Sunshine, beaches, and swimsuits; or lazy days spent next to the pool reading while the kids splash and distract themselves; or hard days of work in the blazing summer sun. No matter what your summer consists of what we all really need is a little time to get away and escape the day to day humdrum of this thing we call life.
I find when I want to escape work, kids, life and not even feel the sand between my toes I reach for a Sci-Fi novel. I think the strangely foreign cultures, the exotic locations, and the extraordinary beings we meet along the way lure us further and further away from our lives and into the hands of a talented writer.
The following list is not in any sort of order. They are just books I have read over the past summer or two and I wanted to pass on these gems, some common, and some not-so common, to you.
1. Helliconia Summer by Brian W. Aldiss
Though this is the second book in the trilogy I thought I should start this summer reading list off with a summer themed book. This book really asks the most important summer question of them all: What would it be like if the summer lasted year round?
2. Coyote by Allen Steele
This is the only frontier exploration novel on the list and in my opinion the best novel of its kind. It is a very rewarding experience as a reader to discover a new locale within the characters themselves.
You experience the moments leading up to the discovery of a new world as well as a new hope for a group of people. Mr. Steele lets us live through these characters, lets us feel their first experiences entering this new world. Experience birth, life and death in a richly detailed world.
3. Santaroga Barrier by Frank Herbert
Some people reading this list may not totally agree with this choice and think that I should instead have put Dune on here instead. However, I disagree and I”ll tell you why. This is a shorter novel and can be read in one or two reading sessions and also remains in your head long after you’ve turned the last page. Santaroga Barrier touches on most of the big concepts talked about it the Dune Series, but in a more concise summer reading kind of way.
4. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
This is hands down my favorite summertime read. I have read it several times, and in fact re-read it once or twice a year. It has all the great qualities of a summer best-seller in fiction and possesses such a identifiable, and, at the same time, foreign setting that it consumes you in the first few pages and thus is nearly impossible to put down.
5. Armada by Ernest Cline
This book did not disappoint. I was hoping that Cline’s second novel would do well and he would not be just a one trick pony. This book is amazing, it taps into the energy and nostalgia of his first novel and surpasses all expectations.
Fan of The Last Starfigher or 80’s Sci-Fi? This book is for you. Everyone should read it but you must go to a bookstore and make this one first on your list.
6. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
If you have not read this yet, this is the summer to do it. Stop what you are doing and get a copy of this. This is one of the most consuming books I have ever read. It will keep you awake for several days and nights and weeks, but it is worth the lack of sleep.
It is being made into a TV show and if you want to be a true fan of the show you should go ahead and start the novel now. Very easy to read, engrossing and wonderfully plotted. It would make a great beach book or a poolside read.
7. Count Zero by William Gibson
I am pretty sure this was the third of William Gibson’s books I read; the first two being Burning Chrome and then of course, Neuromancer. This was recommended to me under very strange circumstances. I was at a book reading in New Orleans one night and a small framed voodoo priestess told me this book would unlock truth and show me the Loa, I read it the next week.
8. The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
If you are familiar with the ideas of cyberpunk even a little bit then you are probably already familiar with Snow Crash and have read it. If you enjoyed those, this is a wonderful cyberpunk take on the classic coming of age story. A majestic novel of youth, adventure, manners and cyber-ware. What more could you want on a nice bright summer day?
9. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
I could not make any sort of Sci-Fi list without including a novel by my favorite all time author PKD. So many of his novels and so much of his short fiction is being made into big and small screen projects.
This wonderfully deep novel asks all the huge questions: Why are we here? What is our purpose? Who or what is real? Dick always asks the prominent questions about life and reality and it’s thoroughly presented through his maniac visionary words. The full range of humanity is explored in this novel; the common man, the criminal and the religious elements in our society.
Dick is the master of the near future science fiction story.
Whether you are relaxing on a beach staring out at the ocean or if you are just on your back porch with a book enjoying a cold beer staring at the stars, stop and think. Each of these books will give glimpses of realities that, for the moment at least, are out of our grasp. The ultimate escape for all your summer nights.
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Featured image via Vikki Romano