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"Goodbye, Jean-Luc, I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end."
- Q, Star Trek: TNG

Summer Reading List 2017

by Ken Newquist / June 15, 2017
A small spaceship approaches a much large starship in deep space.
Cover art for The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

Welcome to Nuketown's 10th annual summer reading list! As with previous years, this year's list is heavy on space opera and military science fiction, but includes a smattering of fantasy. It includes 17 novels, 1 novella, and 8 graphic novels. That's one more novel than my Summer 2016 reading list. It's a stretch, but I'm looking forward to trying.

New Books by New Authors

Forsaken Skies (The Silence, Book 1) D. Nolan Clark (Amazon) — Space opera? Check. Alien invasion? Check. Small band of heroes that must do something about it? Check. Yeah, this one sounds like exactly the sort of book that would make my summer reading list.

Proxima by Stephen Baxter (Amazon) — A novel about the colonization of Proxima Centuri, a red dwarf and the closest star to our solar system. I've read mixed reviews of this novel — namely that it has a great ideas but so-so execution — but I was able to pick up the paperback cheaply at Hooked on Books, our local used book store, so I figured i'd roll the dice.

The Emperor’s Blades (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, Book 1) by Brian Staveley (Amazon) — After completing The Dagger and The Coin series by Daniel Abraham last year, I was looking for another epic fantasy series for my summer reading list. This one fit the bill, with old and new gods, "leeches" who manifest magical powers by drinking in power from the environment around them, giant attack birds, and a murder plot that shakes the world. As the book opens the Emperor of Annur has been killed and his three children — a son (and his heir) studying to be a monk, a second son preparing to be a special forces-like soldier, and a daughter who is ascending to the role of minister of finance — must figure out what to do next.

New Books by Known Authors

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson (Amazon) — This novel was on my Summer 2012 reading list, but I never got around to reading it. It's back now because 1) I was able to get it inexpensively at Hooked on Books and 2) I always meant to get around to reading it. The novel takes place in a solar system in which humanity has colonized planets beyond Earth, while the homeworld itself is dealing with the consequences of global warming. The setup involves a sudden death in the city of Terminator on Mercury; from there I'm not quite sure where it goes. I trust Robinson enough to take the leap of faith though.

Revenger by Alistair Reynolds (Amazon) — Reynolds is always makes more short list of authors I want to read (Revelation Space is one of my favorite books). This one sounds like a keeper; it takes place in the far future, after the rise and fall of several space-fairing civilizations. It features a band of archeological entrepreneurs who retrieve relics from impossibly well defended planets. Amazon describes it as a tale of space pirates, ancient civilizations, and phantom weapons … you had me at space pirates.

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty (Amazon) — I know Mur from back in our early podcasting days, when we were both new to the genre and writing columns for Knights of the Dinner Table Magazine. The book's got a cool hook — the main characters are clones who are in storage aboard the starship Dormire, sleeping until the death of their primary causes them to awaken and take their place. One of the clones in question — Maria Arena — awakes to find that she has no idea how her original died … and that others are in a similar situation.

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi (Amazon) — A new space opera by John Scalzi? (Old Man's War)? Yeah, it goes on the list without even a second thought. This books about the galactic empire known as the Interdependency. It's held together by The Flow, a extra-dimensional field that allowed humanity to spread throughout the galaxy. The problem? The Flow is shifting, and the worlds of the Interdependency may soon find themselves cut off from the larger galaxy.

Thrawn by Timothy Zahn (Amazon) — Zahn's Dark Force Rising trilogy may have saved Star Wars. It was filled with quintessential Star Wars scenes … and a superior villain in the form of Grand Admiral Thrawn. With Thrawn, Zahn returns to his creation and explains how he became an Imperial officer. I greatly enjoyed Dark Force Rising, and I'm looking forward to reading Zahn's take on the new Star Wars continuity.

Returning Series

Babylon’s Ashes (The Expanse, Book 6) by James S.A. Corey (Amazon) — The Expanse novels by James S.A. Corey have long held a spot on my summer reading lists, but last year they postponed the publication date for Babylon's Ashes from summer to winter, releasing the book on December 6, 2016. I got it for Christmas in Kindle format, and forced myself not to read it; instead I'm saving it for my summer reading list. It's taking a tremendous act of will not to click on its cover every time I browse past it on my Kindle but I'm good. I'm strong. I can resist the temptation just a few ... weeks ... longer so I can read it while I'm on vacation.

  • Strange Dogs (An Expanse Novella) (Amazon, releasing July 18, 2017) — Corey has long had a tradition of releasing novellas between each of the major books in the Expanse series. This one's about a family who ventures through one of the intergalactic gates that lead to the greater expanse … and what they find on the other side.

Blue at the Mizzen (Aubrey/Mautrin, Book 20) by Patrick O’Brian (Amazon) — The penultimate novel in the Aubrey/Mautrin series (and the last complete book) sees Captain Aubrey taking his ship the Surprise to South America to support Chilean independence from Spain in the early 1800s. I've spent more than a decade slowly reading these books knowing that the end was neigh, and reading this one will be particularly bittersweet. There is one more book — 21 — but O'Brian died before finishing it.

