There’s nothing like curling up with a hot drink and a book during the winter months, and if, like me, you’d like nothing more than to shut the world out for a bit right now, a space opera is just what you need!
I love space operas primarily because of the quirky casts of characters, but space itself is looking pretty good at the moment! I wish I could leave face coverings and hand gel behind and get on a spaceship to Mars, or even Venus (apparently there might be life on Venus now), and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Space operas are designed to be immersive, with their sprawling worlds and excellent characters, but that doesn’t mean they lack plot. Some of the most action-packed and complex stories I’ve read have been space operas.
Another thing I love about space operas is how universal the themes are. It shows how the same things connect us all, like love and relationships, politics, diversity, and more. Connecting across vast physical and metaphorical distances has been increasingly difficult this far into 2020. Still, space opera has such a wealth of hope in it that you can take some comfort from. Oppressed peoples overcome their oppressors, found families somehow manage to rescue each other, and star-crossed lovers make it. If your favorite characters can overcome intergalactic war, we can overcome the pandemic. One thing I’ve learned through reading so many books is that nothing’s hopeless, nothing’s impossible, and there is always light at the end of the tunnel.
Find a blanket, a warm mug, and a cat, and lose yourself in one of these action-packed space operas. The best thing is, they’re all series! So you won’t run out of galaxy to explore for a long time to come.
The Revenger Series by Alastair Reynolds
The Revenger series is an emotionally raw trilogy about a space pirate crew looking for collapsed planets. They’re full of loot and protected by life-threatening booby traps. Any pirate’s dream! If you’re looking for a fierce sister story, you will definitely enjoy Revenger. Running away from their father, Adrana and Fura Ness are two of the most kickbutt characters I have read.
The Machineries of Empire by Yoon Ha Lee
Yoon Ha Lee’s space opera series was up for a Hugo last year for the third book, Revenant Gun, and deservedly so. The best way to describe the series is as Star Trek with mathematics. (You didn’t expect me to get through a whole post on space opera without mentioning Star Trek, did you?) Ninefox Gambit follows Captain Kel Cheris, who is in disgrace for using unconventional methods in her last battle. Now, she must recapture the Fortress of Shattered Needles in order to redeem herself in the eyes of her superiors.
The Wayfarers Series by Becky Chambers
A personal favorite of mine, the Wayfarers books are set in a sprawling universe with amazing world-building. The first book follows the newbie on a spaceship crew. The captain takes a job involving journeying to a far-flung planet on a diplomatic mission. The ship, Wayfarer, can tunnel through space by creating wormholes, and Rosemary gets taken along for the ride. The characters in this book will feel like family.
The Once & Future Duology
If you can’t choose between medieval fantasy and sci-fi, this series is the perfect middle ground for you. Once and Future has a futuristic corporation on the one hand, and a wizard, a magic sword, and King Arthur, on the other. But this Arthur is a girl—a girl who has crash-landed on Old Earth, no less.
The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
One of my all-time favorite space opera series, The Lunar Chronicles retells a classic fairytale with each book. Moving through Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White, Marissa Meyer reinvents the bedtime stories as action-packed space stories! In the first book we meet Cinder, a cyborg working as a mechanic in New Beijing. There’s a terrible plague in this one—a head’s up if you’re avoiding books with that concept involved. However, it isn’t the primary focus, and the tone of the series is very light and fun.
The Consortium Rebellion Series by Jessie Mihalik
If you like a dollop of political shenanigans and noble-born characters in your books, Consortium Rebellion is for you. Following a princess fleeing an arranged marriage, we take to the stars as Ada tries to escape. But her escapades soon prove too good to last, as she ends up in jail with a war criminal. What could possibly go wrong?
The Universe of Xuya Series by Aliette de Bodard
Set somewhere called The Scattered Pearls Belt, you just know this series is going to be good! There’s plenty of virtual realities here, as well as whole worlds to explore, so for those of you who love the Oasis from Ready Player One, or the NeuroLink in Warcross, this is the book for you. An old transport ship has taken to brewing mind-altering drugs for space farers, and finds themself involved in solving a murder.
The Androma Saga by Lindsay Cummings and Sasha Alsberg
Zenith will grab you off your sofa, throw you into space, and never let go. Collaboratively written, this series is one of the most immersive space operas I’ve read. It follows a butt-kicking, all-girl crew traveling under The Bloody Baroness. With a cruel bounty hunter and a murderess queen involved, the girls will have to fight for each other’s lives.
The Binti Series by Nnedi Okorafor
Binti is a collection of novellas and short stories that make up an epic, mind-blowing space opera. Binti decides to leave her tribe to study across the galaxy, but disaster befalls her ship. With a strong element of found family and characters you’ll love, Binti is a great addition to your shelf.
The Skyward Series by Brandon Sanderson
Spensa, a student at flight school, is desperate to help fight the aliens attacking her colony. But first she’ll have to work out how to fix the ship she’s found. Although, it isn’t a normal ship. No, this one has a soul.
And if that’s not enough, check out this single novel debut!
The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson
Ok, so there is no word on whether this is going to be a series or not yet, but it looks promising. The Space Between Worlds is a debut novel about the multiverse. A space opera focusing on the multiverse feels quite new to me, so I am wanting this book! It’s about Cara, a girl who’s parallel selves have died on 372 worlds. That gives Cara free rein to travel to all of them. She spends her time collecting off-world data, until one of her last few parallel selves dies. A new world opens up to Cara, but this one is a little more mysterious.