It's a fact of life: More people watch TV than read books. Part of the reason is one of delivery; lots of people have televisions in their homes, but how many have libraries? Another reason is that television offers a different, more visual experience than books. But another reason is because folks simply have a preconceived notion of what science-fiction literature is. They think that science fiction means spaceships and aliens exclusively. Sure, that's the case sometimes, but not always. What folks may not realize is that the very same stuff they are watching on television right now can be found in the pages of a book. With that in mind, here's a Sci-Fi television viewer's guide to science-fiction books that they might enjoy.
SF Signal weighs in on the best sci-fi/fantasy reads of November.
Viewers of NBC's new post-post-apocalyptic show Revolution are wowed by the idea of a future without electricity. In an age where limitless information and social interaction is already at our fingertips, a world that lacks the technology to even make a phone call seems like an oddly appealing Jurassic age. Those who enjoy Revolution should consider checking out S.M. Stirling's Emberverse series, which begins with the novel Dies the Fire. While Revolution takes place 15 years after the event that changed the world, Dies the Fire chronicles life immediately after "The Change," the mysterious event that alters the laws of physics such that electricity, gunpowder and most other forms of high-energy-density technology can no longer work. Yes, the book one-ups the show by regressing technology even further. The result is the same, though: Modern civilization is thrown into turmoil and society has changed forever. Stirling's Dies the Fire is the first book in a still-ongoing series that continues to please, and subsequent books—the most recent of which is Lord of Mountains—take readers to the years beyond the Change.
Fringe is a grab bag of different science fictional tropes. You have the cutting edge science; you have parallel dimensions; and you have alternate history. If you like the science aspect of the show, consider books by Robert J. Sawyer, like Triggers, which explores the concept of shared memories. Sawyer isn't considered a hard science-fiction writer, and his stories, often set in the near future, are accessible and fun. If you like the idea of the multiverse (a set of multiple, possible universes), consider The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter or The Broken Universe by Paul Melko, both of which dabble in multiple similar worlds. If you like the idea of alternate history, consider Age of Aztec by James Lovegrove, in which the Aztec Empire rules the world, or The Company of the Dead by David Kowalski, in which a man goes back in time to save the Titanic and the United States never entered World War I.
Falling Skies depicts the human struggle to fend off aliens occupying the Earth. Alien invasion and occupation stories are an old trope of science fiction. Such stories depict both the glory of battle and the despair of subjugation. Folks looking for both would do well to check out John Christopher's popular young adult series The Tripods (beginning with The White Mountains), in which huge, three-legged machines rule the Earth; Harry Turtledove's Colonization series (beginning with Second Contact) which, set against the backdrop of the World War II, pits human enemies against a common alien threat; John Ringo and Julie Cochrane's Cally's War series, which depicts mankind's fight against the invading ferocity of the Posleen; Harmony by Keith Brooke, which looks at human segregation and clan wars; and Trust by David Moody, a more subtle invasion in which aliens suddenly appear in the sky, changing the world forever.
Doctor Who is another show that mixes together several science-fiction tropes, but its bread and butter is time-travel adventure. Fans of the time-traveling Doctor and his erstwhile companions, who travel to different eras and have marvelous adventures, should check out the books Pathfinder and its sequel Ruins by Orson Scott Card, about a young man who can change the past. There's also Mayan December by Brenda Cooper, in which an archaeologist's daughter is hurled back into the ancient Mayan culture. Finally, for quick hits of time-travel adventure, pick up Timeshares edited Jean Rabe and Martin H. Greenberg, which features 16 time-travel tales by the likes of Kevin J. Anderson, Jodie Lyn Nye, Michael A. Stackpole and more.
Ahhh, the comfort of a good zombie story. The Walking Dead isn't really about the zombie apocalypse as much as it is personal stories set against the backdrop of the zombie apocalypse. Indeed, an argument could be made that if you replaced the zombies with aliens you'd have Falling Skies. But if the brain-eating undead is your kind of thing—and assuming you already know that the television show is based on Robert Kirkman's widely praised graphic novel series The Walking Dead (you do know that, don’t you?)—consider snuggling up to Mira Grant's Newsflesh trilogy (beginning with Feed); the anthologies 21st Century Dead edited by Christopher Golden and Extreme Zombies edited by Paula Guran; or the mosaic novel The Mammoth Book of Zombie Apocalypse! Fightback edited by Stephen Jones.
John DeNardo is the editor of SF Signal, a Hugo Award-winning group science-fiction and fantasy blog featuring news, reviews and interviews. He also likes bagels.