Tag Archives: science fiction

Top 100 Military Science Fiction Books

This is a repost of a list put together by my friend Cedar Sanderson based on recommendations from her readers. I’m honored to have Vengeance from Ashes, written under the pen name Sam Schall, included in the list.

mil SF art

Military transport drone
by LMorse

I realized that although I have made many lists of books, I have never done a list for military science fiction, one of my favorite sub-genres to read. An online friend asked about recommendations, so I did what I usually do, and crowdsourced the list-making. Over 300 comments later… No, not all of them were on-point. Thread drift is an art. But it was fun to watch the conversations spin off as folks learned about new books.

The following list I broke into two sections. The first, the top ten of MilSF, is ranked roughly according to how many people enthusiastically said “you must include…!” After that, there is no real order, just as they came in and I recorded them on the list. There are a few notes interspersed, some mine, and some from the people who recommended the books. As you will see, there are many series, but the links will go to the first book in a series, to introduce you to the author. Or to the author’s page, and you can decide from there.

Enjoy! I know I have a few more titles on my to-read list today.

Ominous Winds by Hideyoshi

Ominous Winds
by Hideyoshi

The Top Ten

 

  1. Robert Heinlein – Starship Troopers
  2. David Drake – Redliners
  3. John Steakley – Armor
  4. Jerry Pournelle – West of Honor
  5. John Ringo – Hymn Before Battle (Free!)
  6. Lois McMaster Bujold – Warrior’s Apprentice (link to Baen. The covers on Amazon of her books make me cry, they are so horrible. Buy them from Baen)
  7. David Drake – Hammer’s Slammers
  8. Orson Scott Card – Ender’s Game
  9. Keith Laumer – For the Honor of the Regiment
  10. David Weber – On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington Series) Free Book!

 

Hyper G-One Confrontation by Hideyoshi

Hyper G-One Confrontation by Hideyoshi

Readers Recommend

 

