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Most of the books I have read are fiction. It is actually pretty challenging to try and see whether you can accurately gauge modern trends and movements just from reading fictional accounts created in the mind of another. All this requires the correct philosophical foundation, of course. With the wrong philosophy comes the wrong conclusions, irregardless of how good the writing is, how smart the reader and author are, and how well educated the players.
As an additional benefit, you acquire some experience of what drives the real world and real people without the tension of modern politics and modern times.
As for actual book recommendations, I did a post about it before. I’ll extract the highlights.
The Belisarius series starting off with this novel, is one of the greatest military science fiction series I have ever read. Hornblower paints a nice picture of bygone days, and so does Belisarius paint a good (definitely not nice) picture of Ancient Roman times. Three of the books in the series is fully available in full, and for no fee, at the Baen Free Library.
Another series similar to Belisarius is the General series by SM Stirling, focusing in on recovering a fallen human civilization through warfare and conquest. It is told in the omnibus novels The Conqueror and Warlord His Falkenberg’s Legion is also a great tale of the 300 Spartans in space. As close as you can get anyways. I only knew of Thermopylae (before the movie) because I had read Go Tell the Spartans in the omnibus Prince. SM Stirling differs from Eric Flint in that SM Stirling prefers to tell the darker side of warfare in barbarian lands. So you will see much more explicit violence and mayhem in his novels. For one thing, his Falkenberg legion pits Spartans up against Helots (aka terrorists). The Helots are every bit as brutal and uncivilized as AQ. The upshot is the Spartans win, so you’ll be getting your reward at the end, if you can withstand the shock long enough.
The Deathstalker series is a magnificent tale of what goes into bringing down an unjust empire culminating in the destruction of a just empire. Insurgency and counter-insurgency are portrayed quite well in the two Deathstalker series. Unlike other science fiction or military science fiction, the themes and plot formats used in the Deathstalker series are very varied. You will often get horror plot lines with the villains investigating alien ships and civilizations, which also provides you an indepth look into the motivations and character of the antagonists. Not many books do that. Not many authors can do that.
The conclusion is fitting and pays a high premium for your time in reading the series.
The classics are available online. Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and On War by Carl Von Clausewitz are the fundamental basics. The Art of War is short but that simply means it requires that the reader already have a solid background in tactics and strategy. Clausewitz explains things in greater detail. Prussia, after all, fought against Napoleon when America was fighting the War of 1812 against Britain and their allied AmerIndian tribes.
David Weber’s Off Armageddon Reef is a culmination of his writing career. OAR combines many elements from Weber’s beginning books, series, single novels, and the various technological advances present in Mutineer’s Moon and Honor Harrington.
Apocalypse Troll was one of his first novels, short and to the point. (It also has a central romance plotline for those interested) Free
Here are some sample chapters from Diplomatic Immunity from Lois McMaster Bujold. This particular novel is centered around a romance plot line. Miles is the main character of the series. The series then is about how Miles adapts to his glass bones as a child and how Miles finds a place for himself amongst the ultra conservative-military society of his planet as well as the cosmopolitan climate of the galaxy at large. It is thus, science fiction. Rather than using physical ability and strength to defeat his enemies, Miles has to rely upon cunning, stratagem, and well laid plans. Obviously this runs into a hitch when Miles sets his eyes upon his intended.
Have you ever wondered what would happen if the United Nations became dominant on the earth, eventually displacing the power of the United States? Have you ever thought about America’s situation if we were facing the United Nations in 1773 instead of 2003? Freehold provides a futuristic scenario of exactly these circumstances. The United Nations has achieved supremacy upon the Earth, yet colonists on a different planet will no longer accept UN intimidation tactics and resource exploitation programs. The forces for freedom and security are now the underdogs. Very different from our world where the United States has supremacy over the UN. Makes you think about what one should do with the UN, now, when we still have the power to do something about them. Freehold is available for free in many different ebook formats from the link.
John Ringo and David Weber’s March series was always a favorite of mine. The beginning two books in the series did an excellent job developing the character of a spoiled and naive prince. Forged through the fires of slaughter, death, and survival on a hostile planet, Prince Roger will epitomize what it requires to rule an Empire, a galatic empire at that. If you ever have wondered what it would be like to see a British Empire resurgent, with their top echelon royalty serving in the Marines and other armed forces fighting pirates and barbarians, then you should of course read this series. Available for free, the first two, from the link.
Fel is a writer that puts up his novels on the internet for free, because he loves writing and doesn’t see a need to be paid for it. His works are available here. Anyone who has read The Wheel of Time and found it dissatisfying concerning loose plot ends and wrongful characterization should give Fell’s Firestaff series a try. AD and D fanatics will also love the Firestaff cosmology because it combines a Prime Material plane with Planescape Torment characters, plots, demons to fight, and planes.
Eric Flint specializes in history, specifically alternate history novels. His 1632 can be read as a stand alone. It tells the tale of an American town sent back into the past. American virtues meet European aristocracy. Who shall survive? Free at the link.
Flint’s Rivers of War alternate history novel very closely matches the actual history of the War of 1812. The premise is that Sam Houston, a cosmopolitan man against slavery, did not get wounded and thus was able to usher in changes that prevented the Trail of Tears. Available for free at link.
That is it for now.
UPDATE:A minor correction. Bujold’s romance plot/themed novel was A Civil Campaign, not Diplomatic Immunity. Diplomatic Immunity is the sequel to A Civil Campaign.
UPDATE: John Ringo and Travis Taylor’s Vorpal series is an interesting take on how to write screenplays. Meaning, their books are almost picture perfect descriptions of such action packed movies as Aliens and Alien vs Predator. It is rather light on the character development, but the plot is simply about defending the earth from interdimensional gate travelers. Through the Looking Glass sets up the quantum premise of boson gates. Vorpal Blade then picks up after the end with a warp drive donated by an alien ally. Thus the Vorpal Blade is a ship wrapped around this warp drive. The adventures that the “Space Marines” on board get into are similar to Star Trek’s adventures. People die and new alien species are met or exterminated. Okay, maybe not the last part for Star Trek.