The best gifts for sci-fi war nerds
Santa's about to hot drop into enemy blaster fire.
If your loved one is a regular reader of Task & Purpose, then they probably enjoy a good war story or two. So it stands to reason that they’re also fans of good war stories in space, right?
War stories in space are my reason for living, and if your loved one is in a similar space-boat, here are a few gift suggestions to help them scratch that itch and get you into their good books forever.
The first several gifts on this list include model kits and action figures (because you’re never too old to play with toys). But if your gift recipient is a more cerebral type, I also included tips for books that will launch their heads into the stars.
This year I got into building Gundam plastic model kits, where you cut plastic parts out of a kit and snap them together into fully-posable fighting robots from the Gundam multiverse. The kits are fun, the details are striking and the instructions are clear enough that a spaz like myself can put one together stress-free. Best of all, no glue or paint is required, so you can build them even if you don’t consider yourself artsy or crafty.
One thing you will need is a pair of nippers—small pliers used for cutting out the plastic parts. I lean on Newtype for most of my Gundam needs, but there are plenty of small hobby shops across the country which also sell Gundam products. Be sure to support local businesses whenever possible!
“Gunpla” is a portmanteau for “Gundam” and “plastic model kit.” The best and worst part about Gunpla is how cheap it is. This “high grade” model of the original RX-78-2 Gundam is a fine way to start. It’s great because you can get into the hobby without breaking your bank.
The downside is that, if you’re like me, you’ll soon run out of shelf space because you’ve bought so many kits. This cheap, basic kit still has a ton of articulation, detail and even a beam rifle and bazooka to go with it. Beware: this kit could be the first of many, so make sure your bank account is in a good place.
What I like about Gunpla is how much I enjoy putting the toy together myself. It’s like building a Lego set, except these kits have much better articulation for putting into awesome poses. If you want to enjoy a longer build and get a more detailed Gundam as a result, the “Real Grade” category of Gunpla is for you.
The RG Nu Gundam kit was widely recognized as the best Gunpla model kit ever produced, until it was dethroned by the RG Hi-Nu Gundam earlier this year. You can’t go wrong with either, and I listed the regular Nu Gundam here only because I like the look of it better than the Hi-Nu (It’s also on my personal wish list).
If giant robots aren’t your thing, you may appreciate this snap-tight model kit of the Star Wars pilot Poe Damerons’s black-and-orange X-Wing from Star Wars. The great part about this type of kit is that you don’t even need nippers to put it together. It’s less of a lift than a Gundam kit, but it still gives you an appreciation for how all the pieces fit together. I have a blue-and-white version of this same kit and I can’t help but pick it up and make starship noises every once in a while.
If your beloved sci-fi war nerd has no patience for building model kits, but still enjoys hands-on war dreams, look no further than Hasbro’s Imperial Crosshair action figure, from the animated series The Bad Batch.
Crosshair may be a merciless bad guy in the show, but you’ve got to admit he looks pretty cool sporting black armor and wielding a sniper rifle. This figure comes with the rifle, a blaster pistol, and a scowl beneath his helmet. Pick this up if you want one of the best shots in the galaxy on your shelf.
This may not fit many people’s definition of science fiction, but I think the book A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms will scratch your sci-fi war nerd itch anyway. Written by George R.R. Martin, the book takes place in the same world of the TV show and book series Game of Thrones, but a century before the events of that saga. It features compelling characters, wonderful storytelling, and brutal fight scenes that feel real and suspenseful. What I like most about the book is that it’s not from the perspective of the lords of the realm, but from that of a lowly hedge knight as he wanders through Westeros. (Bonus: If you’re into audiobooks, Harry Lloyd’s narration is captivating. I’ve listened to it two or three times).
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman is one of my favorite books of all time. Written by a Vietnam War veteran, the book is about a soldier caught in a vague interstellar war against a mysterious alien enemy. Here’s the twist: because of time dilation, thousands of years pass on Earth while only a few months pass for the main character and his fellow soldiers. The main character returns to Earth on leave to find that everyone he used to know is dead and the society he grew up in has radically changed. If you enjoy a realistic setting and war stories like you’ve never seen before, go no further than this one.
Monstrous Regiment is not conventional science-fiction and it’s not realistic, but it’s got great storytelling, excellent characters and an absorbing conflict in a fantasy world. Even better, it made me laugh harder than any other book I’ve read. Monstrous Regiment may not have many fight scenes, but I fell in love with the way it plays with war story tropes. Plus it features a vampire who has flashbacks to the Vietnam War, and if that’s not compelling, I don’t know what is.
Imagine if the Cold War were fought on an ice planet by humanoids whose gender changes at random. Pretty wild, right? That’s my way-too-simplified synopsis of this thought-provoking classic by Ursula Le Guin. If you like mind-bending world-building and a thrilling arctic survival story to boot, check this one out.
I love the grimdark sci-fi/fantasy universe Warhammer 40,000, but it’s hard to find one book that serves as a great entry into that universe. If you’re up for it, just pick up a 40k book that interests you, dive in and be ready to Google a lot of terms as you go. It’ll be worth it.
Otherwise, I recommend a subscription to Warhammer Plus, the new streaming service featuring shows which take place in the ridiculous but awesome world of 40k. You may still have to do some Googling to figure out what Necrons are or who Rogal Dorn was, but I think you’ll find it worth the effort.
If $60 for a year subscription seems steep, you can try a $6 monthly subscription, or just send your loved one the link below to a film made by a 40k fan who is now helping shape the content on Warhammer Plus. The two probably have a lot in common.
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