again because of a skilled narrator. This book is both fantastically written and beautifully narrated.

Dufris does a fantastic job of bringing John Scalzi's characters and worlds to life. The book is fast paced without feeling rushed. Great Book.

4. Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card

Humans have discovered faster than light travel and begin their exploration of the Universe when they run into an alien species called the Fornics. Hostilities ensue. Humans soon discover that the generals who led army's on Earth are out of their depth in space. A solution is set forth with the building of Battle School, an orbiting space station that is used to train children in everything they will need to know to command fleets in space.

I have read the short story version published in 1977 and the full length novel published in 1985 (I actually read the version published in 1991, in which Card made some changes in politics to more accurately represent the times).

A little like Lord of the Flies in space, but with at least the appearance of control by the adults set to watch over them. Instead of being a coming of age story, this is a story of children being forced to grow up sooner than they should. I can happily recommend this story to any Young Adult I come across.

3. The Forever War - Joe Haldeman

Earth has begun it's exploration of space when a United Nations Exploratory Force comes under attack by a group of aliens. Earth puts together an elite group of super intelligent soldiers (IQ's above 150) to find out what happened to the UNEF group and to exact revenge. Star ships in this universe can move from point to point between collapsars, but travel between planets and collapsars must be done in normal space at speeds approaching the speed of light. As the soldiers approach the speed of light they experience time dilation. One year of time for the soldiers in space equals decades back on earth. Each expedition sends these soldiers farther away from the life they knew both in time and space.

Where most books in this genre are filled with brave volunteer soldiers doing their duty, this book is filled with conscripts. Draftees who were picked because of their advanced educations and high IQ scores. The story looks at what happens when the culture and way of life an army is asked to fight for change without notice, leaving the soldiers behind.

2. Starship Troopers - Robert A. Heinlein

This story follows Juan Rico from his time as an enlisted soldier on to his promotion first to Non-Commissioned Officer and then to a commissioned officer. Juan's story is set in the middle of an interstellar war with a race humans call the bugs. The story deals with a multitude of issues such as who should be allowed to vote, the meaning of civic virtue and how one should train their puppies.

This is the book that all other military science fiction books draw from. This book wrote the tropes that everyone else is using to this day. The story has bug shaped aliens, rocket ships, space transports, and most importantly a real cool suit of armor that lets its wearer do all kinds of amazing things. Some of the speeches in here are blatantly political. You can almost see Heinlein thumping his fist on a lectern telling us all how things should be. If you have a beef to pick with Libertarians this could set your teeth on edge.

If, however, you have a soft spot in your heart for the good guys beating the bad guys through hard work and ingenuity, then you'll enjoy this book.

1. Armor - John Steakley

Armor is the story of a person who has been pushed so far past any normal physical and psychological limit that the only thing left is survival. Felix's inability to allow himself to die, even as he expects it, propels him from one fight to the next. His story is told through his own eyes, as he looks out through his armor.

The title of this book doesn't just refer to the suit of armor that Felix is assigned to. It also refers to his mental armor. The armor that refuses to let himself be taken or killed. This book breaks down into three acts. The first and third acts focus on Felix and the planet Banshee where the fighting takes place. The second act focuses on a character named Jack Crow. The pace of the second act is slower than the first and third, but if you can ride it out the third act really pays off. It should be noted that I'm putting this book on the top of my list even with a slow chunk right in the middle. IT'S THAT GOOD!

Honorable Mention

Falkenberg's Legion by Jerry Pournelle 

It was a tough call to not include this story in the top 5. I'll be honest with you, this almost beat out Old Man's War. Falkenberg's Legion has been a favorite of mine since I was in High School and Jerry Pournelle is a wonderful writer. I would recommend this book to anyone.

1 comment:

  1. I agree wholeheartedly with the contents, but I would bump Armor to #3 and move Ender's Game and Starship Troopers (purely for nostalgia, most likely) up a spot.
    The 1st person second act is painfully slow by any standard, but when compared to the Felix parts- which are some of the best SciFi ever written on the subject of war- it is almost a crime against humanity.
    I might have forgiven it and still given it the top spot, but the author has been trying- unsuccessfully- to get a sequel to Armor going, but as a stand-alone Crow novel. This kind of disconnect from what made his first novel great nets him the third spot.
    Great subject, great treatment, keep it up!