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11 science fiction adventures to escape into this Thanksgiving holiday

11 science fiction adventures to escape into this Thanksgiving holiday

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Cover art for Dark Run, by Mike Brooks
Cover art for Dark Run, by Mike Brooks
John Harris

Here’s the scene: your family is coming in from all parts of the country for the big day. It’s great to see everyone, but you honestly would rather deal with them through Facebook this year. You need a quick and easy way to escape the crowd, so you power up your e-reader and jump into a new world.

Books are an amazing portal to leave everything behind for a few (let’s face it, more than a few) hours at a time, and a space opera will get you off this planet altogether. Here are 11 great space adventures that we recommend if you need a quick escape:

The Cold Between by Elizabeth Bonesteel

Elizabeth Bonesteel’s debut novel is a fun mashup of space opera and mystery tale. When a member of engineer Commander Elena Shaw's crew is murdered, the prime suspect is a pirate that she spent the night with. While attempting to clear his name, she discovers that the man's death is linked to a conspiracy surrounding the destruction of a starship a quarter-century ago. It’s a fast, well-written novel that serves as the introduction to a whole new world: its sequel, Remnants of Trust just came out in bookstores.

Dark Run by Mike Brooks

Take a starship, crew it with people who have questionable paths, introduce a sponsor with a major vendetta, then send them out on what’s most likely a suicide mission to Earth. That’s the foundation of Mike Brooks’ novel Dark Run, a fantastically exciting read that sends the crew of the Keiko out into a dangerous mission from which they’re not intended to return. The story sets up a wonderful fantastic with a great, diverse cast of characters, plenty of action, and a narrative that just doesn’t let up.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

A while ago, I called The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet one of the most delightful space opera novels I’d ever read. It really is. There are tons of science fiction and fantasy novels out there that dwell on the doom and gloom of the world. Chambers’ novel isn’t that: it’s a bright and cheery adventure that reminds me quite a bit of Firefly. The crew of the Wayfarer is made up of a fantastic collection aliens and humans, all of whom Chambers spends time getting to know, and puts together a wonderful — and at times heartbreaking novel. A sequel, A Closed and Common Orbit, just came out in the UK (and will be out in the US in 2017), and it’s just as good.

A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias

If you’re looking for something that’s a bit more of a throwback to the days of classic science fiction, you should check out James L. Cambias’s novel A Darkling Sea. Cambias is an impressive newcomer to the Hard-SF (read: super plausible stories), with this novel set on the frozen ocean world of Ilmatar. Hidden under kilometers of ice is an aquatic alien species that humanity is studying. When an explorer is killed by curious Ilmatarians, delicate tensions between humanity and another alien civilization — the Sholen — explode, potentially leading the two to war.

Downbelow Station by C.J. Cherryh

You would be hard-pressed to find a space opera classic beyond C.J. Cherryh’s fantastic Downbelow Station. The novel helped kickstart the career of one of the greatest modern science fiction writers (she has the Science Fiction Grand Master title to prove it), and it sparked a massive series that’s still beloved by fans today. Set far in the future, humanity has spread to the stars, and the discovery of a new, habitable planet threatens to upset the balance of power between Earth and the rebel Union.

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

Do you like spaceships? Murder mysteries? Intrigue and conspiracies that could bring all of humanity to outright war? Leviathan Wakes, the first entry in the Expanse series, is the book for you. An ice hauler named James Holden comes across a derelict spacecraft, while a detective on Ceres hunts down a missing girl. The two men become entwined in a plot that will have enormous consequences for all of humanity.

Warchild by Karin Lowachee

One of my favorite novels comes from Karin Lowachee: Warchild. When Jos Musey’s parent’s trading ship is boarded by a hostile alien civilization called the strits, he’s taken in to be trained as a spy in the strits’ war against the human race. Once he’s returned to humanity, he finds that his job of betraying them is much harder than he ever could have anticipated.

The Red: First Light by Linda Nagata

I’m breaking my rule a bit with space adventures with Linda Nagata’s novel The Red: First Light, which fits more in the military SF genre — although humanity going into space becomes a big part of the later stories. Set in the near future, Lieutenant James Shelley a soldier who joined a “Linked Combat Squad,” comprised of soldiers with advanced implants and equipment. As he’s pulled into a global conflict waged by super-wealthy corporate owners, where he and his team might be the only ones who can stop a global catastrophe from unfolding. But they’re not the only players in this coming war, and an entity known as The Red might have some bigger plans for humanity. This book, and the other two in the series are like a succulent turkey leg: impossible to put down.

Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds

If you’re looking for a bit of a shorter read, Alastair Reynold’s novella Slow Bullets is an excellent, bite-sized story. Protagonist Scur awakens on a prison transport to discover that everything is wrong, and nobody can remember their past. Along with another passenger, she begins to piece together what had happened before the ship’s computer dies, taking their memories with it. Along the way, the passengers must learn to cooperate, and overcome their respective histories.

Coyote by Allen M. Steele

If planetary exploration is more your style, Allen Steele’s Coyote is a fantastic read. Told through a series of connected short stories, the novel follows a group of renegade colonists who steal a starship from an oppressive government and take off for a distant, habitable moon. The novel charts the challenges that they face as they work to set up their own colony and fight to survive. If everything turns out right, this book could become a really impressive television show before too long.

Behind the Throne by K.B. Wagers

Earlier this fall, K.B. Wagers released her first novel, Behind The Throne, the start to a promising series. Space pirate Hail Bristol has established a fearsome reputation, but she harbors a secret: she’s actually royalty, an heir to the Indranan Empire. When her older siblings are murdered, she’s brought home to reluctantly claim the thrown. Soon enough, she discovers a major, interstellar plot that threatens to shake the empire to its foundations. Its sequel, After the Crown, comes out next month.

Those are just a tiny faction of the adventures you can take this Thanksgiving weekend. What else do you have on your to-read list?