Mar 042011
 

I love military science fiction it has given me so much entertainment and enjoyment. War is about extreme and hard circumstances where even simple things are difficult. It brings out the worst most basic instincts but also the best. It can be black and white but most of the good ones are grey with moral dilemmas and inhuman choices. War changes people and I am very happy I have not had to fight in one but I think people that have, has something to tell us and if they choose to do so in the form of science fiction so much better.

War will change as we change and move out in space and meet other intelligent species. We might meet alien species in peace and brotherhood but from how it works down here there might be one or another bad apple out there especially if Stephen Hawking is right.

War makes for good stories with heightened emotions and a lot of action and don’t get me started on the gadgets. Military science fiction can be criticized with a fixation on weapons and military systems but it is part of the charm and ambiance. Those long penetrating rockets in the hands of the sexy heroine have no deeper psychological meaning at all. Whoops did I say that out aloud?

What makes or break a story for me are usually the characters. I absolutely love banter be it between old buddies, enemies or lovers. A bit of flawed humanity is also appreciated as it makes for more believable characters.

This is Mk II of my totally biased list of the top military science fiction series of our time based on the ones I have read. My focus is as always the characters and the wow moments. That’s why there is lots of space opera here. I have followed some of the authors here for decades others for just a year.

00100010 (34) Blackcollar is a series by Timothy Zahn about the ultimately guerrilla warriors. Earth and its colonies are occupied by aliens and they have to fight back any way they can. It is a fairly uncomplicated pulpy story. Not great literature but entertaining.

 

00100001 (33) Sten is about a young man raised on a dangerous industrial world turned rebel by the death of his family and saved by the head of imperial intelligence and turned to a military life where he eventually becomes a troubleshooter for the Empire and a personal friend of the Emperor. I have read the three first books in the series and they where good stories but a bit thin on character and background, I think they get better though. Written by Chris Bunch and Alan Cole.

00100000 (32) Conquerors’ Saga is about a mysterious war between humans and another race, the Peylans but not all is what it looks like and the series slowly reveal the truth. There are also some nifty technologies that the humans pick up to be able to fight back. Timothy Zahn continues his pulpy streak but the characters are a bit more complex here by a tiny bit.

00011111 (31) Stotts’ Empire series is a free online space opera about a young man who are remarkably adept at war who make a surprising friend. Richard Stotts series is a bit rough around the edges but I enjoyed it. Download the pdf:s here.

00011110 (30) Carrera series is an interesting military science fiction with at least for me borderline ideology.  It is about Carrera a warrior that is forced to take matters in his own hands on the one interstellar colony that a decadent earth has established and it channels some of Tom Kratman’s own experiences at war in the middle east. The vilification of all international peacekeeping or liberal organisations is a bit over the top. Volume 4 The Amazon Legion will be out in April.

00011101 (29) Dirigent Mercenary Company series is rifleman infantry action by Rick Shelley. The military life of a future mercenary unit is well described. We get to follow the Protagonist Lon Nolan from cadet to colonel.

00011100 (28) Freehold Universe – Freehold – Do unto Others … is a couple of books set in the same universe. It all started with  Freehold about a refugee from earth that comes to Freehold, a planet that takes Freedom serious. It is a great book. Recently Michael Z. Williamson has started another series in the same universe about bodyguards that goes beyond the demands of duty to protect their client. Another book in the original series will be out in September, Rogue.

00011011 (27) Troy Rising is a rather charming space opera about a cartoonist that frees earth from alien occupation and builds a gigantic space station to defend earth against a horde of alien invaders. Troy Rising takes place in Howard Tayler’s Schlock Mercenary’s Universe (please check it out)  a couple of thousand years before the comic and it is an amusing Space Opera with a bit sketchy characters and world building but quite enjoyable. The Hot Gate will be out later this spring.

00011010 (26) RCN is about Captain Daniel Leary and his friend the formidable Adele Mundy and their military adventures aboard the Heavy Cruiser RCS Milton and other ships. David Drake rewrites historical battles and wars and make beautiful military science fiction out of it.You can read the first six books free online. The last RCN so far What Distant Deeps came out in September last year. David Drake is about to start on the next The Road of Danger according to his homepage January 2011.

00011001 (25) Star Carrier Series is Ian Douglas new series where he once again threatens humanity with extinction. This time we are getting close to Singularity (transcendence through technological advances) and the leading race of a galactic empire the Sh’daar are determined to stop us. The confederation is hard pressed in Earth Strike and the second book Center of Gravity is already out. It is a solid uncomplicated military science fiction about the star carrier CVS America its commander and Lieutenant Gray, one of the pilots.

