Excellent Space Opera

From Wikipedia: Space opera is a subgenre of speculative fiction or science fiction that emphasizes romantic, often melodramatic adventure, set mainly or entirely in space, generally involving conflict between opponents possessing powerful (and sometimes quite fanciful) technologies and abilities. Perhaps the most significant trait of space opera is that settings, characters, battles, powers and themes tend to be very large-scale.

NOTE: Please only list the first volume of a series, or the omnibus containing the first volume.
No self-published books, unless they have at least 100 3+ star reviews.


Record of books/series which have been removed from the list as they're not considered Space Opera: Card - Ender's Saga, Robinson - Mars Trilogy, Silverberg - Lord Valentine's Castle/Majipoor series.
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440 books · 2,293 voters · list created November 24th, 2008 by Carolyn (votes) .
604 likes · 
Lists are re-scored approximately every 5 minutes.


Carolyn 7168 books
107 friends
Kyle 543 books
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Nant 5 books
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Jon 2049 books
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bsc 576 books
56 friends
thefourthvine 785 books
230 friends
Greyweather 2602 books
69 friends
Tamora 2720 books
4390 friends

More voters…


Comments (showing 1-50 of 59) (59 new)


message 1: by Wealhtheow (last edited Jul 09, 2009 01:06PM) (new)

Wealhtheow I wish there was a way to vote books DOWN the list. I hate so many of these!


message 2: by Greyweather (new)

Greyweather The Rocky Horror Picture Show? Okay, I'll admit there is a spaceship in it, but no part of it actually takes place in space.


message 3: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn OK, haven't been on here in a while - too long!
I just did some major maintenance on the list - removed non-space opera (no matter how good a SF book it is, if it isn't space opera, it shouldn't be on this list), and any books that were duplicates or not the first in their series.
Let me know if I need to do any others, I didn't have time to look them all up...


message 4: by Melody (new)

Melody Mixed How do you define space opera? the opera part that is? thanks
:}


message 5: by Carolyn (last edited Jan 05, 2010 08:09AM) (new)

Carolyn I tend to go by the Wikipedia definition:

"Space opera is a subgenre of speculative fiction or science fiction that emphasizes romantic (ETA: not 'romance'), often melodramatic adventure, set mainly or entirely in space, generally involving conflict between opponents possessing powerful (and sometimes quite fanciful) technologies and abilities. Perhaps the most significant trait of space opera is that settings, characters, battles, powers, and themes tend to be very large-scale. [Also:] Space opera is a subgenre of speculative fiction or science fiction that emphasizes romantic adventure, exotic settings, and larger-than-life characters.

Before the 1970s, the term space opera was used in a negative sense, to denote bad quality science fiction, but over time it changed meaning, to describe a particular science fiction genre, without any value judgment." - Wikipedia


Personally, I find the terms most helpful in deciding whether something is space opera or not are:
1)melodramatic,
2)in outer space or in an interstellar society/large scale,
3)adventure
4)larger-than-life characters.
Also:
If a story is heavy on the science/technology of the science fiction, it usually isn't space opera. Space opera is a bit light and fluffy - not too dense.

Hope this helps!



message 6: by Melody (new)

Melody Mixed yes its a big help many thanks.


message 7: by Meggean (new)

Meggean why is there no ender's game?


message 8: by Carolyn (last edited Oct 25, 2011 07:57AM) (new)

Carolyn Meggean wrote: "why is there no ender's game?"

While I love Ender's Game, it doesn't fit the definition (given above) of space opera.

Why?
-99.9% of the book takes place on Earth or in the one space station. (view spoiler)
-it's not an 'adventure' story (traveling place to place on a quest or mission), it's a more a coming-of-age story, with a lot of interpersonal angst.

This isn't dissing Ender's Game, it's one of my favorites, it just doesn't fit in the 'Space Opera' genre - books need to be more than just set in outer space for that.


message 9: by Michael (last edited Jun 17, 2010 02:35PM) (new)

Michael Economy Starship troopers and forever war are soooooo NOT space operas, they have like 3 characters. They do not feature larger than life characters.


message 10: by Anastasia (new)

Anastasia Can I remove sequels in the series, like "Judas Unchained" - sequel to "Pandora," to keep with the description of the list - 1st books in series only. And there's like half a dozen of Miles Vorkosigan books.


message 11: by Michael (new)

Michael Economy It's in the rules, i think thats ok....


message 12: by Carolyn (last edited Jun 01, 2011 12:18PM) (new)

Carolyn Anastasia wrote: "Can I remove sequels in the series, like "Judas Unchained" - sequel to "Pandora," to keep with the description of the list - 1st books in series only. And there's like half a dozen of Miles Vorkosi..."