  1. Dave Freer – Rats, Bats, and Vats
  2. Grossman and Frankowski – Two-Space War
  3. Dave Brin – Startide Rising, The Uplift War
  4. Peter Grant – Laredo Series
  5. John Dalmas – Soldiers
  6. Sam Schall – Vengeance from Ashes
  7. Leo Frankowski – The Crosstime Engineer, The High Tech Knight (they get a little worse with each one after that, IMO)
  8. Keith Laumer – The Cold Equations compilation (in addition to Bolo-verse)
  9. Zahn and Weber – Call to Duty
  10. E. “Doc” Smith – The Grey Lensman -verse, but especially the title book.
  11. John Varley – the last of the three Titan novels – Wizard
  12. M. Stirling – Any of the the Draka-verse, in particular, Marching Through Georgia and Stone Dogs
  13. Vernor Vinge – The Peace War, The Bubble War
  14. Ric Locke – Temporary Duty
  15. Jerry Pournelle – Janissaries, King David’s Spaceship Falkenberg’s Legion
  16. Niven and Pournelle – The Mercenary and West of Honor
  17. Gordon R Dickson – Three to Dorsai!
  18. Elizabeth Moon – Vatta’s War
  19. Jay Allan – Crimson Worlds
  20. Ian Douglas – Star Corpsman
  21. Elizabeth Moon – Serrano Series
  22. Michael Z Williamson – The Weapon (Freehold Series)
  23. Harry Turtledove – World War Series
  24. David Weber – Mutineer’s Moon
  25. Tom Kratman – Carrera series first book is free!
  26. LE Modessit – Forever Hero
  27. John F Carr – Uller Uprising (free book)
  28. John Campbell – Lost Fleet
  29. Niven – Man-Kzin Wars
  30. SM Stirling and David Drake – Raj Whitehall series
  31. Weber and Ringo – Empire of Man series
  32. Mike Shepherd – Kris Longknife
  33. John Birmingham – Axis of Time trilogy
  34. Joe Haldeman – The Forever War (note that other titles are not recommended)
  35. David Sherman and Dan Cragg – The Starfist Series
  36. John Scalzi – Old Man’s War (note that the sequels are not considered as good)
  37. Marko Kloos – Frontlines
  38. Christopher Nuttall – Empire Corps
  39. Doug Dandridge – Machine War
  40. Keith Laumer – Reteif’s War
  41. H Beam Piper – Space Viking (or, I’m told, anything by Piper, and I’d agree) Free Book!
  42. Robert Asprin – Phule’s Company (a rare humor book in the genre)
  43. Sandra McDonald – The Outback Stars
  44. Joel Shepherd – Crossover
  45. Steve Perry – the Man Who Never Missed
  46. Thorarin Gunnarson – Starwolves
  47. Andre Norton – Star Soldiers
  48. Timothy Zahn – Cobra Series first book is free
  49. Dietz – Legion of the Damned
  50. MCA Hogarth – Spots the Space Marine
  51. ZA Recht – Morningstar Saga
  52. Correia and Kupari – Dead Six
  53. JL Bourne – Day by Day Armageddon
  54. WJ Lundy – The Darkness
  55. EE Doc Smith – Lensman Series
  56. Robert Frezza – A Small Colonial War
  57. McCaffrey, Moon, and Nye – Planet Pirates
  58. Flint and Drake – Belisarius Series
  59. Chris Bunch – STEN series
  60. Mike Smith – The Last Praetorian
  61. John F Holmes – Irregular Scout Team One
  62. Sabrina Chase – The Long Way Home
  63. Mike Resnick – Starship series
  64. Jean Johnson – Theirs not to Reason Why
  65. Tanya Huff – Valor series
  66. Taylor Anderson – The Destroyermen series
  67. David Feintuch – Hope series
  68. H Paul Honsinger – To Honor You Call Us
  69. Fred Saberhagen – Beserker series
  70. Leo Frankowski – Cross-Time Engineer
  71. William R Forstchen – Lost Regiment
  72. BV Larson – the Star Force series
  73. Brad Torgerson – The Chaplain’s War
  74. Thomas DePrima – A Galaxy Unknown
  75. Elliot Kay – Poor Man’s Fight
  76. Jamie McFarlane – Privateer Tales
  77. GP Hudson – The Pike Chronicles
  78. Dan Abnett – Ravenor series
  79. Daniel La Cruz – Aye’s of Texas
  80. Niven and Pournelle – Footfall
  81. Dan Abnett – Gaunt’s Ghosts
  82. Ringo (editor) – Citizens
  83. Poul Anderson and Gordon R Dickson – Hoka!
  84. Michael Stackpole – Battletech books
  85. David Drake – Leary Series
  86. Roland Green – Peace Company
  87. Mark E Cooper – Merkiaari Wars
  88. Thomas A Mays – REMO
  89. Travis Taylor and John Ringo – LookingGlass series
  90. Sarah Hoyt – A Few Good Men
Carrier Concept by Kheng

Carrier Concept by Kheng

For more awesome SFF art check this out.

The Future of the Past

Pluto

Several Fridays ago I mentioned my aborted attempts at writing science fiction, which I am reminded about with this week’s news that the photo-snapping New Horizons spacecraft has reached, and even passed, Pluto.

Back in the 70s, when I was in grade school, I remember studying the planets. We had already reached the moon with Apollo and had sharp, clear pictures of it. And, other than earth, of course, we didn’t have pictures yet of the other planets. But, we had some fairly accurate depictions of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.

Pluto, however, was so far away and beyond even the most powerful telescopes available at the time that pictures of the then-“planet” were a bad guess. In fact, the diagram of planets that I had hanging in my bedroom showed Pluto to have surrealistic stone arches, similar those near Moab, Utah. And, who would have thought it would be binary and that such a small body would have moons. We didn’t have a clue.

Today, however, it feels as though we are living in a new age – a dramatically different age. In many ways, life today has surpassed our predictions and future perceptions from the 70s and 80s.

Digital photography, with this week’s flyby of Pluto, has brought home most of the larger bodies orbiting throughout our solar system. Notice that for Pluto’s sake, I didn’t use the word “planets.”

Short of “warp speed,” the velocity of space travel with New Horizons, according to NASA, has accelerated by eight fold since the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions. Pilotless drones have lowered the costs, increased the efficiencies and reduced the risk of going to war. Cell phones have revolutionized communications, allowing teenagers and, yes, even adults, to never have to hang up on each other. Alternative energies, such as solar power, have gained efficiencies greater than we imagined 40 years ago.

