Looking for Mass Effect without Reapers
By - Hendy853
David Brin's Uplift series. Tons of alien species in a stable galactic political system where all species reached intelligence by being uplifted by another species. Only us humans claim we got there without help which pisses off the aliens, many thinking that's not even possible and they should come to Earth and uplift us properly.
That sounds so awesome, go humans haha. However I wouldn't quite call Mass Effect's political systems "stable" haha.
So it's basically Reverse Prime Directive: The Novel?
pretty much, yes! Uplifting other species to sentience is held to be the highest good and the sign of a mature species
I've heard of *Uplift* before, it's definitely an interesting-sounding setup. I'll move it up my list. Thanks!
Just a note, skip the first book in the first trilogy, it's considered the weakest and it''s completely independent of the rest of the series. Personally did not like it and it doesn't really involve the themes you like.
*Startide Rising* is the most famous/well-regarded out of the series, so starting with that (and maybe *The Uplift War*) and then going to book one would be a good idea, too!
You've mentioned The Culture series already, and I think you should read Player of Games specifically. Really fits the bill as it is a plot all about unusual cultures and how they shape their peoples/galactic politics
I've been meaning to read that soon on my kindle. I'll make it more of a priority. Thank you!
pssst, The Player of Games is currently on sale on kindle for $2. Fantastic book!
edit: whoops, make that $3
You have to check A Memory Called Empire. It's a little more on the side of court politics of an empire than multi-cultural Star Trek politics but it does have a primary focus on intrigue and diplomacy as you requested.
I just started the second book though and I'm starting to think that we are about to see something Reaper-esque. But the first one very much can stand as an one-shot read if you wish to.
Memory is one that's caught my eye a few times. I'll take a closer look at it. Thanks. :)
Memory Called Empire and Mass Effect could not be more different
I disagree. It becomes even more Mass Effect in second book. But, it depends on what parts of Mass Effect you focus on. It is not ship and crew, but it's a central, decadent empire facing internal political struggles while they try to deal with an outside threat. The internal politics feel Mass Effect. But it lacks the cool aliens, and ship and crew.
The Culture books in the second half of the series deal with a lot more politics between civilizations on the same tech level as the Culture and ones who aren't necessarily at war (unlike the first 3 books). It's handled differently than Mass Effect but it might be close enough for what you're looking for.
Vorkosigan and Alliance/Union really are perfect for this - some of the best character dynamics and realized themes I’ve encountered in space opera!
The only Alliance/Union book I've read so far was *Forty Thousand in Gehenna,* which I enjoyed well enough. I got the sense that the interstellar dynamic is in line with what I'm looking for while I was reading, even though the book itself takes place almost entirely on one planet. I'm glad to see someone say I'm on the right track.
And I've heard enough about Vorkosigan that I'm definitely looking into it. Thanks!
I think you might enjoy **Vatta's War** by Elizabeth Moon. It trade-and military sci-fi, with a serious lot of politics going on.
No aliens though, for that maybe **Embers of War** by Gareth Powell, which follows a rescue space craft in a multi-species civilisation.
Came here to suggest Elizabeth Moon. She also did The Serrano Legacy, which is good.
I haven't heard of either, so I'll be sure to check their stuff out! Thank you!
Hah was dropping in to recommend those too. Some of Charles Stross also, I think.
But then they encounter what might as well be an an eldritch space god.
But does it threaten the universe/galactic civilization or does it just kinda exist and impact the plot a bit?
I don't necessarily mind the *presence* of high-concept sci-fi stuff, I'm just looking for stories where those high-concepts aren't the focus of the story or a main threat.
It's a fairly existential threat. And, to be clear, I was referring only to *Embers of War*.
A Deepness in the Sky, Perdido Street Station, A Memory Called Empire, The Goblin Emperor
Love Perdido Street Station. Not really a sci-fi, not fantasy either, just..... delightfully weird
Perdito has enough crazy cool weird content to explore a dozen novels, I didn't enjoy it though. Too much horror for me and I didn't really feel like any of the multitude of characters was really fleshed out. A particular whole group of cool characters is introduced, who disappear from the story line almost immediately.
It’s not for everybody certainly and I respect your opinion. What is the group you’re talking about?
Would be a spoiler. I'll PM.
Just finished deepness of the sky. It is now one of my favorites. Strange since start was so hard for me. But soon it became super gripping.
I've heard of all those except Deepness, and that sounds pretty interesting too. Thank you! Most stuff for my list!
Becky Chambers *Wayfarers* series is basically just this, dealing with living & working in a society with several alien species ranging from lizard people to giant otter/caterpillar-ish centaur beings, it is pretty lighthearted and small scale plot wise though things are happening in the background.
Yeah, I'm not necessarily Becky Chambers's biggest fan, but the series seems potentially right up OP's street.
You don't have to be. I am.
