Dipping a Toe in the Sci-fi Pool

**An SFR Month post**

For me, romance has always been the go-to genre for as long as I can remember. Even when I didn’t know it, I was sliding my way in to a happily ever after and being grateful to find it. Once I realized how much I loved the genre, I started finding my niche. vampires and werewolves? Aww yeah! Well-written inspirationals that take place in small towns? Take me there! Tracking down serial killers or being lost in the jungle with a combustible couple unable to keep their hands off each other and leave no crime unpunished? Now, you’re singing my tune. Sci-fi romance? Whoa, put on the brakes! Full stop! Not ready for that commitment!

I am a total sci-fi newbie. I tell you this so that you can judge me. I read a little of the Dragonriders of Pern series. That counts, right? I hardly remember any of it except for a super sad part where one person has been betrayed and is dying and has a last conversation with the other. I’ve never seen the Star Wars movies, although I did role play on a Star Wars game for years. Help files and wikis kept me from faltering too terribly much. I think that role playing on that Star Wars mud really got me interested in the genre, but I never knew where to start.

I asked for suggestions, but I had trouble articulating exactly what I wanted to read about. I’d tried a few sci-fi novels before, but they were so overly technical and dry that I felt like I needed to have a science degree just to follow along. So there was no chance that I would ever, ever read a book that was going to make me feel dumb. The responses I got from people was that perhaps it wasn’t a good genre for me and I should read chick lit instead. Why? Simply because I wanted to find books that didn’t bore me to tears and that would, in fact, focus on how characters related to one another in a cool futuristic backdrop? Then someone suggested that I try the Gor series by John Norman.

Tarnsman of GorI have seen Gor described as both fantasy and sci-fi, and honestly, I’m not certain of which classification is correct. I would, however, classify it as a hot mess. There are over thirty books in this massive series where men are the masters and women are little more than chattel. It has been a very long time since I have read these books, and I could not be bothered to spend my precious $7.69 for it on the Kindle to relive what has been epically successful in keeping me far far away from any science fiction ever. In the books, women are often stolen from Earth, brought to Gor, forced to adapt to a strange new culture, and then punished because gasp! They didn’t get it right. They missed their families! They wanted to go home! Oh how dare they be so difficult on their new overlords. They become Kajira, and are literally at the whims of their masters who are often cruel. Also, kajira cannot talk about themselves in the first person. They are relegated to speaking of themselves in the third. so if I were kidnapped for some reason and taken to Gor and I wanted a cookie, I would have to say something like ‘this girl would be grateful if the master would allow this girl to partake of the delicate pastries that have been placed upon this table to please this girl’s most worthy master.’ If that sounded trite and over the top, that’s how I’d describe these books.

The romance lover in me hated this series so hard because there never seemed to be a point where anyone was ever equal. Other girls seemed to be completely unhelpful and mean to each other, and the men got all the glory and could continue to be utter jerks. Even if you managed to be a free woman on Gor, you always had to watch out because some overbearing Neanderthal might toss you over his shoulder and put you in white silks. That was the other thing about this series that annoyed me. Even if a kajira were sexually attracted to her master, she couldn’t act on it unless she had the red silks on, and she had to earn even those. So all of that along with the one-dimensional characters, the incredibly dry writing, and what felt like very little plot made these books both ragetastic and utterly boring. At some point, I stopped reading to make sense and tried to skim just for the sex scenes, but even those were lackluster.

CaptivatedIt has been eight long years since that Gortastic marathon and I was happily going through my non-sci-fi romance existence when my BFF told me to read Lauren Dane’s Captivated. Now, this book is number three in a series, and I am a notorious series order hopper. This book had everything I never knew I’d been wanting for so long. There was intricate world building, politics, military action, technical language I could understand, and characters that I absolutely adored. There was that missing piece, the relationship, the friends, the tension. I cared about these people and wanted them to have a better life. There were other worlds, other planets that needed exploring, and I was on board with all of it. At last, I’d found something that I never realized I even wanted. I’m going to read this series from the very beginning so that I can have a better appreciation for the characters the second time around.