I recall watching episodes of Star Trek, The Next Generation, where they used laptop computers about an inch thick that the show’s producers envisioned a couple of hundred or so years in the in space-flying future. It was amazing, I thought at the time, how small and thin computers could conceivably get. Of course, laptops now, barely two decades later are a quarter of an inch thick and have evolved, in many cases, into devises that easily fit into the palms of our hands.

The differences between now and 40 years ago are tremendous, which leads me to be overwhelmed as I attempt to predict the future 40 years and even just 20 years ahead.

So, what is next?

 

Fiction, Science Fiction and Non-Fiction

Stars

 

I want to get into a bit more detail on my take, at least, of the fine work AJ Prince posted last week with her interviews with us here at Twisted Writers and on CJ Stuart’s intriguing follow up. I want to talk about how I usually apply personal experience to story writing.

When I first felt the urge to write, years and years ago, I wanted to write non-fiction. That, however, did not work out so well, as I felt the urge to exaggerate events and characters.   Obviously, that was not consistent with the definition of “non-fiction.” I suppose – bottom line – the truth bored me. So, I just went with the flow and ended up in the world of fiction.

Inspired by the likes of Star Wars, Star Trek and The Hitchhicker’s Guide to the Galaxy of the late ‘70s and through the ‘80s, I first tried and quickly failed at, science fiction. Frankly, there was too much involved in imagining and creating details of worlds I had never been too. To me, shooting around other worlds and the possibility of life on other planets, while certainly possible and, to some extent, probable, is literally unimaginable, if that makes sense. After all, such life could be the size of microscopic bacteria or of a towering green-eyed monster.

Rather, my writing comes from, but not necessarily about, true-life moments and is what speaks to me the most me the most by creating plots and developing characters from combinations of events and people right here on planet earth.

As CJ Stuart wrote, “we all have voices in our head that speak to us and, not only are we okay with that, we are happy about it.”

For instance, there is a story of mine coming up that I have written about a gambler named Spencer in a story triggered by real people and events. In fact, parts of his story were actually written in a casino while waiting for a friend to finish gambling away their previous winnings at blackjack. So anyway, one day his life changed when he came across one of those systems for winning at blackjack.

Along the way, these characters, while created as fantasies, may face real-life challenges and discover inner strengths and potentials borne out of necessity and realize the need to survive that they would never have otherwise imagined.

Then there is the story I will discuss next week of how I met an American hero, who, in another fictional encounter, as a diplomat serving overseas, overcame astonishing challenges by drawing on abilities she otherwise may not have thought she could possess.

These are the types of stories I like to write about that build off fictional characters facing credible combinations of intriguing and extraordinary scenarios. In these, I try to illustrate how anyone of us may react and deal with these situations.

 

Sunday snippet

Vengeance(Good morning, all, and welcome to our first Sunday snippet. For the next month or so, we’ll be posting short(ish) excerpts from things we have published or that are close to being published. I’m going to kick things off with a snippet from Vengeance from Ashes, the first book of the Honor and Duty series I’m writing under the pen name Sam Schall. So, without any further ado, here we go. Of course, as with everything on the site, copyright resides with the author of the post. Thanks!)

Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1)
by Sam Schall

“Prisoner Four One Niner Baker One-A, prepare for transfer,” a disembodied voice said from the overhead speaker.

Lips pulled back, teeth bared in an animalistic sneer, the prisoner sat up and swung her legs over the side of her bunk. As she stood, she turned away from the cell door. Her hands automatically went behind her head, fingers lacing. Almost without thought, she sank to her knees, legs spread, ankles crossed. Then, realizing what she had done, she cursed silently, hating herself and those responsible for bringing her to this state.

Two years. Two very long years in Hell had taught her how to act. Her body responded automatically to the commands barked at her. Only when she allowed her mind to surface, to let herself fully experience what was going on around her, did she hesitate. But not this time. There was no reason to disobey, no threat yet to meet.

Those years may have taught her all too painfully how to act, but they hadn’t broken her. Not yet at any rate. Still they had come close. Two years cut off from those she cared for, from almost all human contact. Stripped of even the most basic of human rights and dignity, she knew she was little more than an animal to break and tame to those in charge. She knew it just as she knew she could do nothing about it.

