Science-fiction as a genre, despite having “science” in its very name, is on the whole much closer to the realms of total fantasy than many other categories. Though the basis for the stories might be extrapolated from reality to a certain extent, they tend to take us on such far-out and outlandish adventures we could never hope to see humanity experience in a million light years.
Herein lies in the appeal of epic novels, whether in the realms of science-fiction or any other genre in literature: the ability to transport us so far from our world and for so long, we forget it ever existed in the first place. They give us the ability to go on unbelievably far-reaching and consequential plots, as well as opening the exploration of innumerable ideas and philosophies.
I don’t think there was ever a shortage of ambitious authors attempting to establish their own epic science-fiction universes, but there always was a lack of those who were successful at it and memorable for it. After all, the greater and more complex the story, the more opportunities there are for things to go wrong.
In this category I’ll be taking a look at epic science-fiction stories which, in my opinion, stand out from the crowd in one way or another… the books where I believe the author succeeded in creating a vast and marvellous realm of escapism for the rest of us.
“Dune” by Frank Herbert – The Spice of Power
Frank Herbert has set a milestone in science-fiction when he penned the great classic Dune, realized once into a movie by David Lynch, and soon to be on the silver screens again under Denis Villeneuve’s direction.
Set on a desert planet where the sole thing of value is the “spice” drug, the story follows a young noble boy, Paul Atreides, who loses his realm as his family is betrayed and destroyed. Thus begins his epic adventure to evolve into a figure of legends.
“Dune Messiah” by Frank Herbert – Throne of Galactic Interests
Frank Herbert defined science-fiction epics for the entirety of the foreseeable future with his timeless Dune Series, a pioneering and defining work of the genre.
In the second novel, titled Dune Messiah, we continue on with the story of Paul Atreides, now christened as Muad’Dib, and Emperor of the known universe.
However, such power is always an object of his desire, and there are plenty of those who want it for themselves.
“Children of Dune” by Frank Herbert – A Dynasty Under Siege
Frank Herbert has forever marked the landscape of science-fiction with his all-time famous Dune Series, showing everyone what epic stories truly look like.
In the third entry in the series, titled Children of Dune, we follow Paul Atreides’ twin children, Leto and Ghanima, as they are caught up in their aunt Alia’s manipulative power schemes, who is also facing the unpleasant reality of treason on multiple fronts.
“God Emperor of Dune” by Frank Herbert – The Deposition of an Immortal
Frank Herbert is a man whose works need no introduction, with his Dune series being one of the most celebrated and influential writings of all time.
In the fourth book of the series, God Emperor of Dune, we follow the story of the now-inhuman Leto Atreides, son of Paul, who once merged with a sandworm to preserve humanity, attaining a quasi-immortality. A rebellion stirs in his house to oppose his oppressive rule, but it might all play into his hands.
“Heretics of Dune” by Frank Herbert – The Great Scattering
Frank Herbert has undoubtedly shaped the landscape of science-fiction with his Dune series, though its latter chapters do remain in the shadows.
In the fifth novel, Heretics of Dune, we are taken one thousand and five hundred years into the future from the end of the last book, with humanity now scattered across galaxies and many of its achievements buried and forgotten.
“Too Like the Lightning” by Ada Palmer – 25th Century Blues
Emerging authors rise up every day in the great world of books, and Ada Palmer has done so recently when she published the first chapter in the Terra Ignota series titled Too Like the Lightning.
Winner of the 2017 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, the book transports us into the 25th century where we make the acquaintance of Mycroft Canner, a convict sentenced to wandering the world to make himself as useful as possible, and Carlyle Foster, a spiritual counsellor in a world where religion isn’t for public practice anymore.
Their technological utopia, may soon be destabilized by the discovery of a boy who can seemingly make his wishes come true, and inanimate objects to life.
“Seven Surrenders” by Ada Palmer – The Conspiracy of Global Stability
Ada Palmer has constructed a rather unique and singular Utopia in her book series Terra Ignota, one where the needs of all are tended and none can actually remember a war ever occurring.
A convict by the name of Mycroft Canner sentenced to wander the planet to serve all he meets has stumbled upon a profound conspiracy, one that maintains the careful balance of peace and prosperity in the world through some very careful and selective assassinations.
The balance is about to give way, and the realm starts to teeter on the brink of dystopia.
“The Will to Battle” by Ada Palmer – Death of Utopia; Birth of Dystopia
Ada Palmer has created a veritably complex and engaging utopia in her Terra Ignota series, a society with its own set of rules and morals where virtually no one longs for anything.
Cracks have however begun appearing in this seemingly flawless civilization, and in the third book of the series, The Will to Battle, it all comes crashing down into fire and brimstone.
With the carefully-maintained balance now lying in ruins, all sides must prepare for a bloody war to engender a new age of conflict.
“Awaken Online: Catharsis” by Travis Bagwell – Beyond the Veil of the Villain
Travis Bagwell is a big fan of the LitRPG genre, and with his own additions to it he sought to put a new and captivating twist on an idea that is slowly losing its luster.
In the first volume of the Awaken Online series, titled Catharsis, we are introduced to Jason, a player in an online virtual reality game who seeks to compensate his lack of power, freedom, influence and general importance in the real world.
However, this game is quite different from anything that he has ever played before. Slowly but surely, he comes to the realization that instead of being the revered hero, he might very well be the villain of his own story.
“Awaken Online: Precipice” by Travis Bagwell – Of Rulers and Wretches
Travis Bagwell continues his highly acclaimed LitRPG series with Awaken Online: Precipice, following once again the exploits of Jason as he finds himself obligated to return inside the game to rule his undead city as Regent of the Twilight Throne after having defeated his rival Alexion.
He sets out to explore a dark keep looming over the marketplace, setting in motion things much greater than himself.
Meanwhile, Alex comes back into the game as well and with virtually nothing left to lose he is confronted with some very tough choices as to how he wants to blast his way back to the top.
“Awaken Online: Retribution” by Travis Bagwell – The Bow from the Dungeon
Travis Bagwell brings us back to the fantastic world of Awaken Online, a virtual reality that is, for all intents and purposes, much more enthralling than actual reality.
In Awaken Online: Retribution , we are taking a little detour on a sort of side quest as Riley sets out on a journey after having received a cryptic message from Jason who has mysterious vanished.
She tries to investigate the strange bow she found in a dungeon, and soon finds out that the weapon’s previous owner has some grand plans in store for her, plans of vengeance and reckoning, with an entire city’s life hanging in the balance.