Near(ish) future space exploration fiction
April 8, 2014 9:02 AM   Subscribe

I have a huge love for space/planetary exploration fiction. Think 2001, the sadly mistreated Defying Gravity TV show and Kim Stanley Robinson's mars series. Do you have recommendations for me? Books primarliy, but TV/Films too though I guess i have seen most of those in this genre already.

Timeframe is not so important, what I enjoy is the exploration / new edge feel of these works so between Apollo 13 at one end and Star Trek: Enterprise at the other is probably what I am looking for.

Although this is obviously a field that has alot of hard scifi elements. I still need good writing and I have an aversion to authors who just can't write real characters ( e.g Alastair Reynolds). I can handle a bit of infodump but I need a real story as well. I found Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trillogy and The Martian by Andy Weir both enjoyable - but I think any more infodump than them would put me off.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Did you ever pick up KSR's companion to the RGB Mars series The Martians? It's got some fun stories in it.

Have you tried C.J. Cherryh? Cyteen is dense and impenetrable but if you like KSR that shouldn't phase you, and it's a deeply fascinating exporation of power and identity with good characters.

They're not my cup of tea but anime series like Cowboy Bebop and Trigun play on the "space western" frontier theme, if that appeals to you.

And Lois Bujold, of course, because she's amazing.
posted by Wretch729 at 9:21 AM on April 8, 2014

Not so much near future but parallel recent history - Stephen Baxter's Voyage imagines (in great but hugely read-able) detail what would have happened if Kennedy had survived and Nasa had pushed on to Mars in the early to mid-eighties (as was the original plan post-Apollo).
posted by Chairboy at 9:26 AM on April 8, 2014

Titan by the same author is also very good, but I have to say I found it quite depressing in places. YMMV.
posted by Chairboy at 9:34 AM on April 8, 2014

Europa Report?
posted by Tom-B at 9:49 AM on April 8, 2014

Best answer: Planetes (anime and manga) has a fairly reasonable continuation of the space age. It's about daily life on the new frontier, the glow of discovery that's still present as humanity is transitioning space to a more industrial phase. The protagonists are a crew of astronauts cleaning up Earth orbit to prevent Kepler syndrome from getting out of hand.
posted by Tobu at 11:12 AM on April 8, 2014

Have you read Ken MacLeod? The Fall Revolution series seems to be right in the middle of what you're looking for. The series won multiple awards in the UK. It's dystopic, but also high on the hard sf scale. The Star Fraction, The Stone Canal, The Cassini Division and The Sky Road is the publication order, but some quibble about that. Interestingly, it's not a single continuity, but branching alternate futures.
posted by bonehead at 2:45 PM on April 8, 2014

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. There is a LOT more to it than just a sci fi story but planetary exploration is a core component of the story.
posted by sacrifix at 4:23 PM on April 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I Work on a Starship by Roberta X. Spaceships powered by WWII era electronic technology. Nazis on the moon. Great fun.
posted by Bruce H. at 5:21 PM on April 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Planetes (anime and manga) has a fairly reasonable continuation of the space age.

Seconding this -- also Wings of Honneamise, which is about the fraught development of a Space Program on an alternate world. (NB - has a weird, out-of-place rape scene for some reason).
posted by Drexen at 6:18 AM on April 9, 2014

Bruce Sterling's classic 80s novella Schismatrix (get the Schismatrix Plus collection with the title novella and five short stories set in the same universe) is very much what you're asking for: a scifi story with modified humans and AIs who've established various tentative bases of operation within our own solar system. It's a believable, fun and fantastic extrapolation of humanity a hundred or so years from now. Underrated and highly recommended.

Also, Kim Stanley Robinson's latest novel, 2312, is set (I think) at the tail end of the timeline in the Mars books' universe and is a really neat look at what a diverse human population scattered among the planets of our solar system might look like. I really liked it for the scale - near-future, this-solar-system scifi is among my favorite scifi - and the richness of the inventions and biological modifications humans come up with to deal with the realities of near-space living. Here's a very positive Slate review. FWIW, I haven't read any of the Mars trilogy, but I thought 2312 was as fun and interesting a scifi book as I've read in years.
posted by mediareport at 8:01 PM on April 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

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