Recommend space-station-based books and shows?
January 13, 2011 10:02 AM   Subscribe

Science fiction books and shows about what goes on inside space stations or ships?

I fell out of touch with current authors and TV shows while in college, and would love some recommendations.

I've been jonesing for some space-station-based fiction. I have really enjoyed books like Anne McCaffrey's City Who Fought, Elizabeth Moon's Suiza and Vatta series (especially Once A Hero, where the heroine is on a repair/maintenance station-like ship), colony ship books, and others.

Since, I've drifted over to grittier military sci-fi, like David Weber's Honorverse, and am looking for more space-station based fiction. Ships work too, if the focus is more on what happens inside the ship than fleet-wide maneuvers.

In a similar vein, I grew up with Star Trek Deep Space 9 on TV. I've really enjoyed Stargate: Atlantis, which I'm finishing soon (via Netflix). Next on the agenda may be Farscape, depending on whether my husband can get into it. He's seen all of Red Dwarf, although I've yet to catch up on it.

Are there more shows or movie (preferably shows) in these veins?

A note: I dislike the rebooted BattleStar Galactica (although the campy original was fun) and Stargate: Universe.

So, what should I watch and read to scratch my scifi itches?
posted by bookdragoness to Media & Arts (39 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
S: AAB
posted by dougrayrankin at 10:08 AM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was going to recommend the new BSG, because one of the things it did well was to create a close, naval milieu for the ship. But if you didn't like it then. . . .

There's an anime called Planetes which is supposed to be a realistic(?!), unromantic take on space station living. I've never gotten into it but it seems interesting.
posted by grobstein at 10:09 AM on January 13, 2011


What are your feelings on Babylon 5?
posted by Johnny Assay at 10:10 AM on January 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ethan of Athos by Lois McMaster Bujold is set mostly on a space station. It's not hard sci-fi, but it's fun.

It's part of the Vorkosigan saga, but outside of a few little references, I think it stands alone very well.
posted by hought20 at 10:12 AM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


MOON.
posted by Term of Art at 10:16 AM on January 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Simak's Way Station. Cherryh's Downbelow Station.
posted by Zed at 10:16 AM on January 13, 2011


Whoa sweet - thanks for the recommendations so far!

I haven't seen Babylon 5, but will look into it.

I enjoyed Ethan of Athos too, along with the Vorkosigan saga. Looks like there are more books in that series since I last read it!

The problem with what I watched of the new BSG is that the characters seemed to spend a lot of time angsting at each other. And the new president really bothered me, although I can't remember why. I get that there was History and Tension and Drama, but it really detracted from the story for me. Maybe it got better with time? Is there a turning point where the it makes more sense and focuses back on the story?

Apparently SG:U got a lot better shortly after where I left off.
posted by bookdragoness at 10:24 AM on January 13, 2011


Much of Neuromancer takes place aboard a massive space station.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:27 AM on January 13, 2011


I'd recommend Voice of the Whirlwind by Walter Jon Williams. Much of the story takes place where the protagonist is on a spaceship (as a drive technician) or on semi-decrepit space stations. Williams does a great job of making it feel workaday real.
posted by codswallop at 10:31 AM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seconding Planetes if you like anime. One note about Babylon 5, the first season is terrible imo! I might even skip it and start on the second season, but I can't recall how much backstory you will miss.
posted by meta87 at 10:33 AM on January 13, 2011


The problem with what I watched of the new BSG is that the characters seemed to spend a lot of time angsting at each other. And the new president really bothered me, although I can't remember why. I get that there was History and Tension and Drama, but it really detracted from the story for me. Maybe it got better with time? Is there a turning point where the it makes more sense and focuses back on the story?

No. In general, BSG sucks at story -- especially the larger-scope elements of story. Most although not all of the broader plots were dumb. I guess I liked the story when it felt like it could be about US, but past the beginning it rarely was. It's good at mood, setting, and characterization. It's good at presenting tension in scenes. It's good at making you watch a schoolteacher torture someone based on a loose suspicion, or a man ignore the humanity of someone he'd regarded as family, or two people fall in love with death around the corner.
posted by grobstein at 10:45 AM on January 13, 2011


Linda Nagata's Vast and associated books; I forget which are in the same universe.

Pohl's Heechee books

Reynold's Revelation Space books are mostly set on stations and (very large) ships.

