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- Top 25 Military SciFi Books
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Top 25 Military SciFi Books
Military Science Fiction is a subgenre that has always been around. Maybe it’s the fact that getting all those rockets, robots, and blasters would obviously require immense amounts of governmental funding to make a reality, and only the military can provide that sort of cash!
Military Science Fiction grows out of military tales told by returning warriors of their travels. These stories are probably as old as the idea of war itself. The power of these stories is often held within the idea that the work itself is the story of when real people put themselves in extraordinary circumstances.
These stories eventually began to morph, and the arena of military fiction, actually got its start in the classical period as epic poems. These stories, like the Illiad, or the Aeneid, told the tales of military encounters, often fantastical in nature. It’s not that they were trying to tell magical stories, but turning an army into a single gigantic one-eyed monster was certainly more recogniseable to the audience of the time.
While there has always been a presence of military themes in science fiction, dating all the way back to Verne and Wells, it wasn’t until the 1950s and 60s that we began to see something that could be codified as Military Science Fiction. Stories dealing with the military in space, or dealing with alien races, began to appear more frequently, often from authors who had served in World War II, or slightly later, those who returned from Vietnam.
These authors, including the legendary Robert Heinlein, Frederick Browne, and H. Beam Piper, created stories that were not only using military themes and characters, but were placing their stories as the basis for the entire plot, and often extrapolating the ideas of modern warcraft into future scenarios.
These early Military Science Fiction worlds quickly picked up a large following, not only with readers in the US, but with soldiers actually in the fighting in Vietnam. Many works like Starship Troopers were read by active duty participants in the conflict zone, and several would go on to write some of the most important Military Science Fiction of the 1970s and 80s.
Like any subgenre of science fiction, there grew several sub-subgenres. There have been alternate history stories, such as the Destroyermen novels by Taylor Anderson, Military Space Opera, such as the Vorkosigan cycle, and even Military Steampunk like the Peshawar Lacers. And, whenever you’ve got a new sub-genre, you also get publishers who spring up to publish them, and BAEN books quickly became one of the leading publishers of Military SF, bringing out novel sby leading lights like Elizabeth Moon, John Ringo, David Drake, and many more.
The newest generation of Military Science Fiction authors, many of whom served in Afghanistan or Iraq, such as Steve Mix, Marko Kloos, and Brad Torgerson, have led to an explosion in the number of Military SF novels and novellas on the market, establishing it as one of the most viable markets in science fiction.
Books in The Forever War Series (2)
Some years later, Haldeman wrote two other novels linked to The Forever War, though only one is a direct sequel.
The sequel is Forever Free, in which Mandella, with his wife and children, is now a colonist on the icy world of Middle Finger. When they try to use time dilation effects to escape the post-human hive mind known as Man, things go wrong, and they end up returning to a depopulated planet, meet an alien shapeshifter that has coexisted on Earth throughout history, and end up in a face to face meeting with God. It is nowhere near as good as the original, but it is interesting as a sequel.
Much better, but only tangentially connected to the original, is Forever Peace, which also won the Hugo, Nebula and John W. Campbell Memorial Awards. This is another novel which argues that war is an aberration, but in this case it is a war here on Earth fought by armies of robotic "soldier boys" who are controlled by plugged in operators. However, it is discovered that being plugged in like this cures all warlike impulses, so that the very act of fighting the war ends war.
If you love the military action (and suit to suit combat) of Forever War, read the classic Starship Troopers by Heinlein. While Forever War is an argument against war (and specifically, the Vietnam War), Starship Troopers is the celebration of all things war. Both have a shit load of action. And if you want a novel that straddles the middle between Starship Troopers and Forever War, then give John Steakley's Armor a good read.
For a somewhat different take on future wars, you should also check out Old Man's War by John Scalzi in which it is old people who have already lived productive lives who are recruited to fight and are then given enhanced bodies. But this is still an anti-war novel, the characters are psychologically damaged by their experiences and it is far from clear that the humans are fighting on the right side.
Books in Hammer’s Slammers Series (9)
Books in Destroyermen Series (12)
Books in Heritage Series (2)
Books in The Company Wars Series (10)
Books in Honor Harrington Series (16)
Books in Old Man's War Series (7)
Old Man's War was the first volume in an ongoing series consisting, to date, of The Ghost Brigades, The Last Colony, Zoe's Tale and The Human Division, with further novels promised. These follow the continuing adventures of John Perry and Jane Sagan, who was created from the DNA of Perry's dead wife. As conflict with varied alien races continues, the pair become increasingly disillusioned with the war, eventually learning that Earth has been kept in ignorance of what is going on, leading eventually to a new alliance with the aliens.
Just as Old Man's War contains echoes of Heinlein, Scalzi has played with ideas from other works of science fiction. Fuzzy Nation, for instance, reboots ideas from the Little Fuzzy stories of H. Beam Piper; while Redshirts, which won the Hugo and Locus Awards, is a comedy built around the idea that it is always the redshirts on Star Trek who die.
Books in The Lost Fleet Series (5)
Books in The Serrano Legacy Series (6)
Books in Childe Cycle Series (24)
Books in Red Rising Trilogy Series (5)
For more action-packed dystopian science fiction that's going to captivate YA readers, the obvious choice is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. In a post-apocalyptic America ruled by tyranny, 12 boys and 12 girls are chosen by lot each year to take part in a televised fight to the death. Over the course of the two sequels, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, the victory of our heroine Katniss in the Hunger Games turns into a rebellion to overturn the oppressive government.
You can't help but compare Red Rising to Ender's Game -- a group of talented youngsters forced into military games of life and death to prove their competence. Absolutely read Ender's Game if you like Red Rising.
Books in The Forever War Series (2)
Books in Posleen War Series (4)
Books in Machineries Of Empire Series (2)
Books in Alex Benedict Series (9)
Peter F. Hamilton, Greg Bear, Ann Leckle