The best sci-fi books at generating emotion

Steven Decker Author Of Time Chain
By Steven Decker

Who am I?

My love of reading was born on the day my 5th-grade teacher handed me a book of poetry; my “punishment” for throwing a spitball. I was to memorize “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” and recite it publicly the next day. I was mesmerized by the poem, because it drew a picture in my mind, and filled me with great emotion. As an 8th grader, I read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, for fun, then moved on to the great classics by Asimov and Heinlein. I wrote my first novel in 1988, but Time Chain is my first Sci-Fi novel, with more on the way. 

I wrote...

Time Chain

By Steven Decker,

Book cover of Time Chain

What is my book about?

It’s the year 2022. Dani Peterson has been walking in the west of Ireland, conducting historical research for her dissertation. But when she seeks shelter from a storm in Aideen O’Brien’s car, she gets more history than she bargained for. 

Aideen is a Time Link, with secret access to time travel technology. She sends Dani to 1978 to meet a younger version of herself. The two fall in love and Dani joins Aideen as a Time Link. They work for a man from 2253 named Charles Burke, who says his mission is to save the future. But after perilous trips to 1751 and 2253, Dani and Aideen discover that Charles is not the savior he claims to be.

The books I picked & why

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By Dan Simmons,

Book cover of Hyperion

Why this book?

Who can forget the Shrike? So treacherous. So invincible. I lost sleep waking up from nightmares about the Shrike. An absolutely unforgettable character, yet never even spoke a word of dialogue. And virtually all of the many other intriguing characters are tied to the Shrike in some fascinating way. I was particularly enamored with Martin Selinus, the poet of Hyperion, author of The Dying Earth, which sold over 2.5 billion copies. But I will never forget the Consul (far more than a government official), Brawne Lamia (the detective), Sol Weintrob (the scholar), Kassad (the soldier), Johnny Keats (the fusion cybrid), Father Hoyt (the priest), the mysterious Moneta, and more! Hyperion is built on the backs of its characters. A book that remains solidly placed in my mind.

Leviathan Wakes

By James S. A. Corey,

Book cover of Leviathan Wakes

Why this book?

Jim Holden, from Earth, touched my sense of morality. Detective Miller, from the Belt, touched my sense of courage. Naomi Nagata, from the Belt, touched my sense of love. Alex Kamal, from Mars, touched my sense of regret. Amos Burton, from the underworld of Earth, touched my sense of fear. Leviathan Wakes is nearly 600 pages long, and I was sad to see it end. But so happy that there were 8 more tomes in this sci-fi adventure series, each with new fascinating characters, taking me to the farthest reaches of the universe, and ever so poignantly teaching me that there is so much more for us to learn about realms we cannot see.  

Old Man's War

By John Scalzi,

Book cover of Old Man's War

Why this book?

I was moved from the opening lines of Old Man’s War. An ordinary man of 75 visits his wife’s grave, then joins the army. What? Oh yeah, now I understand. Mind uploading is integral to this book, first published in 2005, and it will soon be the rage in the real world of our near future. In Old Man’s War we experience mind uploading through the character, John Perry, and other new recruits. Then we fight. Perry becomes a war hero, and he crosses paths with his wife along the way. What? I thought she was dead? Oh yeah, now I understand. She was grown from Kathy Perry’s DNA, but she has no memory of John. Or does she? Military sci-fi adventure blooms into a love story? Wow, this could be a series. Oh, wait. It is! 

Children of Time

By Adrian Tchaikovsky,

Book cover of Children of Time

Why this book?

There is a slow build of emotion in this book. The use of cryogenic sleep allows the human characters to live for thousands of years. The passing of genetic memory from generation to generation allows the spider characters to do the same. But the spiders have one advantage. They’ve been infected by a human-designed nanovirus which causes them to evolve on an accelerated basis. And finally, AI allows the villain of the story, Avrana Kern, to live on, in spite of her human body wearing out. We ultimately feel the deep emotion of living things, struggling against one another to survive in a hostile universe—the humans, the spiders, and the AI ghost of Avrana Kern. By the time humans, spiders, and AI meet, the spiders may be the smartest of the three species. So who survives?

Last Watch

By J. S. Dewes,

Book cover of Last Watch

Why this book?

Full of fascinating sci-fi technology and characters, The Last Watch caused me to feel awe. The central concept surrounds the discovery of the edge of the universe. It’s called The Divide, and humans have used alien technology to reach it. And you definitely do not want to cross over The Divide. But what happens when the universe begins to collapse? The Sentinels—a rag-tag group of humans who’ve been banished for committing various crimes against humanity—are the guardians at The Divide. Led by an equally powerful and flawed protagonist, Adequin Rake, they square off against aliens and humans to try and save the universe. Action, love and death, and the emotions inherent in these things, are thoroughly enjoyed when you read this book.

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