7 Gripping Books About Sci-Fi Soldiers
These extraordinary novels stand out in the galaxy of military sci-fi. By Michael J. Seidlinger | Published Mar 22, 2021
When a novel explores a battle-born and battle-broken sci-fi setting, readers are in store for some really interesting characters and worldbuilding. These books pose questions such as, what is it like to fight an alien threat? In the future, how will soldiers manage their weaponry? And what does war do to a character’s psyche as they manage to survive from battle to battle?
If you want answers, turn to these seven gripping books about sci-fi soldiers, perfect for any military sci-fi reader.
The Forever War
By Joe Haldeman
This piece of classic sci-fi by Joe Haldeman is frequently cited among fans of military sci-fi books as a shining example of the genre. Like the other books on this list, The Forever War is first and foremost about the brutalities and trauma faced by combat survivors.
Private William Mandella is a soldier in the United Nations Exploratory Force, tasked with battling the alien Taurans. Readers follow William across multiple planets, a black hole, and more. Through it all, Mandella remains fixated on his love interest, fellow soldier Marygay.
The novel explores Mandella’s notions of masculinity and sexuality, exposing how he holds onto what he knows as Earth changes rapidly during the war.
By Robert A. Heinlein
Robert A. Heinlein did a lot for the sci-fi genre at a time when it was still very much considered ‘genre,’ and treated as inferior from ‘real’ literature.
Heinlein gave the soldiers in Starship Troopers humanity, which makes their experiences even more vivid and intense for the reader. The future is highly-militarized, thanks to the Terran Federation. Juan Rico is an officer that enters the ongoing war against an alien menace called the “Arachnids.” He and his classmates are soldiers, but also students of the world they inhabit.
All You Need Is Kill
By Hiroshi Sakurazaka
This sci-fi story mashes up Groundhog Day with battlefield woe.
Sakurazaka’s ingenious novel was a runaway hit among sci-fi fans, and was even adapted in Edge of Tomorrow, a movie starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. However, the original work is a lot more fun than the big-screen adaptation.
Keiji Kiriya is stuck in a horrible time loop. He dies in battle over and over again, only to wake back up again in the heat of combat. Facing the same horrors repeatedly does nothing to numb him to the trauma.
Thankfully, a female soldier known as “the Full Metal Bitch” is cognizant of the time loop. She’s enigmatic and intimidating to Keiji, who inevitably seeks her counsel in order to find a way out of the time trap. AmazonBarnes & Noble
I Am Legend
By Richard Matheson
Though this one doesn’t quite fit the “soldier” archetype, I simply had to add one of my all-time favorites to the list.
The last man, Robert Neville, has survived the post-apocalypse wasteland long enough to become outdated, a single and solitary creature who intimidates and scares the society evolving around him. He sees Earth’s new inhabitants as monsters, horrible and odd vampiric hybrids, and makes it his mission to stake them while they sleep.
By Jack Campbell
Campbell’s Lost Fleet series is a military sci-fi standout. It merges the bleakness of war with action-packed angst, adrenaline, and hope.
What happens when a war continues for so long that nobody remembers what it was like before all the carnage? Jack Geary wakes from a century of cryosleep to find himself an idolized war hero, tasked with leading an Alliance fleet. Geary is clever and cunning, but disturbed by the cult of worship that has evolved around him. AmazonBarnes & Noble
By Yoon Ha Lee
This novel is the first in the Machineries of Empire series by Yoona Ha Lee, and it’s a page-turner you can’t help but lose yourself to.
At the center is Captain Kel Cheris, who’s on a formidable mission of redemption. Given a chance to atone for unconventional battle tactics, she must reclaim the Fortress of Scattered Needles, which has been overrun by heretics.
Kel’s undead partner in this mission is Shudos Jedao, one hell of an intimidating commander. He’s never lost a battle — but he has killed his own armies without a second thought. AmazonApple BooksBarnes & Noble
Old Man’s War
By John Scalzi
Scalzi’s fascinating Old Man’s War series subverts many common military sci-fi tropes.
At 75 years old, John Perry joins the Colonial Defense Force, a military entity that only recruits older adults.
New soldiers are promised a homestead on a colonized planet after retirement from the service. But first, they’re expected to use their experience gained from decades of life to fight extraterrestrials who are pushing back against human colonization. AmazonApple BooksBarnes & NobleScience Fiction Books