Exploration of the Stars
The amazing choices and situations by those who go to space
The Appeal of Space and Human need to Explore
Throughout human history, humans have had the innate need to leave their own home and explore other places. It's perfectly logical that after the Earth is finished with her last tricks and hidden places, humans would have to go to the stars to fulfill their needs.
Neil deGrasse Tyson on Space Exploration
The Moon's a Harsh Mistress
The most obvious place humans would first explore in space is the rest of their solar system. More specifically, the moon. The book follows the political and socials aspects on the moon, which has been made into a penal colony. While 75% of all the people living there are free, they are treated just the same, as slaves to the Authority. While the Authority was first set up to make sure space itself is never weaponized, it quickly became a system of extracting all they could from the moon while they still could. The people living their develop their own culture, similar to that of colonial America. Through many years of subversive propaganda, the people recognize their own need for freedom.
This was the first step of many in this universe to the exploration of the universe and they creation of space cultures. In many books, planets left by their selves will create their own culture, that will clash with the one back home on Earth
Even with humans best efforts to find other life and civilizations, they are unable to, but that doesn't prevent other cultures to develop in the universe. One such place is Starhaven, an artificial world built by convicts for convicts. Johnny Mantell, a beach bum, is accused of murder, and steals a Space Patrol ship to escape. The only place he can think of that would accept him is Starhaven, were almost everyone there is a criminal. The "world" itself is actually a giant metal sphere floating around a red giant. The sphere is equipped energy absorpers, as well as matter deflectors, making it practically impossible for the itself to be invaded. But one of the main points of the book is not on the ingenuity of the world, but on the culture that has developed. There is no government except for one man who made the sphere and collects "taxes" to pay for it to be maintained by the populous. As such, there are no laws, and no police. All citizens are expected to defend themselves, whether you're the victim, or the criminal. Even as such, no crime is usually committed, since that would reflect poorly on the person committing it, and they would be looked down upon by their peers.
The chances of humans never finding an intelligent species is almost impossible. There are too many worlds that could hold life, and out of those, its very likely that one will gain intelligence. And whats the one thing that makes the galaxy spin? Money. Out of the discovery of new species, two organizations sprang up to trade with them, the Companies, and the Free-Traders. The main characters in the book are Free-Traders on the recently discovered planet of Sargol, a planet of militant cat-like Salariki. The book spends the beginning with the interactions between men and Salariki. This is to be expected when interacting with a new species, especially one still in the tribal stage of its life, as the Salariki are. The book shows very well how interactions with a new species might go, but they don't always go as friendly as they do in Plague Ship.
We All Died at Breakaway Station
As many may hope, our first contact with extraterrestrials will be a bit more friendly then with the "Jillies" in this novel. The Jillies are the only race that humans have found in all the universe to the point in this novel. The Jillies live kind of like a hyper form of Buddhism, where nothing is constant, not even their language or names. The large glaring difference is that until like Buddhists, these aliens want the extermination of humanity, for no reason humans can discern. The leads to a war on a galactic scale, and to the main character in the novel. While it does tell several others stories in the war, it mostly focuses on Absolom Bracer, the captain on the ship Iwo Jima, a ship carrying the last tangled men and women who desperately wish to have their own body back. Due to the constant lost and finding of the remains of people around the battles of star ships, medical science has progressed to a point where if a man's brain is still around, he can be revived and given a new body on Earth, made of his flesh grown from a dish. The body spends it's time going over the struggles of the people on the ship and how they need to maintain "Breakaway Station". Breakaway Station is a vulnerable part of the intergalactic hyperwave communication system between Earth and its other strongest planet. While we keep the idea that we may be more advanced then the alien species we uncover, there still remains the possibility that they are more advanced then us.
The Gods Themselves.
The aliens that humans might one day interact with might not even be the same universe. In Isaac Asimov's The Gods Themselves, he explores this very problem himself. In the novel, 2 universes interact with each other in interesting ways. One, is the universe where humans exist, the other is the universe of the "Soft" and "Hard Ones" live. The "Ones" live in a universe where nuclear interactions are stronger, making stars burn brighter and faster, due to easier fusion and fission. In order to survive, they create a pump to pump a heavy element to the humans universe. It's an element that is so heavy in ours, that it would normally be unable to exist, but due to their different laws of nature, it can. It slowly breaks apart, and they realize that they can create a continuous flow of energy between the 2 universes, due to the breakup of the atoms releasing energy. What the human who discovered it didn't want to note, was that the laws of our universe would be slowly corrupted by the other universe, forcing our sun to start burning hotter, before going supernova way earlier then it should have. In this novel, the aliens are seen as parasitic, and unhelpful.