Just as she knew she’d been betrayed by the government she’d served and had been ready to die for.

What she didn’t know was why. Why had she been betrayed? Worse, why had those who’d served loyally at her side been targeted?

The soft swoosh of the heavily armored door sliding open broke the silence a few moments later. With her back to the door, she couldn’t see who entered, not that she wanted to. One of the first lessons she’d learned after arriving at the Tarsus military penal colony was not to look. That had been a very painful lesson, one that had landed her in the prison’s infirmary for several days. It was also a mistake she’d never repeated.

That had been one of many lessons she’d been forced to endure since arriving there. With the commandant’s tacit – hell, as far as she knew it was his overt – approval, the guards could be as sadistic as they wanted. Correction for even the most insignificant infraction might take the form of a rifle butt to the ribs or kidney, and that was if she was lucky. If not, the beating that followed would leave her hurting so badly she could barely move. Even then, the guards wouldn’t send her to the infirmary. After all, it was so much more fun to watch her suffer, reminding her that she alone was responsible for what had happened.

Fortunately, she’d heard the horror stories before arriving at the penal colony. Even though she hadn’t been ready to believe them, they had helped prepare her for what she’d face. Even so, it had been a shock the first time one of the guards beat her down for asking what would have been a simple question on the outside. That had been enough to convince her that the best course of action was to remain silent unless it was imperative that she speak. That wasn’t to say there hadn’t been times when circumstances forced her to break that rule and she bore the scars to prove it. All she wanted now was to live through her prison term. Survival was the first goal. Vengeance would come later. Not for her, but for those who’d followed her despite her protests and who had paid the ultimate price as a result.

She swallowed hard, forcing her mind away from past horrors, as boots clomped across the small cell in her direction. A rough hand grabbed her right arm, twisting it painfully behind her back. She flinched as a security cuff was locked tightly around that wrist. Her breath hissed out as the process was repeated with her left arm. Moments later, similar restraints were fastened about her ankles. Then a gloved hand closed around her left arm and jerked her to her feet.

Guard Captain Gavin Haritos spun her to face him, grinning sadistically. His fist caught her with a vicious backhand. With a sharp cry of pain, she staggered back. The short chain connecting her ankles tripped her. Only the man’s quick grab at the front of her jumpsuit kept her from falling. He pulled her forward and, with the ease of much practice, draped a heavy hood over her head before she could react.

Haritos’ cruel grip on her arm kept her on her feet as he hauled her out of her cell and down the long corridor. Blood pounded in her ears, almost deafening her. Fear and hatred raced through her, sparking every fiber of her survival instincts. She knew this was going to be bad, very bad. It always was when the guard captain came for her. But she could do nothing to stop him, at least not yet.

“This is your lucky day, bitch.” Haritos shoved her into one of the three lifts at the end of the corridor and she heard him slam his fist against the control panel. A moment later, the lift gave a slight lurch and she felt the car start downward. “You’re being transferred, Shaw. But don’t get your hopes up that it means the rules no longer apply because they do. If you’re smart, you’ll remember those poor bastards sentenced here with you. Everything you say and do from now on impacts them.”

A soft moan escaped her lips before she could stop it and fear raced like an open current through her. No matter how many times she’d been in this position before, she couldn’t help it. A transfer could mean almost anything, none of it good. Not as long as the survivors of her unit were still on Tarsus.

To her surprise, Haritos said nothing more. That was unusual for him. Whenever he’d come for her before, he’d taken perverse pleasure in detailing what horrors awaited her. The fact he’d gone silent worried her. Could he finally be leading her to her death, despite the fact her sentence was for only five years?

Dear God, what was happening?

Haritos remained silent as he forced her off the lift. Doors opened and then closed behind them. She didn’t know how to react when, for the first time in months, she felt the sun beating down on her. They were outside. Where were they going?

It didn’t take long to find out. Haritos led her up a ramp. The hood obscured her sight, but she could hear the muffled sounds of a crew working to prepare a shuttle, maybe even a courier ship, for launch. Haritos pulled her to a halt and told her to stand still. Then he released his hold on her arm and she sensed that he had moved a short distance away. There were soft voices. Straining to hear, she only caught a few words. Transfer. . . prisoner. . . dangerous. . . .

Dear God, was she actually being transferred out of the Tarsus penal colony?