00011000 (24) Major Ariadne Kedros is a woman with a dark military past working as a surveyor. Her past catches up with her, both from old enemies and old friends. The world is built on Greek culture with the dominating race being the Minoans called so because they share symbols with the Greek. Temporal buoy’s play a significant part in the story as well as their weaponization. Laura E. Reeve is the creator of this resourceful and guilt ridden heroine. The third book Pathfinder came out 2010 but was something of a dissapointment.

00010111 (23) Starfire series is built on a board strategy wargame about interstellar conquest. A survey fleet travels trough a previously uncharted wormhole and run into a hive-like speice called the Bugs, all communications attempts fail and the Bugs ambush the fleet and launch an invasion against the Terran federation and nearby powers. In the center of the series is the arms race with the bugs. Later in the series there are other opponents. Solid political and military technology world building if somewhat weaker in character building by David Weber and Steve White. The fifth book Exodus is written by Steve White and Shirley Meier.

00010110 (22) The Noise Within series centers around a mysterious sentient pirate ship with the same name. It is a space opera with black ops, intelligent ships, ai-interfaces, alien mysteries and intelligent guns. Book two The Noise Revealed continues the story of black ops specialist Jim Leyton as he clashes with alien and human conspiracies. And there is a love interest in this one scheduled for May 2011.

00010101 (21) Confederation of Valor – is about the futuristic career of a non commissioned officer fighting aliens for the elder races in the alliance. There is a secret behind the scenes that are gradually revealed. The Protagonist Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr keep her space marines and and superiors alive. Tanya Huff writes good characters and the dialog is to die for. My reviews of the books, fifth book  Thruth of Valor came out in september 2010.

00010100 (20) Jenny Casey used to be a former retired Canadian special forces living in the hellish streets of Hartford, Connecticut. Earth is in shambles from environmental disasters. Jenny becomes a pawn in game of world dominance between Canada and China over being the first to reach the stars. In Hammered Jenny tries to survive, in Scardown she has to fly and in Worldwired she has to teach the aliens to talk with each other. The world is a bit noir and gritty as Elizabeth Bear likes to write.

00010011 (19) Aldenata universe – Posleen War | Cally’s War | Hedren War – takes place in a world where an ancient race, the Aldenata uplifted a number of races, screwing them up at the same time. The only race not uplifted is the humans. When the galactic society is attacked by the ferocious Posleen there is a need for someone that can fight so they turn to the humans, who they fear almost as much as the Posleen. The O’Neal clan unite the different series. The redheaded feisty warrior princess Cally stands out together with her war hero father Mike. It’s John Ringo’s universe and he cooperate with Tom Kratman, Mikael Z. Wiliamson and Julie Cochrane there. This is also another example of a series where other races taking advantage of the human race’s ability to fight.

00010010 (18) Shoal Sequence – in the 25th century only the Shoal knows the secret of faster than light travel but the pilot Dakota becomes involve in retrieving the secret from a Magi starship and start a series of events that will explode suns and throw the galaxy into war and eventually threatens civilization. Gary Gibson’s trilogy has an open ending that allows for more books.

00010000 (16) Starship series is space opera and kind of military. Some of the gods of military sf would probably turn in their graves, other would enjoy it. What is refreshing is the nontraditional tactics used by the main character Wilson Cole. Non violent and media centric, which is a clever reflection on our own time. This series of five is written by Mike Resnick.

00001111 (15) Autumn Rain is a super charged cyber-thriller of mind-blowing world-changing non-stop neck-breaking cloak-and-dagger cyber-thriller action. Think Hollywood blockbuster action meets Le Carré’s deviousness and many layers in the 22nd-Century. This is hard gritty science fiction up to the end that is borderline fantasy.

00001110 (14) Stellar Marines Universe – Heritage Trilogy | Legacy Trilogy | Inheritage Trilogyis Ian Douglas Stellar Marines family saga. The Garroways fight in the sands of Mars to the Magellanic Cloud. Humanity is on the brink of extinction time after time as they fight the Xul, a galaxy spanning race of xenophobics. Built on ‘Hard science’. Ian Douglas is a pen name for William H. Keith.

