The best books chronicling the rise, fall, and rebirth of galactic empires

Who am I?

Science fiction has always been a passion of mine and, paradoxically, so has history. I lost count long ago of how many historical treatises and historical fiction books I’ve read alongside the science fiction classics, especially those with a military flavor. I was also an Army officer, both regular and reserve, for most of my adult life, and gleefully tore through the recommended Army reading list, much of which focused on military history. Combining my interest in history with my military experience and my love for science fiction led me to create a future universe where empires rise, grow old, and collapse only to be reborn and repeat the cycle.

I wrote...

Imperial Sunset

By Eric Thomson,

Book cover of Imperial Sunset

What is my book about?

When humanity's first interstellar empire comes crashing down in a murderous civil war, one man fights to save his civilization's greatest treasure from the long night of barbarism — the knowledge and wisdom accumulated by countless societies over thousands of years. With that knowledge preserved, humanity might, one day, regain its place among the stars. But before Captain Jonas Morane, late of her Imperial Majesty’s Navy, can even begin his work to rescue as much as possible, he must lead a ragtag starship convoy through a wormhole network torn asunder by conflict and reach an almost forgotten world.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Dune

Eric Thomson Why did I love this book?

Dune was one of the first epic science fiction novels I read as a teenager, and it had a profound influence on my relationship with the genre because of the sweeping narrative which created a universe where high and low tech lived side-by-side with mysticism. The idea of a story set so far into the future that I could barely grasp the passage of time, but with societies we can still recognize made me realize that humanity will not and probably cannot fundamentally change. And that narrative thread came to influence my own writing.

By Frank Herbert,

Why should I read it?

51 authors picked Dune as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Before The Matrix, before Star Wars, before Ender's Game and Neuromancer, there was Dune: winner of the prestigious Hugo and Nebula awards, and widely considered one of the greatest science fiction novels ever written.

Melange, or 'spice', is the most valuable - and rarest - element in the universe; a drug that does everything from increasing a person's lifespan to making interstellar travel possible. And it can only be found on a single planet: the inhospitable desert world of Arrakis.

Whoever controls Arrakis controls the spice. And whoever controls the spice controls the universe.

When the Emperor transfers stewardship of…

Book cover of Foundation

Eric Thomson Why did I love this book?

Foundation wasn’t my first Asimov story. On the contrary. My father enjoyed his books, and I tore through his library after discovering them as a teen. But what set Foundation apart from his other work and made it memorable for me was the concept of psychohistory — predicting how humanity would develop through rise, collapse, and rebirth. The idea fired up my own imagination and there is no doubt Asimov’s influence was key in helping me develop as a writer by sparking ideas about the rise and fall of empires, something that always fascinated me as an amateur historian.

By Isaac Asimov,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Foundation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first novel in Isaac Asimov’s classic science-fiction masterpiece, the Foundation series

THE EPIC SAGA THAT INSPIRED THE APPLE TV+ SERIES FOUNDATION, NOW STREAMING • Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read
For twelve thousand years the Galactic Empire has ruled supreme. Now it is dying. But only Hari Seldon, creator of the revolutionary science of psychohistory, can see into the future—to a dark age of ignorance, barbarism, and warfare that will last thirty thousand years. To preserve knowledge and save humankind, Seldon gathers the best minds in the Empire—both scientists and scholars—and brings…

Book cover of War World: Discovery

Eric Thomson Why did I love this book?

The War World series of novels, novellas, and short stories drew me in because they represent a microcosm of what happens when a civilization crashes in an inhospitable environment. I’ve been an avid fan of Jerry Pournelle’s CoDominium universe ever since reading West of Honor and seeing how it evolved for good and for bad through the War World lens, as developed by a long list of fantastic authors, kept intriguing me for years. Many of the concepts developed throughout the series had a marked influence on my own worldbuilding, and for that, it will always have a special place in my pantheon of books.

