Frederik Pohl: Gateway (1977)
I played the Gateway computer game way back, but had never read the book until now. Which was a mistake, as the book is rather good.
Humanity has spread to the solar system and discovered the ancient Heechee artefacts, a vast number of starships that travel faster than light. But as the Heechee are not around, nothing is understood about the ships. The destinations are random and guesswork at best. Journeys may take long enough to cause death by starvation, and some launches never return for other reasons.
|Which is indeed like a synopsis for a game|
Pohl describes a kind of ridiculous market ecosystem that has arisen from this exploitation, vaguely reminiscent of the satire in The Merchants of Space. The book cleverly interweaves the cosmic dimension with the protagonists' retrospective reflection in the hands of an artificial psychiatrist.
Robert Heinlein: Starship Troopers (1959)
The intro is rather chilling; the heroes' jet-packed exoskeleton mobile infantry platoon terrorizes an alien city with nukes, incinerating anybody that comes across, presumably civilian or not. Mind you, these aliens are not yet the bugs, but a humanoid culture with technology and language of their own. There appears to be no critical reflection on this act.
The alien "bugs" we meet later, are not just stand-ins for "commies", they are explicitly stated to be an example of communism in the extreme.
|One of those books that can justifiably be translated to an FPS|
That's all interesting, but the moral tracts begin to sound like an extremist wishlist though, death penalty for "incurables", tempering our appreciation of freedom through war, and strict military discipline as a road towards enlightened citizenship.
Numerous games and film are influenced by Starship Troopers, there's a Starship Troopers OVA, and obviously there is a game-of-the-film too, one I never played.
Larry Niven: Ringworld (1970)
The story really laces mysteries on each other: Firstly, the reader discovers the human race has developed to the point they live centuries, and are able to transport instantaneously anywhere on Earth. Then we discover that an alien race, the Puppeteers, who have not been seen for centuries, have now appeared with news that have long-term repercussions for the whole galaxy. The reputedly cowardly Puppeteers, for one, are going to leave the galaxy altogether. In the midst of this all, a mysterious massive artefact is discovered in a star system somewhat outside the human known space...
Some passages made me think of Elite (the computer game), can't pinpoint exactly why. At least the Wing Commander Kilrathi are supposedly based on the Kzinti. There are also Ringworld PC games, but I've not touched them.
I also felt that He-Man the original animated series is partly inspired by this setting too, and not only because there's a Teela in both. The easygoing mixture of fantasy and sci-fi, flying cycles and swords makes it feel a bit like an adventure in Eternia.
He was a hero. You could tell. You didn't need to see him fighting dragons. You need only see the muscles, the height, the black metal sword. [...] He was clean shaven. [...] His hair was long and ash blond and not too clean, and the hairline shaped a noble brow. Around his waist was a kind of kirtle, the skin of some animal.
Ok, so that could be nearly any generic barbarian, but I still think I'm on to something.
John Christopher: The Tripods (1967-1968)
Here's a nostalgic childhood favorite, oriented more towards younger readers. The trilogy(!) describes an invaded Earth, where whole generations of people are accustomed to submitting themselves to high-rise sized machines in the shape of, well, tripods.
|There's a nostalgic TV series of the Book|
The story initially works as an allegory for the fear of growing up (well, it's also explicitly about it). The aliens could again be seen as us, as they behave unto as as we do unto "lesser" beings.
|There's an interesting but flawed ZX Spectrum Game of the TV series of the Book|
The broader political message might be about the weight of our freedoms. It appears to the reader the capping affects humanity quite little, whereas it also rids people of wars and perhaps pollution too, given the medieval lifestyle. Most people are not directly subjected to heavy slavery and appear to be able to play a range of emotions after all. This is a point made in the book, too, as the main character is tempted to live a better position than at home, risking the mission at hand.