00001101 (13) Tour of the Merrimack – is about the  finest battleship in Earth’s fleet and its crew.The series’ arc about how to deal with the ravenous Hive, a race of space traveling insects that devour all life they come across. In The Myriad the Mack was out looking for the Hive’s Home world when they stumbled on the time traveling aliens who eventually caused the universe to throw them into an alternative reality to avoid paradox. In Wolf Star the war between Earth and the New Roman Empire is going at full blast and Merrimack is in a deep strike mission behind enemy lines when they meet the Hive again and the Romans have to bow down and admit they need help. In the Sagittarius Command they go after the cause. I love Rebeca M. Meluch’s characters. The Ninth Circle will be out in November 2011.

00001100 (12) Dahak SeriesEarths Moon is in reality a gigantic camouflaged battleship who’s crew become the human race. This is discovered by a lone human astronaut that has to face the ancient ship’s computer Dahak. It’s not enough that he has to deal with mutineers that survived in Antarctica, he also has to do with an onslaught of hordes of genocidal aliens and traitors. David Weber is at his best in this awesome space opera.

00001011 (11) Empire of ManPrince Roger is a failure and a brat when his starship is sabotaged and he and his company of marine bodyguards has to land on the other side of an hostile planet and walk all the way to the star port on the other side. Wonderful four armed aliens, an epic journey and a prince that becomes a man and the soldiers that fights with him. Nice technological progression from stone age to space age. Written by John Ringo and David Weber.

00001010 (10) Lost Fleet – Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier – The Alliance has been fighting the Syndics for a century – and losing badly. Now its fleet is crippled and stranded in enemy territory. Their only hope is a man who’s emerged from a century-long hibernation to find he had been heroically idealized beyond belief . Captain John ‘Black Jack’ Geary’s legendary exploits are known to every schoolchild. Appalled by the hero-worship around him, Geary is nevertheless a man who will do his duty. And he knows that bringing the stolen Syndic hypernet key safely home is the Alliance’s one chance to win the war. But to do that, Geary will have to live up to the impossibly heroic ‘Black Jack’ legend. The first series of six books is out and a new series concerning the aliens is starting this year with Dreadnaught in April. Written by Jack Campbell

00001001 (9) Seafort Saga - is built on C. S. Forester’s novels about Horatio Hornblower and written by David Feintush. The books are set in a future human society that is largely dominated by unified Christianity. The main protagonist is a naval officer who strives always to do his duty, both to the navy and to his God, at great personal cost. Beside the personal story there is an interesting race of fish like aliens central to the story.

00001000 (8) Kris Longknife – is about a formidable woman with a knack for getting in trouble and getting out. She is one of them Longknifes and if life wasn’t enough complicated being an officer in the navy, the society of humanity dissolve and her grandpa is named King making her a reluctant princess. The Peterwald family with their long standing grudge with the Longknife set up their own little pocket empire and starts to make life for Kris and her family difficult. Lots of humor, fantastic characters by Mike Shepherd. The next book Daring will be out in September 2011.

00000111 (7) The Vorkosigan Saga - is about Miles and his mother Cordelia Naismith. It begins with Cordelia’s military career and the unlikely love story between her and Miles father. Miles is crippled in vitro by an assassination attempt but grows up to a crippled formidable interstellar spy and mercenary admiral. Lois has modeled the series after Hortio Hornblower with a taste of Lord Peter Wimsey. The novels stand alone pretty well but benefit from each other. The latest Miles novel, CryoBurn came out last year. Written by Lois McMaster Bujold.

00000110 (6) Safehold – is the world where humanity hides from extermination from the Gbaba, something went wrong thou, the leaders of the colony reprogrammed the colonists in cold sleep creating a medieval world ruled by the church and themselves as Angles. When a fraction tries to revive advanced technology they are ruthlessly exterminated by orbital strikes. 800 years later their second line of defense wakes up. Nimue Alban is an android with the mind and memories of a long dead starship captain. Her mission is to restore civilization and prepare Man for the inevitable re-encounter with the Gbaba. David Weber’s knowledge in history comes to life in this beautiful military saga. The fifth volume How Firm A Foundation will be out in September this year.

00000101 (5) Veteran series -Veteran is Gavin Smith’s debut novel. It got mysterious aliens, conspiracies, realistic battle scenes, fast pace, lots of wow moments and wonderful characters. I would say this is a mixture of Heavy Metal, Cyber Punk and Classic SF. It is Military Science Fiction at its best and I would recommend it to a wider audience. I can’t wait for his next book, War in Heaven scheduled for September 2011.

