Sunday, August 2, 2009

40k as a gateway to great Sci-fi

I bet a lot of people that play 40k and are into the universe read a lot of Sci-fi already but I figured I would write up a little guide to some good sci-fi books from the perspective of Warhammer 40k. I have been a pretty avid reader of Science Fiction books for almost 20 years and can hopefully steer some new readers into some good directions just so that they can avoid some of the general CRAP that I have suffered through that afflicts the general SCI FI book population.

Top Books:

Dune series of books from Frank Herbert: These are perhaps some of the best Science Fiction books ever written and the 40k universe borrows heavily from them. Both take a long epic perspective to time, the human race and explore thoroughly the destructiveness of our own nature. I would completely avoid the books written by his son and Kevin J. Anderson because they are horrible. I pretty much read them all except the last 2 because I am such a huge fan of the original series but I hate to say it that they are complete crap. It’s hard to imagine that something could diminish original work but these books do since they weave in horrible plot lines and excuses into the original books. The first Dune book should be required reading for anyone even remotely interested in SCI-FI and I can't recommend it enough.

Enders Game by Orson Scott Card: The first and second Ender's Games books plus the Bean books are great reads. Orson Scott Card is a great writer who in a lot of ways predicted technology and social trends that we take for granted today (like blogging). The books are quick reads and he has a great grasp for multi cultural relationships. I am a little fearful of the movie that is supposedly in production since the mass market has seemed to think of these books as the Harry Potter of Science Fiction. That could be disastrous if they tried to push it in that direction and really ruin some of the overall themes in the books.

The Uplift Novels by David Brin: The 2nd and 3rd book in this series is fantastic. Startide Rising and the The Uplift War both give a really cool perspective on how humanity would deal with a completely hostile universe. Personally I found the idea of uplifting animals to be pretty interesting but I could see how some people could feel that it’s sorta cartoonish. The overall cool theme is very similar to 40k in that; Humans can be extremely hostile and violent if they feel threatened, and if we do explode upon the universe we could be an extreme threat to most sentient life out there. It is a bummer that David Brin has sorta left this universe and isn't writing these books anymore. Also the second Uplift Trilogy is OK and does sorta suck since it got really sentimental and pretty cheesy with the children in it. I would of rather he went more the Military Sci-fi route than how he did in those books.

A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge: These are really cool books and have some great perspectives on possible Xeno civilizations and cultures. I really enjoyed both of them quite a bit and can’t say enough positive about Vernor Vinge. The Eisenhorn books really reminded me of these books for some reason and these are both super fast and entertaining reads. I really hope that Vernor Vinge goes back to this universe and also think these could make a great series on T.V. if someone had the guts to really stick to the books.

Just so that I don’t end up writing an epic post I am gonna cut it off here. I will try and post up some more info on authors that I think would be cool to check out like China Melville, George R.R. Martin, Alistair Reynolds, John Scalzi, David Simmons, Peter Hamilton, Isaac Asimov and Octavia Butler. Also please leave comments if there are some other books that you think might lend well for 40k players or if you disagree/agree with my suggestions.


  1. I would add the "Torturer" series from Gene Wolfe there. The 40k universe borrows heavily from the themes found in this book as it is set in the incredibly far future where earth's sun is dying and technology is but a myth. 40k even borrows some names from the books (like how lasgun is borrowed from Dune).

    Also, I noticed you're reading H.P. Lovecraft, and he needs to be on this list. The Necrons are heavily influenced by Lovecraft. To a limited extent, the Tyranids and Chaos are influenced from his work.

    Speaking of Tyranids, I hear that Starship Troopers is a good read as well. I have not read it yet, but I hear it's nothing like the movie and is more of a philosophical treatise, but still makes a good read.

  2. Ya Heinlein for sure. Starship Troopers is a great book. I didnt add in Lovecraft since I dont consider myself well versed enough to talk about it yet. When you read his stuff you really can see that he is for sure the great great grandfather of modern Sci-fi especially with the Cthulu stuff.

  3. I'm surprised Larry Niven didn't make the list; he's one of my favorite sci-fi authors and does a very good take on what a "realistic" starfaring humanity might be/encounter. Ringworld and The Integral Trees come especially highly recommended.

    Heinlein is good, Starship Troopers is a good book (and yes, completely unlike the movie), but it pays to be picky with him; an unfortunately large number of his books all boil down to the same "there was an awesome old man and he showed the authorities up and had sex with beautiful women" plots.

    Brin is good, always liked him; not so much a fan of the Dune series, though, a bit too plodding for my tastes. Card does good writing but I can't stand the man or his views, which he thankfully doesn't inject too heavily in most of his books. (However, if you're curious, look up the essays critiquing the Ender books and comparing him to a certain 1940s dictator.)

    Asimov, Bear, Barnes, Clark, and Pournelle also sit near the top of my sci-fi reading lists, for those looking for recommendations.

  4. Good point on Larry Niven. I spaced it on the Ringworld books. I always just think of him for Lucifer's Hammer and forget about the others. Orson Scott Card's beliefs are for sure out of line with my own but I have never felt that he has tried to interject them into his books. For sure I will check out the articles I have read some dodgy stuff about Card before. I will try to get together another post on some more authors. Thanks for the posts.