Summer Reading List 2011

Summer 2011 is well underway, and so is my summer reading list. While some summers I know exactly what I’m reading in the spring, this summer I stumbled into my reading list. Work’s been crazy busy (leading to June’s deficiency of posts at Nuketown) but even with a high workload my brain demands an escape to my summer reading list.

I’ve divided my reading list into two parts: The Summer List and the Island List. The Summer List consists of books I’ll be reading throughout the summer, from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The Island List is a subset of books that I’ll be taking to Butler Island on Lake Champlain with me for my much-needed, oft-dreamed of summer vacation.

You can follow my progress through my Summer Reading list on GoodReads, the social networking site for bookworms.

The Summer List

The Quiet War by Paul J. McAuley: The moons of the Outer Solar System have been settled by liberal-leaning, experiment-loving gene-engineering transhumans who escaped an apocalyptic overturn of Earth’s environment. Earth is ruled by environmental hegemonies who tamed the destructive excesses of 20th century and brought the planet back from the brink. Now decades worth of tension is coming to the fore as the green conservatives of Earth seek to rain in the free-wheeling liberals of Deep Space. I picked the book because I enjoy the juxtaposition of its political ideas: the social conservatism of Earth’s greens, and the sheer hodgepodge of the Outer System politics (from strident anarcho-capitalists to egalitarian utopias). It’s the first book on my inadvertent list, and the one that got me thinking about the rest of the books I wanted to read this summer.

The January Dancer by Michael Flynn: A starship crew stops in a remote star system and finds a cache of alien artifacts that pre-date humanity. They manage to make their way back to civilized space with one of the artifacts in their position, but soon trade it away for repairs. The rest of the book revolves around the effect this strange artifact has on the galaxy, and the quest of a small group of protagonists to recover it. I picked up this book for two reasons: 1) it’s written by Easton, Pa. native Michael Flynn (my own adopted hometown) and 2) it was available at the Easton Public Library, which satisfies my ancillary goal of reading more library books.

Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan: Cyberpunk meets noir in Altered Carbon, Morgan’s debut novel and a book that’s been on my Summer Reading List for years. I’m reading it because I told my friend, Lance Miller, that I would … and the book was available at the library.

The New Space Opera 2: The first anthology in this series could easily have been called “The New Transhumanism”, but it was still an enjoyable read. I got this one to save space in my messenger bag on a recent business trip, as download it onto my iPad 2 meant I didn’t need to bring the paper copy of Altered Carbon with me. Featured writers include John Scalzi, Elizabeth Moon, Cory Doctorow and Mike Resnick

The Engines of God by Jack McDevitt: This book was an impulse buy at The Raven used bookstore in Northampton, MA. Jack McDevitt’s story of alien monuments resonates with my current Star Wars storyline. It was cheap, and I’ve heard plenty of good things about McDevitt’s work.


Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse) by James S. A. Cory: A bunch of ice miners out near the orbit of Saturn find a derelict ship that contains a secret the solar system would kill for. That description, and the GoodReads endorsement of Bryan Alexander was enough to make it an alternate on my list.

A Dance of Dragons by George R.R. Martin: I’ve been waiting for the latest book in the Song of Fire and Ice series for years; it figures it would finally out this summer. I don’t know if I can afford the hardcover, but if I can I’m picking it up as close to release day as possible.

The Island List

The criteria for the Island List is easy: true blue space opera. Galactic empires. Faster than light travel. And starship battles. Really big starship battles. So far I have one book in this category, Dreadnaught, Jack Campbell’s successor to his excellent Lost Fleet series. If you have other suggestions, please let me know. Other possible contenders include the works of David Weber and Elizabeth Moon.

The Lost Fleet: Dreadnaught by Jack Campbell: Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet series was one of my favorite reads of 2010 – I loved the story of an ancient war hero who returned from long-term hibernation to lead a ragtag fleet to victory. While it’s technically space opera, Campbell’s excellent grasp of relativistic combat made the series a thrilling, engaging read. It reminded me strongly of Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander series, and I intend to savor it on the island like a fine beer. Dreadnaught is the first book in a new Lost Fleet series involving Admiral “Black Jack” Geary’s attempts to deal with an alien threat discovered in the original series.

In Death Ground and The Shiva by David Weber and Steve White: The Bugs have invaded the galaxy, and now humanity and its former alien enemies must come together to defeat them. The series has gotten solid reviews from military SF and space opera fans, and it looks like exactly the sort of thing I’d like to read on the island.

The Letter of Marque by Patrick O’Brian: Not space opera by a long shot, The Letter of Marque still fits the bill for its excellent naval combat scenes. This is part of Patrick O’Brian’s Master & Commander series, and finds Captain Jack Aubrey back at sea after having been forced out of the Royal Navy for a crime he didn’t commit. In this book he finds himself the captain of his old ship, the Surprise, only now he’s a privateer preying on French shipping. As with the rest of the books in this series, I’m listening to it as an audio book; I plan on “reading” it on the long drive up to Vermont.

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