Dark Sky (Keiko, Book 2) by Mike Brooks (Amazon, releasing July 11, 2017) The Keiko novels are clearly designed to scratch a very particular, very Firefly-specific itch. It depicts the smuggler crew of the Keiko — a small starship — as they get caught up in events larger than themselves. The first novel was a fast and enjoyable read, if occasionally a little too much on the nose in its homage to Joss Whedon's space western. I'm hoping to see the series come into its own with this second book.

Genesis Fleet: Vanguard by Jack Campbell (Amazon) — Jack Campbell goes back to the beginning in this origin story for the Lost Fleet universe. It details the origins of the Alliance, the democratic starfaring nation that will come to wage a seemingly endless war with their opposite number, the oppressive Syndicate Worlds, in the Lost Fleet novels. I'm always up for a good Lost Fleet novel and I'm glad to see the series back on my list.

Maelstrom (Destroyermen, Book 3) by Taylor Anderson (Amazon) — For the last two summers, books in the Destroyermen series has been one of my "safety" novels — print books that I bring with me on vacation in case my Kindle Paperwhite dies. The books follow the American destroyer USS Walker as passes through a portal to an alternative earth in the opening days of the Pacific theatre during World War II. The World War I era destroyer finds itself in a world in which humans never arose. Instead intelligent lemurs and ravenous reptilian humanoids appeared instead … and have been waging war against one another for centuries. The third book in the series finds the Walker facing off against another ship that had been drawn through the same vortex; a vessel that could tip the balance of power in the alien reality.

The Bands of Mourning (Mistborn, Book 6) by Brandon Sanderson (Amazon) — Wax and Wayne return for another adventure in the world of the Mistborn. This time around Waxillium Ladrian (aka "Wax") is searching for the "Bands of Mourning", artifacts that once belonged to his world's now-vanquished tyrant. I like Mistborn's unique metal-based magic system and the mashup of those powers with an old west setting in the Wax and Wayne books has been fun.

The Honor of the Queen (Honor Harrington Book 2) by David Weber (Amazon) — I went to Hooked on Books looking to pick up the next book in the Destroyerman series, but unfortunately they didn't have it. Instead I decided to pick up the second book in the Honor Harrington series. These books are famous in military SF circles and I read the first one as part of my Summer 2013 reading list. I can't say it blew me away; it was a decent enough book, but Weber had a tendency to portray her as a near-perfect officer who knew the answer to almost every problem (and was given a crap assignment as a result). It wasn't bad, and I was willing to give the series another try.

The Player of Games (The Culture, Book 2) by Iain Banks (Amazon) — Book 2 of Iain Banks' The Culture series involves a master grognard who takes on biggest games in any galaxy. As with the first book in the series, Consider Phlebas, Banks takes us back to the Culture, the very pinnacle of a postmodern, post-scarcity society in which humans are effectively immortal, artificial intelligences benignly guide sentient progress, and noone wants for anything.

It's a safe, regulated, and protected civilization ... but a few find it to be, well, boring. Jernau Morat Gurgeh is the best game player in the Culture and he's hungry for new challenges. That hunger takes him to the Empire of Azad, an alien culture with three sexes who's entire civilization is ordered based on the playing of one all-consuming game.

Victory Conditions (Vatta’s War, Book 5) by Elizabeth Moon (Amazon) — I started reading Vatta's War as a potential replacement for other series that had run their course. Now I've reached the final novel in this series as well, in which Kylara Vatta — now Commander Vatta — has built an allied fleet of warships. She intends to use this fleet is preparing to take the fight to the pirates who nearly destroyed her family's business and smashed the galaxy's faster-than-light communications network.

Graphic Novels

At this point, Hellboy and B.P.R.D. graphic novels are as big a part of my summer as s'mores and Lake Champlain.

  • Hellboy, Volume 10: The Crooked Man and Others (Amazon)
  • Hellboy in Hell, Volume 2: Death Card (Amazon)
  • B.P.R.D Hell on Earth, Volume 10: The Devils Wings (Amazon)
  • B.P.R.D Hell On Earth, Volume 11: Flesh and Stone (Amazon)
  • B.P.R.D Hell On Earth Volume 12 : Metamorphosis (Amazon)
  • B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth Volume 13: End of Days (Amazon)
  • Abe Sapien Volume 3: Dark and Terrible and the New Race of Man (Amazon)
  • Lobster Johnson Volume 2: The Burning Hand (Amazon)

Looking Ahead

With 17 novels on the list, I think I’m pretty much set for the summer. There are a number of books I wish I could have on the list, but have not been released yet. If nothing else, this points to an excellent winter reading list.

  • Barbary Station (Barbary Station Book 1) by R.E. Stearns (Amazon, releasing October 31, 2017)
  • The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley (Amazon, releasing November 7, 2017)
  • Artemis by Andy Weir (Amazon, releasing November 14, 2017) 
  • Persepolis Rising (The Expanse, Book 7) by James S.A. Corey (Amazon, releasing December 7, 2017)