Same, it's like crack to me and I wish there were 20 books of it.
Cool, cool, cool.
(I'm not trying to attack Chambers, honest. I do have huge respect for anyone who can write readable and immersive low stakes sci-fi, as I am really bored with chosen-one-must-save-the-galaxy plots. I just haven't fully clicked with the work yet. Will read more and see what happens.)
One nice thing about her books is that each one is definitely unique and interesting in its own way. My favorite was a Closed and Common Orbit, as was my partner's, and she didn't really like the first book too much. If you've only read The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, definitely check out the others in the series, they hit different!
Thanks for the advice!
I'm more or less in the same boat as OP, in that I've been looking for something to recapture the space opera, galactic community, found family magic of early Mass Effect, but I *hated* what I read of *Wayfarers*, which admittedly was just the first half of the first book. On paper it seemed right up my alley, but in practice I struggled with it.
Does the series ever get less... I don't know, *lore-dumpy?* All of the information delivery felt strained and unnatural, and that was honestly my biggest issue. Pages upon pages of narration to describe things that were completely inconsequential; characters gathering around at dinner and having in-depth conversations about the basic, everyday elements of their universe; immediate backstory dumps for every character you meet... it was hard to read, more like a lore doc than a narrative. I want to get back into the series, as I've heard nothing but glowing reviews, but at the end of the day, I guess I need to know: are the first couple hundred pages indicative of the rest of the series?
In my opinion, they absolutely are indicative. Significant portions of all the books are people explaining their cultures to each other or similar. While the writing quality does improve somewhat, the **vibe** stays the same throughout the series, and if you didn't enjoy that in the first one I can't imagine it improving for you!
Once the basics are out of the way you do get into the story more, but it's still building on the information we get early on and it's clear why Chambers might have wanted that to be out of the way beforehand. It didn't strike me as extraordinarily clumsy when introducing the readers to this world, I've absolutely read more "standard" sci fi where the author gets so enamored with clunky technobabble or other worldbuilding that it takes over the book, but this is more a one and done type situation. It's still a character driven slice of life series in a sci fi setting though, so you don't like that, then the series is not for you. I believe some reviewer said something along the lines of "very little truly happens until the last 40 pages" of the first book.
Star Trek and Star Wars both have books and I recommend them
Thanks! I've heard about *Wayfarers*, but I didn't know there were aliens in it. I'll be sure to check it out.
You might like some of Timothy Zahn's NOT Star Wars work. Try the Icarus Hunt and the Conqueror's trilogy.
The first is a murder mystery on a space craft that's being hunted across space by a powerful race who wants to keep their technology monopoly.
The second is a great military SF story told about a war between humans who have become like Space NATO with several other species under their "protection" and an alien race who has a biological way to come back as ghosts after death. The war is based on a misunderstanding and the story is told through narrators from both sides of the conflict.
> The second is a great military SF story told about a war between humans who have become like Space NATO with several other species under their "protection" and an alien race who has a biological way to come back as ghosts after death. The war is based on a misunderstanding and the story is told through narrators from both sides of the conflict.
This actually sounds interesting to me, but can I ask, is there some scifi explanation to the ghost thing or is that straight up fantasy stuff? It might sound nitpicky, but I'm a big proponent of keeping magic out of my scifi. I really can't stand it.
I don't mind spoilers.
It's never actually explained but it's related to their biology and the scientific study of it is a minor plot point.
I think I've heard of Conqueror's in a thread similar to this once. As of now I've only read the first Thrawn book of Zahn's work, but everything I hear makes me want to take a closer look at his work. Thanks for the rec!
Was going to recommend this. I honestly didn't like *Icarus Hunt* (it's just SW minus the IP), but it fits the request perfectly.
I'd have a look at Ann Leckie's Imperial Radch universe (the Ancillary trilogy + Provenance, plus a few short stories) - quite a lot of politics, and while there is some conflict, it's never existential.
Thank you. I've gone back and forth on checking out the Ancillary books, but I'll take a closer look now that I see it here.
Came here to recommend these books-- they are \*tough\* to get into, but once you hit your stride with them it's absolutely some of my favorite sci-fi
I've seen people complain about "all the tea drinking" in Ancillary Justice, but I didn't really even notice it standing out. I think those would be the people who were expecting action sequences to flesh out the story instead of the political and cultural discussions that happened.
Absolutely-- one of my favorite parts of the books is the strategic deployment of the second-best tea set
I see you mentioned Union/Alliance books, but have you checked out Cherryh's Foreigner series? it's all about interspecies diplomacy.
I haven't yet. As of now I've read her *Faded Sun* trilogy and *Forty Thousand in Gehenna.* I'll look into the Foreigner series too. Thanks!
The Praxis books by Walter Jon Williams. The first trilogy covers politics and battles between humanity and various alien races after the most powerful race that subjugated all others dies off.
