Brainstorming Nuketown’s Summer 2020 Reading List

It’s April and we’re under “stay at home” orders in Pennsylvania. Work from home – and remote learning – are the order of the day for my family. Summer seems a hell of a long way off, and even when it arrives, it’s anyone’s guess what it will look like. That said, one thing is certain: Nuketown’s Summer Reading list.

For the 13th annual Nuketown Summer Reading List, my plan is a shorter, 10-book reading list with some stretch goals built-in (in other words, more books). The new format is a direct result of last year’s supersized summer reading list consisting of 19 books and seven graphic novels. I started with the best of intentions in May … and finally finished it in February 2020.

There were a lot of reasons for that, including overestimating how much reading I could get done on a family vacation and at scout camp (though while I may not have finished a book at scout camp, I did climb a cliff so … win!)

Obviously, with coronavirus on the prowl, summer is in flux. If we’re able to hold to our plans, NeutronLad and I will be at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico for two weeks of high adventure backpacking. That’s two weeks I won’t be spending reading – Philmont doesn’t allow you to bring Kindles and other e-readers to camp, and there’s no way I’m hauling 4-5 paperbacks in my backpack (and realistically, I wouldn’t have time to read them anyway).

In keeping with my last (and first) great backpacking adventure to Alaska, the only book I’m bringing with me is The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan. I read it for the first time in Alaska, and it seems appropriate to re-read it at Philmont.

As with all of my summer reading lists, I tend to read fun books with an emphasis on space opera, military science fiction, and epic fantasy. When it comes to graphic novels, I’m a fan of horror comics, in particular Hellboy and B.P.R.D. 

The following list of books is tentative. I’m always new book ideas, so post ’em if you got ’em (or, if you prefer, send them to me at nuketown@gmail.com or via Twitter (@NukeHavoc)).

Novels

  • Excession (A Culture Novel Book, Book 5) by Iain M Banks – (Amazon) – I’m slowly making my way through Banks’ Culture series, which tells stories about the post-scarcity, transhuman, utopia known as the Culture and its interactions with the less enlightened aspects of the galaxy. Technically, I should be reading the 4th book in the series, which is a collection of short stories, but it’s not easy to find. Instead, I’m moving on to Excession, which is about an alien artifact that appeared at the edge of the galaxy millennia ago, only to disappear. Now it’s back.
  • The Ancient Ones by David Brin – (Amazon) – I haven’t had great luck with science fiction comedy since The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but this book is by David Brin, one of my favorite authors, so I’ll give it a try. The setup is simple enough: humanity always thought it would be the brash and lucky ones when we finally stepped onto the galactic stage. But it turns out that role is filled by the alien Demmies … and they see us as the “Ancient Ones”.
  • The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth, Book 2) by N. K. Jemisin– (Amazon) – The Broken Earth series mixes magic and science in a far-future setting in which even the continents have moved into new shapes. In Book 1, the world – already beset by frequent earthquakes and toxic “fifth seasons” – was truly broken when a powerful wielder of tectonic forces shattered the continent. Essun, the lead character of the first novel, returns, presumably to continue her quest for her kidnapped daughter.
  • The Eye of the World (Wheel of Time, Book 1) by Robert Jordan – (Amazon) – The initial book in Jordan’s epic (and epically huge) fantasy series. In it, the arcane force known as the One Power provides male and female channelers with the ability to manifest a variety of helpful and dangerous spell-like effects. The male side of the One Power is corrupted and drives anyone who uses it insane. The series introduces us to Rand al’Thor, one such wielder of the male half of the One Power. In addition to that arcane burden, Rand may also be the prophesized Dragon Reborn, destined to fight the Dark One.
  • The Dreaming Stars (Axiom, Book 2) by Tim Pratt – (Amazon) – The follow up to The Wrong Stars finds the crew of the White Haven continuing to investigate the ancient, slumbering alien-gods known as the Axiom. I read the first book a few years ago and enjoyed it, but it slipped my mind when compiling last year’s reading list.
  • Bone Silence (Revenger Universe, Book 3) by Alastair Reynolds – (Amazon) – I loved the first book in this far-future space opera, in which a woman tries to save her sister from the clutches of an evil space pirate (which sounds way pulpier than it is). The second was a slower-paced, smaller-scoped adventure; I’m hoping for a return to form in the third book.
  • The Wise Man’s Fear ( Kingkiller Chronicle, Book 2) by Patrick Rothfuss – (Amazon) – A lot of my friends love the first book in this series, The Name of the Wind. It may be that they set my expectations too high – I certainly enjoyed the novel about a young man and his emerging legend, but it wasn’t an instant classic for me the way Roger Zelazny’s Nine Princes in Amber was. It was certainly good enough for me to want to read the sequel though.
  • The Last Emperox (The Interdependency, Book 3) by John Scalzi – (Amazon) – The concluding novel to Scalzi’s new trilogy, in which a far-flung stellar empire finds that its no match for the physics that are destroying the connections between its worlds.
  • Fall; or Dodge in Hell by Neal Stephenson – (Amazon) – Stephenson is one of my all-time favorite authors (and his cyberpunk novel Snowcrash is one of my all-time favorite books). This novel is a follow up to Readme, a novel of cybercrime and massively multiplayer online games, and sees one of its main characters, Dodge, die and be resurrected in a virtual reality.
  • The Worst of All Possible Worlds (The Salvagers, Book 3) by Alex White – (Amazon) – The concluding novel to the Salvagers series, which mixes space opera with magic. Due out July 28, 2020.