Feel free - I set up that rule specifically to keep the list from being cluttered with all the books in each series, especially since many are very looooong series. = )


message 13: by Tienyin (new)

Tienyin Is Speaker for the Dead really space opera? It mostly takes place on a single planet. And Ender's game is still on the list.


message 14: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn Cleaned up the list again.
Enders Game and Speaker for the Dead are definitely not space opera!
Also, fans of Iain M. Banks - all the Culture books are part of a series, vote for the first one Consider Phlebas if you like any of them. Only the first book in a series should be listed.

Thanks!


message 15: by Edward (new)

Edward I just realized Asimov's Foundation Trilogy and E.E. "Doc" Smith's Skylark and Lensman series aren't here. I skipped over them too. I wonder why. Too old? Too traditional? I've forgotten plot details but they were certainly "Space Opera" and helped define the genre.


message 16: by Anastasia (new)

Anastasia I feel like "Foundation" and the old stuff doesn't stack up anymore. EE Doc books I bought, tried to read, and couldn't. Awfully awkward sentences.


message 17: by Edward (new)

Edward Anastasia: Yes, too old. When I read them (I won't say when) they were fine, even though EE's (good initials) was very "pulpy."

I've notice the same problem when I try to re-read some of my other old favorites, they just don't measure up. I'm embarrassed I liked some of them, even allowing for changing values. So, excellent then doesn't equal excellent now.

That's probably why I didn't vote for either one. I doubt I'd recommend reading them to anyone except a really serious sf fan and they'd already know about them anyway.


message 18: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn Foundation isn't on here because it is too much philosophy and not enough 'melodrama' to qualify as space opera. Space Opera is light and fluffy, I can't think of any of the Foundation books that would qualify.

Not sure why Skylark and Lensman aren't on here, just haven't been voted on by someone, I guess.


message 19: by Tyrone (new)

Tyrone How can you omit E.E.Doc Smith from a list of space Opera. It's widely accepted that he defined what we now consider to be the subgenre!


message 20: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn Tyrone - you understand how these lists work, right? Everyone voting on the list can add any books that fit the parameters to the list.

Personally, I only added books that I've read to the list; since I haven't read any of the Doc Smith books yet, I didn't add them.

Why didn't you add them when you voted on the list?


message 21: by Tyrone (new)

Tyrone I have. 2 now on the list...


message 22: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn Just a reminder:

NOTE: Please only list the first volume of a series, or the omnibus containing the first volume.
No self-published books, unless they have at least 100 3+ star reviews.


I don't judge on the 'excellent' part, if you like it enough to vote for it, that's enough for me, but I will be deleting all books that don't meet the.criteria in the nicely bolded Note.

This way the list stays as a resource, without becoming too cumbersome to read through. Thanks!


message 23: by Afeefa (new)

Afeefa Zaman The City of Baraboo should be here. Its light and fluffy, space based and interstellar.


message 24: by Boris (new)

Boris Carolyn wrote: "I tend to go by the Wikipedia definition:...
...
If a story is heavy on the science/technology of the science fiction, it usually isn't space opera. Space opera is a bit light and fluffy - not too dense.


I am almost sure that Robinson Mars trilogy isn't a space opera.

Thanks!


message 25: by AndrewP (new)

AndrewP Boris wrote: "I am almost sure that Robinson Mars trilogy isn't a space opera.

Thanks! "


Yeah I think your right. Even if it was only Red Mars should be here. Princess of Mars? What's that doing there.


message 26: by Derbenutzer (new)

Derbenutzer Wealhtheow wrote: "I wish there was a way to vote books DOWN the list. I hate so many of these!"

I agree!


message 27: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn Cleaned up the list 12/22/2012 (since the world didn't end. :)


message 28: by Anders (new)

Anders Surprised you don't consider Ender's Game a Space Opera novel. I think it is.


message 29: by Gabriel (new)

Gabriel Cooper I added A Call to Arms(The series of the Damned) by Alan Dean Foster, Escape Velocity by Christopher Stasheff, The Rowan by Anne McCaffrey, and The Regiment by John Dalmas to the list. Curious as to your thoughts on those.


message 30: by Clouds (last edited Jul 14, 2013 02:03AM) (new)

Clouds * removed Heavy Time (book 4 in Company War series) as book 1 was already on list.
* removed Lt. Leary, Commanding (Lt. Leary, #2) as book 1 was already on list.
* removed Use of Weapons (Culture , #3) as book 1 was already on list.
* removed The Currents of Space & Pebble in the Sky (Galactic Empire, #2 & 3) as book 1 was already on list.

