The best well-written slam-bang adventures

William Illsey Atkinson Author Of Sun's Strong Immortality
By William Illsey Atkinson

Who am I?

I had a rotten childhood. Stuck in bed with asthma, I couldn’t do sports; but I could roam space and time with books, especially science fiction. Yet when I tried to re-read my beloved sci-fi titles as an adult, I got a shock. The books with sound science had terrible writing; the well-written books were full of scientific schlock. I realized that if I wanted sci-fi that was both technically astute and rewarding to read, I’d have to write it myself. And so I did.

I wrote...

Sun's Strong Immortality

By William Illsey Atkinson,

Book cover of Sun's Strong Immortality

What is my book about?

A tiny faction of humans hidden in distant space has achieved the ultimate technology: Immortality without decay. But when the centuries-old First of this splinter group do not share power, what happens to the young? And what happens to the New Earth when a virulent Old Earth learns of its existence and starts to track it down? In this new series I look at the extremes of human mind, heart, and invention in clear and riveting prose. Here is great hard-science fiction -- literate, exciting, technically rigorous, and unputdownable.

The books I picked & why

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Raintree County

By Ross Lockridge,

Book cover of Raintree County

Why this book?

My friends and I discovered Raintree County as undergrads, and found in it everything that matters – history, character, politics, and above all action. Here is life with all its pleasure and horror, apostasy and faith, sacrifice and victory. Here too is the core of American democracy, its glories and fiascos: a love letter to the Republic, more than ever relevant in the factional bitterness of today. An unforgettable novel from a man who killed himself at 34.

Flying Colours

By C.S. Forester,

Book cover of Flying Colours

Why this book?

"I find Hornblower admirable, vastly entertaining," said Winston Churchill in the best short review ever written. Forester takes you back 200 years to an age of wooden ships and iron men. Here you smell the powder, see the mainsails strain, hear the roar of cannon and the clang of steel – and learn more about the Napoleonic Wars than any textbook could convey. The Hornblower books are all electrifying, but to my mind, this is the best.


By George MacDonald Fraser,

Book cover of Flashman

Why this book?

If Hornblower is my favorite fictional sailor, my favorite fictional soldier is Sir Harry Paget Flashman. But while Hornblower has real courage, Flashman is an anti-hero – posturing as noble but in truth a coward, lecher, and cad. With one redeeming trait: absolute honesty in showing the 19th century as it really was. From incompetent generals to scheming statesmen and aristocrats who bribe their way to titles via sweatshops and the slave trade, Flashman gives us a dark but fascinating underside of history.

The Revolt on Venus

By Carey Rockwell,

Book cover of The Revolt on Venus

Why this book?

Tom Corbett, Space Cadet remains my favorite young adult series. What’s not to like? Fights ending in fellowship, villains, and perils defeated, all in a dazzling 24th-century world of atomic spaceflight, electric wristwatches, high-speed slidewalks, hard-nosed Solar Guard officers with hearts of gold, and – remember this was written 70 years ago – brilliant women who are full professors of astrophysics at Space Academy (I’ll always love you, Dr. Joan Dale). Oh yes, and the Paralo-Ray: a weapon that immobilizes but does not kill. Of the eight Corbett books, The Revolt on Venus is the best: tense and thrilling, full of great characters, and politically astute.

Lives of Girls and Women

By Alice Munro,

Book cover of Lives of Girls and Women

Why this book?

Great adventure doesn’t always mean jungles, star-wastes, or derring-do. The human heart – what one poet called "the wilderness behind the eyes" – can be as electrifying as any firefight. In this tradition, Alice Munro won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature. Lives of Girls and Women is her second novel, and like all great adventure stories will tell you more about yourself than you ever suspected. As Sir Walter Scott said of Jane Austen: "That young lady has a talent for describing the involvements and feelings and characters of ordinary life."

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