GUEST POST: 7 Epic Space Sagas to Dive Into After Watching “The Expanse”, written by D.J. Bodden. He’s the author of The Starborn Heir and creator of the FiveFold Universe. Other books from the universe can be discovered at fivefolduniverse.com.
Space operas and grand sci-fi tales are so much more than laser beams and starships. They carry rich political intrigue, unforgettable characters, and narratives that delve deep into the nature of human existence. If you’re looking for stories set amidst the stars that capture both the vastness of space and human drama, look no further:
1 – “The Starborn Heir” (by D.J. Bodden)
Overview: A planetary governor’s son ditches his responsibilities for the thrilling life of a space pirate (as one does). Along with a motley crew, he chases after an artifact lost to his people’s history and fights actual space pirates, the Federal Fleet, and aliens from a dark dimension.
Why it’s a must-read: A blend of treacherous quests and heartfelt camaraderie. Imagine Paul Atreides’ lineage, with Mal Reynolds’s rebellious spirit, set on a chase resembling the ‘Treasure Planet’ quest.
An ancient secret. A legacy betrayed. A path to the stars.
Zack was bred and raised to be the heir to a planet, but he’s decided he’s not the chosen one. He wants to get offworld, see the galaxy, and track down a piece of lost technology from his family’s past.
He’ll need to steal a shuttle, get past the orbital defenses, and rendezvous with a smuggler on the star system’s outskirts. But he can’t do it alone—he’s going to need a crew. Gathering a band of misfits from the colony’s underworld, Zack strikes out toward the desert. The government is close on his heels, but Zack is willing to fight the gangs, make deals with aliens, and use illegal technology in wildly unsanctioned ways to blast his way to the stars. And if he can do a little good along the way, so much the better.
Zack and his crew have a whole planet after them. The only way out is up.
2 – “Dune” (by Frank Herbert)
Overview: Set on the desert planet of Arrakis, a young Paul Atreides finds himself amidst a complex interstellar power struggle for the valuable resource, spice melange.
Why it’s a must-read: A richly detailed universe that delves deep into ecology, politics, and spirituality.
Frank Herbert’s classic masterpiece—a triumph of the imagination and one of the bestselling science fiction novels of all time.
Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of Paul Atreides—who would become known as Muad’Dib—and of a great family’s ambition to bring to fruition mankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream.
A stunning blend of adventure and mysticism, environmentalism and politics, Dune won the first Nebula Award, shared the Hugo Award, and formed the basis of what is undoubtedly the grandest epic in science fiction.
3 – “Warrior: En Garde” (by Michael A. Stackpole)
Overview: In the future, duels to the death are broadcast across the stars, and the protagonist, Justin Allard, rises through the ranks of this deadly sport.
Why it’s a must-read: This story brilliantly mixes space opera with feudalistic themes and battle strategy.
’MECHS AT THE READY… Betrayed by his own House and stripped of his rank, exiled Mechwarrior Justin Allard is given one last chance to save his honor—by risking his life in the gladiatorial arenas of Solaris VII. But his newest Game World opponent—more skilled at ‘Mech-to-‘Mech combat than any other rival—raises the stakes even higher. It’s Justin’s half-brother, Daniel, lance commander in the dreaded Kell Hounds mercenary battalion.Both Daniel and Justin face fierce battles, but in the Inner Sphere, where nobles have schemed for centuries to win the ultimate power, those who interfere with the Successor Lords are sometimes called heroes.And sometimes called victims…
4 – “Starship’s Mage” (by Glynn Stewart)
Overview: In a universe where starships are powered by magic, Damien Montgomery, a starship’s mage, finds himself entangled in a web of galactic conspiracies.
Why it’s a must-read: A unique fusion of science fiction and fantasy that offers a fresh take on space travel.
A ship that cannot leave
A Mage that will not stay
A meeting of desperations
In a galaxy tied together by the magic of the elite Jump Mages, Damien Montgomery graduates into their numbers—only to discover that without connections, he can’t find a ship and is stuck in the Sherwood system.
