Best Space Operas of 2019

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Here at Den of Geek, we love a good space opera: that delightful subgenre of science fiction that combines action, adventure, romance, and melodrama and sets it all in space.

Between now and the end of 2019, fans of space opera have a lot to look forward to. Whether or not you’re excited about the December 20, 2019 release of Star Wars Episode IX, the year should be a good one for space opera—especially for novel readers, but with a few films and comics thrown in for good measure.

Here are the space operas (and some stories that are space opera-adjacent) we’ve already consumed or are most looking forward to consuming at Den of Geek…

January

Fire Fury Frontier by Amanda Rose

This dystopian novel follows the remnant of humanity aboard the single ship, the Saisei. Refugees from a dead planet, humanity has lost any knowledge of what it is to live on a single world instead of traveling the stars—but space is not always a hospitable home. Set 200 years after the events of her 2018 novel Fire Fury Freedom, the book looks into what could be humanity’s last days…

Io

In Io, a young scientist wants to save a post-apocalyptic Earth, but has to make a choice of whether to leave for the moon Io with Earth’s last survivors. The Netflix film, starring Margaret Qualley and Anthony Mackie, the made-for-Netflix original didn’t get great reviews, but for viewers looking for a post-apocalyptic space fix, this may be a good way to spend ninety minutes.

Shadow Captain by Alastair Reynolds

The two sisters of Reynolds’s 2016 Revenger return to face old wounds—and seek new adventure—in this second part of the “Revenger” trilogy. Adrana and Fura Ness signed on to a mercenary ship in Revenger, and events separated them, including Adrana’s capture by pirate Bosa Sennen. The two decide to go after Bosa Sennen’s treasure ship, but those who want the pirate dead won’t care whether Bosa Sennen is flying the ship, or two sisters out for their own revenge.

Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

Korean mythology and space opera intersect in this fantastic middle grade offering from well-known SF writer Yoon Ha Lee (also a writer on The Vela, below). Min, a fox who—like her family—takes human form to avoid cultural prejudice about foxes being unlucky, cons her way into space to find out what happened to her older brother, Jun.

A young enlisted member of the Space Forces, Jun has been accused of desertion, and Min’s determined to prove that’s not true—and find him, before something horrible can happen to him. Could he really have gone searching for the Dragon Pearl, an artifact that can perfectly terraform a planet without the intervention of the dragons?

Although this is aimed at a younger audience, there’s plenty here for older readers to enjoy, especially the foxes, dragons, goblins, and ghosts that Lee introduces to a universe of multi-world governments, space pirates, and terraforming.

February

The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

On a planet divided between eternal night and eternal day, most cities are located on the border between those two extremes in Anders’s new novel. The dystopian world, where time itself is controlled by the government, may find itself looking to be saved by a girl once exiled to night—who found a way to survive.

Read our full review of City in the Middle of the Night.

No Way by S. J. Morden

In the sequel to One Way, Frank Kitteridge is stranded on Mars and determined to find his way home. Abandoned and left for dead by the corporation XO, Frank discovers that he’s not as alone on the planet as he expected—and the survivors of an SO base on Mars may try to take everything he has left.

Polaris Rising by Jessie Mihalik

For two years, Ada von Hasenberg has been a princess on the run—into the stars—to avoid a betrothal she doesn’t want in this first volume of a new space opera trilogy. Captured by an outlaw hired by her father, Ada’s fate gets worse when the outlaw, known as the Devil of Fornax Zero, encounters the ships of her jilted fiancée’s family. Can she make a deal with the Devil to save her family’s face, and choose her own fate?

Terminal Uprising by Jim Hines

If you missed Hines’s series opener, Terminal Alliance, you’ve yet to meet space janitor Marion “Mops” Adamopoulos and her team. While their original plan was just to clean up after their ship, they stumble upon some truths about the fate of Earth (now overrun by zombie-like feral humans) and the aliens who supposedly saved humanity. With the truth in her hands, as well as her own ship, Mops is off to change the fate of humanity.

March

Imagine a YA version of Les Miserables set on a French colony planet. That’s the premise behind Brody and Rendell’s series opener. The planet of Laterre was settled by the wealthy French and their descendants when Earth’s end was nigh. But while the wealthy continue to rise, the poor starve, and the discontented inhabitants of Laterre plot a revolution that will rival the rebellion of their historical ancestors. Chatine, Marcellus, and Alouette—a thief, an officer, and a library guardian—find their fates intertwined as revolution comes to Laterre, and no one’s destiny is certain.

Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear

In Bear’s new series opener, Haimey Dz and her salvage crew stumble upon information at the edge of the Milky Way that could change everything. With revolutionaries seeking to use ancient tech to start a war, Haimey has to get to the bottom of the mysteries of an ancient civilization first, before that knowledge can be used against everyone she cares about.

