Tag Archives: Hard Science Fiction

Top Ten Tuesday: Books to Read if You Love Hard Science Fiction

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

I’m the sort of reader who can find something to enjoy in many different genres and subgenres.

An astronaut standing on Mars. To be perfectly honest with you, I was a little intimidated by hard science fiction when I first encountered it because I didn’t know how much the authors who wrote it would expect their readers to know about the various scientific disciplines and theories they were focused on.

Most of the stories I’d read up until that point were much more fanciful, but I soon found plenty of books in this subgenre that I loved. Here are some of my recommendations for anyone who already loves hard science fiction or who would like to give it a try.

1. Wool by Hugh Howey

What I Loved About It:  The world building, especially when it came to explaining how large groups of humans could permanently live indoors in silos that provided for all of their needs.

 

2. Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

What I Loved About It: The descriptions of how Mars was terraformed over the course of many years!

 

3. Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir (My review)

What I Loved About It: It’s difficult to discuss my favourite portions of this book without giving away spoilers. I did adore the first few scenes that gave a realistic depiction of how weak someone would be after waking up from a long, artificially-induced sleep as well as how long it would take them to recover from it and start building enough muscle to look after themselves again.

 

4. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr

What I Loved About It: Humanity’s painfully slow rediscovery of critical knowledge after a cataclysmic event. There are so many other things I’d gush about if I could, but like Project Hail Mary this is something that works best if you know as little about the storyline as possible in advance.

 

What else would you add to this list? Most of the ones I thought of are older, and I wish I could remember more of the ones I’ve enjoyed that are on the tip of my tongue.  I’m sure there are many other wonderful hard science fiction tales out there.

Corporate Space Race: A Review of Loss Leader

Loss Leader by Simon Haynes book cover. Image on cover shows a woman's face superimposed on space rocks orbiting a planet.Title: Loss Leader

Author: Simon Haynes

Publisher: Bowman Press

Publication Date: May 1, 2010

Genres: Science Fiction

Length: 45 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 2 Stars

Blurb:

After many delays and last-minute setbacks, the first colony ship leaves planet Earth for a distant star. Join the crew as they discover all is not as it seems…

Review:

Anything can happen during cryostasis.

The descriptions of how cryostasis worked in this universe were well done. That’s one science fiction trope that simultaneously fascinates me and freaks me out a little, so I liked reading about how these machines were designed to keep people alive during their long journey.

I had a hard time keeping track of and getting to know the various characters. There were only about half a dozen of them, yet the narrator spent such scant time exploring their personalities and interests that I’d struggle to explain what any of them were like outside of their willingness to take risks and possibly have an adventure. I definitely don’t expect the same level of character development in a short story as I do in a full-length novel, but I sure would have liked to get to know them better than I did here.

The foreshadowing at the beginning was handled well. It was obvious enough for the audience to quickly begin wondering what was happening behind the cheerful scene of the launch of the Glory. With that being said, it was also subtle enough for me to understand why the characters were able to brush certain danger signs aside and prepare for their mission. They certainly had other explanations for what was going on that wouldn’t have alarmed them in the least.

As excited as I was about the premise of this story, the plot holes were too numerous and serious to ignore. I won’t say what the twist was, only that it was something that required the cooperation of a large number of people in order to have any hope of happening. The storyline was also inconsistent about explaining how the technology in this futuristic world worked, who had access to it, and what they were and weren’t capable of doing with it.  These were all things that were imperative not only for the storyline but for the genre as well. The premise itself was a fantastic one, but the execution of it would have benefitted from a much stronger emphasis on how it would all logically fit together.

The ending left plenty up to the imagination. It was never quite clear to me if the author intended this to be read as a serial or simply wanted his audience to have a chance to imagine what happened next for ourselves. I personally like being left to my own devices after a certain point in the plot, so it was cool to close my eyes and picture what might have happened next.

I’d recommend Loss Leader to die-hard fans of this genre.

The Last-Chance Mission: A Review of Project Hail Mary

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir book cover. Image on cover shows an astronaut floating through space while tethered to their ship. There is a large sun or planet in the background. Title: Project Hail Mary

Author: Andy Weir

Publisher:  Ballantine Books

Publication Date: May 4, 2021

Genres: Science Fiction, Mystery

Length:476 pages

Source: I borrowed it from my local library.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, Ryland realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Hurtling through space on this tiny ship, it’s up to him to puzzle out an impossible scientific mystery—and conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.

And with the clock ticking down and the nearest human being light-years away, he’s got to do it all alone.

Or does he?

An irresistible interstellar adventure as only Andy Weir could deliver, Project Hail Mary is a tale of discovery, speculation, and survival to rival The Martian—while taking us to places it never dreamed of going.

Review:

Content warning: Death and serious bodily injuries. I will not be discussing these things in my review.

Failure isn’t an option here if humanity is to survive.

There were multiple sections of this book that went into great detail about the physics and math behind the experiments Ryland ran as he attempted to solve the scientific mystery that was threatening to drive humanity to extinction. This was most definitely a work of hard science fiction. I suspect that people who have university-level degrees in math, science, or technology will get the most out of those passages, but I did understand what the main character was saying. Keep pushing through those passages if you struggle with them. They’re important for the plot, but the narrator will often explain them again in other ways later on if you need a refresher.

I loved the foreshadowing. Yes, it was a little more heavy handed than what I’d typically expect to find in this genre, but given the complex and technical nature of most of the problems Ryland needed to solve I think that was the best choice for most people who will be reading this.

