Christopher’s Recommendations: Old Man’s War, A Wizard of Earthsea, The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights, The Hyperion, and Cryptonomicon

Discover new books to add to your summer reading list with Christopher’s latest batch of recommendations.

Old Man’s War – John Scalzi


Old Man's War Series, John Scalzi

The Ghost Brigades are the Special Forces of the Colonial Defense Forces, elite troops created from the DNA of the dead and turned into the perfect soldiers for the CDF’s toughest operations. They’re young, they’re fast and strong, and they’re totally without normal human qualms.

The universe is a dangerous place for humanity–and it’s about to become far more dangerous. Three races that humans have clashed with before have allied to halt our expansion into space. Their linchpin: the turncoat military scientist Charles Boutin, who knows the CDF’s biggest military secrets. To prevail, the CDF must find out why Boutin did what he did.

Jared Dirac is the only human who can provide answers — a superhuman hybrid, created from Boutin’s DNA, Jared’s brain should be able to access Boutin’s electronic memories. But when the memory transplant appears to fail, Jared is given to the Ghost Brigades.

At first, Jared is a perfect soldier, but as Boutin’s memories slowly surface, Jared begins to intuit the reason’s for Boutin’s betrayal. As Jared desperately hunts for his “father,” he must also come to grips with his own choices. Time is running out: The alliance is preparing its offensive, and some of them plan worse things than humanity’s mere military defeat…

“John Scalzi writes science fiction that is fun, intelligent, and irreverent. He takes today’s cutting-edge technology, extrapolates it into the future, and uses it to tell swashbuckling adventures. I haven’t enjoyed science fiction this much in years.”

~ Christopher Paolini

A Wizard of Earthsea – Ursula Le Guin


A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula Le GuinGed was the greatest sorcerer in Earthsea, but in his youth he was the reckless Sparrowhawk. In his hunger for power and knowledge, he tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tumultuous tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death’s threshold to restore the balance.




“Ursula Le Guin’s books sink their claws into you and don’t let go. Written in simple yet powerful prose, they deal with classic themes of Good and Evil, and what it means to grow up. Her world of Earthsea is one of the great creations in fantasy: a place of many peoples, with a wild surging ocean, dragons, ancient magic and wizards both wise and foolish. This book, the first in her Earthsea Quartet, taught me the power of words. To me, A Wizard of Earthsea feels like myth or legend, a half-remembered song. If you are looking for a grand saga, I cannot recommend it highly enough.”

~ Christopher Paolini

The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights – John Steinbeck


the acts of king arthur and his noble knights, john steinbeckMalory’s Le Morte d’Arthur was the first book that John Steinbeck truly enjoyed reading as a child. Fascinated by Arthurian tales of adventure, knighthood, honor and friendship, in addition to the challenging nuances of the original Anglo-Saxon language, Steinbeck set out to render these stories faithfully and with keen animation for a modern audience. Here then is Steinbeck’s modernization of the adventure of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, featuring the icons of Arthurian legend—including King Arthur, Merlin, Morgan le Fay, the incomparable Queen Guinevere, and Arthur’s purest knight, Sir Lancelot of the Lake.

These enduring tales of loyalty and betrayal in the time of Camelot flicker with the wonder and magic of an era past but not forgotten. Steinbeck’s retelling will capture the attention and imagination of legions of Steinbeck fans, including those who love Arthurian romances, as well as countless readers of science fiction and fantasy literature.

As it stands, The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights is an incomplete collection of first and second drafts. For writers and Steinbeck scholars, it provides a valuable glimpse into the inner workings of Steinbeck’s creative process, and reveals difficulties that even the best authors can encounter. For everyone else–and especially nine-year-old boys who love accounts of “kyngs and knyghtes and grete dedes”–it is a worthy addition to one’s library.

I wish I had read Steinbeck’s The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights when I was nine.”

~ Christopher Paolini

Hyperion – Dan Simmons


Hyperion, Dan SimmonsOn the world called Hyperion, beyond the law of the Hegemony of Man, there waits the creature called the Shrike.  There are those who worship it.  There are those who fear it.  And there are those who have vowed to destroy it.  In the Valley of the Time Tombs, where huge, brooding structures move backward through time, the Shrike waits for them all.  On the eve of Armageddon, with the entire galaxy at war, seven pilgrims set forth on a final voyage to Hyperion seeking the answers to the unsolved riddles of their lives.  Each carries a desperate hope–and a terrible secret.  And one may hold the fate of humanity in his hands.


“An epic space opera full of stunning locations and thought-provoking action.”

~ Christopher Paolini

Cryptonomicon – Neal Stephenson


Cryptonomicon, Neal StephensonIn 1942, Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse—mathematical genius and young Captain in the U.S. Navy—is assigned to detachment 2702. It is an outfit so secret that only a handful of people know it exists, and some of those people have names like Churchill and Roosevelt. The mission of Waterhouse and Detachment 2702—commanded by Marine Raider Bobby Shaftoe-is to keep the Nazis ignorant of the fact that Allied Intelligence has cracked the enemy’s fabled Enigma code. It is a game, a cryptographic chess match between Waterhouse and his German counterpart, translated into action by the gung-ho Shaftoe and his forces.

Fast-forward to the present, where Waterhouse’s crypto-hacker grandson, Randy, is attempting to create a “data haven” in Southeast Asia—a place where encrypted data can be stored and exchanged free of repression and scrutiny. As governments and multinationals attack the endeavor, Randy joins forces with Shaftoe’s tough-as-nails granddaughter, Amy, to secretly salvage a sunken Nazi submarine that holds the key to keeping the dream of a data haven afloat. But soon their scheme brings to light a massive conspiracy with its roots in Detachment 2702 linked to an unbreakable Nazi code called Arethusa. And it will represent the path to unimaginable riches and a future of personal and digital liberty…or to universal totalitarianism reborn.

“A densely plotted, description-rich work of incredible intelligence.”

~ Christopher Paolini

Mike Macauley

Mike Macauley is the founder of, editor in chief of, and author of The Inheritance Almanac. Mike can be found on Twitter at @mikemacauley.