*added a section in the header to keep track of those books removed from the list for not fitting genre conventions


message 31: by Df (new)

Df Hyperion needs to be on this list.


message 32: by Clouds (new)

Clouds Df wrote: "Hyperion needs to be on this list."

It is - it was down on page 2 and has now climbed as high as 90th-ish - but if you think it would be higher hustle some fans to come vote :-)


message 33: by Ex2bot (new)

Ex2bot I know the last comment on here was from July ('13), but I wanted to make a quick comment:

"New" Space Opera is usually anything but fluffy. For example, Peter F. Hamilton. His books make War And Peace look short, and the tone of the books are fairly serious and tech-heavy.


message 34: by Andrew (last edited Mar 13, 2014 11:02AM) (new)

Andrew Obrigewitsch Amazing that Dune, Hyperion, The Forever War and The Foundation are so low on the list.

The thing that makes these lists suck a little is that people can vote if they only read one book and not the rest. That results in the best marketed book ranking #1 rather than the best written.

For example On Basilisk Station is No 5, while all classics are ranked below it. Every book I've read below it is better.

In fact comparing On Basilisk Station to books like Dune and Hyperion is like comparing Fifty Shades of Gray to Jane Austin in the Romance category. On Basilisk Station is so far outclassed as to b laughable yet it ranks higher just because more young people have read it.

And Gateway by Frederik Pohl is not really space opera. It's about a space miner in Psychoanalysis.


Ellie [The Empress] I really like your rules for adding book. I think I shall adopt them when creating new ones in future.


message 36: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn Thanks Ellie!
I'm trying to keep this list a good resource, to point people in the right direction for good space opera. So far, it seems to be working out ok.

2/9/2014 basic maintenance on list: merged duplicates and removed multiples from within the same series.


message 37: by Andrew (last edited Jan 14, 2015 08:56AM) (new)

Andrew Obrigewitsch I've read a lot of the more well known books on this list and here is the real rankings out of what I read (I also own most of the rest but have not yet read them, so I can update when I do):

1. Dune
2. Hyperion
3. The Forever War
4. Foundation Trilogy
5. Star Wars Trilogy
6. Pandora's Star
7. The Mote in God's Eye
8. Leviathan Wakes
9. Starship Troopers
10. Triplanetary (Lensman, #1) (this is for the whole Lensman series as the first book is the weakest)
15. Ringworld

20. Starman Jones

30. Star Wars: Heir to the Empire

50. Revelation Space

80. Rendezvous with Rama

99. In Conquest Born
100. The Lost Fleet: Dauntless

150. The Pride

1000. Valor's Choice

I would not put On Basilisk Station on any best of list as it's poorly written, but I have read it.

Altered Carbon — I've read it, not space opera at all, it's cyberpunk. PLEASE REMOVE!!!

Gateway — (Not space opera, it's about a scumbag in Psychotherapy who happens to have worked on a space station, this book does not fit in any way shape or form in your definition) PLEASE REMOVE!!!

I don't consider Starship Troopers or On Basilisk Station to be space opera, they are firmly grounded in the Military Sci-Fi sub-genre to me. But I mention them because they are here and a case could be made for both to qualify.


message 38: by Jain (new)

Jain Deleted the following self-published books with fewer than 100 3+ star reviews:
Flight of Icarus by Alex Alexander
Moon 514 by Drew Briney
The Meat Market by James Chalk
Destiny: Illusions by Daniel Rafferty
Veterans of the Psychic Wars by Wayne Gerard Trotman


message 39: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Obrigewitsch Great, can you remove Altered Carbon? It's is Cyber Punk, not Space Opera.


message 40: by Jain (new)

Jain Andrew wrote: "Great, can you remove Altered Carbon? It's is Cyber Punk, not Space Opera."

I haven't read the Takeshi Kovacs series yet, but based on GR readers' shelves, it looks like the second and third books might be classified as space opera even though the first one is more strictly cyberpunk. And since only the first volume of a series is allowed on this list per Carolyn's rules, Altered Carbon is really a stand-in for the entire Takeshi Kovacs series.

