Rhonda Mason is a debut author of fantasy and space opera fiction, based in the US. Rhonda’s dark urban fantasy short story was published in the anthology Modern Magic. She has an M.A. from Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction program where she focused on writing Speculative Fiction. She is published in short and long fiction, a member of SFWA and RWA, and works as an editor in the financial newswire sector. You can find her at www.RhondaMason.com.
by Rhonda Mason
When asked about 6 modern space opera authors on my “you have to read this” list, I was initially hesitant to name names. I’m not usually one to recommend books because readers’ tastes vary so wildly, even within a small subgenre of SF. That doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion on the subject, though. Far from it. And since SF Signal gave me a platform, well…brace yourselves, I’m about to get down and dirty with some recommendations!
- Ann Leckie. I didn’t even hesitate when adding her to the top of the list. I hate to list an author that everyone’s talking about because it makes the recommendation seem obligatory. No way. Leckie’s concept of Breq, her main character in Ancillary Justice, is phenomenal. And the way she spins out the tale in the first half of book, with the multiple/singular POV of Breq, is worthy of study. Simply fantastic.
- Rachel Bach. I like a heavy dose of action in my space opera and Bach delivers every time. Her main character in her Paradox series is a space merc with an “I’m better than all of you, all of this” attitude that actually makes her unlikable. The change from that to sympathetic lead is very well-done. Not to mention she rocks socks with her weapons and fight scenes. Bach had me with Devi’s devotion to Lady Gray, her suit of powered armor. This is sometimes mistakenly referred to as military scifi, I think just because of the powered armor. Ignore that. Bach’s work is straight-up space opera at its action-packed finest.
- John Scalzi. No surprise here. Though, you may be surprised to hear that what I love best about Scalzi’s space opera is his voice. In Old Man’s War he nails John Perry’s voice (the 1st person POV character in the book.) It was so authentic and spot on at all times that I would recommend Scalzi just for that feat, regardless of if you liked space opera or not. The uniqueness of the character’s voice was refreshing in a genre that (let’s admit it) has a lot of specific character troupes.Side note: I have no real issue with space opera troupes. We’re all looking for certain recognizable things when we pick up a space opera, even if we do also want to be surprised and see new twists on our favorite troupes.
- Peter F. Hamilton. I almost don’t even know what to say here. Just…yes. And yes some more. Epic is the word that first comes to mind. There’s a complexity to his worldbuilding that you have to admire, and he manages to make multi-POV character/plot lines race ahead at a great pace usually reserved for single storyline novels. Check out his novel Pandora’s Star. Go ahead. I dare you to try to put it down.
- Kristine Kathryn Rusch. I recommend Rusch for her Diving Universe novels. First off, talk about a great take on space opera. It starts off as Tomb Raider in space, then opens up to a full-on intergalactic conflict with the find of one amazing discovery. What I love about Rusch is the way she combines adventure with some surprisingly deep ethical questions. She writes a tight page-turner, to be sure, with Star Trek-level science that’s appropriate for a space opera.
- Christina Westcott. I’m not afraid to read across the genre spectrum in search of enjoyable SF, which is why debut author Christina Westcott made my list. Be warned, this space opera is SFR (science fiction romance) with the attendant romance novel troupes. If you can’t stand those, she’s not for you. But if you can look past (or enjoy) the romance novel elements, you’ll find an almost perfectly done space opera novel. Westcott doesn’t waste time with low stakes. Her work is intergalactic from page 1, with the fate of worlds on the line. She combines high stakes with super-fast-paced action. While the work isn’t as deep as it could be, she still writes a rollicking good time. The best part? Her trademark snarky humor.I hope some of these appeal to some of you! I realize I drifted a little across the field of space opera, but hey, that’s what’s so great about it, the different ways authors approach our beloved subgenre.