Two of new trilogy are out but I haven't started them yet so not sure exactly what they cover.
That sounds good to me. Thank you!
Well their are star trek and Star gate books that you can read. I'm reading "articles of Federation " right now and it's like west wing in space. For Stargate both Death Game and The Barque of Heaven are some of their best. I can give you some lists about which are more canon or not.
Also of course I would be remiss not to mention SW books. Cloak of Deception and Bloodline both deal with politics.
I asked a similar question on the fantasy sub a few years ago about books like elderscrolls where all the species just kind of live together. It seems like despite the popularity of ST/SW/ME/Halo/ES most series in SF/F don't have the large multicultural socities.
I honestly hadn't thought of looking into tie-in or EU novels. But now that you're mentioning and recing some, I'll start giving them more consideration. Thank you.
Might try the Uplift Universe novels by David Brin. Lots of cool aliens and cultures, lots of conflict between them
The early scifi that Modesitt Jr. wrote was quite a bit in this vein. Usually focused on politics and diplomacy. Light to nonexistent alien races though.
Try either the Forever Hero trilogy or the Ecolition Matter Series (four books)
Thanks! I'll look them up!
Iain m banks book The Algebraist may be good for you. It's not really a culture novel (no sassy hyper intelligent ships) and human travel is limited by wormhole technology. There are tons of politics. The aliens have pretty advanced tech, but it's handled well, I thought.
That sounds really interesting. Thank you!
Its not a book, but there are some anime shows you might enjoy. Cowboy Bebop, or some of the classic mecha and space shows come to mind.
Oh, I'm definitely a *Bebop* fan. I go through the whole series every few years. And some of the Gundam shows sound good to me too, though the only one I've actually seen and remember is *08th MS Team,* which I enjoyed. (Also *G Gundam,* but that one's definitely not what I'm asking for in this thread, lol.)
*Outlaw Star* is another one I've seen that probably fits.
Can I ask why Honor Harrington didn't click? The early books are very different than the later books. starting around book 4 or 5 it gets extremely heavy into politics for the rest of the series. The early books are very mil scifi.
I was(am) heavy into mil scifi so for the longest I only really liked the early books and disliked where the series went. But as I aged the politicking became more interesting and I went back to the series and really enjoyed it.
Also here is another rec for the ancillary books (another series that didn't click with my at first but now I love).
I think I read *Honor Harrington* around... 7 or 8 years ago, give or take. It's been long enough that now I mostly remember that I just didn't get into it at the time. There were other, more concrete and specific reasons but that feeling sticks out in my head the most. That happens for everyone sometimes. The same thing happens when I try to play a *Fallout* game. I just can't get into them.
EDIT: I might give them another shot in the future, but for now I'll work my way down the other recs I've gotten from this thread.
Confederation by Tanya Huff might fit. Main character is like if femshep was continually saving her squad from weird alien battles or war games gone wrong. I haven't finished the series yet but it's very good.
There is a big alien threat and a war but it's not quite so overwhelming or apocalyptic. Just space marine shit.
I've heard of Confederation. They're near the top of my Military SF list of books to check out, but I'm looking for something more broad than that right now.
Still, thanks for the rec. I'll move Huff's work up my list the next time I'm in the moon for space marine shit.
The Collapsing Empire?
Read the first one, but it never grabbed me. I feel a weird disconnect from the characters when I read most of Scalzi's books. Not all of them (*The Ghost Brigades* and *The Human Division* are favorites of mine), but *The Collapsing Empire* is one of them.
If I may be so bold, my debut novel STORMBLOOD (by *ahem* Jeremy Szal) is a character-driven space opera about lots of alien species and human subcultures and factions co-existing in a broad, far-flung setting. The next two books in the series become even more focused on the Galactic empire side of things.
As for books not written by me:
The Algerabist by Iain M. Banks (Dwellers. Oh, the Dwellers).
The Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers
The Hydrogen Sontana by Iain M Banks
Nophek GLOSS by Essa Hassen
Pushing Ice by Al Reynolds
The Promise of the Child by Tom Toner
Be as bold as you want! I've added *Stormblood* to my list. Congratulations on publication!
Thank you for the other recommendations as well.
Thanks mate! Hope you enjoy! If you're in the US/Canada, it won't be in print locally until September. Otherwise, it's always online, etc.
The world could always use more alien cultures, I think.
If that was your thing with ME, I recommend playing the storyline of Outriders. Also very immersive in the same way, with fantastic details and a well-thought through execution of the story to make it fit game narrative. The story by itself would make an excellent Love Death Robots episode.
Can’t help with the books, but *Mechanised Eldrich Space Gods* is clearly the name for my new psych-cyber-metal proto-jazz ensemble
Let us know when you release the debut album!