Claiming DerrynCurrently, I am reading Vivian Arend’s Claiming Derryn. It is a fun, action-packed, sexually-intense book about a woman who thought that she’d lost both of her loves, and two men who are on the wrong side of the law and will stop at nothing to have her back. This is my first Vivian Arend book and I love the imagery and the cute little space creatures called Sharyssa that are more than what they seem. I am enjoying the crew of the ship and the banter back and forth. Part of what makes a story so great for me are its secondary characters, and I like all of them so far!

Naked in DeathNext up will be J.D. Robb’s Naked in Death. I am pretty certain that I read this once, and I had a dear friend who was what I like to call Roarke-obsessed. If it’s futuristic, it counts as sci-fi for me! I am a little daunted by the fact that there are fifteen trazillion of these books, but I tend to love Nora Roberts’ books like cake.

What does the future hold for me? Has wrote a fabulous post at the beginning of SFR month chock full of recommendations by both herself and commenter’s. I’m going to work my way through that list. I would like to find more novels with different species at the forefront. I am also interested in colonization of new worlds, but I don’t even know where to go to find that. What I do know is that I will find what I enjoy, especially now that I understand that the missing piece for me has been the romance. And just maybe, after all of this exploration, I’ll be ready to take on the genre as a whole and wade a little deeper in the vast pool that is science fiction.

Tarnsman of Gor (Gor #1)
by John Norman

Tarl Cabot has always believed himself to be a citizen of earth. He has no inkling that his destiny is far greater than the small planet he has inhabited for the first twenty-odd years of his life. One frosty winter night in the New England woods, he finds himself transported to the planet of Gor, also known as counter-earth, where everything is dramatically different from anything he has ever experienced. It emerges that Tarl is to be trained as a Tarnsman, one of the most honored positions in the rigid, caste-bound Gorian society. He is disciplined by the best teachers and warriors that Gor has to offer. . . but to what end?

*blurb taken from Goodreads*

Captivated (Phantom Corps #3)
by Lauren Dane

Vincenz Fardelle, exiled son of the Supreme Leader of the Imperialist Universe, has spent much of the last ten years working to stop the threat his father poses. But he’s not alone in his quest. Julian Marsters has lost his best friend and countless others in the war and has made vengeance his only goal. In each other, Julian and Vincenz find not only like minds, but kindred spirits.However unexpected their relationship, everything changes for Vincenz and Julian when Hannah Black comes into their lives. Having been captured and held in near total isolation by imperialist troops, their immediate response is to protect her.Emotionally shattered but resilient, Hannah rebuilds herself. Because of the warm safety she finds in the arms of Julian—and Vincenz—she becomes someone harder, stronger and bent on preventing the Imperialists from harming anyone else.For the two men, wrestling with their passionate feelings for Hannah is only the beginning. War is about to send all three into harm’s way and an equally dangerous secret could tear them apart.

*blurb taken from Goodreads*

Claiming Derryn
by Vivian Arend

How many layers of deception are there in space? When a trade negotiation goes wrong, Melina Davenport is sure she’ll end up either a casualty of war or a sex slave. Discovering one of her missing partners, Trev, is the new leader of the rebels who have captured her adds insult to injury. But when her former lover whisks her away to a reunion with their third, Davis—now captain of the notorious outlaw vessel Nottingham—she has to decide if she wants to join her two lovers in their important but less-than-legal activities. Time is running out. The authorities are hunting them, the rebels are bomb crazy and the local fauna is reproducing at an astonishing rate aboard their vessel. If they don’t find a solution soon, they can kiss the universe goodbye.

*blurb taken from Goodreads*

Naked in Death (In Death #1)
by J.D. Robb

detective Lieutenant Eve Dallas and Roarke. It is the year 2058, and technology now completely rules the world. But New York City Detective Eve Dallas knows that the irresistible impulses of the human heart are still ruled by just one thing-passion. When a senator’s daughter is killed, the secret life of prostitution she’d been leading is revealed. The high-profile case takes Lieutenant Eve Dallas into the rarefied circles of Washington politics and society. Further complicating matters is Eve’s growing attraction to Roarke, who is one of the wealthiest and most influential men on the planet, devilishly handsome… and the leading suspect in the investigation.

