Planetary Perspectives
More sci-fi books about unearthly celestial bodies


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Dragon's Egg
by Robert L Forward (1980)


Amazing hard sci-fi in the grandest tradition. Dragon's Egg is a neutron star with surface gravity several billion times that of Earth. An alien civilisation develops on it almost in the blink of an eye. Forward is well-known for his groundbreaking scientific work in the field of gravitational astronomy - and it shows in this fine novel. Highly recommended.





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Helliconia Spring
by Brian Aldiss (1982)


Aldiss successfully reasserted himself as one of the genre's pre-eminent authors with his popular Helliconia series. The eponymous planet is part of a system whose sun revolves around a giant star, resulting in both very short and millennia-long seasons. Spring concerns the rise of a new civilisation in one of the Great Years.





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Those Who Survive
by Kir Bulychev (1988)


Translated from the original Russian in 2000, stranded survivors of a crashed exploratory starship face the hostile plants and animals of a nameless planet. They establish a village between an endless forest and ice-covered mountains. After 20-years they face a choice between a high-risk attempt to rejoin the human race and staying put. Great stuff, but not widely available.





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Cyteen
by C J Cherryh (1988)


A massive novel set in Cherryh's loosely-connected Union-Alliance future history. On the planet Cyteen, a powerful scientist guides the education of her clone daughter. Some may find the sheer scope and complexity of this novel a bit daunting, and opt to start instead with the wonderful Downbelow Station. Fans of Cherryh, however, won't want to miss it.





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Grass
by Sheri S Tepper (1989)


Fine Hugo-nominated yarn about a colony planet that is resistant to a plague threatening to wipe out humankind. Earth - dominated by the followers of the oppressive Sanctity religion - sends two unofficial ambassadors to investigate. The nature of truth and religion are examined through the secrets behind the ancient fox hunting practised by the European nobility on the planet Grass.





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Barrayar
by Lois McMaster Bujold (1991)


The militaristic Vorkosigan family follows codes of honour and bloodthirsty rituals reminiscent of Trek's Klingons. A legendary military commander marries one of her vanquished enemies, a Vor lord. The Emperor dies and civil war looms, with her son Miles in the thick of things. Extremely popular and full of sublime humour. Close to best in the series.





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Anathem
by Neal Stephenson (2008)


With obvious parallels to an imagined far-future Earth, the planet Arbre is facing annihilation. A young monk from a reclusive order of scientists, philosophers and mathematicians charged with preserving knowledge is spurred into action. Comparisons to Miller's Canticle for Leibowitz abound, but Stephenson takes a thousand pages to have his say. His fans will undoubtedly love every word of it.





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Embassytown
by China Miéville (2011)


Boundary-shattering left-wing author and academic China Miéville does it again in this engaging story about sentient beings famed for a language unique in the universe. When distant political machinations deliver a new ambassador to Arieka, the fragile equilibrium between humans and aliens is violently upset. Catastrophe looms as the protagonist is torn between competing loyalties.


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