A GR librarian who's read the entire series may choose to make a different call, but based on the above info, I'm not comfortable deleting the book myself.


message 41: by Mike Briggs (last edited Aug 06, 2014 01:30PM) (new)

Mike Briggs - Fate of Worlds: Return from the Ringworld deleted from the list - last book in the series.
- Legends of Zita the Spacegirl deleted from list. 2nd in series.
- The Return of Zita the Spacegirl deleted from list. 3rd in series.
- The Cometeers deleted from list. 2nd in series.
- Children of the Mind deleted from list. 4th in series.
- The Rise of Endymion deleted from list. 4th in series.
- Jinx on a Terran Inheritance deleted from list. 2nd in series.
- Athena's Ashes deleted from list. 2nd in series.
- Endymion deleted from list. 3rd in series.
- The Fall of Hyperion deleted from list. 2nd in series.
- The Killing of Worlds deleted from list. 2nd in series.
- Xenocide deleted from list. 3rd in series.
- The Last Command deleted from list. 3rd in its subseries.
- The Moon's Shadow deleted from list. 8th in series.

--

Midworld is listed as fourth of a series, but the series itself seems to be a joining together of various other series. I do not know this series/book, nor if it is actually the 4th book of anything.

Absolution Gap - is listed 3rd in the series. Description implies the uniting them is the setting. I don't know enough about the series to make judgement call.

A Deepness in the Sky is both the 1st and second book in the series. 1st chronologically, 2nd published. Book not touched. Note made here.

Agent of Change - know nothing about this series and book. Is listed 9th in series. Is also 26th on this list with 28 votes. Is confused. Did not touch book. Series mentions there are several suggested reading orders.

Redemption Ark - "The reading order for Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space universe stories is complex", though this is listed as the second novel in the series. As it is complex, did not touch.


message 42: by Mike Briggs (new)

Mike Briggs re: A Hymn Before Battle - I did not recall anything but action on earth in this alien invasion book. A later book did venture forth into space, though.


message 43: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn Thanks for the maintenance Mike!

My call on books where the series order is not set in stone (ie, there are several accepted series orders), is to keep the first one/highest ranked one that hits the list, and consider that one the 'first' for the purposes of the list. All others should be deleted.

Agent of Change is a good example of this. I've read this series, and the order they were published in is very different from the story chronology. I don't know which way I would recommend a newbie read them, though, both have value.

The goal with the list is to give people a starting point to a good series, but only *one* point into each series.

Other clarification: the first novel represents a whole series here, so it's ok if the 'space opera' develops within the series, but isn't fully realized in the first book.


message 44: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn Did some maintenance, mostly deleting a bunch of self-pub books that don't meet the stated criteria. Not going to link to them, because I don't like giving them attention. :)


message 45: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Obrigewitsch Please remove Gateway by Frederik Pohl, not space opera at all.

There are no battles, powers and themes do not tend to be very large-scale. It's about a space miner and what he does.


message 46: by Mike Briggs (last edited Sep 05, 2014 10:13AM) (new)

Mike Briggs Kalin removed for being fourth in series.
Ragamuffin removed for being second in series.
The Wizard Of Linn is second in series, so removed.

---
Falling Free is both 4th (publication) and second (chronological) in the
Vorkosigan Saga. As it is technically listed as "book 1" on the chronological list, I leave it here. Technically because the book before it is listed as book 0 (appears to be a short story collection that includes things outside the series).

(I didn't remove Gateway as that is a definition type removal (i.e., does a specific book fall within the definition of specific topic), and I don't tend to do those)


message 47: by Carolyn (last edited Sep 24, 2014 08:29PM) (new)

Carolyn Thanks for the maintenance Mike!
Please leave Falling Free. I have read it, and it is really a standalone novel set in the same 'universe' as the rest of the Vorkosigan series (although, like 100 years earlier...). The series folks were a bit over zealous tying it into the series numbering, I think, though the people/place of it were tied into a later Vorkosigan novel. So, it works on that level, but can stay on this list separately.


message 48: by Oni (new)

Oni 1. The City and the Stars. Definitely not a space opera.
2. Babel-17. The main story line is not the conflict. I would not define it as a space opera.
3. Starship Troopers. Too short for a short opera. Even though the scale of the conflict is big.


message 49: by Nathan (new)

Nathan Mike wrote: "Midworld is listed as fourth of a series, but the series itself seems to be a joining together of various other series. I do not know this series/book, nor if it is actually the 4th book of anything. "

I don't recall much of Midworld happening in space; nearly everything important happened planetside. I read it not knowing it was part of a series. The general plot is roughly the same as Avatar, which I wouldn't really consider space opera. (Midworld came first, and I think it is better, but the similarities may simply be because they plundered similar source material.)


message 50: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Where is Foundation!?


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