I am a big fan of fantasy. I enjoy reading it and writing it. Quality fantasy films fill me with joy and happiness. What I am less fond of and rarely seek out is science fiction. I know I am probably not making friends with this statement, but I must sadly relate to my readers that the Star Wars and Star Trek and Star(anything else) series are astronomically (haha) dull to me. I see space ships on the covers of novels or movies and am immediately skeptical. Dragons are so much more enjoyable, in my humble opinion.
However, there are exceptions to every rule, and when it is heavily suggested that I might enjoy something with more blasty cannons and laser thingies than dragons and magic, I hesitantly entertain the suggestion. Many have failed to capture my interest, but there have been a few that I enjoyed.
In the movie/tv sphere, the only space-related television that I can say I truly enjoy are the TV show Firefly (snark, blessed snark!) and the new Star Trek movie (it felt more action/adventure than sci-fi to me). In the book sphere, there are two series that stand out to me.
The first is the Miles Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold, who also wrote a few fantasy novels. The setting seemed pretty stereotypically spacy to me. There were planets, ships, and laser shooting thingermajigs (many of you *coughErikcough* are sighing right now at my lack of skills in the sci-fi naming arena). However, Bujold successfully and creatively escapes my category of “typical boring sci-fi” because of the humorous and interesting main character Miles.
Miles is from an extremely privileged and powerful family, but he was born with several severe physical deformities including brittle bones and stunted growth (he’s not quite five feet tall). He breaks his bones frequently doing random and sometimes stupid things. The first novel The Warrior’s Apprentice begins with Miles’ attempt to join the military on his planet. His failure is extraordinary.
However, Miles is not deterred from his aspirations of success. The first book relays his terrifyingly clever and daringly lucky journey from the bottom of the barrel to becoming the leader of an imaginary mercenary fleet that swiftly becomes very real. His sardonic personality and brilliance make him a fun character to root for and render the books both stressful and wildly entertaining. The later books are quite dark and I ended up giving up on them, though I have been told that the final novels in the series are lighter and recapture the more enjoyable themes. If you enjoy sci-fi or, like me, are not a fan but are open to a book about a sarcastic and brilliant main character, these books might be right up your alley.
The second series that I would like to bring up is by Kathy Tyler and, like the Miles books, is named for the main character.
This series is actually an alternative universe with an “Old Testament” era in which there are a chosen people in exile attempting to redeem themselves in the eyes of God as they await the promised savior. Into this story comes the Rahab/Ruth character Firebird, a strong woman from a different belief system who slowly and rather unwillingly comes to learn and understand and accept this strange and wonderful religion.
I enjoyed the first book in this trilogy most. The second and third are quite a bit darker (and the second is partially to blame for my fear of needles). The first stands alone quite well, so it is easy to read only the first and dispense with the others if you prefer happier books, like I do. Of course, reading the whole trilogy gives you a more complete story so do what you will.
Tyler’s world setup introduced a very interesting concept: On Firebird’s planet, aristocratic families have strict guidelines for how many offspring are allowed to survive. Because of a previous, almost successful rebellion led by two younger children of an aristocratic family, noble families may have as many children as they like, but only the oldest two will live. Once the heir has two children to ensure the bloodline, the third child onward, known as “wastlings”, must commit suicide. Firebird is the third child in her family. She becomes a fighter pilot, knowing that eventually she will have to die and choosing to die in battle. However, when her time comes, she is captured instead of killed and given a second chance.
The book is very dramatic, with quite a bit of romance, but overall it was an enjoyable story. I didn’t even mind the laser shooty things.
Now, I know that you are all very tempted to recommend me all of the really good sci-fi out there. I will tell you right now that I’ve read Lewis’s Space Trilogy and Card’s Ender’s Game and enjoyed them very much. While I will always take recommendations under consideration, be very wary because I am very picky.
Like I said, I really just don’t care for science fiction in general, but every now and then, I find one that I truly enjoy and I thought I’d share a couple such finds.