The best books combining fantasy and social commentary

Why am I passionate about this?

My great interests have been ships and space travel, and if one takes time to consider the similarities the parallels stand out. Ships, especially submarines, travel in a medium and through an environment that is hostile to human life. In space travel, the ‘ship’ becomes the only habitat in which we can survive for any extended period, leaving it without a space suit is a fatal move. I cannot claim to be an expert in closed environments, but it's a subject that has fascinated me throughout my life. Every ‘biosphere’ is unique and incredibly complex and depends on the symbiosis of an enormous number of living creatures right down to bacteria and even viruses. 


I wrote...

Captain James Heron First Into the Fray: Prequel to Harry Heron Into the Unknown of the Harry Heron Series

By Patrick G. Cox, Janet Angelo (editor),

Book cover of Captain James Heron First Into the Fray: Prequel to Harry Heron Into the Unknown of the Harry Heron Series

What is my book about?

The year is 2202, and the recently widowed Captain James Heron is appointed to stand by his next command, the starship NECS Vanguard, while she is being built.

He and his team soon discover that they are battling the Consortium, a shadowy corporate group that seeks to steal the specs for the ship’s new super weapon.The Consortium hires the Pantheon, a mysterious espionage agency, to do their dirty work as they lay plans to take down the Fleet and gain supreme power on an intergalactic scale. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Fifth Elephant

Patrick G. Cox Why did I love this book?

Like all of Pratchett’s disc world books the story is well thought out, the characters people the reader can identify with and, in some cases, even recognise, but it is also more than just a story. Pratchett is an absolute master at folding social commentary into his stories, and this one is no exception. The cynical Commander of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, Sir Samuel Vimes, reluctant Duke of Ankh, is sent into Überwald as Ambassador to attend the coronation of the Low King of the Dwarves and must deal with a Werewolf clan, plotting dwarf factions, and the Lady Margalotta as he solves the puzzle of the theft of the Scone of Stone. Inuendoes, excitement, devious twists, and Sybil, Duchess of Ankh make for an amusing and intriguing tale. 

By Terry Pratchett,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Fifth Elephant as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

They say that diplomacy is a gentle art. That its finest practitioners are subtle, sophisticated individuals for whom nuance and subtext are meat and drink. And that mastering it is a lifetime's work. But you do need a certain inclination in that direction. It's not something you can just pick up on the job. Which is a shame if you find yourself dropped unaccountably into a position of some significant diplomatic responsibility. If you don't really do diplomacy or haven't been to school with the right foreign bigwigs or aren't even sure whether a nod is as good as a…


Book cover of Night Watch

Patrick G. Cox Why did I love this book?

Pratchett’s Discworld is, as he describes it, a ‘mirror of worlds’. Yes, it is one in which ‘magic’ replaces such mundane things as electricity, but it is very much a ‘mirror’ in which one explores, through humour, through parody, all manner of societal issues. Pratchett is funny, but he can also be provocative while being funny, and he can explore some very difficult topics in these stories without being blatant. Carcer, the villain, is a psychopath and must be stopped, but the reader also discovers that the villain is also a victim. The plot is complex (as always), but the story it carries is a gripping one. Can a time-displaced Sam Vimes beat Carcer? Read it and see. 

By Terry Pratchett,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Night Watch as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A beautiful new hardback edition of the classic Discworld novel.

Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch had it all.

But now he's back in his own rough, tough past without even the clothes he was standing up in when the lightning struck...

Living in the past is hard. Dying in the past is incredibly easy. But he must survive, because he has a job to do. He must track down a murderer, teach his younger self how to be a good copper and change the outcome of a bloody rebellion.

There's a problem:if he wins, he's got no…


Book cover of The Door into Summer

Patrick G. Cox Why did I love this book?

Heinlein created a fascinating story of an engineer double-crossed by his partner and his girlfriend. Like all Heinlein’s stories there are several twists in the tale along the way, a lot of wry humour, some well thought-out ‘science’, and the light relief is provided by the hero’s cat who accompanies him on a journey that involves cryogenics, time travel and ultimately a double-double cross that sees the hero come out on top.

I could have picked any of Heinlein’s books, they are all very well thought out, and all follow believable twists to the science of the day. In a sense his work is timeless and still very readable. The Door into Summer is one of the first of his books I read, and I was hooked.