00000100 (4) Agent Cormac series is about a polity agent and troubleshooter that tackles alien technologies and conspiracies in a future ruled by artificial intelligences. Lots of gory details and almost philosophical twists and turns by master story teller Neal Asher. Start with Grindlinked or  Shadow of the Scorpion.

00000011 (3) Family’s Regnant universe – Heris Serrano Trilogy | Esmay Suiza continuation | Suiza and Serrano - is about two formidable females Heris Serrano of an old navy family and Esmay Suiza of an old army family. Characters easy to love and formidable old ladies. Much of the driving force for conflict in this universe comes from longevity treatments. Those who get it and will live long life, those who fear the consequences or those who wont wait their turn. Elizabeth Moon is an amazing crafter of characters and worlds.

00000010 (2) Honor Harrington is about a competent man kind of military woman with an empath treecat called Nimitz that becomes the foremost military commander of her time battling expansionist empires and human slavers. She is called the Salamander because she thrives in the heat of battle. There are so far twelve books in the series that starts with On Basilisk Station and the next book A Rising Thunder will be out in 2012. The series is written by David Weber and the success so far have lead to two sub series Saganami and Wages of Sin. The first written together with Eric Flint. The next installment A Rising Thunder is planned for January 2012.

00000001 (1) Old Man’s War start with protagonist John Perry joining the army on his seventy-fifth birthday and goes off to fight in The Colonial Defence Force where he meets the love of his life, fight aliens, become leader of a colony and in general make himself useful. I am afraid to tell you much about this series because I so enjoyed the surprise  I got as piece after piece fell in place. John Scalzi is one of my favorite authors, I love his characters and his humor. It recently got a movie deal too (2011).

And before you say how could he miss Hammer Slammers, I didn’t. I tried to read them a couple of times but never really fell for it. Bolo is another ‘series’ that I considered but I feel its less a series and more of a loose concept even if i love them. I have probably missed some, because I haven’t read them, so as usual give me a comment, I love to get to know more military science fiction series.

I love to add more series to the list and will do as soon as I read them.

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  • Well-duh

    Agreed Bolos are not a series and cannot be. Because a good Bolo is always destroyed or at peace until out of service by the end of the book. And the human commanders have even shorter lives. So continuity of characters is impossible.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam-Whitehead/544717218 Adam Whitehead

    The list has a major, gaping hole in the shape of Dan Abnett, probably the finest writer of military SF working today. I’m also puzzled at the inclusion of Gibson and Asher, who are more mainstream SF authors who happen to sometimes feature military elements than out-and-out ‘military SF’ authors. If you have those two, you really need to have Peter F. Hamilton and Richard Morgan as well, as they’re stronger writers.

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  • britishinvader

    you’re a shitty writer. just saying.

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  • eegee

    You just made me weep out of joy.

    I was looking for this list for a long time! it’s not only the length, it’s the way you sort it! And I’ve only read 6 out of the first 10!

    Thanks!

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  • DRA2010

    It’s interesting how many of these I already possess! :-)

    There are a few others that I think should be included:

    Dr. Catherine Asaro – Skolian Empire
    Dr. Harry Turtledove – The Worldwar Saga/Colonization
    Gordon R. Dickson – The Childe Cycle

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  • Meh

    2 sayings immidiately pop to mind.

    1. If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing.
    2. If people think you are a fool, you are better off staying quiet and letting them continue thinking that rather than opening your mouth and proving it.

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  • Harald Egerth

    hi there

    have read nr. 5 … think it’s too early to list it nr. 5.  Smith has to deliver at least 2 more as good books. would put him on a “candidates list” … and sometimes i’ve the feeling he took to much “stims” writing  the first book.

    now into book 3 of serrano (nr.3). litte bit disappointed cause it’s a lot of space opera but missing “military”. I hope the continuation brings more military.

    what did you think about book 6 “safehold” saga? thats the next one on my list. all that mideval context is very nice, but its moving too slow for me and i’ve read that book 6 comes to a comlpete halt and zero advance of the story. allready book 5 was slow paced.
     
    haven’t read nr. 4, 6 and 7. which one should i line up next. my favorites are as your’s nr. 1 and 2.

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  • DG

    Nice list Ove – I’ve been studying it since the post date (yeah, pretty big fun of your blog site)

    While not arguing about the order I just want to share my opinion  (for opinion sharing sake) here with you and other readers.

