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Five Space Opera novels that deserve the Dune cinematic treatment

YPRL Staff

10 November, 2021

With cinemas in Melbourne finally allowed to reopen, we at the library are getting excited about the release of Dune, the sci-fi blockbuster based on the classic novel by Frank Herbert. Our patrons are also getting excited, judging by the number of hold requests we’ve had for the novel.

But if you’re languishing in 27th place on the holds queue, don’t despair! We have a great selection of epic, mind-expanding sci-fi novels to choose from. We’ve picked five of the best below, along with our dream director for the adaptation of each one.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, 2013

This galactic revenge saga uses a far-future setting to question everything you think you know about personhood and identity. The artificial super-intelligence Justice of Toren conquers worlds for the Radch Empire until she is betrayed and forced to download her entire consciousness into a single, fragile human brain. Can she survive humanity long enough to unravel the conspiracy at the empire’s heart?

Dream Director: Rian Johnson (Knives Out, Star Wars: The Last Jedi)


A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine, 2019

Available in print and audio CD formats.

Ambassador Mahit Dzmare is plunged into the political intrigues and alien culture of the Teixcalaanli Empire in this sharp, modern take on the space opera genre. If you like your sci-fi with intricate, clever worldbuilding that ratchets up the tension in every scene, this is one you don’t want to miss.

Dream Director: Chloé (Zhao Eternals, Nomadland)


Hyperion by Dan Simmons, 2011

Six pilgrims set out across a distant planet in search of a terrifying alien monstrosity known as the Shrike. As they travel, their stories unfold one by one, revealing their reasons for taking the journey and putting together pieces of a puzzle of cosmic proportions. If you’ve just finished Dune and are looking for more epic space opera, this is the one for you.

Dream Director: J. J. Abrams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Lost)


Foundation by Isaac Asimov, 2016

Can human history be predicted in advance? This is the striking question posed by Foundation, one of the most beloved novels by the Old Master of sci-fi, Isaac Asimov. In a crumbling Galactic Empire, the mathematician Hari Seldon believes he has developed a formula for human societies that predicts a coming dark age. This 1950s classic feels as fresh today as it ever did.

Dream Director: although he’s had a rocky few years, we think Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings) could make a comeback with this material.


Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee, 2013

Available in print and eBook formats.

In a universe where mathematics is magic, Kel Cheris is an infantry captain with a knack for doing complex calculations in her head. Paired with the ghost of a mad general, she is assigned to crush a rebellion for the glory of the Hexarchate—but is the Hexarchate worth defending?

Dream Director: The surreal space battles in this one would be a challenge to recreate on-screen, but we think Lana Wachowski (The Matrix, Cloud Atlas) has what it takes.

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