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

Mahit Dzmare, the ambassador from a small mining Station, makes her way to the center of the Texicalaani Empire, a hungry growing empire whose ambitions might have led to the murder of her predecessor. Mahit is determined to keep Station free and independent—and bring the murderer of the previous ambassador to justice.

read more: Loving the Oppressor — Identity in A Memory Called Empire

The Vela

In Serial Box‘s first space opera serial, mercenary Asala Sikou isn’t that concerned about her dying star system—she’s looking out for number one. But when she gets paired with a rich president’s kid on a rescue mission, she finds herself in the middle of a situation where the universe may be in the balance—and she will be the one to decide who deserves to survive. The authors for the serial are Becky Chambers, Yoon Ha Lee, Rivers Solomon, and SL Huang, all of whom have earned critical acclaim for their previous SF works.

read more: Post-Apocalyptic Refugees in The Vela & Terminal Uprising

April

Allan’s “Blood on the Stars” series hits its twelfth installment in this novel, in which the Confederacy and the Hegemony struggle for dominance of the known worlds. When the Hegemony appears in control of an incredible weapon, a superbattleship known as the Colossus, it appears that the tide of war has again turned. But even while the battle for the Rim seems to be at its peak, there are other, older enemies waiting for their turn to enter the fray…

May

Vessel by Lisa A. Nichols

NASA astronaut Catherine Wells and her crew are lost in deep space, and everyone believes that they are dead. When Catherine returns after ten years, with little memory of what happened to her or the rest of the crew, readjusting to life on earth is difficult. Her husband has gotten remarried. Her young daughter is now a teenager Catherine doesn’t know. And Catherine herself suffers from jumps in memory and consciousness—she increasingly finds herself waking in places she shouldn’t be, including highly secured areas of NASA. Everything happening makes her wonder what actually happened to her and her crew… and what might truly be happening now that she’s back on Earth.

Octavia Gone by Jack McDevitt

Alex Benedict returns in an eighth series installment of space mystery. Alex’s teammate, Gabe, has reappeared after eleven years lost in space. As Gabe tries to rebuild his friendships with Alex and Chase, and they try to readjust to Gabe’s presence, an artifact from Gabe’s old collection is stolen, giving the team a chance to work together and solve a mystery, just like in the good old days. With leads from a dead pilot pointing them toward infamous missing scientists, the three may be on one of the greatest archaeological adventures of their time.

Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Legionnaire Tyler Jones misses the Draft, which would have assigned him to a more prestigious squad than the bunch of misfits he ends up with, because he’s on a mission to rescue a cryogenically frozen girl from a lost transport ship. But missing the Draft isn’t the only problem the girl causes Tyler. Just as he and his squad are out on their first mission, they discover that the girl, Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, has stowed away with them. The entire Terran Defense Force is looking for her—most likely because she has superhuman powers. This YA series starter introduces seven mismatched crew mates, both human and alien, and launches them into an intergalactic adventure.

Ad Astra

Because of the hard science angle, Ad Astra is unlikely to really qualify as a space opera. But the Brad Pitt film about an engineer who goes into space, seeking for answers about his father’s failed mission to find extra terrestrial life on Neptune, should have plenty of beautiful space cinematography.

June

While The Lesson is entirely set on Earth, its storyline, five years after first contact of humans with a super-advanced alien species, earns it a spot on this list. A Ynaa ship hovers over Water Island in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Virgin Islanders have developed a tenuous peace with the aliens. A year after the death of a boy, at the hands of the Ynaa, three families lives intertwine as everything begins to change on the islands once again, and the peace is broken. Not only does this first contact story beg to be read, but its unique setting from an #OwnVoices author (Turnbull is from the USVI) make it an appealing way to spice up your SFF reading list.

Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky

This sequel to Children of Time continues the saga of terraformers from a dying Earth—who woke something on their new planet that would have been better left sleeping. Thousands of years after Earth’s civilizations fell, the remaining humans have made allies with a spider-like people, the Portiids. When these humans receive a signal being transmitted from Nod, they are excited at the possibility of finding human cousins… unaware that they’re walking into danger.

Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone

Vivian Liao is an innovator, and she never expects her own work to fling her into the future. But the time in which she finds herself is no utopia—instead, an Empress who can destroy worlds with a thought reigns supreme, and Viv has to lead a rag tag team of subjugated misfits into a rebellion that will let her reclaim her old life.

Orphans by Roberto Recchioni and Emiliano Mammucari

Italian authors Roberto Recchioni and Emiliano Mammucari continue this sweeping tale of an alien war against Earth, and the five “Orphan” heroes who stand against the aliens. The first two volumes were finally translated into English and released in the United States in 2018, and Lion Forge is keeping the European import coming with a third volume, Truth, that explores whether the true enemy is the alien forces—or within the elite Orphan Squadron’s own ranks.

The Sol Majestic by Ferrett Steinmetz

Kenna and a band of misfits must come together to save everything they’ve come to cherish—in this case, the galaxy’s most renowned restaurant, the Sol Majestic. This humorous interplanetary tale takes a poke at some of the epic nature of space opera, while also building a story about staying true to one’s ideals and learning about strengthening friendship and love.