    I love SF, military SF especially. And to me, the best, very top, high pace, deep down military drilled is John Ringo’s writing, with his Posleen War saga. I have read lots of the books from the list above and some others too – yet most of them seems to lack the everyday reality of army and military comparing to Ringo. Some more than other, yet still. It is always something that’s missing there for me – it’s either the non-realistic battle description, not-quite-so military behaviour of characters, strategic decisions just pretending to be based on military experiance and knowledge, those little tiny things that ruin the whole show…

    Again, just my humble opinion and preference – no need to agree or disagree :) Just way it is ;)

  • DMS

    I’ve read most of the above and agree that they are good reads. I’ve also enjoyed the Helmsman series by Bill Baldwin and while not technically military, the Lensman and Skylark series’ by E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith.

  • WhiskeyWolf

    Dear Ove Jansson,

    While I only sporadically visit your blog, it’s still the best place I know which can keep me up to date on the latest sf-book. I wanted to thank you for your titanic effort in keeping this place running, I really appreciate it.

    So anyway, having that out of the way I wanted to comment on some of the choices that were put on this list. Disclaimer: I may be a bit biased considering my preference for space-operas with a strong focus on space-battles. Please be advise.

    *Series I myself would recommend from this list:
    (1) Old Man’s War
    (2) Honor Harrington
    (6) Safehold
    (7) The Vorkosigan Saga
    (9) Seafort Saga (Book 1-4)
    (10) Lost Fleet
    (12) Dahak Series
    (26) RCN

    *Series I would recommend but there is some stuff that bothers me which probably shouldn’t:
    (23) Starfire (The lack of a main character looms over me more then it probably should, again that’s my own preference as I like properly fleshed out characters)
    (13) Tour of the Merrimack (This one is tricky as I liked the first book. The problem starts at the end which make everything that happens before it irrelevant, additionally spoiling the general direction the sequel. Not to mention that the #2 book feels disjointed, like it’s composed from two separate stories.

    *Series that didn’t really catch but may not be bad, didn’t read far into them:
    (14) Stellar Marines Universe (It’s written by Ian Douglas and I can’t believe I’m saying this but it feels too militaristic/devoid of personality)
    (21) Confederation of Valor (I actually read the first two books and while pretty decent, it makes one feel like most of the plot is going over the protagonists head, mainly because of Kerr being only a non-com, thous out of the loop on most crucial happenings. She seems as having no control of her fate… not being Horace Harkness and all.
    (25) Star Carrier Series (Again Ian Douglas, the same complain as before)
    (33) Sten (A bit weak on all fronts but nothing that would make me condemn it)

    *Series that I consider being bad/very-bad/utter-garbage and a waste of time in general:
    (3) Family’s Regnant (Elizabeth Moon is a sly fox, it takes one a long while to actually notice that she is a bit of a hack. God knows I managed to reach book three of Vatta’s War before noticing that most of the strategic decisions made by the characters are absurd – as in forced by the author – yet well camouflaged to seem as ‘the right thing to do’)
    (8) Kris Longknife (Repetition done wrong. Every book is the same, seriously, it follows the exact same pattern. It’s not even funny. Besides, everybody absolutely hates the main character and are actively or passively trying to kill her, even those who think they love her. You would think someone would finally luck out and end this pathetic excuse of a protagonist but nooooo…)
    (9) Seafort Saga (5 book and up. The series ended at book 4, period. Whoever ordered the next bunch, in his wildest dreams, didn’t expect what a shit sandwich he would get)
    (16) Starship – “Some of the gods of military sf would probably turn in their graves…” More like spin in them at Mach 3.
    (19) Aldenata universe – Posleen War (Jesus Christ, Ringo why? You are better then this – “GalacticSlaveOwners: Give us your children so they can be safe with us. Humans: OKAY!” – every decision made by the humans in “A Hymn Before Battle” is not even stupid, it’s surreal and it makes my brain hurt)
    (22) The Noise Within (Just Meh, move along)

    The rest of the title I did not read, yet. Well maybe “(18) Shoal Sequence” but I don’t remember anything about it. What do you call it? Ah yes, ‘forgettable’.

    *Series that I should be on the list:
    (xx) Looking Glass – Written by Ringo. While being less serious and more wacky then “Posleen War”, it’s still loads more logical – humans feel human, duh – and, what’s more important, a hell lot more entertaining.

    My two Euro-Cents.