DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Jun 4 2011

ShareReads: Space Opera

by Jesse M

ShareReads appears on the DCPLive blog on Fridays. Each week, a different person will share a little about what they’re currently reading, and why they like or don’t like it. The heart of ShareReads will be responses from blog readers, and the window of opportunity here is wide. Feel free to respond and discuss the book or author being mentioned, ask or answer a question, or even take the conversation in a different direction: mention what you are currently reading, and how you feel about it. The point of ShareReads is to have an ongoing discussion about books and reading. Remember: posting a response also counts as an activity for the Summer Reading for Adults program.

It’s summer again, and that means ShareReads will once again be appearing in this spot on Fridays. To start off the discussion, I’d like to talk about one of my favorite (sub)genres of fiction, space opera. Space opera is science fiction on a grand scale: settings that span galaxies, time-scales measured in centuries, and larger than life characters, technologies, and conflicts. The term space opera has no relation to music, but rather draws a parallel between the style of writing and soap operas of daytime television fame. Although the term was originally used pejoratively, space opera is now a very popular genre with published works in a variety of different media, including books, television, film, and video games.

While there are many talented authors producing works of space opera, for this post I’m going to focus on my personal favorite, Peter F. Hamilton. Hamilton is a British author of mystery and science fiction, who first made his mark on the space opera scene with the epic, sprawling Night’s Dawn series. Originally published as a trilogy, it was broken up into six separate books here in the U.S. due to its size (around 3,200 pages total). I am currently re-reading (for what is probably the fifth time) the first title in the series, The Reality Dysfunction, and despite the fact that I already know what’s coming next, I still cannot put it down. Hamilton’s depiction of an interstellar human confederation spread across hundreds of planets and the high technology humans and their alien neighbors serve as a highly detailed backdrop for the dozens of point-of-view characters introduced in the novels. The plot is complex and ambitious in scope, as it must be to keep the reader engaged through the thousands of pages it takes for the story to play out. I highly recommend these books to any science fiction fan.

Sadly, the books in this series are not available in the DCPL catalog, but fortunately the library does have a number of Hamilton’s other titles in stock, several of which are also considered space opera. Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained make up the Commonwealth Saga, which is set in a universe as richly imagined as that of the Night’s Dawn trilogy. Equally as epic in scope and once again utilizing a large cast of point-of-view characters to tell the story, the duo of books would be an excellent starting point for individuals interested in getting a taste of Hamilton’s take on space opera. If you find you enjoy this sort of thing, after finishing the Commonwealth Saga you can dive right into the Void Trilogy, Hamilton’s latest offering, set in the same universe as the Commonwealth Saga but 1200 years in the future. The library carries the first two books in the trilogy, The Dreaming Void and The Temporal Void.

Have you ever read any space opera? If so, tell us about it! Or you can just tell us about what you’re reading now. Join the discussion, and welcome to ShareReads!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Hektor Karl June 4, 2011 at 12:57 PM

Nice review. I’ve added this to my (already long) reading list.

Lesley B June 7, 2011 at 6:54 PM

Hey, Pandora’s Star was good and so was Dan Simmons’ Hyperion series, which shows up on a lot of space opera lists. I didn’t know I liked it – who or what should I read next?

Jesse M June 8, 2011 at 12:02 PM

Lesley, you might enjoy the second Uplift trilogy (starting with Brightness Reef) by David Brin. At one point DCPL had the entire trilogy, but now it appears only the first and third are available (I’d provide links but unfortunately our catalog is currently down).

Or, if you’d rather not invest yourself in an entire series, I enjoyed Debatable Space by Phillip Palmer. We don’t have it in the catalog but I picked up my copy at a library book sale.

Finally, there was a good anthology released a few years ago featuring stories by prominent names in the genre titled The New Space Opera (and I believe a second installment has since been published). That might be worth checking our for those looking for bite-sized chunks of space opera.

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