The best books about spacecraft

4 authors have picked their favorite books about spacecraft and why they recommend each book.

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Broken Angels

By Richard K. Morgan,

Book cover of Broken Angels

Everyone has heard of Altered Carbon, but I actually prefer this second book in the series. The idea of digital immortality in these books really made me wonder what that very advanced technology might have been like when it was just being invented. That eventually led me to develop my own answer to that question in my own sci-fi novel. I so love the scene where Kovacs buys cortical stacks in bulk in a street market so he can fish through them to find appropriate team members to help him out on his mission.

Who am I?

My lifelong passion for history and culture led me to become a science fiction writer. I like to view history as not only the story of what has already happened, but also what is going to happen to humanity. I love to spend time thinking about the vast universe and what humanity’s evolving role will be, should we manage to survive our own self-destructive tendencies. I love history so much that I wish I were immortal, just so I could witness it all, and that, naturally, has led me to read so many sci-fi books featuring forms of immortality, and incorporating my own version of technical immortality into my writing.


I wrote...

The Immortality Game

By Ted Cross,

Book cover of The Immortality Game

What is my book about?

Moscow, 2138. With the world only beginning to recover from the complete societal collapse of the late 21st Century, Zoya scrapes by prepping corpses for funerals and dreams of saving enough money to have a child. When her brother forces her to bring him a mysterious package, she witnesses his murder and finds herself on the run from ruthless mobsters. Frantically trying to stay alive and save her loved ones, Zoya opens the package and discovers two unusual data cards, one that allows her to fight back against the mafia and another which may hold the key to everlasting life.

Sphere

By Michael Crichton,

Book cover of Sphere

Michael Crichton was the first author I fell in love with as a child. And it wasn’t until I was older that I realized how influential he was as a science fiction writer. His novels were always written so realistically that I never thought of them as science fiction, which always meant outer space to me growing up. Sphere is a great example of science fiction that blends together elements of other genres, which is something that I like to do as a writer. Sphere’s story is presented in a way that you start to believe this could legitimately happen in our world, and I find stories like that fascinating. Sphere is one of Crichton’s best and tends to get overlooked because of Jurassic Park. Read this instead.


Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated by science and space since I was a child and naturally gravitated toward science fiction. In many respects, it was a form of escapism, as I didn’t enjoy school. I always preferred escaping into another world or being taken on a journey to another world. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized that most great science fiction is a commentary on our own world and the issues we face daily. Science fiction, more than any other genre, does a better job of exploring and dissecting aspects of our world, which in turn helps us better understand our world and our relationship with it.


I wrote...

The Darkdrift

By Don Kinney,

Book cover of The Darkdrift

What is my book about?

Targeted LA cop Samuel Winter escapes the unforgiving Silanna cartel and flees to more familiar territory, New York City, where new enemies and friends—desperately bound to ancient text hidden in an otherworldly object—await his arrival and thrust him into a struggle to prevent a tragedy that may or may not occur, that may simply be shrouding a far greater catastrophe: the inescapable pull of the Darkdrift.

Star Of Gypsies

By Robert Silverberg,

Book cover of Star Of Gypsies

I'd never known anything about Gypsy culture (except cinematic stereotypes) until I read Silverberg's Star of Gypsies. Even though this book takes place on other worlds, centuries into the future, the traditions and the society of Gypsies survives. These nomadic spacefarers have evolved into important pieces of a galactic empire – an empire upon which the protagonist will have a profound effect. I loved the inventive world building and the complex yet often humorous main character, Yakoub. The tale fully engaged me from the very beginning and is one of those books I give my highest compliment – a page-turner you don't want to put down.


Who am I?

I've always been interested in Native American culture, while at the same time horrified at the way most European settlers treated them. (My best friend as a child was Native American.) Without consciously planning on it, many of my other books and short stories feature Native American customs and characters—though not as thoroughly as Red Sky, Blue Moon. I've also always been fascinated by Viking history, though I only recently discovered I'm a direct descendant of a fairly famous Viking—Rollo. I had no particular expertise with these cultures when I began this book, but I spent many hours of research to be sure I got everything right.