*blurb taken from Goodreads*

12 thoughts on “Dipping a Toe in the Sci-fi Pool”

  1. The only sic-fi books I’ve read has been by authors I like, who write in different genres. So I’ve read:
    Lauren Dane’s Phantom Corps/Federation Chronicles series
    Sherrilyn Kenyon’s The League series
    Kele Moon’s The Queen’s Consorts.
    I am now in middle of reading Ann Aguirre’s Sirantha Jax series and loving it.

    I have loved the series above and would like to read more Sci-Fi, just don’t know where to look. I will check out Claiming Derryn.

    I think I need this genre to be recommend or by authors I read before picking it up.

  2. Hi Meka!!! Thanks for the warning about the Gor books – that does not sound like my cup of tea at ALL. Did I recommend the Vorkosigan books by Lois McMaster Bujold? I LOVE them! The first two books, Shards of Honor and Barrayar, are available in an omnibus called Cordelia’s Honor, and they are excellent.

    I also liked Kate Elliot’s Jaran, which is a sci-fi and fantasy blend.

    I’ve only read the first book in Lauren Dane’s series, so I’ll have to check out the others.

  3. I rarely read SF, mainly because they tend to be either hard science, futuristic military, or space opera, and none of those particularly interest me. However, I recently read The Best Of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord, and it was great. It’s kind of a road trip story set on an alien planet. There is a romance, but it’s very understated. The male lead character is basically modeled after Mr. Spock, while the female lead is more emotional and humanistic (but still depicted as a strong character). I’ve seen some mixed reviews, but I definitely enjoyed it, and would love to find more books like it.

  4. Normally I don’t read much Science Fiction, but I have read several recently and I have a couple in my TBR pile that I plan to read soon. In fact, right now I am reading the Swedish translation of Naked in Death, since I stumbled upon a used hardcover yesterday. It took awhile before I warmed up to Eve, though.

    Oh, and thank you for pointing out the Vivian Arend book. I had missed it, somehow. *adds it to To Buy list*
    One last thing. If you like Urban Fantasy, I recommend Lazette Gifford’s Devlin Series. They are more Science Fiction Mysteries than hard, technical Science Fiction. No romance though.

  5. I am sorry but I am absolutely mystified.

    Who on earth could recommend, with a straight face, anything Gor as good science fiction, let alone anything romantic? Not only misogynistic to the extreme, but also contravenes everything that is sane, safe and consensual.

  6. @DanielleH:

    I can totally understand that. That is one of the reasons why I feel like romance is such an amazing genre. If I want to try something brand new, chances are that an author I enjoy has either written it or can recommend someone who has. Have you tried Perdition? I hear it is really, really good.

  7. @Rebe:
    My friend absolutely loves the first set of books that you mentioned. She says that I would love Miles like cake. Also, I adore blends like fantasy and sci-fi, which is what I feel the pern books were.

  8. @JenM:
    oh, that sounds like a really awesome book. I’m adding it to my TBR as we speak. I think I’d also like a lot of the types of science fiction that you dislike, althoughI’m not certain of what a space opera is.

  9. @azteclady:
    It was definitely not myu thing. I can usually read books with forced seduction if it is written a certain way. I can definitely understand why it might be someone else’s cup of tea, but it certainly wasn’t mine. I read seven of those books, and that was seven far too many.

  10. Great post Meka. I really hope you will try some Anne McCaffrey again, as she is one of my favourite authors. Colonization, hmm, you might try Robin D. Owens or Jayne Castle, I love both their books a lot. I am also in love with Jean Johnson’s Theirs not to reason why, series, and you can easily skip the parts where it gets too technical. I know I do when the weaponry is described in minute detail.

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