Top Five Space Opera Novels

Chris Van Deelen

Over the years I have read several thousand novels. Some folks might think I’m full of crap, but it’s the truth. I started reading way back when I was in grade school and I’ve never stopped.

Over the decades I’ve switched genres and have tried to read pretty much everything that I could get my hands on, with two exceptions. Romance and Westerns. Well, if you add porn to that, then there are three exceptions.

When it comes down to it, Science Fiction has always been my one great love. The genre that I always return to, even if I got into other genres such as Mysteries or Urban Fantasy.

As with last week, this week I will briefly discuss my top five favorite science fiction novels that could and should become tabletop RPG’s.

So, in no particular order, my choices.

  1. Honor Harrington by David Weber – If you count all the spinoffs and so forth, this series is well into the twenties. It is as pure space opera as you can get. Grand and glorious battles between fleets, heroic characters, star-spanning empires… even a few aliens for good measure. It’s pure military SF however, so if that is not your cup of tea, then skip it. Still, even without the ship-to-ship combat, one could easily run a campaign based on espionage or exploration.
  2. The Lost Fleet by Jack Campbell – This series originally started out as ‘The Lost Fleet’ but has spawned two additional series. The first is a direct continuation of the original series, and is called ‘The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier’. The second is called ‘The Lost Stars’ and deals with events taking place in the Syndicate Worlds after their defeat at the hands of John ‘Black jack’ Geary. The first six novels dealt with a hero being discovered, revived and put in charge of a fleet that was about to be destroyed. This is essentially the culmination of over a century of warfare between the Alliance and their bitter enemies the Syndicates. Massive fleet engagements, espionage, traitors and mystery abound, including the discovery and revelation of who was behind the initial breakout of hostilities. Once again, military SF but just so many possibilities for good role playing situations.
  3. Troy Rising by John Ringo Funny how Mr. Ringo was capable of getting on two of my top five lists. Think of an alien race depositing a ring or gateway, which opens up pretty much the galaxy to humanity. Think of a second alien race coming in and blackmailing earth into handing over resources or be destroyed. That is the premise of this three book series. It is his typical work, dealing with logistics and explaining how things get done, but is filled with a ton of humor (especially how earth figures out how to make money with the aliens) and tons of action.
  4. Kris Longknife series by Mike Shepherd This series has all the earmarks of the previous novels I have mentioned, although it does not deal with the massive fleet engagements that you would have in the lost fleet or Honor Harrington. It is more about two families, who essentially control two empires, and of course both families have a bitter rivalry. Enter Kris Longknife. Rich, headstrong but a natural leader. This series deals more with the espionage and exploration side of Space Opera and has some well written – if poorly named (in my humble opinion) characters. Mike Shepherd has even begun a spin off series dealing with the daughter of the rival family, Viki Peterwald. I haven’t read that one yet, but as with my previous choices, this series has a wonderfully rich background and plenty of opportunities for military action, espionage, exploration and so forth.
  5. Serrano Legacy by Elizabeth Moon Another series dealing with strong characters and a heavy military background. There are only seven novels in this series, and the focus switches from one main character to another about midway through. Once again it is heavy on the military aspect and espionage, but it also contains a very rich and detailed universe and well written characters.

Chris Van Deelen is the author of the Skirmisher Publishing LLC sourcebook  Creatures of the Tropical Wastes  sourcebook, co-author of its  Wisdom from the Wastelands  game supplement and contributor to the  'Sword of Kos: Hekaton'  Anthology.