I wrote...

Red Sky, Blue Moon

By Bruce Golden,

Book cover of Red Sky, Blue Moon

What is my book about?

On an alien world where various Earth cultures have been transplanted centuries ago by otherworldly scientists, a Viking society evolves over the centuries into a cutthroat corporate culture of racial purists in an early industrial civilization. They have designs on the lands of a nearby continent where tribes of Sioux still cling to their old ways. War ensues, and at the core of the conflict is a native herb that may be the cure for a disease that ravages the corporatocracy, as well as being the secret to longevity.

It turns out the Vikings and the Sioux are not the only cultures transported to this world and, ultimately, this great speciation experiment will have unexpected and dire consequences for the experimenters. 

The Lost Fleet

By Jack Campbell,

Book cover of The Lost Fleet: Dauntless

Jack is an outstanding writer, and I think of him as the C.S. Forester of science fiction due to his ability to construct Horatio Hornblower-type characters and invent riveting plots. Dauntless is the first book in his Lost Fleet series and all of them are outstanding. The fact that he was a naval officer helps too. 


Who am I?

I am the author of more than sixty published novels, most of which are military science fiction, or near-future alternative history fiction, so I have an abiding interest in the subgenre, and the authors who helped to shape it.


I wrote...

Red Ice (Winds of War)

By William C. Dietz,

Book cover of Red Ice (Winds of War)

What is my book about?

From William C. Dietz, the New York Times bestselling author of the America Rising novels, comes Red Ice. A military thriller so believable the story could be ripped from tomorrow’s headlines. World War III is a month old. After attacking, and sinking the Destroyer USS Stacy Heath, the Chinese invade Tibet, and India counterattacks.

Meanwhile 7,000 miles to the north, the Russians are holding a training exercise called Red Ice. Except that it isn’t a training exercise and, if American forces fail to stop the enemy, the Russians will land on American soil. Army Air Force and even Coast Guard personnel will do their best to push the Russians back. But will their best be good enough?

A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe

By Alex White,

Book cover of A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe

Sci-fi is full of plucky bands of found family misfits going up against impossible odds, but the Salvagers series is one of its finest examples. Alex White blends sci-fi tech with a magic system that really works, and leads to some truly memorable action sequences. The final act of this book has stuck with me as one of those big fights where it seems like escape is impossible, but the danger is palpable and you honestly think the entire cast is going to be wiped out. And of course, once you finish Big Ship, continue on to the next two installments—each of which has their own harrowing moments filled with snarky characters, fresh ideas, and genuine character connection.


Who am I?

As a stage combat choreographer myself, fight sequences are always important to me: they have to be believable but exciting, they have to keep up the pace so the reader is experiencing the action at the same speed as the characters—but most importantly, they have to tell a story. Action just for the sake of action always feels empty, but great fight scenes that are both exhilarating and bound to the forward momentum of the plot and emotion will stay with me for a long time. Here’s some that I still remember long after I finished the book.


I wrote...

Nottingham

By Nathan Makaryk,

Book cover of Nottingham

What is my book about?

Sure, the story of Robin Hood has been done over and over again, but somehow I’ve never seen the version I really wanted. I’ve always hated “good guys” vs moustache-twirling “bad guys.” I wanted a Robin Hood with questionable motives, and a relatable Sheriff of Nottingham with good intentions.

Nottingham is my answer to a more complex look at Robin Hood lore, in which we see the world from multiple points of view on both sides of the conflict. There are still plenty of famous tentpole Robin Hood moments that will keep the story familiar to a reader’s expectations, but there are just as many Robin Hood tropes dismantled along the way, in favor of something more realistic and morally ambiguous.

The Witches of Karres

By James H. Schmitz,

Book cover of The Witches of Karres

I can still quote the opening of this novel verbatim: "It was around the hub of the evening on the planet of Porlumma that Captain Pausert, commercial traveler from the republic of Nikkeldepain, met the first of the witches of Karres. It was just plain fate, so far as he could see." Thus opens the most delightful romp in all of science fiction. When Pausert rescues three enslaved young girls, he sets in motion a comedy of errors, conspiracy, piracy, and intrigue that expands to involve the entire galaxy. Just who are these mysterious witches of Karres, and how can Captain Pausert return them safely to their home when everyone who's anyone is out to get them...and him?


