Good Old-Fashioned Sci-Fi Escapism
March 8, 2018 1:46 PM   Subscribe

The last several books I've read have been good but Heavy and Sad. I would now like to read some Exciting Space Adventures.

Things I would like:

- Engaging and likeable characters, some of whom are maybe not straight white cis-dudes.
- Sci-fi that isn't too hard. I don't care if the science makes sense at all. I do care if the setting is cool and interesting. I don't particularly want to have to work too hard while reading these.
- Cool and interesting aliens, if the book has aliens. Not just Star Trek aliens-that-are-humans-with-makeup.
- Happy endings where the characters triumph. Sad and scary bits on the way there are fine but I want to feel happy and satisfied when the book ends.
- Basically, I want books where, if you were to describe them to a friend, you would feel you had to use the words "fun", "adventure", and possibly "rollicking".

(Yes, I have already read the Vorkosigan series.)
posted by darchildre to Media & Arts (42 answers total) 114 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You should read everything by Ann Leckie? I feel weird recommending it because I feel like everyone has read it or heard of it, but if you have not, you should. These books are perhaps not rollicking adventures first, but that's definitely a part of them.
posted by GuyZero at 1:54 PM on March 8, 2018 [16 favorites]

The Long Earth? Hits points 1, 2, 3 completely on the nose. I found the ending a bit ambiguous, but not too sad/depressing (the endings get sadder as the series goes on, but as a happy endings only reader, they weren't sad in a way that made me not willing to read the books). Fun adventures through multiple worlds.
posted by Sweetchrysanthemum at 1:55 PM on March 8, 2018

If you want a rollicking fun adventure that's not set in space there's "All Those Explosions Were Someone Else's Fault" which I'm only partway through, but it's fun and the protagonists are four women university roommates. I'm not sure whether fantastical superhero sci-fi fits the bill here.
posted by GuyZero at 1:56 PM on March 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I rocketed through Lindsay Buroker's Fallen Empire series and Rachel Bach's Paradox books last year.
posted by telophase at 2:04 PM on March 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Second Rachel Bach.

Kate Elliot, Jaran series (starts out fantasy, you have to wait for the space adventures).
posted by typecloud at 2:12 PM on March 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: John Scalzi's Old Man's War series? Seven books featuring an assortment of novels, prose poetry, short stories, and novellas detailing humanity's attempts to colonize a galaxy full of other spacefaring and colonizing species. It starts as Heinlein-esque military SF but very quickly becomes something more universal.
posted by infinitewindow at 2:14 PM on March 8, 2018 [9 favorites]

Seconding Ann Leckie (if I were ever going to get a tattoo, it would say What Would Breq Do?), and Rachel Bach's Paradox series.

Also, Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman have a series that starts with Illuminae; it's not quite a romp, but it is action packed and SO much fun.
posted by gideonfrog at 2:15 PM on March 8, 2018

Best answer: Oh oh oh! You want The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers (and presumably the sequel, but I haven't read it yet).
posted by quaking fajita at 2:25 PM on March 8, 2018 [38 favorites]

So, I don't think any of his books are set in space, but they all involve either interesting aliens or time travel and are super fun, so I'm going to recommend pretty much anything that catches your eye by Wesley Chu. His books are my preferred airplane reading.

A. Lee Martinez is also super fun and lighthearted, but his stuff is more gods and monsters than aliens and space.
posted by snaw at 2:28 PM on March 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

You might enjoy Jade City by Fonda Lee. Think an alternate universe"The Godfather" combined with a wire fu Hong Kong action movie. It's definitely a romp and has a good group of characters. It's book 1 of a planned trilogy, but it doesn't leave you hanging too much.

Waypoint Kangaroo is a spy romp in space. Kangaroo, our snarky protagonist, has a "pocket": a portal that only he can access that opens to a parallel universe. He's sent on a mission, and wackiness ensues. There is one sequel so far.
posted by mogget at 2:34 PM on March 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

The Drake Majistral books by Walter John Williams are fun.
posted by Heloise9 at 2:41 PM on March 8, 2018

I was also coming in to say The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. I thought the plot was a little drawn out, it really is the journey that matters in this book, but I'm still eagerly awaiting the sequel from the library. Characters and setting and mood-wise it is exactly what you're looking for.
posted by yeahlikethat at 2:46 PM on March 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

A couple of Elizabeth Moon's serieses would meet your needs.

There are two connected series in the same universe; one follows Heris Serrano and the other Esmay Suiza. Both are women. The first Serrano book is in part about a gang of bad people who capture people to hunt for sport but mostly about two adult women learning to respect each other IIIIN SPAAAAAACE. The one to watch out for is the one with the two Space Texases, one of which is basically Handmaid's Tale. They get their comeuppence, but not until a secondary character we've seen for a few books gets sex-tortured for like a year so there's that.

