In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the debut of Star Wars, here is a list of science fiction novels that fit the category of space opera. As with George Lucas’ groundbreaking film, each is the initial adventure in a series. Crack the cover of one of these entertaining books for a rewarding tale of space travel, exploration, alien contact, or warfare!
Kevin J. Anderson
The introductory entry of The Saga of Seven Suns tells the story of a legendary interspecies conflict so vast that it consumes half of the galaxy and threatens to wipe out the three branches of space-faring humanity.
Heir apparent to the Skolian Empire, Soz Valdoria falls in love with a man from a rival empire in this opening adventure in The Saga of the Skolian Empire. Asaro masterfully combines conventions of romance and hard science fiction in this exciting series.
In a story mixing intrepid space adventure with the more serious themes of genetic engineering and inter-species relationships, Startide Rising began Brin’s Uplift series and swept the Hugo and Nebula awards in 1984.
The Warrior’s Apprentice
Lois McMaster Bujold
Born with fragile bones and other physical abnormalities, Miles Vorkosigan possesses the soul of a warrior and the mind of a military genius. At age 17, Miles organizes the Free Dendarii Mercenaries and leads them into battle, opening the long-running Vorkosigan Saga.
C. J. Cherryh
The Foreigner Universe today comprises nine titles, but the series began in 1994 with this story of a lost colony-ship that stranded a small group of humans on an alien planet where order is maintained through a system of registered assassination.
With the Lightnings
Lt. Daniel Leary of the Republic of Cinnabar Navy survives the slaughter of a Cinnabar diplomatic delegation during a military coup on Kostroma. With his friend, Adele, and a rag tag band of sailors, Leary fights a rearguard action in this first episode in the Lt. Leary series.
The Reality Dysfunction. Part 1: Emergence
Peter F. Hamilton
On a moon orbiting a gas giant, Joshua Calvert finds a data-cell among the remnants of a long-extinct alien race. The artifact holds a clue to terrifying events unfolding on Lalonde, a colony planet on which spacetime is rifting. The Night’s Dawn Trilogy is epic space opera on the grandest scale.
The Engines of God
The Hutch series opens at the end of the 22nd century, when Earth is in its death throes. Astonishing structures left by a lost alien civilization greet space pilot Priscilla Hutchins and the archeologists she transports to a planet scheduled for terraforming.
Marvelous organic technologies support the exotic subterranean cities of Nulaperion, where the powerful Logic Lords keep the lower castes enslaved. An outlawed Pilot slips young Tim Corcorigan a data-crystal that ensures his freedom in the initial episode in the inventive Nulaperion Sequence.
Trading in Danger
Following her expulsion from Spaceforce Academy, Ky Vatta gets an obsolete freighter from her family’s interstellar shipping concern. It's not long before a business venture lands Ky smack in the middle of an interplanetary civil war in this first book in the Vatta’s War series.
Human and machine intelligences clash, and an awesome alien construct orbiting a neutron star holds the key to the survival of humanity in Reynolds’ cutting-edge science fiction adventure. First book in the boldly imaginative Revelation Space sequence.
On Basilisk Station
Commander Honor Harrington and her crew are posted to the remote Basilisk outpost where authorities hope they’ll not be heard from again. Fat chance! When forces from the Republic of Haven attack Basilisk, Honor is keen to defend it. The Honor Harrington series boasts a cultish following.
Zahn revitalized the subgenre of military science fiction back in 1985 with this novel about the Cobras, a servo-augmented, laser-enhanced guerilla unit formed to fight the alien Trofts. The Cobra Trilogy offers high military science fiction adventure.