Recently it occurred to me that if I was going to spend a year blogging about my journey through classic science fiction, it would probably be beneficial to see what my current favorites are. These were selected from anything I had seen, read or played before the end of 2013.
Top 3 Books
1) Ready Player One
This book is probably my perfect book. A giant, virtual reality where people create universes and items based on existing geek lore? A book riddled with video game and sci fi references? An underdog story where the orphan defeats the world’s largest evil corporation? Mechagodzilla and Voltron vs Ultraman? Mechagodzilla existing in the book at all? The book has a few technical issues with the writing, but I don’t care. I love every page of this book dearly. If you love the 80s, gaming culture, or Star Wars check this one out.
Dune. One of the most epic science fiction stories ever told. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that it makes my list. I was a little late to the party, only having read it in October of 2013, and I regret having missed out for so many years. While some may find the story to be a little slow or boring, the atmosphere of the story drew me in and kept me hooked until the action packed climax. Herbert built a world through the book and the level of craft it took to do so that well is immense.
I love Scott Sigler. I’m a huge fan of his Galactic Football League series as well, but Infected was the first book I ever read by him and it just stuck. In a lot of ways this book is the opposite of Dune. It’s not a science fiction classic. It’s not focused on creating a world of political intrigue or religious history. It’s focused on having fun. This book is a disgusting tale of one man who is infected with an alien virus. Originally published in weekly podcast form, the novel reads a little strangely as each chapter has some sort of cliff hanger. However, the main character’s struggle with his alien infection is engrossing. I couldn’t put the book down. If you’re in the mood for a fast paced, disgusting, scifi-horror hybrid definitely check this one out.
Star Wars – Thrawn trilogy
I couldn’t justify putting a single book in my top three, though Heir to the Empire was a contender. This trilogy as a whole got me into Star Wars EU and is just great sci fi. You need a knowledge of the Star Wars universe to truly grasp it, another reason it didn’t make the list, but if you are familiar with the universe and characters this is the sequel you’ve always wanted. Grand Admiral Thrawn is probably the most tactically brilliant villain encountered in the Star Wars universe and watching heroes we know and love from the movies try to defeat him is a genuine pleasure.
Top 3 Movies
1) Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
This movie has been my favorite movie since I was six years old and my dad showed it to me for the first time. I remember being transfixed by this part of the trilogy in particular. I didn’t watch the other two movies for years after. Every day I would go to my dad’s hall closet, pull out his VHS, and watch the Battle of Hoth over and over again. The magic has never died for me. The memories of watching it with my father mixed with my undying love for all things Star Wars pretty much guarantees this one will never be unseated.
This probably serves as a preview for the television section, but here we go. If you’ve seen Serenity you know why it’s here. The movie follow up to Joss Whedon’s space western, this movie has everything I loved from Firefly on a grander scale. Finding out the origin of the Reavers for the first time was an incredibly haunting moment. If you haven’t seen this or Firefly, stop what you’re doing and watch it now. You’ll be glad you did.
3) Terminator 2: Judgement Day
My mother made the mistake of showing me Terminator when I was seven years old. For months I was terrified that a machine from the future was going to break the chain lock on my door and murder me at night. Luckily, I faced my fear and watched this amazing sequel. I think it’s fair to say T2 surpasses the original in every way. The antagonist was more powerful, the action was doubled, and the one liners were destined to last a lifetime. Plus, seeing Arnold as a benevolent T800 helped to quell my fear of being murdered in my sleep.
Top 3 Television Shows
Taken from us too soon, this brilliant show only aired eleven of the fourteen episodes written and directed by Joss Whedon. The dialogue is sharp, the characters are cast perfectly, and the stories told here are enthralling. Malcom Reynolds, played by the great Nathan Fillion, is probably one of my favorite television characters of all time. Plus, Summer Glau playing a brilliant but damaged murder machine is incredibly entertaining to watch. That actually leads perfectly into number two.
2) Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Taking place between the amazing T2 and the less than stellar T3, this show follows an older John Connor as him mother tries to prepare him to lead the future human resistance. Once again Skynet sends back a robot assassin to kill him. And once again, a reprogrammed terminator is sent back in time to protect John. What’s different is that this new protector is played by Summer Glau, and she plays it perfectly. She brought a human element to her terminator, something that never really existed prior to the show. It sounds weird that a killer robot would have human mannerisms, but it works well within the universe. There are plenty of nods to the movies and this show increases the canon in smart but fun ways. Unfortunately, it was cancelled after the second season. If you’re a fan of the movies don’t miss this one.
A little different than most of the stuff on my list, Futurama is one of those shows I can watch anytime. To be fair, I only watched through the fourth season before the first cancellation, but those four seasons were amazing. I love the growing relationship between Fry and Lela, Bender is one of my favorite characters of all time, and Zapp Brannigan never ceases to bring the laughs. The first finale, The Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings, is my favorite episode and the first time I watched it, it brought tears to my eyes. The perfect ending that is no longer the ending.
Honorable Mentions: As of the writing of this post, I am in the middle of watching Doctor Who, Torchwood, and Star Wars: The Clone Wars. All of these shows are really good and by the end of this year who knows which ones will be in my top shows?
The last two are going to be done a little bit differently
My favorite sci fi videogames are the Mass Effect trilogy. These games all play differently, but come together in a single, choice-driven narrative almost perfectly. The amount of skill it took for the writers at Bioware to craft this new universe and this sweeping narrative blows my mind. I love everything about these games, even things that frustrated me to no end while I played (Mako, I’m looking at you). The characters in your party are some of the best crafted characters in games. I loved going through all of the dialogue options I had with Wrex, Tali, Garrus and Mordin. When I look back on the games that have stuck with me, Mass Effect will always be near the top.
My favorite sci fi comic series is Y: The Last Man. You’d think being the last guy on Earth would be a dream come true. Yorick Brown shows us why that notion is irreparably flawed. This is one of my favorite series of all time and I encourage anybody who is a fan of anything to read it immediately. Issue #59 shook me so hard I didn’t want to eat for a few days. That’s how invested I was in these superbly realized characters.
So there you go. If you wanna argue why your favorites should be in my top 3 or have any suggestions feel free to send me a message or tweet me @left4turtle.