Who am I?

I've been reading science fiction since I was old enough to hold a book upright, and writing it for almost as long. I grew up on the classics and still go back to them. I re-read books to study how their authors managed their craft, hoping to learn something useful in my own writing, but I also re-read books for the sheer pleasure of revisiting a favorite adventure. When I read something for the second (or the seventh) time, I know I'm going to enjoy it, and can savor the language as well as the story. It's like ordering a favorite meal in a restaurant: You know what you're getting, and can relax and enjoy it.


I wrote...

Paradise Passed

By Jerry Oltion,

Book cover of Paradise Passed

What is my book about?

The trip to Alpha Centauri has been Ryan's whole life. He grew up on the starship; he likes it there; the immense void between stars is part of his world -- but others on board aren't so lucky. The other colonists all want the same thing: To find a habitable planet at the end of their journey, but nobody expects their hopes and prayers to be answered so abundantly. Finding one habitable planet would be cause for celebration, but finding two could tear the crew, and its families, apart.

Journey to the Moon (Library of Flight)

By Eldon C. Hall,

Book cover of Journey to the Moon (Library of Flight)

Eldon Hall led the development of the Apollo Guidance Computer, that one-cubic-foot device with 76kb of memory that navigated, guided, and controlled each of the Apollo spacecraft — the machine that I helped program. His book is both a detailed description of the Apollo computer and a history of its development. The most dramatic chapter chronicles the bold decision to use integrated circuits in the design of the computer — all of the same type, to encourage the vendor to keep making them — although that technology was then anything but reliable. 


Who am I?

I have read most of the books written about Apollo, especially those ostensibly written by my fellow participants. I have read these books for pleasure, to find out about parts of the moon effort that I did not see first-hand, and to learn what I could from the authors’ mistakes and successes — with a view to the writing of my own book. The books I have come to value the most are the books that seem to have been created for some other reason than commercial gain, the books unmarred by ghostwriting or heavy-handed editing, the books where the author’s authentic voice speaks from the page.


I wrote...

Sunburst and Luminary: An Apollo Memoir

By Don Eyles,

Book cover of Sunburst and Luminary: An Apollo Memoir

What is my book about?

I was in the room and my eyes and ears were open. Almost by chance, I was hired to work on the Apollo project and they handed me the most dangerous and complex part of the mission to program in the LM’s onboard computer — the lunar landing itself. My role took me to interesting places and interesting people, astronauts for instance. I knew my way around Cape Canaveral. My code figured in several inflight dramas, one of which brought me fame for finding the solution. With all this — not to speak of my counter-culture adventures in 1960s Boston — my book is bound to thrill anyone interested in the moon mission.

Star Trek Shipyards

By Ben Robinson,

Book cover of Star Trek Shipyards: Alpha Quadrant and Major Species Volume 1: Acamarian to Ktarian

I got a sneak peek at this book at a convention, and it’s absolutely stunning. For the hard-core Trekkie, this is a must-have. It showcases detailed looks at ships from the Alpha and Beta Quadrants as seen in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: The Original Series, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Each ship is profiled in extreme detail, with technical specs, the ship’s history, and some cool renderings created using the original models created for the show. 

While I didn’t get to study every profile, this book contains 40 ships, including the Anaxar cargo vessel, the Breen Warship, the Cardassian Bok'Nor, the Cardassian military freighter, the Ferengi shuttle, the Gorn warship, the Husnok warship, and the Jem’Hadar battlecruiser.

Looking for a birthday or Christmas gift for a Trekkie this year? This may be top on their list. 


Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated by Star Trek since I was a young child and went to my first convention, seeing a gorgeous Uhura walk by trailed by three gentlemen dressed as Mr. Spock. One of my local librarians must have been a Trekkie because I checked out stacks of novels from the likes of James Blish and Vonda McIntyre. Now, as an author myself, I feel privileged to have not only been a Trekkie for many years but to have written a book about Star Trek with one of my best friends. I hope you enjoy these Star Trek books, and the many others that are coming this year and beyond, as much as I have. 