At the extreme of "space station" or "ship" (does something 50km long count?) the Culture books or Ringworld.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:55 AM on January 13, 2011


In addition to the Culture books (I would suggest The Player of Games and Consider Phlebas for unusual takes on space ship culture), Iain Banks also wrote The Algebraist, which is sort of...comic and gritty? And which takes place aboard a great variety of ships-that-are-basically-space-stations.

Ursula Le Guin wrote a rather interesting colony ship novella (okay, the political moral isn't especially sophisticated, but the ship culture and characterization are very strong and the plot is enjoyable), The Birthday of the World, which is in the book of the same name--one of her stronger recent stories.

There's a James Tiptree novella, A Momentary Taste of Being, which takes place on a fairly hierarchical semi-military colony ship. It's reprinted in Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, which also contains the famous exploration ship short story "Houston, Houston Do You Read?"
posted by Frowner at 11:25 AM on January 13, 2011


I just read and enjoyed Eleanor Arnason's _Ring of Swords_, most of which takes place aboard a space station.
posted by novalis_dt at 11:27 AM on January 13, 2011


Allen Steele's "Clark County, Space" might work for you. It gets a little silly in spots, but it's a neat look at what a near future space colony might be like. He also has some books about orbital and lunar construction workers called "Orbital Decay" and "Lunar Descent" - I think they're out of print, but you can usually find them on amazon or with some half price books hunting in paperback.
posted by BZArcher at 11:30 AM on January 13, 2011


The manga version of Planetes is even better than the anime, IMO.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:37 AM on January 13, 2011


I can't recommend "Night's Dawn Trilogy" enough. Not everything happens on ships and space stations, but quite a bit is spent on those ideas. It is amazing.

I'm currently watching the new BSG and am not completely enthused either.
posted by schyler523 at 11:38 AM on January 13, 2011


Solaris
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:43 AM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


The first two books of David Brin's Uplift series, Startide Rising and the earlier Sundiver both take place largely aboard spacecraft during long journeys, and deal with the conditions and relationships between crew.

Note that I read these when I was 12, so I can't promise Shakespeare.
posted by Kafkaesque at 11:44 AM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't recommend "Night's Dawn Trilogy" enough. Not everything happens on ships and space stations, but quite a bit is spent on those ideas. It is amazing.

This is a good suggestion, and in some ways it's similar in tone to Moon's stuff.

But, just to say, and I don't think this really counts as a spoiler, Night's Dawn is a mix of really good, fun SF and some deeply, DEEPLY silly stuff about the dead rising from beyond to grave to try to take over the universe. It's a lot of fun, but if you can't stomach the silly...
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:04 PM on January 13, 2011


I'm really looking forward to all these suggestions! Thanks again, everyone.

I've read the Uplift series and enjoyed it. While I've tended towards grittier scifi, I do enjoy lighter and/or silly too.

I've read at least one Reynolds Revelation Space book and was unaware there were more.

I have a Kindle, so some of the hard-to-finds I can probably get electronically.
posted by bookdragoness at 12:14 PM on January 13, 2011


I'll recommend another Brin novel (actually a collaboration with Gregory Benford): Heart of the Comet. The space ship/station in this case is actually Halley's comet.

And that brings to mind Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds, a slightly different take on the "hitching a ride" concept.
posted by flipper at 12:21 PM on January 13, 2011


Stephen Donaldson's Gap Cycle takes place entirely on ships or space stations and is a pretty awesome read. It's also really depressing and violent and triggery, though, so YMMV.
posted by elizardbits at 12:36 PM on January 13, 2011


re BSG: I get that there was History and Tension and Drama, but it really detracted from the story for me. Maybe it got better with time? Is there a turning point where the it makes more sense and focuses back on the story?

Ah ha ha ha, no. No. If anything, it gets much worse.

I second Moon -- the moonbase in this movie is practically a character in itself.

Gordon Rennie's Warhammer 40K books, Execution Hour and Shadow Point, are a surprisingly good mix of "grittier military sci-fi" and naval-ratings-in-space ship-based worldbuilding.
posted by vorfeed at 12:40 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seconding Solaris - it's set in a scientific research station on a remote planet. Lem (even through a layer of English translation) establishes a very strong sense of lonely otherworldliness.