By Robert A. Heinlein,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Door into Summer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A popular and enduring time travel tale by one of science fiction's all-time greats

When Dan Davis is crossed in love and stabbed in the back by his business associates, the immediate future doesn't look too bright for him and Pete, his independent-minded tomcat. Suddenly, the lure of suspended animation, the Long Sleep, becomes irresistible and Dan wakes up 30 years later in the 21st century, a time very much to his liking.

The discovery that the robot household appliances he invented have been mass produced is no surprise, but the realization that, far from having been stolen from him,…


Book cover of The Science of Discworld

Patrick G. Cox Why did I love this book?

This book and the others, including The Globe, Darwin’s Watch, and Judgement Day, are wonderful in their mix of fantasy – Pratchett’s Discworld Wizards mixing it up in their quest to understand the “Round World” they accidentally created – and real science introduced and explained by Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen. The fantasy and the science are seamlessly interwoven in a way that make some complex subjects not just understandable but very readable. Like the explanation of exploring particle physics in the Large Hadron Collider by comparing it to a race that has never seen a piano, cannot see the piano, and try to determine its function and properties by hitting it and eventually pushing it out of a window five stories up and then naming the sounds it makes on hitting the ground…

By Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, Jack Cohen

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Science of Discworld as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When a wizardly experiment goes adrift, the wizards of Unseen University find themselves with a pocket universe on their hands: Roundworld, where neither magic nor common sense seems to stand a chance against logic. The Universe, of course, is our own. And Roundworld is Earth. As the wizards watch their accidental creation grow, we follow the story of our universe from the primal singularity of the Big Bang to the Internet and beyond. Through this original Terry Pratchett story (with intervening chapters from Cohen and Stewart) we discover how puny and insignificant individual lives are against a cosmic backdrop of…


Book cover of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Patrick G. Cox Why did I love this book?

This is the story that first got me interested in science fiction. Of course, we now recognise some of the flaws in the science, but consider that at the time of its writing steam propulsion was still in its infancy, most ships were still built of timber, and Verne envisaged a ship capable of indefinite travel beneath the ocean surface – something not even possible until the advent of nuclear power almost a century later. Even today Verne’s vision and the story he wove around it can inspire.

By Jules Verne,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 11, 12, 13, and 14.

What is this book about?

First serialized in a French magazine from 1869-1870, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is an incredible adventure story that popularized science fiction throughout the world.

Professor Aronnax, a marine biologist, joins harpoonist Ned Land in search of a mysterious sea creature in the open ocean, only to discover that the beast is actually a submarine piloted by the enigmatic Captain Nemo. They are taken captive, thus beginning a strange undersea voyage from Antarctic ice shelves to the subterranean city of Atlantis, hunting sharks along the way.

With its sprawling, exotic plot and vivid descriptions, Jules Verne's epic underwater adventure…


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Captain James Heron First Into the Fray: Prequel to Harry Heron Into the Unknown of the Harry Heron Series

By Patrick G. Cox, Janet Angelo (editor),

Book cover of Captain James Heron First Into the Fray: Prequel to Harry Heron Into the Unknown of the Harry Heron Series

Patrick G. Cox Author Of Ned Farrier Master Mariner: Call of the Cape

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

On the expertise I claim only a deep interest in history, leadership, and social history. After some thirty-six years in the fire and emergency services I can, I think, claim to have seen the best and the worst of human behaviour and condition. History, particularly naval history, has always been one of my interests and the Battle of Jutland is a truly fascinating study in the importance of communication between the leader and every level between him/her and the people performing whatever task is required.  In my own career, on a very much smaller scale, this is a lesson every officer learns very quickly.

Patrick's book list on the Battle of Jutland

What is my book about?

Captain Heron finds himself embroiled in a conflict that threatens to bring down the world order he is sworn to defend when a secretive Consortium seeks to undermine the World Treaty Organisation and the democracies it represents as he oversees the building and commissioning of a new starship.

When the Consortium employs an assassin from the Pantheon, it becomes personal.

Captain James Heron First Into the Fray: Prequel to Harry Heron Into the Unknown of the Harry Heron Series

By Patrick G. Cox, Janet Angelo (editor),

What is this book about?

The year is 2202, and the recently widowed Captain James Heron is appointed to stand by his next command, the starship NECS Vanguard, while she is being built. He and his team soon discover that they are battling the Consortium, a shadowy corporate group that seeks to steal the specs for the ship’s new super weapon. The Consortium hires the Pantheon, a mysterious espionage agency, to do their dirty work as they lay plans to take down the Fleet and gain supreme power on an intergalactic scale. When Pantheon Agent Bast and her team kidnap Felicity Rowanberg, a Fleet agent…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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