Despite the deserved controversy surrounding author Orson Scott Card’s political and social views, his novel Ender’s Game (soon to be a movie) and the subsequent novels Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind remain to this day my favorite science fiction series of all time and without a doubt my number one recommendation for genre fans. Sometimes it’s difficult to separate the author from their work but fortunately for us, the Ender Saga transcends the opinions of its increasingly bigoted writer.
Ender’s Game is wonderful for its bleak look at war and sacrifice, but also for how deftly it handles the child characters and how seamlessly it introduces a plot that winds its way to a believable, shattering conclusion. It’s sci-fi that doesn’t feel like sci-fi, and I’ve also recommended it before on Litstack as a wonderful novel to get newbies into the genre. The later novels, though, are truly my favorites. Speaker for the Dead is a beautiful, fascinating look at interactions with alien species and humanity’s responsibility to itself and to others. Xenocide is far more philosophical but also has some of the most interesting plot points of the entire series. And Children of the Mind is not for everyone, but in my opinion bookends the saga in a very satisfying way.
If a young child genius growing up and dealing with aliens on a far-distant planet isn’t your cup of tea, however, my other go-to genre recommend is the Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons: Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion. It’s the sort of science fiction that makes you revel in its believability all while boggling at its sheer inventiveness. Formulated at first like Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, with pilgrims banding together and sharing their origin stories as they journey in search of the legendary Shrike, the story interweaves history, science fiction, fantasy, literature and more to create a stunningly realized space-faring future. Clever inventions, frightening creatures, deeply moving characters — the Hyperion Cantos has it all and is the sort of novel series that is difficult if not impossible to put down once you’ve picked it up. For fans of science fiction, it is without a doubt a must-read!