Pirates attacked David Rice’s jump freighter, leaving him with a dead Mage and a damaged ship—stuck in Sherwood, where a grieving father has blacklisted him from hiring a replacement Jump Mage.
When their desperate needs meet, Damien Montgomery is drawn into a conflict with the most powerful criminal organization in the galaxy—and to the attention of the Mage-King of Mars himself!
5 – “Matter” (by Iain M. Banks)
Overview: Set in Banks’ Culture universe, the story follows a princess who returns to her home planet after her father’s assassination and unravels a complex political conspiracy.
Why it’s a must-read: A tale of familial bonds and political machinations, it delves into the concept of societal progress.
A novel of dazzling wit and serious purpose. An extraordinary feat of storytelling and breathtaking invention on a grand scale, it is a tour de force from a writer who has turned science fiction on its head.
“Unexpectedly savage, emotionally powerful, and impossible to forget.” —The Times
In a world renowned even within a galaxy full of wonders, a crime within a war. For one brother it means a desperate flight, and a search for the one — maybe two — people who could clear his name. For his brother it means a life lived under constant threat of treachery and murder. And for their sister, even without knowing the full truth, it means returning to a place she’d thought abandoned forever.
Only the sister is not what she once was; Djan Seriy Anaplian has changed almost beyond recognition to become an agent of the Culture’s Special Circumstances section, charged with high-level interference in civilizations throughout the greater galaxy.
Concealing her new identity — and her particular set of abilities — might be a dangerous strategy, however. In the world to which Anaplian returns, nothing is quite as it seems; and determining the appropriate level of interference in someone else’s war is never a simple matter.
6 – “Foundation” (by Isaac Asimov)
Overview: Mathematician Hari Seldon predicts the fall of the Galactic Empire and sets out to create the Foundation, a scientific community meant to preserve knowledge and culture.
Why it’s a must-read: Asimov weaves a grand tale of the rise and fall of civilizations and the quest to save humanity’s collective wisdom.
The first novel in Isaac Asimov’s classic science-fiction masterpiece, the Foundation series
THE EPIC SAGA THAT INSPIRED THE APPLE TV+ SERIES FOUNDATION • Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read
For twelve thousand years the Galactic Empire has ruled supreme. Now it is dying. But only Hari Seldon, creator of the revolutionary science of psychohistory, can see into the future—to a dark age of ignorance, barbarism, and warfare that will last thirty thousand years. To preserve knowledge and save humankind, Seldon gathers the best minds in the Empire—both scientists and scholars—and brings them to a bleak planet at the edge of the galaxy to serve as a beacon of hope for future generations. He calls his sanctuary the Foundation.
The Foundation novels of Isaac Asimov are among the most influential in the history of science fiction, celebrated for their unique blend of breathtaking action, daring ideas, and extensive worldbuilding. In Foundation, Asimov has written a timely and timeless novel of the best—and worst—that lies in humanity, and the power of even a few courageous souls to shine a light in a universe of darkness.
7 – “Leviathan Wakes” (by James S. A. Corey)
Overview: As tensions rise between Earth, Mars, and the Asteroid Belt, a missing woman and a rogue ship’s captain become key players in preventing an interstellar war.
Why it’s a must-read: The book that inspired “The Expanse” TV series – an intricate plotline set in a meticulously crafted universe.
From a New York Times bestselling and Hugo award-winning author comes a modern masterwork of science fiction, introducing a captain, his crew, and a detective as they unravel a horrifying solar system wide conspiracy that begins with a single missing girl. Now a Prime Original series.
Humanity has colonized the solar system—Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond—but the stars are still out of our reach.
Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, the Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for—and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.
Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to the Scopuli and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.
Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations—and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.
As you sail through these tales, brace yourself for an immersive journey through space politics, uncharted galaxies, and the depths of the human soul. Whether you’re in it for the thrill of space battles or the intrigue of political maneuvering, there’s something in this list for every space saga enthusiast. Safe travels, reader!