Returning from last year’s brainstorming list:

  • Rising Tides (Destroyermen, Book 5) by Taylor Anderson (Amazon) – One of my go-to nautical series for reading on Lake Champlain during our annual summer vacation.
  • War Factory (Transformation, Book 2) by Neal Asher (Amazon) – Darker than what I normally read, but still good. The series is about the hunt for rogue AI named Penny Royal.
  • The Way to Glory (RCN Series, Book 4) by David Drake (Amazon) – The Aubrey/Mautrin-inspired space opera that serves as a substitute for the now-concluded Patrick O’Brian historical naval fiction series.
  • Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Amazon) – A story about the remnants of humanity trying to survive on a terraformed world that is not their own … all while avoiding the attention of an all-powerful (and hostile) alien race.
  • The Black Lung Captain (Tales of the Ketty Jay, Book 2) by Chris Wooding (Amazon) – Another technology/magic mashup that’s more reminiscent of the old Crimson Skies game … with demons.

Graphic Novels

Two years ago I finished Hellboy‘s run. Last year, I finished B.P.R.D‘s run. Thankfully, the Hellboy universe still has books I haven’t read yet, including the “young Hellboy” books set in the 1950s.

  • Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: 1955 – (Amazon)
  • Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: 1956 – (Amazon)

Future Reading

  • Untitled Expanse Novel by James S.A Corey (The Expanse, Book 9) – An Expanse novel has been on my reading list every summer for the last 8 years. This summer … that might not happen. The next (and last) book in the science fiction opus is set to come out sometime in 2020 … but probably not this summer. That means I may be reading this in Summer 2021 instead.
  • Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy (Book I: Chaos Rising) (Star Wars: The Ascendancy Trilogy 1) by Timothy Zahn – (Amazon) – Timothy Zahn’s recent Thrawn books have been staples of my last few summer reading lists, but alas the first book in the new trilogy doesn’t arrive until October 6, 2020.
  • The Saints of Salvation (The Salvation Sequence, Book 3) by Peter F. Hamilton – (Amazon) – Salvation – a novel of first contact and the interstellar war that follows – was on last year’s summer reading list. I’m reading the second book, Salvation Lost now and I would read this novel over the summer, if only it wasn’t dropping on October 27, 2020.

Previous Summer Reading Lists

  • 2019: 19 books, 5 graphic novels
  • 2018: 15 books, 7 graphic novels
  • 2017: 17 books, 1 novella, 8 graphic novels
  • 2016: 16 books, 1 novella, 8 graphic novels
  • 2015: 15 books, 9 graphic novels
  • 2014: 13 books, 5 graphic novels
  • 2013: 11 books, 5 graphic novels
  • 2012: 11 books, 1 graphic novels
  • 2011: 11 books, 0 graphic novels
  • 2010: 7 books, 0 graphic novels
  • 2009: 9 books, 0 graphic novels
  • 2008: 8 books, 8 graphic novels
  • 1993: 26 books

Featured Image Meta

Cover art from The Dreaming Stars by Tim Pratt. Credit: Angry Robot

2 comments

  1. A potential addition:

    This is part of a larger collection of novels called the Nanotech Succession; this makes it perfect fodder for my summer reading list because if I like it, there are a bunch more books to read (and I need something to replace The Expanse…)

  2. Another potential addition:

    This is the follow-up to The Phoenix Project, which is a classic novel about DevOps that rings all-too-true with my work experience. The Unicorn Project hasn’t gotten the same rave reviews as the original book, but it sounds like it’s still a decent read.

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