The Best Sci-Fi I’ve Read All Year – Bloggin’ on the ETC [BOOK WEEK II]

I love literary novels, love, love, love them. But let’s face it, man cannot live on exquisitely-crafted prose alone. Also, the line between literary and boring is thin, and I’ve been burned bad — as in usually my “Worst Novel of the Year” pick is a book that has crossed that line egregiously¬†bad. So I often take “great literature” breaks with sci-fi. And whenever, someone says on Facebook says that they’d like to read a book that’s good but not too heavy I tend to suggest sci-fi. So just in case you’re looking for the same, here are my favorite sci-fi reads of the year so far.

Title: REDSHIRTS

Author: John Scalzi

Why I Decided to Read It: I’d heard a lot about Scalzi, but had never dived into one of his books. However, the plot to REDSHIRTS, which basically boils down to, crew members on a Star Trek-like ship, start to realize that they’re basically disposable, and try to figure out why, seemed too good a concept to pass by. I gifted the audiobook to my husband for his birthday, and it immediately sent him into book thrall to the point that he was nagging and nagging me to read it, too. Finally I did and it sent me into the exact same thrall.

What I Loved: Scalzi goes big in this one — you think you know how big he’s going, but then he goes up and beyond that. Every writer should read this just for the lesson in having balls.

Writing Lessons Learned: You can write a compelling book with well-formed characters barely using any physical descriptors at all. Pretty impressive.

Title: Q: A Novel

Author: Evan J. Mandery

Why I Decided to Read It: Q: A Novel got a great write up in i09, and I’m a sucker for anything meta that involves time travel and romance.

What’s It About: A soon-to-be-married professor/writer is surprised when he’s invited out to dinner by his future self and told not to marry his fiancee, with whom he’s deeply in love. He breaks off the engagement, but then no matter what path he chooses, he keeps on getting visits from his future selves.

What I Loved: Of all the novels I’ve read this year, this one has resonated with me the most. It made me wonder what I would tell my younger self if I had the chance to travel back in time. It also made me wonder if I should bother if given the chance.

Writing Lessons Learned: A book can be overly self-indulgent and still resonate. Try to avoid self-indulgence, but if you simply must, make sure the core story is good enough to get the reader through. In this case it was.

Title: YEAR ZERO

Author: Rob Reid

Why I Decided to Read It: YEAR ZERO got a great write up on i09, so I … downloaded it for my husband to listen to. Yes, I’ll admit that sometimes when I’m on the fence about a book, I get it for my husband and wait for his verdict. Everybody has their book sifting process, man. Don’t judge me.

What’s It About: Aliens have been enjoying our music since the 70s, but they just figured out that thanks to our ridiculous copyright laws, they owe us a lot of money — like a lot of money, I’m talking “bankrupt the rest of the universe” a lot¬†of money. Can, Nick Carter, a lawyer on the verge of getting fired from his firm help set this issue right before the Earth is destroyed in an attempt for the aliens to get out of their debt? The trailer is much better than my summary, so check it out HERE.

What I Loved: Seriously, I have not laughed out loud this much in quite a while. If you loved HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE UNIVERSE, you’ll at least like this very much.

Writing Lessons Learned: This novel would have been stellar if the aliens didn’t have the exact same taste in music as say, a white man in his mid-40s, like the author. I found it hard to believe that the aliens would worship pretty much every big white act under the sun, but Michael Jackson, Lionel Ritchie, Rap, R&B, Anyone Not White barely gets a mention. It reminded me that difference between really good and great involves stepping outside of your comfort zone and really nailing the details, since it’s obvious that any alien that worshiped Earth music would pray at the altar of Michael Jackson.