The Lotus Caves is geared towards a young adult audience, but the beginning is set in a domed colony on Earth's moon, and FWIW it made a lasting impression on me when I read it as a young adult.
posted by usonian at 12:43 PM on January 13, 2011


Cherryh's Downbelow Station has already been suggested, but she's done a lot of other books that are set on ships/stations - the Merchanter universe books is the phrase to search for. Also, the Chanur books - the main characters are sentient cats, but it's still a gritty-as-fuck space yarn with a brilliantly well-imagined version of believable space travel.
posted by Sebmojo at 1:00 PM on January 13, 2011


Silent Running
posted by warwick at 1:38 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Rama books by Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee:

* Rendezvous with Rama (1972) ISBN 978-0-553-28789-9
* Rama II (1989) ISBN 978-0-553-28658-8
* The Garden of Rama (1991) ISBN 978-0-553-29817-8
* Rama Revealed (1993) ISBN 978-0-553-56947-6
posted by warwick at 1:47 PM on January 13, 2011


No one mentioned Firefly? I realize that it may not fit the exact criteria, since a lot of the action happens off-ship, but the ship itself is enough of a character where I'd volunteer it. In addition there are several episodes that are entirely ship/station based.
posted by Muttoneer at 2:32 PM on January 13, 2011


The Rama books by Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee

Friends don't let friends read anything written by Gentry Lee.
posted by incessant at 2:43 PM on January 13, 2011


ROU_Xenophobe: I wouldn't say it's any more silly than say the Excorcist is silly because a girl is possessed or Sci-Fi in general is silly for often utilizing faster than light travel. I thought it was a pretty cool way to introduce conflict. YMMV.
posted by schyler523 at 3:03 PM on January 13, 2011


I do enjoy lighter and/or silly too.
You might enjoy the Sector General books; they're pretty light hearted.

---

One series that I recently found by an "indie" author that has a little bit about space stations and ships and the operations thereof are Nathan Lowell's books.
posted by SpecialK at 3:16 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Joss Whedon's Firefly has a lot of life-on-ship moments. The ship is the primary set.

Danny Boyle's film Sunshine is set entirely on a ship.

Fredrick Pohl's novel Gateway takes place almost entirely on a space station or in a ship.

Octavia Bulter's Xenogenesis series has a lot of ship life stuff. the first book, Dawn, takes place entirely on a ship.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:23 PM on January 13, 2011


Seconding Firefly. Two others I really hope you've heard of already are Apollo 13 (the movie) and Ender's Game. I personally also like Alastair Reynolds (hard sci-fi mostly set on interstellar ships with plenty of grittiness).
posted by sninctown at 3:36 PM on January 13, 2011


If you liked the original BSG, Space: 1999 might be right up your alley.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:23 PM on January 13, 2011


Oops, thought I'd mentioned that I've seen (and love) Firefly/Serenity. Also, Ender's Game is fantastic.

Rama isn't quite the right ambiance/feel of what I'm looking for. I enjoy the way that DS9/Atlantis interact with the outside world, whereas Rama is more of a self-contained world. Plus, I kind of have to agree with incessant there...

I'm excited about all these recommendations!

One of the parts I really enjoyed in City Who Fought was the escaping through interior ductwork - some kid lives in there and it's used to great effect when invaders come and they have to fight them off. Come to think of it, the same thing happens in a couple of the Honorverse books.
posted by bookdragoness at 7:23 PM on January 13, 2011


Space Island One is pretty neat, if you can find it online somewhere (it's never come out on DVD). Joint British/German series from the late nineties, set in the near future and focusing on life on an international space station. The premise is pretty hard SF (or as hard as they could afford to portray); some of the actual plotlines are sort of loopy, but it's all in the service of character.
posted by thesmallmachine at 7:24 PM on January 13, 2011


Along the lines of the above suggestion, try seeking out Mission Genesis(called Deepwater Black outside the US). It was the first show produced by the Sci-Fi channel, about a group of young adults who wake up in a spaceship and immediately get to work piloting it (because they're clones! I'm not spoiling any more than the credits do).

I've only been able to find the first seven of thirteen episodes, but they're all available on youtube. Bonus is that Nicole DeBoer had her first role on there, only a year or so before she was on Deep Space 9.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:15 PM on January 13, 2011


Oh, and I do think you'll dig Farscape, but if you can't persuade your husband (or even if you can; it's a great book), see if you can dig up an ancient copy of Megan Lindholm's Alien Earth. It's a slightly darker look at a similar concept: living ship with a symbiotic/interesting relationship with the pilot and the people inside.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:19 PM on January 13, 2011


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