This is one of my favorite sub-genres of science fiction. The generation ship, usually huge, designed to house a colony, a society, of people for hundreds of years, often part of a pilgrimage or evacuation. Here are a few of my faves.
- Jacob’s Ladder (3-book series), by Elizabeth Bear
This series is feudalism meets genetic engineering. The exalted, angels, have been genetically modified to pilot the ship, and over the generations have become the ruling class. The unmodified are peasants, but not without their own knowledge of the huge ship that contains rivers, forests, and futuristic technology spaces. Will the two factions reach agreement? Will they find a new planet, and if they do, will they be able to live peacefully?
2. Revelation Space (3-book series), by Alastair Reynolds
I’ve written about this series before, and as I’ve said it was not only my first real introduction to the generation ship, but also to modern hard science fiction. This series deals with modified humans, kilometer-long ships with their own AI, and an alien species that once wiped out the universe and threatens to do it again if a few scientists and adventurers can’t figure out the historical clues they keep running into.
3. Noumenon, by Marina J. Lostetter
A generation ship full of clones whisks through dilated space towards a strange star cluster, there to gather research about it and then return within 300 years. And by the time they get back to earth, more than 1000 years will have passed, and will there even be anyone there to remember or care about this scientific mission?
4. An Unkindness of Ghosts, by Rivers Solomon
Humans board the great ship Matilda to escape a dying planet, but after a hundred years racial divisions have sprung up and what was once a utopic vision has turned into the enslaved and their nominal masters. Aster must discover the secrets to the energy drains that continue to threaten lives among the lowerdecks, and in doing so, can she foment a revolution that will bring justice to the enslaved?
5. The Stars Are Legion, by Kameron Hurley
Generation ships with bonus: generation planets! They’re ships, with both bio and non-biological technology, and they’re the size of planets, and they contain layers and tiers of different cultures, all the way to the center where the giant garbage collectors live, waiting for any waste to come down the chute for recycling. Zan, cursed with perpetual amnesia, wakes over and over to her lover, a secret plan she can’t remember, and knowledge that she has a mission. She must get inside another planet, but she doesn’t know how, or why.