Sometimes I get a caught in my enthusiasms. I find a theme, or a genre, and I run with it. There was that time when I was reading every book about Istanbul-Constantinople I could find, or when I lived in various post-apocalyptic universes. Many of you understand this. If the Internet is any indication (a frightening phrase), many of you are experiencing this right now with Star Wars.
That’s excellent. Really. I get it. We all have our obsessions. And, wow, books are a pretty place to live out our obsessions. So when someone asks me for a book recommendation, my first response is always: “What do you like?”
Not every book works for every person. If I have a basis from which to work, an idea of what you like, then we can talk. In this case, you like Star Wars, and you want to read something you know you’ll like based on that. Easy. So easy, in fact, that a number of articles along these lines have popped up.
Again, I support this, in theory. But then I see articles that suggest books “if you like Star Wars,” and they leave off Dune. DUNE. The ultimate Space Opera, and one of the formative influences on Star Wars.
I’ve tried to let it go. I really have. But… I don’t want cleverness getting in the way of someone finding the perfect new world to explore. So let’s forget being clever for a moment. Let’s talk about some books you might legitimately love if you’re a Star Wars fan.
- Dune, by Frank Herbert.
Read Dune. Just do it. You’ll recognize a lot of images, scenes, and characters from Star Wars that actually started here, with Frank Herbert’s masterpiece. It’s also one of the most beloved science fiction works of all time. So there’s that.
- Foundation, Isaac Asimov.
I should be recommending the entire trilogy but, bless Asimov’s heart, the dialogue gets a wee bit too pulpy as one slips deeper into the machinations and surprises. The first book, however, is a blast. Asimov conceived of it as a science fiction reboot of Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, which he read three times before the age of 23. When I first learned that fact, I knew I’d found someone who had out-nerded even me.
- Falling Free (Vorkosigan Saga Book 1), Lois McMaster Bujold
A Space Opera not to be missed. Bujold is one of the great science fiction writers of today, tied with Robert Heinlein for the number of Hugo Awards for Best Novel. I incline more towards her fantasy writing (like Paladin of Souls), but her Vorkosigan Saga is perhaps the most widely beloved.
- Hyperion, by Dan Simmons
Framed like The Canterbury Tales, this vast tale is one of the few Space Operas to gain the unabashed approval of critics as well as popular readers. His books take work, but you’re rewarded for it.
Both George Lucas and James Cameron (for Avatar) consciously patterned their epic visions after the spirit of Burroughs’ Martian Series. Yeah, they’re a bit campy. Fair warning. But they were good enough for Carl Sagan, and I’m pretty sure he was smarter than me, so…
No surprises here for science fiction mega fans, of course. (I will gladly have a discussion about the contributions of Delany, Reynolds, Niven, Vogt, Williamson and more later.) But for those of you who didn’t realize you liked the idea of science fiction until Star Wars: take a closer look.
Explore. Discover. Enjoy.
*A special note of thanks to Mike Poteet (@WriterMPoteet), who blogs for the Sci-Fi Christian, for the Burroughs inclusion. Before writing the post I ran my list by him, as my resident Star Wars-obsessed friend, and he reminded me–forehead smack–of Burroughs. How could I have missed that?!