Sue and I recently went through a bunch of our old stuff looking for items we could sell at an impromptu yard sale, give to Good Will, or just chuck. In doing so, I found a couple of my old science fiction books from high school/college … and among them was an old envelope upon which I’d scrawled the names of the two dozen books I read during the summer of 1993.
It may seem a bit odd to keep such a list, but I was determined to read as many science fiction, fantasy and horror books as I possibly could that summer. Being a poor college student, almost all of the books were ones I borrowed from the library. In hindsight, this was a great idea — the library’s genre collection was … eclectic to say the least. I’d long ago read all of the familiar authors, so limiting myself to the library meant I’d have to check out books by authors I hadn’t read yet.
I did all this while working nearly full-time — during the days (and occasionally the nights) I was an intern at the Daily Record newspaper and in the afternoons, nights and weekends I was working at the A&P grocery store. Of course, I read very quickly, and in those days I didn’t have a family to worry about — heck, I was still living at home with my parents, and Sue was an hour away. I had the time. And I used it.
A decade later most of the books are fuzzy memories at best, but there are a few standouts. Kim Stanley Robin’s Red Mars was hard science fiction at its best and told an excellent story of colonization and revolution on the Red Planet. Timothy Zahn’s Dark Force Rising is one of the best Star Wars books I’ve read (which isn’t saying much, given the quality of Star Wars fiction in general, but it was a good book). John Varley’s Steel Beach was a weird, sexually-amorphous, Heinlein-like novel in which humanity has been expelled from Earth by alien invaders and the remnants survive in small habitats scattered around the solar system.
I got The Memory of Earth because I’d enjoyed Orson Scott Card’s earlier Ender’s Game — it was a decent enough book with an intriguing premise: after Earth is decimated by war, the survivors send a ship to establish a new colony named “Harmony”. The sentient ship carries with it technology that allows it to suppress humanity’s war-like impulses, but eventually, it starts to break down … and those impulses return. The book wasn’t as inspired as Ender’s Game, but it passed the time.
Robert Harris’ Fatherland was probably the first alternative history novel I ever read. It’s the story of a world in which Nazi Germany never fell and the secret of the Holocaust was successfully suppressed. That is until the lead character in this novel begins to unravel the horrific truth. Looking back, I think this book was also one of the reasons why I started to read spy fiction (well, that at good ‘ol James Bond).
Looking back, I think my “Summer Booklist” project was time well spent. It did much to expand my science fiction experience beyond the Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov novels I cut my teeth on as a kid. This added depth aided me greatly in my freelance writing career, and it’s an undertaking I’d recommend for any aspiring writer.
And now, here’s the list, in the order I read them.
- Garden of Rama by Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee
- The Coming of the Quantum Cats by Frederick Pohl
- Out Passage by Morris (don’t have the full author name)
- Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
- Solo by Manson (don’t have the full author name)
- Star Wars: Dark Force Rising by Timothy Zahn
- Haunted by James Herbert
- Fatherland by Robert Harris
- Changewar by Fritz Leiber
- Wall Around a Star by Fred Pohl & Jack Williams
- To Sail Beyond the Sunset by Robert H. Heinlein
- Star Wars: The Last Command by Timothy Zahn
- Moon by James Herbert
- Challenges by Ben Bova
- Steel Beach by John Varley
- The Memory of Earth by Orson Scott Card
- A Maze of Stars by John Brunner
- The Call of Earth by Orson Scott Card
- The Forbidden Zone by Whitley Strieber
- The House in November by Keith Laumer
- A Bridge of Years by Robert C. Wilson
- Voyagers by Ben Bova
- The Trikon Deception by Ben Bova & Bill Pouge
- Star Trek: Probe by Margaret Bonanno
- The Crucible of Time by John Brenner
- Cold Fire by Dean R. Koontz