Jon Del Arroz’s Definitive Top 5: Space Opera Series

It’s #SpaceOperaWeek and I can think of no better way to launch my first regular Superversive column than to celebrate the genre in which I write and love. I’ll be doing more top fives as they feel appropriate, but as a writer of Space Opera, it makes a lot of sense to launch in celebration of some of my greatest influences. Naturally, these are just my opinions, so I expect outrage, disagreement, fist shaking, and the like at my choices. Just know that you’re wrong. It says definitive in the title, and we all know the internet never lies.

Without further ado, your Space Opera Top Five!

5. The Serrano Legacy – Elizabeth Moon wrote what at first feels like a light romp in the vein of “The Most Dangerous Game.” At the same time she has a compelling background with the Famlias and their political influence over the Fleet that both hampers and helps our heroes at different times. The characters are about the easiest to get attached to in science fiction, and when you get to the third book in the first trilogy – you start to see some really cool sci-fi concepts in a rejuvenation treatment that makes the elderly young again, and its consequences to society. Moon uses the universe as a backdrop for other stories from there, always relating to the Serranos and their influence over the fleet. From a pure fun perspective, this work is some of my favorite.

4. Hyperion Cantos – Dan Simmons shows the depth of imagination that Space Opera can attain. This series mixes literary prowess with Indiana Jones in space style fun. While the later books aren’t as good as the first couple installments, Simmons left his mark on the Space Opera genre and most modern authors riff off of his concepts even if subconsciously.

3. Star Wars: Thrawn Trilogy – Tie in fiction is looked down on quite a bit, and I actually will differentiate this from the Star Wars films, as we’re focusing on literary fiction for the purposes of this post. Honestly, this series stands on its own. One doesn’t even have to have seen Star Wars to enjoy the depth of character, the machinations of the supreme strategist Grand Admiral Thrawn, the coming to prominence of Mara Jade, or all of the other wonderful facets of this series. It takes Star Wars and adds real depth and gravitas to the universe. There are very few examples of space opera out there that are finer.

2. Lensman – The original Space Opera by E.E. “Doc” Smith. He wrote this over the course of his life. Two epic alien species the Arisians and The Eddorians toying with the younger races like humanity in order to try to assert their will over the galaxy. These books are short, action packed, and they have a great punch to them. This series has inspired the likes of Star Wars and Babylon 5, and still is some of the most impactful work in the genre to this day.

1. The Vorkosigan Saga – This is a series by multiple Hugo winner Lois McMasterBujold, which debuted in the early 1980s. Originally penned as Star Trek fanfiction, the world was launched with Shards of Honor, a romance story in space about lovers from two worlds with completely different values. Though this is one of the lighter stories in the universe, it grew from there as we next met Miles Vorkosigan, the series’ main protagonist in The Warrior’s Apprentice. It’s got sweeping empires, weird body modifications, a great fleet battle, mercenaries, spies, about everything you’d want out of a book. And while that book shaped my interest in the genre in my youth, the series honestly only gets much better as it goes along. Lois hit on every mark possible in space opera and plays with a number of different story archetypes.
Jon Del Arroz is the author of the Alliance Award nominated and top-10 Amazon bestselling Space Opera, Star Realms: Rescue Run. His second novel, For Steam And Country, is set to be released by Superversive Press this summer. He is considered to be the leading Hispanic voice in Science Fiction, and hails from the San Francisco Bay Area. He regularly posts to his popular Science Fiction blog at http://delarroz.com. Twitter: @jondelarroz Gab.ai: @otomo