Then this thread is a success!
imho one of the biggest problems of the mass effects series was the reapers...they created a stable, interesting setting with lots of opportunities for subtle storytelling, and then promptly killed it with the (mostly cliche lovecraftian) big bad galaxy eating monster threat.
most events mentioned in the codex entries would have been a more interesting story to explore, but without an open ended timeline and a cataclysmic ending, it's hard to buy into any of them after the games ended.
God, thank you, I've been saying similar for years. I think the Reapers would have been incredibly compelling if they doubled down on the actual eldritch nature of them, and they were foreshadowed in bits and pieces across a much longer series. Mass Effect's setting was such an interesting political and cultural landscape at the start of the series and I would have loved to explore it through a more intimate lens.
Unfortunately, between first contact being so recent in the setting and the end of ME3 wiping the slate clean, there really isn't a big window for them to tell stories anymore without retconning or rebooting (which, I really think they *should* reboot it, but that's my own opinion). I especially agree on how events in the codex would have made more interesting stories. They just crafted this expansive, beautiful universe and then focused entirely on the apocalyptic element of it to the detriment of everything else.
100% agree. I love Mass Effect for its initial setting and seeing the alien races all coexist and interact with each other. Having a united humanity explore the galaxy and meet aliens. Actually seeing a *limited* war that isn't your typical ravenous swarm vs desperate humans, but instead about political issues and some mistakes that *people* made. Far future sci fi elements, but not so much that nothing is unrecognizable. I love all of this. And I would love a game, book, movie, whatever, that just explores more of that without this huge endgame threat. I love the action, but it doesn't have to be end of the world/galaxy/universe all the time. Having a game like Mass Effect where you're simply meeting a new species and exploring the galaxy and expanding human civilization, etc. is my dream story. Mass Effect Andromeda had the potential to be this, being pitched as a Mass Effect in a new galaxy that has never been explored. But then, oh look, everyone else already made contact before you showed up. Oh, and here's another civilization hell bent on destroying/consuming all other life.
For some reason this kind of stuff is rather difficult to find in literature. So much scifi I read tends to try to make the story something more with dozens of plotlines that are intended to intersect and weave into each other and really, I just want that somewhat subtle, simplistic feel.
Give me a story with humanity exploring and peacefully make contact with an alien race. They team up, then meet another. Maybe eventually they'll fight someone else, but it's limited. This is the kind of vibe the Mass Effect first contact war lore gave me. Why is this kind of story so rare.
I have the same complaint with Stargate. I like the exploration, diplomacy, making connections between various people who were unaware of each other's existence. How the Goa'uld were not a united horde conquering the galaxy, but a loose ever-changing coalition with rampant infighting, exiles and petty warlords trying to make it big, in a universe with other races like the Asgard that can keep them in check (to an extent). A rebellious faction opposing their tyranny, rebel Jaffa, and human worlds trying to defy them. Worlds where the Goa'uld are irrelevant to the story.
And then there's Anubis, the human-form replicators, the Ori, the Wraith... and honestly I didn't care for any of them.
If No Man's Sky was a little more story rich, and had properly inhibited systems, it could fit this bill. But it's a pretty zen experience as is and perhaps that is the niche it fills. But, yeah, the setting side of Mass Effect is much of its strength and has rarely been attempted in a scale anything like it.
> Unfortunately, between first contact being so recent in the setting and the end of ME3 wiping the slate clean, there really isn't a big window for them to tell stories anymore without retconning or rebooting
Which probably goes a long way to explaining why the next game in the franchise (Andromeda) is such a clean break that it may as well be a different franchise.
Highly recommend A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine and The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers!!!
The Expanse series even though they've introduced something like the reapers in the later books but different
OP already read them:
> In The Expanse books I read
Now that you say that, I realize that what I did NOT like about Mass Effect where the reapers. I mean, it was fine, in the first two games, when they where this mysterious eldritch thing that appearead from time to time, but what I really enjoyed about the games was the living world it was taking place in. In the third game, when that entire world is basically destroyed, and all you do is battle reapers ww2-style... well, that sucked.
OP, there is "human division" series set in Old Man's War universe. It's definitely more "big picture" then old man's war. Main character is basically a group of some secondary diplomatic corps' members (hence the title B-Team).
Yep, I've read those two. *The Human Division* is actually one of my favorite of Scalzi's books.
The classic Brave New World comes to mind.
Ummm.... I don't remember alien races and interplanetary politics in _Brave New World_. Are you thinking of the right book?
My mistake, I misunderstood the post. I thought OP was looking for SciFi that didn't have end of the world aliens. More along the lines of political and social strife.
You're not wrong, but I was thinking more along the lines of multiple cultures and societies, alien or otherwise, interacting. BNW technically fits my description, but it's not what I really had in mind (Plus I've read it before). My bad. I think I could have written out my description a little better.