The Vatta books are about a young brown woman who gets kicked out of her Space Navy Academy, takes command of a run-down Space Tramp Steamer, and hijinks-ensues her way into being Space Admiral.

There are parts of the books that are explicitly anti-racist and anti-sexist but gay folks hardly appear and at some point she said something dickish about queer folks in her social media or at a con or something.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 2:47 PM on March 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

I have read Becky Chamber's second book,
A Closed and Common Orbit. You want it too.
posted by ALeaflikeStructure at 2:50 PM on March 8, 2018 [9 favorites]

Best answer: One more!

The Daedalus Incident by Michael J. Martinez starts with a mystery at a mining colony on Mars; a parallel plotline is an alternate universe Hornblower in Space, complete with sailing ships and space battles. So much fun. Book one of a trilogy.
posted by mogget at 2:51 PM on March 8, 2018

I absolutely adore Chambers' two books so far but her aliens are pretty close to Niven's aliens in that they have weird bodies but psychologically few of them would be out of place in the modern US.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 2:54 PM on March 8, 2018

Best answer: All Systems Red by Martha Wells is a rollicking novella about a security robot who really likes to watch TV. There are 3 more books on the way. There are glancing encounters with heavy stuff in the past, but mostly it's just adventure!
posted by esoterrica at 3:19 PM on March 8, 2018 [13 favorites]

The Cassandra Kresnov series by Joel Shepherd begins with Crossover. Kresnov is an experimental artificial person built as a warrior but so advanced she decides to defect.
Dreamships and Dreaming Metal by Melissa Scott also involve artificial intelligence and pretty much none of the characters is straight.
Both take place in space and on distant planets with FTL a given.
And the Foreigner series by C.J. Cherryh has an amazing portrayal of aliens who, although humanoid, think very differently from humans. The books are partly from the pov of a human translator/ambassador and partly from that of an "atevi" child.
posted by Botanizer at 3:23 PM on March 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I really enjoyed K.B. Wager's Indranan War trilogy.

They're not world-shattering, mind-bending books like some sci fi is, they're just a great, fun adventure about a very successful criminal gunrunner who gets dragged back to her home planet to be the heir to a space empire, much against her will. She has to save her self, her empire, and her crown. Much adventure, some palace intrigue (but mostly adventure), and a little bit of starship fighting. Very quick plot.

The protagonist is female, and the empire is an explicitly matriarchal empire coming from an Indian-subcontinent background (left implied is that it's the fruits of a long-ago colony ship). It's a really great, easy read, and all three books from the first trilogy are out. Many of the important characters are female, and there are very few cis white het dudes in the entire book (one of them is the main protagonist!). Give it a shot!
posted by foodmapper at 3:33 PM on March 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

You are 100% asking for Becky Chambers. Ann Leckie is great but less rollicking. Scalzi can be a lot of fun. I liked the first Tim Powers space opera book (The Wrong Stars) that came out last fall. I liked the Rhonda Mason books but the final book seems to be indefinitely delayed. Definitely the Murderbot books -- the next ones are all due out this year.

I liked Sue Burke's Semiosis, though I'm not quite sure it fits. I haven't read it, but I've heard good things about Barbary Station, which is on my list.

Also, you might enjoy The Rook, which is fantasy but also so much fun.
posted by jeather at 3:59 PM on March 8, 2018 [5 favorites]

Jack Vance's Planet of Adventure series hits all of these buttons for me (just look at the title!), except for featuring a super-straight super-white super-cis super-dude.
posted by dfan at 4:06 PM on March 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Samit Basu's Turbulence rollocked my sollocks off. (The inhabitants of one specific airline flight develop superpowers, world-altering hijinks ensue.) There's a good sequel-- Resistance-- but it's not quite as much of a romp. However, the first book totally stands alone.
posted by peppercorn at 4:16 PM on March 8, 2018

It's been 3 days since I recommended my recent read, Alan Dean Foster's trilogy from the 90s called "The Damned. "

It hits 1-2-3 easily, particularly 3, which has a mix of human and non-human POV characters. The endings of the books are not tremendously upbeat, but I would say victorious and optimistic, so 4 is a "mostly". The first 2 books meet 5 pretty well, I'd say, and the third book is a bit heavier, but by that point you're buckled in and need to see how the war turns out.
posted by Sunburnt at 4:29 PM on March 8, 2018

My mom told me to stfu like 20 times while I was reading To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis because I was laughing so much.
posted by xyzzy at 4:31 PM on March 8, 2018 [14 favorites]

Several people already beat me to The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet but it's basically going to be what you want. I asked for recommendations a few months ago with similar criteria and it was independently recommended to me by multiple people. It's not perfect -- it's episodic and definitely a matter of "it's the journey, not the destination" but it's a fun, entertaining read and I really enjoyed it.