I wrote...

The Tao of Trek

By James T. Lambert, Troy Lambert,

Book cover of The Tao of Trek

What is my book about?

Star Trek has always tackled ethical questions on the screen, questions about not only whether we can do something, but whether we should. This book provides a background of the various Star Trek series and a look at the philosophy behind it from Roddenberry’s original ideas all the way to Discovery and Lower Decks.

The Star Trek franchise has changed the world, and the world has changed Star Trek. From the Prime Directive to Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, this book explores how they relate to Taoism, Buddhism, and other aspects of both western and eastern philosophies. A book by fans and for fans, this is a must-read for any Trekkie.

Astro Pea

By Amalia Hoffman,

Book cover of Astro Pea

When I first read this board book, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Amalia Hoffman’s vibrant chalk art is amazing, but the plot is a bit odd and the puns were corny. (Sorry, one really can’t help making vegetable puns after reading this book.) But my kids were obsessed! It moved into heavy rotation at our house, and I came to love little Pete the pea who leaves his safe pea pod to travel the galaxy on his carrot spaceship. It’s full of jokes and adventures perfect for the preschool crowd. I mean, who doesn’t want carrot rocketships for a snack?


Who am I?

Katherine Pryor is the award-winning author of several picture books about food and gardens. In addition to writing, she has worked to create better food choices at institutions, corporations, and food banks. She gardens with her young twins at their home on an island in northwest Washington. 


I wrote...

Zora's Zucchini

By Katherine Pryor, Anna Raff (illustrator),

Book cover of Zora's Zucchini

What is my book about?

The first harvest of a summer garden is always exciting, but what happens when the plants just keep growing...and growing...and growing? When Zora finds herself with more zucchini than her family can bake, sauté, or barbecue, she dreams up solutions to keep her precious veggies from going to waste. Fortunately, the resourceful girl comes up with the perfect plan—a garden swap! 

“A fun and accessible title that lends itself to discussion of gardening, nutrition, and problem-solving.” — School Library Journal

Saturn Run

By John Sandford, Ctein,

Book cover of Saturn Run

In the mid-21st century, an alien craft appears just beyond the orbit of Saturn and approaches the planet quickly before coming to a halt within its rings... and departs as fast as it arrived. The event shocks the world into a space race not unlike the Soviets and Americans fighting to be the first to put a man on the moon. As a hard science fiction novel, Saturn Run was an incredible read—an absolute joy. I personally loved every little detail provided of the space-station-turned-spacecraft, from the methods by which heat was radiated away from the ship to how it was designed for a multi-month excursion. Overall, I really enjoyed the story and would highly recommend it if you are a stickler for the kind of technical details that hard sci-fi novels should have.


Who am I?

My parents always encouraged me to explore the world and express myself. I also grew up in a home where the bookshelves were lined with Stephen King novels, encyclopedias, and VHS tapes containing episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. So it came as little surprise that my interests in astronomy, orbital mechanics, and fantastical technology concepts (who doesn't like the idea of a ringworld?) dominated my life. I also love history and the drive for exploring the endless possibilities behind the question "what if." Science fiction is, at its core, about exploring the human condition—this is where you’ll find my writing and the adventures I bring to you.


I wrote...

Eternal Shadow

By Trevor B Williams,

Book cover of Eternal Shadow

What is my book about?

What would you do if the world is going to end in ten years? For Jennifer Epstein, a by-the-books senior researcher at SETI, there is only one answer: prevent the apocalypse from happening. Pluto, Neptune, and Uranus were destroyed by an alien threat. The deck was stacked against humanity before the cards came out of the box.

But Jennifer isn’t alone. She has Samantha Monroe, her excitable but brilliant subordinate. From South Africa, CEO Muzikayise Khulu of Khulu Global supplies his vast resources to the ultimate race for survival. The three find themselves in an unlikely alliance while political brinkmanship, doomsday cults, and untested technologies form ever-growing obstacles. Will humanity unite to face the greatest challenge of their time, or will it destroy itself before the alien ship arrives?

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