Hope flared only to die as quickly as it had been born. She had a feeling she was the only prisoner in the staging area. That meant her people, those few who had survived the ambush only to be betrayed by those who should have stood for them, were being left behind. Was that what Haritos meant when he told her to remember them?

No!

Before she could do anything – not that there was much she could do, bound and hooded as she was – Haritos was once more at her side. She stumbled forward as he grabbed her and led her further up the ramp. With one last warning not to do anything foolish, he turned her over to someone else. Flanked on both sides by unseen guards, she was led into another lift. A few minutes later, her restraints were removed and then her hood and she found herself standing in the center of a small cell. She didn’t need to hear the announcement for all hands to prepare for departure to know she was on a ship. But a ship to where?

And what about those who’d been sent to the penal colony with her? Where were they?

Now, almost a week later, she stood in yet another cell, this one planetside, and fear warred with anger. She’d overheard enough from the guards on the transport to know her fears were true – the others had been left behind on the penal colony.

That’s when an anger so great it overrode the fear of the unknown had flowed through her. For the first time in two years, she’d been separated from the survivors of her unit, those poor, brave souls who had fallowed her into hell and back only to find themselves brought up on charges right along with her. It didn’t matter that the commandant of the penal colony hadn’t let her see her people. She’d managed to get word of them from time to time and that had been enough to let her know they were all right – or at least as all right as anyone could be after being sentenced to the Tarsus penal colony.

It really was amazing how the prison grapevine managed to keep tabs on everyone and pass along information. It might be inconsistent, but it was there and it had been all that kept her sane. She’d never thought herself a social animal, but two years of rarely seeing anyone but her jailers had been almost more than she could handle. Thank God for the grapevine and the bits of information it brought her.

During transport from the penal colony, no one had told her anything. She’d been held in the transport ship’s brig. A guard brought her food and drink at regular intervals but he never said anything that wasn’t necessary. He certainly hadn’t volunteered any information. Still, she’d managed to work out that she was alone in the brig by the way his steps never stopped before he appeared at her cell door and she never heard anyone else trying to make contact.

She had just noticed the slightest change in the rhythm of the ship’s engines, indicating it had assumed orbit somewhere, when another guard arrived with a change of clothes for her. She’d looked at the plain black jumpsuit with suspicious eyes. Nothing about it marked her as a prisoner. It could have been something worn by any worker on the docks or in a warehouse. That should have reassured her but for one thing. There was nothing about the guard’s manner to indicate she was about to be freed. In that moment, she’d come the closest to breaking her rule of “never ask a question you don’t know the answer to” than she had been since her first few days on Tarsus.

Half an hour later, she’d been seated on a shuttle. The guards had secured her hands behind her back before locking her safety harness in place but they hadn’t hooded her. They obviously weren’t worried about her recognizing where she was. Of course, the only way she could do that was if she could actually see something of the lay of the land. So she’d craned her neck in an effort to see into the shuttle’s cockpit. One corner of her mouth lifted ever so slightly at the sight of the high rises ahead of them. Her heart beat a bit faster as she recognized the skyline of Fuercon’s capital city. New Kilrain. She was home. But why?

Now, after being processed into the same military brig where she’d been held during her trial, she still didn’t know why she’d been brought back home. It couldn’t be good. They may have taken away her prison issued jumpsuit, but she’d still been brought there shackled and had been processed into the brig as quickly as humanly possible. It had almost been as if FleetCom was afraid word of her return might leak out. But why?

Damn it, what was going on?

Of course, there’d been no explanation. Nor had she asked for one. It would be a long time before she forgot that lesson. Too much talking, too much curiosity was a bad thing that almost always resulted in painful punishment. She might not be on Tarsus any longer but that didn’t mean things would be any different here. After all, who policed the jailers? No one, at least not on Tarsus and she wasn’t willing to risk it now that she was home.

Freed of her restraints and alone, she looked around. One cell was pretty much like any other. Across from the door was a narrow bunk. Hygiene facilities were at the foot of the bunk. Almost exactly like her cell back on Tarsus. Nothing she could use to escape and nothing she could use to kill herself, not that she planned on taking that route out. At least not anymore. No, there were others who needed to die before she did.