The hopeful nature of the storyline was delightful, so don’t be fooled by the urgent and sad vibe of the first couple of scenes. There were so many wonderful plot twists after that point, some of which I didn’t see coming and found quite relieving once they did arrive. As much as I want to go into vivid detail here, I keep my reviews spoiler-free and want you all to discover these moments for yourselves.

Ryland was a well-developed character whose wry sense of humour often made me chuckle. I enjoyed seeing how quickly and (usually) calmly he came up with new ideas when he was in a crisis and his previous solutions didn’t pan out. He honestly reminded me a bit of Mark Watney from Weir’s earlier book, The Martian. While these characters lived in different universes, I enjoyed comparing and contrasting them. Some of Ryland’s strengths were things that Mark probably would have found difficult, so that was an extra layer of amusement for anyone who is already familiar with this author and his previous works.

Project Hail Mary was an amazing adventure that I heartily recommend to anyone who loves hard science fiction.

First, Do No Harm: A Review of Restore

Book cover for Restore Stories of Singularity #1 by Susan Kay Quinn. Image on cover is of a white robot staring off into the distance. Title: Restore – Stories of Singularity #1

Author: Susan Kaye Quinn

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: May 2, 2015

Genre: Science Fiction 

Length: 42 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 2.5 Stars

Blurb:

Restorative Human Medical Care Unit 7435, sentience level fifty, is happiness level five out of ten to serve and heal the human master it loves. But Unit 7435 finds there is a price to be paid for love… and for failing in its primary mission. 

Restore  is a standalone short story that takes place in the world of the Singularity novels. 

Start the novel series with The Legacy Human (Singularity 1).

Review:

Content warning: Terminal illness. I will be not discussing this in my review.

A happy medical care unit is a productive medical care unit.

I liked the fact that Restorative Human Medicine Care Unit 7435 had such a distinct personality. This wasn’t something I was expecting to find, especially based on my first impression of this bot who originally came across as someone who followed strict protocols with no room from deviation. This changed once 7435 decided to identify as female for the day and began receiving commands that were in direct opposition to her programming. (Medical care units in this universe can alter their gender presentation and preferred pronoun based on what makes their patient most comfortable)

With that being said, I struggled with the thin plot. It was difficult to remain interested when so little was happening, especially since 7435 had such a limited understanding of anything other than the various types of psychological and physical medical care she was programmed to provide to her patients. She was an interesting protagonist for sure, but developing a well-rounded storyline from someone whose perspective is naturally so limited is tough.

The world building was otherwise well done. My curiosity was piqued by the differences between legacy and ascender humans in this universe. The narrator knew just enough about this topic to keep me wondering why humanity decided to branch off in these ways and what other ways the two groups might be distinct from each other that a medical bot wouldn’t necessarily be aware of.

I’d recommend Restore to anyone who is a big fan of stories about artificial intelligence. 

Why I Bounce Between Soft Sci-Fi and Hard Sci-Fi

This is a response post to Louise’s Why I Prefer Soft Sci-Fi

photo of galassia star. Let’s start this conversation off with some quick definitions.

Hard sci-fi is a sub-genre of science fiction that focuses on hard sciences like physics, math, chemistry, or astronomy that ask and answer objective questions.

That is to say, there is only one correct answer if someone asks you what the square root of nine is.

Soft sci-fi is a sub-genre of science fiction that focuses on soft sciences like sociology, anthropology, or psychology. They include a mixture of objective and subjective questions.

For example,

Some science fiction fans have a strong preference for one of these sub-genres over the other. I prefer to bounce around between them and nearly every other type of science fiction that doesn’t include romance for the following reasons:

The Lines Between Them Are Blurry

Many sci-fi stories include elements of both hard and soft science fiction. They might start out describing how scientists in that universe discovered a safe, fast, and effective way to travel between solar systems only to switch over to describing how that technology changed every facet of human culture over the next few millennia.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having strong preferences on either side of the spectrum, but I’ve discovered so many amazing books and authors that I would have otherwise overlooked if I’d been strict about only wanting to read hard or soft science fiction.

I Need Variety

While sci-fi is the genre where I spend most of my reading time, I also enjoy reading fantasy, horror, mysteries, historical fiction, non-fiction, and many other genres.

I’m happiest when I can bounce around between different types of storytelling no matter which genre I’m currently reading. After finishing a hard science fiction adventure, I might be in the mood for a memoir, a light fantasy adventure, or a book of poetry next.

It’s even better when the same book can smoothly move between different genres and maybe even mash up some themes that aren’t normally woven together.

Each Story Has Unique Needs

Some sci-fi stories really do need to have the science behind them explained in detail in order for anything else that follows to make sense to readers who aren’t already well-versed in the branch or branches of science that are being explored there.

Other sci-fi stories use spaceships, aliens, or new inventions as a backdrop but can share the meat of their plot with the audience even if no one knows the details of how alien physiology is different from human physiology or how that new invention came into being.

I definitely do agree with Louise’s point about hard science fiction being something that often works better in film or TV show form. While I enjoy reading about new technologies or inventions, it’s amazing to see them come to life in a scene.

Do all of you have preferences for hard versus soft science fiction? If so, what are they?

 

Dangerous Voyage: A Review of Europa Report

Content warning: Found footage and mental illness. I will be discussing these things later on in this post. Europa Report is a 2013 science fiction film about an international group of astronauts who are sent on an expedition to Jupiter’s fourth largest moon, Europa, to see if they can find any evidence of life there.… Read More

Rest in Peace, Stephen Hawking

I’m assuming all of my readers heard this news yesterday, but the famous physicist Stephen Hawking is dead. The world is a dimmer and sadder place without him. I doubt any of his friends and loved ones will read this, but I’d like to extend my sincere condolences to them if they do. A Brief History… Read More