We’re already half way through May, which means it’s getting mighty close to summer here in the northern hemisphere. At work the team has been asked to take as much as possible of July off, and that’s exactly what I plan to do. Anniken and I are spending a week cruising the Mediterranean Sea, which leaves about three weeks of just goofing off. With the hammock now up, I went ahead and ordered a few books I can enjoy while dosing off in it. I decided to go for paperbacks and not Kindle versions, because with paperbacks you don’t have to worry about the battery in your book going flat. I’m still mostly reading science fiction, or at least science fiction themed books. Here’s what I got for a cool £20 from Amazon.co.uk:
“Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card
In the far future, humanity has discovered interstellar travel and faster-than-light communication enabled by ansibles. In exploring the galaxy, they encountered an alien race known as the Formics, derogatorily dubbed “buggers” due to their insect-like appearance. The Formics attacked the humans and the two races enter into a series of wars. Despite political conflict on Earth between three ruling parties, the Hegemon, Polemarch, and Strategos, a tentative agreement was reached to create the International Fleet (IF) to combat the Formics. In addition to a selective breeding program, the IF monitors the children of Earth via implanted devices to find the best and brightest to enter Command School and enlist in the fleet.
Andrew “Ender” Wiggin is the youngest sibling of Peter and Valentine, and part of an Earth program to produce brilliant officers; despite this, Ender is teased as a “third” under Earth’s two-child policy. After the IF removes Ender’s monitoring device, possibly ending his chances of getting into Command School, he gets into a fight with a fellow student, Stilson. Ender brutally harms Stilson, who later dies from the wounds, though Ender is unaware of this. When explaining his actions to supervisors, Ender states his belief that, by showing superiority now, he will have prevented further fights in the future.
“The Forever War” by Joe Haldeman
William Mandella is a physics student conscripted for an elite task force in the United Nations Exploratory Force being assembled for a war against the Taurans, an alien species discovered when they apparently suddenly attacked human colonists' ships. The UNEF ground troops are sent out for reconnaissance and revenge.
The elite recruits have IQs of 150 and above, are highly educated, healthy and fit. Training is gruelling – first on Earth, in Missouri, and later on Charon (not Pluto’s moon, which had not yet been discovered at the time of the novel’s writing, but a hypothetical planet beyond Pluto’s orbit), which results in a number of casualties – mainly due to accidents in hostile environments but also due to the use of live weapons in training. The new soldiers then depart for action, traveling via wormhole-like phenomena called ‘collapsars’ that allow ships to cover thousands of light-years in a split second. However, traveling to and from the collapsars at near-lightspeed has massive relativistic effects.
“Starship Troopers” by Robert A. Heinlein
Starship Troopers is a military science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein, first published (in abridged form) as a serial in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (October, November 1959, as “Starship Soldier”) and published hardcover in December, 1959.
The first-person narrative is about a young soldier from the Philippines named Juan “Johnnie” Rico and his exploits in the Mobile Infantry, a futuristic military service branch equipped with powered armor. Rico’s military career progresses from recruit to non-commissioned officer and finally to officer against the backdrop of an interstellar war between mankind and an arachnoid species known as “the Bugs”. Rico and the other characters discuss moral and philosophical aspects of suffrage, civic virtue, juvenile delinquency, capital punishment, and war.
Starship Troopers won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1960. The novel has attracted controversy and criticism for its social and political themes including allegations of advocating fascism or militarism.
“Dune” by Frank Herbert
I’ve already read this 1965 science fiction novel by Frank Herbert a few times, but I tend to misplace the book every time I finish, so I need to buy a new copy whenever I want to read it again. It won the Hugo Award in 1966, and the inaugural Nebula Award for Best Novel. Dune is frequently cited as the world’s best-selling science fiction novel and was the start of the Dune saga.
Set in the far future amidst a feudal interstellar society in which noble houses, in control of individual planets, owe allegiance to the imperial House Corrino, Dune tells the story of young Paul Atreides, the heir apparent to Duke Leto Atreides as his family accepts control of the desert planet Arrakis, the only source of the “spice” melange. Melange is the most important and valuable substance in the universe, increasing Arrakis’s value as a fief. The story explores the multi-layered interactions of politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion, as the forces of the empire confront each other in a struggle for the control of Arrakis and its “spice”.
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