“Prisoner is secured,” the guard who’d brought her to the cell radioed as he stepped back.

Ashlyn Shaw, former Marine captain, didn’t move. Instead, she stood in the center of the small cell, her brown eyes focused on some point beyond the guard, her hands behind her back even though the restraints had been removed. As the security field across the cell door activated, she gave no sign of realizing it even though the faint, high pitched hum was something she’d learned to listen for over the last two years. That sound, like a distant bunch of angry bees, meant she’d fry her nervous system long before pushing through the field. Freedom might look close, but she’d be dead – or worse – before she actually found it.

At least the guard didn’t close the physical door. For the first time in what had to be months, she could look beyond the confines of her cell. It might not be the same cell she’d occupied since her conviction. Hell, this wasn’t even the same planet. That didn’t matter. All that did was the fact that the open cell door gave her at least some semblance of not being completely cut off from all other life on the planet.

As the guard disappeared from sight, Ashlyn remained where she was, motionless except for the rise and fall of her chest and the slow blinking of her eyes. She listened, counting his footsteps as they slowly faded away. When she’d been escorted to the cell, she had focused on what was directly in front of her. She had not wanted to give the guards on duty the satisfaction of seeing her look around in curiosity. Now, with only silence filling the air, she allowed herself to relax a just a little.

Once convinced the guard was gone, she moved to the door, careful not to get too close to the security field. Looking to her left, she couldn’t tell how far away he might be. All she knew for certain was that her cell was located at the end of the corridor, the door situated so she couldn’t see much beyond the far edge of the cell. So there might be any number of other prisoners close by but, for all intents and purposes, she was alone – again.

That was fine. Alone meant fewer chances for anyone to figure out what she planned. But it also meant she had to keep up appearances. She couldn’t let them guess what she had in mind. So she lay on her bunk, her back to the doorway. She wouldn’t let those she knew were watching over security monitors see her curiosity or her concern.

This was as close to home as she was likely to get in a very long while. If the opportunity to escape presented itself, she’d take it and be damned with waiting on the military courts to finally get it right. Once free, she’d deal those who’d betrayed her and then she’d find a way to free those who had been sent to the penal colony with her. After that, she really didn’t give a damn about what happened.

***

Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1) and all my other novels are available from Amazon or you can check out our “Publications Page” for a complete listing and links.

Twisted Together

Here we are on day three of the Twisted Writers. I do hope that you enjoyed our first two posts, if you are a returned visitor. If not, and this is your first time for stopping by, then Welcome, glad you could make it, you are in for a treat and should stay a while.

Now while Jesi told you a twisted tale and CJ shared with you a bit about our inner twisted side, I want to explore the other side of just how twisted we really are.

Writing is said to be a solitary activity/career/hobby.

In a lot of ways, this is the truth.

However, I have learned over the last decade that my writing thrives when I have other heads to bounce ideas and plot lines back and forth with. No, not actual heads – wait, yes actual heads, but these said heads are still connected to their respectable bodies.

In my hunt for the right head to talk writing with I stumbled across a treasure chest. Not one filled with gold, no, one of those you used to see at the doctor/dentist office when you were a little kid. (Now they give you stickers that get you in trouble when you forget to take it off of your shirt when mom does the laundry.) A chest that was not quite full but the inside held a jumble of strange trinkets, things you weren’t quite sure what to do with.

This is what it was like for me when I found my writing group –a mix of people that I was not quite sure what to do with. In the back of my mind, I kept thinking, just how are any of these people going to help me with my writing and how could I possibly help them with theirs? No one wrote anything remotely similar to what I was trying to do, nor did I have much of a clue in their genres either.

We had a science fiction/paranormal romance writer, a historical writer/cartoonist, a spy thriller writer, a poet, and a steamy romance writer. I mostly write in the Young Adult and New Adult fiction genre and in this room, I was the only one at the time.

But I stayed. And they stayed.

Others came and went, but the six of us kept coming to each meeting. We kept reading each others writing, whether it was a short story, a poem, or a chapter in a novel in progress, and we have learned what we needed in order to help each other out of the muck that is our own self doubt.

Each one of us brings a different view, personality, and genre to the table.

We are as different as night and day, the same as the beginning of each sunrise and sunset, and twisted together to bring you everything we’ve got.

Till next time,

~AJP