What have you got on your book shelves?: Author J.T. Nicholas shares his top 10 sci-fi reads

Recently I reviewed the sci-fi novel Re-coil and loved it. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to ask the author, J.T. Nicholas to write a guest post for my blog. So what did I want to know? What are his top 10 sci-fi books of course! So here are his choices. Enjoy!

It’s always hard to choose a “top 10” on any given subject on any given day, but it’s even harder for me when it comes to books. Part of that is that I’ve been reading sci-fi for 30+ years and I’m sure in that time there are amazing books that I’ve (somewhat embarrassingly) completely forgotten. Part of it is because genres are somewhat fluid and I enjoy books that have a bit of Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup going on… “You got your sci-fi in my fantasy; you got your fantasy in my sci-fi!” Still, when I was asked to do a personal top 10 for sci-fi, I had to give it a shot… because I’ve used those same kinds of lists to find books for years and never did one myself.

A couple of caveats. First, these are my personal pics. Your mileage may vary, but all these books are meaningful to me in some way and I’d recommend them (and do) to anyone who asked for a good read. Second, these are in no particular order. It’s hard enough limiting things to 10 books… I don’t think I could rank them. Third, these come from multiple facets of science-fiction. Contemporary, high concept, space opera, mil-sci-fi, silly sci-fi, serious sci-fi… I’m pretty much a fan of all of the above. And fourth, I’m going to try and only list any given author once, to spread the love a bit.

So, without further ado, here we go…

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The Parafaith War by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

There’s something about Modesitt’s protagonists that I find irresistible. I think it’s that most of them go through some sort of awakening, realizing that they’ve sort of gone along with the norms of their society before having their eyes opened to the broader world (ok, universe) and realizing that things are always more complicated than they seem at first. There’s also always a moral or ethical question at the heart of Modesitt’s books that leaves me thinking.

The Honor Harrington Series by David Weber.

Military Sci-Fi has a special place in my heart (and I’ll write one of my own someday), but the Honor Harrington series reminds me of a Hundred Years War epic… but set thousands of years into the future. Watching Honor change and grow from a simple cruiser Captain to one of the most powerful forces in multiple star kingdoms is just good ole’fashioned fun. And Weber’s unique take on space battles really is weaponized math. But, you know… much cooler than that sounds.

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Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein.

I could have picked anything by Heinlein, really, but Starship Troopers has some nice social commentary set against a ground war (a rarity in sci-fi). Plus powered armor which just makes the anime fan in me happy.

Star of the Guardians by Margaret Weis.

This is a lasers-blasting, swords-flashing homage to Star Wars, and it’s fantastic. It’s one of my favorite space operas out there. I’d rather read this for the 17th time than sit through any of the Star Wars prequels.

Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn.

Speaking of Star Wars, how can I not put the Thrawn Trilogy on here? Star Wars shaped my childhood, and these books made me realize that the universe didn’t end where the movies did. Grand Admiral Thrawn is better than Vader. Fight me.

We Are Legion (We Are Bob) by Dennis E. Taylor.

This one falls into that weird realm of being super believable and super far-fetched at the same time, which makes it super interesting. What better way to explore space than by sending out a human mind (sort of) locked into a machine? And why not give it the ability to 3d print duplicates of itself? What could go wrong? This is one of the more interesting and innovative things I’ve read in recent years.

Starship’s Mage Omnibus by Glynn Stewart.

Uh oh, you got peanut butter in my chocolate. This is a nice blend of sci-fi and magic and done in a way that is just… smoother… than a lot of what I see out there. Well written and well-paced, if you like a little fantasy in your sci-fi, check it out.

Dune by Frank Herbert.

He who controls the spice… gets added to the list. I’ve read this book so many times that I can quote entire passages. What can you say about Dune that hasn’t already been said? If you haven’t read it, you’re missing out. Also, the real time strategy game by Westwood Studios is a gem and now I have to go try and find it.

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Caves of Steel by Isaac Asminov.

This was my first sci-fi detective read and (you may have noticed) the sub-genre made an impression. Asminov is the OG, the progenitor of the Three Laws of Robotics that most sci-fi nerds can at least paraphrase. He also asked a question that I like to explore: what does it mean to be human?

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson.

I can’t believe I made it to number 10 without any cyberpunk. Shame on me. Snow Crash was my first exploration into cyberpunk and the virtual world. The protagonist is a pizza delivery driver for the Mafia. Do you need to know anything more?

Okay, so I left off SOOOOOO many good books. It’s almost physically painful to look at my bookshelf and realize how many amazing works I’m leaving off… and that doesn’t even count all the fantasy and thriller novels staring accusingly at me. I have to draw the line somewhere (and get back to writing my next book for Titan) so I’ll leave it at that. I hope you find something on this list that you’ll love as much as I do.

~J.T.

J.T. Nicholas is the author of the novel Re-coil published by Titan Books. Click here to go to the site to order a copy.

Click here to read my review of Re-coil.

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