Velocity Weapon by Megan E. O’Keefe

In this debut novel, two siblings are destined to save the universe—but when soldier Sandra has her gunship destroyed, she wakes more than two hundred years in her future. The war she and her brother, Biran, were supposed to end is over, but with both sides destroyed in the process. Everyone she ever knew is dead. Separated by time and space, will she and Biran find a way to set things right? This looks like a series launcher, so odds are good that the novel will leave that question open, and take us deeper into space-time looking for the answer.

July

When Commander May Knox wakes, she doesn’t have any memory of her mission, or even who she is. She discovers that her ship is failing, and she is the only surviving member of a crew bound for one of Jupiter’s moons. Everyone believes that May is dead, and her husband, Stephen—estranged due to the mission—is on bereavement leave from NASA. But when May’s voice finally reaches Earth, Stephen returns to guide her to safety—not realizing that not everyone wants May to survive. This thriller takes notes from previous SF thrillers and space missions gone wrong, such as Arrival and The Martian.

Deadly viruses and abandoned starships mix in Wallace’s fast-paced sci-fi thriller. Zahra and her crew are hired to infiltrate the abandoned exploration vessel House of Wisdom. All they need is to kidnap Jaswinder Bhattacharya, the only survivor of the virus that killed the rest of the ship’s voyagers. Bhattacharya’s DNA allows entry into the vessel, but breaking into the ship opens a can of worms that Zahra and her crew never anticipated—the truth to a secret the government has been hiding for years. Packed with explosions, betrayals, and unexpected twists, this suspenseful thriller may well keep you up at night…

Brown continues his “Red Saga Rising” series in this fifth installment, revolutionary Darrow begins to wonder if he is still a hero. Though he still dreams of a Utopian society beyond the color-coded corruption he fought for so long, he’s become an outlaw in the very nation he founded. Meanwhile, Lysander au Lune, is determined to bring peace to the system, by force if necessary, even if Darrow stands in his way. So much has happened in the first four books of this series that starting in book five is probably not a great idea, but for fans used to long series reads (some critics compare this in tone to a Game of Thrones set in space), grabbing book one might be just the thing.

After the revolution in Medusa Uploaded, the heroes have taken the helm of government… but they soon realize that the Old Guard they displaced knew how to do things like keep the lights on. Ruling isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, especially when the new leaders of the generation starship Olympia are faced with judgment from three ancient, sentient starships guarding their way to a planet known as the Graveyard. As the second book in a trilogy, this title depends on knowledge of what has gone on before—and while the series has plenty of levity, some familiarity with Greek tragedy may enhance your reading experience.

This fanfiction become canon is a prequel to Cixin Liu’s extremely well-received “Three Body Problem” series. Focusing on Yun, a traitor to the human race who has helped the alien Trisolorans conquer Earth, the novel delves into the man’s life, from his battle with cancer through his work with the aliens. As his life nears its end, he’s once again drawn into conflict—but now, he refuses to be anyone’s pawn. While some readers feel this work, approved by Liu, can be read alone, others find it highly dependent on having read The Three Body Problem and sequels for enjoyment.

When Sally Jansen’s mission to Mars ended in disaster, she believed that her days in space were over. But when a large alien object threatens Earth, NASA reaches out to Jansen, one of their most accomplished astronauts, for one more mission. This could be the redemption Jansen has always hoped for, but if she doesn’t succeed, it could be the end of humanity.

August

Escaping Exodus by Nicky Drayden

Seske Kaleigh’s clan has long voyaged the stars in spacefaring beasts, carving up their insides to create systems of mass transit and cities in which their people can live. The barely-living creature keeps its human occupants alive and able to survive until they use up the creature’s resources and have to move to another. The system works… until something goes horribly wrong.

Read our review of Nicky Drayden’s last novel, Temper.

Sharpe launches the first in her new space opera, the Starhawk Rogue series, with the tale of a down-on-her-luck pilot who just wants her own ship. When Natasha Orlev discovers a buried starship, she knows it’s the key to finding her way to prosperity—as long as she can dig it up before the Feds realize she’s performing illegal salvage. And of course, she’s not the only one interested in claiming the ship for herself. Readers won’t have to wait long to find out what happens next in this series; Sharpe already has the second novel, Marked Mercenaries, available for preorder ahead of its September publication date.

Star Wars IX, a 2019 Space Opera

December

Star Wars Episode IX

Love or hate the new Star Wars films, the newest trilogy is coming to its conclusion at the end of 2019. It should offer some answers about the open threads from Episodes VII and VIII, and point to the direction where the Star Wars franchise will travel from here out. You can follow our collection of all the news for the episode here: Star Wars Episode IX.

We’ll continue to update this piece during the year as we find out about additional upcoming releases. What space operas are you most looking forward to? What have we missed? Let us know in the comments!

Alana Joli Abbott writes about books for Den of Geek. Read more of her work here.

This article was originally posted on Den of Geek

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