(I have not read the second and I've heard it's a bit different in tone but still good. I'll get to it after I read a dozen or so more books on my list.)
posted by darksong at 4:56 PM on March 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

I love Tim Powers so I got super excited when I read jeather's comment about a new space opera. The author of The Wrong Stars is Tim Pratt. It may be a great book but I doubt it has ghosts in it like a Tim Powers book would.

Also, I know it's as cis-het as can be but Bill The Galactic Hero is totally rollicking and a fun parody of space marines. Stainless Steel Rat is also fun old-school sci-fi.
posted by irisclara at 5:19 PM on March 8, 2018

Best answer: Terminal Alliance: Janitors of the Apocalypse by Jim Hines is a delightful rollicking space opera.
posted by Malla at 5:25 PM on March 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I liked The Wrong Stars. by Pratt. It has a light lesbian romance and some really intriguing aliens. I would describe it as "exciting" rather than "rollicking".
posted by puddledork at 5:53 PM on March 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

You're right, it's Pratt, I'm so sorry.
posted by jeather at 6:40 PM on March 8, 2018

Best answer: Jody Lynn Nye, View From the Imperium, is pretty much Jeeves and Wooster space opera. I got some odd looks from laughing on the plane.

Agreeing with the Connie Willis recommendation. But just that one! The other time-travel books related to that one are much darker.
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 7:12 PM on March 8, 2018

I'm gonna recommend the same book for the second time in an AskMe, because it works and it's a neat book and the writer is not well known: The Man in the Tree, Sage Walker. Murder mystery on a generation-ship-to-be. The main character is a straight white man, but the rest of the cast is pretty diverse and there are relationships which are not straight. Not sure it would count as "rollicking" but it definitely has a plot drive as well as memorable characters, and it's very satisfying and comforting.
posted by huimangm at 7:34 PM on March 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Scalzi is my fun sci-fi go-to.

His writing reminds me of Heinlein, who I loved...
...but with the bits that aged terribly tossed out the window.

Redshirts is basically Star Wars fanfic he wrote to get started, which involves people figuring out they're in a badly scripted sci-fi TV show.

Old Man's War is the start of the series he's most known for, and is a solid read. We send septuagenarians to fight our battles in space as they've got less to lose, or more to gain, maybe.

But three other books are what I'd go for here.

Agent to the Stars
The Android's Dream
Fuzzy Nation

All are lightweight, lighthearted fun books good for a fast afternoon or a slow weekend read.
posted by talldean at 7:37 PM on March 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I am currently reading Triplanetary by E. E. "Doc" Smith, the first book of the Lensman series. Classic space opera.
posted by Fukiyama at 7:59 PM on March 8, 2018

Best answer: I'm in the middle of a Liaden Universe binge. They're fun space opera with lots of happy endings and giant space turtles and adventurey goodness, and also there are a ton of them. (And I'm nthing the Becky Chambers, those two are great and I look forward to more.)

Also, um, I don't even really do Star Trek, but these two tie-ins are hilarious and might hit the spot if you want some wacky hijinks: Dreadnought! and Battlestations! and yes, the exclamation marks are in the titles.
posted by asperity at 9:09 PM on March 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

I'm enjoying the book series that the tv show The Expense is based on way more than I expected to! Recommended.
posted by spindrifter at 5:43 AM on March 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Try Heinlein's `Friday` - female character, interesting story twists.


posted by sandpine at 6:45 AM on March 9, 2018

I'm going to triply (quadrupley? quintupley?) suggest The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. It is my favorite Happy People in Space book EVER and I wish there were a thousand more of them and yes, I can totally see where some people think it drags a bit at parts but they are also WRONG it is a PERFECT BOOK.
posted by good day merlock at 8:38 AM on March 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Andre Norton sounds like what you're asking for, space adventure with an emphasis on exploration. Old-school and a bit dated, but that's part of the charm.
posted by ovvl at 9:28 AM on March 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh my GOODNESS READ SAGA. I tore through it in 8 hours and now I'm gonna reread it. It is just THAT good.
posted by yueliang at 9:48 AM on March 9, 2018

Try Heinlein's `Friday` - female character, interesting story twists.

One of which is the main character being raped. FYI. Not exactly what I'd call "fun" or "rollicking".
posted by Lexica at 10:46 AM on March 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I just finished all six books of Nathan Lowell's Trader Tales and i found them very enjoyable.
posted by Ferrari328 at 12:03 PM on March 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

How about the Red Dwarf series?

It's been a long time since I read Red Dwarf, but Google reminds me that the first two books were written jointly by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, using the pen name Grant Naylor. Then the authors went their separate ways, each writing a "third" book: Rob Grant wrote "Backwards" and Doug Naylor wrote "Last Human."

As best I can recall, the two last books were alternative endings to the series, and one was more upbeat than the other. But I'm not sure about that.

Still, I am sure that I LOVED the series.

P.S. There was also a tv series, but I did not love that so much. YMMV.
posted by merejane at 6:23 AM on March 10, 2018

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