By John F. Carr (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked War World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

War World: Discovery, edited by John F. Carr, is the 9th book in the on-going War World Saga, which includes 3 novels, the most recent being War World: The Battle of Sauron by John F. Carr & Donald Hawthorne published in 2008. The War World series is a shared-world universe created by Jerry E. Pournelle & John F. Carr and is set in Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium/Empire of Man future history. The moon Haven contains the harshest environments for life among the seventy habitable planets within the CoDominium sphere. After Haven's discovery, this distant moon quickly becomes the center of a…

Book cover of The Forge (The Raj Whitehall Series: The General, Book 1)

Eric Thomson Why did I love this book?

This series, to my mind, epitomizes the idea of a gradual rebirth after a galactic civilization collapses, leaving humans stranded on countless worlds with varying degrees of technology. I found the way in which Drake approaches said rebirth incredibly fascinating as well as entertaining, by using sentient artifacts of the long-vanished empire to guide humans back to the stars. And, as a dog lover, I really enjoyed him using oversized canines instead of horses for his pre-industrial cavalry.

Book cover of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Eric Thomson Why did I love this book?

I’ve been an amateur historian for as long as I can remember. The past enthralls me, especially the bits where everything goes wrong and entire societies crumble. I suppose it’s because I agree with George Santayana that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, and the idea has always held a certain fascination. As downfalls go, I figure none had a greater effect on western civilization than that of the classic Roman Empire and for me, it’s the template which explains so many historical cycles of the past and will continue to explain those of the future. Gibbon’s work is the definitive story of that era and a must-read for anyone interested in predicting what the next few centuries might bring.

By Edward Gibbon,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Edward Gibbon€™s classic timeless work of ancient Roman history in 6 volumes collected into 2 boxed sets, in beautiful, enduring hardcover editions with elegant cloth sewn bindings, gold stamped covers, and silk ribbon markers.

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The Lion and the Fox: Two Rival Spies and the Secret Plot to Build a Confederate Navy

By Alexander Rose,

Book cover of The Lion and the Fox: Two Rival Spies and the Secret Plot to Build a Confederate Navy

Alexander Rose Author Of Empires of the Sky: Zeppelins, Airplanes, and Two Men's Epic Duel to Rule the World

New book alert!

Who am I?

A long time ago, I was an early-aviation historian, but eventually realized that I knew only half the story—the part about airplanes. But what about airships? Initially, I assumed, like so many others, that they were a flash-in-the-pan, a ridiculous dead-end technology, but then I realized these wondrous giants had roamed and awed the world for nearly four decades. There was a bigger story here of an old rivalry between airplanes and airships, one that had since been forgotten, and Empires of the Sky was the result.

Alexander's book list on Zeppelin airships

What is my book about?

From the author of Washington’s Spies, the thrilling story of two rival secret agents — one Confederate, the other Union — sent to Britain during the Civil War.

The South’s James Bulloch, charming and devious, was ordered to acquire a clandestine fleet intended to break Lincoln’s blockade, sink Northern merchant vessels, and drown the U.S. Navy’s mightiest ships at sea. Opposing him was Thomas Dudley, an upright Quaker lawyer determined to stop Bulloch in a spy-versus-spy game of move and countermove, gambit and sacrifice, intrigue and betrayal.

Their battleground was the Dickensian port of Liverpool, whose dockyards built more ships each year than the rest of the world combined and whose merchant princes, said one observer, were “addicted to Southern proclivities, foreign slave trade, and domestic bribery.”

The Lion and the Fox: Two Rival Spies and the Secret Plot to Build a Confederate Navy

By Alexander Rose,

What is this book about?

From the New York Times bestselling author of Washington's Spies, the thrilling story of the Confederate spy who came to Britain to turn the tide of the Civil War-and the Union agent resolved to stop him.

"Entertaining and deeply researched...with a rich cast of spies, crooks, bent businessmen and drunken sailors...Rose relates the tale with gusto." -The New York Times

In 1861, soon after the outbreak of the Civil War, two secret agents-one a Confederate, the other his Union rival-were dispatched to neutral Britain, each entrusted with a vital mission.

The South's James Bulloch, charming and devious, was to acquire…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in galactic empires, extraterrestrial life, and space horror?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about galactic empires, extraterrestrial life, and space horror.

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